Preaching has many roles. Preaching can fulfill the purposes of teaching, evangelism, discipleship, or a multitude of other functions. However, the preacher has a responsibility in his preaching that is often overlooked. The preacher has a duty to shepherd his people through the counsel of his preaching.
The Puritans knew about the role of counseling in preaching. John Baxter’s work entitled The Reformed Pastor explains the role of the pastor and the function of his preaching. Below I have outlined and expanded on the thoughts of Baxter’s writing to flesh out the purpose of counseling and the pastor.
He Is A Contender For Salvation
“The work of conversion is the first and great thing we must drive at; after this, we must labor with all our might.”
The first priority in the pastor’s counseling is the work of conversion. The preaching ministry of the pastor must revolve around the work of salvation. The heart cry of the pastor’s proclamation must be to urge the lost to come to faith. The preaching of the pastor must confront those who are living in sin and call them to the Savior.
He Is A Counselor For Their Souls
“A minister is not to be merely a public preacher, but to be known as a counselor for their souls, as the physician is for their bodies, and the lawyer for their estates: so that each man who is doubts and straits, may bring case to him for resolution…We must not only be willing to take the trouble but should draw it upon ourselves, by inviting them to come.”
The pastor’s counsel towards salvation cannot solely be in the pulpit. He must become a counselor for their souls, answering questions of security and faith. Far too many pastors would prefer to retreat to the ivory towers of their offices. However, Baxter calls the pastor to be the counselor for the souls of their congregants, urging them to inquire of the faith and to grow in their faith.
He Is A Catalyst For Their Safety
“There are many of our flock that are young and weak, who, though they are of long standing, are yet of small proficiency or strength.”
The counsel of the pastor must be protective in nature. The pastor is called to shepherd the flock of God’s people, caring for their needs and protecting them from anything that would cause harm. The pastor’s protective duties not only mean that he fend off the wolves that came to attack but that he lend special care to those who are young, or new in the faith.
He Brings Conviction For Their Sanctification
“Another class of converts that need our special help, are those who labor under some particular corruption, which keeps under their graces, and makes them a trouble to others, and a burden to themselves…Now it is our duty to give assistance to these; and partly by dissuasions, and clear discoveries of the odiousness of the sin, and partly by suitable directions about the remedy, to help them to a more complete conquest of their corruptions.”
The counsel of the pastor must be carried out with conviction. The people of God are in the world but not of the world (1 John 2:15–17). The church of God is called to be holy and set apart for God (1 Cor 3:16). Thus the pastor’s counseling must call people to live lives in a manner that is worthy of the gospel (Php 1:27), convicting of sins in need of repentance and challenging slothful emotions keeping them from continual pursuance to follow Christ.
He Brings A Charge For Their Growth and Endurance
“The last class whom I shall here notice, as requiring our attention, are the strong; for they, also, have need of our assistance: partly to preserve the grace they have; partly to help them in making further progress; and partly to direct them in improving their strength for the service of Christ, and the assistance of their brethren; and, also, to encourage them to persevere, that they may receive the crown.”
Finally, the counsel of the pastor must give a charge. One of the duties of the pastor is to provide vision to the church body and charge them to reach that vision. This responsibility falls into the realm of encouraging those who strong in their faith to grow in their faith and obedience of Christ. Pastors can easily accomplish this work through their preaching, meeting with leaders, or raising up leaders for the cause of Christ.
Pastors, we have a responsibility to counsel our people to glorify God for the glory of God. Let us advise our people through our preaching, discipleship, and counseling for the building of His church and the glory of His name.
Anthony Svajda is the Pastor of Harvey Baptist Church in Stephenville, Texas, and has earned a Ph.D. in Evangelism and Church Vitalization from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.