By: Dr. David Penley, Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and BCI Faculty Member. The link below will take you to a recent Webinar presented by Dr. Penley on the topic of Ministerial Ethics. It is a presentation relevant to all areas of ministry and specifically to the ministry of biblical counseling. … Read More
Mirriam-Webster defines an offense as: “An act of stumbling; a cause or occasion of sin; and/or something that outrages the moral or physical senses.” Most married couples seeking the support of a biblical counselor will report any number of such offenses. Their focus however is horizontal in its orientation. In other words, the husband and wife can readily report when, where, and how they have offended each other; but most fail to recognize the offense they have committed against God. Scripture tells us that this is the greater offense and that we must address ourselves vertically first, if we are to become the husband or wife we are directed to be.
Within the construct of the relational gospel, sin toward God has been largely replaced with the concept of error and failure between people. We are much more focused upon the needs of one another, than we are directed toward sanctification and holy conduct before God. As a result, our relational perspective is one of exchanging behaviors that fulfill our mates, instead of developing a connected and abiding relationship through Christ that builds and sustains godly character, integrity, and consistency under the marital covenant.
The following incidents occurred in my church this past Sunday:
1. In Sunday School, a class member asked for prayer and advice about her husband who was struggling with pornography and had stopped coming to church
2. After the morning worship service, in which the pastor had preached on the healing of the nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54), a church member stopped me and talked to me about his daughter who has a severe liver problem for which we prayed
3. Before the evening service, a church member talked to me about the fact that he had lost his job that week, about which I shared some Scripture (including Matthew 6:25-34) and then we prayed.
Counseling takes place in the church all the time. In Sunday School classes, in worship services, in hallways. The church is where it should take place. We will look at the importance of the church in counseling in three segments:
First, we will give a biblical rationale for counseling as part of the church’s ministry
Second, we will look at some specific examples of the importance of this
Third, we will discuss what must happen for counseling to be part of a church’s ministry.
This is a fair and important question to ask, because unless you understand the problem, you will never know the remedy. What is present in your life that impedes your joy and contentment?
You may see the issue as emotional. Often we describe our pain as depression, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, or grief. Certainly any of these emotions can be a real and present part of human suffering; but do the feelings you have truly explain what is wrong?
You may define your concern as relational. You might have marital discord, conflict with children or other family members. You could be facing a divorce, the loss of a friendship, or a difficult work environment. For some, relationships have been altered or ended by illness or death. Relationships can be problematic; people can be disappointing; and loss can be devastating. But is your life and well being dependent only on the circumstances around you?
You may believe your problem is medical. Today, there is great emphasis placed upon the genetic and medical influences of life. Many conditions are seen as inevitable due to genetic vulnerabilities and family history. Other problems are explained as illness or disease for which there is no explanation.
Many “experts” agree that bio-chemical imbalances are to blame for the emotions and behaviors that undermine one’s stability and affect the quality of one’s relationships. But even if there is truth to this claim, does a genetic vulnerability or chemical imbalance explain everything that is present and problematic in your life?
You could see your pain as historical. In other words, you feel and act the way you do because of your history and experiences in life. Perhaps you have endured a dysfunctional or abusive childhood. You could be the victim of crime, trauma, or other event that was extremely invasive and life altering. And while these injuries are in the past, they remain alive and active in your current life due to memories and feelings that remain unresolved. But is our present circumstance dictated by the experiences that came before?
Finally, you may perceive your difficulty as circumstantial. For example, you may believe that if your circumstance could be changed, you would improve. If you had a better job, a godlier spouse, obedient children, greater income, or lived in a different city, your problems could be answered. Given the challenge of your situation, you may believe you are justified in the way you feel and the actions you take. But is your internal contentment truly dependent upon your external environment?
If a counselor, pastor, or friend asked you to describe your problem, what would you say? Write your response below: