I love the ministry of the Word, especially in the biblical counseling room. Is preaching as effective as biblical counseling? Richard Baxter, a Puritan, stated that thirty minutes of private, pastoral conversation may accomplish more than 10 years of public preaching.
Think about that for a minute. Half an hour of pastoral conversation is greater than 10 years of preaching when considering the impact it may have on a church member according to Baxter.
I agree with Richard Baxter. Why? Because there is no where to hide – no where to run for the church member.
In a sermon preached on Sunday, most people tune out. They go on “screen saver” meaning they zone out and allow their minds to drift every which way without listening attentively to the sermon.
Even those who tune in, often leave and don’t change. They don’t remember much of the sermon by Sunday afternoon and none of it by Tuesday most of the time!
But challenge them on their faith in a personal way during a biblical counseling session, and they have to tune in to answer the questions designed to make them think and articulate their faith. Then, if they know you are coming back to meet with them a second time for counseling, they are accountable for changing and becoming more like Christ (Rom. 8:29) between sessions. Think of the personal impact and transformation (Rom. 12:2)!
So, I say we need to re-think our setup and where churches spend God’s money. Wouldn’t an investment of ministers, elders, deacons, and lay leaders paid to nouthetically counsel the flock of God in order to shepherd them be better spent than on BIG auditoriums designed to draw big crowds to hear one man preach a sermon once a week? I think so.
The Apostle Paul did both in Acts 20:20: “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house.” Paul taught publicly AND as a counselor from house to house PRIVATELY calling people to faith in Jesus Christ. We should too!
My disappointment with churches today is that they don’t invest in counseling or shepherding the flock of God. Church members are referred out to outside agencies rather than given hope and help within the church body. I Peter 5:2-4 states: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Many leaders in the church will have to stand before God one day and answer for why they did NOT shepherd His flock. I pray those men would repent now and obey God!
-Mark (grateful for the example of Paul and Richard Baxter as heroes of our Christian faith)
(all verses excerpted from the ESV, English Standard Version)