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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

A Three-Pronged Team Approach When Caring for People with Eating Disorders

A Three-Pronged Team Approach When Caring for People with Eating Disorders

As a biblical counselor, I meet with many people whose lives, hearts, and minds are controlled by an obsession with food. Whether anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating, disordered eating patterns are very common among my counselees, and I’ve found that often they need professional assistance beyond what I alone can provide.

Now, hear me out. I believe there are many counseling issues we biblical counselors can face without additional help from other trained medical professionals. That said, eating disorders, in my opinion, are simply not of that category. After working with many anorexic and bulimic individuals, I have come to respect, and indeed mandate, a team approach to their care.

A Three-Pronged Approach

It was actually my supervisor, Deepak Reju, who was the first to suggest I utilize what he called a “three-pronged approach” in caring for counselees with eating disorders. “What are these three prongs?” you ask. They are:

  1. Biblical counselor,
  1. Medical physician, and
  1. Nutritionist.

I now live by these three prongs when I counsel folks with eating disorders. The additional support has served me well as a counselor, and more importantly has served my counselees.

Why the Extra Help?

On our best days, I like to think of biblical counselors as “specialists” when it comes to unearthing and tackling heart issues. We do this by God’s grace—through His Spirit, by His Word, and in His church. And please hear me that I am well aware that eating disorders are fraught with many heart issues: control, escape, body image distortion, anxiety, depression, distrust of God, confusion about God’s character, fear of man, and the list could go on and on. This list only begins to describe all the important themes that a biblical counselor can and should unpack with someone who struggles with an eating disorder.

Is this enough, though? When a woman is abusing her physical body through either deprivation or binging of food, is processing heart issues the only help she needs? I can tell you that, from my experience, the answer is “No.”

In fact here are just a few of the ways a physician and nutritionist have come to my aid in counseling folks with eating disorders in the past:

Physician:

  • Can tend to the innumerable health problems that are consequential to eating disorders (gastrointestinal disorders, heart problems, low blood sugar, fainting spells, etc.);
  • Tests the body for important nutrients that may be low for someone abusing food (e.g. potassium, iron) and can prescribe supplements when needed;
  • Will track the patient’s weight over time and can flag if the need for more intensive inpatient care is required;
  • Can prescribe psychiatric medication if needed (or a psychiatrist could be used for this as well).

Nutritionist/Dietician:

  • Manages everything food-related for the counselee;
  • Creates meal plans for breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks for a typical day and week;
  • Provides specific accountability for food-related plans and goals;
  • Conducts weekly weigh-ins (often blind to the patient) for the counselor and physician to refer to in monitoring the counselee’s progress.

As you can see, physicians and nutritionists can be of great help to the biblical counselor in caring for someone with an eating disorder. In fact, their support regarding the patient’s health and food needs allows a biblical counselor more freedom to spend the time in counseling appointments on what we do best—tending to the heart issues underneath the symptoms.

How Does the Three-Pronged Approach Work in Practice?

In practice, I try to meet weekly with counselees who are actively struggling with an eating disorder. I also suggest weekly meetings with their nutritionist for the sake of ongoing help in food-planning and accountability, as well as regular weigh-ins (which are particularly important for anorexic counselees whose health and even very life are at risk if their weight drops too low).

Physician appointments do not need to be so frequent, unless specified by the doctor. In general, I find it best to allow the physician to lead the conversation on how frequent the patient needs to see him or her. Frequency of visits will depend upon the specific health challenges that exist due to the eating disorder, which is different for every counselee, of course.

I think it is helpful to check in with the physician and nutritionist every month or so to share notes on the counselee and to discuss next steps in coordinating her care.

Linking Hands

As biblical counselors, we provide an invaluable service of helping others change by addressing the heart issues that underlie thoughts and behaviors. We try to lead people to Christ—to know Him, trust Him, and lean into Him for help with even the hardest struggles. This service is necessary and irreplaceable. That said, in some situations we can do more. In fact, in some situations we NEED to do more.

An eating disorder is one of those situations. Eating disorders can be dangerous with many physical health consequences. Let’s link hands with other experienced caregivers who can advise our counselees on certain matters better than even we can. By caring for our counselees’ souls, minds, and bodies, surely we will bring much glory to God.

Join the Conversation

What are your convictions regarding biblical counselors engaging with other care-giving professionals?

What else have you found to be helpful and effective as you care for individuals with eating disorders?

Maybe you have even struggled with an eating disorder yourself. What advice would you give to caregivers?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Eating Disorders, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

Thy Word Is Truth!

Thy Word Is Truth

The ministry theme for our church in 2015 is “Thy Word Is Truth.” In a variety of ways we are promoting this theme among our congregation. For example, in the Sunday School Community that I shepherd, a layman will read the next succeeding section of Psalm 119 to call our class to order. We will repeat this every Sunday through the year. During the month of August, our worship team will challenge our congregation to read the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month. I thought of this theme this morning while having one of my frequent theological/cultural discussions with my son.

