On Sunday 2th Feb 2017 I preached on a very important topic, the difference between Knowledge and knowing.
Many people who attend churches throughout the world have the terrible misconception that the essence of Christianity is knowing, doing, and committing the will. However, Jesus said, “You must be born again” and this re-creative miracle is a work of the Holy Spirit, by virtue of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Why do church members think that they can, or should, ask their pastors for counselling? Why do pastors think that they are equipped or mandated to provide counselling?
A retired pastor I know used to spend an average of 16 hours a week counselling. The man who took over from him when he retired is experiencing the same sort of counselling load. Why?
Why spend so much time ‘counselling’ when there are so many other functions that need a leader’s focus and priority, like leading, preaching, teaching, and praying.
I have difficulty justifying the current role of Pastor (with a capital ‘P’) because I just do not see it in the New Testament church or in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Ask a Pastor how he spends his time and you will find that his days are filled with administration, meetings, weddings, funerals, baby blessings, more meetings, preaching, and yet more meetings… and counselling.
In 2002 Frank Viola and George Barna wrote a controversial book titled ‘Pagan Christianity?’ In their chapter dealing with the Pastor’s role they write; ‘There is not a single verse in the entire New Testament that supports the existence of the modern-day pastor! He simply did not exist in the early church.’ Now if Pastors, as we know them today, did not exist in the early church, and their role is not even hinted at in the New Testament, then why do they dominate local church culture throughout the world? However, this article is not about the Pastor’s role in general, but about one of his or her main functions… counselling.
The definition of counselling is, ‘giving advice, giving professional psychological help, or recommending a course of action’.
Church members queue up to seek these things from their local church oracle called The Pastor: “Pastor, should I take this job offer or stay where I am?“, and, “Pastor, my husband drinks and is having an affair, what should I do?” The ‘pastor’ either groans inwardly while offering up the plea, “What am I supposed to say Lord”, or he puffs himself out and pontificates. However, what appropriate education has our Pastor received that qualifies him as an ‘expert’ advice-giver? Perhaps a course in Nouthetic counselling, or a couple of days training in Theophostic prayer ministry, or a 12 credit course from his seminary? Many of today’s pastors are young and inexperienced, have yet to raise their own families, and most have never had to deal with the harsh realities of business life. Yet people expect counsel from them, and they in turn feel obliged to provide it.
Surely, we can see that there is something very wrong with the picture I am presenting. Perhaps I have it all wrong, but then I do have 30 years of pastoral leadership experience and the scars that go with this.
Here is what I think:
ALL mature Christians should be available to others to help and comfort, and to pray with those who are confused or in emotional pain.
Teachers within the Body of Christ, and that includes the ubiquitous ‘Pastors’, should teach what the Bible sets out as principles for living, point those in need to Jesus, and pray for the infilling presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and situations. However, sometimes people are traumatised by the problems that confront them and need what I would call crisis counselling. But in my book, this form of counselling should seldom stretch beyond three sessions altogether and can and should be conducted by ANY mature, biblically literate, Jesus-centred, and Spirit-filled believer. Other than genuine crisis situations, most genuine disciples of Jesus know what they should or should not do and it doesn’t really help them to have a Pastor reinforce what they already know or refuse to ‘know’.
Now, consider the unfortunate Pastor who has to soak up hours and hours of bad news, negative emotion and angst… almost every day! Is it any wonder that more Pastors fall into sin, burn out, or give up in disillusionment than any other profession… other than psychologists!
Did Jesus spend 16 hours a week counselling His disciples? No! How about 1 hour a week? No evidence of this either. He led them by example, He taught them, and He equipped them, but He did not ‘counsel’ them, as we usually understand the term.
Before any reader gets the impression that I am one of the disillusioned and burnt-out Pastor’s I am writing about, I am not. I started as the pastoral leader of our local church at the age of 40 and I retired, healthy in body, mind, and spirit at the age of 68. I loved leading the local church and I did indeed give some of my time, when really needed, to crisis counselling. However, I had some ‘rules’: “unless it’s a dire or potentially life-threatening crisis then make an appointment at least a week in advance, and once we meet please understand that we will only be spending time together three times, and after that you need to get on with working out your own issues”. No, this is not unloving. Actually, it frees people to grow in the Lord and it frees church leaders to focus on the things that make the most difference to the most people, and to the Kingdom of God.
I have more to say on this topic but if you are interested then you will have to listen to the ‘TruthTalk’ audio and the Q&A that follows it.
May God bless all who pastor but know that they are not ‘Pastors’. May God bless all those who counsel from the Word of God yet know that they are not ‘Counsellors’. Jesus is the source of truth, the Bible reveals Him, and the Holy Spirit illuminates the scriptures and points us to Jesus. In doing this God becomes our comforter and counsellor in a very real sense. The best service church leaders can render to Jesus-followers is to teach the Bible, point to Jesus, and minister the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
Chaos reigned in parliament before the South African president’s latest state of the nation address.
