Today’s pastor has plenty on his plate. He has sermons to prepare, funerals to perform, meetings to attend, counseling to conduct and a host of other duties from administrating the church to mowing the church lawn. Time is a precious commodity regardless of the size of your church. Of all the things a pastor may do in the course of a week, what are the most important things he should be doing? The two most important things a pastor should do are preaching and counseling.
Preaching and counseling are part of the ministry of the Word. This ministry of the Word is the primary call of God on the life of the pastor. It is the pastor to whom the congregation looks for the truth of the Word, as well as application. There are numerous books about how to preach, what to preach and why to preach, as well as volumes dedicated to counseling those who hurt; but what (if anything) do preaching and counseling have in common? The commonality of preaching and counseling lies in the authority behind both.
Foundations are important. If you are unsure about this, ask someone who has a “So and So Foundation Repair” sign in his or her yard. Without a solid foundation, a home will sink and rise. Walls will crack. Doors will stick. Windows will not open. Damage ensues because the house rests on a foundation that is cracked and/or crumbling. I can tell you from personal experience it is disheartening for a homeowner to see the biggest single investment deteriorate because the foundation will not hold.
Jesus was familiar with the foundation concept and used it in reference to authority in
“‘Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.’ And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
Effective Word-based ministry requires a foundation. This particular foundation is also called authority. We see in the above text people are amazed because Jesus taught as “one having authority.” What is authority?
In the earlier Scripture citation from Matthew 7, the people are amazed because Jesus “taught them…not as the scribes.” Were the scribes not teaching from Scripture? Perhaps the people felt they were abusing their authority. In truth, the text doesn’t specify, so any answer would be speculative. We know that whatever they were doing was not perceived to carry the proper authority. Authority is the right to command belief and/or action. If the pastor is to command belief and/or action from the congregation, he must build his ministry on the proper authority. This authority rests in the Word of God.
There are two types of authority at work in any church. The first type of authority is extrinsic or outward authority. Extrinsic authority exists outside the one who exercises the authority. Every pastor experiences this when he first arrives at a church. There are always some within the church who will not respect a new pastor, but many will. The reason many will is that they believe his office is divine in origin. They respect the authority extrinsic to the man. They will submit to the office for a time. Pastors who do not build relationships with their congregation function exclusively using extrinsic authority.
The second type of authority is intrinsic or inward authority. After the pastor ministers to his congregation for a while, relationships emerge that cause transference of authority from the extrinsic to the intrinsic. As the ethos of the pastor increases, trust increases. People see the hard work the pastor puts into the ministry of the Word and realize he is a man of knowledge and integrity, so they begin to view him as one who is an authority rather than one who has authority. He ceases to be a pastor and becomes their pastor.
Was Jesus one who was an authority or one who had authority? He’s both. According to
The pastor today faces a daunting problem: He is not Jesus. The pastor does not have the same claim to authority as Jesus did and does. The authority is in one sense the same and in another sense different.
How can the pastor command belief and/or action from those to whom he ministers while still maintaining a strong foundation for the ministry of the Word? He can accomplish this from derived authority.
In one sense, the authority of the pastor and Jesus are different. Any brief survey of scriptural anthropology reveals that our natural, unredeemed state is not conducive to truth. Therefore, whereas a pastor can hold the office and exercise extrinsic authority similar to Jesus, a pastor cannot exercise intrinsic authority exactly as Jesus did.
Extrinsic authority is evident in the office a pastor occupies. Paul said in
As the authority of Christ rests in the appointment by the Father of the Son as the Anointed One, so the authority of the pastoral office is appointed to the man of God who fulfills the qualifications set forth in the New Testament. This sameness is of kind, not of extent. It is obvious that Christ is more qualified to exercise His extrinsic authority than a pastor is to exercise his own, but the extrinsic nature of the authority is the same.
What is not the same is the intrinsic authority. Where Christ’s intrinsic authority was intrinsic in every sense of the word, the pastor’s intrinsic authority derives from Scripture. Jesus was the Word become flesh while the pastor is flesh wrestling with the Word. Mankind is neither intrinsically truthful nor does truth occur within mankind apart from God’s intervention. Therefore, authority based in truth derives from an outside source. This outside source of truth for the pastor must be Scripture if the pastor is to have true intrinsic authority. Is Scripture up to the task?
The Bible and Preaching
The battle for the Bible in the pulpit has been waged. Many evangelicals are committed to preaching the Scripture in their churches because they believe the Bible is sufficient. The doctrine of sufficiency is a belief that the Bible contains everything needed regarding what we should believe and how we should live.
Why preach the Bible? What is so special about it? This question has everything to do with what the preacher believes about Scripture and what the preacher believes Scripture accomplishes. This question also reflects the preacher’s intrinsic authority.
What then is Scripture supposed to accomplish? Paul said in
The Bible’s overarching theme is the redemption of God’s creation. The Bible opens in Genesis with the fall of man from the likeness of God and concludes in Revelation with the restoration of mankind in God’s eternal presence. Moreover, in between lays the re-creation and transformation of individuals and communities through the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
After understanding Scripture’s intended purpose of conforming humanity to the image of Jesus Christ, it is easy to understand why Scripture should be elevated in the pulpits of this country and around the world. Is Scripture elevated in this same way in the counseling room?
The Bible and Counseling
While it would not be difficult to convince most evangelicals that preaching from the Bible is important, the same cannot be said for counseling from the Bible. Why are pastors reticent when confronted with a congregant struggling with life issues? Isn’t there a word to be said by the pastor to the person struggling with homosexuality, bi-polar disorder, depression or a host of other psychological maladies plaguing modern Christians? The answers to these questions lay within the evolution of thought regarding the human condition.
