Promoting PErsonal Change, Centered on the PErson of Christ through the PErsonal Ministry of the Word
Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Preaching the Gospel to One Another: The Power of Small Group Relationships

Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry--Preaching the Gospel to One Another--The Power of Small Group Relationships

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading Part Three in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on biblical counseling and small group ministry. In today’s post, Pastor Abe Meysenburg demonstrates the power of preaching the gospel to one another in our small group ministries. You can read Part One in this series by Garrett Higbee at: 3 Functions of the Small Group Coach. And you can read Part Two by Ken Long at: 3 Cross-Training Exercises for Small Group Leaders.

A Timely Question in a Tough Moment

I can’t remember exactly why I was so angry, but I still remember standing outside in the warm summer air with my friend only a few feet away from my face. I had spent the evening with 12-15 elementary school-aged children, as it was my turn to keep an eye on the kids during our weekly missional community gathering. Something had gone awry, and I was not happy. The meeting had ended, and the kids were either back with their parents or running around in the large yard, but my friend rightly perceived that my anger had not passed.

Though the memory of the cause of my angst has faded with time, the way in which my friend addressed me in that moment is burned on my mind. He pulled me aside and said, “How are you doing? Where is your understanding of God’s grace right now?”

Honestly, I wanted to push him away or maybe even punch him in the face! I felt I had good reason for being mad, and he wanted to ask me about God’s grace?!

I think I responded to his question by saying something like, “It’s not very present! I’m pretty upset!”

But I instantly knew he was right: I needed a reminder, in that very moment, of the grace of God. The question, and the gentle, compassionate way in which he asked it, proved to be a helpful light shone on the darkness of my heart. I was not entitled to being treated a certain way, nor could I rightly make demands of others. My friend’s pursuit of me was the beginning of the Spirit breaking in and leading me to repentance. God’s grace was exactly what I needed.

Encourage One Another Daily

In his helpful book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul Tripp points to Hebrews 3:12-14 as a scriptural basis for the kind of care I received from my friend that night; a care that is imperative for all small groups of believers to offer one another.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”

This passage and many experiences like the one I described have helped shape my thinking on care in community. The New Testament paints a clear picture of the need for small bands of believers to speak the truth of the gospel to one another on a regular basis. Within the context of a small group, stories are shared and trust is built. The people in a small group can begin to speak the truth in love to one another in ways that comfort and challenge. These small groups should be more than a once-a-week meeting, but rather like a life that’s lived together as a family. This passage speaks directly into that daily life-on-life reality.

The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were tempted to abandon their faith in the face of persecution. The author’s primary concern is that they endure and that they “hold fast,” a phrase used four times throughout the book.

And in chapter 3, he identifies the main threat to this life of endurance. Somewhat surprisingly, the threat is not an external threat, which would have made sense in light of the persecution they faced. Rather, the primary threat to these believers teetering on the edge of apostasy was “an evil, unbelieving heart,” a heart “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” This threat is internal, aimed straight at our hearts.

The author calls his readers to “see to it,” that is, “watch out!” lest they fall into this trap. If the ship of their faith was going to go down, it would be lies and unbelief that sank her.

Preach the Gospel to Yourself…and to One Another!

Lies and unbelief are poisonous to our faith. But sandwiched in between these two killers is the antidote: “encourage one another daily.”

Regular encouragement from our brothers and sister is a vital weapon against the onslaught of lies and unbelief with which we are assaulted. And note the content of the encouragement in Hebrews 3:14. “For we have come to share in Christ…” We need daily gospel encouragement from one another. We need reminders of the truth of…

  • Who Jesus is: The Messiah, the God-man, our Savior!
  • What He has done for us through His life, death, and resurrection: Justified, brought us into the Father’s family, and indwelt us with His Spirit!
  • Who we are: United with Him as children of our Father!

Recently in the church, we have been trained to “preach the gospel to ourselves,” a practice that is good and helpful. However, given the enemy’s goals—to steal, kill, and destroy—and how effective he is at isolating humans, wouldn’t it be at least equally important that we learn how to preach the gospel daily to one another?

