Category Archives: Church

Counseling and the Church

there are many terms that are thrown around and often misunderstood in church life.  ‘COUNSELING’ is one of those words.

the truth is that counseling has never been foreign to the Word of God or the people of God and was common in the new testament church community.  one of the reasons that we struggle to view counseling and church life is because we have so many definitions and presuppositions concerning counseling.

when we think counseling, our thoughts tend to drift to the stereotypes of psychology: a stiff, monotone professional (in a white dress shirt, usually wearing glasses) asking an introspective, nearly lost in their own story, individual who is laying on a couch staring at the ceiling.  now, it is no surprise that psychology dominates our thoughts on counseling (specifically the way it is portrayed on movies or tv).  but, we need to broaden our understanding and consider that although psychology shapes our understanding of counseling, it does not define it.  after all, psychology has only been around since the end of the 19th century and has really only been prominent or mainstream since the 1960s.  counseling, on the other hand, has been a part of human history since the beginning.

counseling is defined as ” instruction directing the judgement or behavior of another.”

why has counseling been around since human origin?  simple. because we have always needed wisdom in our thinking and behaving.   [insert sarcastic  joke on men and women here]

now, we don’t have time and i dont have the knowhow to discuss the development of counseling nor the source of counsel from every culture throughout history.  whether it be a deity, a priest, a spouse, a witchdoctor, the stars, or a professional psychiatrist, mankind has always sought wisdom and counsel for the purpose of guidance, revelation and change.  The only thing that has differed throughout history is the source of the counsel that is sought.

with that in mind, lets take a quick dip in the counseling pool of scripture.

Since the beginning (Gen. 1) God has spoken his Word into creation, directing, sustaining, and counseling.

‘Counseling?’  you say.  Yes.  Counseling.  in fact, scripture goes so far as to say that God is the fountain from which all wisdom and all true counsel flows.  (Job 12:13)  After all, if God’s very nature is the fullness of wisdom and knowledge, why wouldn’t He be the best counselor of all time?

Surely this is what the scripture declares.  the Lord is spoken of as the counselor . . . infinite in wisdom, he leads his people according to his Word.  (ps. 32:8, 73:24)  He counsels those he loves, instructs their souls with His Word daily.  (Ps. 16:7, 119:24)

the kings of Israel sought the Lord’s counsel as the managed a people and led a nation. (1 Kings 22:5)

Christ promised that a Counselor would come to all who believe, to all who are included in the universal church, and that He would teach them all things concerning life and godliness. (Jn 14:26)

Counseling is not only what God does, it is part of who He is.

As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, ‘for to us a child is born, to us a son is given. . . and He will be called WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace.

The scripture reveals that God is not only the greatest counselor of all time- whose counsel is available for those who seek it- it also tells us that every person who believes in Christ is called and equipped to engage other believers in counseling.  (please take captive any temptation to envision a psych. office or mental institution, church-facility redesign.)

Seriously- The New Testament calls believers to be Counselors.

7 times we are called to counsel.  the Greek word used by Paul and Luke is noutheteo.  it is most often translated in our modern english versions of the Bible as , ‘warn,’ ‘instruct,’ ‘counsel’ or ‘admonish.’

in secular (that is, non christian) greek literature, the word noutheteo means ‘to exert influence upon the mind.  the use of advice, warning, teaching or admonition to redirect the ways and behavior of another.’

noutheteo means ‘to provide instruction for the purpose of correcting the thoughts and behavior of another.’ (yes, this is very similar to our English definition of the word counseling or counsel)

So what should we conclude.

  1. Counseling has been a part of human history since the dawn of human existence.
  2. There are many forms of counseling and many sources of counsel.
  3. Psychology should shape our understanding of counseling, but, since it is just one form(and one of the newest at that) and one source of counseling, it should not define it.
  4. Counseling is part of the work and nature of God.  All who call on him for His many wonderful names- ‘prince of peace,’ ‘everlasting Father,’ should also call on Him as their ‘Wonderful Counselor.’
  5. Counseling has been an essential part of the church since Christ commissioned it.
  6. Counseling from scripture should be understood as the practical application of scripture to correct and shape thinking, attitudes and behavior.
  7. Church life devoid of intentional counseling in the midst of community and discipleship is missing a critical part of biblical community.

