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

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.

50 Resources for Equipping the Church on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition writes:

“If you’re looking for something to share with people in your church in order to better equip them to discuss homosexuality, same-sex attraction, same-sex marriage, or the biblical view of sexuality, consider one of the following 50 resources.”

Find the links at 50 Resources for Equipping the Church on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage.

3 Reasons a Pastor Should Use His Vacation Time

Pastor Brian Croft interacts about Why Should a Pastor Use All His Vacation Time Each Year.

3 Errors of Musical Style That Stifle Community

Tim Challies writes:

“It is ironic that music, an element meant to draw Christians together in mutual love and service (see Colossians 3:16) has become a force for significant division within the church. It just goes to show, I guess, that we can make a mess of pretty much anything. In their book The Compelling Community, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop point out 3 common errors of musical style can stifle local church community.”

Read Dever and Dunlop’s perspective in 3 Errors of Musical Style That Stifle Community.

Praying the Bible

At the Reformation Theology blog, Donald Whitney shares about Praying the Bible.

The Ultimate Treasure Hunt

At CCEF, Alasdair Groves writes, “I’m increasingly convinced that creation is one big treasure hunt. God apparently loves hiding things in our world for us to discover and develop.” Read the rest of Alasdair’s thoughts in The Ultimate Treasure Hunt.

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: BCC Exclusive, Five To Live By, Homosexuality, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Prayer, Worship | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

5 Reasons to Join Us for the BCC’s First Global Conference: Revive the Nations

Revive The Nations 2016 Conference

I want to share some exciting news!

The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Board of Directors recently agreed to partner with the major biblical counseling organizations in the United States to host a biblical counseling conference with leaders and caregivers from around the world—Revive the Nations will be the BCC’s first Global Biblical Counseling Conference!

Imagine a blend of pastors and biblical counseling leaders from around the world joining together to encourage, equip, and empower the global biblical counseling community.

The conference will take place in Chicago—an international city with easy access and wonderful summer activities! Mark your 2016 calendar for June 5th through the 7th and plan to join us in Chicago, Il!

Here are five reasons to join us…

1. Rejoicing Together

Be encouraged and rejoice with us!

In Psalm 85:6, we read:

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”

We can all use some good news in light of the challenging things going on around us. Rejoice together! God is on the move in the global biblical counseling movement. The BCC has been able to help facilitate unprecedented cooperation and collaboration among biblical counseling leaders and organizations in the last few years.

While we certainly should rejoice in the progress we have seen among ministries and churches in our own country, we need to continue to look beyond our borders and consider God’s heart for the nations. Our partners around the globe are doing a great work for God, but most of us know little about their stories or excellent counseling ministries. Growing unity among like-minded leaders has led to synergy, resulting in a greater outward focus and impact for the universal church. Yet, there is still much work to be done to encourage, equip, and partner with indigenous leaders across the globe. That’s why we’re hosting this conference with the theme of Revive the Nations in partnership with biblical counseling leaders and organizations around the world.

  • Our theme centers on both personal and corporate revival based on the transforming power of God’s Word. Revival starts with us but the ripple effects are contagious.
  • Our purpose is to encourage, equip, and empower a global community of biblical counselors and leaders to join in prayer, share resources freely, and more effectively minister to their people groups.
  • Our training will equip you to address cross-cultural and multiethnic issues relevant to the church today. Together we’ll learn how to impact our diverse communities for Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.

2. Better Together

Be a part of something bigger.

This Global Conference is not about benefitting the BCC, but it is all about encouraging and equipping you and our partners here and around the world. This conference is also not meant to replace ongoing efforts from our para-church partners to equip the church at large; rather, the BCC global conference will be an opportunity to platform their ministries and to further their efforts to reach the nations. As we plan, we are consulting with key leaders from CCEF, ACBC, ABC, and other prominent para-church biblical counseling organizations worldwide. They have all given us their blessing and support for what promises to be an uplifting time of fellowship and training.

