10 Years in Print: Special Edition
Beyond the Altar
By Tom Jones
Dysfunction and isolation are reaching new heights in today’s social media-driven culture.
The results are loneliness, confusion, and depression. Battling
this current mindset, the pastor might be tempted to grasp his Bible tighter as he waves it over his head, strain his voice until his face turns red, and sling saliva to the second and third rows trying to “preach down conviction” on these individuals.
In spite of our best efforts, we see a younger generation distancing itself farther from the church. We conveniently write it off as a generation that simply doesn’t want to hear the truth. Perhaps a different perspective is in order.
I feel confident that those who know me would attest that I have preached with passion and deep conviction throughout my 30-plus years in ministry. I love to preach, and I love to hear passionate, conviction-filled preaching. Anyone who has attended either of the two churches the Lord has allowed us to start here in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area will tell you we have never compromised on God’s Word.
I must admit, though, I have recently developed a passion for another aspect of ministry—counseling. It’s true. I love to sit down for a one-on-one conversation, allowing individuals to talk about whatever is on their minds. Yes, I hear some off-the-wall opinions, and I also hear some deep, hard, heavy things that are difficult to let go of at the end of the day. Yet, it is in counseling sessions that many people open up and let you share in their deepest pain.
I have learned this generation is actually very interested in the truth; they are simply looking for a place to be heard. The median age at Keystone FWB Church is 35. Counseling offers a venue where these young men and women can speak openly and find the solution for their deepest needs. Over the last couple of years, out of 22 conversions, 75% occurred during counseling sessions.
While I would never diminish the importance of preaching, I strongly encourage pastors to open their doors to counseling. Many people are confused by life’s experiences and by what they have been taught. They mistakenly believe God could never love them. Counseling gives the pastor a personal opportunity to share the truth from God’s Word. Guess what…the majority will listen. Few things are more rewarding than the look on their faces when the message clicks, and they finally get it.
Pastor, consider this. It is not an insult when someone wants to talk to you privately rather than respond to an altar call. The Holy Spirit used something you said to touch an individual, to lead him or her to seek truth more deeply. Is it a waste of time? Or is God giving you an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with someone the Great Shepherd has assigned to your care? I suggest the second. What a blessed opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word in a face-to-face setting and rejoice when that individual surrenders his life to the Lord.
About the Writer: Tom Jones and his wife Pam are part of the church planting team at Keystone FWB Church in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Learn more: www.keystonefwb.org.