The Pastor and Counselingby Deepak Reju, Jeremy Pierre
Length: Approximately 5 hours. To read (159 pages).
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Pastors are often surprised at how much time they dedicate to counseling. “The Pastor and Counseling” prepares pastors with the basics of Jesus-centered and Gospel-focused counseling. It is simple without being simplistic and practical without losing its theological foundations.
Who should read this?
This book is for pastors who want a clear and simple guide to understanding the basics of pastoral counseling. It helps the reader to understand the motives, struggles, frustrations of counseling as well as providing a concise plan to help those people who come to them for help.
This book is written with a simple, focused, and straightforward presentation of biblical, Gospel-focused, and Jesus-centered counseling. It is simple without being simplistic and practical without losing it theological foundations. It does not overwhelm the reader with technical jargon as many counseling books tend to do. The authors write with pastoral concern for both the reader and those entrusted to the reader’s care.
The book is structured in three main parts: concept, process, and context of biblical, pastoral counseling. The concept of counseling explores the point that shepherds shepherd and, therefore, counseling is part of the job description of every pastor. The process of counseling is explained from initial contact to final meeting.
The context of counseling helps the pastor understand they are not counseling in a vacuum, but has access to resources and help within the church and community.
The purpose of the book is to provide a primer for pastors as they approach the problems brought to them by those seeking counsel. It is to constantly remind pastors that their confidence lies in the transformational power of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Pastors are not expected to solve other people’s problems, but to bring the problem under the light and authority of the Gospel. The authors are seeking to help pastors better serve their congregations and communities by giving them a greater understanding of biblical counseling and a plan for approaching counseling.
The basic premise behind the counseling approach of the authors is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ informs and provides solutions for every problem that any person can experience. The problems we all face are directly connected to the fall that has infected all of mankind and tainted the image of God in us. Through biblical counseling we help people recognize their need for a Savior and the full implication and application of salvation.
The authors support their suppositions about ministry directly from the Bible. The outline and responsibilities of pastoral ministry are taken directly from the lives of Jesus and other major biblical characters. For instance, when presenting how ministry is personal, the authors reveal that it requires identifying with the weakness and sin of people, speaking to God on behalf of people, and speaking to people on behalf of God.
Biblical support for identifying with others’ weaknesses and sin is found in the life of Christ as is revealed in Phil. 2, Heb. 4, and Isa. 53. Support for speaking to God on behalf of people and vice versa, are found in passages such as Matt. 6 and Col. 1.
The authors also draw from their own personal education and experiences. They have received many calls for pastors in search of advice about how to give the best counsel to someone who has come to them for help.
Both authors have great experience in counseling as Pierre serves as the chair of the department of biblical counseling and biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Reju serves as the pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC as well as the president of the board for the Biblical Counseling Coalition. As pastors and counselors, they know the struggles and challenges of counseling in their time of need.
While I am not an expert in this field by a long shot, I do have personal experience in pastoral counselors. I am a lead pastor of medium sized church and have many requests for counseling. I also have a Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling. I say all of that to say this, I wish I would have had this book when I first began ministry.
It would have helped me have a better foundation for counseling. Unfortunately, early in my ministry, I was not tender-hearted or compassionate towards those who came to me with their problems. I did not love or shepherd them well. This book would have helped me have a better, more biblical understanding of how I should approach people who are broken to the point of seeking help. The authors achieved their goal of giving pastors a simple tool to help them better shepherd their people.
There are many strengths to this book, but I believe the top three are: simplicity, addressing the motivation behind counseling, and giving an applicable plan. First, as I have started already, the book is presented simply with precision. Rather than being wordy or technical, it uses plain language to excise the heart of biblical pastoral counseling.
Second, rather than focusing primarily on the skills needed to counsel well, the authors focus first on the heart that should drive counseling. The counselor should seek to follow Christ’s example in serving, suffering, and identifying with those who need help. Lastly, the authors give the reader a process as a launching pad. This gives the reader a framework to begin immediately applying the material to their own ministry. Too often books on counseling present theory without following up with practical application.
Any weaknesses would likely be to people not understanding the purpose and intent of the book. If someone was expecting this book to be an in depth expounding of the intricate details of counseling or a technically extensive treatise of all potential counseling encounters, they will be disappointed. However, the book is not meant to do either of these things. It is meant to be an introductory primer for the novice pastoral counselor.
I believe this book is required reading for ministers who either lack experience or confidence with pastoral counseling. I will be adding it to the required reading for ministers who I am mentoring. This book is needed because many seminarians are not required to take more than an introductory course on pastoral counseling. However, they will be asked regularly to counsel others. They need to have a biblical understanding of how and what they should do to help those who trust them enough to seek out their counsel.
“Your confidence is not in some super-developed counseling technique, or even in yourself, but in God’s power to change people.” (p. 17)
“Shepherds do not smell good. At least, good shepherds do not smell good. A good shepherd identifies with stinking sheep, and the scent rubs off.
But shepherds stink not only because they smell like sheep. They stink because they smell like sweat. And blood, too. Like common laborers, their faces are streaked and their backs are bent. Like common soldiers, their eyes are strained and their arms are scarred. Like both, they often feel overspent and undersupplied. And they’ve made peace with the fact that this kind of work requires as much. You’ll never meet a good shepherd who is still shower-fresh by the afternoon.” (p. 23)
“Sometimes we are more bothered by the thought of people leaving our church than we are by the thought of them hurting.” (p. 28)