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 2014-2

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.

4 Ways You Should Pray for Your Pastor

Pastor J.D. Greear shares Four Ways You Should Pray for Your Pastor.

The Art of Forgiveness

Randy Alcorn explains that “God takes our failure to forgive seriously!” Read his thoughts on The Art of Forgiveness.

The “Why?” Before the “What?”

Trevin Wax shares what he hears many church leaders saying:

“We can’t seem to recruit and hold on to the volunteers we need.”

“We keep trimming our budget, but our people give less and less.”

“We’ve launched some great programs, but no one seems passionate about them.”

Then Trevin asks:

“Do comments like this sound familiar to you? Almost every pastor and church leader admits how difficult it can be to cast vision and create passion among the congregation. What can be done? “

To learn what Kevin thinks can and should be done, read The Why Before the What.

Grumpiness and the Gospel

Tim Challies applies the gospel to the sin of grumpiness in How to Beat That Bad Mood.

Counter-Culture Reflections

Julie Ganschow reflects on a biblical counseling conference focused on being counter-cultural. Read her thoughts in Counter-Culture Reflections.

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: , , , , ,

How to Do a Biblical Intervention, Part 2: A Sample Intervention Letter

How to Do a Biblical Intervention, Part 2 - A Sample Intervention Letter

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 2 in a two-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Mark Shaw. You can read Part 1 at Preparing to Intervene.

4 Elements in a Family Intervention Letter

There are four elements to include in your letter based upon 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

You will notice each element in the abbreviated sample letter that follows:[1]

Dear Addicted One (Name),

I am so glad to get this opportunity to read this letter to you now. I value our relationship and realize how unrighteous it has been from my standpoint. (If necessary, CONFESS YOUR SIN, PRESENT A BRIEF PLAN FOR YOUR REPENTANCE, and ASK THE ADDICT FOR FORGIVENESS right here.) I have much to learn and a lot to change in myself. However, I believe in the power of Christ to change me and you. I want to help you in any way I can.

(TEACHING) My relationship with you should have been better and will be better by God’s grace. You and I can have a very good relationship based on solid, biblical principles for love, understanding, communication, mutual respect, and service to each other. I know it will not be perfect, but I do expect it to be much improved as you and I learn more biblical principles for relating to one another in a healthy manner. One important change is that I cannot “enable” your addiction any longer.

(REPROOF) I admit I have not loved, respected, and communicated with you in a godly manner at times. I have asked God to forgive me and now am asking you to forgive me for these sins. Will you forgive me? Likewise, you have sinned against me by lying, manipulating, stealing, disrespecting, and being unloving. (You can list a few specific instances here if you think it will be helpful.) Your addiction has created problems not only for you but for many of us who love you. Addiction is a sin problem that requires repentance (Ephesians 5:18). You are a gifted person capable of much more if not enslaved to this problem. You are destroying the relationships with the very persons who love you the most; treating us like objects rather than persons.

(CORRECTION) Because I am concerned for you, I want to tell you that there is hope for change. If you are willing, we will do all we can to help you. You are not an innocent victim to an addiction. You are responsible for your addictive choices and it is sin. The Lord holds you responsible and you can change by His power. The same power that saved you and made you a Christian will change you by making you more Christ-like. You must change or you will lose the relationships with the people who love you most. More importantly, you must change or you will die in these sins. However, it starts today with you. You must be WILLING to change. I know it will be difficult but I know it will be worth it, too.

(DISCIPLINED TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS) Jesus died on the cross and shed His innocent blood for your sins and mine. Obviously, if Jesus gave up His life for sin, then sin is a big deal to Him. You cannot overcome your addiction fully without acknowledging it as sin and taking it to the cross. I know that you can overcome this addiction but it will require repentance and a complete change of mind. Here is our plan. I will expect you to weekly attend _____________________  (list all aspects of the plan for repentance including worship services, Bible studies, accountability meetings, fellowship time with other believers, counseling, and more; be specific). I will pray with you daily and expect you to study your Bible daily (Add more expectations here if you like but I recommend not being too specific at this point because you do not want to overwhelm the addict.)

