Josh, before I go on answering the question you asked me about what I do to prepare for a counseling session, I just want to say a hearty “amen” to what you wrote about the importance of a pastor being a “people person” especially in the way you described it. It’s possible for a person to love to preach and perhaps even love his role as the man who leads the church, but not love the people to whom he preaches and the people with whom he exercises leadership. It was not so with the Apostle Paul as is evidenced from many statements in the book of Acts and his epistles. Often we read of Paul shedding tears or having strong positive feelings for them or of agonizing over and with them in their struggles.
To use the concepts about a true shepherd (pastor) that Jesus presented in John 10, Paul was not a hireling who didn’t really care for the sheep, but a devoted shepherd who cared for the sheep. I love the statement he made in Philippians 1:8 and think that all of us who pastor must be able to honestly say the same thing, “I long after you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” Or who of us should not be challenged by what he said about his attitude toward the Thessalonians, “having thus a fond affection for you we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives because you had become very dear to us” (I Thessalonians 2:8). I find that statements such as these are sprinkled throughout his epistles. And what was true of Paul must be true of any of us who either are or aspire to the responsibility and privilege of being a pastor. If we lack this compassion and affection for the saints we are pastors in name only and not in truth.
I’ve counseled with a number pastors who loved to study and who revel in the prestige of having some authority over people. I’ve had them tell me that they love the challenge of learning new things and gaining new insights from studying God’s Word. I’ve had them tell me that they find it challenging and exhilarating to organize and prepare sermons. I’ve had them tell me that they really enjoyed standing in front of people and delivering a well planned sermon. They’ve told me that they love to see the responses of people to their well planned and delivered messages. In keeping with their own statements and from hearing the way they dealt with or didn’t deal with people it seemed evident that they were not really “people person” pastors. In fact, there is a sense in which they were not pastors at all because pastoring or shepherding, by biblical definition, involves more than teaching and preaching. (See Acts 20:17 – 35; I Peter 5:1- 4; Ezekiel 34:1-5; Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:7, 17, 20 – 24)
Well, it happened to me as it must have happened to Jude when he sat down to write his epistle. He tells us that when he began to write he intended to write about one thing and was directed by the Holy Spirit to write something else. Now, I’m not claiming to be inspired by the Holy Spirit as Jude was, but I was going to continue to answer your question about how I prepare for a counseling session. However, after reading your blog I was so in agreement with what you wrote that I wanted to express my agreement and, while making no claim to Divine inspiration, I do believe that in what you and I wrote we have the mind of Christ. Anyway, more on preparing for a counseling session and finishing our blogs on thanksgiving will have to wait until another time. And by the way, I think we could also spend some profitable time and space writing about how being a “people’s person” pastor will and will not display itself in actual practice. What thinkest thou?