Friday, January 8, 2016

Book Review - The Pastor and Counseling

As a new pastor, there were some things in my job description which were intimidating. But for me, nothing was more intimidating than the thought of counselling. I had often given advice to people, and helped them to think biblically about things, but I had never been–in my estimation–a counselor to anyone. For that reason, I was glad to hear of a book on counseling from 9Marks and Crossway. I find my resources from 9Marks, most published by Crossway, to be the most helpful on church-related issues. The Pastor and Counseling is no different.

This book by Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju is very helpful to me for two reasons. First, it lays down a “theology of counseling” that is both informative and inspiring. Second, it provides a simple yet thorough explanation of what counseling looks like.

The book is divided into three sections and also includes some very helpful appendices. The third section will become more helpful as my pastoring/counseling ministry develops. The third section deals with developing a culture of counseling in a church and ideas around the employment of outside resources. For now, sections One and Two will be a great aid to me in developing as a counselor.

Section One, and the Introduction, deal with concepts of counseling and section Two considers the process of counseling.

The first chapter in section One paints a biblical picture of what pastoring, and specifically pastoral counseling, looks like: a ministry of laboring and suffering, of discipling God’s people, of praying, and of teaching God’s people. Chapter two, still part of section One, delineates the goals of counseling and speaks to the initial contact with someone who might be coming to you. Chapter three, the final in this section, relays the methodology of counseling; the pastor listens, considers, and speaks to people’s heart response to God, self, others, and their circumstance. This section was informative through simple explanation and clear illustrations. The increase in my understanding resulted in a new-found motivation to disciple through counseling. This topic was becoming less intimidating.

The three chapters of section Two provide a very practical description of what actual counseling sessions should look like. Chapter four, the first chapter of section Two, detailed the initial meeting, highlighting its four goals: 1) establishing a relational connection, 2) exploring through listening, 3) displaying hope, and 4) setting expectations. The next chapter concerns itself with the ongoing process of counseling. Concrete ideas such as getting an update, checking up on assigned prep work, and further exploration of the issues might seem obvious to many, but I found the thorough explanation of what the process looks like beneficial. The last chapter in this section, chapter six, describes the final meeting and how the pastor concludes the counseling and releases the member into the regular care of the church. Counseling, once a very intimidating topic, was becoming increasingly understandable and I, once a very intimidated pastor, was becoming emboldened to pursue this aspect of my calling.

For those adept at counseling, this volume might be overly simple. I really cannot speak to that. For me, new to pastoring and new to counseling, this book is a valuable resource. I am certain that The Pastor and Counseling would also be significantly helpful for lay people as well. I recommend this book to pastors who want to grow in their understanding and practice of counseling and to those lay people who would like to do the same.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A year of reading - 2015

At the beginning, or sometimes the end, of the past few years I have made a habit of blogging about the reading I did in the previous year (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009) . I have done this for several reasons.

First, it is a means of holding myself accountable. I value reading and intend to make it an integral part of my life. By making my reading life public, I can allow people a glimpse into one of the disciplines of my life.

Second, I hope for my reading history to be an encouragement to others. Though I know many others who read much more than I do, nevertheless, my year-long record of reading often surprises people in terms of what is possible if reading is a priority. I have a full-time job and five kids heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. A very small portion of my reading occurs at work; though, I think I should read more at work and I hope to do so in 2016. I think that if I can share some of my successes with reading, that other busy people will be encouraged to read more. And that, in my estimation, would be a good thing.

Third, to give glory to God. It is by grace that we read, desire to read, learn from our reading. The fact that my life allows me time to read, and that I have the faculties to do so, are nothing more than gifts from God to a person who has done nothing to deserve such favour.

So, here is a list of all the books I read, or re-read, this year:
  • The ESV Bible by God via Various Authors
  • The Pastor and Counselling by Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju
  • Pleased to Dwell by Peter Mead
  • The Incarnation of God by John C. Clark and Marcus Peter Johnson
  • Malachi: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary by Andrew E. Hill
  • Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
  • The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Kostenberger
  • Future Grace by John Piper
  • Soul-Depths and Soul-Heights by Octavius Winslow
  • The Gospel by Ray Ortlund
  • The Joy Project by Tony Reinke
  • The Church by Mark Dever
  • Ordinary by Michael Horton
  • Understanding Prophecy by A. Bandy and B. Merkle
  • Malachi: A Study Guide Commentary by Charles D. Isbell
  • Prayer by Timothy Keller
  • The Compelling Community by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop
  • 40 Questions about Baptism and the Lord's Supper by John S. Hammett
  • The Son of God and the New Creation by Graeme Goldsworthy
  • Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves
  • Text-Driven Preaching by eds. Akin, Alan, Mathews
  • Preaching? By Alec Moyter
  • Is God Anti-Gay? By Sam Allberry
  • God and the Gay Christian? Ed. Albert Mohler
  • Compassion Without Compromise by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau
  • What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung
  • The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson
  • Interpreting the Prophetic Books by Gary V. Smith
  • Footprints by Lindsay Reynolds
  • Blood Work by Anthony Carter
  • Preaching with Accuracy by Randal E. Pelton
  • Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
  • The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
  • Jesus in the Present Tense by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • From Heaven He Came and Sought Her eds David and Jonathan Gibson
  • The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
  • Preaching to a Post-Everything World by Zack Eswine
  • Jesus' Blood and Righteousness by Brian Vicker
  • Changing Places by David Lodge
  • Know the Heretics by Justin Holcomb
  • All for Jesus by Robert L. Niklaus et. al.
Most of the books I read were non-fiction. You’ll see that these books are mainly on theology, Christian living, preaching, and Bible interpretation. But I also read some fiction including a couple of plays by Shakespeare. I’d like to read more fiction than I do, but for now I guess I’m content to read it when I can.
A list of books that I’ve read doesn’t tell you much about the books themselves. Be watching in the near future for a post on my favourite books of 2015 for some more detailed info on a few I considered the best.
Increasing your reading will not happen by accident. You will need to be purposeful about it. But there are some simple tips and techniques which can help you. Here are a few that have been helpful to me:
  1. Always have a book with you. This is easy in the digital age.
  2. Have a specific goal in mind. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.
  3. Redeem wasted minutes throughout the day. There are many 10-15 minute blocks of usable time throughout the day in which reading would be a great activity.
  4. Keep a record of everything that you read. This will encourage you!
  5. Limit your entertainment intake. More screens usually equates to less books read.
  6. Get recommendations by people you trust. Reading great books is easier than reading lousy ones.
  7. Read to glorify God. Because God.
  8. Read several books at once or only one at a time. I’ve found that either of these may be helpful.
  9. Read a book on why reading is so important. Two birds with one stone.
  10. Read books around a theme that interests you. I am in a “books about preaching” phase and my excitement about preaching encourages me to read more.
I have already made some plans for my reading in 2016. There are some new books I’m looking forward to and some books by “dead guys” that I should have read by now and intend to this year. I hope you are looking forward to a year of reading as well!