You cannot do this alone. Therefore, I am committed to helping you. The following people are as well: __________________ (list as many people as you can here). *(If not present at the intervention: “I spoke to them before this meeting and they agreed to help you as much as they can.”) We will help you to restructure your life so that you can live in a pleasing manner unto the Lord and begin to serve others with all of your God-given gifts and abilities. You have so much to offer this world and it hurts me to see you squandering your gifts on selfish living in an addiction.

Will you willingly commit to receiving the help you need today? Will you do everything in your power to repent and restructure your life? Will you do these things, not for me or anyone else, but for the Lord because He alone is the One you must seek to please?

Speaking the truth in love,



Again, this is just a sample. Adapt it to your situation or write your own. I would not make the letter too long. I would ask for a commitment in word and then in deed (action) immediately represented by a signature on a commitment contract prepared in advance.

If willing to repent, you may want to get the addict into a new, safe environment (if possible) so as to minimize any temptation to sin. The addict can move into a program like Vision of Hope or into a disciple-maker’s home right away. Move as quickly as possible with the “next step” for the addict. The specifics of the plan need to be in place well ahead of the intervention and some places have waiting lists so call in advance to find out if they will reserve a space for you immediately following the intervention.

If unwilling, the addict must know the consequences of his choice. You may want to continue to work with the addict but you may be at the point where you look to Proverbs 22:10 by faith in God: Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. If moving out, then be sure the addict knows that he is making this choice in willing disobedience. It is his choice to make, not yours. You are simply drawing a line in the sand (Ephesians 5:11) and his choice to repent will lead to new life and support. Place the appropriate amount of responsibility upon him so that you are not allowing him to think like a victim of circumstances but as a culpable person making choices.

Interventions are often dreaded because of the hard work to prepare, the fear of what might transpire, and the heartache if the addict fails to repent. Yet as believers, we are called to love others sacrificially and although our love may be misunderstood, we must be willing to demonstrate the love of Christ. Immerse your intervention in lots of prayer asking the Lord for His amazing grace. You might not see your loved one repent immediately yet seeds will be planted that may yield a fruitful crop down the road (see Luke 15:11-32). Doing an intervention is an act of faith trusting that God will determine the outcome according to His wisdom and good plan (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Join the Conversation

How have you seen God’s faithfulness demonstrated as you’ve helped family members struggling with a loved one enslaved to an addiction?

What principles discussed here could be applied to interventions in other areas of sinful enslavement (i.e. intervening to help the angry man, the sinfully afraid, etc.)?

What biblical residential programs are available in your area to assist addicts in restructuring their lives?

[1]Excerpt taken from my book, Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts (FOCUS Publishing, 2007) SAMPLE “INTERVENTION” LETTER from Appendix C, pp. 99-101.

Topics: Addictions, Biblical Counseling, Methodology, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

How to Do a Biblical Intervention, Part 1: Preparation to Intervene

How to Do a Biblical Intervention, Part 1- Preparation to Intervene

Addiction counselors will do much of their work with family members and friends of the “addict.” One of the key helps a counselor can offer is to be a peace-maker (Matthew 5:9) by offering to do an intervention with the family and their addicted loved one (Matthew 18:15-18).

Preparation to Intervene in Love

When you stop and think about it, God intervened in our lives to lead us to repentance and faith in Christ. The foundational principle of a biblical intervention is the same: a call to repentance and faith in Christ. Assisting to prepare the family for an intervention includes helping them prepare their heart attitudes and goals to be a loving call to trust Christ.

Start by making a list of those affected by addict’s unrepentant lifestyle (include spouse, children, parents, grandchildren, in-laws, friends, etc.). Note how many people have been adversely affected by the addict’s selfish choices. When extended family members, co-workers, and friends are included in the list of those impacted by the addictive choices the list grows quickly.

