There’s a lot that Christians can learn from the counselling profession. Indeed, the counselling profession has loaned its core principles from Christian wisdom and ethos. Perhaps the best way to view counselling and what it can loan back to the everyday Christian is the perspective of, ‘How does the person in need view the helping relationship?’
Christianity is about the God-centre. It is other-centric. There is nothing in counselling that suggests it is anything about the counsellor, apart from their knowledge, skill and experience to facilitate healing outcomes for the person in need.
The “helper” gene consists of six things according to Carl Rogers: empathy, warmth, genuineness, concreteness, immediacy and confrontation (to tackle the issues that are otherwise avoided).
When we begin to view the counsellor as simply a helper it de-mystifies the process of counselling and means that a large amount of good can come from it. Perhaps it’s people who already have the helper gene who are most attracted to this profession. Perhaps it should be a personality pre-requisite?
One thing is for sure, Christians are called most fundamentally to be helpers. The function of pastoral care is one of helping. Indeed, pastors are to be helpers. A great many pastors I’d suggest, however, see themselves in the A.W. Tozer mould; preacher, not pastoral carer. There is a distinction, but it is an excuse at best (and a mistake) for a pastor to resist helping when he or she can.
But, what about the everyday Christian? They too are called to help; that is to serve. Many people see this as being active in service from a church ministry perspective, but I don’t think that reaches the intent of Jesus. He’d have us more fundamentally helping as each need arose. It’s helping when on the roads, at the workplace, in the family etc.
What does the “helper” gene look like in everyday practice? It’s giving more than legally required on the roadways to help others on their way. It’s cooperating enthusiastically with our boss and co-workers, even, especially even, with those we struggle to serve. Our work’s not finished at work. Our spouse needs help too. We must be a model helper.
Sometimes there’s too much made of the “helps” love language, like ‘I don’t speak that language too well.’ That’s simply an excuse for the lazy. The power of the will of the mind will get anyone out of their ‘lazy bones’ attitude, but it’s a personal choice.
Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” –Matthew 10:45 (NIV). We too are to serve and to give our spiritual lives to others and to God, so that we might taste this eternal living of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Helping is a key feature in the character of God. It’s a trait we’re designed to follow after. Are all Christ-followers counsellors? No! But all Christians should have the backdrop desire to help--if they indeed know their God.
Acknowledgement to Stephen Murgatroyd, Psychology in Action: Counselling & Helping (Leicester, England: The British Psychological Society, 1985), pp. 15-35.