When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” Matthew 9:36-38

It is interesting to follow the progression of Jesus’ observation, emotions, evaluation, and response.  After doing several miracles, Jesus saw the crowds forming.  Yet this moved Jesus to compassion rather than pride.  Jesus’ humility allowed Him to see the need of the people rather than getting lost in His own (legitimate) greatness.

Jesus’ compassion came from the observation that the people were helpless (trapped in their sin and the suffering of a fallen world) and harassed (bombarded with “solutions” that did not result in peace).  It was this observation that ultimately led Jesus to conclude that the people were “like sheep without a shepherd.”  They lacked direction and followed the herd that lacked a leader.

Based upon this Jesus called on the disciples to pray specifically for evangelists who would step into this ripe harvest of human hurt and confusion.

I believe this (among other things) is a call for counselors with the heart of evangelists.  Where do the “crowds” of our day turn in the midst of their sin and suffering?  What cultural role most closely correlates with that of “shepherd”? I would contend that the answer to both questions is counselors.

We need to pray that God would raise up counselors with hearts for the church and minds shaped by the Gospel and Scripture.  This is not meant to diminish the role of pastors as counselors.  But most lost people do not think of turning to pastors for advise about their sin and suffering.  Let us pray that Christians in the field to which lost people turn for answers would have the compassionate boldness to guide them to true hope.

As you reflect on the possible interaction of counseling and evangelism consider the following points that I believe give counselors the potential to be very effective evangelists.

  • Counseling is a resource people turn to when they acknowledge their effects/wisdom is not working.
  • A counselor is someone people come to and expect to openly talk about the inadequacy of their efforts/wisdom.
  • Counselors have the opportunity to model love and demonstrate understanding of an individual before offering any guidance.
  • Counseling is a place built upon the challenging of core beliefs about self and life.
  • Counseling is built on a series of conversations not a single pressured-based encounter.
  • Counseling is a place people expect to “count the cost (Luke 14:28)” of major life changes.
  • When teaching, a counselor’s first-hand knowledge of human struggles, should allow for a clearer presentation of the necessity and relevance of the Gospel.