When I am struggling, I need to hear from the Holy Spirit. I need to be reminded of the truth of who God is, what He’s done, and who I am as a beloved, adopted son. And often, the Holy Spirit uses other people to communicate these truths that combat lies and unbelief head on. I am so thankful for my friend who had the boldness to provide some gospel exhortation that day. I’ve had innumerable conversations like that one, and I’ve received countless similar emails, texts, and phone calls from others in my missional community over the years. May the Holy Spirit teach us how to “encourage one another daily” as friends and fellow followers of Jesus.

Join the Conversation

How has the Holy Spirit used other followers of Jesus to encourage you?

How has that encouragement helped you combat lies and unbelief in your heart?

How might the Holy Spirit use you to provide gospel encouragement to others in your small group on a regular basis?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Gospel-Centered Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Small Group Ministry | Tags: , , , ,

3 Cross-Training Exercises for Small Group Leaders

Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry--3 Cross-Training Exercises for Small Group Leaders

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading Part Two in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on biblical counseling and small group ministry. In today’s post, Pastor Ken Long explains how to train small group leaders who are also trained as biblical counselors. You can also read Part One in this series by Garrett Higbee at: 3 Functions of the Small Group Coach.

Cross-Training for Cross-Centered Ministry

A term now commonly used in the world of sports and athletic conditioning is cross-training. Wikipedia (March 4, 2015) states that “cross-training refers to the combining of exercises to work various parts of the body. Often one particular activity works certain muscle groups, but not others; cross-training aims to eliminate this.”

Just as cross-training is valuable for the athlete, it is also valuable for a small group leader. Similar to cross-training for an athlete, cross-training for a small group leader is a combination of exercises designed to fully equip a potential leader to be used by God as an instrument to transform those in their small group.

Typical training for a small group leader involves teaching how to ask inductive Bible study questions, how to recruit people for their group, how to be hospitable, etc. These are valuable, but the training of a small group leader who leads a transformational small group needs to be more extensive. Presented here for your consideration are three additional training exercises for small group leaders so they are cross-trained for transformational ministry.

1. Leaders participate in theological training.

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16, NIV).

Some type of leadership training for small group leaders is nothing out of the ordinary. But training that provides a robust, deep understanding of theology is cross-training since it is not usually part of the training for small group leaders. For two years, participants meet once a month for three hours to discuss the reading assignment by sharing their written responses to provided questions.

Throughout the first year, potential small group leaders study most of Grudem’s Systematic Theology (the full version). During the second year, they work through eight books also dealing with theology such as Knowing God by Packer and Trusting God by Bridges. Along with these readings, verses are memorized that correspond to truths being emphasized in their reading. This component of the cross-training is rigorous and demanding, but over the years more than 400 of our people have completed this cross-training.

2. Leaders complete Fundamentals of Biblical Counseling training.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV).

This step of training falls into the category of “cross-training” since it is also outside the box of typical training for small group leaders. Most people would initially think that this kind of training would only be for biblical counselors. This cross-training is the initial 30 hours of biblical counseling training based on the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) model. Having this biblical counseling background has been invaluable for our small group leaders to be able to be effective and fruitful. When a soul care issue comes up in small group, the leader has confidence that the Scriptures have the hope and help needed. By the Spirit’s power, the leader gives hope and initial help from God’s Word.

3. Leaders demonstrate being used by God to restore others in a spirit of gentleness in the transformational process.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2, NIV).

Practicing being used by our God to restore others caught in sin is a key element of the cross-training for small group leaders. There is more to serving a small group than just having a warm heart toward Jesus and His people. There is more to being a leader than studying theology or attending Fundamentals of Biblical Counseling. Small group leaders must be able to help their people live lives that are pleasing to God.

Periodically, this will mean that a leader will need to come alongside another sinning believer to scripturally instruct for the purpose of God-glorifying change. So that a potential leader has been trained to do this, they begin serving as an apprentice leader in a small group under the care of a spiritual small group leader. This leader will give the apprentice leader opportunities to be gently used as an instrument of righteous in other people’s lives. The leader and apprentice leader will serve in tandem helping others grow in Christlikeness and helping the apprentice leader grow in effective, gentle transformational teaching.

Fully-Equipped

Just as it is important for an athlete to be cross-trained so that they are fully equipped to compete well in the contest, it is important for small group leaders to be cross-trained so they are fully equipped to serve well in the care of their people. A cross-trained small group leader in the fundamentals of biblical theology and biblical counseling will be able to give triage hope and help from the Scriptures to one of their people struggling under the circumstances and temptations of life.

