The SBJT Forum: Applications of Counseling in Ministry -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 07:4 (Winter 2003)
Article: The SBJT Forum: Applications of Counseling in Ministry
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum:
Applications of Counseling in Ministry

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. D. A. Carson, Larry Crabb, Ed Welch, Mark McMinn, and Charles Tacklett have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: What practical advice would you give to young pastors who want to be careful and faithful in the counseling components of their ministry?

D. A. Carson: These issues are not only complex, but their complexity is compounded by the harsh reality that today people adopt highly polarized positions on these matters. Some are suspicious of almost all counseling. Naturalistic structures of thought govern the dominant psychological theories, it is argued, and those who train in such traditions are almost always tainted by them. What we need is more biblical preaching and teaching. Others concede a place to psychiatrists when there is an organic problem (e.g., a chemical imbalance in the brain), but not elsewhere. On the other hand, many pastors spend less and less time on sermon preparation, swamped as they are by seemingly endless demands for counseling. The moral structures of our culture are falling apart, and people need help. Sermons merely introduce people to broader truths and principles, these pastors argue; beyond that, individuals need individual help. So whether from choice (because some pastors think that counseling is more effective than preaching) or from sheer necessity (because the demands for counseling never go away), Greek exegesis and homiletic excellence are devoured by Freud and Jung, or at least by Larry Crabb.

What follows are far too many points. Their strengths are: (a) their individual brevity, and (b) the fact that I might easily have trebled the list!

(1) For our purposes, “Christian counseling” is nothing more than what takes place when a Christian who in some area is more informed or more mature helps another person, usually a Christian, or another Christian pair or family, to gain similar maturity or help in that area. Of course, such advice and help can take place on an informal basis at countless levels in the church, but when its structure is more formal, it is appropriately called “counseling.”

(2) Pastors must be deeply committed to the priority of what has traditionally been called “the ministry of the Word.” But the ministry of the Word must not be restricted to preach...

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