Furthermore, it will give all of us opportunities for networking, future collaboration, and translation of solid resources into multiple languages. I trust you will want to be part of this exciting event.

3. Learning Together

Be equipped.

I believe that we have much to learn from each other. There is a need to address issues that are common in biblical counseling, but in a context that promotes a better understanding of each culture and sin strongholds, suffering, and strengths indigenous to various people groups. Just listening to testimonies and training increasing our awareness of how God is moving in other parts of the world through His Spirit could awaken a new passion to pray and help where it is needed most.

Our partners around the globe would agree that the United States is not the only nation that needs healing. The rise of Islam, the burnout of missionaries, and the deterioration of the family are worldwide problems. How do we counsel in a world where sexuality is now defined by a person’s preference, post-Christian culture is rampant, and ethnic and racial conflicts are on the rise? It is time for us to come together to listen, pray, and act on behalf of God and our brothers and sisters from around the world.

4. Glorifying God Together

Be inspired.

Be there because this promises to be one of the most diverse and well-represented gatherings in biblical counseling ever to be held.

Be there because this will be a small foretaste of heaven as we will represent many tribes and tongues together in one spirit worshipping our awesome God!

Be there to encounter God’s holiness personally in a way we hope will revive your soul.

Be there because we will tackle important cross-cultural issues near to the heart of God and relevant to every pastor, counselor, and believer.

Be there to experience afresh the coming together of His saints to glorify Him for all He has done and is yet to do.

Be there so you can take the Word of God back to your ministry context and your community in a way that will revive others.

5. Moving Forward Together

Be an ambassador.

We need you to invite those who have been on the fringe of the movement or those who need to see in a new way how God is moving in biblical counseling to create greater influence in the relatively unreached areas of the world. Join us in crying out to God to revive our strength and bolster our commitment to moving forward together in His name. Imagine the impact this could have on returning the care for souls back to the local churches around the globe that still need to be equipped.

You may be wondering what you can do right now, starting today? Here are three things that we would love for you to take to heart:

  1. Prepare by saving the date and keeping an eye out for future information. Watch the BCC website for more details. Add your name to our mailing list to receive updates via email.
  2. Promote the conference in your church and your circle of influence.
  3. Pray for God to ignite personal revival, unite people groups, and equip the saints in BC.

On Behalf of the BCC Board of Directors,
Garrett Higbee, Executive Director

Sign up here to receive the latest info about the BCC Global Conference: Revive the Nations

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Cross-Cultural Ministry, Discipleship, Equipping, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Worship | Tags: , , , , , ,

7 Gospel-Centered Principles for Protecting Your Marriage

Gospel-CenteredPrinciplesForProtectingMarriage

A Word from Your BCC Team: The following post is from a presentation that Dr. Newheiser gave at IBCD’s Spring Conference. You can listen to the audio here. 

What Must Be Done to Protect a Marriage?

Almost every marriage begins with joy as newlyweds anticipate sharing life together. Sadly, not all couples live happily ever after. A large percentage of marriages end in divorce. Other couples remain married, but drift apart emotionally due to bitterness or mutual indifference. They share a name and a home, but not a life. What can a couple do to preserve the joyful loving intimacy of their marriage? Consider these seven gospel-centered principles…

1. Do Not Take Each Other for Granted

Couples who are courting or engaged spend every spare minute together and can’t bear to be apart for long. But often after they are married each gets so caught up in career, children, hobbies, sports and other activities that the marriage relationship is neglected. Very gradually the couple drifts apart. While there may not be much open conflict, the spark is missing. The wife may notice that something is wrong only to have her husband tell her that she is worried over nothing.

A new marriage, like a new car, needs regular maintenance. It may look and work great today, but if you don’t maintain it, sooner or later it will break down. A husband and wife need to spend time growing closer to one another and enjoying one another. Work harder at romance after your marriage than before. Seeking to grow in intimacy year by year will protect your marriage from falling into disrepair.

