Biblical Counseling, Part of the Work of the Church
We live in a day when the church is strapped in many ways because of false notions concerning what the church really is. Some see the church as a place to go for a religious fix; others go to the church for sacramental grace; some go to church to ease their conscience; some see the church as their social outlet; still others attend church to get their weekly pep talk so they can conquer the business world; many simply go because its their tradition; and many think they fully serve the Lord by simply going to church. Our contemporary evangelical culture actually promotes some of these notions. For example, too many mega-churches have no concept of a regenerate church membership or biblical church discipline and myriads of persons attend such churches in complete isolation and anonymity. They relish the fact that they can be religious and sit on the sidelines without being bothered. Other churches are entertainment oriented with an unapologetic affirmation of such so as to attract the world by demonstrating to the world "how much like you we really are." Even the design of our conservative sanctuaries smacks of performance oriented worship with actors on a stage and a passive audience sitting silently with rapt attention 'til the curtain closes.
And yet, according to the Scriptures, the church is a very different thing. The church, in simple terms, is a body; a family; a bride. The church is in union with Christ Jesus and as such is His body, family, and bride. The church is a group of people called out of the word for His Name. Of course the church has many tasks including worship, evangelism, teaching, fellowship, missions, ministry, etc. One particular dynamic so often neglected in contemporary circles is the task given to the church of ministering to one another. The saints are to be equipped to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11). They are to love one another, confront one another, bear with one another's burdens, comfort one another, forgive one another, and so much more. The members of the church must constantly engage in the one anothering ministry to which they have been called. To forsake such is to cripple the church in a most debilitating way.
The one anothering ministry of the church can actually be summed up in terms of both formative and corrective discipleship. Formative discipleship is that ongoing process of ministering to one another for the purpose of growth in grace while corrective discipleship is that loving confrontation that must occur when members of the family are trapped in sin. (These concepts may also be referred to as formative and corrective discipline). Another term that may be used in connection with this biblical dynamic is that of biblical counseling. This term may be used as a catch-all for the discipling ministry of the body as discipleship is grounded in the application of the word of God to the hearts of God's people.
In contemporary emphases on discipleship, the concepts of dealing with the heart and heart transformation are so often left out. Yet, even the Great Commission conceives of such as the Lord Jesus instructed us to teach disciples to obey all that He has commanded. This teaching has to do with instruction, but, more than that, it has to do with application. We are not simply commanded to teach, but we are to teach others how to obey the Lord. The "how to" emphasis goes directly to the heart of the believer and to the heart of the issue at hand. This assertion is grounded in the Scriptural fact that external behavior is never the ultimate goal when biblical ministry is in view. The heart must be transformed so that behavior follows and indeed flows from that transformed heart. Christ is never interested in mere external conformity to a set of rules. He is always concerned with the condition of the heart as it relates to Him.
Thus, the concept of biblical counseling encompasses the dynamics of formative and corrective discipleship with a view toward heart transformation. The Scriptures conceive of such ministry as primary in the context of the body. We are to counsel one another with the word constantly with a view toward sanctification and if necessary, restoration. This work is the work of the church in its family/body context.
This concept is grounded in Paul's word to the Romans. "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with knowledge, and competent also to admonish one another (Rom. 15:14)." Paul says that we are competent to admonish one another. Note the one anothering dynamic mentioned here. Further, note Paul's use of the word admonish. This word translates the Greek word noutheteo and has a wide range of meaning and usage depending upon the context. It means to exhort, warn, comfort, instruct, correct, rebuke, encourage, etc. Literally, the concept is "to put in mind." We are to put something in the minds of one another.
The emphasis upon the mind certainly highlights the instructive nature of the concept as well as the content of our instruction: the word of God. We are to constantly put in the minds of one another that word from the Lord that fits our particular situation. In fact, the word of the Lord fits every conceivable situation in which we find ourselves. In this way, the body is built up into a mighty spiritual force enabled to go into the world and do battle. The church will then participate in God's activity of advancing His gospel and translating captives out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. The church is established by Christ, built by Christ, and empowered by Christ. Our role in the partnership to which we've been called by God is to admonish one another that we might be effective participants in Christ's activity and effective instruments in His hand. Biblical counseling is that dynamic of admonishing one another. Again, this work is the work of the church in its family/body context.