In the Book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote about the importance of sanctification and maturity in the Christian life:
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…(Eph 4:14-15).
“As a result” of preaching, teaching, evangelism, and biblical care, the saints are to be unified and equipped with knowledge, maturity, and unity, moving collectively toward the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-13). Therefore the unified, mature, and prepared Body of Christ should be growing in stability, with correct doctrine, not subject to false teaching and deception, and capable of expressing “truth in love” to one another, so that all grow up into the likeness of Christ.
Truth in love is the foundational work of biblical counseling. In its truest application, biblical counseling should occur constantly within the normal day-to-day discourse between believers, as we focus our intent and movement toward the goals of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, this piece of biblical care is typically left to the pastoral staff or trained counselors, and often occurs only when spiritual issues have grown into urgent crises.
But in reality, biblical care is the responsibility of all believers. Truth in love should happen naturally as followers of Christ seek to orient themselves toward individual growth and the edification of the Body. Speaking to one another with compassion and empathy, while encouraging and correcting in truth, is our fundamental practice. Paul wrote:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:1-2).
Thus truth in love is a process of restoration, applied to sin, by “you who are spiritual.” You who are born-again, mature, and walking in the Spirit, are called to this “law of Christ.” This is a broader definition than one who is seminary trained or clinically licensed. It is a call given to every developing Christian and should dwell in the fabric of every healthy church.
Ideally, this type of biblical intervention would be evident in all aspects ministry. There should be agreement between the message preached from the pulpit and the messages taught in Bible study, Sunday school, worship, home groups, discipleship, and personal relationships between believers. Disciples of Christ must always be attentive to the needs of our brethren, responding with the full integrity of God’s Word with kindness.
Instead, the church tends to ignore this important piece of discipleship, unwittingly encouraging the advancement toward catastrophe. When the church fails to train, correct, and minister when lives are stable, it will surely confront the fruit of its negligence at a later point. And when that moment of emergency comes, most are shocked to learn their friends are divorcing, someone in youth is pregnant, or depression has overtaken a partner in ministry.
Yet when the unexpected crisis comes, and involvement is needed, most within the Body exclaim, “Its not my job!” The layperson defers to the pastor and the pastor refers to a counselor, and no one assumes responsibility for this byproduct of failed ministry. If only the church had invested in growing mature Christians who were not subject to “every wind of doctrine,” trickery, craftiness, and deception (Eph 4:13).
The process is much like a car owner who fails to change the oil, service the tires, and tune the engine. Over time the neglect of maintenance results in a failure of systems that was avoidable. Then the one responsible (the car owner) turns the car over to a professional (mechanic) or trades the car because it is unreliable and too much trouble.
Many Christians fall because they are not maintained in the Word and held by the Body. They do not receive regular and affectionate service nor are problems handled at the first evidence of distress. Then when the break down inevitably comes, the believer is left to the hands of outsiders (professionals). Regrettably, some within the Body are even relieved when the ailing church member leaves, soon to be replaced by a newer model.
But each time a member of the church is transferred to earthly sources of repair; each time a church member leaves in despair; the Body is weakened and its integrity before God is diminished. Have we forgotten the following admonition:
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another (Eph 4:25).
Our neighbor’s health ultimately impacts the health of the church. Failing to tend to his/her needs of one makes the entire Body vulnerable. Since we are “members of one another” spiritual illness in one family member will infect the entire family. Because of this we cannot be cavalier and neglect the rudimentary elements of care and teaching that are endemic to the Church.
I submit that all of this is indeed our “job.” Both the maintenance of the ordinary and service to the extreme, is our heavenly call as Christians. We must begin to look to this critical aspect of ministry central to the advancement of the Gospel through the building up of the saints. The Church must reclaim this important spiritual turf and embrace the responsibility we bear to one another. As Paul wrote:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Tim 4:1-2).