The apostle Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ has “committed unto us the word of reconciliation”. Though he probably had in mind the reconciling of the lost to Christ, from the rest of his writings it is certain that he would have included believers who were burdened with guilt and unable to enjoy the peace of God in Christ. It is vital for those who are bound up in guilt to realise the power of the blood of Christ and the forgiveness He brought, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).
As an “Ambassador for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) the Christian minister is responsible for bringing Christ’s message of forgiveness and freedom from guilt to those under his care. He should encourage them to trust in what the Scriptures say about their salvation rather than by going by what their personal feelings (misgivings) dictates. Throughout his life, the man God calls to minister to a local church will be faced with every conceivable human problem, from marriage problems to illnesses, from those in mental turmoil to those who are trying to free themselves from a besetting sin. Therefore he needs a compassionate concern for the needs of others. It is his duty to follow Christ’s example in this area, since He came to “heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18-19). It was the same Jesus who forgave the penitent woman while the religious leaders condemned her (Luke 7:36-50), who forgave the woman caught in adultery whom the religious leaders wanted stoned (John 8:1-11), who was willing to reach out to self-confessed sinners such as Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Counselling a soul means that the pastor must keep in mind that there is nothing to difficult for the Lord to solve. Regardless of the life situation He alone has the answer for that need. At all times the word of comfort and guidance must be true rather than simply based upon personal sympathy that offers the person false hope. Therefore the pastor must be convinced that God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
The apostle Paul encourages us to “comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). This part of the pastor’s ministry can best be described as ‘Care for souls’, both saved and unsaved, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John :2). With regards to his flock the pastor needs to imitate the Good Shepherd by leading the sheep to green pastures (Psalm 23). Paul described the ministry of comfort and reconciliation as having the same compassion as Christ in Philippians 2:1-2, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”. To “comfort the feebleminded, and support the weak” he needs to be there with them in times of crisis and personal pain. He, if he has studied the Bible to show himself “approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15) then he will have the correct and timely words of comfort for them. Armed with such words and compassion he is then able to bring the oppressed, bound, grief-stricken and those burdened by guilt to victory and peace in Christ, that is a deeper, fuller relationship with Him. At all times the blood of Christ must be kept in focus, “having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself” (Colossians 1:20), otherwise such true Christian counselling might fall into the modern “Inner Healing” trend that is more of Freud than Christ. Through this counsel the pastor desires to bring the person to maturity in Christ, “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). Such Spirit-filled counsel it is possible to snatch a backslider from the brink of eternal destruction, “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). Therefore he is responsible for leading those who have gone astray back into the fold.
There are many facets to the ministry of the pastor such as teaching, preaching, church management, but all will fail unless he is equipped to deal compassionately with those under his care. He cannot hide himself from any sickness, trauma, death, sin, condemnation, fears and worries any of his congregation are experiencing. Such a ministry can be described best as ‘being there for them and with them as a representative of Christ’.