Questions serve a useful function in pastoral work, and especially in counseling. To ask an appropriate question may open up a helpful conversation and avoid our beating around the bush. Paul asked pastoral questions. Writing to the Galatians, he enquired, “Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1), and “What has happened to all your joy?” (4:15). If someone comes to talk about uncertainties concerning the future, he may be helped to come to the point if we ask, “Where are your areas of doubt about the future?” It is appropriate to ask a Christian questions such as: “Do you find it hard to keep your relationship with God fresh?” or “Have you been able to maintain your spiritual joy in Christ?” If this is precisely the person’s problem, it is then easy to talk about it. If the person is spiritually healthy, he will have much to share on the subject.
Our main task in counseling is to assist Christians to understand their own condition, and God’s purpose in it, and then to recognize what their right behavior should be. Besides giving encouragement, we must not hesitate to exhort and admonish where necessary. We must not shrink from diong what may be dangerous in our work, or what will not be greeted with gratitude. Sometimes we may have the difficult task of reminding people of God’s jealousy for their loyalty and love (1 Corinthians 10:22).
Our goal in counsel is not the pleasure of the people we strive to help, but pleasing God. Our concern must be to speak the truth in Christ–and with love–with our conscience confirming the fact by the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1). People should always be encouraged to think through the counsel we give (1 Corinthians 10:15). Such encouragement shows that we are not authoritarian, although directive, and that our earnest desire is to present only God’s truth–something God Himself will confirm to people’s consciences (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Derek Prime and Alistair Begg, On Being a Pastor, p. 167