Having been exposed a great deal recently to psychiatric wards, waiting rooms and mental health counselors (Clarification: Not for myself), I have been amazed at the number of people seeking counseling. The wards and waiting rooms are full. Prescription drug sales for depression are at all-time highs. The patients speak of their psychiatrists and counselors with awe and reverence.
So you can understand why as a preacher I was both amused and encouraged by a recent quote by Jay Adams about preaching:
“Preaching is nothing but group counseling…(and there is) no difference between counseling and preaching except that the latter is louder.”
Few view preaching this way, as large group counseling. Few pastors would think this as they take their place behind the pulpit. Yet preachers are to proclaim the word of God to the congregation as counsel from the Lord. Every time the congregation comes and sits under the preached word they are to be, according to II Timothy 4:2, “reproved, rebuked, exhorted, with great patience and instruction.” Sounds like counseling to me! The preacher is to see himself as a pastor or shepherd (the Greek word translated pastor means “shepherd”) being used by the Lord to guide the entire flock to the green pastures and quiet waters where people’s souls can be restored (Psalm 23).
The reason so many are seeking the word of counselors is that they have forsaken the word of God. The reason so many are filling their mouths with pills is because they are not being filled with the word of God. The reason so many revere the word of the psychiatrists is that they speak with more authority than preachers do who have the word of God. Only when ordained preachers begin to see themselves with the authority of God’s license upon them to speak directly to the ills and needs of the people, and then faithfully guide them, will the authority of the false teachers (i.e. Christless psychotherapists) be exposed.
In his book whose title gives its outline, PsychoBabble – The Failure of Modern Psychology and the Biblical Alternative, Dr. Richard Ganz, former psychologist turned pastor, states “The key to Biblical change is often confrontation.” Until pastors can boldly or (remembering Adams’ quote above) loudly start confronting their listeners with truth in their weekly times of group counseling, and also equip their congregations to serve those hurting in their midst as Ganz also outlines, we will continue to see the shriveling of souls and the inability to cope with life that is so present all around us.
Does this suggest a new way to invite all these psycho-dependent people to church? “Where you going?” they ask. Then you say, “To group counseling. Want to join us?”