2. Make Your Personal Walk with the Lord a Priority

Marriage takes grace. On our own we are selfish sinners. It is only as we are strengthened by God’s Word through His Spirit that we can endure in love. We do not have the power to keep loving in our own strength. Jesus said that if we abide in him we will bear much fruit, but apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

When couples with troubled marriages come to us I typically ask each of them about their prayer and devotional life. In almost every case I have found a correlation between the lack of a vibrant personal walk with the Lord and a failing marriage. We need Scripture’s constant reminders of God’s grace to us which, in turn, motivates us to show grace to others. As we walk in the Spirit we don’t carry out the destructive deeds of the flesh, but instead bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Gal. 5:16-23). If something is not right with your relationship with your spouse, start to address it by first making sure things are right between you and the Lord.

3. Remain Involved in a Strong Church

God blesses and strengthens His people through the ministry of the church, both through the public preaching of the Word and as the members of the body build one another up (Ephesians 4:11-16). The neglect of gathering with the people of God is to the detriment of your soul and to your family (Hebrews 10:25). It also is important for a couple to be in a strong church so that they can benefit from counsel and accountability if their relationship has trouble. I have heard families who have benefited from this kind of faithful pastoral care say, “We don’t know what we would have done if this church hadn’t been here for us.” I also have seen many families who are in the midst of a crisis suffer because they didn’t have godly church leaders caring for their souls (Hebrews 13:17).

4. Quickly and Completely Resolve Conflicts

Many couples will periodically engage in arguments in which each speaks in anger and says hurtful things. Over time they cool down and life goes on without ever properly resolving the disputes. As the years pass their marriage is affected by hurts and scars which never healed. Paul vividly warns the Ephesians of the danger lurking behind unresolved conflict. “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4: 26-27).

To leave an issue unresolved and to remain angry is like letting the devil into your house to wreak his havoc. Marriages fraught with unresolved conflicts are more vulnerable not only to increasingly destructive conflicts, but also to extra-marital affairs. Believing couples must be determined to do whatever is necessary to be fully reconciled to one another.

5. Be Honest With Each Other

Nothing is more destructive to marriages than falsehood. More than once I have heard the victim of marital infidelity say, “I can forgive the sex, but I don’t know if I can forgive the lies or if I can ever trust her again.” Paul tells the Ephesians, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25). In a similar way a married couple becomes one body (Genesis 2:24). If the rest of the body can’t trust the eyes to see danger or the legs to run to safety, then entire body is at risk. We must be able to trust one another.

One aspect of having a truthful marriage is that each spouse must strive to make it safe for the other to honestly confess sins and failings. A wife may not want to tell her husband that she got a traffic ticket because she fears his angry reaction. A husband who has visited a strip club may fear a dramatic emotional outburst from his wife. Even if it is hard to hear the truth, we can give thanks to God for helping the other person to be honest. As sinners who have received much grace from God we can have compassion on our fellow sinners by helping restore rather than condemn them.

6. Be Circumspect in Your Dealings with the Other Sex

Few Christians plan to have an affair. Yet many wind up in an inappropriate physical or emotional relationship which threatens their marriage and even their souls. In counseling such cases, I have observed that they typically follow a certain pattern. A man and a woman are acquainted through work, the gym, children’s activities, or even the church. They start talking and find that they enjoy one another’s company. Over time one or both of them begin to develop feelings for the other. They find that they look forward to the next time they see each other and start communicating through e-mail, social media, or the phone. At some point a barrier is crossed. There is a touch, then an admission of attraction, then a kiss. The slide into an affair continues, usually until they are caught, or sometimes when the conscience of one can’t stand the guilt.

Many will be hurt. Marriages may end.

Don’t think that it can’t happen to you. If a man as good as King David could fall into adultery, you too are vulnerable. You must be very careful in relationships with the opposite sex, not because you think you would do something wrong, but because you are determined not to.

