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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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Pastoral Theology

Part II

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Dr. Richard C. Weeks


      • A. General Observations

        • 1. Much stress
    on this area for pastors in the last 20 years; so much so in liberal theological circles that an overemphasis has rubbed off on Biblically oriented pastors. In this overemphasis arrangement there is underlying the concept that most problems are to be psychologically analyzed and that psychological therapeutic treatment is the answer apart from Scriptural exhortation or Scriptural therapy. Again, the erroneous concept is abroad that the pastor ought to be a specialist in psychological counseling .

        • 2. There is no question
    but that there is an increasing need for dealing with abnormal psychological problems. As a grade school music supervisor in Watertown expressed it recently, it seemed as though a majority of children in the first grade were already children with deep emotional problems. This situation can only be compounded as the child grows to adulthood.

        • 3. However, two facts still remain
    as far as the pastor is concerned. First, he is not called of God to be a psychologist or a counselor in abnormal psychology. Secondly' there is no doubt but that if the average pastor had a greater acquaintance with Bible principles of applied spiritual truths he could accomplish as well and better much of what now is thought of as being in the realm of specialized psychological counscling .

        • 4. The summation of all this
    is that there is a great temptation for some pastors who have had a measure of success in counseling to overemphasize this aspect of the pastoral ministry and become absorbed in dealing even with many non-Christian people from the psychological aspects rather than evangelizing them and seeking to meet their spiritual needs.

    Hence any pastor who begins to deal with non-Christians concerning domestic or marital problems must be careful that he presses the claims of Christ. This will keep him from getting a reputation of performing simply a counseling service. The Gospel still gives offense. Not a few people completely antagonistic to the claims of God upon their lives would be happy to utilize a free counseling service as long as there is no mention of responsibility Godward. Secondly, he must be able to recognize when there are serious psychiatric problems that need referral to professional resources.

      • B. Location for Counseling.

        • 1. Preferably
    in the church and in the pastor's study.

        • 2. One may have
    a very limitedly furnished study but it can be and should be neat. It should be so arranged and decorated in taste that it does not overly attract nor detract from the discussion at hand.

        • 3. The study location
    tends to give the pastor a psychological advantage as he is then operating on home territory.

        • 4. Counseling in the home
    may often be necessary when the pastor is called on a more sudden or emergency basis; or when one of the parties involved in the counseling is somewhat less than eager to discuss the problem or when church families are involved and they feel very free to have and would prefer to have the pastor in their home.

        • 5. Counseling should not
    be in the home if there is a possibility of some hearing who should not be aware of the circumstances, particularly children.

        • 6. If the people
    are outside the church membership, call on the phone for the counseling appointment. The pastor is in a good position to set both time and place for the session.

      • C. Beginning the problem counseling session.

        • 1. A friendly greeting
    should be given to help relieve the tension most certainly to be present. Those coming will often give outward expression of great emotional pressure. The pastor must be careful not to be upset by this and must not in any way reflect the upset condition he observes. On the contrary he should with a calm voice and some encouraging words invite the individual or individuals to be seated indicating where they should sit.

        • 2. Then the Pastor should state
    that before they discuss the matter at hand he will lead in prayer.

          • a. The prayer
    should be relatively brief asking God to give His grace, wisdom, insight, patience, and above all a desire both to know and to do His will.

          • b. Do not preach in the prayer.
    Use and claim Scriptural promises as the Lord gives them to you, and claim victory ahead of time.

        • 3. Introducing the discussion.

          • a. If the Pastor
    knows well the situation before the discussion begins, he may want to lead the discussion from the outset and to lay down some ground rules immediately.

          • b. If the problem situation
    is one entirely new to him he will probably invite the individual or individuals to state the case.

            • (1) If there is only
    one person present, the relating procedure is simple with the Pastor making brief notes on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper which he can later file. In addition he may desire to interrupt briefly on occasion to make certain he is understanding the details correctly. However, he must not at any time during this hearing voice his impression or judgment prematurely. He may, however ask a pertinent question or two which can cause the individual to do some rethinking of his problem even as he relates it.