A “cross-trained” small group leader in theology and biblical counseling will be “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that (they) may present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28b, NIV). Yes, and we all know that “Cross-training” is really about just more about Him and His Cross for us!

Join the Conversation

For your church’s small group ministry, do your leaders need to be cross-trained beyond what is typically provided for a small group leader for them to have a long and fruitful ministry for our Lord?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Small Group Ministry | Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 Functions of the Small Group Coach in Uncommon Community

Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry--3 Functions of the Small Group Coach in Uncommon Community

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading Part One in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on biblical counseling and small group ministry. In today’s post, Pastor Garrett Higbee outlines 3 functions of the small group coach.

The Context Is the Local Church

In previous posts (see here for the most recent post), I have tried to contrast the difference between a church with a biblical counseling department and a church of biblical counselors. While a church that has a well trained staff or lay leaders who do biblical counseling is great, even better is a church that equips its entire body to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). That is what I mean by “Uncommon Community.”

Let me draw you a picture. This model of care only really works in a local church setting. What I’m envisioning is a house (1 Peter 2:5) with multiple levels where people with different levels of equipping can serve in their church and in the kingdom by caring for the hurting. The ground level is the basic “every believer” ministry where believers try to live out the one-another Scriptures together. Going up one level, you’d find the more directive level of care carried out by small group leaders. With some specific training for our small group leaders and very intentional interactions with the small group members, a lot of everyday problems are being dealt with at that level.

The Role of the Small Group Coach

When the small group leader finds the issues are too complex or they just need support, this is where the small group coach comes in—he or she would be yet another level up the stairs in the house. Coaches will usually have 3-5 small groups under their charge (see the interaction between Moses and Jethro in Exodus 18:17-27 to understand the criteria and need for levels of oversight and leadership responsibility). I want to focus on the coach’s role in our soul care model. We will leave the rest of the levels for another post. As we develop training for the small group coach, three critical skills and functions come into play.

Function 1: Coaching

As the name implies, this level of leader needs to be able to coach other leaders. Think about what a coach does. He does not go out on the field and run the play, and he does not physically show the leader how to make the play in the game. That should have already happened in the training phase of leader development or off the field as needed. No quarterback wants the coach coming out on the field during the game. The coach is very accessible but generally stays on the side lines. The coach sees the playing field, studies the opponent, and can call an audible if necessary. He “owns” the playbook but shares its contents freely, spending much of his time helping to develop, affirm, and refine skills in the leaders he cares for (2 Timothy 2:2).

Here are four crucial attributes or skills needed to be a small group coach:

  1. Coaches encourage healthy leader habits like modeling authenticity and being a student of God’s Word.
  1. Coaches mentor the leaders in their care from experience and/or case wisdom to help foster practical application and needed self-reflection.
  1. Coaches take a personal interest in the spiritual growth, character, and competence of the leaders under them.
  1. Coaches understand that ministry is a trust. This is not a coach’s opportunity to have a forum to preach, influence, or shepherd based on their preferences or need for significance. They must be in it to love and serve at the will of God and to the joy of the pastoral staff above them (Hebrews 13:17). We need to remember the small groups they oversee are God’s people first, the church’s flock second, and then “our” sheep to shepherd third.

Function 2: Consulting

Secondly, the small group coach is a consultant. The consultant has experience, skills, and tools at their disposal. They are able to field the inevitable phone calls and meetings where a small group leader brings a problem or concern to their attention.

The job here is to help with problem solving. They pray, ask good questions, and point to biblical solutions anchored in Scripture that help the small group leader make wise and informed decisions. The calm and prayerful demeanor of someone who is objective, skilled, and seasoned in solving common problems has kept many a small group leader out of the ditch of overreaction or hopelessness. It is important to remember that consulting is more time-limited and solution-focused than coaching, but is a critical part of the role of a small group coach.

Function 3: Counseling

The last function to highlight in the role of small group coach is that of a counselor. Their counseling skills and tools need to exceed those of their small group leaders under them. That means more soul care equipping for our coaches.

