By Joe Leavell
Given our name, “Biblical Counseling of Arizona” we often have pastors, ministry leaders, and church members who are ‘kicking the tires’ of our ministry. Many pastors especially are looking for help and support, but have had a difficult time finding counselors that they can trust. They are rightfully cautious and show their God-given pastoral hearts when they seek to protect their flock from those who may draw them away from a single-hearted loyalty to Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:1-3).
Some come from a background that teaches that all counseling from the Bible should be done exclusively by pastors or within the confines of a local church context. Others are skeptical about our approach and wonder how Biblical counseling could even be relevant to deep rooted issues. Many are understandably leery of finding a counseling approach where they fear they will be left unheard and without the support they really need.
Ideally, our ministry would eventually become obsolete. Our heart would be that the local church would do such a thorough job of equipping her people to not only counsel and admonish one another but to outwardly exemplify care for those hurting in their communities in need of redemption through Christ.
In this way, we want to share the heart of our ministry. We want to speak to five reasons (alliterated for our pastor friends) why Biblical Counseling of Arizona, and other organizations like it, should not only exist, but can be a valuable partner of local churches.
Few Churches Have Enough Energy for Counseling
The reality is that in many churches, pastors and church leaders are completely exhausted. Even in larger congregations that have a solid counseling ministry, we regularly hear how backlogged appointments can be while many people just try to survive from one day to the next while waiting for their turn.
Many churches would want nothing more than to develop a strong counseling team in their churches, but they are so inundated with putting out the emergency fires in people’s lives that many “lesser” needs go unattended. Sometimes, pastors and leaders are jumping from issue to issue, and the idea of taking the time to work with someone with a serious struggle just isn’t plausible. In other situations, church leaders need support from someone who is experienced in working with challenging issues that they have never faced before. In virtually every case, pastors themselves are in desperate need of counsel and are struggling just to hold on serving another day.
Biblical Counseling of Arizona desires to come alongside these churches to help alleviate some of the counseling load of their leadership. We want to ensure no congregants or their guests go without care and that pastors are healthy. This provides much needed time, encouragement, and energy for pastors to equip additional leaders to assist their ministry.
Few Churches Have Enough People for Counseling
If you are in a larger church context with a well-established counseling ministry, it may seem unnecessary for a para-church counseling organization to come alongside your church. We pray that if this is true of your church that you would see yourself blessed to be a blessing. Yet, this is not the present reality of most smaller congregations. With notable exceptions, even in growing congregations, the prioritizing of developing comprehensive discipleship/counseling/care ministry usually is one of the last pieces to be put into place.
This is one of the reasons that seminaries exist. Many churches simply do not have the resources necessary to sufficiently train their next generation of pastoral leadership. Regardless of what “should be”, the present reality is that most seminaries exist as a means of serving the local church, especially partnering with smaller ones, through biblical education.
Churches that house seminaries are themselves blessing smaller congregations by assisting them with the spiritual formation of their leadership. While this practice is embraced in biblical education, very few churches take the same initiative to support the counseling load of other church’s parishioners. Our organization exists to help share that load that may be overwhelming some congregations.
Few Churches Have Enough Emphasis on Counseling
Romans 15:14 leaves the responsibility of counseling people in the hands of mature believers in the church. While our understanding is shifting, the predominant culture in our society is still for churches to refer out their counseling to professional therapists and counselors. Yet many organizations that provide therapy do not view themselves as partners of the local church and some go so far as to undermine the teachings of Scripture.
Our desire is not only to shore up the faith of our clients while building their trust in God’s love and His Word, but to demonstrate that their long-term health is best achieved only in the context of biblical community. In this way, we not only reinforce biblical teaching, but church attendance is imperative for those coming to counsel as part of their care.
Each member of our staff must be active in their own congregation and must have an ongoing high recommendation from their pastors/elders of their spiritual walk, their wisdom, and their understanding of Scripture. However, we have no interest in trying to take members from your church to join ours. If you are a church that faithfully teaches the Bible and seeks to help your people grow into the image of Christ, we are going the same direction. We are but servants within our own local congregations who are coming alongside of you to support you in the health of yours.
Few Churches Have Enough Vision for Counseling
There are many who have found our ministry through a search engine. You may be one of them. Many who seek counseling know that God should somehow be in the picture, but, for one reason or another, do not have confidence in a church to be able to handle their problem. There are many who are simply unaware of the church’s desire to help. We have seen those who do not want to burden their circle of friends, or they struggle with shame in how deep their struggles really go. Some have approached churches but have been turned away for counsel because they aren’t members. Still others belong to different faith traditions, and do not have a safe place to go to be heard without fear of rejection.
In a culture where most people have their tangible needs met, where is the entry point for sharing the Gospel? It’s when they’ve lost a loved one and don’t know how to process their grief, when their marriage is on the rocks, or they’re anxious or depressed. It is the moments where they can’t shake the pain from their abuse. The moment they realize that all they have worked for their whole life has left them empty and hopeless is when they are most open. They know they are hurting but don’t know where to turn.
Few churches are prepared to invest in those who are hurting in the community around them, and even fewer are actively pursuing them when they are most in need. A significant portion of the reason BCA exists is to be engaged in the lives of those who know they need God, but may not even know yet what that means. In this way, we rejoice that God has used our ministry to see marriages restored, addictions overcome, the grieving embraced, past hurts processed through in a healthy way. Most importantly, many have come to faith in Christ and have found freedom, belonging, and purpose in the Gospel of Jesus.
Few Churches Have Enough Partners in Counseling
When a pastor sends someone to us for counsel, we view ourselves as under the authority and direction of the pastor or elders of that congregation. They are the overseers of their long-term care and they are not referring out; they are bringing someone in under their watch. In many cases, with a client’s permission, we are available to give regular updates on the progress of church referred counseling. In many cases we have even encouraged pastors to participate in coming to counseling sessions if they are able. We regularly encourage our counselees to let their pastors know they are with us for counseling and to ask them to reach out with questions or input into their care.
In addition, if you are a pastor who is reading this, some of our counselors have many years of pastoral experience, or are married to pastors and elders. We know the burden that you carry. We encourage you to consider your own health and the well being of your family. We would be honored to walk alongside you in your own walk with Christ and help lift you up as you pour out your life for others for the sake of the Gospel.
How can we be of assistance? We’re here to serve!