“You are not ultimately responsible for changing the hearts of people you minister to. The only hope we have of change is the Spirit of God working in us and others.”

In my last post, I laid out some practical steps to help you minister personally to someone else.  It provides an outline for what discipleship, mentoring, and counseling entails—and all of it revolves around love.  We love someone else as we minister to them by knowing them, speaking to them, serving them, and applying the gospel to their hearts and lives.  Each aspect is is indispensible, but biblical ministry isn’t just adding all of the different parts together.  On our own strength and abilities, we are still missing something—actually, someone—that makes all personal ministry possible: the Holy Spirit.  Biblical counseling and discipleship are designed by God to be carried along at every moment by the Spirit of God in both the counselor and the counselee (as long as they are Christians).

In this post I want to highlight three specific ways that the Holy Spirit is necessary in mentoring, discipling, and counseling.

1. The Spirit teaches us and reminds us of truth.

When Jesus prepared to leave his disciples, he promised them:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

When we minister to one another, we often feel unsure of what to say or what to do. But here is a reason for confidence: the Spirit of God is taking what we have learned, teaching it to the depths of our hearts, and bringing to our remembrance what we’ve previously studied. We are not alone. We are being empowered by the ongoing work of God himself to teach us and remind us. This gives us the confidence to know that as we are studying Scripture and ministering to others the insight we gain is empowered by God’s Spirit. This might look like a specific passage or verse coming to mind, or a person's struggle or questions reminding us of a truth about God or His world.

2. The Spirit grants us wisdom.

Ministering to someone else is overwhelming.  It takes wisdom to choose from all the different things we could say or do at any given moment—and we often feel like we don’t have it.  Thankfully, God not only teaches us about wisdom (i.e. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes), but he promises that he will give wisdom to us if we ask him for it. 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5 ESV)

What an incredible promise! If you ask for wisdom, “it will be given” to you! And the avenue for us to receive this wisdom is through the indwelling Spirit of God.  When you’re wondering whether you should speak or stay silent, or you’re trying to figure out what to say or what to do, God’s Spirit will grant you wisdom for the moment.  Depending on our own strength and knowledge gets us in trouble, but when we prayerfully seek wisdom God will subtly direct our steps.

3. The Spirit is the one who produces transformation.

You are not ultimately responsible for changing the hearts of people you minister to.  The only hope we have of change is the Spirit of God working in us and others.  Scripture explicitly tells us that the Christlikeness we want to bring about in one another’s lives is not simply the product of good ministry but the product of the Spirit working in the life of the person we’re ministering to.  In Scripture, Christlikeness is not called the fruits of good biblical counseling or even the fruits of wise discipleship.  It is called the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal 5:22-25)

The Spirit of God working in the heart of the counselee is the one who brings about the transformation that is the ultimate goal of our ministry.  When someone gives up drinking, or reconciles with their spouse, or experiences joy in the midst of pain, we can know that the Spirit truly is at work.

In light of these three truths, we can minister to others with confidence knowing that the Spirit of God is empowering our ministry every step of the way.  And isn’t that the way we want it?  I don’t want my counseling or mentoring or discipleship to make sense apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I want to be desperately dependent upon the Spirit of God, and be involved in ministry that is unexplainable without his active presence.  For counseling and discipleship to really work, he has to come through.  That is biblical personal ministry.

Scott Mehl

Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.

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