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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

A Mother’s Guide to Raising Pharisees

A Mother’s Guide to Raising Pharisees

While raising children is not solely the mother’s responsibility, when it comes to child rearing much of the daily influence will come from mom. As a mother of three teens, I know the temptation in parenting to create an appearance of what I want my children to be when it comes to spiritual things. It is a noble and right thing to want them to grab on tightly to the baton of faith as we teach them to run this race. However this desire can easily be turned into a recipe for an external religion that seeks to please people and not our redeeming Savior.

The Pharisees, though justly earned, get a bad rap. I know for myself it is easy to think of them as those hoity toity ne’r-do-wrongs that had no concern for anything other than their own spiritual goodlookingness. But could it be that Pharisees had good intentions?

They were the upholders of the sacred law of Moses and they oversaw religious practices. These spiritual fathers devoted their lives to the keeping of the law. There is some nobility in this. The law was given and expected to be kept. They were doing just that. The problem was that they missed the purpose of the law. Instead of discovering their inability in the law they found their identity it. Before we jump down their holier-than-thou backs, it is here that I pause and reflect on how my role as a mother can sound like a Pharisee training officer.

It is a temptation beyond measure at times to find my own identity not only in how I am behaving, but sometimes even more so how my children are behaving. Before I know it, I am actually training them to set their focus on the external accoutrements that Jesus spoke so harshly against. Isn’t this sounding like the cleansing of the outside of the cup that Jesus warned against (Luke 11:38)?

Ways to Raise a Good Little Pharisee

While our intentions may start out right they can easily get derailed and the focus shifted to external behaviors. After all, those are much easier to see than the motives of our hearts. There are many ways this can subtly take place. Here are a few ways moms (and dads too) can raise a good little Pharisee.

  • Make them always feel like they can do a little bit better. Make sure you accompany all your praise with a side bar lesson on how to improve things next time. Want to take this to a higher level? Limit your praise of them to be only when they are doing what you want them to do. Slather it on when they are finally giving you what you want to see. With hold it otherwise.
  • Make spiritual things obligatory. I am not saying that you let your child run the show when it comes to spiritual disciplines. We should encourage our children to have a personal walk with God. Modeling this is a great place to start. But I am talking more about the mandatory approach to spiritual things. Creating an environment of “you are a good Christian boy or girl if you…” is so easy to do. (Insert rewards and sticker charts for Bible reading or godly behavior.) So instead of demanding spiritual things, help them to delight in them instead. Also, understand them when it is not so delightful. Haven’t you been there? What helped you in those times?
  • Blast their achievements so as to create a personal identity they must maintain. I am as guilty as the next mom for filling my Facebook and Instagram with my kids receiving awards or accomplishing some major feat of childhood saintliness. There is a balance we need to be careful of; be proud of your children and share it with your friends and family but if the only time you are blasting out information about your kids is when they are “accomplishing” be aware of the message you are sending them. Try just appreciating them in their “normalness.” Let them see that you are totally impressed with more than just their outward achievements.

We All Need the Cross Daily

I don’t want to load my children with burdens too difficult to bear (Luke 11:36). Instead I want to come beside them in their walk of faith and teach them that with the call to a godly life there is grace and mercy. We all need the cross daily. As we lead them to the place where they see their righteousness for what it truly is (dirty rags) be sure to remind them of the powerful reality that if they trust in Christ, he is their righteousness and that is enough. We do not need to improve on it or add to it.

Dazzle them with who God is and what he has done for them. Let them live in that reality and let it be there joy. They don’t have to make the mark. Christ already did. What a joy what a delight. Teach them the truth about what God, through Christ, has provided for them. Teaching our children to understand that through Christ we no longer need to look good enough keeps the focus on the gospel. They don’t have to attain righteousness because Christ is their righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). They can stand before God because of that alone. What joy!

“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:3-4).

Join the Conversation

How can grace reign in your parenting?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Gospel-Centered Ministry, Grace, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives | Tags: , , ,

Cutting to the Heart of Self-Injury

Cutting to the Heart of Self-Injury (revised)

Rebekka, 15, wore a hat, long sleeves, and jeans to our first counseling session. Not so unusual for a teen, except it was a hot August afternoon and the temperature outside was 101 degrees.

As I got to know Rebekka, I learned she was sent to see me because she was self-harming. She had no eyelashes or eyebrows and her hat concealed large bald spots where she had pulled out her hair. I eventually saw the dozens of scars on her arms and up and down the length of her legs, where she had repeatedly cut herself and picked off the scabs. She also bore numerous burn marks from cigarettes and lighters. Cutting and burning are the most common forms of self-injury we see among teenagers in our counseling center.

Why Do People Self-Injure?

The teenage years (when self-injurious behaviors commonly begin) can be traumatic times. This can be especially in our culture, where children are presented with decisions and choices they are not mature enough to handle.

Our teens have greater pressures than at any time in history. College preparation now begins in the 8th grade for many students, as they have to make choices about Advanced Placement classes. Many high school students work 20 or more hours per week to save for college, in addition to at­tending classes and doing AP homework.

