As a minister, I have often said that most of my pastoral counseling is simply my “preaching” a previous sermon to the one seeking counsel. How often, in fact, have pastors counseling troubled members found themselves saying something like, “I wish you had been in worship last Sunday–we studied this very issue!”
While counseling books and methods are useful, consider how a preacher’s storehouse of expositions is especially helpful in counseling members. For example, think about how a sermon on Matthew 7:1-5 might unearth a judgmental spirit between troubled spouses. Or how a sermon on Ephesians 4:32 has the potential to free an individual from the chains of bitterness and resentment.
Let’s consider a few reasons why one of our expositions of a biblical text may be the most helpful counseling we can offer our members:
- Exposition teaches the sufficiency of Scripture. The Apostle Paul writes of the profitability of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and Peter teaches that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:1-4). The doctrine of sufficiency does not mean that other sources of truth are necessarily wrong or unhelpful, but rather that all other sources are subservient to the final authority of the Bible. Using biblical expositions in pastoral counseling affirms our own belief in this doctrine and teaches our members about the singular nature of the Bible’s authority and power.
- It builds confidence in the Word. When members learn that the Bible addresses their deepest hurts and darkest challenges, they learn to trust the Bible. Their confidence grows as they see that God has a helpful word to meet their needs. And, not only does the confidence of our members grow, but our confidence grows too! We witness how God’s Word speaks to the very concerns of our members, and we learn to stand firmly upon the authoritative Word of God.
- It helps our members grow. Providing copies of our sermons (in written or oral form) to members we are counseling helps them grow in biblical knowledge. Imagine a member shares that he cannot forgive a person who has wronged him. After listening compassionately, we offer a bit of “homework” to help him work through his problem. We encourage him to read or listen to a message we have preached on forgiveness and ask him to consider how the exposition speaks to his particular situation. We also ask him to share his insights at the next counseling session. Assignments like these engage our members in biblical study and contribute to their spiritual growth.
What other reasons might you give to demonstrate the value of using biblical expositions in pastoral counseling?
To read more from Dr. Linn, visit his website at www.preachingtruth.org.