THE BIBLE upholds the importance of seeking counsel in times of need. We are told that “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Pro 11:14). If the law is taught by priests and the word proclaimed by prophets, then counsel was expected from the wise (Jer.18:18). The most important source of counseling in the world is the Bible; for, it is the Scriptures that make one wise for salvation (2Tim.3:15). And, the witness of Scriptures is of Jesus who is called the Wonderful Counselor (Isa.9:6). The greatest blessing for the church is the presence of God with us through the Holy Spirit who is called the Counselor (Parakletos, Jn.14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7). The ministry of counseling, therefore, in the church is always through the Spirit based upon the Word of God for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father.
Pastors are counselors; however, this doesn’t mean they should use the title “Counselor”, since that title is a professional one and pastors are not counselors in the sense of a professional that the world understands. They are counselors only in the sense that they use the Bible to help someone understand a situation and find for themselves the biblical solution for the same. Therefore, pastoral and biblical counseling is not the same as psychological counseling. The role of a pastor is of a shepherd who watches out for the souls of Christ’s flock, as one who must give account (Heb 13:17). A pastoral church is that in which each member knows that he is his brother’s keeper. Therefore, biblical counseling lies at the core of Christian fellowship. We are called to exhort (parakaleo) one another daily (Heb.3:13).
AREAS OF COUNSELING IN THE CHURCH
The issues of the soul are many. The soul is the part of man that reasons, feels, and decides. It is the place of intellect, emotion, and will. Therefore, it often gets engrossed with intellectual, emotional, and decision problems. The pastor approaches such issues with, chiefly, the word of God and prayer. “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Some of the areas that biblical counseling addresses are:
• Healing and Deliverance
• Spiritual Formation
• Family Counseling
• Pre-Marital and Marital Counseling
• Grief and Crisis Counseling
• Leadership Counseling
Healing and Deliverance
Biblical counseling is not psychological therapy. It flows from the comfort, consolation (paraklesis), and power of the Holy Spirit. The word of comfort is spiritual in nature and is life-giving and comforting. Therefore, from the Spirit comes life and deliverance. Jesus declared that He was anointed by the Holy Spirit to heal the brokenhearted, i.e. heal those whose heart has been broken in pieces (Isa.61:1; Lk.4:18). However, He cannot heal those who think they are fine and do not need a physician (Matt.9:12). Those living in fear, anxiety, and depression need healing and deliverance and there is nothing more powerful than the Word of Truth that can truly bring spiritual and emotional deliverance. The Word instructs anyone who is sick to call for the elders of the church so that they can pray for him (Jas.5:14,15). Sometimes, this prayer session may also involve confession of sins to one another and prayer for one another (Jas.5:16). The prayer of faith is not discouraging but full of positive expectations and encouragement. Therefore, it is effective. The man of God will not discourage the sick, but will minister through word of faith and the prayer of faith that both can only build the other in faith and bring healing into his soul and body. There are some who are in bondage of evil spirits. Such need the ministry of deliverance and also the ministry of the Word in order for them to be rooted in the truth that sets them free.
The Christian is not a perfect human being in this world. His life in Christ from day one of his conversion is a life of progress in faith. He moves from strength to strength (Psa.84:7). He doesn’t consider himself that he has attained, but keeps moving forward (Phil.3:13-16). But, such progress is not possible without the ministry of the Word, fellowship of the Body, and prayer. Now, the ministry of the Word in spiritual formation has two aspects: Preaching and Teaching. While preaching calls forth one to repentance from sins and obedience to faith, teaching roots, builds, and establishes one in faith. Teaching that builds one up is patient in nature and convinces one of the truth by proper reasoning from and interpretation of scriptures. It also rebukes someone who is hardened against the truth and is frivolous about sin. But, it exhorts the one who is weak and needs help to stand again. Therefore, it says: “Preach the word! …. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2Tim 4:2).
Churches are made up of families. A big role of the pastoral ministry is to help families be founded upon the model of the Divine Family of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The church herself is the Household or the Family of God (Eph.2:19). Family counseling involves counseling to children, to adolescents, to teenagers, to adults, to parents, and to the elderly at home. Therefore, it is required of a pastor that he should be someone “who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1Tim 3:4-5). Elderly women are called to be godly teachers of good things, and to counsel the younger women to love their husbands, children, and be good homemakers (Tit.2:3-5).
Pre-Marital and Marital Counseling
Pre-marital and marital counseling occupies a very important space in the ministry of the church in the present age. Humans are bombarded with all kinds of conflicting and false-liberation ideas that have damaging influences on their views of relationships, marriage, and marital life. The Lord has raised several ministers in these days who specially minister in this area to help married couples as well as prospective couples to learn the teaching of the Bible on this subject as well as understand important practical lessons on the same. Increasing conflicts, separations, and divorces have drawn the ministry of church heavily towards this area of need. It is not surprising that much of teaching today caters to the need of family and marital counseling. Certainly, people fall where there is both no counsel and bad counsel. But, they are established by right counsel.
Grief and Crisis Counseling
Grief that comes from loss of beloved ones cannot be comforted by mere words alone. Then, there is also grief from loss of job or business. The more one draws deeper in the waters of counseling, the more one knows how much it is important to identify and feel along. The very words “sympathy” and “compassion” carry the connotations of feeling along. Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor because He is a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb.4:15). The Holy Spirit (Parakletos, One who is called to our side) “helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26). One without mercy and compassion cannot even start to think of helping anyone in times of grief and crisis. A minister detached from the conflicts, anguishes, cries, and fallings of people around is a minister at paradox, for he cannot even begin to minister unless he comes along with them. The Good Samaritan is good because he didn’t talk much but helped so much with all he had.
Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus teach us that he was truly a very good counselor to leaders, through the grace of Christ given to him in all wisdom and understanding. The letters give us only a glimpse of all the time and mentorship that he invested in them so that they could become good soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Leadership counseling involves attempts to understand others. Paul knew that Timothy was young, therefore he encourages him to be strong, fearless, and an example to others. He empowers him with sound words and authority. He calls both Timothy and Titus as his “true son” (1Tim.1:2; Tit.1:4). We also see the leadership counseling of Paul in his letters to the Corinthians, where he instructs them about the various questions of doctrine, practice, and church discipline. Jesus said that a true leader doesn’t lord over others but serves them (Mk.10:42-45). Peter tells us to shepherd the flock by being examples to them (1Pet.5:3). One cannot counsel a leader just by power-point presentations; one has to be a leader indeed and be able to say like Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1Co 11:1)
We briefly went through the various areas of need that calls for the church to minister by the comfort of the Word and prayer. It is important to note that one cannot teach unless one has learned; therefore, the Bible discourages the church from appointing a novice to a place of authority (1Tim.3:6). Unless one has spiritual maturity and understanding of the truth of God, one cannot teach the truth of God. Therefore, the Bible discourages people from being hasty to become teachers (Jas.3:1). However, this doesn’t mean that we should not stop exhorting each other daily. Yet, true biblical counseling will have the all-sufficient and irrefutable backing of the Holy Scriptures, in all right and proper interpretation. Therefore, it is called biblical counseling and is an important ministry of the church.