The Minister as a Counselor

The successful minister must first of all know God, but he must also know man.

By WALTER F. SPECHT, Pastor- - Evangelist, Enid, Oklahoma

The successful minister must first of all know God, but he must also know man. He Must be familiar with the workings of the human mind. He must know -what is going-ion in the lives 'of. people. He must understand their mental and moral sufferings, the tensions within their per­sonalities, and their fears -and deep anxieties. All about us people are bewildered and confused. They need to find in the minister a sympathetic and understanding heart. More and more the min­ister should pray, "Lord, teach me to understand."

"It is highly important that a pastor mingle much with his people, and thus become acquainted with the different phases of human nature. He should study the workings of the mind, that he may adapt his teachings to the intellect of his hearers. He will thus learn that grand charity which is possessed only by those who study closely the nature and needs of men."—Gospel Workers, p. 191.

There is a quickened interest in the mental sciences today, and particularly in the relation of these sciences to religion. A veritable plethora of books on mental hygiene is flooding the market. In their desire to find relief and escape from the problems that- beset them, people are flocking by the thousands to consult psychologists-and psychi­atrists. Personal counseling as a method for help­ing individuals is becoming popular. This brings an unparalleled spiritual opportunity for the min­ister. In the words of the Spirit of prophecy, min­isters are "spiritual physicians" who are "required to have skill in administering to souls diseased with sin."---Testimonies, Vol. II, p. 506.

I believe that the pastor will find the new facts of psychology and psychiatry very useful and help­ful. Not that we are to find a new gospel in psy­chology and say, "Thus saith Freud and Adler." We must say, rather, "Thus saith the Lord." But in the pastoral relation, and in the application of religion to life; a knowledge of the mental sciences should prove beneficial.

In our ministry we deal with personality. Psy­chology and psychiatry are studies in personality. The terms "psychiatry" and "psychology" are often used interchangeably, but they .are not the same. Psychiatry is psychology with an M.D. de­gree. If we are to deal with personalities in the name of the Lord we must know some of the prob­lems people face in their personal lives.

We need to know the anxieties of our people. Some are tortured by fear—fear Of poverty, fear of ill-health, fear of unpopularity, fear of death. Some have moods of despondency—even despair. There are marriage problems, with conflicts over reli­gion, sex, Money, etc. The problem of family relations is becoming increasingly prominent. The home is the foundation of the church and the na­tion. The homes represented in our churches are not all happy and secure. It is becoming more evi­dent that our ministers must assume the responsibility of giving practical instruction in the matter of family relations. Young people who come to us to be  united in marriage should be given private premarital instruction.

Many of our church problems are due to mal­adjusted personalities. Some of the "saints" have not learned to get along with one another. Occa­sionally we find maladjusted personalities among our ministers. When tensions, because of a lack of adjustment, become so severe that an individual cannot carry on his work, he has developed a neurosis.

The Neurotic and "Escape Mechanism"

It is a well-known fact that a neurotic will usu­ally try to cover up the real trouble. He will throw up a smoke screen behind which he can hide. In church problems one can often discover this escape mechanism at work. A gossiper tries to raise his own prestige by lowering others. He tries to climb up a ladder by trampling on others. The crank, the legalist, and the Pharisee are usually evading some major ethical require­ment and endeavoring to compensate for it by ex­cessive concern over small matters. Pride, boast­fulness, and cultural superiority are often com­plexes which result from avoiding a coming to terms with one's own inferiorities. It is the easiest way out. A person wrongs someone and tries to keep his fault out of his consciousness by assum­ing a critical attitude toward the other person's slightest weakness. Like Jonah, he tries to run away from his problems and responsibilities. Most personality difficulties are a covering up—a re­fusal to face the stern realities of self—an attempt to ignore or justify.a sense of inner failure.

Learning more about these reactions will help us to know how to preach about sin. Oh, how much men need the healing power of the gospel for the dreadful disease of sin ! Oh, how we need to minister to poor lost souls who are under sin's conviction. There is very great danger that we as ministers will run hither and yon, promoting this and that, sponsoring this campaign and that project, working with committees and boards and programs, but overlooking the spiritual needs. of the individual. R. L. Dicks, in his new book, Pastoral Work and Personal Counseling, says, "It is safe to say that eighty-five to ninety per cent of the clergy today are doing little effective pastoral work or personal counseling of any kind."

"The work of Christ was largely made up of personal interviews."—Testimonies, Vol. VI, p. 115. "The Sav­iour went from house to house, healing the sick, com­forting the mourners, soothing the afflicted, speaking peace to the disconsolate. He took the little children in His arms and blessed them, and spoke words of hope and comfort to the weary mothers. With unfailing ten­derness and gentleness, He met every form' of human woe and affliction. Not for Himself but for others did He labor. He was the servant of all."—Acts of the Apos­tles, p. 364.

