Pierre, Jeremy and Deepak Reju. The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015, 159 pages, $14.99, paperback.
When you dreamed of pastoral ministry, you probably had visions of standing behind a pulpit, boldly proclaiming the Word of God to eager listeners. To be sure, ministry does involve public proclamation. But when those dreams become a reality, every pastor quickly learns that ministry involves much more than these glamorous visions. More often than not, a pastor’s ministry of the Word happens not from behind a pulpit but over conversations or meetings. And, more often than not, the one receiving the Word isn’t an idyllic saint but a struggling sinner (like all of us).
What should a pastor say in those moments? How can a pastor adequately minister the Word to the hurting and broken people in his congregation? What does healthy biblical counseling look like in the life of a local church?
Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju help pastors answer these questions via a helpful introduction to pastoral counseling, The Pastor and Counseling.
Pierre and Reju frame their book with three sections — Concept, Process, and Context. They begin in Concept by laying a foundation for biblical counseling. Chapter 1 urges readers to dismantle idealistic visions of the pastorate. Ministry is personal, and it involves knowing people, praying for them, and speaking God’s Word to them — not building a public platform. “If we are viewing our job primarily in terms of our public influence, then we will lose the heart for personal ministry,” they write (28).
How do you begin a counseling relationship? Chapter 2 addresses this critical question. The authors emphasize the initial counseling goals, explain how counseling needs might arise, and describe the potential forms of initial contact. Next, in Chapter 3, they expound upon their counseling method. Pastors can listen, consider, and speak to the counselee’s heart responses to God, self, others, and his circumstances. In addition, the authors offer practical counseling tips, such as providing a reminder to have tissues nearby or tips on where to position your clock.
In Part 2, Pierre and Reju move to the Process of counseling. What does the initial meeting look like? The authors explain in Chapter 4, and they urged pastors to respect the counselee. “One way to consider other people’s interests as more important than your own is to show the respect of taking them seriously,” they write (62). Chapter 5 explains subsequent meetings. The authors explain what you should expect of your counselee in each meeting, and they compel pastors to offer redemptive remedies, balancing truth and love. “A pastor who does not confront when he should is not being loving; he is being fearful,” they write (83). In Chapter 6, the authors address the final meeting and what pastors should do if they believe further counsel to be necessary.
Part 3, Context, tackles broader considerations that influence a pastor’s counseling. In Chapter 7, Pierre and Reju encourage churches to develop cultures of discipleship. As church members care for each other, the pastor’s counseling burden lightens. In Chapter 8, the authors address outside resources. When is it appropriate for pastors to recommend a counselee to a professional counselor? What kinds of traits should you look for in such a counselor? The authors speak to these important questions. Most importantly, they remind pastors that recommending a church member to a professional counselor does not outsource their pastoral care. Even if a member receives counseling elsewhere, the pastor still has a responsibility to shepherd the individual.
Pierre and Reju conclude the book with a reminder of what counseling is. They explain, “Counseling is a tool — just one of the ministries of the Word among many — to help another person live out wholehearted faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ” (129). And with this book, the authors equip pastors to use the tool of counseling in the lives of their church members.
Short and Sweet
With The Pastor and Counseling, Pierre and Reju have not written a bulky, technical, academic work. Rather, the book is brief, simple, and easy-to-read. A busy pastor would be hard-pressed to find a better, more concise volume to introduce the principles of biblical counseling.
In particular, the authors’ methodology (explained in Chapter 3) is simple and attainable, offering a framework that any pastor can use in his own counseling sessions. The reviewer also found the appendices helpful. For example, Appendix C includes a “Personal Background Form” that any pastor can reproduce and use in his own ministry. The brevity and simplicity of The Pastor and Counseling is its biggest strength.
That said, the book’s brevity is also its weakness. The authors don’t have the space to explore the more complex questions of counseling, such as how to counsel various forms of mental illness or how to navigate complex relational discord. It’s simply not within the scope of this book. When a pastor counsels people in such situations, he will need to supplement with additional resources.
Despite these minor limitations, Pierre and Reju have crafted a short, helpful primer for the pastor who is new to biblical counseling — or the pastor who simply needs a refresher. The Pastor and Counseling is a worthy addition to any pastor’s bookshelf.