Pastor, You Are a Counselor

The quotation below is an excerpt from the late David Powlison’s new book, ‘The Pastor as Counselor: The Call for Soul Care.’ Use my referral link to receive $5 off your order at Westminster Books.

“Pastor you are a counselor.

Perhaps you don’t think of yourself that way. Perhaps you don’t want to be a counselor. But you are one.

Perhaps preaching, leadership, and administration keep you preoccupied, an you do not do much hands-on pastoral work. You don’t take time for serious talking with people. In effect, you are counseling your people to think that most of us don’t need the give-and-take of candid, constructive conversation. Apparently, the care and cure of wayward, distractible, battered, immature souls—people like us—can be handle by public ministry and private devotion. The explicit wisdom of both Scripture and church history argues to the contrary.

Perhaps you are a poor counselor. Are you shy, tentative, passive? Are you aggressive, controlling, opinionated? Do you sympathize with strugglers so much that you have trouble shifting the conversation into forward gear? Do people feel you don’t listen and don’t really care, so they don’t find reasons to trust you?

Unlike Proverbs, do you moralize, unhinging advice from deeper insight and deeper reasons? “Read your Bible… Just get accountable… Have your quiet time… Get involved in a ministry.”

Unlike the psalms, are you pietistic? “Just pray and give it all to Jesus… Claim back your inheritance from Satan… Learn mindfulness and listen for the voice of God in your inner silence.”

Unlike Jesus, do you speak in theological abstractions and generalities? “The sovereignty of God… Justification by faith… The synergy of God’s initiative and man’s response in the sanctification process…”

Unlike Paul—no two letters and no two sermons ever the same!—do you offer predictable boilerplate of pat answers and pet truths?

Do you talk too much about yourself—or too little? Does your counsel sound like a self-help book? There are innumerable ways to run off the rails. But even if your counseling is ineffectual, off-putting, or harmful, you are still a counselor.”

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