In our church, the small group leaders take training courses we call Uncommon Leadership 101 and 201. The coach, having been a small group leader, attends those classes but also needs more specialized training which we call Uncommon Leadership 301. We are revisiting and retooling this level of training right now and hope to train over 200 coaches in our church this year. The coach will acquire skills and tools that allow them to be the backstop for more complex issues that might come up in the “flock” they oversee. For that matter, sometimes the coach needs to care for his leader who is burdened by the struggles and suffering in their life or the life of their group.

Let’s consider some common issues a small group leader brings to the coach that needs more care or help. Maybe it is a marriage conflict or a habitual sin issue like an addiction to porn or a substance. You can see why coaches need a deeper understanding in corrective soul care. The coach can help develop a “biblical care plan” as part of consulting with the small group leader. The coach can also provide care alongside the small group leader when a member needs more help but is not really in need of formal counseling. We consider this level of care as “informal counseling” because it is typically limited to three sessions and does not have to happen in the church or a formal counseling setting.

However, the coach might assess the situation and decide to refer the person to formal soul care counseling.* In our experience, almost 50% of formal counseling referrals stopped once the small group leader and coach stepped in on the prevention side of the counseling continuum. There are many stories every month of where counseling in community preempted a crisis because our people care for each other often and early.

*Unless the issue is life threating or extremely disruptive, the coach always starts by consulting with the small group leader. What is the severity, the ownership, and the support network around the person in need? What are the risks? What is at the root of the issue? Once these things are established, a biblical care plan can be developed.

A Coaching Culture Really Matters

So, as you can see the small group coach is a keystone in a healthy discipleship culture. While being friendly and encouraging is of great help, it is not enough. This level of leadership requires skills and character equivalent to a deacon (see 1 Timothy 3). It is wonderful when the elders fulfill this role as a part of their ministry to the church, but it is not necessary to be an elder in our church to be a small group coach. We have many gifted men and women serving in this capacity. The more we can define and refine the role, the more effective it becomes.

Uncommon community doesn’t just happen. Intentional development of leaders on a discipleship/counseling continuum requires clarity for each leader’s role and that’s what we’re trying to provide. I pray this post has helped you understand the essential skills and important role of a small group coach in uncommon community as you work to raise up leaders around you or consider being a small group coach yourself.

Join the Conversation

If your church had an equipped small group coach, how might that coaching ministry impact the small group ministry of your church?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Small Group Ministry | Tags: , , , , ,

BCC Weekend Resource: Premarital Counseling Session 2: A Theology of Communication

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. Deepak Reju— Premarital Counseling Session 2: A Theology of Communication. This is part of a multipart resource series that Deepak, Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, has made available to you through the BCC.

You can download the full resource for free here.

Topics: Communication, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Premarital, Theology | 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.

Addressing Homosexuality: Reparative or Redemptive?

Jeremy Lelek of the Association of Biblical Counselors highlights a redemptive, gospel-centered approach to counseling and homosexuality in Addressing Homosexuality: Reparative or Redemptive? 

Addressing Parenting in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture

Given our sexualized culture, what are the implications of how we parent our children and when and how we teach them about biblical principles of modesty and sexuality? Heath Lambert of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors tackles this important issue in Addressing Parenting in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture.

Enduring Through Pastoral Difficulties

Pastor Brian Croft offers a one-sentence summary answer to the question How Do I Endure Through the Difficulties of Pastoral Ministry?

Psychology and a Biblical Worldview

From April 16-18, the Association of Biblical Counselors will be hosting their annual National Conference. They introduce their conference with these words:

“How does one biblically address the complex issues related to psychology and psychiatry? Issues that have risen in prominence within our culture such as homosexuality, mental illness, psychotropic medication, and the myriad of diagnoses presented to us in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual? Are we, as believers, equipped to answer the big questions of psychology: Who are we? Why do we do the things we do? How do we change? This year’s annual conference is designed to equip all believers to address these paramount issues with wise, Gospel-oriented, biblical precision.”

To learn more, visit the ABC Conference page.

