What I’ve learned

It’s encouraging to see how God takes and uses biblical counselling. The article below (which is reproduced with permission) describes how one person is finding biblical counselling useful in their ministry.

Over the last couple of centuries, the church has focussed on defending itself against liberal and atheistic attacks on the authenticity of Scripture, the reality of creation, miracles, and Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Theological training in the UK generally concentrates on biblical studies, systematic theology, apologetics and preaching, all of which are excellent. But sadly, in the process, the messy to-and-fro of one-to-one biblical ministry is frequently neglected, even though in practice this is often where the majority of the action is – where the majority of the growth takes place. As a result, the church has slipped out of people’s minds as the place to go for help with personal problems. Though things are slowly beginning to change, we’ve still got a long way to go.

As a missionary with London City Mission, I am often reaching out to people with mental health problems, behavioural issues and very broken family backgrounds.

CCEF’s material is some of the most biblical, edifying, holistic and genuinely useful teaching I’ve ever heard, full of “Wow!” and “Aha!” moments – bringing the most heavenly thinking to the earthiest situations. I make use of it nearly every time I do ministry. More than that, I’ve found it’s opened my eyes to thinking more biblically about all personal interactions… that covers a fair amount of life! Though it doesn’t give any neat or instant cures or make the issues easy to deal with, it does give me a robust, biblical, prayerful, Christ-centred roadmap to find my bearings and discover wise, redemptive and genuinely fruitful ways forward.

Here are some highlights from what I’ve learned:

1. Suffering matters, even though we’re sinners
We may overlook the fact that weak, struggling people are also sinners, or alternatively we might forget that sin often takes place in a context of real suffering. But God pays attention to both.

2. God continues to change us through his multifaceted grace
We Christians sometimes feel God leaves us to be more Christ-like on our own. But the truth is, he meets us with no less mercy and grace than when we were first converted.

3. God knows how we tick
He’s laid out clear teaching on the mysteries of human behaviour in his word and the vital place of our hearts as we relate – or fail to relate – to him.

4. Listening well to people is difficult
But vitally important for clear and meaningful gospel proclamation. It’s easy to think we’re wasting gospel opportunities when someone moans for hours about their problems.  But hearing people well and asking good will enable meaningful ministry.

5. Human personalities and interrelationships are complex
Christians often behave badly; non-Christians often behave well. Everyone’s an unpredictable mix of things. It’s important to look for traces of the image of God in each person.

6. Church should be the place to go for help with personal problems
What if even non-Christians came to see ordinary Christian churches as the first, most obvious port of call for dealing with life’s struggles and confusions?!

7. Even much Christian counselling could and should be done more biblically
Unless rooted in the truths of Scripture, using secular methods will unwittingly collude with the false gospels of our age. How wonderful it would be to redeem counselling for Christ!

If we’re to reclaim our rightful “jurisdictional turf” on these psychotherapeutic issues we’ve got a lot of learning, growing and repenting to do. There’s huge potential for the Church to grow in person-specific, compassionate, God-glorifying, biblical evangelism. CCEF’s wonderful theology and teaching is making its way to the UK thanks to Biblical Counselling UK in both online and physical training. If you have the time, please do give the course a go – it’s fantastic! But if time won’t allow in-depth study, CCEF’s website is full of resources: fascinating blog posts, insightful bite-sized video clips, and stacks of helpful books and leaflets such as How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp and Side by Side by Edward T. Welch. Even better, why not see if you can study their material in a church small group? Lane and Tripp have produced an excellent 12-week DVD course called How People Change: How Christ changes us by His Grace. In fact, all of the resources and teaching would be valuable for gaining wisdom in personal ministry – particularly for those with a pastoral role in their churches, but also preachers, Bible study leaders, elders, deacons and evangelists.

And no, I’m not a sales rep for them! I’ve waxed lyrical about CCEF but let’s never forget that Jesus is the hero in all this is, bringing about wonderful personal change in his people through prayer and the word. But praise God that through this ministry, his wisdom is edifying the church to minister to one another in his name.

Martin Street (pictured above) is a Team Leader in Battersea for London City Mission and has completed the Certificate in Biblical Counselling.

This article originally appeared in London City Mission’s magazine, Changing London. Used with permission.