7. Be Gracious to Each Other

Just as the Lord deals with us not according to what we deserve (Psalm 103:10), we are to treat our spouses better than they deserve. Their sins and failures provide opportunities for us to show grace which resembles the grace we have received from God. In an ideal marriage each party tries to outdo the other in showing love.

As Paul tells the believers in Colossae:

“So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

A marriage characterized by such grace will be well safeguarded.

Join the Conversations

What additional gospel-centered principles would you share for protecting your marriage?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Marriage & Family, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Relationships | Tags: , ,

A Vision for Soul Care in the Church

VisionSoulCareChurch

What is your vision for soul care, discipleship, and counseling? This was the question we had to address at our church some years ago. What follows is our answer to that question, which now serves as our vision for soul care at College Park Church.

My hope in sharing this is to offer some help to those who may be wrestling with that question and to invite dialogue about the effectiveness of biblical counseling ministries to further the discipleship purposes of the church.

Soul Care Ministry Vision Statement

The Hope of Real Life Change through a Culture of Soul Care

College Park Church’s mission is “Igniting a passion to follow Jesus,” and we see Soul Care—the ministry to the soul through intentional, preventative, and intensive relationships—as a vital and necessary ministry that should be woven through the fabric of all church ministries. Soul care involves three pillars:

  • Intentional community
  • Preventative discipleship
  • Intensive counseling

The Elders and Pastors of College Park believe that every follower of Jesus should be involved, at some level, in soul care. Our passion is to see the hope of gospel-centered soul care lived out through real life change personally and through being a part of real life change in the lives of others.

Soul Care’s aim is to get underneath the veneer of life to spiritual root causes, share the transforming message of the gospel, and to see people’s lives radically transformed. Soul Care’s method is to intersect the issues of life with the power of the written Word (the Bible) and the living Word (Jesus).

Soul Care’s call is rooted in the command to “make disciples,” something that Jesus called all believers to embrace in the Great Commission.

Soul Care’s context is intentionally invasive relationships that flow from the body of Christ.

Soul Care Ministry Vision Lived Out

Therefore, at College Park Church, we will live out this vision in the following ways:

  • We will continually grow in our understanding of the life-changing reality of the gospel.
  • We will boldly proclaim that hope for real life change is found through Jesus Christ.
  • We will call people to radical life change in every ministry venue.
  • We will embrace the fact that real life change is something everyone must be involved in personally and in the lives of the people around them.
  • We will celebrate the role of the Word, the body of Christ, and individual believers in the partnership for life change.
  • We will value the role of preventative and intensive life change and invite our people to be part of the solution in formal and informal relationships.
  • We will train all of our people in the use of the Word so that they are equipped to be catalysts for change in their realm of influence.
  • We will rely on the Spirit and the Word through the power of prayer.
  • We will realize this vision in the context of relationships and community.
  • We will set our sights on inviting the broader community of Indianapolis to experience the power of life change through Soul Care.
  • We will encourage and empower other churches to join us in this journey.

Since the gospel offers real hope through a life-changing relationship with Jesus, we want our church to reflect the reality, power, and experience of real life change personally and through caring for the souls of others.

Join the Conversation

What vision do you and your church have for soul care?

What have you found helpful in developing a vision?

What would you add or take away from this vision statement?

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

Putting Your Past in Its Place

PuttingYourPastInItsPlace

Suffering or Sinning?

One of the many encouraging trends in the biblical counseling movement is an increased emphasis on the place of suffering in our model and practice. Much more is being written and said about the sadness and brokenness of life than ever before. I believe our sympathetic Savior is pleased by this development and it has certainly given me direction as I contemplate what wise pastoral ministry sounds, looks, and feels like with people in my office who are under severe trial.