Side by Side

The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) introduces their 2015 annual National Conference with these words:

“A ​vibrant ​church ​community ​is ​dependent ​on ​us ​being ​both ​needy ​and ​needed. ​So ​we ​want ​to ​grow ​in ​how ​we ​ask ​for ​help ​and ​how ​we ​give ​help. ​This ​conference ​is ​designed ​to ​guide ​us ​in ​those ​skills, ​with ​a ​focus ​on ​how ​these ​work ​in ​everyday ​friendships. ​Even ​in ​our ​professional ​culture, ​God ​is ​pleased ​to ​use ​needy ​people ​and ​ordinary ​conversations ​to ​do ​most ​of ​the ​heavy ​lifting ​in ​His ​kingdom. ​It’s ​the ​perfect ​system. ​If ​God ​used ​only ​experts ​and ​people ​of ​renown, ​some ​could ​boast ​in ​their ​own ​wisdom, ​but ​God’s ​way ​of ​doing ​things ​is ​not ​the ​same ​as ​our ​own. ​This ​conference ​is ​for ​ordinary ​people ​who ​need ​help ​and ​want ​to ​grow ​in ​giving ​help, ​and, ​as ​we ​grow, ​we ​hope ​to ​contribute ​to ​the ​ongoing ​transformation ​in ​our ​local ​churches.”

To learn more, visit the CCEF Conference page.

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: , , , , , , , , ,

4 Ways to Unite Preaching and Biblical Counseling

Pulpit and Personal Ministry of the Word--4 Ways to Unite Preaching and Biblical Counseling

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the fourth of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Uniting the Pulpit Ministry of the Word (Preaching/Teaching) and the Personal Ministry of the Word (Biblical Counseling/One-Another Ministry). This series demonstrates that both preaching and biblical counseling are Word-based ministries. While helpful to pastor-teachers, this series is beneficial to everyone who counsels and to everyone who sits under the teaching/preaching of the Word and receives Word-based counsel from others in the Body of Christ. In Part One, Pastor Kevin Carson described how preaching helps counseling. In Part Two, Pastor Steve Viars explained how counseling helps preaching. In Part Three, Pastor Kevin Hurt pictures the beautiful synergy that occurs when these two Word-based ministries are united. Now in Part Four, Pastor Nicolas Ellen outlines four ways of connecting these two Word-based ministries.

Connecting the Pulpit and Personal Ministry of the Word

God has given me the privilege and the gift to proclaim His Word through the pulpit and through the personal counseling ministry. I have been walking in this privilege and gift for about 18 years now. From personal experience and the wise counsel of God-honoring pastors, I have developed a way to connect the pulpit ministry to my personal counseling ministry. Let me suggest to you four things I do to make the connection.

#1: I identify the central themes explored in counseling that are applicable to all in the local assembly.

As I work with various individuals within the personal counseling ministry, I study certain sin and/or suffering trends. For instance, if I see a consistent large number of members working through the issue of anger, I will develop a series of sermons dealing with anger. Or, if there is a consistent large number of members working through issues from the past, I will develop a series of sermons on how to deal with the past.

#2: I focus on issues that are inclusive of all in the church and not exclusive to some in the church.

When evaluating various topics from the counseling arena, I choose topics that are applicable to all, not just some. I do not focus on marriage issues which then excludes all the single people. Nor do I focus on singles’ issues which then excludes all the married people. In order to address those particular issues, I put those people groups together according to their affinity and address their issues accordingly within a small group. Therefore, when it comes to preaching to the congregation overall, I deal with issues such as temptation, trials, idols, lust, spiritual warfare, disappointment, etc. These are matters that all can relate to within the context of their lives regardless of their affinity.

#3: I am systematic in my exposition and organization of the topics.

As I glean the various topics that all can relate to from the counseling arena, I research the Bible for all areas where the subject may be found. I also study topical and theological books on the subject. Then I identify the central passages that highlight the central themes on the subject. I study those passages according to proper Bible study methods. This leads to learning and listing the central themes illumined from the passages studied. As I discover the central themes deriving from the text, I place those passages and themes into an outline for presentation to the congregation.

#4: I present the topics to the congregation according to the central themes.

I present the central themes of the topic to the congregation. For instance, if I believe the topic has 14 foundational principles that are key for the congregation to learn, I may do one principle a week for fourteen weeks or two principles a week for 7 weeks. I do exposition on those passages that unfold the central themes each week accordingly. My goal is to make sure each principle builds on the next principle with application assignments tied to each.