Getting to the Heart of the Problem

In that conversation he shared with me how passionate he has become in his opposition to the horror of 56 million abortions in America. After some further discussion, I shared with him that while his passion certainly resonated with me, my passion touched the issue that has allowed America to become so confused that intelligent judges could so terribly err in making the Roe v. Wade decision. That issue, I identified, was the rejection of the Word of God as the final authority and therefore the arbitrator of morality in America.

At the present time, I am working on a set of lectures to present to psychologists, school counselors, and teachers in an eastern European country later this spring. A missionary friend and I have been invited to address the decrepit state of affairs regarding morals and ethics in the youth culture of that country. A Christian national who teaches abstinence in the public school system has arranged for this unusual mission opportunity.

Their frustration is expressed in several questions. How have we come to the place where the vast majority of our young people have no morals or ethics? What can we possibly do to inculcate morals and ethics in this generation? As I told my son, these are the same questions that most of the evangelical church is asking in America and Western culture. How did we get here? How do we re-rail society? On a much less grander scale, every biblical counselor is confronted with these two questions almost daily.

A Biblical Diagnosis

One of the approaches that I choose to address these questions is to trace the development of Israel as a nation. They went into Egypt as a family of 70 souls, and they left as a congregation of 3 million plus. They did not have any written code of morals and ethics. At most they had the oral tradition of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his son Joseph which provided witness to the living God. They saw the work of this living God in the miracles of their deliverance. Once they were out of Egypt, the first thing that God did was to give them the Ten Commandments and the rules for implementing these in daily life in the national framework.

Fast forward to the book of Judges where the story reveals a repeated ignoring of the national framework in daily life resulting in the repeated phrase, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”  What this demonstrates for us is that morals and ethics are dependent upon a revealed objective standard. Ignoring such a standard leads to “Whatever feels good to me is right and moral.” On a more sophisticated level it leads to the group in power positing what is moral and right—gay marriage, for example, is about to be imposed on American life by the same body that imposed abortion on demand.

In the counseling office, it sounds like this statement from a counselee some years ago. “I know God wants me to be to be happy. Sherrie no longer makes me happy, but Cynthia does, therefore, I am divorcing Sherrie to have Cynthia and be happy.”

Stalin’s communism destroyed the broad stroke of Christianity in Eastern Europe. The impact of his morals and ethics is witnessed to on the one side by the multipliable people executed at the expense of his paranoia (likely, a guilty conscience driven by the vestiges of his former Christian knowledge) and his wife’s suicide on the other side. The Nazis were brutal when they invaded Russia in the mid-1940’s. Raping and pillaging was executed on a large scale. Stalin’s morals and ethics are displayed in the pamphlets he had dropped to his invading army in 1945. His army was instructed and encouraged to reap vengeance upon the German population, and in particular the women.

The vortex explained by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:18 and following can be observed in Western culture for more than 100 years. Classical philosophy, man’s attempt to explain life without God, did not have a wide ranging impact on the general populace. But the introduction of the application of the critical textual criticism to the Bible towards the end of the 19th century did. This movement, at the intellectual and academic level, succeeded in disconnecting Western civilization from the revealed objective standard. While a blog post does not provide space to do so, a number of succeeding places in culture can be identified where “God gave them over.”

Hence, as biblical counselors we find ourselves frequently at the point at which we must appeal to the counselee to affirm the veracity and perspicuity of the Word of God and, therefore, the standard by which their choices in life must be made in order to be obedient, to please God, and to find the peace and tranquility promised in Jesus Christ.

Join me in my passion to promote the Bible as “Thy Word Is Truth” and let the chips fall where they may.

Join the Conversation

How can the conviction that “Thy Word Is Truth” impact your biblical counseling ministry? Your daily life?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sufficiency of Scripture | Tags: , , , ,

BCC Weekend Resource: Mental Illness and the Church

The BCC Weekend Resource

A Word from Your BCC Team: On weekends, we like to highlight biblical counseling resources from our growing library of free resources. This weekend, we’re highlighting a new resource by Dr. Bob Kellemen—Mental Illness and the Church: Developing a Compassionate and Comprehensive Biblical Counseling Response.

Mental Illness and the Church

At the 2014 Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) annual conference and at the 2015 Faith Biblical Counseling Training Conference, I presented on:

Mental Illness and the Church: Developing a Compassionate and Comprehensive Biblical Counseling Response

Here’s a summary of the presentation:

As the Body of Christ and as a biblical counseling movement, God calls us to respond compassionately and comprehensively to individuals (and their families) suffering with troubling emotions and thoughts. To minister Christ’s gospel of grace to people compassionately and comprehensively, we need to reflect biblically and historically (church history) on several interrelated questions.

  • How do we cultivate a gospel-centered culture of grace in our churches as we respond to sufferers struggling with deep, ongoing emotional distress?
  • How do we become redemptive communities engaging in gospel-centered relationships with people diagnosed with mental illness?
  • How do we respond to a Christian world that has, perhaps, accepted a definition of mental illness that is not always comprehensively biblical or fully compassionate?
  • How do we speak wisely about mental illness and the complex interaction of the brain/body/mind/heart/soul?
  • How do we address root causes of struggles (heart) without being heard to say that we are ignoring the whole person or lacking empathy for social factors (nurture) and physiological issues (nature)?

