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Biblical Counseling and the Local Church

05.02.17 | PRC Life | by Juan Sepulveda

    Counseling One-Another

    Where do you turn to for help when life hurts? When the heat of life comes at you and you find yourself being pinched by the pressures of daily life in a fallen world, where can you find a community where you will be loved, encouraged, and that can point you to a living hope that meets you in your times of the daily moment-by-moment trials and afflictions, sin and joy?

    The body of believers that God has gathered for His purposes, for His glory, and for the growth and edification of our lives together as Christians.

    The Bible’s answer to these questions, and for all of life, is the local church: the body of believers that God has gathered for His purposes, for His glory, and for the growth and edification of our lives together as Christians. Where we come together as a corporate family to help bring comfort to one another. Unfortunately, the church has become the last place we share our griefs, troubles, and feelings.

    We are persuaded by the current culture that says “to share one’s struggles is a sign of weakness” and that these things are “best suffered alone in private.” These attitudes suggest to us not to bring our private troubles into the public square, furthermore, when we do venture to dare and speak of our troubles, we are often told to “just put on a happy face, pull yourself up and stick it through.” Leading to a stoicism and a denial of the reality of the troubles we face. Thus the pain, confusion, and hurting go unaddressed, being buried deeper inside, leading to a quiet desperation while looking for answers for how to cope. In the world there are no answers.

    Sadly, the advice dispensed that is so often how our culture deals with trouble, also seeps into and finds commonality in our churches as well. The modern church has not been a place where we can comfortably address our private sorrows and hurts to one another. There is an underlying belief, that if you are a believer of Jesus Christ then you should be at all times happy, and that speaking about your troubles exhibits a lack of trust in God. We receive a well-intended Bible-verse along with a kind admonishment to “just trust in the Lord” (and various other platitudes), because “this is how” we are called to live as “Christians.”

    The Church for the Christian should be the safest and most natural place where we share life together.

    While there certainly is Biblical warrant to offer verses, it reduces and misses the heart of the Gospel – which is that Christ is an “ever-present help in our troubles, that He is near (Ps. 46:1; Phil.4:5b)” – and that we are called to “weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).” So when we continually receive simplistic answers to our troubles and are informed that as Christians we should not speak about our hurts because it is complaining, we become shy about sharing our lives when we hurt. Being further convinced that being authentic and honest about the reality of our hurting hearts should not be expressed with one another.

    The Church for the Christian should be the safest and most natural place where we share life together. As the body of Christ, we grow up with one another, maturing in love, kindness, and speaking the truth in love to one another. The book of Ephesians (4:23-32), has the Apostle Paul give to us a model and vivid illustration of what this should look like in the local church. Furthermore in 1 Pet. 4:7-11, the Apostle Peter gives four examples as to how we are to grow up in love towards one another, by:

    1. Praying for each other,
    2. Fervently loving one another,
    3. Showing hospitality toward each other, and
    4. Sharing and serving each other with the spiritual gifts given to us.

    The Scriptures give us the model and help to orient us in the right direction of how we do life together in the church.

    Biblical counseling’s main focus is to help create a community of believers that counsel and disciple one another.

    Biblical counseling in the local church should therefore be an organic process as to how we help one another in various troubles. The Apostle Paul states, “I myself am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge able also to admonish (counsel) one another” (Rom.15:4). While there certainly will be situations that will require additional insight and wisdom from an Elder or group of Elders, and for those who have received additional training in more complex counseling issues, becoming a church that counsels and disciples one another should be, for the most part, the natural outflow of communal life together and not a specific specialized ministry. We are all called and privileged to the ministry of loving everyone within the church; this is the context of counseling – one of the many facets of discipleship – in the local church.

    Biblical counseling’s main focus is to help create a community of believers that counsel and disciple one another. It seeks to enter in and walk in wisdom with each other showing the gracious care and transforming love and hope that can only be found in the Savior Jesus. A Savior who himself was acquainted with the very sorrows and afflictions of life in this fallen and sinful world. He understands our suffering, our sorrows, our hurts, our temptations, the pressures of life, the sin that is in us and the sin that comes at us from others (that entangle us), and he invites and exhorts us to “call upon on him in our day of trouble and I shall rescue you” (Ps.50:15). He alone gives the rest, refuge, and forgiveness that is able to save us from our various troubles.

    Pastoral Soul care

    As a Biblical counseling ministry in the local church offering pastoral care in more complex issues of the heart and life in general, the goal is not to offer man-centered solutions (behavioral), problems being solved (solutions), or harp on a sin-hunt, but on a permanent and a true heart transformation that is Christ-centered. We desire to see the person whom we are doing life with become more Christ-like. Seeking to think more like Christ. Walking more intently with Christ. Deciding to make better Godly choices that bring glory and honor to the name of Christ. God’s ever present agenda is to conform us more into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29) that we may have a greater capacity to enjoy Him now and eternally. A progressive and daily moment-by-moment growth in holiness that seeks to honor him and the church family. It is God alone by His Spirit that provides the counsel and help for all His people.

    The church as well as God’s Word and not the world’s advice of escape and stoic solutions, is the answer to all of life’s difficulties.

    The counseling ministry seeks to enlarge desires for God that treasure and please God above all else (2 Cor. 5:9-15). As such, we look to God’s inerrant, and authoritative Word that is alone able to speak and is sufficient for all areas of our lives (2 Timothy 3:15-17) to guide us. A Word that is living, active and able to penetrate and dig into the deepest recesses of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). The church as well as God’s Word and not the world’s advice of escape and stoic solutions, is the answer to all of life’s difficulties. God has provided His body, and given to us gifts and enables us by the person of the Holy Spirit (The Wonderful Counselor) to serve one another in humility, and love thereby fulfilling the second greatest commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves and considering others more important than ourselves (Matthew 23:39; Philippians 2:3). As we come alongside one another individually to love and disciple, God offers and provides the corporate church body to help us in all of our needs.

    Conclusion

    This article began with a series of pointed questions. And so we come full circle to ask once more these important questions.

    • Where will you go when life is messy and the walls of various trails close in on you?
    • Where do you turn when the world offers you pat and empty solutions that yield no lasting fruit?
    • Where can you share your doubts and hurts when the hard of life multiplies and comes at you unrelentingly?
    • Where is it then, when you need someone to encourage you, to uphold you, to walk with you and love you well? That will weep with and pray for, and also rejoice with you?

    The only answer is the local church that ministers, counsels, and disciples one another in and by the strength of God in Jesus Christ by his Holy Spirit. There can be no other answer for the Christian. May we seek to love one another well as we counsel and disciple one another in love and for the glory of God in Jesus Christ.