As Helen Thorne joins the staff team at Biblical Counselling UK this week, we sat down with her to get to know her better, and to hear how she hopes to be serving in the coming years.
Some people will already know your testimony but, for those who don’t, can you tell us a little of how you came to Christ?
I was at university and life was very much out of control. I had faced some pretty tough stuff growing up and was reeling from its effects. I was drinking, self-harming and struggling to make sense of life. There were days when I felt all hope was gone. Thankfully, I was surrounded by wonderful friends and some of those were people of faith. They welcomed me into their home, loved me, listened to me and supported me as I got counselling and medical help. To be honest, I am amazed they put up with me but the Lord gave them the patience they needed to walk alongside me well! One Christmas, they invited me to midnight communion. I didn’t really want anything to do with God but I was intrigued to find out what motivated them to be so kind. So, I went and I was captivated by the story of God come down to bring forgiveness, hope, reconciliation, purpose, love… It took 6 months of listening, learning, asking awkward questions and prayer but eventually I was grabbed by grace. That’s a good 30 years ago now. No regrets.
How did you get involved in biblical counselling?
As the years went on and I matured in the faith, people started to ask me how I stopped drinking, self-harming and how I was handling ongoing battles with anxiety and depression. I was privileged to be able to give my testimony on a number of occasions – it’s always a joy to spur people on by pointing them to Jesus. That soon morphed into doing little training sessions for churches to help them understand the kinds of things people like me have been through. Little by little I started to walk alongside others who were struggling and then I began to write a few books. It wasn’t until I started going to the church where Andrew Nicholls was the pastor that I heard about CCEF, but once I discovered this thing called biblical counselling, I felt like I had a name for what I had been trying (and sometimes failing) to do for years. I devoured all the courses that were on offer and was excited to put into practice what I’d learned. A little while later I was invited to be a founding trustee of Biblical Counselling UK and then, from 1st July 2020, to join the staff.
You’ve already written a few resources – remind us what you’ve done.
The first (and by far the shortest) book was the one I wrote before I knew what biblical counselling truly was: the Grove Book entitled Understanding Self-harm is aimed mainly at pastors wanting a simple explanation and framework to support those struggling with self-abuse. Since then, I’ve published Purity is Possible for women who feel trapped by their engagement with fantasy, erotica or porn and Walking with Domestic Abuse Sufferers for those wanting to help those trapped by abuse in the home. More recently, Andrew Nicholls and I have co-authored Real Change and Real Change for Students – both 6-week courses for small groups. And in the last few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of contributing a short piece (based on David Powlison’s, Safe and Sound) to the latest issue of Primer, This world with devils filled (all about spiritual warfare). I don’t just write on biblical counselling though. I love producing evangelistic material too, and hope to fuse my love of pastoral care and mission in the coming months (watch this space!)
What will your role with Biblical Counselling UK involve?
It’s a developmental role so I’m not going to be very involved in the things that are already running (though I will certainly help where I can!) but the aim of my part-time role is to start things that are new. There are a variety of strands but, broadly speaking, I am hoping to: help local interest groups run more regional conferences; facilitate churches put on training for their congregations; enable Biblical Counselling UK to support other Christian charities and training institutions integrate aspects of biblical counselling into their existing courses; mentor leaders of the future; and ensure that a lot more UK resources are produced (blogs, books, courses and video material). Some of that I will be doing myself but clearly I can’t do it all, so another big focus of my time will be spent developing the gifts of others so we have a growing pool of people who can teach, train, write and serve. It’s a hugely exciting opportunity but I will certainly be in great need of the Lord’s help!
What can we pray for you?
Please do pray for wisdom – I’m keen to use my gifts strategically in the Kingdom – and also for a heart full of dependence (after all, unless the Lord builds the house, the labourers labour in vain). Please pray that I’ll be able to build good relationships with those I will be working with, despite the challenges in meeting in person right now. And pray that I will be unswervingly faithful in all I do. It would be great if you could ask the Lord to be raising up new people for me to be getting alongside and please pray that the books that I am currently writing will bear good fruit (I can’t tell you the titles yet, but there are some on the way!).
And if we are interested in getting involved?
Please do get in touch! It’s only fair to say that I won’t be able to say “yes” to every speaking, training, mentoring or writing request that pops into my inbox but please don’t let that stop you asking. I’m keen to hear ideas of what kind of resources would be helpful. I’d love to hear from churches or organisations that are keen to grow. And it’s always a privilege to partner with networks who share our passion for connecting the riches of Scripture to the realities of life. You can contact me here.