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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Wisdom for Abused Women

Wisdom for Abused Women

BCC Note: Today’s blog was first posted at Julie Ganschow’s Biblical Counseling for Women blog site. The BCC is re-posting it with Julie’s permission. You can also read the original post here.

Millions of us watched the video in horror of a national football player punching his then-girlfriend in an elevator, rendering her unconscious. We watched him drag her limp body halfway out of the elevator and drop her on the floor before someone else appeared in the video, hopefully to come to her aid.

The two married the day after he was indicted on an aggravated assault charge in this case.

The new video was expanded footage from what had previously been released. The first video earned the football player a suspension. The most recent expanded video ended his football career.

His wife released the following statement regarding the recent events, “I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend,” (she) wrote. “If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow and show the world what real love is!”[i]

I do not know this woman, but I have met many like her over the years through my biblical counseling ministry. Women in abusive relationships don’t want to believe the man they love is really the monster other people tell her he is. Women in abusive relationships tell themselves it is unusual to be slapped, punched or harmed by their husband or boyfriend, even when it happens all the time. Women in abusive relationships will often support their abuser, standing up for him against the flood of criticism that comes his way. Women in abusive relationships will accept the blame for his actions against them while justifying and rationalizing his abuse.

Abuse in a relationship has often been going on for quite some time before it is exposed and the woman has grown accustomed to covering and making excuses for her bumps and bruises. She has learned the signs of impending violence, and has become skilled at “walking on eggshells” around her man. She tries to soothe him, pacify him, keep him happy and content, all vain attempts at preventing the next beating.

She says he loves her. She says she loves him. She says he is a good man with a good heart. Here is truth: An abuser does not love the person he is abusing. Regardless of any words that come out of his mouth, this is not love.

Here are some things you need to know:

Abusers are manipulative, and use guilt, shame, and fear to control their victims. It is a common practice of an abuser to shift the blame for their actions onto their victim saying things like, “If you would have kept your mouth shut I wouldn’t have slapped you.” “If you were a better wife you wouldn’t need to be put in your place all the time.”

Abusers will shame their victims, and be highly critical of their physical appearance, intelligence, and abilities. They may tell their wife or girlfriend how “lucky” she is to have a man like him, one who “loves” and cares for her despite her numerous flaws. Fear is a typical tactic used in all abuse situations. Intimidation is one method of keeping her silent about his abuse. Warning her if she tells anyone the beating will be worse next time, that no one would believe her anyway, and that he will divorce her and leave her with nothing are common threats of an abuser.

Abusers understand power, control, and anger. Men who abuse their girlfriends or wives will often limit their access to money, friends, and other family members. They have to have control over virtually every area of her life. Any questions about these issues are considered challenges and are met with anger, threats, or emotional manipulation.

Abusers are selfish and self-focused. The abuser wants all of his desires met all of the time. He does not usually care about what she wants or needs in the relationship. It is all about him. He thinks very highly of himself and expects his girlfriend or wife to cater to his every perceived need.

Abusers believe they have a “right” to abuse another. Any challenge to his authority is perceived as giving him the right to dominate. When he beats on his woman, he is exercising what he believes is his right to get her in line, and force obedience. Some men will abuse their wife or girlfriend if he thinks she is not demonstrating proper worship and gratitude for him.

Abusers love themselves. Secular sources promote the false idea that an abusive person has low self-esteem but nothing could be further from the truth. Any person who is willing to treat another human being with such hatefulness and callous regard for the purpose of meeting their own wants, needs, and desires thinks very highly of themselves already. He loves himself and his expectation is you will love him as much as he does.

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself…” (Ephesians 5:33).

I am sad to say emotional and physical abuse also takes place in Christian marriages, including those of pastors and other church leaders. While all abuse is unacceptable, abuse in Christian marriage is a special kind of heinous considering marriage is to exemplify the relationship of Christ and the Church.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32, NASB).

Abusers will often use headship as an acceptable reason for abuse. This is a tragic way for a man to use the leadership position God has given to him. Male leadership in the home is not intended to be a benevolent dictatorship. A wife has the responsibility to voice her thoughts and opinions on matters relating to the marriage and family. She is a God-given gift to her husband in this way and this is part of her role as his helpmeet. A husband who refuses to listen to his wife and abuses her for challenging his authority (i.e., speaking to a situation) is an ungodly fool.

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7, ESV).