When preparing for the intervention event, think through who will be attending and who will speak. In the actual face-to-face encounter, I recommend keeping the circle of participants small, with five being optimal and twelve being the most. With big numbers, the addict can feel overpowered, which may result in him shutting down and failing to provide a true response. The goal is to illicit a clear response, hopefully that of repentance, so a small group will be effective enough in communicating the seriousness of the matter in love.

Invite those most affected by the addict’s behavior to participate. No one feels comfortable doing this yet there is strength in numbers. Even if someone would prefer not to speak, being present can be a big help. Once you have your intervention team established, have each person do a self-evaluation of heart attitudes based upon Galatians 6:1 and Matthew 7:3-5 in particular:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

The Bible teaches us the importance of a humble attitude and a proper heart motivation of honoring God and loving others more than being concerned with self-interests (Philippians 2:3-4).

When you meet together, it is vital that each person start with his/her own sin and ask for forgiveness for those words, thoughts, and actions that were not pleasing to God and were directed to the addicted loved one. This process of asking for forgiveness does not excuse or justify the addict’s behaviors yet it should serve as a tool to soften the heart of the struggling addict.[1]

Have the intervention team meet together prior to the confrontation at least once to develop a focused set of sin areas being done by the addict, the timeline of events, clear expectations of what the offender must begin to do to demonstrate repentance, and what consequences will occur if the offender chooses not to cooperate. The team should pray together, discuss goals for what they hope to see transpire, clarify motives for the intervention, cultivate a unity of purpose, decide who will be given an opportunity to speak and in what order, and determine the day, time, and location to seek a meeting with the addicted loved one. The team needs to be prepared for emotional responses by the addict, an unwillingness to cooperate, and all sorts of manipulative and deceitful behaviors. Prepare your team’s hearts for the worst but pray for the best to occur trusting God for His outcome.

The Meeting

Stepping into the offender’s world is the most difficult part of the intervention for family members, yet the purpose of restoration through repentance, confession, and godly sorrow is worth the sacrifice, fear, and anxiety. Encourage each person who desires to speak to prepare ahead of time by writing an intervention letter to be read to the addicted loved one. This letter will reduce the emotion in what likely will be a highly emotional event, regardless of outcome.

In Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, I encourage family members to first affirm the relationship by reassuring the addict of their love and desire to have a righteous relationship with him or her. Again, I have the family do their part of the repentance and forgiveness process first and that is written out (see sample letter below). Strive to establish a redemptive atmosphere bathed in humility. After getting the “log” out of your own eye, the Bible allows the believer to get the ‘speck’ out of your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5). Now, the family can focus upon the addict’s sinful choices.

The Rest of the Story

In tomorrow’s post, you’ll find a sample intervention letter.

Join the Conversation

What biblical principles do you follow in planning a family intervention?

[1]Adapted from workshop taught by Dr. Rick Thomas, Mt. Carmel Ministries, entitled “Divine Intervention” in Birmingham, AL, 2011.

Topics: Addictions, Conflict, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

Stories That Illustrate

Stories That Illustrate

Postmodernism promotes one thing that I like. It promotes the use of storytelling. I have found that stories well told have at least two values. First, they stimulate clarity. Second, they magnify memory.

When the subject of the use of stories in counseling comes up in counseling classes the first question posed is, “What kind of stories do you tell?” That is a good question. There are a number of answers to this inquiry.

Allegorical Stories

Sometimes an allegorical story is helpful. It has the advantage of timelessness. Perhaps the most memorable allegory in the Christian world is Pilgrim’s Progress.

In a counseling session, the counselor may set the stage for the counselee by explaining the nature of the story and then pulling out one incident to illustrate the particular truth being emphasized.

Personal Stories

Another type of story is some incident from the counselor’s own life regarding a challenge faced—the context in which it was faced as well as the outcome of his/her learning an important lesson. For example, not too long ago I shared a story from my college days to illustrate for a counselee how an action I took offended a very good friend. The story displayed how I learned of my offence because my friend began avoiding me.