As I present the topics accordingly from Scripture, I make sure that there are no illustrations or anecdotes that can be traced back to individuals who have been counseled by me or others in the counseling ministry. I deal with the principles without discussing or hinting to the persons who may have had the issues. This protects the privacy of the counselees while addressing the issues that all can relate to. There are times when people want to provide testimonies as to the how the principles where helpful as they applied them to their situation, and I allow it when I believe it will be helpful to the congregation.

For an example of this, go to my website at www.mycounselingcorner.com. This will bring up Expository Counseling Center. Click on media and then audio sermons. From there you can choose various topical sermon series I have done over the years to get an example of how I do this.

Join the Conversation

How could you apply these four principles within the context of your ministry?

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

Two United Ministries of the Word

Pulpit and Personal Ministry of the Word--Two United Ministries of the Word

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the third of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Uniting the Pulpit Ministry of the Word (Preaching/Teaching) and the Personal Ministry of the Word (Biblical Counseling/One-Another Ministry). This series demonstrates that both preaching and biblical counseling are Word-based ministries. While helpful to pastor-teachers, this series is beneficial to everyone who counsels and to everyone who sits under the teaching/preaching of the Word and receives Word-based counsel from others in the Body of Christ. In Part One, Pastor Kevin Carson described how preaching helps counseling. In Part Two, Pastor Steve Viars explained how counseling helps preaching. Now in Part Three, Pastor Kevin Hurt pictures the beautiful synergy that occurs when these two Word-based ministries are united.

The Disconnect

I would imagine that when we think of the public preaching of the Word (the pulpit expositional ministry of the Word) that most often takes place in our churches on Sundays and when we think about the topic of counseling (the private ministry of the Word), there is often a disconnect. I would say there are disconnects between the two at several points.

In some people’s minds, the preaching of the Word is one thing and counseling is another thing. To those who see them as distinctly two different and distinct things, and there is a measure of truth to that which I’ll discuss below, the reasoning goes like this: Preaching is something that we all need, but counseling is something that those people who have “real problems and issues” need. Preaching in the pulpit is done by the “preacher,” and counseling is done by the “counselor.”  When there is a disconnect between the ministry of the Word in the pulpit and the ministry of the Word in a counseling session, we have failed to see how the two are designed to connect, support, and assist one another.

The Connection

When we think of the ministry of the Word from the pulpit and the personal ministry of the Word in counseling, we should see them as connected. They are connected by a belief in the all-sufficient and life-changing power of the Word. Both have confidence in the Spirit of God to work in the hearts and lives of those who are hearing the Word of God. The difference in the two is in regards to the “method of delivery,” “the context in which it is delivered,” and the “communication style” when the Word is presented. Let me explain…

To use a Southern cultural concept (which I am part of), I would say that the pulpit ministry of the Word is like firing a shotgun. Through the accurate and faithful exposition of the Word, the Truth is scattered over a diverse group of people. Pellets of the Truth hit those folks who are hearing the Word proclaimed in various ways as the Spirit of God is at work convicting, encouraging, illumining, and empowering them to make change in various areas of their lives.  This is indeed a wonderful work as it relates to the public preaching of the Word. Only God could take the clear exposition of His Word and apply it and tailor it to fit the various needs throughout the congregation that is hearing the Word of God.

On the other hand, the private ministry of the Word, also referred to as biblical counseling, is like firing a rifle (there goes my Southern analogy again). Whether it is in a formal setting in a counseling office or in an informal setting at a coffee shop or at someone’s home, specific Truths from God’s Word are now being aimed at specific situations in that person’s personal life and for that specific time in their life. This is something that does not, and I would say cannot, happen in the larger context of the public ministry of the Word.

From the Pastor’s View

As a pastor who is entering his twenty-sixth year of ministry in the same pulpit, I have seen firsthand how these two ministries of the Word work wonderfully together. While I am preaching from the pulpit, I often will notice those in the congregation being affected by the ministry of the Word. My heart goes out to them, and at that moment I want to walk down from the pulpit and ask them, “So what’s going? What is the Lord speaking to you about?” Of course, that is not possible or practical to do.

But on the following day or later in that week, either I will follow up with them or they will connect with me. When we sit down together, the ministry of the Word continues. What God used in the larger context of the ministry of the Word is now continued and deepened as the private and personal ministry of the Word is applied. As we sit down and practically work out how the Truth of God’s Word can be lived out in their life and in their specific situation, further and deeper transformation is taking place. So, as a pastor who by my calling strongly believes in the public ministry of the Word, I have found that I can never separate the private ministry of the Word from my calling. They are truly, by God’s design, two united ministries of the Word.

