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Pastors’ Conference taking ‘bold step,’ offering free counseling sessions

PHOENIX (BP)–Too often, Christian leaders have personal problems but feel they have no place to turn, Mac Brunson says.

But the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas has helped put together a ministry to some of those hurting leaders. This year’s Pastors’ Conference, headed by Brunson, will join with Focus on the Family and Hope for the Heart to offer free Christian counseling to Southern Baptist pastors, staff members, missionaries and their families Sunday and Monday, June 15-16.

To ensure anonymity, the counseling will take place away from the Phoenix Civic Plaza. Focus on the Family’s H.B. London Jr. and Hope for the Heart’s June Hunt will lead a team of what Brunson calls “perhaps the best counselors you could find in America.”

Confidential appointments can be made by calling Hope for the Heart at 1-800-488-HOPE (4673) between 8:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. Central Time. Names are not required; registration numbers will be assigned. Appointments will be made in the order they are received.

The ministry adds to what was already a family oriented event. The theme of the Pastors’ Conference will be “Building Kingdom Families,” and the first-ever Kingdom Family Rally will take place Monday night, June 16.

“It adds a dimension that I’ve never known the convention to have before,” Brunson told Baptist Press. “That is, you don’t come just to do business [and] you don’t come just to hear somebody preach…. Here, you can literally be ministered to.”

Christian leaders often suffer from a “white knight” mentality, believing they are in a position where they must not admit flaws, Focus on the Family’s London told BP.

“There is a great deal of unrealistic expectations that are placed on clergy couples,” he said.

Hope for the Heart’s Hunt agreed, saying that Christian leaders often believe that admitting weaknesses will mean they are “abandoning the image” they desire to “project as a leader”

But the “Bible says it is in our weakness that we are strong,” Hunt said. “No one is without weaknesses. It is the strong person that will recognize, ‘This is not a strength of mine.'”

Hunt is an author and founder and president of Hope for the Heart, a Christ-centered ministry that has three radio programs, including the two-hour “Hope in the Night,” a nightly nationwide program in which Hunt takes calls and gives counsel.

She pointed to Proverbs 15:22: “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.”

“Seeking counsel is biblical,” she told BP.

Both Hunt and London say Christian leaders are dealing with a variety of problems. London said the key issues fall into five categories: marital issues; family issues; contention in the local church; the balance between ministry and home life; and addictive personalities and perversions (Internet addiction, television addiction, etc.).

“I think it’s a very bold step that the convention’s taken,” London said.

London has coauthored “Pastors at Greater Risk,” a new book that deals with the subject of hurting pastors. He heads Focus on the Family’s pastoral ministries division that reaches out to pastors and has a toll-free “pastoral care line.”

Sixty percent of the calls come from the pastor, 40 percent from the pastor’s wife, London said. All of the calls are confidential.

“That’s what pastors and their spouses are looking for,” he said. “They’re looking for a safe place and a nonjudgmental place.”

The slogan of Focus’ pastoral ministry division is simple: “Every Moses needs an Aaron.”

“The Southern Baptist Convention represents a huge percentage of the American clergy, but it also represents a great percentage of the heartbreak that takes place in the American clergy,” London said. “Our purpose in attending the convention and being a part of it is to offer any support we can from Focus on the Family to the Southern Baptist pastors and their wives.”

Sometimes, Christian leaders come from broken homes and they don’t realize that their “normal” isn’t truly normal, Hope for the Heart’s Hunt said.

“[T]hey don’t know it because it’s what they grew up with,” she said. “They repeat the same patters in their marriage or their relationships.”

It is important to be humble and remember that “no one has walked down every road,” she said. In a sense, everyone is a counselor because they have had experiences that others haven’t, she added.

“No one has all the wisdom in the world except the Lord himself,” Hunt said.

“The Bible repeatedly mentions that taking advice leads a person to be wise. The Bible has a lot to say about counsel and advice. The wise person listens to advice.”

People need “a safe person with whom to talk,” Hunt said. The Phoenix counseling sessions present an opportune time “to talk with those who on a day-to-day basis help others with their problems.”

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust