Men and women of the church are commanded to help one caught in sin (Gal 6:1ff.), but the officers of the church are commanded, not only to seek the lost sheep, but to proactively be involved in the transformation of lives by the ministry of the Word (Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, 278; cf. 2 Tim 3:15-17). No parachurch organization has such a commission. Both the power and authority to be instruments of change have been given to the church. The church, and in particular all her pastors, must counsel (Adams, A Theology, 280).
Only the church has the resources (e.g. the body of believers locally in covenant with one another) and the calling to preventive work (Adams, A Theology, 277). In other words, only the church has been given the call to proactively get involved in people’s lives (cf. Heb 3:12-14; 10:23-25). Free-lance counseling organizations can only be remedial in their actions; they enter typically only after the bomb has gone off (Adams, A Theology, 277).
The church, on the other hand, can engage in preventive measures, teaching, discipling, etc. Adams offers the area of marriage as an example. By the time a professional counselor gets involved, it is often too late. If the church had taught to the issue sooner, had equipped the couple to handle life’s storms (each other’s sin) sooner, or if the church had exhorted the couple earlier in the family war, then counseling (specialized, secular, or otherwise) could have been avoided altogether (Adams, A Theology, 278).
“We each need to hear—some of us for the first time—that the church has a unique and significant counseling calling. The Lord interprets personal struggles and situational troubles through a very different set of eyes from how other counseling models see things. He engages us with a very different set of intentions from how other counseling models proceed. We, as his children, are meant to counsel according to how he sees and proceeds” (David Powlison, Foreword to The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams, 14).
We need the church, the saints, because God is serious about our sanctification. He will not tolerate the justification of our sinful responses. We must not continue to sin, but grow in godliness. The church is much more than an exciting experience (notice God does not say that we need lots of people to generate an electric “worship experience”). We need grace-laced, intrusive communion with each other. I must have people who are courageous and compassionate enough to help me see myself more clearly. I am a Pig-Pen—always blind to self through the dust cloud that is the deception of sin. You must help me—will you?
Biblical counseling is the type of discipleship needed in the storms of life. We are rarely taught well how to respond in the storms before they come…and even if we were, we would forget the lesson and act out of what really is in our souls. We have had next to zero training on how to be restored after we have responded poorly. If God intends our sanctification (He does), and if He finds trials to be particularly sanctifying (He does), then we need to be equipped to respond well to circumstantial suffering or relational conflict. How will your soul respond in the storm?
Rod and Staff Ministries is eager to equip you to please God in the storms and to help others do the same. Classes are starting soon! We hope to see you there.
10,000 Blessings in The Wonderful Counselor,
Rod and Staff Ministries
Excerpted from Semester One: Principles of Biblical Counseling. (2nd Edition. Lessons 12, 6.)