Building a Church Counseling Ministry

Book Review: Building a Church Counseling Ministry by Sue Nicewander

Problem: How can solo pastors in small-to-medium size churches provide a counseling ministry without killing themselves in the process?

Solution: Collaborate with a number of other similar churches to employ a full-time biblical counselor to service each congregation’s needs.

The main strength of this book is its reality. It is not the result of a doctoral thesis, but rather of hundreds and probably thousands of hours of real-world ministry cooperation among five local churches. As the average church in the US has a congregation numbering between 75-150 members, making it financially impossible for such churches to each employ a Biblical Counselor, the model of 4-5 churches collaborating to hire and share such a counselor between them should be attractive to many local churches.

Another strength is it’s practicality. I wouldn’t read this book if I wanted to learn about the principles of Biblical Counseling; it touches on that only briefly and addresses alternative views even more briefly and rather simplistically.  However it does provide lots of step-by-step practical guides for getting from no counseling ministry in your church to a trained Biblical Counselor working cooperatively with a handful of other churches.

It demonstrates the process to be followed in each local church: how to gain the support of your congregation, how to identify co-laboring churches, how to hire a biblical counselor, how to administer and manage the ministry, accountability, etc. There are almost a hundred pages of appendices.

If you are thinking of starting this kind of ministry, I’d recommend this book, especially if you are in a small-to-medium size church. But first of all, I’d read Bob Kellemen’s Equipping Counselors for Your Churchwhich, though also practical, contains more theological groundwork.

Buy Building a Church Counseling Ministry by Sue Nicewander (with Pastor Jonathan Jenks and Stephen Steinmetz). 

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Aikman Opportunity Award for Young Christian Writers
Want to win $20,000 and get a book contract?

The 10 Commandments did not end at Mt. Calvary
Tom Ascol argue the case for the continued relevance of the moral law.

Culture Creep: How an Orientation is Born
You’ll need a strong stomach for this one.

Worshipping with our little children
And here’s Fred Zaspel’s enthusiastic review of Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts.

Three Themes to Preach from Leviticus

43 Breathtaking photos you’ll never forget

Prepare for Gay Marriage

I hate writing about this subject, but with both French and British parliaments passing gay marriage laws in the past week, we’re reaching a no-turning-back point in our world. God is sovereign and specializes in last minute rescues, but barring a Mordecai-type intervention we might as well face up to the reality that gay marriage is coming down the pike at an unstoppable speed, and it’s going to impact many Christians in damaging and even destructive ways. While continuing to pray, preach, and campaign against this (read these nine words again), we must also ask how we can prepare for the collision in such a way that minimizes the carnage.

1. Prepare our children
Most of us try to protect our children from sexual information until they are mature enough to handle it, without delaying so much that they end up hearing it first from someone else. We also want to lay a solid foundation of teaching them about God’s beautiful design for sexual relationships before eventually explaining the various perversions of God’s order.

That privilege – of waiting until our children are old enough and of presenting the beautiful before the ugly – will be increasingly denied us by the normalization and display of homosexuality in the media, in schools, and in the malls. This is going to be tough, but we will have to teach our children much earlier and about much more than we would ordinarily choose.

2. Prepare to love
Though Christians are often accused of hating homosexuals, homosexuals harbor far more hate for Christians than vice versa. They really do hate us in a way I’ve never seen in any other group – way more than radical Muslims or even the secular humanist and communist groups of the 1970′s to 1990′s, and that’s saying something. They are our self-declared enemies and want to see our beliefs, words, and actions criminalized. They want to shut down our businesses, render Christians unemployable, and incarcerate our preachers.

In response, we must love them.

That’s going to be one of the hardest things we will ever do, as most of us will never have encountered such personal enmity from anyone. But we must beg for the spirit of Christ, who prayed, “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.” We must graciously and gently good-news them and good-deed them, while being unflinching in our moral convictions.

We don’t need to prove our spiritual manhood by condemning homosexuality in every sermon and prayer. Keep the focus on the saving love of Christ, no matter how tempting it is to get into constant condemnation mode. Remember, there are probably homosexuals in most of our congregations. Try to win them, not beat them.

3. Prepare for jail
I doubt most politicians really want lots of otherwise law-abiding citizens jailed for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or for preaching that homosexuality is wrong. Many do, however, want to create a climate of intimidation that will deter Christians from doing such things. If the UK pattern is a model – and it looks as if US campaigners are using the same playbook – they will pass “hate-crime” legislation, press charges against us, shame us in the media, stigmatize our businesses and churches, threaten us with the loss of our children, and impose substantial fines, all in the hope to scare us into silence. But when none of these things move us, the legal penalties will intensify until eventually some of us, maybe many of us, will end up going to prison for it. We’d better get ready for that inevitable reality.