At school, teens receive mixed messages about relationships and sexual orientation. Sexual behaviors are taught in graphic detail and promoted in the popular media. Our children are pressured to be sexually active long before they are emotionally and physically ready. They are thrust into many situa­tions they are not ready to deal with! Some deal with the heartache of a broken home, spend­ing alternate weekends with each parent, and the pressure that comes from being in the middle of divorce.

These are only the “normal” stresses and do not cover the extreme cases, such as sexual abuse by a parent or step parent; drug or alcohol use in the home by par­ents; out of control siblings that raise tension in the home; same-sex unions, sexually transmitted diseases or abortion.

Many children and teens come to believe there is little they can count on and nothing that is stable. Who can they talk to besides each other? Who can they really trust? All these factors feed into the world of self-injury, and it becomes their method of dealing with indescribable pain and loneliness.

Like other self-injurers, Rebekka reported that she felt empty inside, stressed, and unable to express her feelings. She struggled to tell me she was lonely, not understood by others and fearful of intimate relationships and adult responsibilities. Self-injury was her way to cope with or relieve painful or hard-to-express feelings.

What Can I Do to Help?

There is no quick fix, no systematic formula to follow in helping a teen counselee who self-injures. I encourage parents to follow biblical principles rather than going the route of psychotherapy and secular coun­seling. Secular reasoning is contrary to biblical methodology. The self-injurer doesn’t have an illness that can be medically diagnosed; what she has is a faulty coping mechanism that has become a sinful habit.

Whenever possible, I involve the parents in the counseling process. We teach the parents how to disciple their child through this turbulent time in life. God entrusted Mom and Dad to care for their child and I am there to support them in teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training their child in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

The biblical perspective on self-injury is that it is primarily a heart issue (Matthew 15:11; Matthew 15:17-20; Luke 6:43). Like other self-injurers, Rebekka had an overall focus on herself: her pain, loss, feelings, her wants, and her de­sires.

She learned to examine her heart in light of Scripture (Jeremiah 17:9). The Bible reminds us that per­manent change requires a change of heart brought about by a renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2). We had to identify the root cause of her behavior so true healing could take place.

Run to God with the Pain

I encouraged Rebekka to go to God in prayer and lay down the burdens of her heart.

The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive peo­ple” (Psalm 69:33).

Directing Rebekka to the Psalms brought comfort and insight about crying out to God in distress. She was reminded that God cares about her, and the weight of guilt, shame, failure, anger, and rejection she carries. She was greatly comforted in realizing the Lord Jesus Christ was intimately acquainted with every sorrow and pain she had.

Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:16-18, NKJV).

In biblical counseling, Rebekka learned the necessity of repentance. She learned about the sovereignty of God, people pleasing, and how to deal biblically with anger, hurt, and bitterness. As her mind was renewed, she began to under­stand the role idolatry played in her behaviors. She realized how worshiping her idols only led to guilt, shame, and deception and that, in reality, self-injury didn’t help with her pain after all.

Initially she experienced many failures and would still revert to cutting or burning herself, but Rebekka persevered in righteousness. She was determined to glorify God and worked very hard to stay in the Word, put the behavior off, renew her mind, and put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24). She made life application of what she was learning and denied her fleshly desires. Six months later, she had eyebrows, eyelashes, and the bald spots on her head were covered with hair. The real triumph came when she gave her parents her “treasure box” of razor blades and burning materials.

Today, Rebekka is free.

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free (John 8:36, NLT).

Join the Conversation!

Do you believe the Word of God is enough to address even the “hard cases” in counseling?

Topics: Cutting and Self-Harm, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Suicide, Violence/Physical Abuse | Tags: , , ,

The BCC “Megaphone”: The ABC’s National Conference

ABC 4014 Conference - Restoration

BCC Staff Note: Part of the BCC’s mission is to be a “megaphone” for the biblical counseling world. This weekend we use our megaphone to announce the Association of Biblical Counselors’ 2014 National Conference: Restoration: Redeeming Ministry; Redeeming Marriage.

This year ABC’s Conference is designed to:

Equip Counselors:  Providing practical help to biblical counselors, group leaders and pastors to assist in advancing their skills to provide quality biblical care to couples in need (Tracks 1, 3, & 4).

Encourage Couples:  Offering rich biblical insight and application to couples desiring to become more Gospel-centered and God-glorifying in their marriages (Track 2).

Enlisting Pastors: Connecting the transforming power of the Gospel to the heart, life, and ministry of the pastor. (This day of the conference is intended for all attendees, not just pastors.

When

May 15th, 2014 8:00 AM   through   May 17th, 2014 12:00 PM

Where

Christ Chapel Bible Church
3701 Birchman Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Learn More

Learn more about speakers, topics, times, schedule, and more here.

Topics: Conference, Megaphone Post, 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.

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,

YOUR NAME

Reflections…

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: , , , , , ,

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.