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Counseling and therapy are becoming more common and less stigmatized in our culture. And while many pastors may not have signed up to become counselors, they will undoubtedly find themselves counseling people as they engage in the work of shepherding the flock. Which is why the book "The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need" is such a gift to men already in ministry or preparing for ministry. But because every member is called to bear burdens withitn the body and to speak the truth in love to one another, this book can actually serve any member who wants to grow in helping and better caring for others in their church. Here are 20 quotes from the book that most caught my attention:


Counseling in its simplest form is one person seeking to walk alongside another person who has lost his or her way. Professional training or academic programs can be very helpful for honing skill, but even if you have not had these, you can counsel if you wholeheartedly embrace God's Word as that which shows people their greatest needs and their greatest hope.


Whatever the complexity of people's troubles, you can always ask yourself this orienting question: What does faith in Christ look like in this person's trouble?


…as with everything in life, your skill in navigating the dark places is developed only by practice. A pastor will grow in his abilities only as he humbly takes on the task of caring closely for people.


…your confidence for navigating the dark places is not in you in the first place, but in Christ… This is the ground of our confidence and the only reason we would dare to wade into the dark waters of human trouble.


Ultimately, your confidence does not rest on your skill set, no matter how developed. Instead, your confidence is in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the proclamation of his Word. What goes for the pulpit goes for the counseling room.


Pastors get to help struggling people respond wisely to their problems: anger needs control (Eph. 4:26); sorrow needs comfort (2 Corinthians 1); fear needs rest (Ps. 56:3-4). Couples in debt need budget goals and financial restraint; teenagers who cut themselves need behavioral strategies to stop; professionals addicted to pain pills need medical attention. Pastors have to tackle problems practically. People need thoughtful advice for real-life struggles.


But practical strategies by themselves are not enough. Counseling that is truly Christian will have much more: the person and work of Christ will be its theological and practical center. Christ and his gospel must be the foundation, means, and end of our counseling. If by the end of your time together you have not helped this person look more like Christ, then what you've done is not Christian counseling.


…the three main goals of counseling: to address the problem, to display the relevance of the gospel, and to help people grow in Christlikeness. If you have these goals clearly in mind, you will have a much greater chance of saying something beneficial.


Be sure to open your Bible during the first meeting. If God's Word really matters to the process of change, you need to show it.


Our hope is that through prep work, we teach the person to rely on God's Word. Nothing can substitute for this. Other forms of prep work should always be complements to the central task of Scripture intake and prayerful meditation.


What people tend to talk about, who they are attracted to, how they spend their time—in summary, how their hearts respond to life—are matters of worship. Pastors should think of counseling not primarily as an attempt to fix problems, but as an attempt to reorient worship from created things to the Creator by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


…don't be hasty or simplistic in labeling what a person's heart is worshiping. You are not on an idol hunt, as if these things could be easily labeled.


Often, direct exhortation is not the place to start. An angry husband may think he is simply ticked over whatever the last fight was about say, a disagreement about finances. Simply identifying his idol as money and chastising him for his anger will not do. You have to help him become more aware of things he believes about his wife (that she is materialistic or disrespectful), of things he wants (freedom to do as he pleases), and of other ways his anger expresses itself (sarcastic comments, a lack of warmth toward her).

What this man needs is patient instruction and exploration that will illumine his heart. This takes time. You don't want to simply tell him what his idols are then admonish him to worship God instead. Don't assume people are fully conscious of what motivates their feelings and behavior. Admonition is necessary, but it is most effective when someone becomes aware of both what he is doing and why he is doing it.


The one constant in every counseling conversation is being "patient with everyone." Spiritual growth takes time, and that requires patience in both counselor and counselee.


…Counseling is less like a sermon and more like a conversation. We've felt the same temptation you do in counseling—to tell people what's wrong with their lives and what God's Word says, and then usher them out the door. Please don't do that. Don't preach at them; talk with them. But it is a conversation for the purpose of instruction.


Setting goals will take some prep work on the pastor's part, since often people in the midst of trouble can't figure it out for themselves. Just keep one thing in mind: goals should only involve what a counselee is directly responsible for. We should not set goals that are dependent on other factors. So instead of setting a goal for a crummy husband to have a better marriage next week (which would be dependent upon his wife as well), you set a goal for him to confess his sin to her and ask for her forgiveness. Or instead of setting a goal for a depressed person to feel more hopeful in two weeks, you set a goal for things he can more directly control, like Bible intake, service to others, or exercise.


Sometimes it helps to get them to summarize what they got out of the meeting. Before you close in prayer, you may ask, "What one or two things did you get out of our time?" Don't be discouraged if what they saw or heard was not what you wanted them to understand. This summary moment provides yet another opportunity to remind people of the glories of Christ and God's perspective on the situation. So if they are missing something significant in their recounting of the session, take a moment to patiently instruct and encourage.


Seeking wisdom in a discipleship setting is really not different from seeking wisdom in a counseling setting. It follows the general pattern we have laid out already. Seeking God's wisdom involves listening with a discerning ear, considering heart responses, and speaking the truth of Scripture in love. Counseling simply involves more intensive exploration, more formal structure, and problem-specific experience.


The best indicator for ending counseling is that the individuals have been adequately equipped to respond in faith to their troubles and are showing a consistent pattern of doing so.


To let people think they are helping themselves by showing up for appoint-nents when, in fact, their hearts remain unteachable is to let hem engage in a kind of self-deceit.


Every Christian is capable of helping, even with the really hard stuff in the Christian life. With the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), Christ's love in their hearts (Gal. 5:6), and a willingness to serve (Mark 10:43-45), nothing can stop them from doing some effective good. God uses his Word to offer wisdom for responding rightly to any circumstance under the sun. That wisdom is available for all who seek it, and Christians can do this together formally or informally.


There are also some helpful forms in the appendix of the book. To read more, get a copy of the book for yourself at wtsbooks or Crossway.