Over the last few days I’ve been interacting with Bob Kellemen’s new book, Equipping Counsellors for your Church (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). I’d like to conclude the series today by answering some potential objections to Bob’s vision of “every Christian a counsellor” and “every church a church of biblical counseling.”
Objection 1: We’ve never done this before. We’ve never thought like this before.
Maybe, but if the Bible commands us to do this, shouldn’t we listen? Shouldn’t we maybe confess, “I’ve not done this before…but I should have…and by God’s grace I will.” Yes, it’s a change from thinking “I need to call the pastor…” to “I need to call Joe or Mary, etc,” but it’s a blessed change.
Objection 2: I’m too old for this.
If anyone needs this kind of spiritual friendship it’s those who are entering the most trying stage of life. You don’t need hundreds of spiritual friends, but even one might be a huge help to you as you weaken and gradually withdraw from active church life. Wouldn’t you love to have someone to come to you in the nursing home or in the hospital with spiritual counsel rather than the latest gossip.
Objection 3: I don’t feel up to it.
Romans 15:14 says you are up to it! And the Bible can make you up to it. It’s not your own words but God’s that are needed. Of course, you will have limitations. Part of wisdom is knowing when you are out of your depth and you need outside help. But don’t underestimate the deep and lasting influence of being a humble, loving Christian friend.
Objection 4: I’d be afraid of people breaking confidences, etc.
That’s why we need to create and cultivate not just an element of openness and transparency with one another but also a commitment to integrity and loyalty to one another.
Objection 5: I’ve got enough problems myself without trying to help others.
Yes, you have many problems. But the Christian community can help you with them. And as you are helped, you can begin to help others too. Also, this is not just about problem-solving; this is about discipleship. It’s not about just reacting to the latest emergency, but about helping one another towards Christ-likeness and Christ-nearness.
Objection 6: It’s just not me – I’m a very private person.
There are many ways for this kind of discipleship/counseling to happen. Some will have very public role whereas others will have a more private role. Some can be trained and equipped to specialize in help for marriage problems, or depression, or parenting, etc. Maybe some could even be trained in the long-term to offer counsel in the local community. However, even for those of us who are more private, there can be more private roles. We can all pass on a verse from our own Bible reading or from family devotions. We can all ask a friend, “What did you enjoy in the Word this week?
Objection 7: Shouldn’t we leave spiritual counsel to the pastor and the professionals.
Well, of course, the pastor and elders will always retain a large role. That cord will not be cut. And, of course, there are some spiritual issues and complications of life that would be better dealt with by someone with more specialized knowledge, experience, wisdom, and training. However, there are lots of other issues/matters/problems that can be dealt with among spiritual friends. With prayer and training we can all become better spiritual friends and through ministering the Word on a one-to-one level we can supplement the pastor and elders work.
And, yes, there are special situations where even the pastor will recognize that he needs special counsel from specially trained and experienced people. However, there are many situations where there are perfectly capable people in the congregation who can speak wisely and helpfully. And anyway, we’re not talking just about extinguishing fires, problem-solving, etc; we’re talking also about discipling, the positive upbuilding of one another to closer communion and conformity to Christ. As Bob says, “Everyone is a counselor. The question is really whether it’s good or bad counsel.”
And just in case you think this just the latest modern church fad, hear Matthew Henry:
It is a comfort to faithful ministers to see their work superseded by the gifts and graces of their people. How gladly would ministers leave off their admonishing work, if people were able and willing to admonish one another! Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets. But that which is everybody’s work is nobody’s work.