Abusers will use submission as reason to allow abuse to continue. I have been told a wife cannot expose abuse because it is not submissive. Submission does not mean doormat. It does not mean subject yourself to being hurt. Submission does not mean accept being hit, kicked, punched, threatened or assaulted. A husband has no biblical standing to use a failure to submit as justification for abusing his wife. A wife is not to submit to her husband if he asks her to sin, her primary honor and obedience is to God. No man’s authority supersedes Gods authority. A man is sinning when he tells his wife to remain silent about abusing her.

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18-19, ESV).

Abusers do not love their wives as Christ loves the Church. “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:28-30, ESV).

It is common for an abuser to be remorseful after he has beaten his wife or girlfriend. He may cry and beg forgiveness, he may promise never to do it again. Unless he is truly repentant and experiences changes within the cycle will continue and most likely escalate over time.

Women, you do not have to stay in an abusive relationship. It is not ungodly or unsubmissive to seek help, no matter what you have been told by your abuser or anyone else!

If a man physically assaults his wife or his girlfriend she is obligated by law and by the Bible to call the police, have him arrested, and press charges. Christians are required to work within the framework of the law of the land, and arrest is the provision that has been made for physical abuse. It can be a frightening step to take, but it is necessary!

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience” (Romans 13:1-5, ESV).

During his absence, collect all the important information and documents you can find (Social Security cards, birth certificates, bank information), access enough money to hold you over for a while, and line up a safe and secure place to stay. Purchase a different cell phone and leave your old one behind so he cannot track you. Leave him a note telling him you are safe and will contact him when you think it is safe. Take these steps for your protection as he will likely be enraged when he is released from jail.

There are numerous other precautions you will need to take before contacting him, so I also recommend you meet with a counselor who understands abuse as soon as possible.

I strongly urge informing the leadership of your church about the abuse as one of the next things you do. If he is a Christian, the church has an obligation to intervene in your husband’s life and attempt to help him repent and change (Matthew 18:15-20; James 5:19-20).

So much of what we share on social media is silly and unimportant, but abuse can be an issue of life and death. Therefore, I am asking you to share this post with every woman you know. Because abuse is a hidden sin in many families, you have no idea whose life you will touch or save by sharing this information.

[i] accessed 09-09-2014


Topics: Anger, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Violence/Physical Abuse, Women/Wives | Tags: , ,

BCC Weekend Resource: Handling Evangelism Opportunities in Counseling

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: On weekends we like to highlight for you one of our growing list of free resources. This weekend we highlight a resource audio from the 2014 IBCD Summer Institute. For a complete list of speakers and messages, visit the IBCD Summer Institute 2014 home page.

In this resource, Steve Viars addresses the topic of Handling Evangelism Opportunities in Counseling. One of the great delights of being a biblical counselor is the opportunity to explain the gospel to someone who has never heard. This session will discuss strategies to move from initial presentation problems to appropriate discussions of the cross and the possibility of establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Topics: Audio, Biblical Counseling, Faith, Gospel-Centered Ministry, 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.

How Can Christians Tell the Difference Between a Spiritual Issue and a Physical One?

Heath Lambert of the ACBC addresses perhaps one of the most important questions in biblical counseling: How Can Christians Tell the Difference Between a Spiritual Issue and a Physical One? 

8 Ultimate Life Questions for Biblical Counselors

Bob Kellemen addresses the question: “What would a model of biblical counseling look like that was built solely upon Christ’s gospel of grace?” In answering that vital question, he follows up with 8 Ultimate Life Questions.

The Father Who Never Fails

In Fatherlessness and the Father Who Never Fails, Trevin Wax explains that “the gospel becomes all the sweeter when it gains a foothold in the heart of someone longing for a Father who never fails.”

5 Lessons

Evan Welcher at Gospel-Centered Discipleship shares 5 Lessons from C.S. Lewis’ Grief Observed.

Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology

At the Reformation 21 site, Donald Macleod compares and contrasts Biblical Theology Versus Systematic Theology.

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: , , , , , , ,

Learning to Read…Again

Learning to Read…Again

I came to Christ as a college student. One of the first things I noticed as I ventured into the new world of Christian community on campus was how much reading was taking place. And this was not just Bible reading. Contrary to my own tendencies, which were to read as little as possible beyond what was required of me, my new brothers and sisters seemed to love reading for spiritual growth. I soon picked up the practice and it has stayed with me ever since.

