by Joe Leavell
One of the first assignments that our counselees receive when they come to BCA for counseling is that they regularly attend a solid, Bible teaching church. Not only is it vital for their spiritual growth that they be under the instruction of a pastor who is equipping their congregation with God’s Word on a regular basis, it is also of critical importance that they begin to see the value of living in community with believers. In this way, we not only encourage church attendance, but we desire our counselees to become a part of a small group ministry or some other form of fellowship and accountability offered by their local church.
No counseling center, whether it is a secular psychologist’s office or a biblical counseling office, could ever replace the expressions of love, friendship, accountability, joint worship, encouragement, and the challenge of rubbing shoulders with fellow travelers that can only truly be found within the local church. Jesus promised to build His Church. God designed His Church to meet these needed relationships in our lives and we at BCA are committed to the health of Jesus’ bride. For this reason, we do not seek to replace the church or to replace the role that pastors play in shepherding their congregations towards Christ. Rather, our desire is to work underneath the authority of the churches who desire to partner with us in order to help those within their congregations who may be facing serious hurts, grieving, may be walking in unconfessed sin, struggling to find wisdom, et cetera. We desire to assist local pastors by lending an additional voice in sharing with their church families why Jesus is better than the sin they would choose, practically walking them through how the Gospel impacts their own situations, and gently listening and caring for those who are hurting.
At the same time, we are thrilled at how many of those who come under our care who do not yet belong to congregations. Many know in their hearts that being a part of a church is something that is good for them, but because of past hurts, busy schedule, or whatever the reason, they are not sewn into the fabric of a congregation. In these situations we will give recommendations for churches based on healthy congregations that are teaching God’s Word around where they live. Being a part of a local church where they will be shepherded in Gospel community, long after our short-term care with them is completed, is of vital importance to their spiritual growth.
Our desire is also to partner with larger churches who may already be equipped in the counseling aspects of ministry in order to be a blessing to other congregations that cannot afford to have counseling staff within their own body. At the same time, well equipped churches can still experience seasons where extra help would be a blessing. In other cases, even though pastors may desire to counsel biblically, they simply do not have the resources or the time to adequately counsel all the needs of their people or need short term help in training those who are interested in discipling others. We aspire to assist the pastors of these congregations in training and developing a healthy culture of discipleship to the degree where counseling one another from Scripture out of sincere caring becomes almost second nature. There are also many churches that either have not yet been exposed to biblical counseling or have a misunderstanding of what biblical counseling entails. We would love to share with these churches how counseling biblically is vital to a spiritual health that is found only through the Gospel.
Because we understand the stresses of ministry, our hearts also desire to be a tangible blessing and practical help to pastors and their families. Even in the healthiest of churches, those in church leadership are often susceptible to grappling with their own personal trials and struggles in isolation. Whether they are wrestling with depression, pride, fear, control, leadership, stresses in marriage, or other personal issues that they are often reluctant to share, those who spend their lives pouring themselves into others are blessed when they have others investing in them. On a personal level, having been reared in a pastor’s family and having pastored a small congregation myself, my heart’s desire is to see those who shepherd their flocks do so from a position of health. In this way, we encourage churches to significantly invest in both the physical and spiritual wellbeing of their leadership and their families. We stand ready to help congregations with that commitment.
Lastly, while it may not happen in our lifetime, our desire is to counsel ourselves out of a job because the local churches in our area are all equipped with an atmosphere of discipleship to the degree that looking for external assistance, in even the hardest cases, would not even need to be considered. However, the reality of the moment in which we live is that many churches in our area are inundated with counseling cases and are forced to refer out to professional psychologists or licensed therapists. From a pastoral perspective, the beauty of biblical counseling with BCA is that rather than referring out the counsel to those who may not fully embrace or even sympathize with our biblical worldview, you are bringing counselors in under the church’s authority that have a vested interest in the spiritual health of your congregation. In this way, with our counseling under your individual local church’s authority, your families never leave your care. At the same time, while each biblical counselor firmly believes in the local church, and we are all actively involved in our own congregations, we are committed to not steal sheep from one solid Bible teaching church for another. We would frankly love to see countless more healthy churches come to the valley, and our ultimate goal is to see Christ’s Church advanced for His glory because we believe in the importance of the local church in biblical counseling.