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					Counselling - Jesus’ Style
need of the hour for the Church in India
- Samson Gandhi



     esus invited Peter and Andrew to follow Him and in return offered to make them ‘fishers
of men’ Matthew 4:18-20. It’s a clear call to evangelism. To the same disciple, Peter, Jesus
said ‘Take care of my sheep’ John 21:15-17. And that was a clear charge to Pastoral Care
and Counselling. The call to evangelism and the charge to care and counsel with the
evangelised are inextricably bonded like the Siamese twins. Try to separate them and both
will die.

The Church in post-Independence India has tried to evangelise without providing adequate
pastoral care and counsel for the converts. To borrow medical terms, the ‘birth rate’ of new
believers was significant but ‘mortality rate’ was high due to lack of proper ‘post-natal’ care.

The Mission Boards in India and funding organisations overseas were more concerned with
the numbers that were being added to the Church but neglect their spiritual nurture (biblical
counselling) and social well being (individual care). As a result Churches are filled with
members who are neither spiritually transformed nor morally different. Therefore, the larger
society sees the whole process of evangelisation as nothing more than a membership drive
through what they call as enticement. They perceive it as a threat to their political power,
which to them comes from numbers.

No wonder under a non-secular government, the Church in India is being persecuted. If only
the Church were persecuted for being righteous, the Church would multiply. The moment of
reckoning has come. Be a loving and a caring Church or else perish. John 13:34,35.

Jesus counselled with different people at different places. Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman
by the well; Zacchaeus, the tax collector; the woman caught in adultery; the rich young
ruler; His own disciples. But then He was not just counselling but ushering in the Kingdom
of God - an abundant life that He promised in John 10:10. Let us look at each of these and
see what happened at the end of each ‘counselling session’.

Counselling shapes Spiritual Leaders: In every counselling encounter, Jesus’ counsel not
only changed the individual but the transformed individual profoundly impacted the
community. In the case of Nicodemus (John 3:1ff), he not only grasped a deep spiritual
truth that unless a man be born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he went
on to influence the Jewish Council. Eventually, when all the disciples desert Jesus,
Nicodemus pairs up with Joseph of Arimathea to boldly ask for Jesus’ body from Pontius
Pilate.

Many a Christian leader - clergy or laity - who is responsible for Church affairs do not have
an adequate grasp of the spiritual principles and how they operate in daily life. They would
like to seek fresh light on their beliefs. A learned counsellor would better meet the need
than just a scholar. Jesus did not impart these deeper truths in a ‘Sermon on the Mount’,
but more on a person-to-person basis. Counselling can facilitate grasping of such deeper
truths with privacy to boot. Church leaders possessed by such spiritual insights will then be
able to ‘feed the lambs’.

India needs such spiritually mature ‘counsellors’ who can shape the emerging leadership of
the Church.

Counselling facilitates Social Transformation through Personal Evangelism: The Samaritan
woman was a theologian in her own right (John 4:1ff). Though she wanted to evade Jesus,
persuaded gently, she could engage Him in a meaningful conversation. But the encounter
leaves her totally transformed. From one who shunned the people of her village to one who
confronts them with the claims of Jesus. As a result of this short but powerful counselling
encounter, one woman impacts the whole village and they put their trust in Jesus.

Jesus counsels with the Samaritan woman. He provides her right answers to her gnawing
questions and gently but firmly confronts her with her personal decadence. She sees the
Messaiah in Him. Jesus strikes a chord in her heart of dissonance and she brings the whole
village to join the choir. Counselling can bring about social transformation and make
powerful and personal evangelism possible!

In India, women are slowly coming into their own, but are a long way off. Counsellors who
are perceptible and are willing to stick their neck out, like Jesus can usher in a social
transformation and whole communities are just waiting to come to Christ.

Counselling facilitates Economic Transformation: Zaccheus, the Tax Collector was a seeker
in the crowd. Jesus spots him and gives him unconditional acceptance by inviting Himself for
a meal in Zacchaeus’ home. Rejected by his own people and burdened with the guilt of
financially oppressing them, he finds Jesus’ disarming advance very liberating. Light had
come in to a willing heart and the darkness had to flee. No wonder Zacchaeus not only
repents but goes on to make a public declaration of his restitution.

Imagine what could have happened in a small community of Zacchaeus. Half of his wealth
was now available to the poor. The bridging of the ‘great economic divide’ between the
haves and have-nots had just begun. The poor of his day would have really seen the
salvation of God and cried Hallelujah! Yes, Counselling can facilitate economic
transformation.

Inida is a land of contrasts (Readers may like to refer to my article titled, ‘Counselling In
The Land of Nirvana’ published in ‘Carer & Counsellor’ Autumn 1998). The gulf between the
rich and the poor is vast. Counselling that can result in economic transformation in the
society is the need of the hour.

Counselling can bring Redemptive Justice: As Dan Allender puts it, God in history acts as a
Prophet, Priest, King and Counsellor. Jesus as a defender of this woman caught in adultery
(John 8:3ff) acts like a King. But confronts the accusers as a Priest (advocate). Accepts the
woman as a Counsellor and exhorts her not to sin as a Prophet. Justice was not sacrificed at
the altar of grace and mercy. Redemptive justice.

Hungry for love, the woman moved away from a judgmental community and sought solace
in the bosom of a man and becomes guilty of committing adultery. But only an accepting
Counsellor could deliver redemptive justice.

India is still a strongly community based society. The community has a strong say in the
lives of individual members. We need more counsellors who can render this kind of
redemptive justice and save those who are lost.

Conclusion: The Church in India is coming alive to this need for biblical counselling. Some
of the mainline Churches have started counselling departments in their Churches. Some
fellowships have met this need through their ‘Care Cell’ groups. Individuals like Dr. Thomas
Gnanamuthu in Bangalore, India are paving the path to a more organised counselling
ministry. Christian ministries like Grace Counselling and our own organisation called ‘Person
To Person’ have initiated training programmes to equip the churches with Counselling skills.

Selwyn Hughes and his team from Crusade for World Revival (CWR) are giving the greatest
impetus to the Church in India in this crucial area of biblical counselling. Person To Person
would like to see more and more prayer support raised for this ministry in India.

				
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