I still find that Christians are unusually committed to reading for spiritual growth. But in my pastoral counseling role, I’ve seen some reading tendencies among believers in recent years that give me some concern. It’s not hard to see the cultural trends that are shaping our reading habits. We are people inundated with immediate, consumable information options that crowd into our busy lives through social media, blogs, electronic publishing, and 24-hour news and opinion services. These days if I ask counselees what they’re reading I’ll tend to get responses like, “I’m following so and so’s blog and my twitter feed keeps me up on everything else.” Or, they’ll give me a list of six books currently on their night table that they’ve started but can’t seem to finish.

Reading quality Christian books will never replace the reading and preaching of God’s Word, but it could help you hear, understand, and apply that Word with greater maturity. A good book will challenge your thinking and motivate your heart. It will dislodge error and give you an appetite for truth.

This post isn’t a rant on bad reading habits. It is an appeal and some advice on learning to read well. If you feel like you are missing something in your experience of reading—the sense of wrestling with challenging ideas, the heart impact of a penetrating insight, the satisfaction of immersing yourself in a book that could mark your life—here are some practical suggestions on how to build productive habits with the written word.

  • Always be reading something. But try to limit the number of books you’re reading for spiritual growth to around three. Commit to finishing every book you read. Two things discourage good reading—having no idea what to read next and never finishing anything you start.
  • Limit yourself to reading one book at a time on your present life experience or challenges. Don’t try to read three marriage books or books on marriage, parenting, and time management all at one time. You just don’t need that much advice.
  • Learn to read “out of your time.” Every year there are excellent books being published. And we should read the best of them. But there is an old Irish proverb that is good to keep in mind. “Whatever is good is not necessarily new; and whatever is new is not necessarily good.” Older books that are still in print have stood the test of time. And they help us think about our faith in timeless ways. Also, I tend to recommend reading deceased authors on a regular basis. Not that there are no good living writers, or that dying instantly makes bad writers into good ones. It’s just that how someone finishes their race tells me a lot about the value of what they had to say while they were running it.
  • Here’s a practical plan for Christian reading. Always be reading one book from each of the following categories: devotional theology, practical theology, and theology proper.
    1. Devotional Theology books are written to help people with their personal experience with God. They tend to be written in a very inspirational way—sometimes they are selections from a well-published author or preacher. They are often bite-sized reflections that are ideal for daily meditation. An older example of a devotional theology might be Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. A more contemporary option would be something like Randy Alcorn’s Seeing the Unseen.
    1. Practical Theology is a very broad category of resources that seek to take biblical truth and apply it to issues of life. Marriage and parenting books, books on worry, on financial management, etc., are all practical theology. We should have a regular diet of good practical theology to help us walk in a manner worthy of our calling as believers. The challenge with practical theology is that some books can deal with the practical very well, but lack in the theology department. Or, they may be theologically sound but miss the mark where we really live. When selecting a practical theology book don’t just look at the subject matter. More gets published than you can possibly read, so be a good consumer. Read reviews, consult friends whose perspectives you value, invest your time and attention wisely. And read both current and older books. For example, if you wanted to stir yourself toward holiness you could go back in time to J. C. Ryle’s Holiness, or pick up Kevin DeYoung’s The Hole in Our Holiness.
    1. The books that can intimidate us are ones we might call Theology Proper. Theology is ‘the study of God.’ Theology books wrestle with ideas, particularly about God and our relationship to Him. They address what should be believed, and why it should be believed. The best theology proper will mentally stretch us while at the same time pressing us toward the truth of God in Jesus Christ. While we often think of theology books as big dusty, musty, crusty tomes guaranteed to cure insomnia, there are wonderfully accessible but deeply profound theology works from both the past and the present that any thoughtful follower of Christ can engage. You may find the works of someone like J. I. Packer as rich in their own way as the classics of the faith from earlier centuries.

C. S. Lewis sums up my goals in reading—to learn wisdom from those who are wise:

The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.

Join the Conversation

What are you reading right now? Is it what you want to read? Do you have a plan to finish it? How does your intake of other media affect your desire and attention in reading? What books are on your plan for the next year or so?

Topics: Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: ,

Who Is Saying Medicine Is Unimportant? Part 2

Who Is Saying Medicine Is Unimportant Part 2

BCC Staff Note: The following blog was first posted by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). We re-post it today with permission of the ACBC and the author, Heath Lambert. You can read the original post at the ACBC here. It is the second of a two-part post; you can read Part 1 here at the ACBC, or here at the BCC’s Grace & Truth blog site.

