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

BCC Weekend Resource: A Marriage Preparation Inventory

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— A Marriage Preparation Inventory. 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: ,

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.

Looking Forward to Heaven

What difference does our view of heaven make for our daily lives now? Randy Alcorn addresses this vital question in Looking Forward to a Heaven We Can Imagine.

7 Benefits of Partnership

We rarely highlight one of our own posts in these Friday 5 posts, but today we make an exception. Our Executive Director, Garrett Higbee, writes about 7 Benefits of Partnership: Why Partner with the BCC.

4 Sermon Types to Avoid

Derek Thomas, blogging at Ligonier Ministries, outlines 4 Sermon Types to Avoid.

3 Surprising Essentials to Spiritual Success

Pastor J.D. Greear looks to one of the least remembered of the judges—Ehud—to derive 3 Surprising Essentials to Spiritual Success.

Leave It to Beaver, Sex and the City, and a Woman’s Happiness

Mary Kassian ponders our changing sense of personal satisfaction in Leave It to Beaver, Sex and the City, and a Woman’s Happiness.

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: , , , , ,

8 Principles of GRACE Relationships

8 Principles of GRACE Relationships

Biblical counselors are lifelong learners. Our counselees often expose areas where we would profit from more wisdom. When a counselee raises questions for which we are not prepared to answer, do we withdraw in fear, or do we resolve to increase our biblical wisdom?

An Unusual Counseling Session

A surprising response to a question I asked created in me a hunger to grow in biblical discernment in regards to race relations within the church. Almost forty years ago, I was confronted with a question that surprised me at the time. I did not have an immediate answer.

Seeking biblical answers to questions from people whose cultural groups have been treated unjustly in the name of biblical Christianity has been an area of study for me for decades. Sadly, many Bible-believing Christians are not aware of many of the issues.

Ignorance need not silence us indefinitely. As biblical counselors, we must always be willing to learn, confess, and repent. Today I remain on a lifelong journey learning the cultural language of people different from me. Many are offended, but the grace of God can redeem and reconcile us in one body.

An Unusual Counseling Office (Matthew 20:19-20)

It was not a normal counseling environment. I sat in my “office chair”—the driver’s seat of my car—with six potential counselees. We were returning home after listening to an evangelist at a youth rally. All of us were teenagers, and I was the only Christian. I had invited them to the youth event so that they might hear a clear presentation of the gospel.

A Little Precounseling Session (Romans 10:1-2, 14-15)

The evangelist delivered a passionate and pointed message. He denounced many of the sins that seduced young people: alcohol, drugs, premarital sex, etc. He gave a clear presentation of the gospel and called upon any who desired to be saved to come forward. None of my friends responded to an invitation to hear how to accept Christ.

The ride home was unusually quiet for a car full of teenagers. It was well-known that I had recently become “religious” and was sharing with others. While driving, my mind was wrestling with how I should engage my friends in a conversation about the gospel. Fear of their possible rejection of the gospel and a breach of our friendship caused hesitation. Finally, I broke the silence with the question, “So what did you think about the meeting?”

Herein I Stand (Acts 20:24)

The minute of silence following my question seemed like five to ten minutes. “How could he say that?” an agitated and loud voice broke the silence. Knowing Tim’s (not the real name) lifestyle, my mind began to run through a list of his sins and prepare for a scriptural response to his anticipated defense of his sins.

My internal discomfort increased, as I anticipated the ensuing conflict. However, I wanted to stand for and suffer, if need be, for Christ. Everyone else in the car was quietly listening to our conversation. All eyes were on me. This was biblical counseling in the marketplace!

“How could he say what?” was my probing response.

“How could he say…” as he began to speak, my resolve to stand for righteousness and call for repentance intensified.

Surprised (Acts 10-11)

Then came my surprise! “How could he say, “Everybody should go to a Christian college when many of their schools would not even let us in?” Everyone in my car, including me, were black.  We were probably the only blacks at the youth rally.

Wow! I was not prepared for this question. I was silenced. I am ashamed to say that I was not well informed about the historical fact that blacks were not admitted to some white churches, Christian high schools, and Christian colleges, simply because they were black.