After a couple of weeks I went to his dorm room and pointedly asked, “What have I done to offend you?” When he told me, I agreed with him and asked his forgiveness. He verbally granted the forgiveness, but refused to rebuild the relationship. Telling this story helped my counselee appreciate that I understood his situation and provided me with a platform to begin to address his next steps with his circumstances.

Historical Stories

A third genre of story is the historical. Our pastor is a Civil War expert. He frequently uses incidents from that war to illustrate a point in his sermon. On occasion I have adapted several of these for the counseling context.

This genre may also include movie clips. My son’s pastor will often use a movie clip to set up and illustrate his sermon. Since I am not as adept with electronic gear as he, I’ve not actually played the clips, but I have retold the stories from movies to illustrate a principle in counseling.

However, the most frequent story you will hear in my counseling office is an Old Testament narrative. Over the years I’ve developed Sunday School series titled, Lesson for Living from ___________(whatever the Old Testament book currently under consideration). The Apostle Paul teaches that these things were written for our instruction (I Corinthians 10:11).

What I like about using these stories is two-fold. First, they get the counselee into the Scriptures. Second, they speak with the authority of God. For example, in the story of Hezekiah the counselor does not need to surmise that pride became his problem; the Scripture plainly and authoritatively states the fact (2 Chronicles 32:25).

Recently an adult male has come through our counseling ministry. He is a man that might be identified as having been sexualized. Early in childhood he was sexually abused by an older sibling. Subsequently as a junior-aged child he was introduced to pornography. As an early teen he was engaged by others into various forms of illicit sex.

Though raised in a strict evangelical church, this behavior continued. He married and secretly participated in various deviant sexual practices. Though these things were discovered his wife elected to remain in the marriage. This individual has been in counseling with various counselors over the years. Finally, he landed at our center. After what appeared to be good progress, it was discovered that once again he was lying and hiding. After carefully assessing his salvation experience early on, upon the revelations of the continuing behavior, our counselor challenged him by retelling the story of Solomon.

The story started with Solomon’s prayer for wisdom and God’s promises and ended with 1 Kings 11 where it is recorded that Solomon not only evidenced sexual addiction with his stable of wives and concubines, but his being led into idolatry to keep them happy. The counselor emphasized that the Word says that God challenge him twice regarding his persistent life of sexual obsession evidenced in his engaging in idolatry. This story ends with God pronouncing judgment upon Solomon. Our counselor pointed out that this man was God’s king blessed with unbounded wisdom and yet pridefully defied God and thereby brought God’s judgment upon him. He finished telling this story with this question, “Should you think that because you are a believer that God will not bring discipline upon your life?”

Join the Conversation

How do you use stories in biblical counseling?

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

Redemption Groups and Biblical Counseling

Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry - Redemption Groups and Biblical Counseling

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the third of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry. These posts help us to ponder the intersection of one-another ministry through biblical counseling and one-another ministry through small group community. You will also find posts in this series by Lee LewisGarrett Higbee, and Ken Long. In today’s post, Mike Wilkerson provides practical ideas for connecting biblical counseling and small group ministry.

Redemption Groups

A church’s biblical counseling ministry can catalyze its small groups ministry, and through them enhance the culture of the whole church. In my years as a pastor at Mars Hill Church, I first worked on developing our regular small groups—we call them Community Groups. Then for the past several years, I’ve developed the biblical counseling ministries, of which Redemption Groups™ have been the most prominent. I’ve seen how these ministries complement one another well in my own pastoral work, as well as in the churches of friends and colleagues who’ve taken a similar approach.

For this blog, I will assume the context of a local church and that this church has a small groups ministry which is a primary place for discipleship and where most church members are in community with one another. Here, then, are three tips for connecting small groups ministries with biblical counseling ministries like Redemption Groups.