            • (2) If there are two or more
    individuals involved and presumably more than one side involved, then the pastor will need to regulate the opening discussion by having one speak his side and afterwards the other speak. The pastor must be careful not to allow a debate to flare up and a great deal of heat generated. He must insist that interruptions be held to a minimum with only very brief ones allowed if an important fact is challenged. Again, the pastor may ask a few pertinent questions as this introduction proceeds but only for his own notations, not to judge or to give the impression of judgment prematurely.

      • D. Guiding the counseling session.

        • 1. The Pastor will likely feel
    when the individual or individuals are through with their opening statements that a considerable amount of detail remains to be added. He may then want to address questions calculated to bring this information out and make further notation on paper as he does. These notes will be very sketchy and calculated to be only understood by him.

        • 2. As soon as the pastor feels
    that he has all of the pertinent facts, perhaps also by allowing a brief time of dialogue between opposing parties present, he must then take command of the discussion and begin to crystallize and summarize the facts leading to a conclusion or conclusions.

        • 3. Avoid:

          • a. An overly lengthy discussion
    where some material is simply rehashed.

          • b. Allowing participants
    (if more than one) to turn the discussion into a heated debate with just as much caution as was exercised at the outset of the session.

      • E. Crystallizing the counseling session.

        • 1. The Pastor must always
    be pointing toward a solution even if it is only a temporary one.

        • 2. He must be kindly
    but firmly frank with the individual or individuals and free from all partisanship involvement. No personal feeling or favor must influence him from putting things "right on the line" or he will soon have no respect.

        • 3. In voicing his conclusions
    in cases where more than one individual is involved, the pastor may want to speak to them separately and then finally together.

        • 4. In cases where
    there seem to be impossible dilemmas, the pastor will want to search for an alternate solution that is feasible to all individuals concerned.

        • 5. In all of his appraisal
    and solution suggesting, the pastor must keep in view the Word of God and use it as the Lord brings to mind Biblical illustrations pertinent and Scripture verses that clearly annunciate the principles that a Christian should follow.

        • 6. Make certain
    that individuals thoroughly understand the proposed solution and their part of the action in implementing the solution.

      • F. Concluding the counseling session

        • 1. Attempt to get
    reconciliation of parties if several individuals are involved.

        • 2. Give opportunity
    for individuals to express any further or final thoughts concerning the problem before dismissal.

        • 3. Manifest a very optimistic attitude.
    Even though the situation seems very difficult, find rays of hope to which to point the individual. Seek to get them to feel optimistic in Christ.

        • 4. Always conclude with prayer.
    It need not be lengthy but again include Scripture promises, express thankfulness to God and claim victory.

        • 5. Remind them just before leaving
    of the things agreed upon and the implementation of those things as well as a possible time and place of future consultation. Urge individuals always to seek your help before a problem becomes critical.

      • G. Special considerations in counseling.

        • 1. Be alert for extreme situations.

          • a. Insincere individuals
    who may come to you out of brazen curiosity feigning difficulty just to have something with which to ridicule you and your church. Such occurrences most likely will be rare and hopefully will not occur to any of you. Should you be convinced that such a situation is on your hands, just frankly say so and tell them the business of your schedule does not permit the wasting of time and courteously show them the door but not without presenting Christ.

          • b. Abnormal mental conditions
    that need specialized psychiatric care are not always easy to recognize but usually are. Without going into technical terminology or description, there are some basic features about these that can be recognized as symptomatic of severe psychiatric problems:

            • (1) A strange abnormal
    look or stare in the eyes indicates that mental balance is lacking. A queer manner of dress often accompanies an abnormal mental condition.

            • (2) An incoherence
    of speech and line of conversation that indicates a mental problem.

            • (3) Well verified reports
    that the individual has been exhibiting irrational conduct in the home or elsewhere, even though they rationally converse with you.

          • c. Difference between neurosis and psychosis.

            • (1) In the stress and strain
    of today's living many people live under such tremendous pressure that not only are nerves greatly frayed but not a few people live on the fringe of what is termed a nervous breakdown and some go into a state of emotional collapse that is of some duration. This has to do with neurosis. Medicinal treatment and rest may be indicated here as necessary as well as spiritual therapy.

