Thursday, August 20, 2009

Preaching or Counseling?--Part 4

One word answer: Yes.As I've mentioned previously, some pastors underestimate preaching, others consider it their exclusive form of ministry. However, I think it is necessary for the preacher to be involved in both.

Your counseling ministry can help apply the sermon to the hearts of the congregation. But I'd also suggest:

Counseling Improves your Preaching

I've recently finished listening to a podcast of a class on preaching by Tim Keller and Ed Clowney. As Keller was teaching on "exegeting your audience," he shared that your weekday conversations will affect your weekend sermon. Keller shares that this is the danger of a pastor speaking exclusively to pastors during the week. His sermon will--in essence--be aimed at pastors, rather than congregants. (For instance, I've read a couple of books, listened to lectures and conversed with many pastors about the "new perspective of Paul," yet no one in my congregation is asking this question. Therefore, if I address this "debate" from the pulpit, I'm primarily preaching to pastors/students who aren't even in the room.)

But the pastor who is actively engaged in Biblical counseling will be spending considerable time conversing* with those who are in his congregation on Sunday--unbelievers and believers who are struggling to overcome life issues to God's glory. Even when the pastor is reiterating points from a previous sermon, he is also able to evaluate whether his sermon was as clear as it could have been. He can flesh whether application given really hit the heart issues expressed in the passage. It can be a great evaluation tool for previous sermons.

But future sermons are affected as well. A good preacher should anticipate (and address) objections, concerns and confusion that will come to listeners during the course of his sermon. He must deconstruct the way we automatically think in the flesh as we construct spiritual thinking. By counseling others, the pastor does not have to guess what objections may come; he knows what objections come from spiritual thinking. Applying the objections/questions you face in counseling will improve your exegesis of the congregation as you prepare your sermon. (If you counsel non-believers, this is especially helpful for knowing the objections of the lost. You do not have to try to put yourselves in a non-believer's shoes, or seek to remember your philosophy as a lost person, you simply apply the objections you heard while counseling.)

Counseling will not distract or harm your preaching ministry, it will actually help it!

If you are interested in being equipped to counsel, see this post.

By conversing, I want to clarify a few things. a) I do not believe the only way a pastor should converse with others (including the lost) is in a counseling situation. We should always be seeking opportunities to evangelize the lost and admonish the saints, even at a grocery store check-out. b) By conversing, I do not simply mean talking about the weather, Michael Vick or your grandchildren. I am referring to spiritual conversation; discussions that lead to enjoying the work of Christ on our behalf.

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