Dr. Mark Weston is the Counselor in Residence at the Counseling Center at Northwood Church and an Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Criswell College.
Pastors are human. As such, many have concerns, which interfere with their marriage, parenting or life. Often these concerns are only the surface manifestation of much deeper but unidentified hurts. If total healing is to occur, the pastor must recognize that giving attention to only surface manifestations and not the greater spiritual and emotional needs they have is to neglect what is truly in need of a healing touch.
Jesus' Teachings Convey Total Transformation
Jesus made this clear when healing the paralytic brought to him by four friends (Luke 5:17-26). The men and their friend were seeking a physical healing, but Jesus saw their total need to include the healing of their souls. Pastors should seek out a Christian counselor – without fear or shame who will use both psychological research – to understand the pastor's emotional processing and readiness, and Scripture to bring the teachings of Christ to the pastor in order to be effective in helping enlighten the truths of Christ in addressing their struggle.
The importance of bringing healing through the words of Christ were highlighted by Jesus when he spoke these words in the book of Isaiah in the synagogue,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18).
Spiritual Transformation is Foundational to Psychological Healing
Martin Luther believed spiritual counsel was to be concerned above all else with faith; nurturing, strengthening, establishing and practicing faith. A pastor seeking psychological healing will discover healing is not possible without also establishing spiritual transformation which brings healing to the soul. Paul challenged the Corinthians to be transformed by the renewing of their minds in order to prove what the acceptable and perfect will of God is for their lives (I Cor. 12:2). True psychological and spiritual healing can only be found in the words of Christ; in the peace of Christ; in the hope of grace and mercy in Christ; and in the presence of Christ in one's life.
Yes, pastors are human. They are subject to organic and emotional influences, which can lead to anxiety, depression, doubt and difficulty in relationships with their wives, children or congregation. Pastors and Christian counselors need to have a paradigm shift in their understanding of the importance of, and need for Christian counseling based in a biblical worldview, and integrates psychology into a sound theology. Pastors need to have a wholeness of mental health in their personal lives. The pastor and Christian counselor need to come together in understanding the importance of counseling and to ensure Scripture as having primacy in psychological treatment. The pastor needs a Christian counselor who will provide biblically based, psychologically sound counseling when facing struggles that go beyond pastoral care.