Fighting to Believe

Are Evangelism and Discipleship Different?

Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19 are clear. We are to “go and make disciples.”  We typically think of this command in two phases and use two terms; evangelism and discipleship. Evangelism involves sharing the good news of Jesus to the unbeliever. Discipleship involves obedience once one has believed. When we are not careful, though, this bifurcation can lead to a truncated understanding of the Christian life.

Most professing Christians are aware of the discipline called apologetics.  The word means to “speak in defense” of some belief. In the early church, those who defended the faith to outsiders were called apologists.

As you can see, this term has largely been used by Christians to describe evangelism; the discipline of defending the Christian faith over against non-Christian unbelief. This is wholly appropriate and right. It is the first half of the great commission in Matthew 28:19 “Go.”

Who Are We Trying to Persuade?

I want to broaden the audience of the Christian apologist, though. Not only is the Christian apologist to convince the unbeliever concerning the claims of Christ; but the believer, as well! That is discipleship. It is what I call “pastoral apologetics.” There is a desperate and daily need to make a case for the truth, relevance and power of the Gospel for the believer as he or she faces the daily challenges of living the Christian life.

Notice how the apostle Paul warned the Colossians from being duped into thinking that there was something more they needed in addition to Christ to face the problems of living. Paul says this to believing Christians in Colossians 2:6-8;

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

In other words, while Paul found himself on many occasions defending the faith against the unbelief of those who rejected the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; he found as many opportunities to make a case for the claims of Christ for the benefit and sake of those who already believed. He does not want the believer to be taken captive by any other “false gospel.”

Are You Fighting to Believe?

Every time we gather with other Christians in fellowship and worship, pick up our Bibles to read or take a moment to pray, we are asking this question, “Is this really true?” Why? Because we are so easily duped. We need convincing on a daily basis.

Today, what are you struggling with? What temptation are you facing? Where are you tempted to find meaning and the resources to live another day? If you are honest with yourself, you are always fighting to believe what you profess. May your heart’s cry today be the same as another believer in Scripture who made his doubts and struggles known to God with these words,

I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24).

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

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 a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. 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.

A Web of Care: External Resources

Here are five strands of external care (building upon the internal strands) that can be leveraged to strengthen the pastoral ministry in your local church.

It is important to note that there are professionals in various areas who may or may not attend your church. As best you can, know who they are and get a sense of how they might be utilized in ways that can strengthen your web of care. This will require humility and wisdom. If some of these people attend your church, get them to help you identify the resources available in your community.

Strand One: Specially trained counselors. If you have professionally trained counselors in your church, they can be a rich resource for helping you care for and equip other people. The obvious challenge is recognizing what models are most influential in their care. Make every effort to pursue them and begin a conversation that moves in the direction of mutual understanding and appreciation. Most professionally trained counselors have not been adequately exposed to Biblical and theological categories that are essential to distinctively Christian counseling. It is also true that many pastors and leaders have not had adequate exposure to helpful diagnoses and skills in discipling ministry with more complex struggles. Strive to bring these two together.

Strand Two: Doctors and Psychiatrists. The physical body is complex. While doctors and psychiatrists are not omniscient, their training does provide insight into how the body influences the person. The same situation that exists with professionally trained counselors is true of doctors and psychiatrists. If you want a stronger web of care, do the same with them as you would do with the group in strand one. 

Strand Three: Social Workers. People in the helping professions, including counselors, can be a rich resource for the local church. Hospice care, those who care for the elderly, crisis pregnancy providers, suicide intervention, coroners, nurses, EMS, substance abuse and police officers are some of the many people who can play a role in very specific ways in the body of Christ. Often, they can be leveraged to do significant training for highly active lay people. Their experience and case wisdom is invaluable. Capture it for the good of others.

Strand Four: Every Member. One of the main aspects of a web of care is the daily relationships of each and every person in your church. As important as trained professionals are, there is no replacement for a person's daily friendships. These are the people who really know the person and are there around the clock. Every member in the local church should be equipped at some level to wisely care for those closest to them. You would do well to spend time equipping this group with basic skills for listening and a knowledge of where they can be helpful and where they may be over their heads.

Strand Five: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It goes without saying that within the context of the body of Christ, there are many strands of the web of care that can be found outside of the local church. One aspect that can not be found or manufactured anywhere else is the presence of a personal God who is graciously involved and working His good purposes in every Christian's life. We do well to remember that the local church has a "resource" that no other organization or institution has; a gracious, personal redeeming God who has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus and works mysteriously through the Holy Spirit.

Finally, it is helpful to remember that the primary metaphor for the church used over and over again in the Bible is that of a body. There are many parts and each part is needed in order for the body to function well. As you consider both internal and external strands within the body of Christ, you begin to see how very important each strand is. You also see just how important it is for each strand to be connected wisely to one another. The strands cannot exist as parallel entities. It is the role of wise leadership to strengthen the interconnectedness of the various people who represent these multiple aspects of care. This will only happen if wise leadership encourages and facilitates this connection. Once it does, a web of care will emerge that will provide a more safe, secure and wise context to provide care for the people who attend your local church.

