Progress, Counseling, and Church Unique

I recently heard a pastor I respect very much say that church leaders who place a high value on progress are typically very poor at pastoral counseling.

What he was saying made intuitive sense: people who have a bias for progress by definition look to the future. They enjoy dreaming, provoking, cajoling, and implementing. They advance the mission of the ministry forward.

In contrast, much of counseling — by definition — looks to the past. It explores factors in childhood and adolescence that land people at their particular point of need. Counseling is usually a slow process with improvement coming in barely measurable increments — if at all.

So, according to the message I heard, pastors who are wired for progress find the role of pastoral counselor inherently frustrating. The advice was pretty clear: if you want the church to advance, don’t spend time in counseling sessions.

Yet hearing the CD that day brought with it a huge “Uh-oh” moment for me.

Why? Well, I want the church to progress. I don’t want it to stay the same . . . and it hasn’t, either in style or in number or in impact. I’d like the progress to be more dramatic, perhaps, but I still long for it.

Yet I also believe pastoral counseling is a critically important piece of what I do as a minister. I make myself available for it. If I can’t do it, I ensure others can. And sometimes, I can even tell that God transcends my limitations and good results have come from pastoral counseling I’ve done.

So as I was wrestling with the dilemma, the name of the book we’ve used to help us land at Inviting All People Into A Living Relationship came to mind: Church Unique. Not Church Identical. Not Church Copycat. Not even Church Northpoint. Church Unique.

In other words, simply because I pastor whom I highly respect can’t be involved in counseling due to his bias for progress, that doesn’t mean I have to make the same decision.

His style works well in his setting. God is doing a unique thing there.

But he is also about a unique thing here.

So perhaps we can create a culture at Good Shepherd in which the congregation’s future takes shape at the same time that personal histories gets healed.

I’d call that progress.