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Pastor as Counselor.

1. A pastor's main work is to give helpful guidance and support to disturbed and perplexed souls; this work is called cure of souls, soul care, pastoral care, or poimenics. Basically it is soul-winning, soul-reclaiming, and soul-keeping. His field is his flock and the unchurched; mems. of other Christian chs. are usually referred to their pastors. His goals are mainly spiritual, but by his ministration he also brings relief in physical, mental, and emotional ills. Pastoral counseling is eschatological; its goal: to prepare men to meet their God.

2. Pastoral counseling is receiving more specialized and intensive recognition and attention than ever before. Psychology and psychiatry often come to be involved, but the true basis of proper pastoral counseling remains the Word, which is able to save souls (Ja. 1:21). Exceptional cases may be referred to a Christian psychiatrist, though the ministries are distinct from each other. A psychiatrist is concerned mainly with the mental and emotional restoration of a client; a pastor is concerned mainly with spiritual welfare. Spiritual ministration often exerts a psychosomatic influence. In every case it is God who heals (Ex 15:26; Mt 4:4).

3. Pastoral counseling has application also to marriage,* family* life, and family* planning.

4. Effective pastoral counseling requires Christian faith, familiarity with the Bible, perseverance in prayer, and the ability to apply the Word of God properly (2 Ti 2:15); it also requires consecration, loyalty to the Bible, love for people, and confidence of success (Is 55:10–11; Ro 1:16). Depending on circumstances, laymen may assist in counseling.

5. A pastoral counselor should draw on the experiences of others and have respect to the times. He should be familiar with problems connected, e.g., with sickness and suffering, marriage, divorce, alcoholism,* drug addiction.

6. Pastoral counseling began with Christ and the apostles (Mt 10:5–15; Jn 20:21–23; 21:15–17; Acts 20:20, 31; Ro 12; 1 Co 12 and 14; Ja 5:13–20). The apostles took steps for training other pastors (2 Ti 2:2) and apostolic fathers continued the work.

7. Doctrinal and practical aberrations soon became disturbing problems for many. Some said that postbaptismal sins require special works of penance; fasting and almsgiving were stressed as necessary for salvation, and some added the keeping of the commandments. Some ruled out all chance for repentance after Baptism; some allowed I chance, but not in cases of idolatry, unchastity, or homicide. As a result, many postponed Baptism till late in life. In course of time asceticism* began to flourish. Martyrdom came to be regarded as a guarantee of salvation and became life's highest hope for many. But fanatical seeking after martyrdom was condemned.

8. With the rise of Christian monasticism,* monks and esp. parish priests became the chief pastoral counselors, controlling confession, absolution, and meting out penances.

9. The Luth. Reformation* revived proper pastoral counseling.

10. Pietism* emphasized Christian life and spiritual exercises. Rationalism* ran counter to Christian faith and led to decline in pastoral counseling.

11. Luth. pastoral counseling in the US owes much to H. M. Mühlenberg* and C. F. W. Walther.*

12. In the 2d half of the 20th c., lay participation in counseling has increased considerably. OES

See also Ministerial Office; Seelsorge.

J. T. McNeill, A History of the Cure of Souls (New York, 1951); J. H. C. Fritz, Pastoral Theology (St. Louis, 1932); S. Hiltner, Religion and Health (New York, 1943) and Pastoral Counseling (New York, 1949); J. C. Heuch, Pastoral Care of the Sick (Minneapolis, 1949); J. S. Bonnell, Psychology for Pastor and People: A Book on Spiritual Counseling, rev. ed. (New York, 1960); G. Bergsten, Pastoral Psychology: A Study in the Care of Souls (New York, 1951); W. E. Hulme, Counseling and Theology (Philadelphia, 1956) and The Pastoral Care of Families: Its Theology and Practice (New York, 1962); A. W. Blackwood, The Growing Minister: His Opportunities and Obstacles (New York, 1960); F. Greeves, Theology and the Cure of Souls (London, 1960); E. Thurneysen, A Theology of Pastoral Care, basic tr. J. A. Worthington and T. Wieser (Richmond, Virginia, 1962); D. R. Belgum, The Church and Its Ministry (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1963); T. Bovet, That They May Have Life: A Handbook on Pastoral Care for the Use of Christian Ministers and Laymen, tr. J. A. Baker (London, 1964), printed in US under the title The Road to Salvation: A Handbook on the Christian Care of Persons (New York, 1964).


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod


Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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