With the third annual Biblical Counselling UK conference just around the corner, we catch up with committee member, Dr Andrew Nicholls and find out how coming along to No Shame? will equip and inspire us to love others better.
What’s so important about the topic of shame?
Shame is everywhere. Whenever we get into more serious conversations about what really troubles us, guilt and shame surface with surprising regularity. Sometimes people hang their heads low as they recall the hurt they have inflicted on others. Others speak of feeling dirty because of what has been done to them. On other occasions a friend might give voice to a suspicion not shared before, that maybe, for them, there actually is some kind of barrier between them and God – one that makes them unloveable in his sight. For some, the shame they’re carrying is a nagging thorn in their flesh, but for others it constitutes an overwhelming torrent of emotion in which they feel drowned. Most of us are on the spectrum somewhere. Most of us find ourselves quietly wondering, from time-to-time at least, if we’re really acceptable to God, to others, to ourselves. But God wants us to know the fact that, through Jesus, we can be cleansed thoroughly. No hint of guilt remains.
True. But aren’t we already pretty good at talking about forgiveness in churches?
There are many churches up and down the country which faithfully proclaim the wonderful forgiveness found in Christ week-by-week. Most people in our churches will have often heard – in biblical sermons, faithful outreach events and quiet conversations – encouragements that point clearly to the reality of forgiveness. But still many people, Christians and non-Christians struggle to make the links between what they hear from God’s word and what they see in the specific detail of their own lives. The glorious generalities of the gospel don’t always make it through to the darkest corners, and I think we can get better at that. I hope I can, anyway!
Isn’t that God’s work, to apply his word to the individual?
Yes it is, but he uses people to do it! He uses a whole chain of people to translate it from Greek into words that are understood precisely and powerfully by an individual with their own set of questions and objections and experiences of shame. We’re thinking about how to do that very last bit as well as we can – so we can understand the cross and resurrection, then to live in its light with faith and courage. Coming alongside someone feeling hopelessly contaminated by, for example, sexual sin, or constant parental nagging to “eat your food or you’ll go to hell” (as one ex-Catholic I spoke to recently reported from her childhood) is an important way to love, but it can also be difficult and done wrong! “You just need to accept it” gets heard as “you see, there really is something hopelessly wrong with you!”
How will this conference help us to encourage others (and ourselves) to live out grace more practically?
By taking us deeper into the character of God, deeper into the power of the cross and deeper into the complexity of the human life and helping us get these things firmly bolted together. At the start of the day, Steve Midgley (Executive Director of Biblical Counselling UK) will open God’s word to us and help us see from the Gospel of Mark the wonderful ways in which Jesus reaches out to those burdened with shame. Then Ed Welch (CCEF faculty member and author of the outstandingly helpful book, Shame Interrupted) will lead us in a couple of sessions that will help us understand what shame is and how Jesus’ nature and mission turns shame on its head and opens the door to real freedom and complete forgiveness for the believer. That transforms life here and now, not just in the life to come! I’m looking forward to great teaching, to responding to God in praise, and to meeting people who share a passion for Christ-centred change. Plus the chance to find out how to get even more equipped in the future through a great bookstall and our rapidly growing structured training courses.
Who’s the conference for?
If you’re involved in counselling (formally or informally), a pastor, a small group leader, a youth worker or if you’re simply someone who has a heart to stand alongside those who struggle and point them to Jesus, this conference is absolutely for you! As a committee, our prayer is that the day will equip and inspire anyone who wants to get better at recognising the pervasive effects of shame and the powerful remedy found in the gospel – and the plan is to do that in ways that are unswervingly biblical and thoroughly accessible.
How can we book?
Some tickets are still available! Click here to join us for an exciting day!
No Shame? is being held at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London W1B 3DA on Saturday 14th March from 10.30am-4pm. Tickets cost £22 – with concessionary tickets available for full-time students and those in receipt of state benefits.