4. Prepare for betrayal
This is going to be a sifting time. Some Christians will cave. Prominent preachers will compromise. Famous Christians will distance themselves from believers who have fallen foul of homosexual campaigners. “What’s the point in going to jail? We can still preach the Gospel without ever mentioning homosexuality. We must be wise….etc.” There will be major Judas-type disappointments. The mighty will fall. But many humble unknown Christians will suffer honorably and beautifully and know the blessedness of being persecuted for righteousness sake.

5. Prepare a refuge?
This great nation was founded when a group of persecuted believers fled religious persecution to find and enjoy freedom of religion. It’s beyond ironic that the very same pilgrims would be among the first targets of this new “religious” persecution if they were alive today. If the current trajectory continues, we will look at one another and ask, “Where can we flee to?” Perhaps a State will come forward that will stand up to this tyranny and offer refuge to thousands of moral and spiritual refugees, aliens in their own land. Maybe another Mayflower will be required, perhaps many of them, this time to sail away from these shores in hope of finding freedom to worship and serve God according to His Word. But where to? Where is left? Russia? Which brings us to…

6. Prepare for eternity
The Bible makes clear, and history backs it up, that when a people goes down this route, it’s close to it’s end. It has run out of moral ground, it’s already over the cliff, and falling into the holy wrath of God. As country after country passes gay marriage laws, the end is coming closer and closer. If the USA falls, how far behind will God’s judgment be? The time is short and shortening. We need mercy, we need prayer, we need to plead with our family and friends to flee the coming wrath by fleeing to Christ the only savior of sinners – yes even homosexual sinners – that will come to Him for salvation.

In the meantime, let’s not give up and give in but continue to do all that we can to save our society and precious souls.

The Last Enemy: Preparing to Win the Fight of Your Life

Book Review: The Last Enemy by Michael Wittmer

If anyone can make a book on death a bestseller, it’s Mike Wittmer. A lively, original, concise writer who combines solid biblical orthodoxy with a rare ability to communicate truth in an interesting, and yes, even entertaining way.

Maybe “entertaining” is too strong a word, especially considering that the topic is death. I certainly don’t want you to think that Mike is approaching this serious topic in a superficial or trivializing way. Perhaps “enjoyable” is more accurate. If it’s possible to write an enjoyable book about death, then Mike’s done it.

It’s enjoyable for two reasons. The first is the wonderful truth that Mike is teaching in the latter part of the book. The first ten chapters, though, are about “Knowing your enemy,” each explaining one word that’s associated with the pain of death (e.g. shock, fear, anger, sorrow, guilt, regret, etc). You won’t laugh reading these pages. It’s real and raw.

But the joy comes as he transitions to thirteen chapters calling us to “Trust Christ’s victory.” These chapters provide beautiful meditations on thirteen biblical words showing how the Gospel of Christ utterly and totally transforms death (e.g. resurrection, triumph, rest, hope, heaven, etc).

For believers and unbelievers
The book is also enjoyable for the way Mike communicates the truth. It’s a fast-paced book with short chapters, and lots of anecdotes, illustrations, quotations, and down-to-earth application. Although written for Christians, it would be an excellent book to put into the hands of unbelievers as well, especially those facing death. It would also be good for the unconverted children of a Christian who has fallen asleep in Jesus.

I think I’ll add it to the books I should read every year as it would not only help me to obey the Augustinian admonition to “Think daily upon thine own death,” but also to “Think daily about thine own glorious future!”

The Last Enemy by Michael Wittmer. Mike blogs here and Twitters here.

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The pastor and his reading
Reading guru Tony Reinke has a link in this article to the address he gave at the Desiring God National Conference. He lists 14 ways a pastor can build a reading church.

Simple ideas that are borderline genius
Use these photos to marvel at how much divine creativity reamins in His image-bearers.

8 ways to pray during sermon preparation
Good one to print out and tape to your screen.

20 Tips for Parenting Young Kids
Now really looking forward to Steve’s next post on parenting teens ;)

Any place for the God of Job?
Carl covers a lot in this post but one para I especially enjoyed was this: “Christians are no more exempt from depression than they are from cancer or strokes; and the idea that these things are necessarily linked to our lack of faith, to our personal sin, to our outlook on life, or, indeed, to anything intrinsic to us, is nonsense and unbiblical.” He concludes: “One of the problems with Osteen is that his theology has no place for the God of Job.   But before we go after Osteen on this score, we need to ask ourselves: Does our theology have a place for such a God?”

What you need to know for preaching through Ecclesiastes
Timothy Reymond recently concluded a 13 sermon series on Ecclesiastes – no mean feat – and passes on three reflections on the experience.