A pastor friend of mine said something at a conference that I just cannot let go. It sticks with me and almost haunts me. It has become a new way of thinking for me. This quote has also changed how I engage certain aspects of ministry. It is convicting, challenging, provoking and true.
The opportunities to engage your people are numerous. Do not let them slip by.
God has led me to enter a new chapter in my life. Officially, I now have a new job in addition to being a pastor. The reason I am writing this is to let you know that at one time, I was against being bi-vocational…and I was wrong.
Ministry is impossible to do when you are running on empty. If your cup is empty, you are not of much use to anyone. Ministry happens when your cup is filled to overflowing. As you get filled up, you pour out and then go get filled up again.
The need for Christian counseling in the local church is a great need.
Jesus calls people sheep. Sheep are not the smartest of animals. They need care, protection, guidance, and love. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Jesus was talking about taking care of people in this passage. I believe this also includes counseling people. Just because people go to church does not mean that they do not have issues and baggage. People are broken and they go to church for help. The local church needs a counseling ministry that helps heal the hurts of broken people. Biblical advice should always be given regardless of whether or not the recipient of the advice chooses to listen and apply what they have heard.
I sat down with the pastor of a local church and asked him about the church’s current counseling ministry. The pastor said that the church does not currently have a counseling ministry. The only counseling that happens at that church is done when a person is interested in salvation or preparing to get married. In other words, this local church does not have a counseling ministry. How many people could live the abundant life Jesus talks about rather than just dream about it if they had true biblical counseling? How many marriages look together on the surface but at home they are crumbling and falling apart?
Dr. Gary J. Oliver in his book Trust Builders says this, “Difficult and draining times can produce significant stress on a marriage. When times are tough it becomes easier to be negative and critical. When things go wrong it becomes much easier to justify and rationalize your own behavior and to blame the problems on someone else. Often that “someone else” is your spouse. Stress and pressure bring existing weaknesses to the surface and can make them appear larger than life.”
Relationship issues and communication conflicts arise because people enter into a marriage with selfish motivations.
Biblical counseling is a raft for people caught in a river of emotion and turmoil. However, people must know that such a ministry exists or they will seek help elsewhere, if they seek help at all. If such a ministry does not exist in a local church, people, like sheep, will wander astray. They will seek to solve their problems without even thinking about consulting scripture. People need to know that they can go to the church for help.
The local church is a community of believers. These people are bound by the blood of Jesus Christ. There should be an essence of unity and faith that make these believers seem more like a healthy family rather than friends. Trust should resonate high within the church or a counseling ministry has no hope. A person must know that when they confide in their counselor that what they say is kept with the strictest of confidence.
Whether the counselor is a pastor or lay-person, they will not be trusted if they are found to be a gossip. People do not want their business discussed with others or talked about on blogs or Facebook. The person needs to know that what they say will be kept private between them and the counselor. People have a variety of problems such as alcoholism, pornography, drug addiction, infidelity, unemployment, death of a child, eating disorders, and bankruptcy to name a few. This is serious business. A counseling ministry within the local church has the opportunity to give sound biblical advice while at the same time helping people conform more to the image of Jesus Christ.
Standards must also be kept during a counseling session.
The counselor needs to be trusted.
The counselor should also be a good listener. The counselor should start and end each session with prayer. The counselor should not be afraid to say that they do not know the answer. The counselor is not perfect and will never have all the answers. The counselor also needs to set limitations on counseling the opposite sex. If a counselor is male and a woman comes in alone for counseling, he must be on his guard at all times. This is critical. A man also needs to limit on how much information he allows a woman to give him. It is okay for a man to know that a woman has martial problems, but he does not need her to divulge the intimacies behind her problems. Some men would feed off of this and lust for more like pornography. When possible it is best that a man counsels a man and a woman counsels a woman. The counseling session should never end in hopelessness. The session should always end Godward, Christward, and heavenward.
Biblical counseling at its best should try to change how people think. Dr. Larry Crabb, in his book Effective Biblical Counseling says, “Many of us place top priority not on becoming Christ like in the middle of our problems but on finding happiness. I want to be happy but the paradoxical truth is that I will never be happy if I am concerned primarily with becoming happy. My overriding goal must be in every circumstance to respond biblically, to put the Lord first, to seek to behave as He would want me to. The wonderful truth is that as we devote all our energies to the task of becoming what Christ wants us to be, He fills us with joy unspeakable and a peace far surpassing what the world offers.” The joy that Jesus brings only comes from a life of obedience to Him.
A person begins to live in obedience when they choose to change how they think. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
People are hungry and too many of them eat out of the trash.
Pastors and counselors have a glorious opportunity to feed people the very word of God. Through counseling sessions, the Holy Spirit can transform how people think to help their thinking align with scripture. When people open up to thinking the way God wants them to, they realize that the way they were thinking in the past is not profitable. People tend to make decisions based on emotions and feelings far to often. The heart is deceptive. People do not automatically seek God because they are sinful creatures. Sin is the obstacle between us and God and is only removed when the Holy Spirit calls us to repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ. Desiring God is the best thing a person can do after salvation.
Counselors should show people how to seek God. Hebrews 12:2 says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”Looking to Jesus with the intensity of a laser beam is the answer for people. If people can see this, they will no longer be distracted by things the world throws at them. They will also be able to handle difficulties easier. This is not to say that they will never have trials but if their eyes are fixed on Jesus, they are more concerned with being conformed to the image of Jesus and less concerned with their trials. When people have their eyes fixed on Jesus, they are able to see that there is a way out of the situation they are in.
Biblical counselors should seek to help people find the abundant life Jesus talks about. This means that people will find all of their passion, purpose, desire, significance, joy, peace, meaning, and identity in Jesus and Jesus alone. The local church would do well to have a counseling ministry that leads other people to seek God with all their heart. Counselors should be proven to be godly people and striving to live in obedience to scripture. Counselors must love God with all their heart, soul and mind and love their neighbors as themselves. Counselors should ultimately love God so that they may love people with the love of Christ. After all, there is no problem that God cannot handle.
Biblical counseling is a tool that God can use to draw more people to Himself. The local church has the opportunity to lead people to Christ through this ministry.
 Unless otherwise noted, the Holy Bible, English Standard Version is used in this paper.
 Dr. Gary J. Oliver, Trust Builders True Stories of Marriages Strengthened by Trials (Ann Arbor, MI.:Servant Publications, 1999), 11.
 Adapted from W.A. Criswell, Criswell’s Guidebook For Pastors (Nashville, TN. Broadman Press, 1980), 278-281.
 Dr. Larry Crabb, Effective Biblical Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1977). 20.
 The Holy Bible, ESV.
 The Holy Bible, ESV.