Don't You Think It Would Be Wise to Counsel with Someone Other Than My Pastor?
Expressed or simply acted upon, this sentiment is often found among Christians, even among those who have pastors who do biblical counseling — and do it well! What's behind it? And is it a good or a bad idea?
It is a bad idea — a thoroughly bad one, because it is unscriptural. In Acts 20:28, Paul commands the elders of the church at Ephesus to
Pay attention to yourselves and to all of the flock among which the Holy Spirit has set you as overseers to shepherd God's church, that He acquired with His own blood.
The task of an elder-overseer is to care for the sheep committed to him. When the Holy Spirit sets (appoints) one to the task of shepherding that means he must do all that a shepherd should do: feed the flock, guide the flock, protect the flock, heal the flock. Those tasks include the task of counseling as Paul reminds the elders from Ephesus in Acts 20:31 where he says, I didn't "stop counseling [nouthetically confronting] each one of you with tears."
For sheep to stray from their divinely-appointed shepherds to one who is responsible for another flock is to thwart God's expressed purposes. If you have been thinking of doing so, I urge you to change your mind and consult with your elders instead. It is they who "labor among you, and manage you in the Lord, and counsel [nouthetically confront] you" (I Thessalonians 5:12). That is their task and your privilege. Indeed it is your duty to seek their counsel because of the task that God gave them and because you should "obey your leaders and submit to them" (Hebrews 13:17).
Since God has so appointed things, why would you even think of going elsewhere for help (given the fact that your own pastor and elders are biblical counselors)? Could it be because of embarrassment about revealing the sins and the problems that you know must come to light in successful counseling? You may also think that to reveal such things would estrange you from your pastor or elders in the future. "So," you tell yourself, "I'll go elsewhere and avoid embarrassment for myself and for them as well."
Wrong, wrong, wrong! You are thinking like a foolish sheep if you reason that way. By using the resources that God has provided in the congregation of which you are a part, you not only please God but also draw closer to your shepherd than if you had gone elsewhere. True counseling doesn't drive people apart. When Jesus spoke of Himself as the "good shepherd" He explained that His sheep would not follow another because they knew His voice and because He knew them by Name (John 10). In other words, together, over the years sheep and shepherd had built such a close relationship with one another, that the sheep would not even think of departing from their shepherd to follow another.
The closeness Jesus described is the result of spending much time together, going through hard times and good, weathering storms, thirst, heat, lack of food. Times when wolves were beaten back, when a sheep strayed, but the shepherd sought and found him. Times when a sheep fell from a ledge and injured itself, and the shepherd carried and nurtured it back to health. The picture the Bible draws is of a faithful shepherd who provides for all the needs sheep have. Cf. Psalm 23: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not lack." Because shepherds meet the needs of sheep, they may look to them when in need. A Nouthetic counselor knows that all of us have sins and failures; you will not shock him by revealing yours. If your shepherd is truly a biblical counselor, he will gladly help you and, in the end, you will have become closer than ever for having counseled together. Doing things God's way brings God's blessing.