Paul Tautges is a renowned pastor and biblical counselor. He has served Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as pastor-teacher since 1992. His preaching and teaching ministry often takes him overseas for the equipping of national pastors for the work of church-based ministry. He is also the author of several excellent books on counseling and pastoral ministry, including Counseling One Another and Counsel Your Flock. Paul is a biblical counselor certified with the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) and the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). Counseling One Another, is a highly recommended source for Scriptural insights on the ministry of counseling and pastoral leadership.
Paul was kind enough answer a few questions for today’s Friday Five:
How did you discern your call to the ministry? Was it something that happened immediately after your conversion?
Within a couple months after my conversion in the spring of 1984, I sensed a desire building within me for vocational ministry in some form, though I had no idea what that would look like. About two years later, I married and moved to another state to attend Bible college for the purpose of being equipped theologically and practically for ministry. It was in my second year there that the Holy Spirit narrowed down my call through involvement in my local church. The more teaching opportunities the Lord brought along, beginning very small and then leading to occasional preaching in a country pulpit, the more the people of God confirmed my internal call by their encouraging comments. As I saw the Lord working in people’s lives through my teaching of His Word He gave me an insatiable desire to preach full-time and care for one of His flocks. Twenty years ago, He led me to return to Sheboygan, Wisconsin where I’ve been pastoring Immanuel Bible Church ever since.
Your pastoral role has a special emphasis on counseling and you write extensively about it in your books and on your blog. Why is biblical counseling so important in the life of the Christian?
Making disciples of Jesus Christ is the Great Command given to the church (Matt 28:18-20). Obedience to Christ is the very heart of the content of our marching orders. Obedient describes the product we are called to reproduce, obedient followers of the Word of God. A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who is committed to a lifelong process of growing in obedience to his Master’s commands and, by doing so, becomes like Him (Rom 8:29). Therefore, we must consciously use the terms counseling and discipleship interchangeably, or even together (discipleship counseling), in order to communicate that counseling is not the specialized ministry of a few professionals, but rather an intensely focused, personal aspect of the discipleship process for all believers. That is, it is disciple-making targeted at specific areas of a person’s life where biblical change is needed for that follower of Christ to move forward toward the goal of being fully remade into His likeness.
Many pastors, especially young guys, might feel as if they are ill-equipped to counsel some of the big issues their people face. What advice would you give them?
Every pastor, especially the young and inexperienced, needs to maintain a teachable spirit and prayerful dependence upon the Lord. He should always be studying the Word with the intention of applying it first to his own life then to those he teaches (Ezra 7:10). He should also be steadily reading solid theological, pastoral, and biblical counseling books and journal articles, thus learning from his peers and men who have gone before him. Alongside these published mentors (authors) he should ask his church leadership to provide funding for him to attend at least one ministry conference per year, which could include the kind that emphasizes the personal ministry of the Word we call “counseling.” Additionally, if his heart desires further help and training then he should look into more counseling-specific training. A good place to start is the website of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.
Would you say that not every pastor has the skill set and gift mix to effectively counsel in all issues? And if so would you recommend he refer people to qualified, biblical counselors outside his church?
Since “counseling” is the personal ministry of the Word to believers’ lives every pastor must counsel at some level. He is a shepherd; counseling is not an option. For a pastor to fulfill the biblical model of personal ministry laid out in Colossians 1:28, he must remain attached to people. This demands that pastors be involved in others’ lives far beyond preaching to them each Sunday, and it discourages us from keeping a distance from our people, especially from those we may consider to be “special-needs” disciples who require a large investment of time and energy. This is not to say a pastor must be an expert on every issue. The church is rich with untapped resources and he should involve others in the discipleship process. However, if these people resources do not exist in his own local church then he must be sure any outside counselors to whom he refers his members will minister to them in a way consistent with biblical beliefs. At the same time, he should also be training and equipping others in his own church to come alongside for this important ministry. It is the pastors and elders who are accountable to God to keep watch over the souls of the sheep (Heb 13:17).
Your ministry also emphasizes “counseling one another”? This is really part of discipleship isn’t it?
Yes, everything the local church does should ultimately fall under the command to make Christ-loving, obedient disciples (Matt 28:18-20). Counseling that is truly biblical is merely an intensely focused and personal aspect of the discipleship process, whereby believers come alongside one another for three main purposes: first, to help one another to consistently apply Scriptural theology to life in order to experience victory over sin through obedience to Christ; second, by warning one another, in love, of the consequences of sinful actions; and third, by guiding one another to make consistent progress in the ongoing process of biblical change in order to become spiritually reproductive disciple-makers. Biblical counseling is helping one another, within the body of Christ, to grow to maturity in Him.