It can be disarming when your counselee believes or know that the group you are identified with have not always behaved in a gospel-honoring manner. I must admit that I did not have a good biblical, or personal, response to the question raised. I shared my testimony of the power of the gospel in my life. Tim and I never continued the counseling session.

Grace Relations

Since that time, I have studied the history of race relations within the church in the US. A coworker and I created a college course, Culture, Race and the Church, in the early 1990s. (The course is a required at Crossroads Bible College). As we taught this course together, I was enlightened as to why many minorities resist the gospel when associated with Christians who are white.

One enlightening fact is that normally the more biblically conservative the church group, the more supportive they were of slavery, segregation, and discrimination. Check into the split of the Baptists over racial policies. I am still on a journey seeking to reconcile these facts and how to counsel others struggling with church history in regards to cultural segregation.

Additionally, America’s multicultural communities continue to increase. We have cultural communities segregated by various ethnic backgrounds, age, economic, educational, geographic, disabilities, etc.

Grace (God’s Reconciliation At Christ’s Expense) relations provide a foundation to encourage us to discuss the past openly and to create a compelling model for the future (John 13:34-35). As we engage people of different cultures, let us keep the following in mind:

  1. Learn to pray for the humanly impossible: Ephesians 3:14-21.
  1. The Word of God is profitable: 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5.
  1. It is profitable to study cultural perceptions: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
  1. Be the first one to love: 1 John 4:10-11.
  1. Be humble and easy to approach: James 3:13-18.
  1. The gospel of grace saves: 1 Timothy 1:12-16.
  1. The gospel of grace transforms: Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 1:22-23.
  1. The gospel brings confession and reconciliation: Acts 10-11; Ephesians 4:1-6.

We need to have honest and loving conversations. Remember we are on a journey, none of us have arrived yet.

The Rest of the Story (Added by the BCC Team)

For further insight into multiethnic relationships and ministry, the Biblical Counseling Coalition recommends that you consider the following books by Dr. Charles Ware:

Join the Conversation

How could you implement the 8 principles of GRACE relationships in your ministry—in particular in multiethnic ministry?

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

The “Wedding” of Biblical Counseling and Biblical Peacemaking

Conflict Resolution Series--The Wedding of Biblical Counseling and Biblical Peacemaking

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today we conclude our BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on conflict, conflict resolution, and peacemaking. In today’s post, Robert Jones helps us to see the beauty that results when we join together biblical counseling and biblical peacemaking. You can also read Part 1 in this series by Judy Dabler: The “Frangible” Heart and Part 2 by Robert Cheong: Fresh Hope for Marriage.

BC, BP, a Prodigal Son, and a Struggling Marriage

I love biblical counseling (BC)…and biblical peacemaking (BP). I have pursued training, supervision, and credentialing as both a certified biblical counselor and a certified Christian conciliator. In fact, if a BC and a BP organization wed, I would attend the ceremony but not know which side of the aisle to sit on! The parallel and complementary skills each group teaches, united by Christ and His Word, can expand our ministries.

I think today of Michael, Amanda, and their 19-year-old son Brandon (pseudonyms and composites of various cases) who still lives at home. Brandon is a non-Christian who has defied his parents and pursued his own way of drugs, alcohol, sexual sin, and no college, no steady employment, and no household responsibilities.

Michael and Amanda, however, are believers. They seek your counsel. They of course have parenting problems—conflicts with their son. Like some dads in these cases, Michael has erred on the side of anger and harsh discipline. Like some moms, Amanda has erred on the side of passive enablement and discipline-less “love.” Both have allowed Brandon’s sins to provoke them, and each has responded sinfully.

But Amanda and Michael also have marriage problems—conflict with each other. Like many husbands and wives in these cases, they have allowed Brandon to divide them. Michael blames Amanda for “coddling him” and for not supporting his leadership efforts to enforce house rules. He blames her for Brandon’s condition (“You have spoiled him”) and reminds her of Proverbs 13:24 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15.

Amanda blames Michael for being too harsh (“You are always mad; you don’t see it, but Brandon and I do”) and for not trying to cultivate a healthy father-son relationship (“He hates you”). She blames him for Brandon’s condition and reminds him of Proverbs 15:1 and Colossians 3:21. Michael wants Brandon to move out (“He needs the school of hard knocks”); Amanda wants him to stay (“Where will he go?” “He has no money or job”).

A Big-Picture Path

What do Michael and Amanda need to do? Let me suggest a big-picture path that would reflect solid BC and BP training.

First, Michael and Amanda must recognize the centrality of a fourth Person. To what extent do each of them listen to and follow their Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27)? Do they live in light of God’s saving work (Ephesians 1:3–14)?

In response, do they seek to please and glorify God (2 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 10:31)—to live for the Savior who died and rose for them (2 Corinthians 5:14–15)? What competing demands, hopes, loves, idols, treasures, etc., distract them from pursuing the Lord in their relationships? The best versions of BC and BP prioritize the vertical relationship.

Second, how do Michael and Amanda treat each other? Do they manifest Colossians 3:12? In response to God’s grace (“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…”), do they “clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience?”

Do they believe that the one-flesh marital union (Genesis 2:24) requires Christlike communication and unified parenting? Given their mutual anger and blame shifting, do they repent, confess, and forgive each other?

Biblical counselors might use concurrent (individual) and conjoint marital counseling (together) formats, and biblical peacemakers might use conflict coaching (individual) and marital mediation (together) formats. The best versions of BC and BP agree that addressing Brandon requires a reconciled, united marriage.

Third, having reconciled relational offenses, Michael and Amanda need to decide how to treat Brandon. Biblical peacemakers distinguish between personal/relational issues (above paragraph) and substantive/material issues (this paragraph), in that order. Here the skills shared by both BC and BP (e.g., active listening, brainstorming, negotiating, caucusing, role-paying, homework) can assist this couple to form a united plan of action, including a covenant with Brandon about what will be required to live in their house and some worst-case scenarios.

Fourth, Michael and Amanda must ask God’s Spirit to give them a heart of love and attitudinal forgiveness toward him (after all, he has sinned against them repeatedly and deeply). Each must identify his or her sins (of both commission and omission) against Brandon, confess them to God and Brandon, and seek Brandon’s forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24; 7:3–5; James 4:6), even if he will not forgive them. While too often omitted, this humble step pleases God, communicates love to Brandon, makes it easier for Brandon to humble himself and receive the next step, and encourages the other spouse to take the same step.

Fifth, with their consciences cleared and their love for their son reaffirmed, Michael and Amanda can now talk with Brandon in wise and caring ways about his sins (Matthew 7:5b; 18:15) and about what it will look like for him as an adult to continue to live with them. This can and should include allowing appropriate give-and-take negotiation (about house rules, responsibilities, consequences, etc.), recognizing the homeowners have final say. Of course, if he is unwilling to meet or discuss these matters, Amanda and Michael will have to follow the worst-case scenarios they previously discussed. If so, the consequences will result from Brandon’s choice and the parents will need to entrust him to God.

As a simple outline, the above path requires great sensitivity to handle the highly charged emotions that usually exist. It also requires flexibility. It does not address nuances. It makes no guarantees that Brandon will change. But the approach incorporates the joint wisdom of some of the best BC and BP practices to help the Michaels and Amandas around us.

The Rest of the Story (Added by the BCC Team)

The BCC team recommends that you consider Dr. Jones’ book Pursuing Peace as a resource tool that expands on a number of points in this blog post.

Join the Conversation

How has God honored your efforts to follow one or more of the above steps in your own life or ministry in these types of cases?

If you have had some exposure or training in both biblical counseling and biblical peacemaking, how have they each helped your own life or your ministry with others?

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

Fresh Hope for Marriage

Conflict Resolution Series--Fresh Hope for Marriage

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today we continue our BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on conflict, conflict resolution, and peacemaking. In today’s post, Robert Cheong brings together beautifully the rhythm of worship and the rhythm of marriage and how they empower us to address marital conflict leading to marital growth in Christ. You can also read Part 1 in this series by Judy Dabler: The “Frangible” Heart.

The Rhythms of Marriage

Marriage is good, but marriage is hard. After 31 years of marriage, Karen and I most certainly haven’t arrived. We don’t have too many things figured out except for one thing…we both desperately need Jesus to live life with God and with one another. Even after all these years, conflict can pop up instantly with a disapproving look, a defensive response, or an unmet expectation. I used to be surprised at how selfish and unloving I can be toward my bride, but no longer.

God infused fresh hope and clarity for my own marriage as I prepared for our last Redeem Marriage event when we gather as couples to renew our vision, hearts, and oneness as husbands and wives. As I brainstormed with our Worship and Arts Pastor, Mike Cosper, we got excited as we both realized how the rhythms of our weekly Sunday worship inform our marriage daily.

We Worship Through Our Marriage

Mike suggests in his book, Rhythms of Grace, that when we gather as a church to worship, we reaffirm our vows to God as we are reminded of who He is and the promises He has made to us through Jesus Christ. In this way, our gathered worship is like a marriage covenant renewal.

As I considered this idea of marriage and worship, I was reminded that God calls us to live every aspect of life as an act of worship (Romans 12:1). Given this radical way of living, worship is not something to be added to marriage. Rather, we worship through our marriage.

The more I thought about the rhythms of the gospel (adoration-confession-assurance or pardon and passing of peace-receiving and responding to God’s Word-communion-benediction) that we rehearse during our Sunday worship, the more God encouraged and convicted me of my own marriage.

As I thought about adoration, I realized that as a couple, we often settle for a superficial life. When overwhelmed by life’s demands, we can seek rest and refuge through Netflix. A nagging question kept floating in my head, “How often do we enjoy adoring God together as husband and wife?” I first thought about ways I could intentionally worship and experience God with Karen each Sunday. By simply putting my arm around her as we stand to sing or reach for her hand as we sit to pray, I can be reminded I am not alone as I worship God. We have the privilege to adore God as husband and wife.

I then thought about how we can adore God throughout the week with greater intentionality. We can make a point to share with one another our moments of adoration during our individual times with God. We can adore God in the moment by praying together, praising God for who He is and what He has done through Jesus Christ.

Imagine how much conflict could be avoided if we spent more time gazing at God rather than glaring at one another.

As I thought about confession, I considered our conflicts that emerge from misunderstandings, selfish desires, and self-protective maneuvers. When our focus is self-centered, confession feels more like punishment than an invitation to enjoy life with God and each other. Aside from times of conflicts, what would it look like to have regular rhythms of confession before God with your spouse?

As I considered assurance of pardon and passing of peace, I wondered what opportunities I may have missed in assuring Karen of God’s forgiveness in Christ, let alone my forgiveness of her in the aftermath of our conflict. The thought of assuring her of God’s love and offering her the peace I have from God through Christ gave me a renewed vision for our life together and the sweetness that results from encouraging each other in Christ.

Receiving and responding to God’s Word is something we do on our own, but I started to imagine the beauty and power of engaging God and His Word more deeply as one flesh. If this rhythm is essential for our individual life with God, just think how important it is for a husband and wife to share this essential rhythm as a couple and grow in oneness. Imagine how we can experience each other differently before, during, and after conflict if we seek to hear and submit to God and His Word more than seeking to be heard and demanding the other submit to our desires.

We celebrate communion each week as a tangible reminder that Christ’s body was broken and His blood was shed on our behalf. As I reflected on communion, God reminded me of two things: (1) Christ died for me AND Karen, and (2) we tend to spend more time remembering what the other has done to us and what the other hasn’t done for us more than remembering what Christ has done for both of us. God’s reminder of these two points was both freeing and life giving!

Each Sunday, we close each service with a benediction, a blessing for the road. The benediction is a charge to go and live boldly and confidently in Christ as we participate with God in His mission. I thought about the privilege of blessing one another as we leave for work in the morning. Since I tend to leave before Karen and the kids wake up, I have gotten into the rhythm of standing in the hallway outside their doors and offer a prayer of blessing for each of them. It’s a special 60 seconds of time with God before I head out.