Pastors are unsure of themselves in the counseling room because science has replaced Scripture as the authority. Remember the four components mentioned earlier. Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Are these four components not equally as valid in the counseling room as in the pulpit? Many of the issues facing our congregations are matters of obedience rather than psychology. We need wisdom to know the difference.
Great figures in psychology such as Sigmund Freud, Anton Boisen, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers changed the landscape of Western thinking when it comes to the mind and have wrenched the confidence to counsel out of the hands of the local pastor. We have been robbed of one half of the ministry of the Word.
Preaching and Counseling: The Same but Different
In what ways are preaching and counseling the same? In what ways are they different? Understanding that the framework for comparison relies on an assumption that Scripture is authoritative, several comparisons and contrasts between preaching and counseling emerge.
Preaching and counseling are the same in three ways:
1. The content is the same. Whether preaching or counseling, the pastor should use Scripture for his content. God’s Word claims to be the revelation of God to man and as such should be the primary influence in the lives of people. Scripture is a common ground between the pastor and congregant. What does a 35-year-old pastor have to say to an 85-year-old man about living? How does he counsel a woman who has lost a child if he has never lost one? If he uses Scripture as his content, he always will have a word fit to speak to those who need to hear it.
2. Preaching and counseling operate from the same authority. Scripture gives the pastor the authority to counsel and preach. Without this scriptural basis for the offices, why would anyone submit to a pastor’s authority? Several current authors are exploring the sound biblical authority invested in the pastoral office as part of their counseling ideology. The scripturally defined office is the affirmation from God that will sustain the pastor in the pulpit and in the counseling room.
3. Preaching and counseling are effective if God intervenes. The Holy Spirit is actively involved in the preaching event and the counseling session. Without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, there will be no change. Whether the preaching/counseling is evangelizing the lost person or admonishing the saved person, the Holy Spirit is responsible for the results. Apart from divine intervention, neither preaching nor counseling has any lasting effect.
Preaching and counseling are different in three ways:
1. Preaching is one-way communication while counseling is two-way communication. This fact does not preclude the Holy Spirit from working within both but does change the nature of the communication events. Preaching a text of Scripture requires proclamation. Proclamation is a monologue. Counseling is a give-and-take exchange that is much more fluid in nature. The pastor must be willing to change direction much more readily in counseling than in preaching.
2. Preaching is general and counseling is specific regarding application. Preaching is general in the sense of not focusing on a specific congregant issue but rather focusing on a text. For example, the pastor who preaches from
3. Preaching is short-term, and counseling is long-term. A pastor can preach a sermon from Mark 10:1-12 in 30 minutes on a Sunday morning. This sermon may or may not be at his home church. It could be at a men’s meeting, associational meeting, conference or some other venue where the pastor will preach and leave. This sermon may or may not change a person’s mind who is considering divorce or involved in adultery. Either way, 30 minutes is the limit. When someone seeks the pastor for counseling regarding a failing marriage or a wandering spouse, the pastor enters a long-term relationship for the purpose of correcting the problem scripturally. This takes a commitment on the part of the counselor and counselee. Most people complain if the pastor goes past 30 minutes in his preaching. When this is considered, the commitment to enter a counseling relationship becomes all the more important for the pastor and congregant if counseling is to be successful.
Tying It All Together
How can a pastor maintain a biblically sound relationship between preaching and counseling? How will he have the confidence to exercise these two vital aspects of his office? So many competing authorities at work in the world today undermine the pastoral role in preaching and counseling. What will the pastor adopt as his authority?
From the preceding study, two vital principles arise that will help the pastor maintain a solid biblical foundation for pastoral ministry in preaching and counseling.
Principle 1: A Scriptural View of Scripture. An orthodox view of inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency will equip the pastor to function in the roles of preacher and counselor. Many pastors function in the role of preacher and adhere to inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency; but when it comes to counseling, they are fearful to exercise their office. Are there physiological issues that manifest as behavioral problems? Some say yes; some say no. Are there behavioral problems that are not physiological but hermeneutical? Definitely. When pastors have a scriptural view of Scripture, they are better equipped to function in their God-given authority.
Principle 2: A Scriptural View of Authority. Authority exists in two aspects—inner (intrinsic) and outer (extrinsic). First, a pastor’s outwardly derived authority comes from Scripture. Scripture gives the man called by God the authority to be preacher and counselor. When a preacher preaches something other than Scripture, he lessens his extrinsic authority because he inadvertently lessens the authority of Scripture. When a pastor refers a congregant to a non-biblical counselor, he lessens his extrinsic authority by inadvertently communicating that he does not believe he is qualified to fulfill his office. Second, a pastor’s inwardly derived authority also comes from Scripture. In as much as the pastor internalizes and practices the truth of Scripture, he has intrinsic authority. When a preacher preaches something other than Scripture, he lessens his intrinsic authority because he does not share the one source of inner truth that he possesses. In essence, he elevates experience above revelation. When a pastor counsels using psychology and not Scripture, he lessens his intrinsic authority because he places observational authority on the same level or above revelational authority. A pastor is within his biblical authority to preach and counsel using the Word of God.
Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Jesus affirmed the Old Testament, and His teachings are the basis for the New Testament. Scripture forms the solid foundation that resists the coming storm. Jesus taught as “one having authority.”
Who is the pastor who will have a successful preaching and counseling ministry? He will exercise his God-given authority established by Scripture in preaching and counseling. He will be able to preach and counsel knowing Scripture equips him for both. He will trust in the derived authority of God’s Word and resist the contrived authorities elevated in the secular psychologies. His ministry will stand during the storm because it is founded on the rock of revelation. He will be successful because he will preach and counsel “as one having authority.”