Gospel Answers for the Suffering
- Wednesday, November 22, 2006
When Christians are pressed with the problems of life where should they turn? According to Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), too often believers fail to look to the deepest and richest source of help available: the Bible.
"A lot of Christians seem to think that the Gospel is good for all the normal troubles of life, but when you get to the real complicated stuff, you need a more precise science," says Tim Lane, a member of the CCEF faculty. "We are convinced that the same grace of Christ can be applied to any and every issue and experience in a fallen world. The Gospel is comprehensive and robust enough to address any form of suffering."
CCEF provides resources, training and counseling, all of which point believers to Christ as central in the change process.
For example, anger is a common struggle, Lane says. A counselor who is more behaviorally oriented would seek to apply techniques or skills that a person would use in those moments of anger. "We would say that's fine, but it's not deep enough."
Lane says CCEF's approach would be to first get a sense of what is motivating the behavior. Perhaps it is a need to control chaotic circumstances. "In those moments, we want you to see the beauty of Christ and to live out your relationship with Him," Lane says. "So change is driven by the heart being recaptured by the beauty of Christ. And then, as a result, behavior begins to change."
Many Christians live with ‘‘the Gospel gap," Lane contends, using a phrase he and co-author Paul Tripp coined in their book How People Change. "They understand the past forgiveness of sin and their future eternal destination, but they often don't understand how all that connects in the push and pull of daily living. So at the end of the day, they lapse into an unreflected, stoic obedience, as opposed to living out a relationship with Christ characterized by the cycle of repenting and believing."
The theme of applying the Gospel to all areas of life is dominant throughout all CCEF resources including books, conferences, counselor training and their insightful series of short booklets.
Each booklet addresses a different issue, such as sexual sin, stress, worry, loneliness, attention deficit disorder and many others. Currently there are approximately 35 booklets in the series covering a wide range of issues. CCEF offers a booklet sample pack as well as display racks for the booklets.
But CCEF is not just a "think tank," Lane says. Faculty members also do one-on-one counseling at the home office in Glenside, Pennsylvania. At the same time, an important part of CCEF's mission is to restore counseling to the local church. "We not only want to make Christ central in the change process, as people struggle with personal and interpersonal problems," Lane says, "but we want the church to be the primary context in which that change occurs."
To help equip local churches to do Christ-centered counseling, CCEF offers academic courses and publications aimed at seminarians as well as laymen.
Also available is a two-part discipleship curriculum. Part one, titled "How People Change," focuses on a Gospel-centered understanding of the Christian life. The second part, "Helping Others Change," is aimed at encouraging Christians to grow in grace and overcome problems.
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