You can download the entire manuscript at:

Mental Illness and the Church

Join the Conversation

How do we cultivate a gospel-centered culture of grace in our churches as we respond to sufferers struggling with deep, ongoing emotional distress?

How do we become redemptive communities engaging in gospel-centered relationships with people diagnosed with mental illness?

How do we respond to a Christian world that has, perhaps, accepted a definition of mental illness that is not always comprehensively biblical or fully compassionate?

How do we speak wisely about mental illness and the complex interaction of the brain/body/mind/heart/soul?

How do we address root causes of struggles (heart) without being heard to say that we are ignoring the whole person or lacking empathy for social factors (nurture) and physiological issues (nature)?

Topics: Gospel-Centered Ministry, Grace, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Psychology and Christianity | Tags: , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

Same-Sex Attraction and a Biblical Approach to Looking

In a robust, compassionate, well-reasoned, and scriptural post, Heath Lambert takes a careful look at desires and same-sex attraction. Be prepared to ponder deeply—and biblically—as you read What Do You See? Same-Sex Attraction and a Biblical Approach to Looking.

Older Men: Your Best Days Are Yet to Come!

Speaking of Titus 2:1-6, Pastor J.D. Greear notes that:

“Many of Paul’s instructions get repeated to the later groups (older women, younger women, younger men), but one that only shows up here is endure. Endurance isn’t natural for any of us, but it’s especially challenging for older men. So many men get to the last third of their lives and they start to coast. They’ve made all the money they need. They feel like they’ve done enough. They feel tired. And so they can start to think only about themselves—pursuing their hobbies, investing in their interests, all the while ignoring service to others. It’s no surprise, then, that many older men become grumpy and cynical. Old men don’t become grumpy because they’re old; otherwise all old men would be. No, the reason some old men become grumpy is that’s what always happens when people focus on themselves.”

So what does godliness and Christ-centered living look like in the later stage of life? Pastor Greear responds to that question in Older Men: Your Best Days Are Not Behind You.

The Necessity of Expository Preaching

At Ligonier Ministries, Derek Thomas explains how expository preaching is a necessary corollary of the doctrine of the God-breathed nature of Scripture. Read his thoughts at The Necessity of Expository Preaching.

Christ Our Rescue

Biblical counselor Julie Ganschow exhorts us not only to commit to the sufficiency of Scripture but also to the all-sufficiency of Christ. She shares her convictions at Christ Our Rescue.

The Mandate to Report

Writing at CCEF, Julie Lowe addresses the issue of child abuse and the mandate to report. In part she shares:

When instances of abuse first become known by a community of people there are intense reactions and a range of emotional responses—from outrage and a demand for justice, to fear, shame, disbelief and distrust. All of these emotions are understandable, but we must work hard not to respond based on intense emotion or personal bias. Instead, we are to act wisely, justly and deliberately. One of the primary ways we can do this is to report the suspected abuse to the authorities. Reporting abuse is not simply a legal mandate—it is a moral and biblical one. Laws are meant to protect the innocent, reveal the guilty, and to define what abuse is and what it is not. In order to live under legal authority, we must realize it is not appropriate for anyone, except the proper agencies, to investigate or dismiss an allegation.

You can find the rest of Julie’s counsel at Pastoral Wisdom and the Mandate to Report.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Learn the Black Church History of the Civil Rights Movement

Black History Month--Learn the Black Church History of the Civil Rights Movement

A Word from the BCC Team: As part of Black History Month, we’ll have several posts this week on Black Church History, the Black Church, and Multiethnic Ministry. Rick Horne began our series by talking about What’s a White Guy Know About Multiethnic Ministry?. Nicolas Ellen continued our series by pondering with us 4 Wisdom Principles for Multiethnic Ministry. And today, Bob Kellemen helps us to Learn the Black Church History of the Civil Rights Movement.

Learning from the Founding Fathers of the Black Church

Historians of American history frequently emphasize our “founding fathers.” Politically speaking, they highlight white males like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, and James Madison. Spiritually speaking, they feature white males such as Roger Williams, Cotton Mather, John Winthrop, Jonathan Edwards, and Isaac Backus.

Sadly, they have often left African American founding fathers missing in action. In particular, the spiritual founding fathers of independent African American church life have been neglected, relegated to the back seat of the historical bus. We now seek to recover something of the lost legacy of loving leadership bequeathed to us by African American spiritual forefathers.

Rev. Richard Allen and Rev. Absalom Jones: Standing Up for Black Civil Rights

Rev. Richard Allen and Rev. Absalom Jones were two of the foremost founding fathers of the African American independent churches. Rev. Allen was born a slave in 1760 to Benjamin Crew of Philadelphia. Allen came to salvation in Christ around age twenty. He then traveled extensively, preaching the Gospel in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Rev. Absalom Jones was born in slavery on November 6, 1746, in Sussex, Delaware. At age sixteen he moved to Philadelphia, and by age thirty-eight he was able to purchase his freedom. Along with Richard Allen, he became a lay preacher for the African American members of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. By 1794, he was ordained a deacon in the African Episcopal Church, and in 1804 he was ordained a pastor.

