People ask me, “What is the place of counseling in the church?” I’ve thought about that a lot. But I think of the understanding and the application of God’s word into people’s lives as falling into three categories of work.
The first area that strikes me and that is the one that we identify with, see, and understand the most is what we would call proclamation. Proclamation is the preaching and teaching of the word. It’s you knowing the word of God, and presenting that to a larger group of people that are listening and taking it in.
The second area that I think is important is what I would call facilitation. That’s where discipleship starts to come in where people study the word of God together. The facilitation means that you get them into the word, and you’re helping them pull out a passage. It will be within a small circle of people who are working together to see what the word says, and how it applies to our lives. That whole arena is different from proclamation but is still critical to discipleship, growing, and discovering what God has.Consultation… is a real individualization of the truth of God’s word in people’s lives. That’s counselling.
In the third area of consultation you are still the one who is studying the word of God, and you understand where you’re going, but you’re working with people to identify the things that are going on in their lives. This is much more individualized and personalized. This is seeing what’s going on in their lives. It’s exploring and discovering the avenues of what’s happened and what has been done. Then you start sorting through these things based on priorities and the word of God of what is critical and what is important. You put that together and you sort through what you can deal with and what you can’t deal with. Then you set up priorities and then you help people as they are trying to understand how to get from where they are to where they need to be.
That’s work and that is a real individualization of the truth of God’s word in people’s lives. That’s the area of counselling. That’s getting into the messes of people’s lives. That’s getting into where they really live. They may look well washed, well fed, and well insured while they’re sitting in the pews and they can even cover it pretty well when they’re in a small group. But when you get them one on one and you’re talking to them they will begin to trust you and see that there’s so much that they need to see and understand in their own lives. It becomes a real privilege to work in the area of counselling, consultation, and the work that God has called us to have in the church.