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Pastoral Counseling: Teaching People How to Think

My pastoral work of personal dealing, considerable though it is, has been greatly reduced through the years because the building up of people’s faith, by the ministry of the Word of God, solves so much in their lives. It enables those who receive it and seek to live by it to understand and solve so much in other lives, that instead of becoming a liability on my time and energy, they become pastors themselves. Indeed, one of the features of such a radical and total ministry of the Word is that it thrusts so many into spiritual and social work that I can hardly keep a congregation together on account of their scattering throughout the land, and indeed, the earth.

– William Still, The Work of the Pastor, Kindle Loc. 323

All this has to be faced in the ministry of the Word: nevertheless, it is that ministry which makes Christian character, so that healthy feeders need the pastor less and less. At last they need him no more as clinician or nurse. They have found the solution to their problems and, much more important, have learned to live with those which will only be fully solved in heaven. Now they are able to become, as I said before, pastors to others, to help them solve their problems through the Word (Loc. 448).

The goal for Still is to teach people how to apply the Word to themselves so that they can learn to counsel themselves and thus become less dependent upon you. The end result is that they will begin to counsel others effectively as well.

 

 

As Manure Belongs to a Fruitful Garden

Another thing: to minister fruitfully (and God does not call us to anything else) we must minister as those who have died. This is really the same point as the last, but it has total ramifications in the life. It is only out of a life that is dead not only to sin (obvious) but to self in all its various and subtle aspects, that God will bring resurrection to others. Death works in us, but life in others (2 Cor. 4:12). That is the profoundest and most practical principle in the Bible. Every time we essay to minister there must be a new death. ‘Deaths oft…I die daily,’ said Paul. It is the glorious agony of those who are used of God amidst the oppositions of the world, the church, and certainly the devil, that we are ever dying men and women…

You can see what a death this is to die to those who think you are nothing if not popular. If we are not prepared to suffer (and suffering is not fun nor is it meant to be fun), we shall not reign. The two belong together, as Peter says over and over again in his first epistle. Hurt and fruit, death and life, sorrow and joy. They belong together, as manure belongs to a fruitful garden.

-William Still, The Work of the Pastor, Kindle Loc. 1191, 1210

That’s great use of imagery. Suffering and joy, etc. go together as manure and a fruitful garden go together.

 

 

Pastoral Visitation

1) Be what you are in Christ

As a pastor, will you be merely trying to do a job and fulfill a duty, or will you be letting Christ in human flesh through to the people you are mixing with? If the latter, then it is the easiest thing in the world. You simply be what you are in Christ, no more, and no less, and let that speak. If Christ is not concerned to be sanctimonious (and He certainly was not sanctimonious with the woman of Samaria), do you think you can do better by being self-consciously unctuous? If Christ has given you a love for people (and what are you doing in this work if He has not?), then the fact of it is the important thing, not the showing off of it. People have misunderstood me for years because I would not dance their evangelistic jigs and utter their clichés and shibboleths, and observe all their polite conventions. But when they were in real need, it was not a matter then of showing what was in me, or what I was made of, but of responding to their need as distinct from their conventional repartee, and being seen for what I was. Far better, surely, than being thought to be such a nice man, and then being found out! Grace and truth come by Jesus Christ.

-William Still, The Work of the Pastor, Kindle Loc. 606

2) Do not force Bible reading or prayer; Don’t hesitate to read or pray when asked

Far better that someone should ask for a word of prayer, or a reading, than that one should leave a trail of forced readings and prayers in a number of homes where it was not convenient, or where people were sorely embarrassed, or annoyed, and didn’t want them…I am never put out, although some who ask me hope that I may, by being asked to pray in a home. (Loc. 614-616).

3) Be conscience of whether or not your presence is desired

It goes without saying that one takes in the situation in any home when one arrives, and does not force oneself on people at an inconvenient moment, or stay on if one senses that one is interrupting plans or is really in the way (Loc. 623).

