Deepak Reju is the Pastor of Biblical Counseling at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. In A New Breed: Pastors who Love Counseling, Deepak highlights the welcome upward trend of interest in pastoral counseling in the local church, and lists some examples of churches who have hired a Pastor of Biblical Counseling.
I’ve only heard good things about Deepak’s counseling ministry and I’ve always enjoyed what he’s written on counseling. However, I wonder if his article highlights a growing and worrying division of roles into pastor-preachers on the one hand and pastor-counselors on the other?
For example, consider how Deepak describes himself as a pastor, but then draws two contrasts between himself and other pastors:
- “But I am also a counselor.”
- “Yet, I’m different than most pastors. I love counseling.”
Now, the church definitely needs men and women who are called specifically to pastoral counseling; some pastors are so overwhelmed with the number and complexity of counseling cases, that specialist pastoral counselors are needed to ease the load. But this article seems to envisage pastors who are not counselors, or at least pastors who do not love counseling. And that seems to fit what I perceive as a growing and widespread withdrawal of pastors from counseling ministry.
Which raises some serious questions: Can you really call yourself a pastor without constant counseling involvement in people’s messy lives? Can you really be an edifying preacher of the Word without regularly getting your hands dirty in personal ministry? To be blunt, can you be a pastor and not love counseling? Is that not an oxymoron? Surely a love for ministering the Word to individual needs and problems is a basic qualification of a Gospel minister. If a man told me that he felt a call to pastoral ministry, but didn’t want to counsel people, I’d show him the door.
Pedigree or mongrel
Now it’s possible that I’m drawing the lines too starkly here. Perhaps pastor-preachers are also doing hours of personal counseling every week. But, from what I can gather from various churches going down this route, it doesn’t work like that. The two roles are growing further and further apart, with serious adverse effects on the tone and content of pulpit ministry – more academic, more distant, less “real,” less “human.”
It might appear logical that a person’s preaching will improve if he’s given much more time to study. However, there’s nothing like the stress and strain of daily involvement in people’s lives to put life, vitality, and gritty realism into a preacher and his sermons.
I’m afraid that pastoral ministry is being split into two pure pedigrees – the preacher breed and the counselor breed. I much preferred the old “mongrel” breed of the pastor who both preached to and counseled his flock (Acts 20:20). I hope they’re not dying out.