We are far from getting into a regular rhythm in all of these areas. We’re better with some movements than others. However, I am excited the gospel offers timeless rhythms of grace we can live out not only in our weekly worship but also in our daily marriage.

The Rest of the Story

Click here for a link for the Redeem Marriage Booklet, “Marriage as Worship.” The first part of the booklet contains the order of worship we enjoyed during our gathering. The back of the booklet offers a guide to help couples engage one another for prayer and conversation following the rhythms of worship.

Join the Conversation

Use these rhythms of worship to assess the rhythms in your marriage. Which rhythms are making beautiful harmony? Which rhythms are lacking?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Conflict, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives, Worship | Tags: , , ,

7 Benefits of Partnership: Why Partner with the BCC?

7 Benefits of Partnership--Why Partner with the BCC

I am one of those people who never puts my money toward anything I don’t believe in. I don’t like getting cold calls on my home phone (yes, I still have a home phone) because they are usually wanting to sell me something I don’t need. But once in a while there is an appeal for support that captures my attention because it lines up with the things I value. It was like that with the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

I was fortunate enough to be a founding board member, and this year became the Executive Director. But back in 2009 they had me at:

“What if all the biblical counseling leaders joined forces to support, collaborate, and promote the biblical counseling movement together?”

My immediate response was, “Sign me up! How can I help?”

In the past six years we have worked hard to advance the biblical counseling movement and have seen the Lord bless our efforts. So I am not just the Executive Director; I am a willing and excited BCC Partner.

What about you?!

Your Opportunity to Partner with the BCC

Our BCC Partner Ministry makes it possible for you to have an active role in promoting biblical counseling globally. In 2015, our goal is to increase the number of BCC Partners tenfold—which means we need you!

The cost of becoming a BCC Partner is $30/year for an individual or $50/year for an organization. To become a BCC Partner, we also ask that you read our BCC Confessional Statement, Doctrinal Statement, and Mission/Vision Statement, and acknowledge that you agree with the values and vision of the BCC.

When you become a BCC Partner, you will:

  1. Receive an exclusive free monthly resource (BCC Partner E-Source Connection) that will sharpen your counseling skills.
  1. Have the option to list your name or organization (with contact information) on our website.
  1. Have the option to post our BCC Partner logo on your website.
  1. Benefit from collaborative resources from the most gifted leaders in biblical counseling.
  1. Be a part of a movement that practices what it preaches.
  1. Be part of an important ministry that simply cannot be sustained without your help.
  1. Help us to pursue our passion of advancing biblical counseling globally.

3 Exciting Developments

You need to know that the BCC is not a certifying agency—becoming a BCC Partner does not mean we are certifying you as biblical counselor. But we would be able to point you to other places you can get trusted training, certification, and help.

Your partnership also helps us to break down silos and build synergy to increase the impact of biblical counseling. Let me give you three specific ways this is happening that should get you reaching for your wallet or purse:

  1. Last December, our annual BCC Leadership Retreat was a high-water mark for unity among biblical counseling leaders in the last 50 years. That has caused many skeptics to take notice and our friends to celebrate. (Check out our council board: BCC Council Board.)
  1. Our website gives away resources and points to trusted biblical counseling organizations helping many who otherwise would be unable to access this help. (Check out our resource page: BCC Resources.)
  1. Our international network of biblical counselors and their organizations is growing by the month! We are raising up and mentoring next generation leaders in biblical counseling all around the world.

So what’s next?

  • Pray that God would multiply your gift and our influence as we spend ourselves to advance biblical counseling globally.

Join the Conversation

How has the BCC ministered to you?

If you are a BCC Partner, how have the benefits of the BCC Partner Ministry, including the Partner-exclusive monthly resource, ministered to you?

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

BCC Weekend Resource: A Brief Introduction to a Premarital Curriculum

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—A Brief Introduction for Pastors (and Others) to Our Premarital Curriculum. 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: ,

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.

5 Reasons I Love Being an ACBC Fellow

What’s an ACBC? What’s an ACBC “Fellow”? Why would someone want to be one? All your questions will be answered in Paul Tautges’ post, 5 Reasons I Love Being an ACBC Fellow.