However, as with all corrections, there is the possibility of driving into the ditch on the other side of the road. Rarely are these two categories mutually exclusive. Suffering and sinning are less like marbles and more like molasses. Wisdom calls us to carefully and skillfully discern the truth about each person’s past so we can guide them in the next steps in the sanctification process.

Distinguishing Things that Truly Differ

Consider two different characters from Scripture who suffered deeply—Naomi in the book of Ruth and Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. Naomi’s husband and sons died during a time of famine in a foreign land. Paul had a persistent, unnamed thorn in the flesh that tormented him. There is no doubt about the significance of their agony, but should a biblical counselor treat both persons in an identical fashion?

Naomi responded to her pain with unbelief and bitterness. She instructed her daughters-in-law to go back to their people and to their gods (Ruth 1:15). She twisted the narrative of her past (Ruth 1:21) with the suggestion that they had left Bethlehem full (when truthfully it was a time of famine) and brought her back empty (when actually the instrument of God’s salvation was standing right next to her).

Paul authentically and repeatedly called out to God in his anguish (2 Corinthians 12:8). He balanced his pain with the blessings and responsibilities of his apostleship (2 Corinthians 12:7). And he praised God even when he did not receive the deliverance he sought (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Both Paul and Naomi had great suffering in the past. But treating them in the same fashion would involve ignoring key aspects of their respective stories that require an approach to trials that is much more nuanced.

The Challenge in the Counseling Room

During a time of trial, many of us find it easier to focus on the abuse and failures of others than our own shortcomings and sins. In short, we often think we are like Paul when we are more like Naomi.

Helping our counselees make this important transition in their thinking requires the wisdom of Solomon. Often we need to spend hours listening carefully to the way others mistreated our spiritual friend. We have to genuinely care about the pain of that experience and gently take them to our Savior’s throne of grace.

But in order to truly serve the hurting people the Lord brings into our lives, at some point we have to help them consider ways they may have displeased God in their response. Naomi was not responsible for the famine or the deaths of those closest to her. But leaving her in self-proclaimed bitterness (Ruth 1:20) falls far short of the robust way Scripture calls upon us to help. Wisdom says; “He who covers his sin shall not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). May God grant us the necessary balance as we help others handle their pasts.

A Word from Your BCC Team: For additional biblical insight into dealing with you past, we encourage you to consider Pastor Viars’ excellent book, Putting Your Past in Its Place: Moving Forward in Freedom and Forgiveness.

Join the Conversation

How do you seek to discern whether a person’s response to their suffering is more like Paul’s or more like Naomi’s?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Grief/Loss, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Suffering | Tags: , , , , ,

BCC Weekend Megaphone Post: ACBC’s Standards of Doctrine

ACBCDoctrine

A Word from the BCC Staff: Frequently on weekends at the BCC we use our “megaphone” to make you aware of significant happenings in the biblical counseling world. We do so today by alerting you to a new and ongoing endeavor by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

Standards of Doctrine

In a recent post at the ACBC’s blog site, Heath Lambert, their Executive Director, notes that:

“We believe that counseling is a theological discipline that must be informed by the truths of the faith once for all delivered to the saints in the pages of Holy Scripture.”

Dr. Lambert then goes on to explain the lengthy and ongoing process that the ACBC is moving through to craft and affirm an ACBC doctrinal statement.

You can read about the process and view the current draft of the doctrinal statement at The Standards of Doctrine of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, 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.

R.C. Sproul Responds to the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Renewing Your Mind has an interview with R.C. Sproul that you can listen to at A Response to the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling.

36 Links on the SCOTUS Ruling

Just in case you missed it, last week here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition we provided direct links to 3 Dozen Posts on the Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage.

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

Kevin DeYoung asks 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags.

Opening Our Eyes

David Schrock provides an extensive list of links regarding the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage. Opening Our Eyes to Obergefell and Its Effects: A Pastoral, Cultural, and Legal Round-Up.

