Counseling in the Church
What do you think of when you hear “counsel the Word?” Take a minute to formulate your answer. Millions of Bible-believers easily say “preach the Word” but “counsel the Word” doesn’t ring as familiar. Not only that, but what exactly does it mean to counsel the Word?
Do you counsel the Word? If you have ever given advice, consoled a grieving friend or suggested how your spouse should handle a situation at work, you have given advice or counseled. We counsel everyday but do we counsel the Word? When you are answering concerns or questions do you counsel your own opinion, the latest Dr. Oz advice, the most recent self-help book or do you bring God’s words and principles to those who seek your advice? Are you offering worldly wisdom or God’s wisdom?
Where is God’s counsel taking you?
Every day we seek to understand our struggles and experiences. We often want strategies and principles because we want to change or we want things to be better. Regardless of the form or setting, our words should always be informed and shaped according to God’s point of view. Does the counsel you give (or receive) line up to God’s Word?
Change is a community project
Christians are still broken people but God has ordained those broken people to walk with other broken people and restore each other in the process of walking together.
We need to remember our dependency on other believers. Even if you have a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies, God can teach you very important lessons through His people. It doesn’t matter how many years you have been a Christian—sin blinds and you need a diverse body to help see yourself with accuracy. We give and receive counsel every day. The issue is whether that counseling is biblical; rooted in the revelation of the Creator.
Counseling in the church
A church will counsel the Word informally and formally. The most common misunderstanding of biblical or discipleship counseling is the notion of quoting Bible verses:
“Take two verses and call me in the morning!”
The Bible is not an encyclopedia or an all-encompassing list of topics that God has spoken to. It is not a catalog of human problems coupled with a complete list of divine answers. The Bible cannot be approached with a “where can I find a verse that will address my issue?” mentality. Quoting Bible verses is not biblical counseling.
The Bible is a story and has powerful and important things to say, and topical verses are connected to the story of Scripture and they cannot be deeply understood if they are ripped out of the rest of the story they are in.
Without the perspective of the rest of the Bible, isolated passages will offer little help and can actually be used for self-fulfilling purposes instead of what God has ordained. Every passage is dependent on the whole and the whole Bible is held together by independent themes running through every part of the Biblical story. Themes that describe God, you, and the life you were created to live.
Does the Bible have an impact on you? Do you know where to find help and answers to struggles such as anger, fear, addiction, marriage conflicts, pornography, bulimia, etc.? Do you know WHO or where to turn when life is hard?
What hinders you from speaking (counseling the Word) into the life of another? Are you a believer using God’s Word to help another individual?
These are important questions and ones all of us should have answers to. The purpose of this series is to expose us to the goals, principles and importance of biblical or discipleship counseling in the church. The Lord’s people are called to counsel each other, to be change agents in each other’s lives, and to help each other grow.
About the author
Karen McMahon is passionate about helping others apply biblical truth to every situation in life. She is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free church in Maplewood, Minnesota and a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) She has a MA in Theology from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is completing her MA in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary-Lafayette, IN. Karen loves Jesus Christ, her husband, their three children and their 12 year old yellow lab…and sushi too.