Join the Conversation

So, let’s hear your story. How have you seen the ministry of the Word from the pulpit and the private ministry of the Word work together? It may be that you are a pastor and you do both.  It may be that you sit under the preaching of your pastor and you are called to do biblical counseling. I’d love to hear your stories and how you have seen the public and private ministry of the Word work together.

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

Reminders of Our Insufficiency

Pulpit and Personal Ministry of the Word--Reminders of Our Insufficiency

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the second of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Uniting the Pulpit Ministry of the Word (Preaching/Teaching) and the Personal Ministry of the Word (Biblical Counseling/One-Another Ministry). This series demonstrates that both preaching and biblical counseling are Word-based ministries. While helpful to pastor-teachers, this series is beneficial to everyone who counsels and to everyone who sits under the teaching/preaching of the Word and receives Word-based counsel from others in the Body of Christ. In Part One, Pastor Kevin Carson described how preaching helps counseling. Now in Part Two, Pastor Steve Viars explains how counseling helps preaching.

Counseling as a Reality Check

Recently a young man from our community asked if he could speak with me privately. In our meeting he explained that he had struggled with cross-dressing since his teen years and wondered out loud if there was any hope or help for him. I was both fascinated and saddened as he told me that he felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body. He went on to tell how his young wife had just learned about his secret lifestyle and was devastated. He was filled with guilt, shame, and hopelessness.

Never Heard That from the Pulpit

I love the public ministry of the Word, but I’ve never had anyone yell out while I’m preaching—“But pastor, I’m struggling with cross-dressing.” The process is one-sided and I often wonder what my listeners are really thinking and feeling. Yes, people sometimes send questions and responses later that week, but it rarely takes on the intensity of counseling. In one-on-one sessions, people lay it all out there in ways that are emotional, vulnerable, painful, and deeply troubling.

Helpful in Many Ways

Spending time in the counseling room each week helps me be better prepared to preach for many reasons. Perhaps the greatest one is the regular reminders of my own insufficiency. I’m thinking especially of Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he rehearsed a number of challenges to life and ministry and then exclaimed, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). That kind of authenticity is often the way I feel as I listen to the stories of broken people and then consider my own meager resources in and of myself.

The End of the Process

Thankfully, Paul did not leave us there. He went on to say in the next chapter, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). Nearly every counselor knows those moments where we are crying out to our Redeemer for the help and wisdom we need for our fellow sufferer. We admit to our counselees that we desperately need the Lord’s help, and we join arms and run to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Something marvelous—yes, supernatural—happens in those moments. The Lord shows Himself to be sufficient in all sorts of ways in those moments.

The good news is, Sunday is coming. We have another opportunity to address our church family on the Lord’s Day. But that recent counselee is with us—in the back of our minds as a fresh reminder of our own insufficiency. We find ourselves approaching the pulpit not with “This is going to be a great sermon,” but instead with “Who is sufficient for these things?” I think that is a healthy way to approach the process, especially if we can allow the dependency and confidence we found in the counseling room to direct us as we preach. With Paul we joyfully proclaim, “Our sufficiency is of God.”

Join the Conversation

In what ways does the personal ministry of the Word (biblical counseling, one-another ministry) remind you of your absolute need for God’s all-sufficient wisdom and power?

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

What You Hear on Sunday Helps You Counsel on Monday

Pulpit and Personal Ministry of the Word--What You Hear on Sunday Helps You Counsel on Monday

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the first of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Uniting the Pulpit Ministry of the Word (Preaching/Teaching) and the Personal Ministry of the Word (Biblical Counseling/One-Another Ministry). This series demonstrates that both preaching and biblical counseling are Word-based ministries. While helpful to pastor-teachers, this series is beneficial to everyone who counsels and to everyone who sits under the teaching/preaching of the Word and receives Word-based counsel from others in the Body of Christ. Today, in Part One, Pastor Kevin Carson describes how preaching helps counseling.

How Preaching Helps Counseling

Weekend corporate worship impacts every aspect of personal ministry throughout the week. On the typical weekend, people learn, questions are answered, relationships are built, and help is offered for living in the midst of a broken world.

