And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Counseling Ministers Who are Ready to Quit Part 5

Fellow Ministers,
If the saints are called to persevere, how much more the sheperds of the sheep?  Ministry is one of the most soul wrenching vocations that a person can faithfully engage in. For the sake of editing, I aam presenting in this blog over the next several days a portion of a paper I have written for my course of training and education in Biblical Counseling.  It is my hope that if you are strugling, your reading of the words within would stir your heart to press on.  Should you desire to work through the homework that I have created to go along with this paper, you may email me at

Biblical Principles for Hope Not to Quit

The Bible contains many examples of people despairing, many written by suffering saints.  One can think of Isaiah and his ministry’s predestined resistance, Elisha was despondent immediately after a great victory on Mount Carmel at the threat of Jezebel, and others such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel faced persecution for their life of ministry.

In order to counsel a pastor with the particular problem of wanting to leave the ministry a few considerations need to be taken into account.  Most pastors may be spiritually walking from sermon to sermon, just getting by.  One condition of their life may be that they are not taking the truth of Scripture to heart and could be supporting their actions with theological dodges of accountability.  This situation would lead to a hardening of the heart.  Such a lifestyle tends to encourage failure in other areas of life.  One needs to consider that the effects of this problem are carried over into the marriage and home life. 

In counseling someone with this particular set of circumstances and focus, it will be necessary to build hope through the Scriptures in personal application.  As the minister preaches while admittedly struggling to hold on, he may be making an assumption that the gospel is for others but is presently not bearing grace on his own life.  Therefore, a key principal to follow is helping, by the Holy Spirit, the minister regain hope in the gospel itself.  This is critical in helping him move from a self-centered focus to a God glorifying one.  As this happens, the minister sees his values fall back in line with the will of God.

Another principal is that of looking to the promises of God rather than the present circumstance.  This look toward future grace is to help the Christian rely upon God as the author of success rather than the merits of the self.  Many ministers call their ministries failures all based upon self-imposed standards of success.  It is imperative that counselors give them a God-centered view of shepherding and success.

As with any counseling situation, basic principles are absolutely necessary.  These include the roles of counselor and counselee, the authority of the Holy Spirit and the gospel, and the needs of hope and change of the heart.  Homework for the minister is somewhat difficult.  Since most ministers have a deep intellect and memory of Scripture, they are able to complete most assignments quickly.  There is a danger here, that they may complete the work without any true meditation or application. Because the minister is constantly faced with the truth of Scripture and has not responded accordingly, their heart may be quite hardened against it. Thus, a key principle for the counselor is to take the minister deep into the truths of the Word, and to interrogate the counselee redemptively in his responses.  Counselors should be well prepared to take longer sessions with a minister than most others for this reason.

Along these lines, a minister needs to hold to a higher standard of commitment in counseling.  A principle parameter of counseling this person also incorporates the goal that the sanctification process becomes a personal joy and support to the counselee.  The counselor helps the counselee desire the discipleship process that God is taking them through rather than rebuff it. A counselor wants to walk with a minister long enough to see him correctly handle to daily trials of ministry in biblical ways. 

With the particular problem of being a minister who knows Scripture well and yet is not thriving in its truth, I would also admonish him with the principle of dealing with scriptural responsibilities as outlined in the call to become an elder.  Before going any further with a decision to end their ministry, the personal cost before God, the church, and his family ought to be lined out for them. It may be best to have the minister evaluate this in a homework assignment.

In the end, the basic principal of joy in service to Christ must be reestablished.  The minister needs to learn to focus not on circumstances but the Savior.  He needs to learn to deal with his sinful habits of the heart and strive for fruits of the spirit, all while making the gospel more than just a religious mantra but a life-changing love for God that excludes all other dependencies.

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