In Part 1 of this post, I observed that many believe the biblical counseling movement is against medicine. I tried to demonstrate that there is no evidence that this reputation comes from the leadership of the biblical counseling movement. Every leader in biblical counseling that I know about enthusiastically supports medical care for medical problems. Even more than that, the people I know repeatedly discuss the importance of leaving medical decisions to medical practitioners.

If that is true, then where does the reputation of being anti-drug come from? I have four responses.

1. I’m told that some counselors really do tell their counselees to stop taking medication.

I say, “I’m told” because I don’t actually know anyone who has told a counselee to stop taking their prescribed medication. I believe the reports that some have given me, but I am not able to verify this from a first-hand perspective.

Counselors who engage in such behavior should not do it. In fact, counselors certified with ACBC are not allowed to do it. It is simply not the role of a counselor to function as a physician.

If you have been told by a counselor that you should quit taking your medications, or if you know someone who has been told this, I have a message for you. Such counsel is wrong, and stands outside of the biblical counseling movement that ACBC has participated in for decades.

2. Many counselees do not like taking psychiatric medication.

In my counseling ministry I have never suggested that a counselee should quit taking their medication. I have brought up the topic of medications with counselees only rarely. My counselees, however, bring up the issue a lot. In fact, I have had very few counselees on psychiatric medication who have not brought up this issue. Many of my counselees express a strong dislike for such medication.

Sometimes counselees have very good reasons for disliking their medication. They may experience no improvement in their condition after taking the drugs for some time, or they may endure terrible side effects like nausea, sleep loss, lethargy, impotence, and on, and on. If I were experiencing such realities I would be concerned about my medications as well.

Sometimes counselees have reasons for disliking medication that are not good. For example, some people feel that if they were holy enough they wouldn’t need medicine. With such counselees we need to help them understand that a biblical commitment to the goodness of the body endorses medical treatment. When people go to their physician who prescribes medication they are honoring their body, and the God who made it when they take what is prescribed.

My point here is that I have had many counselees come off of their medications on their own regardless of whether their reasoning is good or bad. I really have no idea how many people have done this in my ministry, but I regularly have people come into my office and tell me that they quit taking their medication on their own.

I do not want them to do this. I tell them not to do it. When they tell me they’ve done it, I encourage them to see their doctor. I cannot, however, force them to stay on their medication. I know other counselors who have been in similar situations.

“Medication guilt” is a reality in counseling, but in my counseling and the counseling of those I know it is not induced by the counselor.

3. Biblical counselors practice counseling, not medicine.

I was teaching one afternoon on helping people with complex counseling problems. I was going over a general approach to help when a hand went up. The question came from a frustrated student. She asked me why I spent so little time talking about medicinal interventions. She said, “The very first thing you said is, ‘We need to send counselees with such problems to a physician for a full medical evaluation so they can be treated for any organic problems they have.’ Since then you have not mentioned it again. Why don’t you spend more time talking about medical treatment?”

That’s a good question. I think many wonder about this same reality. Biblical counselors spend energy telling people their body is important, and that they should take their medications, but usually don’t spend more time on physical issues. Why is that?

My answer to that student was simple.

I don’t spend more time talking about medical realities because I am not a physician. I think I best honor our body’s need for physical care by leaving such matters to those with expertise in addressing them. If I were a pre-med student at Yale and my anatomy and physiology professor kept talking about counseling, I would feel that he was speaking outside of his area. I would want him to cover the subject matter of the class, not something else.

When biblical counselors avoid covering detailed medical issues, we are not ignoring the importance of the body. We are fulfilling our calling. If God had wanted me to be a physician I would be doing very different work than I am right now. I discharge God’s calling for my life when I speak about counseling. I leave those with medical expertise to discuss organic matters.

4. We live in a culture that medicalizes every problem.

We live in a remarkable day that experiences tremendous advances in medical technology. There is no way that I would want to have lived in the United States 125 years ago. I also would never want to have surgery in most parts of the world today. It is a blessing to be at such a wonderfully advanced period in history and place on the planet.

One of the drawbacks of such blessings is that many in our culture assume that every extreme problem is a medical problem. Worry and anger aren’t sins, they’re illnesses that require medical treatment. Sorrow never has any spiritual correlate at all—it is always “clinical” requiring drugs.

As Christians we must reject such argumentation. The reason we must reject it is because we believe in a Bible that tells us that human beings have both a body and a soul. That means we experience problems that are physical, requiring medical solutions, and problems that are spiritual, requiring faith-based solutions. We also experience many complexities, which are combinations of the two.