In February 1786, Rev. Allen preached at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. Thinking that he would be there one or two weeks, ministry needs led Allen to a settled place of service in Philadelphia.

Concerned for the well-being of African Americans in this parish, he explained that:

“I established prayer meetings; I raised a society in 1786 of forty-two members. I saw the necessity of erecting a place of worship for the coloured people.” However, only three brethren united with him, including the equally-important African American founding father, the Reverend Absalom Jones. Their little band met great opposition, including “very degrading and insulting language to us, to try and prevent us from going on.”

The Lord blessed their endeavors, as they established prayer meetings and meetings of exhortation, with many coming to Christ. Their growing congregation, still without a building, often attended services at St. George’s Church.

When the black worshippers became more numerous, the white leaders “moved us from the seats we usually sat on, and placed us around the wall.”

It was at this juncture that one of the most noteworthy events in African American Church history occurred. Taking seats that they thought were appropriate, prayer began.

“We had not long been upon our knees before I heard considerable scuffling and low talking. I raised my head up and saw one of the trustees, H— M—, having hold of the Rev. Absalom Jones, pulling him up off of his knees, and saying, ‘You must get up—you must not kneel here.’ Mr. Jones replied, ‘Wait until prayer is over.’ Mr. H— M— said ‘no, you must get up now, or I will call for aid and I force you away.’ Mr. Jones said, ‘Wait until prayer is over, and I will get up and trouble you no more.’”

By the time the second usher arrived, prayer was over, and:

“We all went out of the church in a body, and they were no more plagued with us in the church. This raised a great excitement and inquiry among the citizens, in so much that I believe they were ashamed of their conduct.”

As a result, they birthed the first independent Black Church in the North when they hired a store room and held worship by themselves. Facing excommunication from the “mother church,” they remained united and strong.

“Here we were pursued with threats of being disowned, and read publicly out of meeting if we did continue to worship in the place we had hired; but we believed the Lord would be our friend. . . . Here was the beginning and rise of the first African church in America.”

Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne: Walking the Talk

Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne was an early leader in and the official historian of the AMEC. Payne experienced numerous opportunities to live out his Christian manhood. His manliness remaining strong in the twilight years of his life. When he was in his seventies, Payne refused to stay on a train where he would have been seated in Jim Crow conditions. Standing his ground and confronting the white authorities on the train, he said to them:

“Before I’ll dishonor my manhood by going into that car, stop your train and put me off.”

After Payne left the train, “the guilty conductor looked out and said, ‘Old man, you can get on the platform at the back of the car.’ I replied only by contemptuous silence.” Payne then carried his own luggage, walking a great distance over “a heavy bed of sand” to his next speaking engagement in the deep South.

Payne literally walked the talk.

He was the Rosa Parks of his day. In fact, Rosa Parks worshipped at an AME church. During youth Sunday School she learned the history of the AME Church, including the history of one Daniel Alexander Payne.

Thus we can trace the Civil Rights Movement from Daniel Alexander Payne, to Rosa Parks, to Martin Luther King, Jr.

How did such Christian manhood develop? Payne credits his father who started him on his purposeful life.

“I was the child of many prayers. My father dedicated me to the service of God before I was born, declaring that if the Lord would give him a son that son should be consecrated to him, and named after the Prophet Daniel.”

Imagine the sense of self, the sense of biblical masculinity that Payne’s father passed to his son.

He did so not only by naming, but also by modeling. Of his father, Payne testifies:

“He was an earnest Christian and a class leader, having two classes under him—what used to be called the Seekers’ Class and the Members’ Class. He was a faithful observer of family worship; and often his morning prayers and hymns aroused me, breaking my infant sleep and slumbers.”

So…we can trace the history of the modern Civil Rights Movement even further—from the prophet Daniel, to Daniel Alexander Payne’s father, to Daniel Alexander Payne, to Rosa Parks, to Martin Luther King, Jr.

And now you know, the rest of the story.

Join the Conversation

What can we learn from the courage and convictions of Revs. Allen, Jones, and Payne?

How similar or different are race relations today among Christians than in the day of Revs. Allen, Jones, and Payne?

What impact could knowledge of African American leaders like Revs. Allen, Jones, and Payne have upon Americans? African Americans? African American males?

Why do you think that the history of African American leaders like Revs. Allen, Jones, and Payne is so infrequently highlighted? What could be done to reverse this pattern?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Local Church Ministry, Multi-Ethnic Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 Wisdom Principles for Multiethnic Ministry

Black History Month--4 Wisdom Principles for MultiEthnic Ministry

A Word from the BCC Team: As part of Black History Month, we’ll have several posts this week on Black Church History, the Black Church, and Multiethnic Ministry. Rick Horne began our series by talking about What’s a White Guy Know About Multiethnic Ministry? Nicolas Ellen continues our series today by pondering with us 4 Wisdom Principles for Multiethnic Ministry.

The Blessing of Serving in Multiethnic Ministry

I have had the privilege of ministering cross-culturally for over 20 years. I consider it a blessing and an honor to be able to serve people from various ethnicities.