Tip 1: Train small group leaders and participants for basic biblical counseling.

It’s good to be ever increasing the capacity of the participants and leaders of the small groups to care for their group members. For example, some churches who run Redemption Groups ask their small group leaders to go through a Redemption Group as part of their training. This is done not to recruit them into Redemption Group leadership, but to equip them more thoroughly for continuing to lead their small groups.

At Mars Hill Church, we also run a course called Counseling in Community™ which has helped us to provide experiential training labs for many people who may never participate in a Redemption Group or individual biblical counseling. Participants in this course have included not just leaders of small groups, but many other small group members as well. Our hope in this has been to make basic equipping in biblical counseling a normal part of the life of our community.

Tip 2: Involve small groups in the continuity of care in biblical counseling ministries.

Paul Tripp says in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: “Most of us are tempted to think that change has taken place before it actually has. We confuse growth in knowledge and insight with genuine life change.”[1]

Yet at the same time, rather than continuing in a prolonged biblical counseling process to ensure that insight gives way to change over time, say, in an individual biblical counseling setting, it may be better to invite some members of that counselee’s small group into the process of helping him to walk in the light of new insights, pursuing change that will be seen and celebrated within that community.

In Redemption Groups, for example, participants prepare a “Wilderness Travel Plan” as their time in the group draws to a close. This plan reflects what insights they want to continue to walk in, and with whom in their community they intend to walk. It would be ideal if some of those with whom they intend to walk are part of their own small group. In order for this to be more likely, it will help if there are people in the small group who have some basic equipping in biblical counseling, which reminds us of Tip 1 above.

Tip 3: Start infusing a culture of biblical counseling into small groups early in the life of the church.

This is aiming high, I know. Many church plants—many established churches too, in fact—are doing well just to see that small groups are a normal part of the church. But I do think it is a worthy goal to infuse your small groups with biblical counseling sensibilities from the start, even if you’re just getting started with (or perhaps re-starting) your small groups.

At Mars Hill Church, for example, when we plant a new church, it has become normal for us to begin training the first round of Community Group leaders with the Counseling in Community course as early as possible (Community Groups are what we call our regular small groups). This casts a vision for biblical counseling early in their leadership by engaging them personally and experientially. This enhances their small group leadership, improving the pastoral care in those groups, and plants the seeds for a culture of biblical counseling early in the life of the church.

Join the Conversation

What recommendations do you have for connecting small groups and biblical counseling?

(“Redemption Groups” and “Counseling in Community” are trademarks of The Redemption Group Network)

[1]Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 242.

Topics: Discipleship, Gospel-Centered Ministry, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Small Group Ministry | Tags: , , ,

Weekend Resource: Gospel Treason: How Do I Look for Idols in My Heart?

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Notes: On weekends, we frequently alert you to recently-posted new resources for your life and ministry. Today we highlight a sermon audio resource from Pastor Brad Bigney: Gospel Treason: How Do I Look for Idols in My Heart? 

You’re watching Gospel Treason 04: How Do I Look for Idols in My Heart? Links to the complete sermon series can be found here:

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

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By 2014-2

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.

Association of Biblical Counselors’ Annual Conference

Learn more about the upcoming national conference of the Association of Biblical Counselors: Restoration: Redeeming Ministry/Redeeming Marriage.

Pastors and Depression

Thom Rainer at Lifeway Pastors Today reflects on Spurgeon’s battle with spiritual depression to distill 7 Ways the Lord Uses Depression in the Life of a Minister.

Imagine That!

Jay Adams is known, of course, for his writings about and ministry of biblical counseling. However, Dr. Adams has also always had an active ministry of and writings about preaching. Every Friday he blogs about preaching. Here’s a sampler related to using images/the imagination in preaching: Imagine That! 

Concerning the True are of Souls

Brian Croft at Practical Shepherding recommends a classic pastoral care book by Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls.

