BCC Introduction: Today and Wednesday Robert Jones shares his passion for counseling done within the church, counseling which is done as part of the normal day to day activities of a congregation. Today, Bob focuses on how counseling within the church intersects with worship and discipline (if it is needed).
Connecting Counseling to Worship
I love church-based counseling. Having done it for thirty years now—nineteen as a lead pastor and the past eleven as an associate—I can assure you that there is nothing better than counseling in the context of a healthy local church.
By church-based counseling, I mean Christ-centered, biblical counseling provided for the members and visitors of a local church, done by the trained leaders and members of that church, with the goal of helping those members and visitors follow Christ and function as growing members of that congregation.
While I thank the Lord for my brothers and sisters who counsel biblically (as much as they are permitted to) in parachurch settings, private practice offices, and institutional settings—and I recognize their place in God’s kingdom—none of those scenarios offers the depth and breadth of care that a sound biblical-counseling church can provide.
Let’s consider thirteen benefits of church-based biblical counseling. Here are the first five. A church-based setting provides. . .
1. The direct oversight of God-ordained shepherds. Christ-given pastors/elders know their church counselors and can personally recruit, train, and approve them. They can shepherd their members in wholistic ways. They can more easily enter the counselee’s world to gain trust and do the actual counseling, or they can connect the person to approved counselors that both the pastors and counselees know and trust.
2. Consistency between private counseling and the public preaching and teaching of God’s Word. The church counselor knows that his church counselee will receive a consistent diet of sound biblical truth from the same pastor. The counselee knows that the counsel he receives in a session will synchronize with what he hears in a Sunday sermon. When I counsel people from other churches, I cannot assume that my counsel will square with their church’s teaching. Confusion or competition might result.
3. God-centered, Christ-exalting worship. God uses the songs, prayers, and Bible readings in corporate worship to shift a counselee’s focus from oneself to God and his glory, promises, and provisions. As others have said with tongue-in-cheek, a biblical-counseling church offers two counseling sessions every week—a kind of Sunday morning “group therapy” time for an assembly of “recovering idolaters” and then a private session during the week!
4. Christ’s ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As our church counselees experience their own baptism and witness the baptisms of others, they draw near to their Savior. As they eat the bread and drink the cup of the New Covenant, they commune with Jesus and fellow believers. How often I have wished that I could give to counselees weighed down with guilt a magic “grace-pill” that would fill them with the forgiving love of their crucified Redeemer. Then I remember the bread and the cup. I remind them of the gospel’s promises and encourage them to go to the Lord’s Table (an argument for serving the Supper more frequently than many of our churches do).
5. Formative and restorative/redemptive church discipline. When I counsel people from other churches who pull away from needed counsel or reject the clear biblical counsel I give, the most that I can do is try to advise the other church. I think of one couple who bounced around from one parachurch or professional counselor to another no less than ten times until they came to me for counseling. I was able to connect them back to their pastors to receive the long overdue disciplinary care of their local church.
Join the Conversation
What other benefits would you add to connecting counseling to worship within a congregation?