As long as Christians continue to embrace this reality, known as dichotomy, we will sound like odd-balls. People will think we devalue the body simply because we believe that people can have other—and bigger!—problems than those, which are merely physical.

Here is what David Powlison said about this,

When we [say], “But we can counsel angry and anxious people to repent and to learn faith and love,” we will sound like we are asserting something along the lines of “Cast out that demon of cancer” or “Just believe in Jesus, and throw your eyeglasses away.” When anger and anxiety are seen as treatable bodily ailments, we will sound like bizarre spiritualizers—even to people in the pews and in other pulpits. We have work to do to protect and build up the body of Christ.

Powlison is correct on two counts. He is right that the Christian message sounds strange in our day and age. He is also right that we have work to do to protect and build up the body of Christ.

Comprehensive Care

If the biblical counseling movement is accused of being anti-medicine simply because we do not believe every problem is medical then this justifies our need to keep writing, teaching, preaching, and counseling. Our persistence should not stem from a desire merely to be right. Our persistence should grow from a desire to help. People who have spiritual problems will not change as long as they keep taking drugs as a cure. They will only change as they draw near to Jesus in repentant faith.

When you consider that reality it is easy to see that it is not biblical counselors who are trying to keep people from getting all the help they need—medical or otherwise. On the contrary, we want to be sure that people get the kind of comprehensive care that addresses both their physical and spiritual needs.

At our ACBC Pre-Conference in October, a panel of ACBC certified medical doctors will address what a biblical counselor should say when a counselee asks about medication during a counseling session.

Topics: Medication, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Psychology and Christianity | Tags: , ,

Leadership Styles and the Heart of Conflict

Conflict Resolution and Church Restoration--Leadership Styles and the Heart of Conflict

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the third in a new three-part Biblical Counseling Coalition Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Conflict Resolution and Church Restoration. In today’s post, Ernie Baker writes about leadership styles and getting to the heart of church conflict. In Part 1, Judy Dabler instructed us in The Discipline of the Lord. And in Part 2, Robert Cheong developed the idea of Casting “A Vision of the Sea” for Church Discipline.

My Story

In my pre-professor days of pastoring, I often noticed that as the weekend approached I would get tenser. In particular, on Sunday mornings my stomach would be tied up in a knot and I rarely ate breakfast as I anticipated the worship service.

I began to explore why this pattern was in my life. In the Lord’s perfect timing the root of this pattern became evident as part of my own self-counseling project when I started the doctoral program at Westminster Seminary. The Lord was gracious and opened my eyes to understand how my heart was influencing me to respond to life this way. It became clear that one of the themes of my inner person was people pleasing or fear of man. This was confirmed when I realized that one of the thoughts of my heart (Hebrews 4:12) was “I wonder what they’ll think of my sermon” along with the accompanying worry or fear.

I soon realized though that this same concern led to passivity as a leader. I was not as aggressive as I should be for setting the pace in the church because there were stronger leaders, and I would have to stand up to them or would have to address issues in the flock that made me uncomfortable. By default my leadership style was laissez-faire. Because of this non-proactive style, issues that should have been addressed were left to simmer.

Praise God for His work of sanctification though because I have learned a lot about leadership since those days, and the Lord has done a major work in my life teaching me to be much more concerned about what the Lord thinks than what others think. By the grace of God I have learned much about the truth behind Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.”

Another Story

There are many church leaders who are the opposite of me though. They are aggressive and do not seem to care what people think. The culture would say they have an authoritarian or commanding leadership style.

This leader can intimidate people into silence because, sometimes unknowingly, they convey that it is not all right to disagree. Then issues are not properly addressed because the atmosphere of the church is not conducive to dialogue. The ministry “climate” is more about uniformity than unity in the midst of the diversity of the gifts in the body (Philippians 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12).

The Heart

As mentioned above, I realized that my heart desired the approval of others. To put it bluntly, I served and was overly concerned with the opinions of others. Unfortunately, this revealed my value system or as the Lord said in Matthew 12:33-34, “…For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good….”

Do you see what the Lord is comparing there? In 12:33, He says we speak out of our hearts but in 12:34, Christ switches to a parallel word—treasure. In other words, my heart equals my treasures according to the One who knows human nature better than anyone. I was treasuring, valuing, bowing down to, and worshipping the approval of others. This was revealed by my thinking and my emotions and influenced the way I led.