Neuroscience News

Ed Welch at CCEF asks if Anything Is Happening in the Neurosciences? 

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: , , , , , ,

Are You Competent to Counsel?

Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry - Are You Competent to Counsel

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the third of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry. These posts help us to ponder the intersection of one-another ministry through biblical counseling and one-another ministry through small group community. You will also find posts in this series by Lee Lewis, Ken Long, and Mike Wilkerson. In today’s post, Pastor Garrett Higbee practical biblical principles related to competent one-another ministry.

Quantity or Quality?

Small group ministries sometimes seem to be more about the number of small groups in the church than the depth of the small group culture. While numbers can be an exciting sign of multiplying discipleship, sometimes I fear we are multiplying mediocrity. That is why I am passionate about equipping small group leaders, and, yes, even small group members, with soul care skills and tools. At this point you might be thinking, “Hey I am no biblical counselor, and I am not even sure I want to be.” Let me help you re-think that biblically; let’s take a short test:

  1. Do you care enough to ask when someone seems troubled?
  2. Are you wise enough to point to Christ and His Word, not your opinion?
  3. Are you humble enough to pray on the spot for their struggle or burden?

Competent to Counsel

How did you do? If you can say, “Sure I can do that,” then you are well on your way to be qualified to give hope and help through God’s Word. Romans 15:14 states, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers,that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” While not everyone fits Paul’s description, I believe every Christian could and should be a counselor. The only thing that may be standing in your way is getting equipped…

Imagine knowing how to ask heart revealing questions, knowing where to go to give conviction and hope, and knowing how to pray in a way that burns with fervency and flows from a heart of compassion. At our church, we just trained over 1,500 leaders in the last 3 months with just such a focus. Even more exciting to me is that we developed a curriculum on the one-another verses in Scripture that more than 20,000 people around the country have now gone through as small group members.

I’m not saying we have arrived but we are on the journey to uncommon community! It is our goal to help our small groups to move from superficial to authentic, then to transparent, and, finally, to being more vulnerable with each other. Even with the right skills and tools that is a two year process for most small groups.

Are You on the Journey?

So, what about you? Are you on the journey? Are you getting equipped? As a leader, are you saying to yourself, “I won’t let people fall into unbelief and I am committed to a teaching time where we are applying God’s Word to our lives. I won’t leave the rebellious person in my group to hide in their sin and I will facilitate loving accountability whenever we meet.”

See, the Bible uses words like, “See to it…” and “Take care brothers…” (Colossians 2:8; Hebrews 3:12-13; Hebrews 12:15). You may be tempted to think it is God’s or the pastor’s job to urge people in that way, but that is a failure to understand your role in the priesthood of believers (1Peter 2:9). It is also a failure to understand the role of lay leaders in the ecclesiastical structure of the local church. If you are a small group leader, you are on the front lines of soul care. Moreover, if we leave someone to struggle alone, it is essentially a failure to fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2)…that law is about loving others (John 13:34-35).

Most of us would never say, “I want to be a mediocre lover of people. I will bear burdens as long as they are light and convenient.” So why would we settle for being less than well equipped and ready to love and serve our people biblically? I think you get the point.

Next Steps…

So, if we are motivated, the questions are, “Where do I go? How do I get equipped?” Actually, there are so many opportunities compared to years ago. These days, you could attend an ACBC weekend training in your area. You could go to Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries’ annual conference, you could take basic counseling courses at ABC or CCEF…or you could go online and purchase our small group training materials at Harvest…and this isn’t close to an exhaustive list. However you chose to get equipped, your next move is to sign up, get things on the calendar, buy the resources, and get started.

As you begin the process, remember this: the best training is first applied personally. In small group training more is caught than taught. In other words, make equipping a time of personal ministry for you. The best small group leaders are tour guides, not travel agents. They don’t “phone in” the discipleship plan; they walk alongside having been down the path of sanctification themselves and are with the struggler in their struggles.

