The Christian Approach to Counseling -- By: J. Ellwood Evans

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 117:468 (Oct 1960)
Article: The Christian Approach to Counseling
Author: J. Ellwood Evans


The Christian Approach to Counseling

J. Ellwood Evans

[J. Ellwood Evans is Professor of Practical Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Counseling has been defined by someone as conservation with a purpose. Counseling is analogous to conservation in at least two ways. First, it is a person-to-person relationship and, second, it is a relationship in which one person turns to another for assistance or help.

In considering the Christian approach to counseling, certain distinctions should be made. The most common Christian use of counseling is that of the work of the pastor. All that the pastor does cannot be considered counseling. However, a great deal that he does could conceivably come under the heading of counseling. In pastoral calling, the pastor as an individual goes to the person. In pastoral counseling, a person comes to the pastor. However, many times when a pastor is making calls he may have the opportunity to counsel as the pastor. Wise says, “However, when during a call a person begins voluntarily to talk about a significant problem in his life, it is evident that the relationship has become strong enough that real help may be given. While in a sense the pastor has gone to the person physically, in another sense the person has come to the pastor in terms of raising a problem that the pastor may not know exists. It is this emotional situation rather than a physical fact that the pastor calls on the person that makes the possibility of help very real.”1

While every pastoral call can hardly be expected to produce a conversation about significant problems, it is quite evident that very frequently a pastoral call may result in such a situation. It is thus seen that pastoral calling and pastoral counseling may blend the one with the other.

Every true pastor should seek to be as helpful as possible to those with whom he comes in contact. Every means possible should be taken by the pastor to make his pastoral work more effective. This raises the question as to what the qualities are which should be possessed by a pastoral counselor if he is to be effective. Oates has suggested a number of things which

are imperative if a pastor is to be helpful as a counselor.2 The helpful pastoral counselor will combine the strengths and decisiveness of a wise father with the gentleness and understanding of a devout mother. Is not this what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:7–8; “But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children: even so, bein...

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