In the past five years as more and more books have come out on biblical counseling topics, I have consumed more and more on the subject of biblical counseling. The result of this reading has been my seeing a need for biblical counseling in the local church. My aim in this article is to encourage those who are engaged in the work of biblical counseling by calling to them to continue in faithfulness in serving and shepherding God’s people in the context of the local church.
It has traditionally been thought that the counseling ministry is only the pastor’s ministry. This idea is correct in as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. The pastor is to engage in pastoral care for the people of God. Often though pastors can only do so much to help people in their congregation; as their training in seminary equips them to help people only so much. As a result, they must ask for help and send hurting people out to others who have more training. This is where biblical counseling in the local church comes in.
Biblical counseling best describes the ministry that local churches should be engaged in—that is taking the Word of God and helping God’s people not only learn from the Word but to submit to and apply the Word to their own lives. Biblical counseling is not an opponent of the pulpit ministry, but an extension of the preaching of the Word and a means to shepherd God’s people.
God’s people deserve the best care possible. God’s people deserve competent, loving, qualified, and shepherding care. This is why biblical counseling aims to serve and shepherd God’s people. It seeks to do so by helping people going through all of life’s issues learn to apply the redemptive story of Christ into every nook and cranny of their lives. The Bible speaks loudly and plainly to problems facing man, and as it does so, it points man to Christ alone.
Part of a pastor’s job is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. They are to shepherd the people of God well and to help them grow in knowledge, and skill with God’s Word. Biblical counseling is not opposed to this but instead is for this. Biblical counseling aims to help people learn to handle the Word of God, but instead of standing behind a pulpit, they stand beside hurting people with the Word. They stand not only beside but walk alongside hurting people to help them understand the truth of God’s Word.
Pastors can support the work of biblical counselors by encouraging those who sense a calling to this work to get certified in biblical counseling through an organization such as the ACBC (Association of Biblical Counselors). Such certification programs help biblical counselors to learn not only biblical doctrine but how to counsel from God’s Word with skill and a focus to help people grow in applying the Word to their own lives.
The counseling office should not be viewed as an opponent of the pulpit. Instead, it should be viewed as a companion to the preaching ministry of the local church. Pastors cannot meet with everyone in the church. They need help to care and counsel. This does not mean that pastors should never counsel. Instead, it means they need to have trusted men to counsel men and trusted women to counsel women. They also need to have married couples counseling married couples. Pastors should also seek further training in biblical counseling so they can provide excellent loving and shepherding care to the people of God.
The church needs men and women equipped to give component care by trained biblical counselors. The need is great and will only increase as our culture continues its steadied and continual descent away from God. Biblical counseling is not a ministry to be avoided. Instead, it is a ministry where men and women can serve under godly male qualified biblical elders who provide accountability and oversight, while organizations like ACBC provide excellent equipping, licensure, and training to help men and women to provide competent, professional care for God’s people.
Biblical counseling is a needed ministry in the local church today. It is a ministry of serving and shepherding. It stands not against the ministry of the Word but instead seeks to serve as a companion to the pulpit ministry of local churches.
Biblical counseling combined with biblical preaching is the need of the hour. People need to be equipped with knowing how to handle the Word and equally to understand how to navigate the challenges of life. Biblical counseling seeks to serve the pulpit ministry which is why biblical counseling is a ministry to serve and shepherd God’s people. Such ministry in the local church will serve to help God’s people to carry the load of ministry, free up their pastors to equip and serve the church and to expand the Kingdom of God for His glory.