 

some great links on counseling and the church:
http://www.competentcounseling.com/

http://www.ccef.org/

 

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Christian Community, Prt III

so we are working through the biblical view of ‘fellowship’ and its implications on christian community.

the last post looked at one of the most common ways that the greek word  koinonia is translated-  ‘communion,’ that is,  to ‘have in common.’  it is an intimate sharing, referring to the sharing of beliefs, possessions, emotions, thoughts, etc.

1 John 1:3 predsents koinonia in this manner, proclaiming that we have COMMUNION with God and with one another.
we should understand this phrase to mean that we have an intimate sharing of a common life.

the First definitiion of biblical fellwoship designates a RELATIONSHIP.

When we become believers, the Bible says we have COMMUNION with God, we are ONE with God. And, at the same time, we are brought into COMMUNION with Others, the church. This intimate relationship is a result in our POSITION in Christ.

We now move to the second most common usuage of the word koinonia. 

Paul the apostle uses this word to designate a ‘PARTNERSHIP.’  (Phil. 1:5, Gal. 2:9)  That is, koinonia can be understood as a join pursuit towards a common aim.

 Biblical Fellowship is
an intimate sharing of a
COMMON LIFE
in pursuit of a COMMON AIM.

Applying this two part definition to biblical fellowship helps us understand that gospel implications for a church community that the scritpure presents as one of the most beautiful relationships that is possible in the human experience.

implications of a common life and a common aim to come. . . .

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Christian Community, prt II

a few weeks ago i started a new post series on christian community.  the first post centered around Christ’s prayer in John 17, the call to Christian unity.  The unity of the church is of eternal importance, as, according to Christ, it is the unity of the church that affirms the validity of the gospel message, the coming of Christ and of God’s abounding love, to a lost and hopeless world.

i want to begin to think through what Christian Community is, starting with the all too trendy word, ‘FELLOWSHIP.’

shelves of books have been written about Christian fellowship.  many have made known to us that fellowship is more than just hamburgers and volleyball, starbucks and an eldredge book, or christmas parties and caroling.  the church has thrown this word around for years, ‘join us for food, fun and fellowship.’  unfortunately, too few understand what it means and too  many think it is simply a part of an activity.

most often preachers turn to Acts 2 in discussing fellowship.

in Acts 2:42-46, the early believers were described as being DEVOTED: they were first and foremost zealously committed to the teachings of Christ, that which the apostles labored to share with them. It is important to note that this devotion (and all that follows in v. 42-46) was a corporate devotion. The truth we need to see is that the NT clearly teaches that the Christian Life is lived out in community with the Church.
the second thing we need to see, which is the focal point of this post, is that they were zealously committed to the FELLOWSHIP. there is often a distinct difference between our use of the term ‘fellowship’ and the biblical use of the term as we see it in Acts 2.

the greek word is koinonia.   it has not one but TWO common translations in scripture. both will help us undestand the meaning of ‘the fellowship’ that these beleivers were so sold out to.

FIRST:  koinonia means ‘communion.’

the basic definition of this word is to ‘have in common.’  it is a sharing, and intimate sharing,
usually referring to the sharing of beliefs, possessions, emotions, thoughts, etc.

This is the way koinonia is understood in other areas of scripture,
such as 1 John 1:3.
1 John tells us that the gospel brings us into COMMUNION with God and with one another.
it is an intimate sharing of a common life.

Communion then, is not a word designating an ACTIVITY, it is a beautiful word that symbolizes an intimate RELATIONSHIP.

It is a relationship of unity, of oneness, perhaps, in many ways, more intimate than we can understand. When we become believers, the Bible says we have COMMUNION with God, we are ONE with God. And, at the same time, we are brought into COMMUNION with Others, the church. This intimate relationship is a result in our POSITION in Christ. All who believe in Christ, are ‘in him’, united with Him in COMMUNION.

Therefore, as a Believer, we are ONE with GOD and ONE with Christ’s Church. This, is Fellowship.
Definition Part ONE: Fellowship is COMMUNION: a SHARED LIFE.

