5th May, 2013 - 02:40 PM | Posted in Women Organisation
BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Four of a seven-part Grace & Truthblog mini-series on Equipping Counselors for Your Church. In this series, you’ll read:
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
When I began serving as a pastor at my church 13 years ago, the bulk of my schedule was devoted to direct counseling ministry with people. Around half my counseling time was devoted to members of the church and half to members of surrounding churches or the community at large. After all, I was a counseling pastor, and that’s how I thought counseling pastors were supposed to spend their time. I embraced the counseling element wholesale. I just happened to miss the boat on the pastor part.
As time passed, I continued to learn, quite sloppily, the nature and work of biblical counseling. Listening to people, discerning the joys and troubles of their lives, drawing them into the Word of God, helping them push the gospel of Jesus Christ into hard-to-reach places, exhorting them to love and good deeds, and so on. What I continued to neglect, however, was the nature and work of pastoral ministry, at least a critical facet of that work.
An interesting cascade of events unfolded in the months and years to follow, and I was shocked by how disturbing it looked. First of all, a great many people from the church and community began calling our ministry for help. Okay… so what’s the problem? Then members of the church and community started sending their friends and neighbors to our counseling ministry. Seriously, isn’t that the idea? Fellow pastors expressed their delight having counseling pastors on the church staff so that they had somewhere to send all the people who needed care. Amen! I mean, is there something wrong with that?
Well, here’s what happened next. Our ministry schedules got packed with counseling meetings before you could say, “Drowning.” People who couldn’t wait for help from the counseling staff were sent to professionals in the community (which I think could be fine under specific circumstances). Church members and other pastors felt increasingly less qualified to help anxious, depressed, grieving, angry, or otherwise suffering people because an “expert-model-view” of counseling had very quickly and quietly taken over (which I think is absolutely deadly). The body of Christ, as a whole, seemed less able, willing, and comfortable exhorting, encouraging, bearing with, and ministering to one another. They didn’t know where to begin or what to do.
Several years into this cascade, I was studying through Ephesians and the passage from chapter 4 hit me like a freight train. In the face of this incredibly clear passage I had to admit that I was laboring in the opposite direction to God’s design and purpose. I was dominating the work of service, intentionally or not, and the saints were left on the outside. The body of Christ was not being built up because the very means God had given for the construction had been short-circuited. Beyond the practical problems I cited earlier, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was neglecting a huge and vital task God had clearly assigned.
Now, this idea may be obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me. I should say, it wasn’t obvious to me in the area of counseling. You see, I had believed in Ephesians 4 for quite a while, but had never applied its truth to the ministry of counseling. I had always thought of counseling work as falling somewhere outside the range of “the work of service” to which Paul is speaking. Not only did I need to redefine what it meant to be a pastor, I had to redefine, according to God’s point of view, the essence of counseling ministry and where it fit in the life of the church.
Of course, we don’t have time or space to talk about that part. What I would like to do is speak to any of you who find yourselves where I was and would like to make a shift. What can you do? How can you begin to move towards an Ephesians 4 kind of paradigm? Let me offer a few simple ideas.i
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