Speaking Truth in Love

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

life_groups1The church community should be a place where we are able to speak the truth in love to one another. The reality is that each of us has a very limited perspective on our own hearts, often only seeing what we want to see. As such, we need to be in close community with other believers to help us see and deal with the idols and struggles of our hearts in order to help us change and grow in our faith. Now some call this discipleship, others call it counselling. Either way, here at First Baptist, we want to develop a culture of biblical counselling in and through our life groups. Listen to the way David Powlison explains this in a recent CCEF post

Can local churches become a natural home for counseling ministry? Often the limitations or failures of the church get cited first, making it seem that church is at best an adjunct to “the real work of counseling.” But, in principle, the local church is the natural home for face-to-face ministry. Counseling can and should thrive in local churches. Here are five of the numerous advantages to counseling being localized in the church.

First, a wise pastor (or friend, elder, small group leader, mentor, etc.) has many advantages over the secular paradigm of the office-bound counselor. In your own church you know people. You have seen them in action. Perhaps you know their parents and friends. You see how they treat their kids. You know how they handle themselves in a group. You have “back-story,” and aren’t limited to hearing only one side of the story. You know what kind of Christian nurture they are receiving week to week—and counseling can build on that. In addition to a wider knowledge base, you relate at multiple levels. You can invite people to your home, and invite yourself into their home. You can initiate the relationship, and express your concern. In contrast, office-bound counseling is structurally passive, always only on the receiving end of inquiry or referral. There is an active, outreaching quality to counseling ministry when we conceptualize it in the church.

Here is a second advantage. It is a premise of biblical counseling that people are not just “problems.” They are not defined by a “diagnosis.” People come with gifts and callings—from God himself. They have a new identity—in Christ. All of us are given a role to play in the greater whole: regardless of physical or mental abilities, or education, or age, or any of the other human differences. Most people have helping gifts. The call to serve others brings dignity, purpose, belonging, identity, and participation. A woman coming out of drug addiction and poverty was moved to tears of gladness by the simple fact that she was personally invited to help another family in need. She contributed five meaningful dollars and a Saturday morning to helping them. Instead of being seen just as a “needy, troubled” person, she, too, could give, and it meant the world to her.

Here is a third advantage. Anyone can help anyone else. God delights in apparent role-reversals. Counseling in a church context is far richer than “designated expert” meets with “needy client.” I’ll never forget a story that my former pastor, Jack Miller, told about his sister-in-law. She was mentally disabled and lived with him and Rosemary, his wife. As a result, “Aunt Barbara” was a natural part of the church body. One day on the way to church, Jack was grumbling about the rainy weather. Aunt Barbara, in her simple 5-year-old way, said to him “But Jack, the sun is always shining. It’s just behind the clouds.” God used that like a lightning bolt. God is always shining, no matter what his providence displays on the surface. Out of the mouth of a woman with a child’s mental life came words of faith that blessed the pastor of a church of 800 people. That’s the body of Christ!

Here is a fourth advantage. You have freedom to be completely open about the life-rearranging significance of God’s gift of himself, and you can participate together in his gifts of Scripture, worship, prayer, sacraments, and bearing one another’s burdens. The means of grace come naturally in a church context. It comes naturally to talk about knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent—which is the hope of life in a world of death. The counseling implications could not be deeper.

Here is a fifth advantage. It is natural to talk about the Big Questions, as well as the practicalities of problem-solving or the process of coming to truer self-understanding. You can ask pointed existential questions. “What are you living for?” “Where are you placing the weight of your identity?” “How do you deal with your inner contradictions—the tension between the good and the bad in each of us?” You can help a person face mortality, and the reality that so many things let us down in the end. “Are you spending your life longing for things that will finally end up disappointing you, that will leave you with nothing but regrets and losses?” The church is uniquely equipped to ask, to talk about, and to offer real answers to the biggest questions.

Local churches flourish as they become places where counseling flourishes.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16 (ESV)

  1. one saved by grace :) says:

    sometimes we look at the life groups as being just one more thing that we as church goers “should” be doing. in my view, yes it should be something we WANT to do and not something we HAVE to do. we see our brothers and sisters on the Lord’s day morning and smile, hug, wave have a wee chat and then head into our daily life for that week. after joining a life group it helped us to be in a community of brother and sisters that felt safe and non judgemental. a place where you could voice those concerns, prayers, uncertainties and hear feedback and scripture that helps you in that problem or just ears to listen. yes we can do this at church on Sunday, but in all honesty are you going to stand there and pour your heart out in between the pews? not me..being kinda shy and reserved, i have learnt that being in a life group has opened up that door to be able to get out of my shell and share…a little at a time :)…a place where you feel closer to the Lord’s people without the structure of the church. a place where friends definately become family. i am thankful and grateful for our church and the great ministry it represents and am even more grateful and truly blessed to have been part of a life group that encourages each other and holds each other accountable to be in God’s word and lean on Him and them for our daily walk down here. if you ever doubted about joining a life group, just try it and see why the Lord encourages us to be in fellowship one with another!!

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