I’ve lost count of how many times this has happened.
A distraught married couple comes into my office. Their relationship has been severely broken for quite some time. In an effort to make things better they went to a counselor. In many cases, the counselor claimed to be a Christian. After a few sessions, that counselor handed down the final assessment.
He told them they need to get a divorce, figure out what to do with the kids, and find a way to live and co-parent as friends.
By this time, the couple sitting across the table from me is even more distraught. They don’t want a divorce. That’s why they went to counseling in the first place. In my experience, the biggest proponents of biblical counseling are those who have had the world’s counsel and found it lacking.
There was another person sitting across from me in my office. He too had been to a counselor about anger issues. The counselor gave him a rock to keep in his pocket so that every time he got angry, he would grab that rock and be reminded to calm down.
I wish I could tell you how he responded to that counselor and his rock, but this is a family-friendly website.
When I was in seminary, one of my professors told me that there was a broken heart on every pew. At the time, I thought that was just preacher talk. But, when I became a pastor and realized that there are more like six or seven broken hearts on every pew.
Often, those broken hearts will need a one-on-one conversation if they are ever to truly find healing. There is no better place for these conversations to take place than in the context of the local church. Here are a few reminders for pastors wishing to create this kind of environment in the churches that they lead.
Know and trust the Bible.
When we talk about the Bible we like to use words like inerrant, God-breathed, and powerful. But it’s as if we forget those words when it comes time to talk to a teenager who is paralyzed by anxiety. If God’s word is sharper than any two-edged sword on Sunday mornings, isn’t it still be sharp on Tuesday afternoon? If the Bible pierces to the division of soul and spirit from the pulpit, can it not do the same around a table? If the word of God discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart in a sermon, can it not have the same impact in a counseling session?
The Bible is not a psychology journal. Most modern psychological terms won’t be found in its pages. But the Bible does speak to the human heart and its many pains. Pastors, if the Bible is to do our people any good, we must know it, live it, and trust it at all times.
Many people—particularly in small-town or rural contexts—are hesitant to go to counseling. Pastor, to fight against this, make yourself available. Be public about your counseling ministry. Be honest about your own struggles. When appropriate, share your weaknesses publicly. Remind your people that you need God’s grace just as much as they do. Ask them to pray for you as you as you offer to pray for them. A humble, honest, and approachable pastor can be a glimmer of hope to a hurting heart.
Raise up other counselors.
The bad news is that you can’t do it all on your own. The good news is that you’re not supposed to do it all on your own. As you walk with Christ and try to love others, you should look more like a member of a team than Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. You need help. Find key leaders in your church to walk with you through a biblical counseling certification process. Here’s the thing about broken hearts. They really like to help other broken hearts. Many in your congregation will find healing from their own pains as they seek to be used by God to help others in their pain. Do not ignore this fantastic opportunity.
Pastor, there is a broken heart on every pew. And all the world has to offer them is pocket rocks.
You have something more.
You have the word of God, the people of God, and the power of God at your disposal.