“To (the saints) God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
What does it mean to proclaim Christ? As pastors, we preach and teach the Word of God, which is what we think of as the “proclamational ministry of the Word.” But this outward-facing, one-directional proclamation is not the only way we proclaim Christ. It has a compliment: The Conversational Ministry of the Word.
WHAT IS THE CONVERSATIONAL MINISTRY OF THE WORD?
Though I would argue that true preaching and teaching should be a conversation, the “conversational ministry of the Word” is by definition a dialogue. It is not one speaker standing in front of many listeners. Instead, it is face-to-face. It is marked by listening (on both sides), knowing, processing, applying the Word, and pointing to Christ. In essence, it is the ministry of Biblical pastoral counseling. Sometimes this happens during a scheduled appointment, and sometimes it takes place in the hallway. Either way, we are proponents of this necessary ministry of the Word as this is how we grow in Christian maturity. So where is one to go to find this conversational ministry of the Word?
Many of us think that we must schedule an appointment with a counselor to have this type of face-to-face session. Certainly, there are times when that is appropriate. From time to time, Michael and I both will take the time to visit with trusted counselors. But are they our only option when it comes to conversational ministry?
WHERE CAN WE TURN?
In some form or another, all of us have come to experience the reality of pandemic-induced supply disruptions. They’ve impacted a broad range of goods and services. In our own church, we experienced delays in the delivery of our sanctuary chairs. But these shortages are not limited to goods. I’ve recently come to realize that one of the most surprising fronts in this battle for supply has been in the area of Christian counseling. Counselors are simply booked up.
Maybe it is because we don’t know how to process the added levels of anxiety COVID has introduced into our lives. Maybe it is because the church is too quick to outsource our ministry. No doubt, there are times when a professionally trained counselor is the best option, and we pastors are thankful to call upon our partners in those moments. But oftentimes we simply need to talk with our pastor. So maybe too few of us know that this conversational ministry of the Word is an important part of our ministry. And maybe that is because we haven’t prioritized it.
A PRACTICAL APPROACH
With all of this in mind, Michael and I have resolved to seize upon a recommendation from our Women’s Ministry Team Leader. As we enter into the new year, we will be setting aside 2.5 hours each week for walk-in counseling. We will alternate weeks and will communicate our specific hours in advance in both the bulletin and newsletter.
Now please know, those are NOT the only hours we will be available for counseling. Everyone has particular schedule challenges, so we will do our best to meet with you at a time that works for both of us. But our commitment to you is that we will be free and available during those publicized times.
We’re doing this for several reasons. We want to prioritize the conversational ministry of the Word, and we want to communicate that priority to you. Come. Let us talk face to face. Let us listen face to face. Together, we will look to the Word of God, trusting that through the work of the Holy Spirit we will grow more mature in Christ and that we will cling to this beautiful mystery, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”