No matter who I have served or where I have served, I have learned that people have the same sin tendencies regardless of the ethnicities as well as the same intensity of sufferings. Those tendencies are shaped in various cultural contexts but in essence remain similar. Let me suggest to you 4 wisdom principles to consider when seeking to do multiethnic ministry.

Wisdom Principle # 1: Allow Disciple-Making to Be Central, Not Multiethnicity

Don’t allow yourself to focus on the color of the skin and miss the calling to discipleship. Too often the goal of many multiethnic ministries is to be multiethnic. Instead, biblically, we are called to focus on making disciples, not to promoting multiethnicity.

Multiethnicity will develop as you are being used of God to disciple various people groups. Those people groups will attract people like themselves thus creating the multiethnicity. I co-pastored a Chinese church for five years. Within that time the church begin to increase in Anglos, Hispanics, African-Americans, and various other Asian-American people groups. The church began to adapt the concept:

“Multiethic is who we are but making disciples is what we do.”

Wisdom Principle # 2: Partner, Do Not Parent When Ministering to Various Ethnicities

Too often I have seen ministry workers connect with a people group different from their own in a condescending manner. The ministry workers would treat the people group different from their own as if they were children in need of a parent.

You must be careful not to assume that you are smarter than the people you are seeking to minister to. You must be careful not to think you have all the answers to their problems. Thereby assuming all they need to do is just shut up and listen to you as a child with a parent.

They just might surprise you with what they know. When seeking to minister to people different from your own, seek to be a partner with them not be a parent to them. Seek to identify what they know about various issues of life and learn how you can serve them accordingly.

Wisdom Principle # 3: See the Character Issues as You Study the Cultural Context of the Various People Groups

As you study the people groups you are seeking to serve that are different than you, learn to identify the common biblical themes of sin. Look for pride, idols, lust, worry, fear, etc. Evaluate how those common themes manifest themselves within the cultural context of the people group you are seeking to serve.

Ask questions of the people group you are seeking to serve that will allow you to learn about the norms, the struggles, the honors, the accomplishments, or even what they would consider embarrassments. Take the information and analyze it within the context of systematic and biblical theology in order to draw some conclusions on some strategic ways you can serve that people group accordingly.

Wisdom Principle # 4: Do Not Minimize or Maximize the Cultural Differences

As Dr. Charles Ware of Crossroads Bible College would say:

“Let’s move into grace relations instead of race relations.”

Let’s consider the culture, context, condition, and contributions of the people group we are seeking to partner with and serve. As we do this, let’s connect with that people group in such a way that does not minimize their unique cultural existence or maximize their unique cultural existence, but seeks to promote Jesus Christ and His agenda within their cultural existence.

Grace relations is not color blind. It promotes the powerful message of Jesus Christ while considering the context and condition of the people to whom the message is being articulated without any comprise of the message or condescension (in a negative way) to that particular culture.

Closing Reflections…

May we learn to see people within their context without minimizing or maximizing who they are by partnering with them to serve them according to our gifts and talents.

Join the Conversation

How can you apply these four wisdom principles for multiethnic ministry within the context of your ministry?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Multi-Ethnic Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

What’s a White Guy Know About Multiethnic Ministry?

Black History Month--Whats a White Guy Know About Multi-Ethnic Ministry

A Word from the BCC Team: As part of Black History Month, we’ll have several posts this week on Black Church History, the Black Church, and Multiethnic Ministry. Rick Horne of The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) begins our mini-series by talking about What’s a White Guy Know About Multiethnic Ministry?

Very Little and a Whole Lot!

“You guys must be part of a Black church,” two different members of an all-White church congregation said to us at different times after the service. I had been invited to speak about The Urban Ministry Institute, our international urban church seminary program.

“Why do you ask?” I responded. “Well, you were swaying during the hymns before you got up to preach.” It was true. We weren’t conscious of it, but after being part of an African American church for a number of years we were affected in ways we didn’t even think about.

We Knew Very Little!

My wife and I had had four girls and then adopted two African American boys in infancy, three years apart. When the oldest boy was a young teen, we thought for both their sakes we needed to be part of a Black congregation. Our reasoning was pretty simple: “What do we know about raising Black boys in a dominantly White culture? We need help.”

We found a small African American church plant in West Philadelphia and were quickly and warmly loved and included in the fellowship. We had the privileges of teaching, preaching, counseling, serving, and celebrating among the brothers and sisters for the 12 years of the church’s life. Little did we know initially that our church family was really going to be more for our immediate blessing than that of our boys.

Our oldest son became our prodigal as he moved through his early teen years. We’d never experienced anything like this with our girls or with our second adopted Black son. At times we would be confused, intimidated, angered, fearful, insecure, distracted, and divided. “Terrorized” is not really too strong a term to express some of the late night trauma we felt because of his angry outbursts, threats, and violence. The police, the courts, a local psychiatric aid and hospital unit, a Christian residential ministry, educators, close friends, biblical counselors, and local Black pastors were all part of the mix of people who became unintentionally or intentionally involved in trying to help our son—and us.

