Counselling: Prayer and Ministry of the Word (4)

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Someone recently decided not to join a particular church.  When he was asked why, he said it was a ‘Mary Poppins church – every Christian was practically perfect in every way.’  True story.

That’s a church where no-one is wounded, and where no-one applies the medicine of the gospel to those wounds.  There is no discipleship for people whose lives are hurting.  There is no understanding or love for them, either. There is, in short, no counselling.

Instead, Sunday by Sunday, everybody pretends that they are as perfect as everyone else appears to be – and afterwards go home to the empty house, the breaking marriage, the credit card bill as if they were the only ones who face hard times.

‘Bear one another’s burdens’ says Paul.  ‘Help the weak’

That includes pastors.

It is sometimes said that if we preach properly, then God’s Word is stretched over the whole of life and there will be fewer demands for Counselling.  That’s probably true – but that means we preachers must be willing, explicitly, to address those hurts properly and in depth in the pulpit.

But I’m sure I’m not the only preacher to have discovered that when you begin to do that it starts conversations as well, and people want to talk things through with you they never thought they were allowed to.

Of course this can go in the wrong direction.  I have seen a church where the minister only really made time for people with problems; the result was that everybody magnified their problems in order to get time with him.  It became healthy to be sick.

And even in a skilled pastor’s hands, it is mostly individuals who are built up, rarely the congregation as a whole.

But I am haunted by the image of a Mary Poppins church.  Because it is the opposite of a church living by faith in God’s Word.  Mary Poppins is not a model of grace.  She is a model of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and never letting the mask slip for a moment.

  • Who do you know in your church whose life is hurting at the moment? What are you praying for them?  Are you praying with them, too?
  • What skills do you need to be able to apply God’s Word to broken disciples?
  • From your Quiet Time today, what truths can you take to a troubled Christian this week?
  • And if this is you, who can you turn to in your church?  Because other Christians are there to bear your burdens, too.


I recommend:

The Journal of Biblical Counselling

Henry Cloud and John Townsend How People Grow (Zondervan)

Timothy S. Lane and Paul D. Tripp How People Change (New Growth Press)

Paul D. Tripp Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (P&R)

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