The distinctive nature of the parish ministry and the making whole of God's people
The purpose of this research is to define the role or the particular identity of the parish pastor who does counseling.
The research was shaped by three questions:
- How does a pastor view a person who comes to him/her for counseling?
- What is the difference between pastoral care, pastoral counseling, and non-Christian therapy?
- What is distinctively "pastoral" about pastoral counseling in the parish and elsewhere?
To answer the first question, a Christian view of God, the world, and mankind was examined. How a pastor views these will dramatically affect how he/she does counseling. If God is viewed as gracious and loving of everything and everybody, as opposed to being a vindictive moral judge, that certainly will affect the method and direction a pastor takes when counseling others. Likewise, if the world and mankind are seen as evil, the pastoral approach may be decidedly different than if the pastor views the world and mankind as inherently good. Perhaps the best approach is to see that God is loving. The world and mankind were created good, to be in relationship with God; yet, our nature is now corrupt because we rebelled against our creator, breaking that harmonious relationship we once enjoyed. However, in Jesus Christ, we are declared precious and loved--sinners for certain, yet saints in the death and resurrection of Christ.
To answer the second question, the difference between pastoral care, pastoral counseling, and non-Christian therapy were examined. It was discovered that the main difference between pastoral care and counseling was mainly one of degree. What applies to pastoral care basically applies to pastoral counseling. For both to be done well and effectively, they involve a relationship of love and grace. Not all pastoral care involves pastoral counseling, but pastoral counseling is a form of pastoral care. The aim of both pastoral care and pastoral counseling is the restoration of relationship with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. In a similar vein, pastoral counseling and non-Christian therapy differ in that therapy's goal may be to know and feel comfortable with oneself, while in pastoral counseling the emphasis is more on knowing God--communicating with Him (prayer). Only when a counselee knows God can he/she begin to know self. It may be very convenient for non-Christian therapists not to deal with a person's spirit (pneuma)--relationship with God. Often the emphasis is more with the counselee's personality (soul).
To answer the third question, concern was focused in three main areas: (1) an operative theology, (2) the moral context, and (3) language or theological themes.
The third area, language and theological themes, was the basis for the practical portion of the paper. Here four counseling situations from the parish were examined. The level of dysfunction ranged from mild to severe. These four cases were chosen because of the potential aid they would provide to the pastor doing counseling. The issues dealt with were: (1) depression, (2) family systems, (3) exhibitionism, and(4) schizoid personality and family systems. Each of the four cases were examined from a psychological perspective, using psychological language. This psychological perspective was then translated into a theological perspective, using Paul Pruyser's "Seven Theological Themes," from the book The Minister as Diagnostician.