We Didn’t Know Our Son’s World

It became apparent that we knew very little about how to help our son. Similarly, it didn’t take us long to realize that we knew very little about living life in Black skin. We didn’t know first-hand the hurt of being slighted, marginalized, made fun of, or insulted because of looking different from the majority culture student body in which he was being educated (a private Christian school). We didn’t know the inferiority he felt among other Black youth in our neighborhood because he went to a predominantly White school and had a White family. We didn’t know the hurt and anger he felt when a teacher judgmentally described minority teens giving birth out of wedlock (our son’s 17 year-old birth mom had done this) as loose, degenerate “hoes.”

God, by His grace, gave us patient Black brothers and sisters. They became our most important counselors, helpers, supporters, and aids in our ministry to our son and in our need to weather the storms in our home with godly wisdom. They were clearly those who were “born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

We didn’t know much about the world that swirled around our family and even within our family. We also didn’t know the depths of spiritual riches that our Black brothers and sisters had and were willing to spend on us. But by God’s grace, we knew we knew very little. That was very much to know!

We Knew Very Much!

What we knew was that we didn’t know much about ministry to our African American son. We knew that we also didn’t know a lot of things about our African American brothers and sisters. That was a lot to know!

By God’s gracious Spirit, we were open to begin to learn about the dynamics of being Black. Minorities are usually conscious that they are a minority—every day. White people don’t even think about being White. We are the majority culture. We are surrounded by majority culture institutions, neighbors, workers, students, shopping malls, food stores, and churches. We drive majority culture cars, live in majority culture neighborhoods, have responsive majority culture police departments, thrive with majority culture jobs, investments, retirement plans, and health care, and attend our kids’ majority culture athletic and other school events. Many of our Black brothers and sisters only knew these things…from a distance or maybe from TV.

We Knew That We Needed Our Brothers and Sisters of Color

Most importantly, we needed our brothers and sisters of color not just for our son, but for our own balance and spiritual health in Christ. It was our multiethnic church, Black pastor, and elders whom we found to be most helpful as they befriended our son and encouraged us. They were in my son’s face when he needed confrontation! They were helping us, encouraging us, and guiding us when we needed support.

Our son was never able to use the “race-card” in his outbursts of anger toward us. Our involved brothers and sisters of color made that unreasonable, even from his perspective. Similarly, they were there for us when we had to make the excruciating decision to place him in a Christian ministry outside our home for a year. They loved us and cared for us. They didn’t discredit us or distance themselves from us because of our troubles.

Multiethnic Ministry

Our door into multiethnic thinking is probably different from yours. But there is a door the Head of the Church wants us all to go through regardless of where we live.

What do you know and not know? Do you know that you don’t know what it’s like to live and walk in the shoes of the other ethnicities in your church family? More profoundly, do you know that you don’t fully grasp “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18)—especially the ones who aren’t like you? That’s the way, it seems to me, for any of us to position ourselves for multiethnic ministry for Christ’s sake. Paul makes it clear that Jesus modeled this kind of identity with us (Philippians 2:4-8) and “learned” (Hebrews 5:8). We can learn too, but we must want to!

Leaders in Jesus’ Day Knew They Knew What They Needed to Know

So many of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day made ignorant and destructive decisions which were traceable to their self-assured attitudes about who Jesus was and what they thought He said and did. They were sure they knew where Jesus was from—Nazareth. They knew His parents—Mary and Joseph. They knew He said that He’d destroy the Temple and in three days raise it up again. They knew He was repeatedly breaking the Sabbath. They knew He was blaspheming by calling Himself the Son of Man. They knew His miracles were empowered by Beelzebub. They knew they could “see” and were not “blind.”

They knew the Scriptures, yet missed the point of them altogether—Him.

We Still Sway When We Sing Hymns

We’ve all been affected by our dominant cultural context. “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both” (Proverbs 20:12). Bruce Waltke says these two receptive organs are there to correct our human disabilities and to inform the wise heart for good. Such an awareness and teachability will help us guard against any prevailing and divisive distorted voices and tainted lenses that our hearts and our culture commonly raise—outside and inside of the church.

The multitude with whom we’ll worship in glory will be “…from every tribe and language and people and nation (ethnos)” (Revelation 5:9b). May the Lord of the church give us eyes to see and ears to hear so that our love, fellowships, and ministries look like heaven’s multiethnic symphony of worshippers!

Join the Conversation

What do you know that you don’t know about ethnically different people in your congregation?

What doors of opportunity does your knowledge open up for you among different ethnicities?

What do you have to do to move yourself and your church toward ministry to different ethnicities in the community where you live and where your church meets?

Is God pleased with the display of His grace, power, and glory that your church exhibits by “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6) to ethnic minorities in your community?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Gospel-Centered Ministry, Multi-Ethnic Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

No Grey Area in 50 Shades of Grey

No Grey Area in 50 Shades of Grey

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog was first posted at Julie Ganschow’s blog site. We are re-posting it with Julie’s permission and the permission of the author, Marie Notcheva. You can also read the original post here.

When Perversion Is Called “Love” and Abuse Is Entertainment

There are certain things I never expected to see go completely mainstream. By “go mainstream,” I mean to reach a level of complete societal acceptance. Such things would include “Daisy Duke” shorts. The militant GLBT agenda in American education. And….pornography marketed to women.

