Cornerstone exists because of Jesus. We are a people who have been transformed by the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has forgiven us and adopted us into his family. Now, we have a whole new life.
Through the gospel, God redeems us, forgives us, and adopts us into his family. The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection makes each one of us a new creation and gives us a new identity: children of God. This is why we can never think of the church as an organization or a building. The church is actually a family—God’s family, filled with redeemed sinners that are now his children.
Through the gospel, God forgives us, adopts us into his family, and makes us his disciples. This means that the church is not just any family. We are a family formed by God—and sent out with a purpose.
The church is a family that ministers to one another, cares for one another, and builds one another up. Each member of the family is a child of God who is uniquely gifted to bless the family and to be a light in our city.
Just like a vine grows best with a good trellis, our church family grows best with good programs. Our programs and ministries are tailored to support the community and mission God has given us.
"The biblical model of ministry does not rely on professionals or experts. Instead, it is carried out by brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow strugglers who love someone enough to enter into the mess of his or her life."
Justice emailed the church office looking for help. She had been struggling with depression on and off for years, but recently things had taken a turn for the worse. Our counseling ministry coordinator connected her with Rachel, one of our volunteer counselors. Rachel has years of experience, a degree in biblical counseling, and an incredible amount of practical wisdom. In fact, Rachel is the counselor I would send just about anyone to. But when Justice found out Rachel would be her counselor, she asked if there were someone else she could meet with. What was wrong with Rachel? Why did Justice not want to meet with one of the most mature and wise women in the church? Her reasoning was simple: the two women knew each other.
Rachel and Justice had some mutual friends and they spent some time together socially. They weren’t close friends, but they were more than acquaintances. According to conventional wisdom, this disqualified Rachel as an appropriate counselor. Justice assumed what many of us assume: that the best counselors are “objective,” “uninvolved,” and removed from your regular life and social circles. But is that true?
Therapeutic counseling is based on a patient-therapist model that requires “professionalism” and “boundaries.” But biblical counseling is based on a model of interpersonal gospel care. The biblical model of ministry does not rely on professionals or experts. Instead, it is carried out by brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow strugglers who love someone enough to enter into the mess of his or her life.
In fact, the concept of a detached and “objective” counselor is so foreign to the biblical model of ministry, Scripture doesn’t even have a category for it, nor a single example of it. Every discipler (or counselor) in Scripture is shown engaging in the life of another person, not standing at a distance making a formal appointment. While making an appointment is not necessarily wrong, but ministry in the Bible takes place in the context of relationship, not removed from it.
Counseling in the context of a personal relationship brings a number of practical benefits that you won't get from a stranger:
When you sit down with a stranger, you have to start from scratch. They don’t know your background or your family. They don’t know your friends or what you do for work. They don’t have any idea what kind of outside pressures might be contributing to your struggle. When you sit down with someone you know, they have a head start. They already know a number of things about you and your situation, and can spend their time digging deeper and going farther instead of spending hours just trying to understand your background or your personality.
The idea that knowing someone less actually provides more insight into his or her life absolutely baffles me. The more someone actually knows you (and not just what you choose to tell them), the more skillfully and wisely they can help apply biblical truth to your life and heart. I’ve often thought of biblical knowledge and knowledge of a person as two of the most significant contributing factors to wise and loving counsel. I may know someone incredibly well, but if I don’t have any biblical knowledge my counsel is not going to be very helpful. However, similarly, I may have a great deal of biblical knowledge, but if I don’t know the person I’m ministering to my counsel will inevitably be weak and misguided. To counsel someone well you must know both the Bible and the person.
When counselors or therapists are portrayed in television or movies they are, more often then not, stand-ins for God. They are portrayed as all-knowing, all-wise, and completely emotionally stable. Because of this popular representation, the counseling relationship often times carries with it a mystical quality. The counselee’s issues will be “fixed” because of the great power and wisdom of the counselor. The truth is that every Christian you meet is a fellow forgiven sinner, just like you—even the counselors. When you are counseled by someone you know, it removes the mystical quality and reminds you that you are sitting with a real Christian whose weaknesses and life you know personally.
Finally, being counseled by someone you know aids the transition from intentional counseling to a sustainable long-term strategy that addresses your sin or struggle. Intensive counseling is not intended to be a substitute for the ongoing, long-term discipleship that we all ought to experience in the body of Christ. While we may have seasons during our lives when we need the help of someone with more experience or more time to meet with us regularly, the long-term context for our growth in Christ is our normal relationships in the church and, hopefully, most specifically in a small group. When you are counseled by someone who knows you, they also know the people around you, the structure of your church, and the people in your small group. They will be far more effective at helping you address your sin or struggle in these relationships than a stranger ever would.
Now, I know that we don’t always have the opportunity to be counseled by someone that we know. Sometimes you may be reaching out and the only person available to help is a stranger. Of course, this can be a great blessing as well. But if you receive the opportunity to be counseled by someone that you know, don’t turn it down in order to look for something more "objective." Embrace it as an incredible blessing from God, because that's exactly what it is.
Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.
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