But what could be going on in the heart of the more aggressive leader? What could this person be valuing or serving? Maybe his thought life is something like, “No one is going to push me around.” Or, “I need others to respect me and do things my way.” I would submit for your consideration that those statements could reveal a worship of control or respect. This theme then influences the way the church is led.

Leadership style

Doesn’t this raise questions like, “Isn’t leadership style just part of my personality?” Of course it is. But think with me. The secular world speaks of various leadership styles and personality types using terminology like laissez-faire on the one hand and authoritarian or commanding on the other but with no consideration of the biblical teaching on the heart.

I think it is safe to say that we have not thought deeply enough about how the heart influences leadership and the personality. We also have not considered that the biblical corrective is to change at the level of the heart rather than just accept that the personality is locked in place.

A Warning and Motivation

A leader might find himself or herself saying, “Well I’m just a Type A and Type A’s are aggressive.” This thinking carries an underlying assumption that if you have this type of personality it is just the way you are and you cannot change; your personality is fixed.

Please consider that if this is true you cannot believe in (or your thinking needs to be fine-tuned about) the doctrine of progressive sanctification which tells us that we are growing toward Christlikeness. His leadership style is one of a shepherd (John 10: 1-18; 1 Peter 2:25; 5: 1-4) who knew when to be gentle and knew when to be aggressive.

This leads us to a chief motivation for being willing to change in that we too are called to be loving shepherds. Stating it differently, learning to be a shepherd demands that out of love for the flock I put to death my natural heart propensities. As a shepherd I am called to lead, feed, protect, and care for the flock. If a leader does not deal with his own heart tendencies (whether more passive or aggressive because of what is being valued) these primary activities of a shepherd will be out of balance in some way and the church will be more vulnerable to conflict.

The biblical corrective is to both try to understand how the inner person is influencing the way you interact with people and issues and correct it biblically, and also to more completely practice a model of leadership based upon shepherding. To explore this further I would invite you to study a passage that has been tremendously helpful for me. In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 we see how Paul interacted with people, and we see the characteristics of a Christ-like leader.

Recommended Resources

Join the Conversation

How does scriptural thinking interact with the topics of leadership style and personality types?

Can you think of ways that passive leadership makes a church more open to conflict?

What ways can an aggressive leader make a church more open to conflict?

Topics: Conflict, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

Casting “A Vision of the Sea” for Church Discipline

Conflict Resolution and Church Restoration--Casting A Vision of the Sea for Church Discipline

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the second in a new three-part Biblical Counseling Coalition Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Conflict Resolution and Church Restoration. In today’s post, Robert Cheong shares about casting a vision for church discipline. In Part 1, Judy Dabler instructed us in The Discipline of the Lord. In Part 3, Ernie Baker will discuss leadership styles related to church conflict.

Casting a God-Size Vision

What tends to stir your imagination—old photographs, songs with engaging lyrics and melodies, philosophical conversations, nostalgic smells, well-worn poems, or walks in God’s creation? I was teaching a class this summer and one of the students shared a quote that I later learned was from the French writer and aviator, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, who lived in the first half of the 20th century. Allow me to paraphrase the quote that stirred my imagination:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t recruit people to gather wood, but give them a vision of the sea.”

This quote resonated deep within me, not only because I served in the United States Navy where I was on the pre-commissioning unit for the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), one of our country’s foremost nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, but because it prompted me to think about God. Let me explain.

I have the blessing of listening and talking with church leaders from all over the country on a regular basis. I walk away from these conversations encouraged by their faithfulness, sobered by their weariness, and overwhelmed by their circumstances. After countless hours of discussions, I have become increasingly convinced that many leaders have a limited view of “church discipline.” Related to the quote, more times than not, the general understanding of church discipline is confined to “gathering wood”—the chore of knowing the “what,” “when,” “why” and “how” of church discipline. In the midst of gathering these important details, we can wrongly think that the “ship” being built is church discipline, rather than the church herself, the Bride of Christ.

But what is “the vision of the sea” that we should set our gaze upon as we think about the church in regards to God’s discipline? The vision that we typically cast is a picture of rightly responding to difficult situations where we confront and call out those in the church who are wayward as they wreak havoc on themselves, their family and others. Don’t get me wrong; you have to gather wood in order to build a ship. In fact, if you skimp on the necessary quality and quantity of wood, the ship will not be sea-worthy. But if we focus our energy and efforts solely on gathering the wood, the ship may never get built or the ship that we are called to build may not come close to being what God envisions given the mission she is to undertake.