If you harbor any doubts that this world has completely lost all moral compass, look no further than the recent 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. (I nearly typed, “this country,” but the trilogy seems to be quite popular with teenage girls in Europe.) On Valentine’s Day, the sadomasochistic duo of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey came to a cinema near you.

A Disclaimer: I have not read the books, and do not plan to. I am, however, familiar with the premise: A college student begins a BDSM relationship with a businessman, which is somehow construed to be a romance. From what I read on Wiki, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot – just a lot of “incompatibility,” leading to breakups; beatings; and violent perversion. The books portray an abusive relationship as being a romance; Ana, in fact, displays classic battered women’s syndrome by falling “in love” with the man who victimizes her. I will assume the readers of this blog are adults, and do not need me to explain what “bondage porn” is. A University of Michigan study demonstrated that women who read these books were statistically more likely to have an abusive partner (25%); binge drink (65%); and were more likely to have eating disorders.

We are about to see a new wave of counseling cases because of 50 Shades of Grey, and here’s why: Christian women are reading this tripe at the same rate as the general population. A Barna survey shows that 9% of American adults have read 50 Shades, and the statistic is exactly the same for professing Christians. Shocked? Screenings for the movie sold out fastest in Bible Belt cities, too. This is not a demographic—these are our sisters in Christ. There is something desperately wrong when a Christ-follower chooses to put this kind of material in her mind. Let’s consider three specific “heart issues” involved with choosing to read or watch 50 Shades.

The Normalization of Sexual Sin

First of all, let’s dispel the myth that lust is uniquely a man’s sin. It’s not, and we can safely say that adult women can also violate Matthew 5:28, since they are huge consumers of pornography. The difference, of course, is that it is literature designed to titillate, rather than actual photography (although the movie is said to be the most graphic R-rated movie released to date). Therein lies the difference: men are more visual; whereas women are more relational. Men are more likely to habitually view porn, while women prefer to indulge in “romance novels.” In both cases, the heart issue is the same: lust. A craving for satisfaction outside of the way God intended it.

While I am not justifying it, I understand—up to a point—why women are more likely to fall into emotional affairs than men. Or why men enjoy the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Certain weaknesses are inherent in our DNA. What I cannot understand, however, is what the attraction is in BSDM porn—the most extreme perversion of human intimacy imaginable—and how on earth porn has gone from public perception as seedy and shameful to being celebrated as a romantic art form. Philippians 4:8 commands the Christian to think on what is right; pure; honorable; lovely; and of good repute. Does this kind of “literature” fall under any of these categories?

What, exactly, does reading about a deviant, violence-filled sexual relationship do for you, ladies? Does it help you to grow in holiness? When you put it down, what does this book’s “wisdom” inspire you to do….unload the dishwasher? Pack your kids’ school lunches? Iron the family’s clothes? I like to think things over while ironing. I’m sure that’s it.

Abuse as Entertainment

A 2013 Journal of Women’s Health study stated the novels “romanticize abuse of women” and deemed the ironically-named “Christian” to be an emotionally and sexually abusive cad. No kidding, really? Did we really need a study to tell us this?

It is no secret that filmography has gotten increasingly violent and more graphic over the last decades. 50 Shades’ glorification of violence against women has been well-documented, and is reason enough for anyone to avoid the film. But there is another truth that Christian ladies need to acknowledge: By watching this film or reading these books, you are choosing to entertain yourself with the very things that nailed Jesus to the Cross.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The increase in violent films, video games, etc., has led to an increasingly de-sensitized culture. Consider this: the sex trade is alive and well. Real young women like “Ana” are trafficked around the world, every day, and degraded against their will. They are all someone’s daughter. There is nothing more blatantly satanic than the degradation of another human being, who is made in the image of God.

The Message to Our Daughters

Knowing she had not read the books, I asked my 17-year-old daughter if they were popular among girls her age. She snickered, and admitted she didn’t know anyone who had read 50 Shades. “It’s women your age who are reading that stuff, Mom…and older women, in their sixties. We laugh at it.” (Most of the readers of 50 Shades are between the ages of 29-66). While I was glad that the book isn’t popular among American teens, the fact that my generation is popularizing “Mommy Porn” (and thus “normalizing” it) is tragic. If I didn’t have two daughters, who I want to raise as godly young women, it might not disturb me quite so much. But it does.

While we’re here, let’s dispel another myth popular among evangelicals: we cannot “guard” our daughters’ purity. In fact, we cannot guard anyone’s purity, except our own. We can only give them the Gospel; show grace, and pray that they will follow Christ. We do not want them to embrace a moral code and think they are Christians—we want them to embrace the living Christ; and follow His moral Law out of love and gratitude. If Christian moms are reading 50 Shades, what message about God’s plan for marital love does this send? Does it keep the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4)?

Renewing the Mind Defiled by 50 Shades

While Christians may be reading 50 Shades, I do not believe they are able to do so without conviction. The shame attached to this particular sin makes it harder for female porn users to admit they want help in forsaking it, although they are not unusual in the counseling room. The first step is in admitting that reading or viewing erotica is, in fact, sin. For the believer, this shouldn’t even be a question. This is simply not a grey area.