4) Ask questions that get to the heart of the situation

You must learn the art of asking leading, direct, even shock questions, perhaps catching the over-composed ones off their guard, and then, greatly daring, but with a sure, unerring touch, barging right in and cracking them open, as if to say ‘Come off it. There’s a bit of a muddle here. Why don’t you admit it, and let’s get on with the clearing up’ (Loc. 629).

5) Like a doctor, uncover the wounds and get to work

In certain company you dare not let people know what you are, but amongst Jesus-folk, within reason and in degree according to how Jesus-minded they are, you can and must. A true Christian fellowship is a place where stray cats and dogs can find a home. It is a hospital, where the only sin is to hide your wounds from the doctor and nurse. And the true pastor’s job is to strip all the fearful ones, however gently, patiently, faithfully, and all the hypocritical ones of their camouflage and cloaks (Loc. 642).

 

 

Don’t be so busy fighting off the world that you forget to feed the sheep (Saved to Starve)

To put it otherwise and more simply: a shepherd is no mere warder-off of wild beasts. To save the sheep from wild beasts and all other dangers is not to feed them; and if they are not fed, what matters whether they are safe or not? What is the good of being saved to starve?

-William Still, The Work of the Pastor, Kindle Loc. 1361

Don’t be so busy fighting off the world that you forget to feed the sheep actual food.

Contemporary Issues as Sidetracks

People who are too easily intimidated by the wickedness of any one generation and who panic over things which go wrong, are living so near their own day that they have lost the message of the ages which is full of such seeming disasters. It is they who run with their poultices and eyewash to meet the needs of the hour instead of abiding by the radical measures of the Word of God which gets down to the elements of the case. It is like trying to purify foul water at the tap, instead of at the reservoir or the poisoned stream. There is an application of the Word of God for even the most urgent contemporary situations, but if we get all hot and bothered about it, and myopically concentrate all our ministry on that, forever moaning from our pulpits about the evils of the day, what are the hungry sheep going to feed upon the while? The devil is a master of sidetrack.

-William Still, The Work of the Pastor, Kindle Loc. 1302

He continues,

But as a minister you cannot turn aside to deal with political or sociological questions. Who is going to perform your task of feeding the sheep if you do? What of the Kingdom of God? If all the ministers in one generation essayed the task of making our human conditions better, more decent and worthy so only a few were added to Christ, and those who were added were left as undernourished starvelings because the ministers were at the political and sociological front, what would happen to that generation’s representation in the heavenly repository? (Loc. 1312).

And,

Although in itself it is a good thing, a little temporary alleviation of the conditions of men on the earth is as nothing compared with the task of building a house of God of human, living stones, and a Kingdom of redeemed humanity come to Christly maturity (Loc. 1318).

While I’m in the pulpit foaming at the mouth like so many 24 Hour News pundits about what happened last week, who is going to feed the sheep? I need to feed them something they can’t get from Fox News or Facebook.

Christ Gaining Our Trust, Being Present in Places He Hates

‘You must learn that Christ is no mere censor, but a Saviour who saves us by gaining our trust and confidence more and more, and letting us live our total life in Him. He is much more concerned about where we are going, than about how far on we have got.’ This chap’s Christ was a drill sergeant and he thought that was what I was advocating. No: I was thinking of a Christ who would be with him when he went off the deep end and betrayed his fallen self and made an ass of himself, and, in private, denied his own, true, holy nature. A Christ who was always kindly, always there, not to his sin, but to him. Who was willing to be dragged to places and into thoughts that He hated, because He loved him and would not let him go.

-William Still, The Work of the Pastor, Kindle Loc. 553

This is probably one of the best quotes in the book. An appropriate text is 1 Corinthians 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!”

Since we are united to Christ as believers, Christ is said to dwell in us, and us in him. Hence, he is ever-present with us. Hence, he goes places with us that he himself hates. This will cause you to react in one of two ways – either to run from him, or to run away from where you are trying to take him.

And all the while, says Still, he is teaching us more and more to trust him. All the while he is teaching us to confide in him – seeking our confidence. This is how he sanctifies us.