Kevin Kolb, Grace Baptist Church
“I love to preach.” In my life I’ve heard hundreds of pastors, evangelists and missionaries proclaim their love for the public ministry of the Word. Sadly what I haven’t heard nearly as often from those same godly men is any expression of love for the private ministry of the word. Yet Paul made it clear that, as a busy apostle ministering over a three- year span in the city of Ephesus, he was diligent to share the whole counsel of God both privately (house-to-house) and publicly. (Acts 20:20, 27, 31)
I’ve come to appreciate, and yes even love, pastoral counseling as much as, if not more than, preaching each Sunday. Allow me to explain:
- 1. Pastoral Counseling gives insight on the spiritual health of the flock. Meeting for 8-12 weekly sessions offers Shepherds unique opportunities to really get to know members of their church. As you gather data in the session you learn about their passions, challenges, struggles, and responses. You find out how much they really love the Word of God, if their hope really is in Christ, and where they invest the treasures of their life. This type of information helps pastors better care for the sheep who are hurting and warn the ones who are rebellious (1 Thess. 5:14). Attending a sporting event or prayer breakfast with men in your church rarely yields such insight.
- 2. Pastoral counseling provides opportunities to share the gospel. Sharing the message of full salvation (justification, sanctification and glorification) awakens hope in members who are discouraged by guilt and defeated by sin. I relish the privilege of reminding Christians that the gospel promises not just victory over sin's penalty of death, but that it remains their only source of transforming power and promises freedom from sin's grip. Applying the gospel specifically to the wounded victims of abuse and neglect assure them that there is healing balm in Gilead (Jer. 8:15).
- 3. Pastoral Counseling helps equip future leaders. Helping men in the church grow through counseling has paid back the time and labor invested a hundred fold. Almost every man currently in a teaching role in our church or serving as a deacon has sat in my office at one time or another for spiritual counsel. Other men have come through our counseling ministry that are now serving as pastors and missionaries. I’m directed by scripture to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and counseling provides direct means for that task (Eph. 4:12). When church members see men who once struggled spiritually be given opportunities to serve in vital ways rather than ostracized for being tainted goods, they realize they too can be honest about their struggles and can be transparent without fear of reprimand or removal. Having pastoral interns and trainees sitting in and watching me counsel also provides another real life equipping opportunity.
- 4. Pastoral Counseling ignites sermon preparation. The depth and breadth of issues faced in a years’ worth of counselling pushes me away from the same ole sermon applications I’m prone to fall into. I’m careful never to use my counselees as sermon illustrations as that would be a betrayal of trust, but their struggles fuel my study. I’m reminded that these are real people with real issues who desperately need truth or their marriages and families will fly off the rails. I tend to pray for my own heart and the audience’s response to the word more fervently when I know my counselees will be in attendance and taking notes. I’m forced to answer the “so what” question of the text rather than simply “share” a few thoughts that someone may find interesting.
- 5. Pastoral Counseling encourages personal holiness. My wife always seems to know when I’m doing marital counseling. When I see first-hand the devastation of neglectful husbanding in a session, I can’t help but step up my own effort when I get in the car and head home. When I assign other couples a date night, I remember how beneficial they are in my own life. When I see how deceptive sin is and how it never fulfills or produces anything good, I’m able to wisely recall those lessons when my own heart is tempted. I remind counselees often that God is changing me in the sessions as much as, and sometimes more than, he is changing them.
I love pastoral counseling and I would encourage all my pastor friends to consider these rich rewards the next time they are tempted to complain when wounded or rebellious sheep call for an appointment.
Pastor Kolb is available for mentoring in the Biblical/Pastoral counseling area. For information, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org