As time goes on, the role of a pastor as a counselor increases in importance. There are many contributing factors to this truism but none is of greater significance than the recognition of the increasing tempo of the times in which we live and the pressures of our modern day. As students of divine prophecy, Seventh-day Adventists are convinced that everyday pressures will not diminish with the passage of time. This is in sharp contrast to the hopes and rosy promises held out to mankind by various political and social panaceas.
As the membership of the church increases to that same corresponding degree interrelationships both within the church and the community grow more complex and more involved. More and more of the pastor's time and energy must be devoted to a sympathetic, understanding consideration of these needs of his congregation. There is no such thing as pastoral noninvolvement of the intimate life and fellowship of his people. In either case the age of conformity or the counter reactions inherent within nonconformist numerality involves the pastor most deeply in the most intimate details of the life of his congregation.
The pastor today needs a sharpened and vital connection with God in order that he himself might possess those intimate qualities essential to communicate helpfulness, cheerfulness, and above all, love toward a troubled soul. Even so, regardless of the depth of spiritual experience, a new knowledge of technical skills and applied methodologies is indispensable in the modern pastoral life and ministry. The most casual reading of the remarkable statements contained in the writings of the messenger of the Lord and in the pastoral Epistles of the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the ministry of consolation, of edification, of reconciliation, is the richest and most rewarding ever entrusted to the human agent.
Immeasurable Arsenal of Strength
Fortunately for the Seventh-day Adventist minister, there are many avenues of assistance available to him whereby his ministry might be enriched, his experience deepened, and his vision broadened in respect to this important phase of his ministry. First of all, the confidence and faith that the Seventh-day Adventist ministry has in the Bible is a source of towering strength both to him and to those for whom he ministers in time of crises. The deep student of the Word of God has an immeasurable arsenal of strength upon which he can draw in an effective ministry of consolation. Second, the deep and abiding counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy offer to the Seventh-day Adventist minister a treasure house of counsel, techniques, and instruction far exceeding anything available to any other ministry of the world. Third, there is a constant stream of excellent literature, books, and articles pouring from the presses of both denominational and nondenominational publishing houses that can keep the minister informed and prepared to meet this great human need.
Harding Hospital Institute
To us, however, there is an additional base of strength that can give a most significant contribution to our development in this pastoral ministry. Each year a special institute is held in the Harding Hospital in Worthington, Ohio. Through the years those who have been fortunate enough to attend these institutes have gained invaluable assistance for a successful ministry in the field of practical religion and ministerial service. Such areas as dealing with grief, disappointments, broken homes, shattered personal lives, along with the attendant disillusionments of everyday practical living that blight so many homes and lives, have all received special attention under the guidance of Seventh-day Adventist physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists.
It is because of the expressed desire of these leaders to study and learn, with Christian psychiatrists, the newest and best-known techniques and methods for handling problems that the institute on mental health was first launched in the year 1955 and has been presented each year since. It is our belief that there is a distinct advantage in studying in this area with people who share a common faith and religious point of view. It must be pointed out, however, that these institutes are not designed to make psychologists or counselors out of the minister but rather to add another dimension to his ministry and to help him understand the complex science of human behavior.
Students Taking Realistic View
Many of our young theological students in training are taking a realistic view of the world in which we live and the many problems that the modern minister faces in these tense, bewildering times. As a result, many are taking a minor in sociology along with their theological course.
We feel that those men who have served in the field for a number of years and who have already completed their theological training will find it beneficial to take a refresher course such as this annual institute on mental health at the Harding Hospital. It is precisely for this reason that Seventh-day Adventist ministers, evangelists, chaplains, teachers, academy administrators, physicians, deans of students, hospital administrators, conference officials, and departmental leaders have all participated from time to time in these institutes.
It may be that some who read this article feel the need for this kind of assistance in their ministry or work, and if so, we heartily recommend that they correspond with Dr. George T. Harding at the Harding Hospital, 445 East Granville Road, Worthington, Ohio. Since the enrollment is limited and applications are considered as they are received, it is important that attention be given to this without delay.
Truly, the time has come when no area of our work should be considered to be unimportant or taken with casual interest. Our work is important to this judgment-bound world. Eternity looms ahead. Our Lord will soon return. May it be that when He comes He will find that we as workmen in His vineyard have used, to the best of our ability, all the tools and equipment He has provided His church in order that the work be speedily and faithfully completed.
Counsels From the Lord's Messenger
Love and Confidence Among Brethren
When men will show confidence in their fellow men they will come much nearer to possessing the mind of Christ. The Lord has revealed the estimate that He places upon man, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." But some minds are ever seeking to reshape the character of others according to their own ideas and measure. God has not given them this work to do.
Self will ever cherish a high estimate of self. As men lose their first love, they do not keep the commandments of God, and then they begin to criticize one another. This spirit will constantly be striving for the mastery to the close of time. Satan is seeking to foster it in order that brethren in their ignorance may seek to devour one another. God is not glorified but greatly dishonored; the Spirit of God is grieved. Satan exults, because he knows that if he can set brother to watch brother in the church and in the ministry some will be so disheartened and discouraged as to leave their posts of duty. This is not the work of the Holy Spirit; a power from beneath is working in the chambers of the mind and in the soul-temple to place his attributes where the attributes of Christ should be.
He who has paid the infinite price to redeem men reads with unerring accuracy all the hidden workings of the human mind, and knows just how to deal with every soul. And in dealing with men, He manifests the same principles that are manifest in the natural world. . . . God works through the calm regular operation of His appointed laws. So it is in spiritual things. Satan is constantly seeking to produce effects by rude and violent thrusts; but Jesus found access to minds by the pathway of their most familiar associations. He disturbed as little as possible their accustomed train of thought by abrupt actions or prescribed rules. He honored man with His confidence, and thus placed him on his honor. He introduced old truths in a new and precious light.—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 189, 190.