Roles and Callings

What’s also important to understand is the difference between formal counselors and the small group leader role—they’re not the same and we’re not asking small group leaders to be formal counselors or vice versa (though some of us are both). Formal biblical soul care counselors are more equipped and have experience untying tighter knots. They support and consult with the small group leader and, at times, take on the small group member whose issue is complex or enduring.

The neat thing is small groups can now see their role in supporting formal counseling too. Often a small group member will go with the person in need to the counseling sessions as an advocate. We train them further in the one anothers of Scriptures and have them pray, do the homework alongside their friend(s) in counseling, and they are available to them throughout the week.

Think about the bridge the advocate provides to and from the small group. Their friend who is in formal counseling is now applying what they have learned and also doing life and participating in authentic fellowship in small group! While discretion is always paramount the advocate can prompt their friend to tell their “God at work story” to the small group. This often propels the group to deeper transparency.

I hope you can see this is no ordinary way to do community. That is why we call it “uncommon community.” It has revolutionized our discipleship culture. The Word is held in higher regard, the focus on practical manifestations of good works is life giving, and the sweetness of the counsel of a friend is increased by the day (Proverbs 27:6+9).

How about you? Are you getting equipped? How about your church? Is there a model of equipping and care being built? Would your leaders be open to learning? If you would like to learn more about our resources to equip your small group member of leaders please check out our resources.

Join the Conversation

What next step will you take to be an equipped one-another minister?

Topics: Gospel-Centered Ministry, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Small Group Ministry | Tags: , , ,

The One Primary Purpose of Small Group Ministry

Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry - The One Primary Purpose of Small Group Ministry

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the second of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry. These posts help us to ponder the intersection of one-another ministry through biblical counseling and one-another ministry through small group community. You will also find posts in this series by Lee Lewis, Garrett Higbee, and Mike Wilkerson. In today’s post, Pastor Ken Long explores the purpose of small group ministry.

What Is the True Purpose of Small Group Ministry?

In a previous blog, I explored the interconnectedness of a small group ministry and biblical counseling was explored. In fact, in that blog I stated that for a church to have an effective small group ministry that body of believers should also have a biblical counseling ministry. In other words, don’t have a small group ministry without a biblical counseling ministry. To see the reasons, why this tie is so strongly stated, please see that blog.

What really is the purpose of a small group ministry? What is the purpose of the small group ministry at your church?  Or if you do not have one as yet but are talking to God about starting one, what is that singular purpose that He has for your small group ministry?  You had best start with a clear, singular purpose for the small group ministry. If the that is unstated or unclear, you can count on lots of confusion and a high turnover rate with your small group leaders.

Many Reasons Small Groups Exist

There are many reasons why small groups exist in a church—none of them bad, but a lot of them unclear and peripheral to what’s going on in the heart and soul of the church. Often the name attached to the ministry gives a clue to the reason for its existence, for example, Care Groups, Men’s Bible Study, Ladies’ Groups, and Growth Groups. Many churches looking for a way to meet the personal and physical needs of their people in a loving, decentralized manner will establish Care Groups. Others want their men to dig into the Bible so they have Men’s Bible Studies. Still others want to emphasize growth in numbers for the kingdom so they have Growth Groups modeled after the principles contained in Carl George’s book, Prepare Your Church for the Future.

What is the Churches’ Primary Ministry?

But careful and prayerful thought should be given to the purpose of the small group ministry of any church. Please do not just put some chairs in a circle and start one. A small group ministry should directly enhance the primary ministry of the church. So now you have to back up and answer this question, “What is the primary ministry of the church?” Do you know? It can be clearly seen in Ephesians 4:11-15)

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (Ephesians 4:11–15, NLT).

Ephesians 4:11-15 drives home the fact that God has given Spirit-gifted people, “pastors and teachers … to equip God’s people … (to) build the church, the body of Christ” (4: 11-12). So, the goal of building up His church is to have all of God’s people to “be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (4:13). Or, stated another way, “growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (4: 15). In other words, “a” or possibly “the” primary purpose of the church, is for the whole church to participate with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18) in the transformation of God’s people to be more like Christ.

