“How do I know if I’m ready to counsel for baptism?” a teenage girl in my congregation asked me.
My advice was to talk to our minister about it—and she froze. “Oh no, I couldn’t do that,” she responded, “until I know I’m ready for counsel.”
But she was asking for counsel; she just wasn’t asking her minister. And she couldn’t be persuaded that it might be a good idea. Like many people—young and old alike—she was afraid to go to someone in authority.
It is in our nature to fear authority (Romans 8:7). That same enmity that the natural, carnal mind has for God the Father extends out to His ministry—and really, to any authority figure.
We all need to respect the authority figures in our lives. In particular, we need to develop a strong bond with God’s ministry. Why? Because God knows it benefits us immensely. In 2 Corinthians 1:24, He calls them helpers of our joy.
What happens when young people do not have solid relationships with those who have more experience and wisdom?
Consider the story of King Rehoboam, son of Solomon. He had a decision to make. The people of Israel complained that there was too much of a tax burden on them, and they asked him to lighten their load. The new king went to the elders of Israel, who gave this advice: “… If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever” (1 Kings 12:7).
After receiving that counsel, he went to his friends: “But he forsook the counsel of the old men … and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him …. And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him; And spake to them after the counsel of the young men …” (verses 8, 13-14).
King Rehoboam listened to his peers rather than those with more experience, and what happened? The nation of Israel was split in two! Rehoboam had to flee to Jerusalem, and Jeroboam became king over Israel, leaving Rehoboam as king of only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and part of Levi. The Israelites even stoned King Rehoboam’s tax collector.
What about your life? Have you found yourself in a situation where you weren’t quite sure what the right decision was? Should I go see this movie? Should I attend this dance? Should I go skydiving? Is playing paintball appropriate? God has given you people in your life who can help you address those issues: parents, grandparents and yes—ministers.
But for them to help, we have to confide in them.
Many people rarely have the opportunity to ignore advice because they don’t seek it out in the first place! Contact with God’s ministry should not be an ominous cloud hanging over our heads. One of the ministry’s primary functions is to increase our joy.
“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end,” (Proverbs 19:20). We should all aspire to have wisdom, and counsel is a primary way to attain it.
We often talk about the “big four”: prayer, study, meditation and fasting. Counsel is just as important. Pastor General Gerald Flurry has said that when you counsel with the ministry, your stock always goes up.
That said, if you do find yourself debating whether or not to ask a minister a question, ask the minister what he thinks!
Of course, we might be afraid that contact and counsel could lead to correction. But remember three things about correction:
- Correction has positive benefits for you. Hebrews 12:11 says correction isn’t joyous at the time, but later, it yields the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.”
- The ministry is on your side.Helping you overcome a problem you have is an expression of love for you.
- The correction you receive from the ministry actually comes from God. That contact with the ministry is a tool our Father in heaven has specifically designated to help you overcome your problem.
In the February 2009 Philadelphia News, Mr. Flurry talked about an event where he did not get to spend as much time with the AC students as he would have liked and how critical it is for young people to talk to those who can teach them about God: “Nobody plans to hide out, but if we are not careful, we can all get into the habit of drifting along.
“We can fall into a carnal comfort zone. More mature people can help to lift immature people out of that zone. … At times we have to be corrected and do things better.
“We may have fears, but we must overcome them!”
Mr. Flurry also talked about how important that sort of contact was in his own life: “At Ambassador College, I would have done anything to spend more time with Mr. Armstrong! I knew that spending time with those who knew the most about the Family of God was critical to my education.” If it was critical for our pastor general to spend time with those who knew more about God, it is certainly critical for all of us as well.
Opportunities to talk to the ministry in person may not come that frequently. So when they do come, say hello. Get to know them, and let them get to know you. Find out what’s going on in their lives. Of course, you should still show proper respect. 1 Timothy 5:17 says the ministry should be “counted worthy of double honour.”
Find out firsthand what benefits you can receive from increased contact with the ministry. We all need to receive instruction and wisdom from those with more experience than we have. In order to accomplish that, God has provided us with an invaluable tool: His ministry, the helpers of our joy.