Casting a God-Shaped Vision

So what is the “vision of the sea” that we should see for ourselves and cast before God’s people? This captivating and compelling vision applies to every aspect of church life, from worship to discipleship, from missions to church discipline, to our everyday life with God. So what is this vision that God would have us to see as He builds His church?

Take a moment. Imagine our God revealing His glory and love through Jesus Christ as He redeems His bride, the church. God not only saved us by His grace, but He adopted us so that we can live in communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God’s magnificence and beauty radiates through His church and into the world, as He forms His people more and more beautifully in Jesus in our journey towards heaven.

In this vision, God relentlessly pursues us when we wander from Him (Matthew 18:10-14), alluring us back as He leads us and speaks tenderly to us (Hosea 2:14; Romans 2:4), promising to feast with us as He shares His holiness (Revelation 3:20-21; Hebrews 12:10). The “heavens are shocked…and shrink back in horror” at our rebellion (Jeremiah 2:12), but sigh with relief and rejoice when the Spirit of God turns us back, as we seek to live in His glory and love, for which we were created to enjoy (Luke 15:7, 10, 23). God is continually inviting us to approach the throne of grace in our time of need, so that we can be lavished with His mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16).

In this vision, we can enjoy life with God through our union with Christ, in whom all of God’s promises are yes and are guaranteed through the presence of His indwelling Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:19-23). Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love as we journey towards home with Him by faith.

Out of this glorious vision flows an understanding of church discipline. God’s discipline in and through the church is seen as His ongoing, redeeming work through His living Word and people as they fight the good fight of faith together to exalt Christ and protect the purity of His Bride. In this vision, God is redeeming everyone involved, not just the one who is wayward, but also the friends, family members, and church leaders as they wrestle with judgment and self-righteousness, fear and anger, hopelessness and helplessness, as they doubt the power of the gospel to change those who are rebelling, and question if their efforts will make a difference.

If you are in a dry season, struggling to even connect with God, does such a “vision of the sea” captivate and compel you in your own life with God? If you are frustrated with the apathetic attitudes within your church, will such a vision captivate and compel those whom God has entrusted to you to shepherd? If the relentless demands of ministry have caused you to grow weary and pull back from pursuing those struggling with sin, does such a vision spur you to join God as He is continually redeeming His Bride for a life of endless glory and love? If you have resisted carrying out church discipline, regardless of the reason, does such a vision shed new light on the beauty of and the necessity for carrying out His discipline?

I pray that as you continue to lead and shepherd God’s people, you will be driven by this “vision of the sea.” I pray that as you cast this vision to those in your church, they will embrace God’s call to fight the good fight of faith with one another. In doing so, they will experience God’s glory and love as they participate with Him in His mission (Hebrews 3:12-14; 1 Timothy 6:12). As a result, God will build up the body of Christ in love as each member does its part to help spread His glory in the church and world (Ephesians 4:16; 2:10).

Added by the BCC Staff

For an excellent book that further develops this blog post, see Robert Cheong’s work, God Redeeming His Bride: A Handbook for Church Discipline.

Join the Conversation

How does a God-size and God-shaped vision captivate and compel you in your life and ministry?

Topics: Church Discipline, Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , ,

BCC Weekend Resource: Helping Women Who Have Had Abortions

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: On weekends we like to highlight for you one of our growing list of free resources. This weekend we highlight a resource audio from the 2014 IBCD Summer Institute. For a complete list of speakers and messages, visit the IBCD Summer Institute 2014 home page.

In this resource, Jadele Taylor addresses the topic of Helping Women Who Have Had Abortions. Jadele explains the importance of identifying and understanding the post-abortive woman and then leading her through the steps of confession, forgiveness, and real freedom that only Christ can offer.

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Topics: Abortion, Audio, Grief/Loss, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives | 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.

The Rise of Biblical Counseling

At The Pacific Standard, Kathryn Joyce has written on The Rise of Biblical Counseling. She writes as an outsider of the movement and not as a proponent of the movement. However, every biblical counselor should be aware of her piece, as it is instructive to learn how others view the modern biblical counseling movement. Joyce quotes from leaders within the BC world, such as Heath Lambert and Donn Arms. To read her lengthy article, visit The Rise of Biblical Counseling.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Donald Whitney’s classic work, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, has been updated. Read Chris Dendy’s review at 9Marks here.

