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.