Introduction to Pastoral Counseling

An Exchanged Life Perspective
by Dr. John Woodward

Christ’s Great Commission is for His people to make disciples of all nations and this
mandate includes evangelism and teaching (Matt 28:19,20). One aspect of carrying out
this task in the context of the church is counseling. Counseling can be described as
remedial discipleship which helps a troubled believer overcome their problems biblically.
With the growing complexities of our culture, the moral decline in North America, and
society’s drift away from a Christian worldview, the pastoral ministry seems to be as
challenging as ever. The minister is expected to preach effectively, administrate the
church programs, visit newcomers and the membership, perform weddings and funerals,
evangelize, and demonstrate social concern. It is not surprising that some pastors regard
counseling as a responsibility they would rather avoid. It would be simple to refer
parishioners who are disturbed by “psychological problems” to a psychologist or
psychiatrist. Although there may be occasions where referral is necessary (such as for
organic issues), pastoral ministry is usually recognized as including some pastoral
counseling.

A typical approach to help pastors counsel is to somehow integrate secular psychology
and the Christian faith. The tendency in the Clinical Pastoral Education field is to put
more of an emphasis on psychological research that biblical theology. An example of a
book aimed at introducing pastors to counseling is the volume in Baker’s Source Books
for Ministers series. The author’s intention is valid. “The goal of spiritual counseling is to
bring men and women into right relationship with God and lead them to the abundant
life.” This purpose statement quoted from James Bonnell is fine. Yet in the chapter on
techniques of counseling, the author just surveys secular counseling models with some
evaluative comments. [1] This leads to the dilemma of how to integrate unbiblical,
secular psychology with biblical counseling.

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