3 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Biblical Counseling Ministry

What do you and your church need to think through before launching a counseling ministry? Check out CCEF’s post, Questions to Ask Before Starting a Counseling Ministry.

2 Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with the Giver

Tim Challies addresses 2 Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with the Giver.

5 Obstacles to Prayer

Tim Chester outlines, from John Bunyan’s book, Praying in the Spirit, 5 Obstacles to Prayer.

Reflections…

Pastor Kevin Carson shares some penetrating Reflections on the Murder of Hailey Owens…One Year Later.

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 “Frangible” Heart

Conflict Resolution Series--The Frangible Heart

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today begins a BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on conflict, conflict resolution, peacemaking, and church discipline. In today’s post, Judy Dabler explains that the injuries experienced in conflict are very real. Apart from faith, these injuries can prove “lethal” as relationships become permanently damaged and destroyed. Yet, faith produces the ability to face conflict-related wounds in a way that enables the believer to powerfully proclaim the gospel to the world.

“Frangible”

Frangible…a word that rarely finds its way into everyday conversation. It is an interesting word, though.

I was recently introduced to the notion of frangibility while teaching a biblical counseling course. My plant scientist student explained that a tree with frangible properties can survive injury from insects, disease, or hail because of its ability to handle the wound in a way that allows the rest of the tree to thrive. In plant science, frangibility is a quality that responds to damage in a way that protects from destruction. He mentioned the concept of frangibility as we discussed how faith impacts the human experience of suffering and loss.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:11-12).

His words got me thinking…

Signs, Bullets, and Earthquakes

I began a search to discover more about “frangibility.”

I learned that the signs placed along runways are frangible. If an airplane hits one of these signs, the frangible design makes the sign shatter in a way that does not damage the plane.

Frangible bullets are often used by law enforcement in urban settings to protect bystanders from dangerous ricochets common when regular bullets make contact with concrete or metal. Frangible bullets shatter into tiny particles when impacting hard targets, which is meant to reduce the risk of serious harm.

A building is made earthquake resistant when built with both a frangible and a resilient support structure. The frangible, primary support structure is intended to fail in an earthquake to allow the secondary, resilient structure to take over and support the load.

This led to a question:

What if the human heart could break in a way that didn’t bring destruction?

Lethal Injuries

I have seen a lot of conflict-related wounds that eventually result in a form of death. An insult wounds and a relationship dies. A betrayal shatters trust and a marriage ends. A falsehood is exposed and a ministry is terminated. Gossip violates the bond of community and a church splits. Families break when one more minor issue lands on a pile of unaddressed hurts. Brothers are permanently separated as their attorneys battle, draining the last dollar out of the family trust that was intended to be a blessing by parents who would be heartbroken if only they knew.

Human beings seem to lack the quality of frangibility.

Conflict-related wounds produce outcomes that include addictions, anxiety, depression, despair, and violence towards self and others. As I reflect on the lethal nature of relational injuries, I wonder what relationships would look like if the human heart was frangible.

Pain and Suffering

The pain of a broken heart is breathtaking. Conflict-related suffering and human brokenness can barely be described in words. I imagine that a person with a frangible heart would experience the damage of conflict in a stunningly different way. In fact, I imagine that the frangible heart would receive injuries, hurts, and losses with pain, and yet with a sense of blessedness and joy.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).

Faith and Frangibility

Trusting God seems to be the “frangibility property” that changes the way a person experiences the relational wounds associated with conflict. The more that a suffering believer trusts that God loves them, cares about their experience, and has revealed His truth in Scripture, the more they engage insults, betrayals, and grief in a way that reflects Christ’s example (1 Peter 2:21-23).

To follow in the footsteps of Christ requires us to entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly—our Father God. In faith, we would face the damage of conflict without being destroyed, echoing Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Through faith, we trust that all of our pain and suffering are but “light and momentary troubles” that “are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

How can we develop a frangible heart?