Lessons for the Marriage Debate from the Pro-Life Movement

Russell Moore points out that this new SCOTUS same-sex decision, while historically novel, harkens back to another landmark case—Roe v. Wade. We’ve been on the “wrong” side of a Supreme Court decision before, and as the pro-life movement has shown us, there is a constructive way forward. Read about it in Lessons for the Marriage Debate from the Pro-Life Movement.

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: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Five To Live By, Homosexuality, Marriage & Family, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sin | Tags: , , , , , , ,

5 Practical Steps for Cross-Cultural Equipping: An Appeal for Curriculum Flexibility in Overseas Training

5PracticalStepsCrossCultural

American ethnocentricity can have devastating consequences.

To be clear, I’m an American. And I’m grateful for the blessings God has made available to me as an American. One of those favors is that, like most of the people reading this blog, God has given me the privilege of having some training in biblical counseling. And, like some of the people reading this blog, I have also been privileged of the Lord to spend significant time in other nations.

In fact, in the first nine years of its existence, OIC has trained pastors and other Christian leaders in more than 20 nations. We also continue to maintain a significant “waiting list” of nations who have contacted us, seeking our help.

As a result, our Lord has allowed me to learn a few things about doing biblical counseling training in other nations. One lesson seems more important than the others.

One size DOES NOT fit all.

On a recent Monday morning I enjoyed a Skype call with a couple of dear brothers. One, a leader in our movement, had commended the ministry of OIC to the other, a leader of a school in another country. As we discussed the curriculum that might be used in that setting, the school administrator was clear about this: a polemic approach would be completely inappropriate.

Twelve hours later I was chatting with a brother from halfway around the world. As we discussed what I might teach there, he emphasized the necessity of constructing a clear distinction between the systems of psychological thought and practice (both secular and integrationist) and a biblical sufficiency-based approach to soul care. He said, “Wayne, you’re going to war!”

This need for flexibility is curriculum planning is true even when programs are in the same country. (See my earlier blog.) In one nation, our academic program students made it clear that their country was becoming “highly psychologized.” But a five-hour train ride to our modular program location introduced us to people who never even heard of trying to combine objective truth with subjective observation. They said, “If you’re a Christian, you should believe the Bible!” (Amen!)

In yet another country a leader told us, “Our believers are psychologized, but making a clear distinction in approaches should come later rather than earlier.”

How Does the Bible Illustrate This Point?

Flexibility in the way you approach your ministry task—any ministry task, really—is a matter of careful research and case wisdom.

The Apostle Paul had a custom of sharing Jesus as the Christ in the synagogues of the towns he visited. But, in successive chapters, he maintained that custom (Acts 17:2, 10); he engaged Greeks in the Aeropagus (Acts 17:22-31); he taught in the house of Titius Justus, a Gentile (Acts 18:7); and he returned to speaking in a synagogue (Acts 18:19).

In describing this activity a few years later, Paul said,

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, emphasis added).

So, What Are We to Do?

Here are some practical steps to make your overseas biblical counseling training as effective as possible:

  1. Study the culture in which God is sending you to serve.

Perhaps the highest compliment I’ve received recently was given to me by a pastor in one of our far-away locations. He said, “Thanks for not being ‘an American.’” I knew exactly what he meant. Americans have a reputation for being arrogant and demanding. We go to train with a pre-determined curriculum and present it whether or not it meets the needs of the nationals. This “take-it-or-leave-it” approach is both offensive and ineffective.

  1. Get well-acquainted with the national partner who will be hosting your instruction.

Is the on-site partner a national or a missionary? If a missionary, how long have they served in this place? The answers to these questions will help you assess the accuracy of the answers to the other issues.

  1. Learn all you can about the theological and ministerial training of those you will teach.

In some places even the pastors are illiterate or barely literate. In other places there is a strong and historic Arminian theology. And there are places where what little biblical training is available is mixed with Catholicism, animism, or mysticism. And remember: once you cross the waters, all denominational names lose the meanings you’ve come to know in America.

