People are given to believe that if a Christian service such as counseling, a travelling evangelist, or support of a pastor, requires payment, then it is less sincere than if it had not. I will concede that the love of money and poor accountability will lead to evil and corrupt ministry, but this is not necessarily so in every case. Unfortunately perception becomes reality, and most people perceive that payment for Christian service is a negative simply because the worst amongst us often get the most press. Paul suffered from the same problem. He was in constant defense of his apostleship before the early church, and one sacrifice he chose to make in order to better validate his ministry was to refuse monetary support, though he was under no Scriptural warrant to do so. I Corinthians 9:3-14:
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
Pastors, most often offer counsel for free to families as a part of their expected pastoral ministry, as well they should. I would think it odd for a pastor to receive a wage from a church and also charge by the hour for pastoral counseling. While the counsel of a pastor may be beneficial, pastoral counsel should be, and most often is, limited and short term. It is limited with regards to ability. After a certain point there are just some issues of the mental soul that pastors are not trained to handle. It is limited also by the mere fact that after a certain time, pastors need to move on, and be available to others. People do not need to become addicted to their pastor’s attention. This is both dangerous and emotionally/spiritually draining. He is gifted to the church to “equip the saints for the ministry (Eph. 4:12)” and to “preach the Word of God (Acts 6:2).” For him to consume his time with only visiting, counseling, and administration is wrong and detrimental to the spiritual health of the church (again consult Eph. 4:12, Acts 6:2).
There will come, then, a time when the wise pastor will make a referral to a Christian counselor. This will require, in most cases, money. Some ministries have the liberty of offering free counsel to those who need it. Yet, it should be noted that they can do so only because someone behind the scenes is funding it. Again, someone is paying. Also, it has been proven that when people have a monetary investment in counseling and education they respond better than if they had no investment in the same.
Here is the real question. What is it worth to you? What is the condition of your family, your marriage, or your loved one worth to you? Some people will buy a nice pair of jeans, but will not pay for Christian counsel. People will buy a pair of pants and it never enter their mind that Levi and Strauss is somehow evil because they will not clothe the world for free. Some people will fund a trip to Disney World hoping that it will relieve family stress, when three appointments to a trained counselor would have been much cheaper and much more effective than Mickey. An investment of time and money in professional Christian counsel can be life changing. It is a worthwhile, Biblical, and solid financial investment. A wise Christian counselor once pointed out to me as we were discussing this very issue, “Divorce is much more costly than counsel.”