Next, she needs to see the behavior porn depicts as God does: filthy. While images and thoughts cannot be “unseen,” all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are no longer enslaved to sin. We can control what we think about, and self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. It is wise to start with 2 Corinthians 10:5—“take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ”—to break the stronghold of sexual sin.

Throughout much of Scripture the process of choosing to think pure, godly thoughts is described. Renewal and transformation of the mind with the Word of God is crucially important for women who have become enslaved to porn, and “taking thoughts captive” is a good metaphor. Jay Adams wrote, “We do not have to let our minds go wandering down every alley; poking into every garbage can along the way.” Since all sin begins in the mind, I think of the first step of repentance as closing a door in my mind: “This is not an option. Period.”

Looking Upward; Not Inward

Unlike psychotherapy, which delves into the deeper reasons of why we may be prone to certain desires or behaviors, biblical counseling is more concerned with the solution: turning around and “putting on” the godly alternative. Forsaking a sinful thought pattern or behavior does not mean constantly ruminating on it or asking for deeper revelation into the reasons why we went in that direction. We sin because we are sinners; it is our nature. For example, when counseling bulimics, I do not ask them to keep a food journal—it focuses undue attention on the food itself; rather than the idols in their hearts. Likewise, a woman repenting of erotica/porn use needs to be in the Bible, but not necessarily fixating on every verse that deals with sexual sin. The whole of Scripture renews the soul by revealing the character of God—a start contrast to the dark, demonically-inspired world of 50 Shades.

In the Gospels, one sees the character of Jesus as one filled with compassion—whether He is healing a leper; forgiving an adulteress; or calling a tax collector. We see it implied everywhere (and stated explicitly in Romans 2:4) that it is His kindness that leads us to repentance—not guilt; shame; or fear. Coming to know the true character of God and receiving His grace is what will change the heart of a woman seeking fulfillment in the broken cisterns of literary porn.

Topics: People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Pornography, Sexual Purity, Women/Wives | Tags: , , ,

CCEF Now 2015

CCEF Now 2015

A Message from Your BCC Team: On weekends, we enjoy using our BCC “megaphone” to make you aware of great resources from the biblical counseling world. Today we highlight CCEF’s blog post about CCEF Now 2015. You can read the entire original post at CCEF Now 2015.

CCEF Now 2015

CCEF Now 2015 features articles from three of our faculty members and an interview with one of our counselors—David Powlison, Ed Welch, Julie Lowe, and Wendy Budnick.

This issue also features stories from several international leaders who serve in biblical counseling networks and training centers in Canada, England, and Switzerland. Each story shares a common theme of how CCEF training supported these men in pastoral ministry. Education is at the heart of what we do and how we seek to accomplish our mission.

We are grateful for the support we receive from our donors! Without it, this resource could not be produced and made available free of charge. Thank you!

This issue of CCEF Now includes:

Where Do You Start?
David Powlison

Ministry Connections
Various authors

Ways You Can Help
Ed Welch

Biblical Counselling in the UK
Steve Midgley

Pastoral Wisdom and the Mandate to Report
Julie Smith Lowe

Meet the Counselor
Wendy Budnick

Download Now

Topics: Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

Mental Illness and the Church

In the biblical counseling world, how do we develop a compassionate and comprehensive response to those diagnosed with mental illness? Dr. Bob Kellemen, at his RPM Ministries website, addresses that question with a free resource on Mental Illness and the Church: Developing a Compassionate and Comprehensive Response.

3 Elements in Every Funeral Sermon

Pastor Brian Croft, at his Practical Shepherding site asks and addresses the question, What 3 Elements Should Be in Every Funeral Sermon? 

“Nice” Counselors and Vital Faith

Ed Welch, at the CCEF site, writes:

“John Bettler, the founding Executive Director of CCEF, was the one who taught me that “nice” is a dirty word. That is, nice can be a counterfeit of growth in grace because it seems patient and kind but could exist due to one’s genetic constitution or good circumstances. I, for example, am usually nice. I don’t scream and yell. I like most people. I usually do not say kind things while thinking unkind ones. But I was nice before being regenerated by the Spirit.”

Learn more about “niceness” not necessarily being Christlikeness in “Nice” Counselors and Vital Faith.

2 Big Reasons Our Evangelism Isn’t Working

Jonathan Dodson of Gospel-Centered Discipleship notes that:

“One in five Americans don’t believe in a deity. Less than half of the population attends religious services on a regular basis. People simply find our evangelism unbelievable. Why? While a person’s response to Christ is ultimately a matter that rests in God’s sovereign hands—something we have no control over—a person’s hearing of the gospel is a matter we do have control over and responsibility for.”

Read the rest of Jonathan’s post to learn 2 Big Reasons Our Evangelism Isn’t Working.

An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians

Tim Challies reflects on a John Piper quote:

“Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.”

Tim goes on to say: “This is the extraordinary ministry for every ordinary Christian—bearing the burdens of others. What seems so mundane and so unspectacular, is actually bringing great glory and honor to God.”

Read the rest of Tim’s post at An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , ,

About the BCC

The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.