I walked up to the ticket counter to ask directions to my hotel. Little did I know that I was about to be called to reflect on my chosen calling. The man behind the glass separation commented on my cross by saying ‘you are a believer aren’t you, I can tell from your cross’. Yes, I answered. He proceeded to tell me there was a church in the vicinity, a world famous cathedral. Then he wanted to know if I sang in church from time to time, ‘no’ I said ‘I am not a singer, I am a pastor’.
A few seconds of silence as he pondered the likelihood of this figure before him being a person of the cloth. Breaking his stunned silence, he remarked ‘it’s a beautiful profession’. Hm, thought I, I had never quite thought of it in such terms before. ‘You must meet a lot of people’ he said, ‘yes’, I replied, ‘but I am sure you meet more’, thinking of the thousands who buy train tickets every single day. How I would love to have all those show up in church.
He was not done. ‘Oh you must hear a lot of people’s problems, if I was to start talking about mine, we would still be here till tomorrow’ said this middle aged man with a serene countenance and a pleasant manner. We chatted a little and I left there thinking how interesting it was that he did not comment on God, the role of the pastor in communicating the knowledge of God to people, bringing deliverance though the word of God and prayer, rather on the pastor as counselor and psychologist.
And that is a widely held view. For many church and God are those ones who provide counsel, advice, listen to their problems often without expectation of a real solution, and certainly without any intention on their part to live fully for God on a consistent basis, to accept the challenge to them to grow up spiritually, know God’s word, pray, attend church and serve. Yet talking to a pastor only will never solve your problem, there are spiritual forces at play that must be dealt with through God’s word and prayer.
There are character issues that must be dealt with through repentance and daily walking with God and living for God. Many of the problems people seek counseling for are rooted in rebellion, disobedience and selfishness to which the first antidote is repentance with a capital R. Some listening is required, but too often pastors waste valuable time letting people talk to them when they should be bringing them to talk to God, and are made to feel guilty when the situation does not change. We must train people to communicate directly with the Father and to walk in holiness, that will release Pastors to focus more on the preaching of the gospel and caring for those who truly need counseling.