The Purpose of Small Groups Should Match the Primary Ministry of the Church

So, if spiritual formation is the purpose of the church then personal transformation should intentionally be the purpose of the small group ministry. Bible study is great. Fellowship is wonderful. Evangelism is essential. But changing and growing to be more like Christ should be the purpose of the small group ministry. And believe it or not, you can focus on Bible study and still not arrive at personal transformation unless the leaders are trained and reminded to pursue that direction.

The way I have seen God use a small group ministry in transforming His people, is for the group to spend an intense time studying the Word of God, or a theological book based on the Scriptures, with an emphasis on applying the truth to each of our lives.

You say, “But aren’t most churches and small groups focused on this already?” I don’t think so. Check it out. Most Bible studies are focused on knowledge with possibly some private application considered. The bulk of the time is usually dominated by a mini-lecture from the small group leader, while participants dutifully ‘spank the blanks’ in their study guide or workbook. Occasionally the leader will ask some inductive questions about the text, but even then, the questions are often focused on facts rather than life application.

Please do not hear what is not being said. Certainly, Bible knowledge is not irrelevant; but it is not enough. Small groups are the place to push past Bible knowledge and on to life application, so that transformation more and more into the image of Christ can be seen in our churches. A transformational small group focuses on everyone giving and receiving hope and help from God’s Word so as to spiritually mature in Christ (compare Hebrews 10:24-25).

So the primary, singular purpose that I am proposing for a churches’ small group ministry is personal spiritual transformation. May God give each of us His wisdom on how this should look in each of our local bodies of Christ.

Join the Conversation

Do you think small groups in churches have one primary biblical purpose?

Do you think personal spiritual transformation into the likeness of Christ is the one primary biblical purpose of small group ministry?

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

Learn about the BCC Book Review Site…and Win a Free Book!

As a BCC staff member, I was preparing a new BCC book review when I started perusing our book review site. I was amazed at all the book resources we have—all the book reviews, book lists, book author Interviews, and more.

So…I decided to hold the new book review for next week, and use today’s book review post to re-introduce you—our readers—to our book review site.

In fact, as a staff, we’ve decided to formulate this as a quiz—and the first three people to respond to with the correct answers (and with your snail mail address), will receive a free copy of our BCC book, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling.

We now have 173 books either reviewed, or book lists, or book author interviews, or book videos in our book review library!

Book Reviews

We do not simply review “biblical counseling books.” We review books from a biblical counseling framework or worldview. For instance, Michael Nelson recently provided a biblical counseling review of How the Gospel Brings us All the Way Home. And Tim Challies reviewed Crazy Busy.

Of course, we also review biblical counseling books. Nate Claiborne recently reviewed Heath Lambert’s book, Finally Free. And Robin Barnes recently reviewed Bob Kellemen’s book, Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes.

Quiz Question: What book by Elyse Fitzpatrick did Bob Kellemen review?

Author Interviews

We also like to hear directly from authors via our BCC Author Interview Q/A. Recently we interviewed Matt Mitchell about his book, Resisting Gossip. Among our many other interviews, is our interview with Dr. Charles Hodges on his book, Good Mood Bad Mood.

Quiz Question: What book did we interview Jonathan Dodson concerning?

Book Lists

Perhaps one of our most visited features is our Book Lists. Paul Tautges, among many others, have collated excellent resources on topics such as, 24 Top Resources on Sexual Attraction and 20 Recommended Resources Related to Suicide Prevention and Grieving.

Quiz Question: Who compiled the following resource: 10 Top Resources on Grief and Loss?

Remember, when you respond to the quiz questions via email, include your name and snail mail so we can send you a free copy of Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling. The first three people with all three questions answered correctly will receive the free copy.

Topics: Book Reviews, 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.