I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you. ~ Psalm 32:8
Beloved, whether God is addressing David, the psalmist, or David is addressing the people in verses 8 & 9 our point is clearly made, namely that real life-on-life discipleship cannot be accomplished solely or merely through mono-logical instruction (e.g., preaching). If you would instruct, teach, and counsel (these terms are nearly synonymous in the psalm) another pilgrim toward the Celestial City, you must do so individually, personally, and directly (cf. NET translation: “I will advise you as I look you in the eye”).
Please, do not misunderstand us, we cherish expository preaching. We hold the pulpit in highest regard. We lament the sad state of affairs where much of what masquerades as preaching is better termed motivational speaking or self-help therapy…but we also maintain that discipleship requires more than preaching. Preaching is an indispensable part, but it is not the sum total. Holding hands with preaching must be face-to-face instruction, teaching and yes, counseling.
By the way: When Dr. Luke sought the right word, the perfect word to describe what was required to encourage the saints toward the Celestial City, he choose the same Greek word used to translate the Hebraic word for “counsel.” Thus Acts 14:22 reads:
“…strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” ~ Acts 14:22
The word is “strengthening.” Beloved, we must be up close and personal with those whom we would endeavor to encourage to continue in the faith as they walk through MANY tribulations. Discipleship cannot be fully accomplished from far away, nor completely to a crowd. Discipleship demands eye-to-eye ministry…and that ministry must have words of hope, encouragement, and exhortation…because suffering is coming and a faithful response is not optional.
Charles Bridges, Martin Bucer, and Richard Baxter have stated it well…many years ago–and we would do well to hear them anew:
“The indolent are slumbering—the self-dependent are falling back—the zealous are under the influence of spiritual pride—the earnest are becoming self-righteous—the regular, formal….These cases cannot, in all their minute and diversified forms, be fully treated in the pulpit” (Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry, 344; First published in 1830)
“The doctrine of Christ must be proclaimed not only in the pulpit, but also in the home and to each one individually . . . This is why Christian doctrine and admonition must not be confined to the assembly and the pulpit; because there are very many people who will take what they are taught and admonished in the public gathering as being of only general application, and consider it to apply more to others than to themselves” (Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls, 181; cf. 182-83, 189; First published 1538).
“I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner” (Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 18; First published 1656).
“Therefore personal catechizing and counseling, over and above preaching, is every minister’s duty: for this is the most rational course, the best means to the desired end” (J.I. Packer, Introduction to The Reformed Pastor, 18).
10,000 Blessings in The Wonderful Counselor,