LIFE IN ACTION
Much is being said these days about the pastor becoming an efficient counselor. Emphasis is rightly placed on the importance of listening. Certainly there can be no lasting help in counsel that is not preceded by thorough understanding of the problem. And all this takes time and patience.
But this can and has happened: A pastor-counselor has shown real interest in the problems of the counselee and unlimited patience in his listening until every angle of the difficulty has been stated, the cause discovered, and even a diagnosis made, but right at that point he has remembered a pressing appointment and the matter was never followed through with any sort of solution. The troubled one could only conclude one of two things: that the pastor was merely curious to know the details of the problem, or that he was simply using the opportunity to practice the art of problem diagnosis. In either case, it would appear that there was no really genuine interest on his part.
And that brings us back to the matter of our interest in the individual. Are we concerned with individuals or just methods? In counseling, as in all soul winning, our first interest must be for the soul of the individual. Do we counsel to heal the soul or to improve our counseling technique? Do we work with the backslider because we want another number on our report or because no other soul can take the place of that one? Are we interested in people or in our reputations? Our answers to these questions will determine our worth and classify us as either shepherds or hirelings.
The hireling will not bother with the lost or straying sheep who is going to require much time and patience to reclaim. Instead, he will work for those who can be added to his report with a minimum of effort. He will reason that it is more economical to bring in several new sheep than to go after the one lost one. Straying sheep are always a nuisance. Moreover, a few new ones will make a far better showing. On the other hand, a true spiritual shepherd is interested in the individual, constantly conscious that no person can ever be replaced by any other person. He will take time, he will sacrifice comfort—not that he may report, but that he may reclaim. He will take time—not inerely to diagnose, but to let the Lord heal the soul.
Soul winning must be more than an art or a science. A sinking ship needs more than a statistical evaluation; a wounded soul needs more than a "God bless you."
The spirit of true soul winning springs from hearts that have been bowed beneath the wonder, beauty, and tenderness of the love of our Saviour.
No true shepherd can see souls slipping into a lost eternity without crying out, "Woe is unto me, if preach not the gospel!" To be an understanding and faithful counselor one must seek for grace to pray the prayer of Moses, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written."
A love like that will not be content to merely diagnose. It will follow through till tangled lives are untangled and faltering feet are firmly planted upon the Rock of Ages. Counseling is more than a technique. Ir is the outflowing of a sympathetic soul—a dedicated life in action.
R. A. A.
THE EAGER BEAVER
The man who does not "have all the answers" contributes most in times of spiritual crisis. The quick tongue with the ready solution is to be severely questioned before trusted.
In home visitation the pause before the answer gives time for prayerful thought and heaven direction. The minister who cross-questions as if before a jury, and is ready with a dozen recommendations before he has heard the member's story, does little to instill the quiet, confident, childlike faith in God that is the object of his visit. Often a word of prayer before beginning to counsel sets the stage properly for richly spiritual, God-directed conversation. The old adage "Speak not until silence can be improved upon" is sound counsel for the personal worker and should cure the ills of the eager beaver.
E. E. C.
FIND MY SHEEP
It was the Master Himself who said to Peter, "Feed my sheep." But sheep must first be found—then fed. It happens not infrequently that a member will appear after a long absence from the church only to find that he has not been missed. The unsought are seldom saved. Any pastoral program that does not include home contact will never develop a healthy congregation. Lost to the cause of God are legions of the neglected. The minister cannot afford to sacrifice the personal touch to the mechanics of administration. The faithfulness of the Master Shepherd in seeking out lost sheep, even to the shedding of blood, should inspire the under-shepherd to new diligence. His satanic majesty's genius for inventing hindrances to personal visitation is well understood by most ministers. Laziness is seldom the cause. Nor can the average preacher be accused of merely "going to and fro in the earth, and .. . walking up and down in it."
To the faithful visitor the rewards of personal work are evident. The tear-filled eye and hearty handclasp are compensations within themselves. A soul thus restored to spiritual regularity fills all heaven with joyous demonstration. But many a campaign for souls has been hopelessly crippled for lack of a systematic program of visitation. And the minister may find this lack to be the source of many pastoral problems. The soul seeker has nothing to lose and all to gain in following this paraphrased injunction of the Master, "Find and feed My sheep."
E. E. C.