Provide Directional Counsel
Thirdly, I would like to emphasize the importance of pastors providing directional counsel to their preacher boys. There are a host of issues that preacher boys need direction in: Bible colleges, study tracks, resources, post-graduation decisions, work environment, study methods, and seminary. These issues just scratch the surface into the kinds of issues that a seasoned pastor has insight to give, and the preacher boy needs insight to gain. Proverbs 1:5 says, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels;” and Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” I am burdened to see a healthy interaction between seasoned pastors and young men in ministry. When my wife and I moved to Maryland, we came to Anchor Baptist Church based upon my understanding of the importance of this concept. Young men, as well as seasoned pastors need the guidance of godly counselors, so they will make well informed decisions. One of my favorite parts of working on staff as a preacher boy has been the time I have spent with my pastor. Much of my mission’s philosophy and approach to ministry are a reflection of things I have gleaned from my pastor’s experience through conversations regarding missions. How can a pastor guide a young man going into ministry? I hope to plant a few seeds of thought that will thrust us into a proper view of pastoral counseling.
First, how can a pastor properly guide a preacher boy? If a pastor is going to properly guide a young man in ministry, there must be an established trust, a significant degree of experience, and a proper approach. If one of these factors is lacking, it will likely negatively impact a pastors well intentioned attempts to properly guide the preacher boy. Consider the importance of trust. Notice from Proverbs 1 that a “wise man will hear…wise counsels.” If a young man will properly apply this passage, he must view the counsel given as wise counsel. Trust is to be earned, not demanded by means of arrogant manipulation. The only time a pastor has the God-endorsed authority to call something the will of God is when he has clear Biblical mandate. If any pastor dogmatically demands absolute confidence in his guidance, then he has abused his God-given position in the church, and has ignored the following Biblical exhortation: II Timothy 2:24, 25 says, “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves;” I Peter 5:25 says, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” The pastor is not the lord, but the gentle under-shepherd who is to feed the flock that is among him. A pastor must be gentle, an able teacher, patient, meek, and wise. No wise young man who is under such a man’s ministry will take lightly his guidance. A seasoned pastor must live and minister in such a way, that he earns the trust of those who are under his care. This is why the principle of mentoring is such an effective concept. Young men who have been mentored and view their pastor as a wise “father” figure, will heartily listen to their pastors guidance, and this is healthy for both pastor and preacher boy.
Secondly, the pastor must have a significant degree of experience in the areas that he is wishing to guide the young man. I remember an interesting story one of my favorite professors in seminary told when he was defending his dissertation in seminary. He set the scene by telling us about one of the men that would chair his defense. My teacher was intimidated by this man’s credentials. He was well read and a highly respected theologian during his lifetime. When the questioning began, that professor said men I have no questions, this is not my area of expertise. That moment was liberating for my professor. Here was a giant in his field who was not well versed in that particular area. Here is my point. Though we should be as well rounded as possible, there will always be areas in which we are not proficient. The areas that we are well versed in, we will grow in till the day we die. Give counsel only when you have legitimate counsel to give. Do not be afraid to say, I do not know. On the other side, know who you can point that young man to. When I came to Anchor, one of the first things my pastor did was give me a stack of excellent resources on issues that I needed to be exposed to. My pastor did not write one of those books. He was not an expert in those areas, yet he guided me to men who were well read and written in those fields, and was a help to me. Counsel where you are experienced, and then direct your people to those who can make up for your deficiency.
Lastly, have a proper approach to those whom you are giving counsel. I can remember an older man who was giving me counsel about a situation I was dealing with. This man asked me to promise to follow through with his advice before he gave it. My answer was simply, “If you can clearly show me from the word of God what I am to do in this situation, I will be glad to do that, but apart from that, I can make no promises.” Needless to say, that approach did not help me trust this man’s judgment in that particular issue. Our approach is so critical to the way it will be received. As a Baptist, I believe strongly in soul liberty, and the individual priesthood of the believer. My advice on any issue apart from the clear dictates of scripture is just that, advice. I love the way that Jethro, Moses father-in-law, wisely approached Moses, in Exodus 18. Exodus 18:17, 23-24 says, “And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.” Jethro’s approach was right, he did not arrogantly command Moses to do as he said. He humbly gave advice that was prefaced by, “if God tells you to do it,” then I think it will help you. Moses obeyed Jethro and was helped. We must learn to approach people correctly, or we will never be able to help them! How have you approached this issue of pastoral counsel? Have you earned the trust of your people, specifically your preacher boys? Do you counsel where you have experience or direct them to places where they can interact with those who are experienced, and do you approach them wisely? My hope is that pastors will see the importance of giving wide guidance to their young preacher boys, and then will effectively mentor and guide them as they seek to get started in the Lord’s work!