Effective preaching in the pulpit will often be followed by personal interview opportunities. We ought to encourage people to come to us, and give them liberally of our time. We should not regard their coming as an interruption, but as a great privilege. If none come to us, we may well ask ourselves whether we are dogmatic, severe, and unsympathetic. Men came easily to our Master. If we are truly ministering in His name with a sympathetic, understanding heart, they will come to us.

A good counselor will have a genuine love for people for their own sakes. He will like to be with them. Their differing personalities will have a certain fascination for him. He must have what some can "personal attractiveness." He must have a certain refinement of appearance and manner. He must possess tact and insight and sympathy, and what Raymond Calkins calls "a kind of spirit­ual courtesy and sensitiveness." The counselor must be one who can be trusted absolutely. He must possess a genuine goodness, purity, and holi­ness of heart.

The counselor must be a good listener. The major part of the interview consists of just listen­ing to what is technically spoken of as a "confes­sion." Psychiatrists and psychologists speak of the cathartic value of this "confession." Utterance brings relief to the overburdened soul. Calkins says, "The function of the counselor is to give the other the opportunity of blurting out into some­one's ear what has been pent up within him."

The counselor should be shockproof. One coun­selor has emphasized the fact that "anything that can happen, does happen," so we must not appear to be surprised to learn anything about anybody.

During the interview, we must be natural, at ease, cordial, and friendly. While listening, watch for signs that will give a key to the problem. It is not our function to argue or exhort. It is our function to help clarify a personal problem—to help analyze and interpret, and thus help a man find himself and then the power of God. It is ab­solutely unethical to divulge confidences that have been placed in us by people, without their consent. Our illustrations for our sermons should not be se­cured from these private confidences.

We are living in a mentally sick world. Our armed forces have rejected 1,30o,000 men at the induction centers as mentally unfit for military service. For the same reason 300,000 have been discharged. There are 700,000 patients in mental institutions, more than the total number of patients hospitalized for all other causes combined.

Mrs. White says : "Sickness of the mind pre­vails everywhere. Nine tenths of the diseases from which men suffer have their foundation here."—Testimonies, Vol. V, p. 444. She then mentions such things as home troubles, which she compares to a canker eating out the vitals. She mentions remorse for sin, and such erroneous doctrines as the idea of an eternally burning hell. She points out the close relation between sin and disease, and points out that "the religion of Christ . .. is a potent soother of the nerves." Modern medical science has admitted the therapeutic value of re­ligion. Oh, how much men and women today need the spiritual healing of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

When the boys return home from the war, will we be prepared to help them make satisfactory ad­justments to new life situations? They will need more than psychology or psychiatry. Mental prob­lems are largely spiritual. Hence the minister can be of tremendous service if he is prepared for the task. Religion—the true gospel—has the solution for many personality problems. Religion  brings unity and sanity-into a man's life. The clashing interests and competing desires must be ruled over by God. He must be the center of life. Self must be dethroned. The Christian life is a God-cen­tered life. Salvation is deliverance from selfish­ness.  A Christian is one who has stopped living for self. Christ "died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again."

The law of the kingdom of God is the law of unselfishness. In service for others self is forgot­ten, and real joy comes to the soul. In the turning away from a life of self-interest to a life of service for God and humanity, the neurotic soul can find an escape from self-pity and find happiness and freedom. There is in the person of Jesus Christ an inexhaustible reservoir of spiritual power. To come in contact with Him means a new current of life for the healing of the soul.

Pr. John Rathbone Oliver, in his book Fear, says that there is one group of persons who are never found in his clinic at Johns Hopkins, and they are the true Christians. The man who has faith and trust and dependence on God is free from fear. The problem is basically spiritual.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." Isa. 26:3. (See also 2 Tim. 1:7.)

Brief Bibliography

(In addition to the writings of the Spirit of prophecy)

Calkins, Raymond, Pastoral Counseling. Boston : Pil­grim Press, 1944. The Romance of the Ministry. Boston : Pilgrim Press, 1944.

Dicks, R. L., Pastoral Work and Personal Counseling. New York: Macmillan, 1944.

May, Rollo, The Art of Counseling. New York and Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1939.

Pleune, Peter H., Some to Be Pastors. New York : Abingdon-Cokes-bury Press, 1943.

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By WALTER F. SPECHT, Pastor- - Evangelist, Enid, Oklahoma

September 1945

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