The Chief Whip of the opposition rose to state why his party could not remain to listen to the president, but the ruling party benches drowned him out with a loud and angry chorus of “racist”. Is this an acceptable expression or is it a form of hate speech?
Just weeks ago a crowd of gay activists gathered outside the largest church in Soweto to protest a recent sermon censoring homosexuality. Was such a sermon ‘hate speech’, or was the protest an attempt to curtail religious liberty?
Gay ‘rights’ are a contentious issue in many countries around the world but in South Africa activists are gaining traction and attention by aligning themselves as victims of hate speech. Two things appear to me to have sponsored the current emphasis on ‘hate speech’:
A number of racially prejudicial remarks in the social media, and,
The ruling party’s opportunism in using this as an election campaign theme.
What then are gay rights, hate speech, and freedom of religion and expression, and how do these function together? I am neither a lawyer nor a lawmaker but as a Christian thought-leader, I do have opinions on these important issues.
In 2013 the Freedom of Expression Institute published ‘Hate speech and freedom of expression’ and I am drawing on this as a primary source for this article. Our Constitution with its Bill of Rights is the foundation for all rights and freedoms in South Africa. In 2000 parliament passed the ‘equality bill’ and there are two other concerning draconian bills nearing finalisation, but all such acts of parliament must conform to the provisions of the national constitution.
So what does the constitution state concerning these matters?
It states that Freedom of Expression cannot extend to expressions that enlist, among other things, ‘advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion and that constitutes incitement to cause harm’. The two parts of this are advocacy of hatred and incitement to cause harm. In terms of this, preaching against the practice of homosexuality surely cannot be anything other than a form of free expression. Section 15 of the Bill of Rights protects freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, or opinion. Therefore, a preacher is within his rights to state what he believes the Bible teaches and to voice his opinion based on this belief. But, it is one thing to preach on a biblical interpretation of a practice and quite another to make damaging statements concerning the individuals or groups that are deemed to violate the preacher’s beliefs.
At present I know of no officially accepted definition of hate speech but the following serves well: ’speech or expression which is capable of instilling or inciting hatred of, or prejudice towards, a person or group of people on a specified ground including race, nationality, ethnicity, country of origin, ethno-religious identity, religion, sexuality, gender identity or gender.’ Once again, the key phrase is ’speech or expression which is capable of instilling or inciting hatred of, or prejudice towards, a person or group of people’.
Surely we, as Christians, can and should separate our strongly held opinions of what we consider to be unbiblical practices from derogatory, insulting and demeaning personal or group references?
The national constitution also gives us the right to freedom of association and so we can stipulate membership criteria of our church associations and so on, based on our biblical beliefs and not on our prejudice against individuals.
Jesus said, “Whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council…” (Matthew 5:22 ESV). It is wrong to insult other people or to incite others to be insulting, however, the Lord Jesus used the expression “I tell you the truth” countless times and we are called to emulate Him as truth-tellers. But, the truth we tell must be a thoughtful, love-inspired, and Jesus-centred interpretation of the Bible. “God hates you” or any expression of that is biblically untrue. On the other hand, “What you are doing is unbiblical and I cannot accept it” is surely acceptable and not hateful.
We are in for interesting and troubling times because broader and more activist-inspired definitions of religious liberty and hate speech are emerging all the time and are at the point of being enshrined in legislation.
It will probably take years and much money to challenge and overturn these official bills, and during that time, Christian leaders will no doubt suffer persecution. There is no way of avoiding this in the short to medium term. Hebrews 12:14 states, ’Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord’. The scriptures instruct us to live in peace AND to be holy, separated to God, so short of compromise there is no persecution-free resolution to this tension.
GotQuestions.org has made this statement that I endorse;
Our goal is to speak the truth in love. We do not hate Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather, we simply believe that these groups are making some serious theological and biblical errors. We do not hate homosexuals, adulterers, pornographers, transsexuals, or fornicators. Rather, we simply believe that those who commit such acts are making immoral and ungodly decisions. Telling someone that he/she is in the wrong is not hateful. In reality, refusing to tell someone the truth is what is truly hateful. Declaring the speaking of truth, presented respectfully, to be hate speech, is, in fact, the ultimate demonstration of hate.
Dr. Christopher Peppler talks about the fruit of the vine using the scripture John 15 as reference and covers things like the fact that Jesus likens himself to a grape vine and His disciples to the branches of the vine, He explains the meaning of the analogy. Branches need to be attached to vine (him); Father the vine-dresser; purpose of vine and dresser is to produce abundant and good fruit, opposition to disciples (branches) because of their union with Him (vine), and the role of the Holy Spirit (the sap in the branches of the vine). Listen to this TruthTalk to hear the full sermon.
Part 2 in the 2 part series by Dr. Christopher Peppler focusing sing on Revival in the church, how it has occurred in the past, what exactly this involves, and what to expect when we experience revival in the church.
My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.
Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.
I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus
I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.
If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.