  1. Develop your training curriculum on the basis of what you have discovered in #1-3.

Prayerfully consider not only what to teach (and the order of the subjects you’ll address), but how to teach (your pedagogical approach) and how much to teach in the time you’ve been given.

  1. Prepare to adapt your curriculum—in country, if necessary—as you come to learn the culture and its people.

Sometimes you just need to stop, review, explain, and expand on what you’ve taught. Don’t be a slave to your curriculum plan. Rather, seek to meet the needs of those God has called you to serve.

Join the Conversation

How have you adjusted your curriculum when training soul care providers overseas? What do you believe are the most critical issues in deciding how to make these adjustments?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Cross-Cultural Ministry, Equipping, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

The 88th Note on Religious Rights, Gay Rights: Faith’s Focus after the Supreme Court Decision

The88thNote

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog was first posted in the form of an Op-Ed article written by Pastor Steve Viars for the Lafayette Journal and Courier. You can read the online version here. It was also posted on the Faith Church’s blog, and is republished with permission. You can read the post on Faith’s site here.

The 88th Note

The question I’ve been asked most frequently by people outside Faith Church since the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage is what an organization like us plans to do now. I find that surprising because responding to decisions about how other people choose to live is at best the 88th note on our piano. We’re not political junkies, culture warriors, or media pundits because such activities are far afield from our God-given mission. The simple answer to the question is that we intend to do the same things we’ve been doing since we were founded by a small group of followers of Jesus on South 18th Street fifty years ago.

First, we intend to continue to focus on our own sin.

The Christian life is a joyful celebration of our risen Savior who died on the cross of Calvary to free us from the penalty, power, and someday even the presence of sin. Since repenting and placing our faith in Christ, we are now in the delightful process of spiritual growth. We want to love God and seek biblical truth about how to become better people, spouses, parents, employees, and members of our community. So our goal is to deal with our own imperfections—not the possible shortcomings of others.

Some people like to say “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Honestly, that is not where Faith is coming from because that slogan gives the impression we think others are sinners and we’re not. The more we come to understand the holiness of God as revealed in His Word, the more we see our own need for change. We find great hope in the possibility of growing in Christ, but it is a full-time pursuit. So, right now and in the foreseeable future, we plan to hate our own sin. We think that focus will keep us plenty busy right up until the day of eternity.

Second, we plan to continue to find creative ways to love our neighbors.

That’s the other weakness with the “hate the sin, love the sinner” approach. It suggests that we first and foremost think about those around us as sinners. Do we all sin and fall short of the glory of God? Sure, if the Bible’s view on the subject is to be believed (Romans 3:23). But Scripture specifically and repeatedly commands us not to wrongfully judge people (cf. Matthew 7:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12), but instead to love them. We have no intention of allowing the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to make us angry, cynical, separated, or self-righteous.

There are many pressing needs in our community, and we want to bring whatever financial and human resources the Lord has entrusted to us to the table to join hands with others to sacrificially serve. So if you would self-identify as someone other than a follower of Christ, here’s the way the people of Faith wish to relate to you: as our neighbor whom we would consider it a privilege to love.

Third, we will continue to invite others to join us on this great journey of faith.

The gospel by its very definition is good news about a God who forgives, cleanses, and changes those who come to Him in repentance and faith. We love sharing this story of hope with those interested in having a personal relationship with Him. It was instructive to us that the same week the Supreme Court issued its ruling, God gave our congregation the privilege of seeing several children and adults come to know Jesus Christ through Vacation Bible School and our Community Biblical Counseling Ministry. The Lord reigns over all.

Fourth, on the rare occasions when we believe we should play our 88th note, we want to play it well.

We understand that the next step in this discussion is the desire on the part of many to add sexual orientation and gender identity to our state’s anti-discrimination laws. People on both sides are already lining up for the next stage of the battle.