Believing the Gospel

When we believe the gospel, we become reconciled with God through Christ and become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our “new” and transformed hearts reflect more and more Christ Himself. Armed with frangible qualities, we are enabled to respond to the wounds of conflict with a new perspective and a new mission. Believers are given the ministry of reconciliation. God intends that we serve as ambassadors of Christ and take the message of reconciliation, the gospel message, to the world (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

How many ambassadors of Christ have been damaged and injured by conflict?

Practically every one.

Every peacemaker I know has had a broken heart. Yet, when hearts break in faith, trusting in the grace of God, we are not destroyed but rather strengthened for the mission at hand. When we trust that God’s grace is sufficient for us in our trials, and His power is made perfect in our human weakness, we can delight in the face of the conflict-related wounds we experience (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). When broken, frangible hearts respond in faith, hope, and love proclaiming the beautiful message of God’s love through Christ.

Join the Conversation

What if the human heart could break in a way that didn’t bring destruction? How can clinging to Christ and His gospel of grace produce in us a frangible heart—a heart that lives out 2 Corinthians 4:8-9?

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

Biblical Counseling, Addictions, and the Body of Christ

Biblical Counseling, Addictions, and the Body of Christ

Counseling people struggling with addictions is full of complexities and challenges. There are a host of problems that compound the counseling process: chemical, psychological, social, and of course spiritual. We can help our friends struggling with addictions immensely by involving the larger church body in their recovery.

Addiction and Research

Cases of addiction counseling are particularly complicated by the reality of chemical dependency. Substance abuse leads to all kinds of biological cravings that are hard to fight against. Yet, the power of chemical dependency can often be overstated. Dr. Carl Hart, researcher at Columbia University, found that chemical dependency was not as much a driving force in drug use as is often suggested. Through his studies he found that a drug user could often choose to forgo meth or crack if an alternative offer had a higher reward. Reporting in The New York Times, John Tierney wrote about Hart’s work stating:

“He…found that when he raised the alternative reward to $20, every single addict, of meth and crack alike, chose the cash. They knew they wouldn’t receive it until the experiment ended weeks later, but they were still willing to pass up an immediate high.”

Instead of focusing on chemical dependency, he speaks of the “rational choices of crack addicts.” Many scientists sympathize with Hart’s work. Psychologist Craig Rush and drug expert David Nutt are both quoted in Tierney’s NYT piece agreeing with his findings. Author Johann Hari recently undermined the dominance of chemical dependency in a piece for The Huffington Post. His own personal, independent research also validated the claims of Dr. Hart.

In many cases what researchers have found is that addiction has a strong social component to it. Environmental and relational factors played a huge role in continued drug use. Tierney quotes Hart, saying:

“The key factor is the environment, whether you’re talking about humans or rats,” Dr. Hart said. “The rats that keep pressing the lever for cocaine are the ones who are stressed out because they’ve been raised in solitary conditions and have no other options. But when you enrich their environment, and give them access to sweets and let them play with other rats, they stop pressing the lever.”

Organizations like AA and NA have for many years now seen the value and importance of socialization for recovery. The likelihood of change increases as engagement in healthy community increases. This has direct implications for biblical counselors.

Addictions and Biblical Counseling

I have spent the last five years working among men and women recovering from addictions of various kinds. In counseling these brothers and sisters, I walk through the same basic method of exposing heart idols, establishing practical barriers, and encouraging consistent accountability.

Often I see progress in a change of mind and heart. I see people willing to take responsibility for their sinful habits.

I also often see relapse, discouragement, and resignation. I have felt discouraged myself, as I think about my own inabilities to help people change and make progress.

Finding ways to include the larger church in an individual’s recovery process has made the most significant impact. We can include the church in addiction counseling in several key ways, each with specific benefits to those in need of help. We’ll use Bill’s story as a guide to discussing these various elements of church-wide counseling for substance abuse problems.

Support Groups

Bill came to our recovery program because it was mandated. He could either attend recovery or face church discipline. It was the last place he thought he would ever find himself, still being convinced that he didn’t have an addiction problem. Over time, however, support groups became a means to breaking through his spiritual blindness.

