The Three-Pronged Approach
Franconia Baptist Church (FBC) in Alexandria, VA, celebrates the fact that biblical counseling is a church-based ministry. Toward that end, under the leadership of Pastor (and biblical counselor) Nick Roark, we are putting together three concentric circles of pastoral care in our counseling ministry designed to live out Ephesians 4:11-15. First and foremost, we’re introducing our congregation to, and familiarizing them with, the concepts of biblical counseling. We want to be a congregation that speaks the truth in love to each other, counsels one another well, and grows together in the knowledge of biblical counseling and gospel change.
The second circle of care is a related initiative with FBC’s co-located Hispanic congregation (www.IBDG.org), led by Pastor (and biblical counselor) Josue Raimundo, to establish a two-year biblical counseling training program for both congregations. This circle will include extending an invitation to leaders in local churches to participate in the training and then return to build biblical counseling ministries in their own churches. This second circle of care will also include an offer of pro bono biblical counseling services to local churches from the soon-to-be established Franconia Biblical Counseling Center.
The third circle of care will consist of “circuit counseling,” which will provide biblical counseling to the community through Anchor Biblical Counseling (ABC) in Springfield, VA.
ABC will provide circuit counseling as an informal, albeit, practical theological extension of FBC’s missional outreach to the community. Inspired by the concept of circuit riders, saddlebag preachers, and Baptist farmer-preachers, ABC’s “circuit counselor” will develop travel routes in the area to support our missionary and evangelistic counseling, as well as our discipleship efforts, in Northern Virginia.
Circuit counselors will provide biblical counseling in the workplace, at home, and in “coffee house” settings. In doing so, they will serve the church by addressing the needs of the following interested individuals and/or couples: believers whose church does not practice biblical counseling; individuals who may have been disappointed by secular counseling; people whose schedules effectively preclude their coming to the church for counseling; unbelievers who may simply want to explore biblical counseling, etc.
ABC’s circuit counselor will also prayerfully purpose to pursue the additional ministry goals of conducting liaison with all available associated pastors for support, connecting believers with a Christ-centered church in their area, connecting believers with a nearby biblical counselor, and connecting unbelievers with a gospel-preaching church.
Methodology of the Model
Circuit counseling resonates with this author because the secular world most certainly resembles a frontier of sorts for churches that practice biblical counseling. Circuit counselors are reminiscent of their pioneer predecessors in that they carry Scripture with them, as well as a definite love and compassion for the hurting and the lost. Although circuit counselors are not planting churches, by the grace of God, we will be planting seeds in individual hearts for the local church, as well as for biblical counseling.
Motivation of the Heart
FBC’s counseling outreach is motivated by the Lord’s model of ministry, and we are encouraged by Paul’s ministry on the move, if you will. Following the lead of our pastors in their congregant’s homes, this simply represents our attempt to shine a light on the importance of, and underscore our appreciation for, counseling field ministry.
All three concentric circles of FBC’s counseling care package are designed to be proactive in nature. Although we do not subscribe to the idea of professional distance in counseling relationships, we do embrace the notion that biblical counselors should lovingly take the personal initiative in the conduct of their ministry, and at least at times, in their counseling sessions. By doing so, perhaps we may be able to gain access to a segment of the population that, for one reason or the other, is not willing or able to accommodate coming in for counseling.
Despite inherent difficulties and distractions associated with counseling in the workplace, at home, and in coffee house settings, circuit counselors, not unlike missionary ministers, will face some opposition to their efforts, perhaps even inside the biblical counseling community. Nevertheless, circuit counseling has the advantage of meeting with and moving toward counselees precisely in the middle of those challenging and potentially chaotic environments. One might suggest that the genuine emotion on display in these types of settings may even allow for a more honest representation of problems, if not more transparency in their presentation, and may give circuit counselors an edge in entering the world of the counselee.
We need to be bold in our counseling outreach and, as under-shepherds, we are called to creatively look for ways to minister to hurting people in a broken world. We can indeed learn from secular in-home counseling practitioners about this demanding, yet valuable, counseling dynamic. Moreover, we can effectively exercise a little biblical counseling finesse to better engage the community with the lens of Scripture so that they can see God’s grace in their lives at a glance.
Ambassadors in Action
We are His ambassadors and are humbled by the opportunity to send out circuit counselor envoys. Similar in nature to the historical saddlebag preachers, these circuit counselor-related routes may only serve the church for a season, pending the arrival of a time when biblical counseling resources are more commonplace in the community. Regardless, we pray that God will bless FBC’s concentric circles of biblical counseling in our congregation, nearby churches, and community, all for the edification of the Body of Christ, and ultimately for His glory.
Questions for Reflection
What are your thoughts about FBC’s concentric circles of biblical counseling? Do they have any relevance to your ministries? How can we partner together in the biblical counseling arena?
Donn Northup has an undergraduate degree from the U. S. Naval Academy and graduate degrees from Capital Bible Seminary and Regent University. He currently serves as an elder at Franconia Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA, and is the Founder and Executive Director of Anchor Biblical Counseling in Springfield, VA.