We believe there is a better way forward that could actually unite our community and state instead of dividing it yet again. Why not come together and seek a genuine compromise that acknowledges and respects the legitimate rights and concerns of both groups? Isn’t that what Hoosier hospitality is really all about?

We stand ready to participate in any attempt to bring peacemaking and unity to this divisive issue. And if our friends and neighbors on the left—or on the right for that matter—seem to be out of balance in a way that threatens religious freedom, we’ll probably point that out. But we’ll try to do it kindly, logically, and rarely.

In the meantime, our intent is to continue to make the main thing the main thing. The gospel of Jesus Christ deserves nothing less.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Homosexuality, Local Church Ministry, Marriage & Family, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

3 Biblical Principles from Charleston

3PrinciplesfromCharleston

Twenty-one-year-old Dylann Roof, a white man, sat through a Bible study on June 17th at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Around 9 p.m. he fatally shot nine black members of the church! Roof uttered some racist comments before killing his nine black victims. One of his desires was to “start a race war.”

Roof’s father called authorities after seeing his son’s picture in the media. Roof was taken into custody in Shelby, North Carolina, after a tip from Debbie Dills, a white woman, who saw Roof driving on the highway. Debbie praises God for allowing her to spot Roof.

As tragic as this event was, the response of most family members of the victims is instructive and hopeful. What an incredible lesson of how to be light during a culturally dark time.

Christians are increasingly being defined as haters, homophobic, non-progressive, racists, etc., through the mainstream media. As the culture continues to call us “evildoers,” how should we respond? How can we change the headlines? How can we focus the spotlight, be it briefly, on the truth?

Difficult times present opportunities to model a message that silences many of our critics. The message of trust, obedience and forgiveness, and unity within the body must be consistently modeled. These biblical principles can be seen from the response of many to the Charleston shootings.

Trust: God Is Sovereign (1 Peter 4:12-19)

Believers in the most difficult of circumstances should, by faith, trust in the sovereign control of God over their lives. We may not totally understand why tragic events touch our loved ones, but we cling, even through tears, to the sovereign God who loves us.

Numerous voices from Charleston spoke of the God in whom they trusted. They ran to God during their trials rather than running from and blaming Him. Where would you turn if your loved one was fatally shot in the church? How do you handle disappointments?

Good Works, Obedience, and Forgiveness (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12-15, 18-25)

More amazing than trust in God was the expressed obedience to the command to forgive! Relatives of the victims were allowed to speak to Mr. Roof through a glass mirror as he faced the judge. “You took something very precious from me, but I forgive you,” said Nadine Collier the daughter of shooting victim Ethel Lance.

“We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the One who matters the most. Christ. So that He can change it.” These were Anthony Thompson’s words to the accused gunman. These statements and others were broadcast internationally through mainstream media!

Unity within the Body (John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 2:17; 4:8)

The church members modeled the strength of their fellowship. Through tears, hugs, and messages of hope there was a resolve to move forward in faith. The city of Charleston, the state of South Carolina, our nation, and the world took note of a community embracing their God and one another during a tragic time, while forgiving the perpetrator of the crime!

Mr. Roof wanted to ignite a race war. Instead, he caused faith and a diverse fellowship of people to be displayed around the world through the media!

Do we need a tragedy to bring our faith and love through good works to light? Could the Charleston event stir us to deeper trust, obedience and forgiveness, and unity within the body simply because we love God, His Word, people, and will? We must become proactive in preparing to be salt and light in a rapidly decaying and darkening culture.

Practical Questions to Begin a Conversation

Given the direction of the American culture, how can we demonstrate our trust in a sovereign God?

How can we demonstrate obedience to God—at home, work, church, community, nation, etc.—that will bring glory to God?

How can we demonstrate love for one another that will cause unbelievers to affirm that we are Christ followers?

How do we expand unity within the body of Christ rooted in truth and love?

What might capture the attention of the secular media concerning the power of the Word of God to transform lives?

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

About the BCC

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