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Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Call to Counsel

The New Testament teaches that the Lord has gifted all believers to be able to serve the body in specific ways (Rom 12:3-8; Eph 4:7-16).  He has gifted teachers to teach, administrators to administer, the merciful to show mercy, etc.  These spiritual gifts enable us to serve in ways that are not common to all believers.
But there are some capacities in which all believers are called to serve.  There is one in particular that some people are quick to resist by appealing to a lack of gifting.  It is the call to counsel.  Did you know that Scripture calls all of us to counsel?  It’s true.  
But before we look at some of those passages, we should recognize what counseling is.  Counseling is simply helping another person to apply God’s truth to his or her life.  Because counseling depends upon God’s Word and because there are other man-made methods of dealing with life’s problems, we call it “biblical counseling.”  There are some in the church who refer to it as “nouthetic counseling.”  “Nouthetic” comes from the Greek verb noutheteo, which is the word used in the New Testament for counsel, teach, and instruct.  A word search for noutheteo leads us right to those passages that call for believers to counsel one another.  A foundational passage is Romans 15:14, where Paul writes:
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.
Again, noutheteo is the Greek underneath “instruct.”  Now, the book of Romans was not written specifically to pastors.  Nor was it written to anyone with any specific set of gifts.  No, in Romans 1:7, Paul reveals exactly who the recipients are: To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.  Paul intended for every believer in the city of Rome to understand that they were able to counsel.  So was this some special arrangement only for believers in Rome?  No, of course not.  This applies to all believers of all times.
There is evidence in Ephesians 4 that such instruction is something that we are equipped to do through the teaching of the church.  vv11-12 read, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.  This indicates that the members of the body are responsible for the work of ministry and not only the pastors and teachers.  A few verses later, it is revealed that part of this ministry is “speaking the truth in love.”  It is not only the leaders or the specially gifted who are to engage in this kind of ministry, but all the members of the body.
1 Thess 5:14 is another passage where we find noutheteo.  It reads, And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.  This verse lays out the essential tasks of counseling.  We are to teach/warn, encourage, and help one another.  And where do we find the content of that counseling?  We saw it in Eph4:15 – we speak the truth, that is, God’s Word.  And once again, Paul is talking to all believers.
So we are all called to counsel – to speak the truth to one another, to warn one another, to encourage one another, to help one another.  And we do this by lovingly applying the Word to each other’s lives.
But if we think back to that passage in Ephesians 4, we see that our ministry to the body does require some equipping.  We all have the capacity to counsel, but we need to be equipped for it.  The equipping that you get through the diet of the Word at Providence is probably sufficient to be able to informally come alongside others and help them.  But there are counseling needs in any church that require a bit more equipping, equipping that prepares us to do what we could call formal counseling.
At this point in the life of our church, we have a relatively small number of people who are equipped for formal counseling.  We need more.  We need as many as we can get.  The more people we have who can counsel formally the more we will be able to not only meet the counseling needs of our members, but also to offer counseling help to our community, which really serves as a tool for evangelism.  
 I’d like to ask all of you to consider taking the time to be equipped for this kind of ministry.  You don’t have to ask yourself if you are gifted for it – the New Testament says that we all have the capacity to counsel.  It really is just a question of time and desire.  If you are having a difficult time finding where you can serve at Providence, consider the counseling ministry.
There are several opportunities within driving distance to get the kind of training necessary.  Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro will be offering biblical counseling training next Spring.  It consists of four weekends – one per month for four consecutive months.  You can click here for the details. We already have a couple of people who are making plans to take advantage of this training, so you wouldn't be going alone.
Training is also available at Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana on Feb 10-15, 2013.  This is a great way to get the training knocked out in a short period of time.  Clear here for more information.
You may have some questions about what the training entails or what the counseling experience is like.  Whatever you want to know, I’d be happy to sit down with you and discuss it.  Just shoot me an email and we’ll schedule something.  You can also ask Amy Ebert or Susan CarterAsking questions or even getting the training does not obligate you to counsel formally.  At the very least, it will help you with your own sanctification as well as prepare you to informally help people whenever the need arises.  I can tell you this with confidence, though – formally counseling other believers is one of the most rewarding ways to serve the Lord.  All of the counselors at Providence would tell you the same thing.  There is nothing like watching God’s Word transform another person.  
Give it some thought.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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