What Do We Mean By "Gospel Care"? (Part 2)
Last week’s article was a reminder that when we use the term “gospel care” at New Covenant, we are talking about specific one-to-another actions and activities that ought to be present in our life together as a result of the gospel’s transforming work in each of our lives. Gospel care includes all the ways that we minister God’s grace personally and relationally with the goal promoting spiritual growth (sanctification) in life of a fellow disciple of Jesus.
We also considered the broadness and diversity of ministering gospel care in the body of Christ or “one anothering.” We noted that this kind of relational ministry happens in our everyday conversations with one another when we point a brother or sister to the riches of God’s Word and help them draw on his grace for the moment. It happens when you pray with someone in the church foyer after a Sunday morning worship service. Though much of our ministry of the gospel to one another happens informally, we also have specific ministries of care at New Covenant (e.g. CareGroups) that are designed to create space for the Holy Spirit’s fostering of mutual care.
Finally, we looked at what I called “a continuum of care,” namely, that as one moves across the spectrum of care ministries from gospel conversations to one-on-one personal ministry to group sanctification in a CareGroup, the focus, depth, and intensity of care increases.
In this article, I want to push a little further and ask what should a Christian do when he or she feels stuck -- in a particular sin or trying to heal from a personal loss or haunted by the past, etc.? Is there a way to receive specialized care that will enable a hurting disciple to get back on track and live more confidently in God’s grace? Is it valid to designate certain persons in the church to be counselors or caregivers?
To be sure, the Bible affirms that all Christians are equipped through the Holy Spirit to minister gospel care to one another through godly, biblical counsel (Colossians 3:16). In his article “More Than Counseling: A Vision For The Entire Church,” Dr. Timothy Lane, Executive Director of the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF), affirms that the foundation of gospel care is a belief that “redemptive actions and words of the Father, Son, and Spirit on our behalf always speak to both the seemingly mundane and the extremely complex problems that are a part of the fallen human condition.” However, Lane goes on to make the case for biblical counseling as a specific ministry of care within the church:
...churches should be involved in counseling...And because counseling is really about making wise application of the grace of God to people’s lives, then it is clear that counseling is what we as the church are called to do for one another. How can Josh and Sara change their bad marriage into a better one? How can Leslie deal with the grip that fear has on her life? Is there hope for people who struggle with addictions? Do the Scriptures offer any hope for people who struggle with depression, bi-polar disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder? Those situations may seem extreme, but the church can and must minister to these kinds of struggles. The church is the place to find help and hope for change. [Local churches ought to] cultivate a culture of grace and growth—where people can find wise and compassionate help for a host of problems, both common and acute, both sins and sufferings.
In saying all of this, I don’t want to imply that every person is completely competent to help anyone and everyone. There are people with unique gifts for inter-personal ministry just as there are people with unique gifts for public preaching and teaching. All of us are in different stages of life with varying degrees of training, life experience and case wisdom. That means that there are some who will function well in a more formal capacity and will engage in formal counseling.
Your elders agree: formal counseling from a compassionate, redemptive, biblical-truth-telling perspective belongs in the local church. It belongs at New Covenant. Toward that end, we are very encouraged by the way David Sommer has grown into his role as staff counselor. God has equipped him and prepared him for a role he has already been functioning for quite some time. We are equally encouraged by the addition of Karen Aldridge in September as a second staff counselor. Though both have a particular role as counselors, they will be one (very important!) link in a chain of gospel care that extends throughout our church’s person to person ministries. Additionally, there are several godly and gifted men and women in our congregation who desire to be equipped to serve as lay counselors.
Please join me in praying for New Covenant’s staff counselors and lay counselors. Both David and Karen are currently engaged in several counseling relationships, and both are finishing up course work through CCEF. Please pray for me also as much of my time this summer will be devoted to developing the ministry processes that will support our ministries of gospel care.
May the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, enable us to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort he has provided for us through Jesus Christ.
Cared for by the Wonderful Counselor,
Pastor FOR Gospel Care & Outreach