Place of the Church
Our View of Counseling
The Place of the Church
The primary and fullest expression of a counseling ministry should occur in a local congregation under the oversight of elders. This is not being said to discount the value of like-minded para-church counseling organizations. Many counselors within these entities have been used greatly to bless members of our congregations who have struggled with various types of issues. Many of them have also been greatly used to rightly emphasize among members of our churches, the importance of using the Bible in our counseling. But there are some major disadvantages to such ministries. For the sake of time, we will only speak of three of them. The first is related to aspects associated with community, the second, authority structure, and the third, accountability.
- Community – People were made in the likeness of the Triune God Who exists as Three Persons living in community. Christians best reflect the Trinity as they live and grow within the context of the covenant community. It is by God’s design that we live together as brothers and sisters in Christ in our respective communities of faith. We are to come under the public preaching of the Word and observe the sacraments as we gather together for public worship being led by Jesus Christ, our Chief Prophet, who ministers to us through the operation of the Holy Spirit utilizing the spiritual gifts of the pastor in this community. We are to be governed and watched over together as a flock by Jesus Christ our Omniscient King, who ministers among us via the Holy Spirit working particularly through the gifts of the elders, along with the pastor in this community. We together experience the benevolence of King Jesus as He ministers via the Spirit, particularly through the office of Deacon when we become materially distressed in this community. Jesus Christ dwells among us and ministers to our needs via the Holy Spirit working in and through those who occupy the visible offices as we live together in community. Along with ministering to us through the visible offices, He ministers via the Spirit through each one of us as we let the word of Christ dwell in our lives richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom (Colossians 3:16). The fullest expression of a counseling ministry will always occur in local church communities where the pastors and elders, along with the members, are equipped to minister effectively to the needs of each other. The ministry of counseling belongs in the church!
- Authority Structure – The ministry of biblical counseling is a personalized form of the ministry of the Word, and for this reason belongs under the oversight of the elders.
- Accountability – Direct accountability of both counselors and counselees is ensured when the counseling ministry functions under the authority of the church. If the counselor should become delinquent in doctrine or practice, the Elders are there to correct and restore or remove the person from the position being occupied. If a counselee is dealing with a spiritual matter involving sin and stubbornly refuses to repent and submit to the biblical admonition being given by the counselor, his/her case can be turned over to the Elders. They can then utilize church discipline within the authority structure of the church to restore the person.