Jack was in many ways an ideal parishioner. He was married, gainfully employed, and with two young children in upper elementary school. He was happily married, and conscientious in church attendance. In addition to this, he was the kind of church member who would diligently seek out pastoral counsel. If he had a situation with one of his kids, or a challenge at an upcoming family reunion, or a difficulty at work, he would schedule a visit with the pastor, and seek counsel on how to address it. He was the kind of sheep who sought out the shepherd; the shepherd did not need to go looking for him. And invariably, the counsel would fit with what he was already inclined to do, or was seeking to do.
In other words, he diligently sought counsel and help when he didn’t really need it. And, as might be expected, he discontinued seeking counsel as soon as a situation arose where he did really need it.
Eventually, a serious conflict arose between his family and another family in the church, and from the beginning to the end of that conflict, he was not open to any serious pastoral input about the situation. And when the disruption of fellowship there spread to difficulty in finding connections elsewhere in the congregation (because too many people were friends with too many other people), he and his wife made the difficult decision to move to another church. Ostensible but plausible reasons that were not connected to the real reason were not difficult to find, and so he naturally found them.
But because he had sought so much counsel for so long, on so many issues, it never occurred to him that what he was actually getting was not biblical counsel, but rather a suitable narrative, a plausible story. The idea that he was not open to counsel was preposterous. He had sought advice countless times. Just not when it mattered.
All the characters and situations in this Fifty Ways series are entirely fictional. The patterns being described, however, are not entirely fictional, and will no doubt be recognized instantly by any experienced pastor.
Image from Unsplash, by Mantas Hesthaven, @mantashesthaven