BCC Staff: You are reading the first in a series of posts about the recent Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Leadership Retreat.
I was surprised and honored last year to be asked to join the BCC Council Board and to attend the yearly retreat this December. I confess I was pretty intimidated when I arrived at the retreat center and began introducing myself to other council members. Biblical counseling is a relatively new vocational change for me after teaching Bible in a Christian high school for 30 years and I have much to learn. And here I was rubbing shoulders with the “movers and shakers” of the biblical counseling world! However, getting to know these brothers and sisters was such a privilege and as the retreat went on I found myself eager to talk to, worship with, learn from, and support them. Some highlights of the retreat for me:
The teaching was excellent. David Powlison helped me see from Revelation 2-3 that Jesus models a counseling ministry that is wonderfully knowledgeable and adaptable to the varied sin and suffering issues that counselees bring to the table and that surprises them with the grace of God. Charles Ware challenged me to be sensitive to ethnic and cultural differences, to use appropriate resources and illustrations, and to remember, “No contact, no impact.”
I loved the times of Scripture and worship we shared. Deepak Reju, John Henderson, and Randy Patten encouraged and challenged us from the Word and there was a sweet unity and passion in our singing praises to God.
The small group connecting times were important to allow time to discuss and process what we were learning and to share personal concerns and pray for one another. I found the men in my group genuine and vulnerable, encouraging and challenging. My current favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 4: 7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” I found this verse incarnated in these men as they shared about their lives, families, and ministries.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
The theme of the retreat was the sufficiency of God’s Word for counseling and we spent several hours discussing what our shared commitment to sufficiency looks like in actual model and methodology. The discussions were lively and intense, but always respectful and God-centered. Obviously we didn’t all agree on every point, but there was a tangible common vision and unity under the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture. As I listened to almost 40 people passionately discussing important issues in this way I thought, “This is what wrestling to apply Scripture to contemporary issues should look like.” I believe the Lord was honored and pleased by these discussions.
God’s Word and Our Lives
I’ll close by sharing some verses from Ephesians that I believe we experienced at the BCC retreat.
- Ephesians 1: 3—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places….” We were very aware and grateful that the gospel of grace is the source of every personal blessing and counseling resource. This informed our worship and fellowship.
- Ephesians 2: 4-5, 10—“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—be grace you have been saved….For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We were united around a strong conviction that, no matter what differences of emphasis we might have in biblical counseling, no other counseling model or methodology has the power to raise the spiritually dead and then change their lives to walk in the good works God has prepared for them.
- Ephesians 3: 14—“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named….” Many different personalities, gifts, and ministries, but all part of one family under God our heavenly Father, Jesus our Wonderful Counselor, and the Holy Spirit our indwelling Helper.
- Ephesians 4: 1—“I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called….” We were reminded and challenged by Randy Patten to live out the gospel we counsel to others. Only by keeping “a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” can you “save both yourself and your hearers.”
- Ephesians 4: 15-16—“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when every part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it build itself up in love.” The truth of the gospel was spoken in love in the main talks, devotions, small groups, and conversations with the understanding that biblical counseling goes beyond formal counseling to every member “one-anothering.”
By God’s grace I believe this retreat will bear fruit in the future for each attendee and ministry, for the biblical counseling world, and for the worldwide church of Jesus Christ.
Join the Conversation (Added by the BCC Staff)
As you ponder Pat’s words of testimony, which aspects of the retreat are the most encouraging to you?