Our Thursday night support meeting allows individuals with specific sin and sorrow struggles to come to meet and find encouragement and reassurance in the midst of their own struggles. At our substance abuse table, Bill heard the confessions of other brothers who were struggling in the same way. These confessions did two key things for Bill: (1) It allowed him to see his own sin more clearly, and (2) It encouraged him that he was not alone.

Bill didn’t want to acknowledge his sinful choices; he didn’t want to believe that his life was a mess. The confessions of others began to sound vaguely familiar. As they admitted to sin, Bill could no longer pretend he wasn’t doing the same things. Their confessions allowed him to come to terms with his own sin. It also reassured him that he wasn’t the only one struggling. The admission of his sin was painful; the support of others who could sympathize reminded him of the Apostle Paul’s words: no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13). He was not alone and would not have to fight these temptations alone.

Support allowed Bill to own his sin. In individual counseling, he had been regularly confronted with his sinful choices, rebuked, and urged to take responsibility. He remained recalcitrant to these pleas. Involving other brothers from the church in Bill’s issues allowed him to hear these same pleas from a different angle. Our stories have the power to help one another. There is healing in confession, not simply for those who confess (James 5:16), but for those who hear that confession and are instructed by it. In this way Support Groups helped Bill in ways that individual counseling simply didn’t.

Team Counseling

One of the other formats for biblical counseling we have developed in our church is team counseling. As Bill started to accept the breadth and depth of his problems and God’s solution for those problems, he moved on from the weekly support group to more intensive discipleship.

He began attending a closed discipleship class with a handful of other people. A teacher would instruct this handful of people each week on basic components of doing a self-inventory by wrestling with past and present decisions and emotions. This teacher would instruct the group on biblical truths, promote healthy confession of sin, and oversee weekly accountability.

But Bill wouldn’t just get a weekly class with some intensive homework and a good teacher. He would also get a personal mentor who would walk alongside him through the process. He would meet with this mentor outside of class each week, be held accountable to all his homework and to his life habits, and he would have someone who could stand with him when he made confessions to those whom he had hurt. The mentor works to reiterate the same biblical truths that the instructor is giving out each week in class. This worked to help ingrain truth in Bill’s mind, and when specific situations came up where Bill was tempted to surrender to his sinful desires, his mentor could apply the truths they learned that week in tangible situations. Having biblical counsel available in the moment kept up Bill’s momentum towards change.

In their helpful book How People Change, Tim Lane and Paul Tripp speak of change as a “community project.” Team counseling involves more people in giving the same counsel and helping to share the same load. By involving more people, we found that the unity of voices was convicting and challenging to Bill. We also found that when one person couldn’t drop everything and run to help Bill in an immediate situation, one of the other two members could help. Individual counseling would not have been able to bear the whole load of Bill’s needs. Involving other counselors meant no single person had to carry the whole burden by themselves, and Bill had more hands ready to help him bear his burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Small Groups

Finally, as Bill made some progress, we began to involve his small group. Confessing to his small group was a particular difficulty. He had sinned against his family and friends in very serious ways, and admitting that publically was hard. It meant exposing failure and exposing scars. It meant some level of embarrassment for all involved. But confessing to them revealed that Bill was truly more interested in change than in keeping his own reputation. His small group added more accountability and encouragement to Bill’s life.

Bill’s small group leader began to work directly with Bill’s counselors to continue ongoing discipleship. His small group leader began to spend time with Bill in weekly activities that had less to do with his addiction recovery. This meant that Bill was experiencing discipleship beyond his problems. Too great a focus on his problems would have meant that Bill only ever talked about drugs and alcohol, or that he only ever talked about his faith in relation to drugs and alcohol. His small group leader was able to help him look beyond his problems and see the greater Christian life before him. Bill needed this outlet to see the depth and beauty of a holistic Christian life.

Recently, Bill was finally able to share his story with the whole church. We celebrated with him as he gave testimony to God’s grace, and particularly God’s grace through the counseling and support of the whole church. If addiction has a strong social component to it, then the church of all places should be able to help people find hope and healing. People can change, but they can’t change on their own. Thank God for the church.

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Topics: Addictions, BCC Exclusive, Local Church Ministry, 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.