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:

  1. “But I am also a counselor.”
  2. “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.

Serious questions
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.

  • dik

    I’m happy to be a mongrel pastor. In my experience, mongrels are also much less highly-strung and much more lovable and affectionate creatures (I’m talking dogs, not pastors, clearly….).

    Maybe the image of a General Practitioner is also a helpful one for pastoral ministry, albeit not without its limitations (I’m not sure what the US version of a GP is, David).

    • David Murray

      Family Practitioner in US. I like the image.

  • Paul Tautges

    Yes, David. Let’s keep public and private ministry of the word together…in the same person. Paul did, Colossians 1:28, but also I love his testimony in Acts 20:20. He declared what was profitable, teaching BOTH publicly and privately. We need to return to the shepherd/preacher model.

  • Matt Beatty

    A good and necessary word, David. I wonder if at least part (maybe a large part) of the problem is the influence of the very large church and the assembly-line organization it takes to maintain a congregation of 500, 1000 or 10,000. Spurgeon was undoubtedly unique in the breadth of activities he could do in a week, but I suspect he either did precious little counseling with the “average” parishioner. Tim Keller, John Piper, etc. all undoubtedly BEGAN their pastoral ministries with the “generalist” orientation that characterized 90%+ of pastors through the years (preacher, counselor, teacher, and (gasp!) worship leader), but with the new division of labor demanded by congregations of, say, above 300, and the loss of traditional communities here in North America, most would argue that this division isn’t optional but obligatory if one’s ministry is to prosper. The idea that one might advocate 10 churches of 150 each vs. a single “venue” of 1500 seems quaint at best, Spirit-quenching at worst. Paul’s (Tautges)admonition to keep public and private ministries together seems to be an idea closely related to one’s conception of what the local church should be… and I (for one) think that the conception that allows them to be together is pretty much gone.

    • David Murray

      I’m afraid that you might be right, Matt. But we can still hope for a more biblical model.

  • Bob Kellemen


    Thanks for your challenging words.

    Knowing you and your ministry and knowing Pastor Deepak and his ministry, I hear you both saying “Amen!” to the same message.

    When I first edited Deepak’s post for the BCC’s Grace & Truth blog, I did not “hear him” saying that it was a good thing for pastors not to love counseling. Nor did I hear him saying that the “typical pastor” should separate the personal ministry of the Word and the pulpit ministry of the Word.” I heard him urging a both/and.

    Perhaps that both/and is where there is some room for discussion. Is it helpful to have “counseling pastors,” or does this “take the burden away from” “other pastors”?
    Again, I think Deepak and you would agree that every pastor should be a pastor who counsels. I’ve found that an “effective” “counseling pastor” is one who: 1.) counsels biblically, 2.) equips the saints for one-another ministry, and 3.) encourages and equips the rest of the “church leadership team” (pastors, elders, deacons, etc.) for one-another ministry. In that way, the “new breed” encourages every ministry leader to be part of the “historical breed” of pastoral soul physicians…


    • David Murray

      Thanks Bob. That’s helpful.

  • dik

    Interesting take on this from a business perspective:

    • David Murray

      That’s a great link, Dik. Thanks for letting me know about it.

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  • Thomas

    I personally have wondered what has happened to the Pastor’s visiting hours, the hours that he would be in the office available for the flock. I’m not that old, but I have seen that that has changed, and it appears that your article might have gotten to the reason why.

    I personally am called to shepherd or pastor the flock of God, I love to preach/teach and I also love God’s people and counseling and personally disciplining people for me is an honor, and I do think it goes with the calling.

    A couple of questions,

    Since the term “preacher” has become a byword by society, and a lot of places limit preaching to about 30 mins, do you think the transition with the new breed is a reflection of the rejection of the preachy preacher?

    Do you think it could reflect a cultural influence, where people are quicker to go to a “counselor” instead of a pastor who can counsel?

    Just some thoughts that came up while reading the article and commenting. Thanks for the post.

    • David Murray

      Thomas: I think both of your points are valid. There’s no question that “Counselor” carries more social cachet today than “Preacher.” And yes, people are much quicker to go to the counselor. I suppose my question would be, “Do we cave into these trends? What can we do to resist them and even reverse them?” Great points though, thanks.