Will Counseling Make a Church Turn Inward?

What do counseling and evangelism have in common? What do counseling and community have in common? Have you ever put them together? At first glance, it would seem that the two pairings are awkward at best. But stop for a minute and consider how a local church that takes counseling seriously actually does a better job of reaching non-believers as well as build community.

Counseling and Evangelism

How has the church historically persuaded the surrounding culture of the truth of the Scriptures? If you know your church history, it has largely happened when people’s lives were changed so much by the grace of God that others could not dismiss those who were changed. Nor could they as easily dismiss the truth claims that transformed them. There has been much discussion about modernity, post-modernity and the apologetic challenge this raises for the church. In a post-modern climate, modern notions of rational categories of truth and error, right and wrong, good and bad have been abandoned. Those belong to the day when the majority culture imposed its meta-narrative on the minority culture. Since this led to oppression, it was necessary to rule out any claims to absolute truth. This is the context in which we live. It is going to take much more than logical arguments to convince people of the truth of the Christian faith.

When a church counsels, it is saying more than the Bible is true; it is saying that the God of the Bible is real. He comes to change lives, families, communities, cultures and the entire cosmos. You can actually see those changes! When a church counsels, it is engaging in one of the most important apologetic tasks it can engage in. It is saying, “We will not simply proclaim the truth, we will demonstrate the truth in the way we live and in the visible proof of lives changed.”

Talk to any church that takes counseling seriously and they will attest to the fact that they reach non-believers naturally because they are addressing the problems they struggle with in their daily lives. The truth changes them and they come to embrace the truth!

Counseling and Community

We don’t often think of the word community when we hear the word “counseling”. The word “counseling” evokes images of conversations between two people behind closed doors where no one else can listen. We think “confidentiality”. While we would not want to diminish the need to handle personal information and conversations with great care and wisdom, a church that counsels is actually a vibrant community. 

Paul, in Colossians 3:16 says, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” This passage is speaking of a vibrant congregation where brothers and sisters in Christ are counseling one another in the context of daily life as they grow as a community. This does not preclude more personal, confidential contexts for counsel. It does emphasize the communal nature of “one-anothering” ministry.

When a church counsels, it becomes the first place, not the last place that people think about when they need help. How biblical and yet how radical for people to think of the church in that way!

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.