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane 

Comment

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 a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. 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.

A Web of Care: Internal Resources

The other day, I was doing some cleaning in my basement. While working in a particular corner, I walked right into a spider web. My entire face was consumed. As I tried to get loose, pieces of the web kept sticking to other parts of my body; my fingers, arms, shoulders and even my torso! I could not get free of the web's embrace no matter how hard I tried.

Later that day, I was having a conversation with a fellow pastor about discipleship, counseling and pastoral care in the local church. In a serendipitous moment, I made a connection between my bad experience with the spider's web and a positive one as it relates to pastoral care.  When we think about caring for people within the context of the local church, the image of a web is helpful. We want to create a web of care so that people find it hard to hide, get lost, slip away or fall through the cracks.

I started thinking about the various strands of what that web would include. You see, a spider's web does it's job well because the spider spins many strands. A single strand will not suffice if the spider is going to catch its prey. Likewise, no single strand will suffice if the church is going to guard and feed the sheep. Here is a list of some of the strands.

Strand One: The Pastor. This is the first and most important strand, yet many churches think this is the only strand. When they do, people are not cared for. It only takes a congregation of 25 to overwhelm one pastor!

Strand Two: Spiritual Leaders. Any church worth its salt will have a number of spiritual leaders who assist the pastor and help provide stability for the people. If this is going to happen, it will mean that the lead pastor/pastors will have a vision and plan for equipping these leaders with interpersonal ministry skill.

Strand Three: Pastoral Staff. Most churches, even if they are small, have staff; a secretary, receptionist, nursery coordinator, children's minister, youth pastor and other assistant pastors. Every staff person must be adequately trained to know how best to help others grow in grace. Once again, it is the responsibility and calling of the lead pastors to provide this kind of training so that key staff are adequately able to know how to assist in the growth process of others.

Strand Four: Uniquely gifted lay-people. There are always a number of people who have gifts of mercy and are relationally strong in helping others with wise counsel. Often, they have gained these skills and character qualities through the hard knocks of life. You know who they are because people talk about how they have been helped by them. If this strand is going to be leveraged to the fullest, know who they are and create a natural but more formal connection with them and the other strands.

Strand Five: Small group leaders. In most cases, equipping for small group leaders has one of three legs missing. The two legs that are often present are: 1) training in how to lead a Bible study and 2) training in group dynamics and how to lead the group in discussion. The third leg that is often missing is what to do if an individual or couple approaches the small group leader after the meeting and asks for help with a problem in their lives. When small group leaders are given this third aspect of training, they become a vital part of the overall web of care.

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane 

Comment

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 a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. 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.

Pursuing Strategic Change

How can a church and her leaders begin to improve the care they provide in light of the hindrances that were mentioned in the previous post? There is much that can be said, but let me highlight a few.

1. Recognize that there are two groups of people in local churches, each with a different need.

  • The first group is made up of people who need a vision for inter-personal ministry that emerges from Scripture. Begin with the positive things God is doing in the church. All churches have strengths and weaknesses. My previous posts are full of passages that cast this kind of vision.
  • The second group is made up of people who already grasp the vision, but are afraid to get involved because they need to be equipped. The have bought the vision of  helping others, but actually helping someone may terrify them. 

2. Begin to think of the various groups that need to be taught and equipped. Assess and strategize for each group. Change in the local church is often slow, so give yourself time. Think in terms of years, not months. Here are a few different groups that you will want to consider.

  • Employed Pastoral staff
  • Non-employed leadership (elders/deacons)
  • Key Lay-Leaders: 
  • Small Group Leaders
  • Other Ministry Leaders: Sunday school teachers, worship, evangelism, mercy, missions, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, youth group leaders.
  • Every Member: parents, children, teenagers, married couples, elderly, and all friendships
  • Professional counselors, physicians and psychiatrists in your church and broader community

3. Utilize existing structures as much as possible. You want to avoid the impression that you are starting another program. Most churches are already busy.

  • Pulpit 
  • A new members’ class
  • Officer training
  • Leadership meetings
  • Scheduled committee meetings
  • Mentoring

This post is simply to help you get a sense of the big picture. For a more detailed explanation of this concept, feel free to download and read the chapter entitled “One Church’s Story” from the book How People Change. *

How People Change Chapter 16 DownloadOne Church's Story

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Tim Lane. All rights reserved.

*This article is adapted from How People Change, Copyright©2006 by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp. Used by permission of New Growth Press and may not be reproduced and/or distributed without prior written permission of New Growth Press.

2 Comments

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 a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. 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.