Predetermined preparation for a discipleship (counseling) session “in advance” is not the best way to do soul care because you never know what you’re going to get with a person. It’s similar to a doctor preparing all that he plans to do with a person before he meets the unique individual. It’s unwise.
Even if you have an idea of the problem–“my patient has a common cold,” you still should not spend a lot of time “preparing in advance” other than praying for the Lord’s wisdom when you meet the person. In John 3 and John 4, you have two people with the same problem, but Jesus’s approaches to Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman were radically different.
Why did He counsel them differently? Because even though they had the same problem (they needed to be born a second time), He had to customize His care to them.
There is a pneumatic element (Spirit-led) to soul care, which implies that you can’t “prepare” for an upcoming meeting because you don’t know what the person is going to say to you. Or it could be that the person’s problem or situation changed since you last talked to them.
Every Box Is Different
As Forrest Gump said, “You never know what you’re going to get in a box of chocolates.” At least not until you open the box. “Are you saying that I should not prep for a discipleship opportunity?” Your “preparation” is your entire life, which includes your current studies, plus all the Lord has taught you throughout your life.
The kind of “prep” that I’m talking about includes your pre-salvation life before God imposed Himself on you through regeneration. You preparation “draws from” your entire life, and you should be ready to use any part of autobiography at the moment you need it when caring for someone.
The danger of “pre-determined preparation” is that you may prescript what you want to say for to a person before you ever meet with the unique individual. If you do this, you could miss what he or she needs from you
Conference or Counseling Prep
I “prepare” for a conference in a similar way that I prepare for counseling. Meaning, my life is a constant state of preparation. I hold my “conference plans” loosely because I do not know the town, the people, the church, or the individuals where I’m going to equip.
Let’s say that I’m going to do the same lecture in two towns, within a two-week period. Though the goal may be the same, I customize the conference content to the uniqueness of the communities where I’m speaking. Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman needed the same thing, but Jesus tailored His care uniquely.
I go into a community, asking the Lord to help me get a sense of who these people are, what they need, and how I can “sculpt” my training to fit their uniqueness. I prefer this approach over having “five pet sermons” that I preached to every group I meet.
There is a pneumatic element to discipleship that is different from preaching. The preacher prays, preps, crafts, plans, and scripts his sermon all week. On Sunday, he monologues that message to his audience. Counseling (or discipleship) is not like that. At all. It’s an interactive dialogue, and you will not know what to exactly say until you’re sitting in front of the person.
Her body language may cause you to change what you planned. His speech, inflection, nervousness, inhibitions, anger, impatience, deception or vulnerability will also shape your care. Perhaps the couple walks through the door with a problem that is different from the reason they told you they wanted to meet. It happens all the time.
And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. – Luke 12:1-12
While you may have a general idea of what you want to do, your goal is to rest in the Spirit of God to “give you the words you need,” as Jesus told His disciples. This aspect of soul care is invigorating. It is a high call to trust in God.
It’s not a call to be sloppy, never studying, never learning, never prepping, never changing, and never growing up in Christ. It’s a call to live in that “pneumatic sweet spot” that is mysteriously placed somewhere between undeviating preplanning and winging it because you’re sloppy and lazy.
Preparation and Pneumatic
The person who has an undeviating pre-plan is not a good counselor. The person who does not see all of life as preparation, and is not a constant student will also do poor soul care. Mature, ever-learning, pneumatic disciplers are the best.