The statement, “Many are called, but few are chosen,”, found in Matthew 22:14, comes from a parable that Jesus told his disciples. In the parable a king is having a wedding celebration, and the people he invited rejected the invitation, and in many cases, they even harmed or killed those who came out to invite them. After taking action to show his displeasure against those who rejected his invitation, the king decided instead to invite the general public. Both good and bad people showed up, but, as the king made his rounds at the celebration, he noticed a man who was not dressed appropriately, and he challenged him. The king wanted to know why he was not dressed as expected. The man could offer no adequate response, and so was no only kicked out of the celebration, but arrested.
The most likely lesson which the Lord wanted learned was that God the Father was the King in the story, that He and those who preached the gospel in those times were the ones who went out to invite the initial guests. That those guests, the Jews, harmed and killed those who the Father sent to preach the Truth. The general public is to be understood as the Gentiles, all of us who are not Jews. The man who was not dressed appropriately demonstrates that there is a particular protocol which the Lord requires for entry into the celebration (salvation), and of course that is solely through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Pretending that someone is saved will only result in that person coming to a rude awakening; you cannot sneak your way into the kingdom of God, there are consequences.
From the story, we can make a few conclusions, and learn some Biblical principles.
- God wants to end up with a people who are willing to do whatever will be expected of them.
- He wants to have as many as possible, but that He will accept even a few, if they will do as He wishes.
- There is a condition to being one of the few, and that is to be “dressed” appropriately.
- Being dressed appropriately means complying with the established protocol.
- The established protocol is recognizing, accepting, and living as though, Jesus Christ is the “way” into an eternal relationship with the Father.
- This then stipulates that someone’s personal beliefs, doctrine, theology, and/or opinions (their personal choice of “dressing”), have no bearing on their status as one of those “chosen” to celebrate that relationship with the Father.
- That those who pretend (and/or deceive themselves into believing) they have a relationship with the Father will be rejected.
With this in mind, the question which all counselors should have is, “What does this have to do with counseling?” I’m glad you asked.
Every time I have held a counseling training course, I have found people attend for different reasons. Some take the classes:
- Because they want to begin a ministry as counselors to the general public and therefore obey the calling on their life by God, or,
- Because they want to learn about counseling, so they may use the various techniques and methods to deal with issues in their own, or loved ones’, lives, or,
- Because the like the idea of taking a course which involves physiology, and it may give them the upper hand when dealing with others, or,
- Because they are those type of people who are always learning and never growing. These people attend each and every class offered, regardless of the theme, content, or intent. Their own motive is solely to “learn” more.
Of the three groups above, I want to stress the first. Why? Well the third and fourth groups will be of no use, in the long run, as far as actual counseling ministry is concerned. These two groups might even give you the impression that they want to learn about counseling because they feel a “leading of the Lord” to take the class, but all the time it is their own personal motives which are driving them. The third group will be somewhat useful, if they can get past their selfish motives. For example, once they use their new learned knowledge to help resolve some issues within their immediate family, or in themselves, they then begin help others as well. I have seen this in the past.
So then, does every person who takes the counseling training course actually want to counsel? No. What is the usual percentage, of people who take the classes, who actually end up counseling? The number is small. For example, I trained a group of 25 persons in a church in North Dallas. After the training was over, only 2 persons, to my knowledge, have continued counseling. In another case, I trained 18 persons in a church in Arlington, Texas. After the class, again to my knowledge, only one of the trainees has continued to counsel. There are reasons for this, and I will explain. I have held training for counselors throughout the Metroplex, and the results have always been similar.
Why has this been the trend? I knew you would ask that question? Well, there are factors. First of all many of the persons who took the classes fell into the third and fourth groups I defined above. These persons were not going to continue and counsel, no matter what. Counseling takes time, it demands for you to make it a priority in your life, and it costs. By “costs,” I mean that you have to make some sacrifices along the way. If you have to ask what the costs will be, then you should not even consider becoming a counselor. Anyway, this trend of ending up with only a few counselors, has become the norm due to the following factors:
- Other than the case where people were just not going to counsel anyway, motivation plays a large role. In some cases, after the training was over, the pastor placed an individual over the counseling ministry to oversee it. This, in and of itself, is a good thing. The problem comes when someone who is already busy and plays a leadership role in the church is assigned additional workload on top of what they already have to contend with. They will start with holding a meeting soon after the counseling training is over, but with time the meetings become less frequent, to the point that the leader no longer makes an effort. The newly certified members, who are not involved in an active counseling ministry will keep waiting for the leader to set a meeting, and will eventually come to accept that it just won’t happen. With time these counselors get drawn into other activities and the idea of counseling becomes a dim memory. The fault here is primarily of the leader, the pastor, and the church. They had a useful resource, and they not only did not use it, but they disregarded it.