Heaven and Earth

At Eternal Perspective Ministries, Randy Alcorn addresses the question, Can it Be Heaven if People Are Aware of Anything Bad on Earth? 

Biblical Change

Julie Ganschow teaches us about Restructuring Your Life for Biblical Change.

Truett Cathy Has Died: Some Thoughts on the Man and His Mission

At Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer writes about the legacy of Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A. Read his reflections in Truett Cathy Has Died: Some Thoughts on the Man and His Mission.

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: , , , , , ,

The Discipline of the Lord

Conflict Resolution and Church Restoration--The Discipline of the Lord

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the first in a new three-part Biblical Counseling Coalition Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Conflict Resolution and Church Restoration. In today’s post, Judy Dabler shares about The Discipline of the Lord. In Parts 2 and 3, you will read posts from Robert Cheong and Ernie Baker.

All Was Not Well

My counseling ministry nearly ended before it began. Early in my ministry, I witnessed a church-related conflict that so discouraged and shocked me that I seriously considered finding another line of work.

A pastor had contacted me for counseling. His children were hurting, and his marriage was distressed. This same story is played out in churches around the world. Unfortunately, in this case, the pastor had misrepresented the condition of his family prior to accepting his new call to the church. The elders had been told that all was well in the family. Sadly, all was not well.


“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). What is a falsehood? A falsehood is a lie, or an inaccurate or untrue statement. A falsehood might also be a truth. One of the most common types of falsehood occurs by over-emphasizing a “truth” in order to capture the attention so that the listener does not realize there is more to the story.

Few things destroy relationships more than falsehood. When it comes to the church, falsehood is a serious enemy that threatens the entire church body. “…put off falsehood… for we are all members of one body.”

My pastor client had been honest with me about his failing marriage, so when the elders fired him for his falsehood, I was troubled. The pastor had met with the elders, admitted his fault, confessed his lie, and sought their forgiveness. It would take me years to realize that at the time I had failed to grasp the seriousness of this pastor’s falsehood, and the grave impact it had on the elders and the entire church.


Falsehood is not a minor issue. “The Lord detests lying lips…” (Proverbs 12:22). Falsehood on the part of church leaders is extremely significant because of the broad and extensive impact these men and women have on the spiritual well-being of other believers. Falsehood in the church damages unity, which hinders the church’s ability to send the bold message of God’s love to the watching world (John 17:20-23). Because God so loves the world, believers who engage in falsehood ought to expect the loving discipline of the Lord.

The more this pastor suffered, the angrier I became at how his situation had been handled by the church’s elders. Counseling my client and his family through the consequences resulting from his lost job and a dwindling severance was painful. I called my mentor to discuss the situation and seek advice. I will never forget his words: “Judy, do not spurn the discipline of the Lord in your client’s life.” Every time I responded with a “Yes, but…” he would repeat his words.

“Do not spurn the discipline of the Lord.”

My mentor invited me to see this pastor’s hardship as the Lord’s discipline in his life. Falsehood indicates a serious heart issue that needs attention. God desires good for each of us, and He is always at work to produce Christ’s character in us. Therefore, out of love, God will discipline His own.

 I studied Hebrews 12:7, 10-11 in my effort to embrace my mentor’s counsel.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.…God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”


One painful aspect of the Lord’s discipline is that consequences are often experienced broadly. It is not just offenders who suffer the pain of the Lord’s discipline, it is everyone who loves the offender, and everyone who is connected to the offender. When one of us is disciplined, there is a sense in which we all are disciplined. If discipline results because of falsehood, it is not only painful to experience, but we must also face and deal with the damage done to church unity as a result of the falsehood.

The most significant consequence of the Lord’s discipline, however, is the eventual righteousness and peace that results… for those who have been trained by it. What does it mean to “be trained”? Those who are trained in any area first endeavor to “get it” (repent), then they “own it” (confess), and then they strive to live it out. Believers trained by the Lord’s discipline come to share in the holiness of God by trusting in His love and living in obedience to His Word.

If you are experiencing the discipline of the Lord in your own life, or witnessing discipline in the life of another believer, or even a church leader, remember that God the Father disciplines those He loves. It is painful to watch and experience discipline. It is painful to watch and experience discipline as a result of falsehood.

Do not spurn the discipline of the Lord.  He disciplines those He loves.

Join the Conversation

In your church ministry and in your personal life, what does it mean to “not spurn the discipline of the Lord”?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Church Discipline, Faith, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Suffering | 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.