Public teaching as part of corporate worship constructs the necessary parameters for private ministry in various capacities among the members of the body. Sunday morning messages set the agenda, provide the content, and cultivate the context for personal ministry throughout the rest of the week.

How does Sunday morning help you counsel on Monday?

Setting the Agenda for Personal Ministry of the Word

Weekend messages help set the agenda for personal ministry throughout the week. Weekly the congregation hears a compelling description of God’s purpose for life—to become more like Christ. The congregants become increasingly aware of God’s desires for them in the midst of various life pressures to grow and change.

Through this teaching, the pastor-teacher equips the believers to do the work of the ministry and to build up the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). Building up the Body of Christ essentially relates to each individual’s challenge as part of the Body to grow in Christ. The process which describes this change is progressive sanctification. As the attenders learn this process, they begin to understand God’s agenda for them to change. By implication, they also learn of their responsibilities to help each other grow and change as they speak the truth to each other in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Providing the Content for Personal Ministry of the Word

Weekend messages provide the content for personal ministry throughout the week. The pastor-teacher through the pulpit ministry teaches congregants biblical truth which grows the congregation in the unity of the faith and knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). The teaching process provides the content necessary for the church to be able to speak the truth in love, which is their duty.

Key issues of content that help enhance personal ministry throughout the week include the following sampling of pertinent subject matters:

  • Union in Christ: The relationship “in Christ” after salvation.
  • Power of the Gospel: The ability in Christ to live consistent with what God desires.
  • Love of Christ: The motivation for living life in a God-honoring way.
  • Grace: The call and comfort of living in Christ.
  • One-Another Commands: The instruction given to help believers live with each other in love.
  • God’s Character and Conduct: The basis for trusting God’s promises and living by faith.
  • Person and Work of Christ: The living Word of God we imitate in daily life and practice.
  • Power and Presence of the Spirit: The believer’s comfort and source of strength.
  • Sin and Suffering: The various pressures of life fit within one of these two categories.
  • Put Off and Put On: The daily response to identifying areas of needed growth and actively pursuing living righteously in Christ.

These various areas of content help provide the necessary foundation from which personal ministry happens. As congregants understand the Bible, conversations flow from known theology. Individuals comprehend what matters most in the midst of pressured circumstances because they share a fundamental corpus of truth which provides for them key biblical ideas whereby they grow in discernment and insight.

Cultivating the Context for Personal Ministry of the Word

Weekend messages cultivate the context for personal ministry throughout the week. The environment of the church promotes an agenda of grace and restoration (Galatians 5:13-6:10; Titus 2:11-15). The entire milieu encourages real life change through personal conversations and lifestyle choices between brothers and sisters in Christ.

Vital to this conversational ministry is the development of authentic relationships among the membership. These relationships provide the atmosphere where truth can and will be spoken in love. There is a passion to see each other grow in Christlikeness together. Each member does his or her part because together they desire God’s best in each other’s lives (Ephesians 4:15-16).

The Pulpit Ministry of the Word Benefits the Personal Ministry of the Word

The pulpit ministry of the Word benefits the personal ministry of the Word. As each pastor prepares the weekend teaching, it is necessary to keep the end in mind. The goal of preparation is to clearly communicate the meaning of the text in an effort to provide the agenda, content, and context for personal ministry where people begin to live out the implications of the text together.

Join the Conversation

How is your church doing? Do your church members participate in each other’s lives in an effort to love and live the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they speak the truth in love to each other as they live out the one-anothers of the Scriptures? Do they use God’s Word to help each other maneuver through life’s suffering and sin? Where do you see evidence of people restoring each other to usefulness in the body?

If you don’t see those things in your church, possibly you need to consider the style, quality, and passion of your weekend messages. In the process of assessment, consider the content of what you are preaching. Are you sharing the vision with your church of life together honoring God as part of each other’s life? Are you communicating a passion for the agenda of growth and change? Are you sharing the message with clear applications and implications for daily living?

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

BCC Weekend Resource: Premarital Counseling Session 1: A Theology of Marriage

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. Deepak Reju— Premarital Counseling Session 1: A Theology of Marriage. This is part of a multipart resource series that Deepak, Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, has made available to you through the BCC.

You can download the full resource for free here.

Topics: People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Premarital | 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.