- One special situation comes to mind, for my next point. The training class was comprised of 14 student counselors. The pastor was excited about the prospect of having a functioning counseling ministry in his church. He had mentioned often, to me, that he always dreamed of a team like this ministering to the public. He knew, he said, that as people were helped by the counselors, and then accepted the Lord as their Savior, that they would inevitably choose to go to church where their counselor went. I completely agreed with him. We held the training classes and all 14 successfully completed the course. As the classes were wrapping up, the pastor appointed a church deacon (who also completed the course) as the overseer of the ministry. After the raining had completed, I attended the first ministry meeting of the church team. Everyone was excited, I could see the hope in their eyes. The leader led the group in coming up with several points which need to be addressed, and these were presented to the pastor.
- First, they asked that the pastor assign an office or private location for the counselors to use to hold the sessions.
- Then, they asked that the church either open a new phone line, or ask the already burdened church secretary to receive the calls for counseling and give them over to the Lead Counselor.
- They also asked the church to pay for a mass mailing in the zip code area where the church resides, to inform the public of the availability of the counseling service.
- Finally, they asked the church to print either some business cards or brochures for the counselors to give out to prospective clients.
What was the response? The pastor informed them that he had to consider the requests, because he had to be a “good steward” of the money, and that he could not just spend it on every whim (yep, he said that word) of church members. As for a private location or office for counseling, the pastor said he would be looking for somewhere that would work. In regards to the mail out, he said that it was not in the budget for that year. He told the counselors that they could print their own business cards, but that they could not put their own names on the cards. He wanted only the church’s name and phone number on the business cards. As for brochures, not yet. Finally, he decided that the already burdened church secretary would receive calls for counseling and forward the information to the Lead Counselor. Somewhat discouraged, the counseling team accepted the limited working conditions, and waited for calls. They decide to wait on the business cards.
One day, the Lead Counselor was approached by a member and questioned on the activity of the counseling ministry. She complained that she had referred two persons to the counseling ministry, and that no one ever returned their calls. The Lead counselor went to speak with the church secretary, who immediately began arguing with the counselor that she was already overworked, and did not have the time to keep up with someone else’s duties. When informed, the pastor defended the secretary and told the counselor that they had to find other means of having folks contact them. The leader became discouraged and started concentrating more on his other duties. The counseling meetings tapered off, until they ceased altogether. To my knowledge, no one is counseling at that church today.
Many are called, but few are chosen. This does not only apply to the people who take counseling training, but to the leaders which are placed over them. Nothing will kill a ministry as quickly as a bad leader. There are many “leaders” in churches all over the world, but not all of them are chosen. In many cases people end up in leadership positions, solely because no one else wants the job, so the church accepts whomever volunteers. And, many of the “volunteers” actually want “power” or rather authority. Once they are these positions, these bad leaders become tyrants who lord themselves over others. They are more concerned with their own image and success as compared to those of the people under their authority.
The idea of counseling people is initially exciting and attractive, but with time, all those involved learn that with the exciting part comes great responsibility. Counseling people will cost you money. You may have to pay for your own materials used in ministry, your own business cards, your own printing, and so forth, even if you are part of a church ministry. Many times the churches are small and they just don’t have the finances financially to support a ministry that they truly want. Counseling people will cost you time. In many cases, your counseling sessions, with a person or couple, will last for months. This means you may have to adjust vacation times, Holiday events or other similar occasions to deal with the demands of the ministry. If you are not willing to make some sacrifices, you do not want to become a counselor. Counseling people will cost you pride. If you want people to follow the counsel you give them, then follow it yourself. You family is the highest priority in your life. Not your relatives, your immediate family. If you are married, this means you, your spouse, and your children. If you are not married, this means yourself. Often people will tell others they should or should not do this or that, and then turn and do the opposite. You must place your pride aside and become an example for others as to what a healthy Christian life looks like. Counseling people will cost your independence. God wants to be in charge. He is not willing to share that authority with you. He wants things done His way, only His way, and He will never agree with making changes to His plans. He will send you the people He wants to heal and help, and to do so He needs you doing and saying what He wants, not what your great intelligence, education and training have taught you. He would rather use an untrained counselor who will allow Him to use the counselor as the tool for His work in the life of a client, rather than to depend on a well-trained, educated, and intelligent man or woman who is going to do it the way they believe is right. Proverbs 16:25 (NASB) says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”
I will add one more thing here. All those people who took the training classes to become counselors, should not have allowed the actions of the bad leaders to stifle their initial excitement regarding counseling. They may be able to blame the bad leaders to an extent, but after that the counselor him or herself is responsible for obeying God. If it were me, and my church did not support the counseling ministry, and God did indeed call me to counsel, I would leave that church and find somewhere where I could practice the calling, and use spiritual gifts which God had given me to do this wonderful ministry.
What is your motivation? Why did you become a counselor? Are you paying the price? You have the ability to affect one thing most important, you can choose to obey God and become one of the chosen. Remember, John 14:15 makes it abundantly clear. Jesus is speaking in that verse, and He says, “If you love me (in other words, if you tell yourself and/or others that you really love me), you will keep my commandments (in other words, you will prove that you love me by doing what I instruct you to do, and do it only my way).
Rev. Juan M. Pérez