            • (2) On the other hand
    there are those mental conditions which are abnormal and produce what is acknowledged as abnormal human conduct with emphasis on both the irrational and unpredictable unsocial conduct. This may bring out relatively harmless actions though irrational or it may be manifested in serious, aggravated, and harmful conduct. This condition is usually the result of a more serious mental abberation which has physiological implications connected with the mind and brain of a serious functional or pathological nature. This marks a psychosis or psychotic state that needs to be handled by a professional in the field of psychiatry.

            • (3) A prolonged and severe neurosis
    can develop into a psychotic state but there is a vast difference between the usual nervous breakdown and an abnormal psychotic state.

        • 2. When individuals come to you
    who are not Christians, you will do well to quiz them on their relationship to God through Christ. If there is real conviction follow through and lead them to Christ. If they back off, proceed to deal with the counseling problem. In crystalizing it and proposing the solution Christ will most certainly be prominent in it, but there will be many practical suggestions outlined that may not have a specific relationship to the Gospel. However, before they leave you ought to press the claims of Christ again. If this greatly disturbs them, they will not contact you again and you will have saved yourself from gaining a reputation as a counselor secular in approach without any spiritual overtones.

        • 3. Counseling with alcoholics.

          • a. Can be very frustrating.

          • b. Many of them
    terribly despise their condition but their bodies are so hopelessly alcohol saturated that they are helpless to shake the habit.

          • c. One thing is certain
    they cannot quit gradually. They must stop all at once.

          • d. Only a real regeneration
    experience can effect a complete deliverance.

          • e. They must not only
    hate their condition, they must understand it is sin against God.

          • f. They must be shown
    from the Bible that God is able and willing both to save them and deliver them from the terrible bondage with supernatural power. You will need to be on "real praying ground with God. "

          • g. After leading them to Christ
    you must insist they throw away immediately all liquor. You must enlist their family to help them.

          • h. You must
    get them regularly reading the New Testament and Psalms.

          • i. You must
    help them to get occupied with the constructive use of their time.

          • j. You must
    get them active in the church and witnessing for Christ.

          • k. You must
    contact them daily for some time with encouragement until you feel certain they are "out of the woods. "

          • 1. You can often
    enlist Christians who were formerly alcoholics to help you in this outreach, especially the followup.

        • 4. Counseling with young people.

          • a. Some young people
    will come to you spontaneously with their problems. They are usually easy to help.

            • (1) Be very sympathetic and understanding.

            • (2) Insert a little humor,
    but never do so in a way to belittle their problem or to lower their esteem of you.

            • (3) Remember
    you are dealing with immature individuals who, while mentally they have become worldly wise, are seriously lacking in judgment and wisdom.

            • (4) Be certain
    that you give them a thorough hearing, and a sense of having adequate time to unload their difficulty. In fact the more they talk the more they may see that their cause is not reasonable.

          • b. Not infrequently
    will you have to summon offending young people to answer for improper actions.

            • (1) You must be
    entirely devoid of emotional manifestation, speaking calmly and in a normal voice.

            • (2) They must know you are their friend.

            • (3) They must know
    in a firm but kind way that the action was wrong and will not be tolerated.

            • (4) You ought to explain
    carefully how the action was wrong from the Biblical point of view and thus if God has spoken that ought to be final.

            • (5) Try to illustrate
    the wrong by making some comparison or giving some illustration that being a Christian will vividly present to them the ridiculousness of their action.

            • (6) If without compromising
    you can suggest some face saving factor to the effect that possibly they did not fully understand the implications of their action, do so.

            • (7) They must have a feeling
    that they can fully level with you, but they must also be so handled in a dignified way that they are not allowed to explode.

            • (8) The interview must
    lay out whatever redress is necessary together with an affirmative promise of not so engaging again.

            • (9) Always conclude with prayer.
    Both of you pray; the young person first.

          • c. Girl-friend -- boy-friend problems.

            • (l) Young people have a tendency
    to think and feel that any Upset in a relationship with the boy-friend or girl-friend is permanent and no reconciliation or readjustment is possible. To them all of life's future can be crushed in what we see as a rather insignificant scratch on the surface of time. You must kindly and patiently help them to look at their problem objectively and put spiritual considerations first, trusting God to help them solve it.