In or next post we will begin to shed light on how ‘a shared life’ redefines the church.  we will also begin to look at the second most common translation of the word koinonia to give us a fuller understanding of Christian Fellowship.

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Concerning Christian Community

during the fall semester of 2010 we took a few weeks to discuss biblical community with our teens.  i have decided to post excerpts from this series.

before we hit the book of Acts and begin to understand the beauty of the community of believers, i think it is good for us to understand the importance of Christian Community.  let us start with an essential element, UNITY.

in John 17, Christ prays for His disciples and all of those who would believe the gospel message as a result of their ministry. it is a beautiful prayer, the last words recorded from the mouth of Christ in John’s gospel before he is arrested, tortured and crucified.

the prayer is setup with a progression of the mission of the gospel:
God the Father sent the Son to proclaim the Word.
the Disciples accepted the Word and are then sent out by Christ to proclaim the message to the World.
All who hear and accept the gospel are a part of this great mission.

between the death of Christ (v.19) and the joys of eternity in His presence (v.25), Christ prays for one thing and one thing only- the Unity of the Church.

first, we must cover the Foundation of Unity.
lets remember where this unity comes from:
the unity of our christian community comes from God- Christian unity is the result of the power and working of God (hence the reason why Christ is praying to the Father for it to be a reality in the church).  it is part of being united with Him through Christ (v.21) and is the result of the reality of God’s love in our midst and the presence of Christ in us. (v.26) All of this is a result of Christ’s ministry to the Church, as He continues to make God (the father) known.

the result of Christian Unity:
in the midst of this beautiful mystery, that of being one with believers and one with the triune God (v.21) is a frightening reality-

the church is to be One SO THAT the World will believe that
a.) the Father Sent Christ
b.) the Father loves the church as He loves Christ. (v.21,23)

our unity, as a church, validates the message that we are to proclaim to the World! it, according to Christ, proves that the gospel is true, that Christ is real, that He is from God, and that God passionately loves those whom He has drawn to Himself through Christ!

in Summary:
okay, so we are a part of this great mission to give hope to a world in Chaos. This hope comes from the message of the gospel, spoken by and rooted in Christ, entrusted to the disciples and now entrusted to us. We are called to share this message. . . but, the thing that gives it weight. . . the testimony of its truthfulness. . . is the unity of the church.

Frightening Implications:
there is another relationship that God describes with ‘Oneness’ terminology. Marriage. the marriage relationship is described as a living testimony of the unity of the triune God. a husband and wife become 1 person, never to separate. my generation has a very clear stance on marriage. . . too many of my peers say ‘don’t get married. sure, date, live together, but don’t get married. when you get married it ruins everything. and kids, don’t have kids, they ruin relationships.’ this is a horrific understanding of marriage and family as God designed it. why does such a prevalent view exist?  one reason, i believe, is Divorce.  so many in my generation gaze, suspiciously at marriage, through the lens of broken families and  the terrible consequences of divorce.

it is for this reason that i say that Christ’s prayer has frightening implications. too many churches exist, not unified, but divided, living out divorced relationships. the world too often looks at the church and concludes, ‘yes, i’m spiritual, but i can’t believe in organized religion.’ they look at the church and claim, ‘if that is the church, i can’t believe in their God.’ Christ said that the church must be unified. . . SO THAT the world would believe the message of the Gospel.

the Church Community is to be so radically different from the relationships of this World that when people look at the church they see the presence of God, the Love of God and are drawn to the gospel of God!

i wonder how many people of our community will die and spend eternity in Hell because they have rejected the message of God.  how many, i wonder, have rejected the message after seeing the church? our church?

either our commitment to the church community draws people to the truthfulness of the gospel or it drives them away from the message we proclaim.

how important is christian community? so important that our witness to the lost is in peril without a unified, intimate relationship with the body of believers.

Christ is SO passionate about the Church community (so much so that he would plead with the Father for our unity and give Himself up on the cross for the Church)- are we as committed to the church as He is?

we have been entrusted with the hope of the Word- our commitment to the gathering of believers will either validate the gospel or pervert it.

Are we as committed to the Unity of our Church as Christ is?

eternity hangs in the balance.

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