Reminders of Our Insufficiency

March 24, 2015

Pulpit and Personal Ministry of the Word--Reminders of Our Insufficiency
Steve Viars

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Steve Viars

Pulpit and Personal Ministry of the Word--Reminders of Our Insufficiency

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the second of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Uniting the Pulpit Ministry of the Word (Preaching/Teaching) and the Personal Ministry of the Word (Biblical Counseling/One-Another Ministry). This series demonstrates that both preaching and biblical counseling are Word-based ministries. While helpful to pastor-teachers, this series is beneficial to everyone who counsels and to everyone who sits under the teaching/preaching of the Word and receives Word-based counsel from others in the Body of Christ. In Part One, Pastor Kevin Carson described how preaching helps counseling. Now in Part Two, Pastor Steve Viars explains how counseling helps preaching.

Counseling as a Reality Check

Recently a young man from our community asked if he could speak with me privately. In our meeting he explained that he had struggled with cross-dressing since his teen years and wondered out loud if there was any hope or help for him. I was both fascinated and saddened as he told me that he felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body. He went on to tell how his young wife had just learned about his secret lifestyle and was devastated. He was filled with guilt, shame, and hopelessness.

Never Heard That from the Pulpit

I love the public ministry of the Word, but I’ve never had anyone yell out while I’m preaching—“But pastor, I’m struggling with cross-dressing.” The process is one-sided and I often wonder what my listeners are really thinking and feeling. Yes, people sometimes send questions and responses later that week, but it rarely takes on the intensity of counseling. In one-on-one sessions, people lay it all out there in ways that are emotional, vulnerable, painful, and deeply troubling.

Helpful in Many Ways

Spending time in the counseling room each week helps me be better prepared to preach for many reasons. Perhaps the greatest one is the regular reminders of my own insufficiency. I’m thinking especially of Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he rehearsed a number of challenges to life and ministry and then exclaimed, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). That kind of authenticity is often the way I feel as I listen to the stories of broken people and then consider my own meager resources in and of myself.

The End of the Process

Thankfully, Paul did not leave us there. He went on to say in the next chapter, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). Nearly every counselor knows those moments where we are crying out to our Redeemer for the help and wisdom we need for our fellow sufferer. We admit to our counselees that we desperately need the Lord’s help, and we join arms and run to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Something marvelous—yes, supernatural—happens in those moments. The Lord shows Himself to be sufficient in all sorts of ways in those moments.

The good news is, Sunday is coming. We have another opportunity to address our church family on the Lord’s Day. But that recent counselee is with us—in the back of our minds as a fresh reminder of our own insufficiency. We find ourselves approaching the pulpit not with “This is going to be a great sermon,” but instead with “Who is sufficient for these things?” I think that is a healthy way to approach the process, especially if we can allow the dependency and confidence we found in the counseling room to direct us as we preach. With Paul we joyfully proclaim, “Our sufficiency is of God.”

Join the Conversation

In what ways does the personal ministry of the Word (biblical counseling, one-another ministry) remind you of your absolute need for God’s all-sufficient wisdom and power?