            • (2) Always insist
    that they exercise a proper Christian attitude and response to the opposite sex. (This goes as well in relationships to those of their own sex. Girls are especially vulnerable at this point with jealousy and cattyness.) This means a firm enunciating of Scriptural principles "putting the bead" on them if necessary showing where they have acted in manner inconsistent with the teaching of the Word of God"

            • (3) In this day
    of an increasingly frightful permissiveness there must be standards for the youth group in boy and girl relationships which are rigidly enforced even to the chance of wounded feelings and some leaving the group or chaos will result. Both in meetings and in counseling the necessity of the standards and adherence to them must be spelled out and loving but forceful exhortation concerning compliance made.

            • (4) Always in dealing
    with these problems stress dedication to Christ before closing the counscling session. Urge practical implementation of action to the problem at hand consistent with Christian character. Get them to pray in closing just before you do.

            • (5) Check back with them
    soon and frequently as to the situation and whether implementation has been followed as you outlined.

          • d. Youth and parental problems.

            • (1) These will be greatly varied.

            • (2) This is an age
    where the pressures of the society in which the teen-ager lives and moves are absolutely hostile to Christian parental standards and where rebellion is openly advocated. While adolescence has always brought its severe emotional problems, in this day they are greatly accentuated.

            • (3) A pastor is a key factor
    through counseling in helping Christian teen-agers to keep steady and adjust. What we have said earlier about the general approach to teen age counseling applies here.

            • (4) It is necessary to impress
    upon them that their parents are human; that their parents love them deeply, that there is a parent side or view point which they will not understand until they become parents but perhaps can by reason begin to grasp and appreciate now; that they have a responsibility to Christ to seek a loving, understanding, harmonious, relationship in the home; that Scripture teaches obedience to parents regardless if they cannot agree.

            • (5) Do not take
    all of the criticism of their parents at face value. Youth tends easily to exaggerate and distort. Show them how as a Christian they can help their parents. If you know of their own deficiencies either by admission in the counseling session or by reliable report "put the heat of them" kindly but firmly. Let them face up to sin exactly as it is.

            • (6) Suggest practical ways
    in which they can play a part in bettering home relationships. Do not betray confidences. Do not run to the parents advising them of what they ought to do in light of your talk with the young person unless the case is highly critical. Parents may easily resent that the young person took family problems outside the home.

        • 5. Counseling the elder citizens.

          • a. Special concern for them.

          • b. Impress upon them
    that they have much to contribute.

          • c. Urge them
    to maintain independence of living as long as possible.

          • d. Urge them
    to maintain a routine of constructive activity.

          • e. Suggest ways
    of participation in the local church work.

          • f. Make certain
    they participate in social activities.

          • g. Get them
    interested in other similar people.

          • h. Be concerned
    to help them in their troubles in a practical way.

        • 6. Counseling in marital problems.

          • a. Most of the general counseling principles
    given earlier are applicable here. (See II, C, D, E, and F).

          • b. The ramification
    of these situations are legion.

          • c. If, the couple is not Christian,
    there is an additional problem and, while the factual situation and its problems must be realistically faced, the basic need of getting right with God must be emphasized as foundational to any lasting solution.

          • d. In most cases
    where Christians are involved in this problem, there is an underlying spiritual problem on the part of one or both of the partners. This must be dealt with.

          • e. In most cases
    there has been wrong action on both sides so be careful you get both sides of the story.

          • f. If children are involved
    appeal to them on behalf of their family and warn them of their responsibility before God.

          • g. Emphasize
    Scriptural requirements for God's blessing.

          • h. Suggest
    some practical implementations in solving the problems that are evident.

          • i. Remind
    them of the grace of an infinitely holy God who has been offended by us yet has completely forgiven and how this forgiving spirit must be exemplified by them.

          • j. Remind them
    of their earlier love and devotion to each other.

          • k. Get a family altar
    set up again. It would be rare for a family to have severe marital problems while being faithful to the exercise of a daily family altar.

Pastoral Theology Part III

A Testimony to Dr Weeks by Pastor Montgomery
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