Pierre, Jeremy and Deepak Reju. The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 159 pp. $14.99
For many entering into their first pastorate, one of the most surprising aspects of ministry is the high demand of counseling that is needed in the context of a local church. This 21st century reality of ministry can easily overwhelm young and experienced pastors alike. Often, the sense of being overwhelmed is rooted in a pastor’s lack of confidence in his ability and sense of simply not knowing how to effectively counsel people in any type of formal way.
It is this specific issue that Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju seek to address in their recent work, The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need. This is a book by pastors and for pastors. Although Pierre is the department chair of biblical counseling and biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he also serves as a pastor at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, while Reju serves as the pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
In this work, the wisdom of countless hours of pastoral ministry counseling experience by Pierre and Reju stands out. The goal of the authors is twofold in the book. The first is to provide a “basic framework to approach your people’s troubles” (15), and second, to give pastors “confidence that in the gospel you have the categories you need to navigate the troubles of your people” (17).
There are other excellent resources that lay out the theoretical framework and Scriptural support for biblical counseling, however, this book is unique as it is specifically geared toward what the practicality of biblical counseling looks like on a Wednesday morning in the office while meeting with someone.
The book is divided into three main sections that address the concept, process, and context of biblical counseling. The first two sections include three chapters each, while the last section has two. Each chapter is concise and to the point, with no wasted words.
In addition to the main body, the book includes helpful resources in the appendixes. The first appendix provides a bullet point outline for quick reference for the practical steps of a counseling session that are unpacked throughout the book. Appendix B gives a brief outline of various counseling models, while Appendix C provides a useful Personal Background Form that Pierre and Reju recommend using to help make the first counseling meeting effective. These useful appendixes only serve to increase the book’s value as a practical resource.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
For any pastor that is actually pastoring his people, he will easily resonate with this book. One of the most challenging aspects of the book comes in the introduction. Here, the authors make the important point that the shepherd should smell like the sheep. They write, “You may or may not think of yourself as a counseling pastor, but the bottom line is that you are called to labor for your people in these unsettling problems” (14).
Faithful shepherding does not allow the pastor to push problematic and troubled people elsewhere. Shepherds must shepherd. That is why this book is so helpful. Most pastors either did not take any counseling courses in seminary, or at they took one most.
Because of this, there is often a fear of simply not knowing how to counsel people faithfully. Part 2 of this book, dealing with the process, is the most practically helpful as it offers three chapters that outline specific steps in the counseling process. It addresses the first and last meeting and a framework for what to talk about each meeting. Additionally, there are specific steps in how to make sure those you are counseling are being pushed to the centrality of the gospel.
Chapter 7 of the book, located in the context section, offers a perspective on counseling that many pastors may not have considered before. In this chapter, the authors talk about the importance of a discipleship culture within the local church and how that type of culture aids in the counseling ministry. They address the importance of meaningful membership, equipping members to disciple others, and connecting those hurting with members that can help. This type of congregation releases the pastor from being the only one “responsible” for seeking to aid those needing counseling.
Until Jesus returns, pastoral ministry will remain burdensome as we share in the sufferings and heartaches of our people. For the pastor who needs concise and practical help in knowing how to shepherd his people through the darker days, Pierre and Reju’s book provides an excellent resource.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
The Pastor and Counseling is an excellent practical resource and guide that can help equip pastors with the basic “how-tos” of counseling people in the context of the local church.