Note: I’m developing this blog mini-series from material in chapter five of my book Equipping Counselors for Your Church. Read Part 1: Shepherding the Transformation.
Transforming My Heart: Taking My Sin and Suffering to Christ
Biblical ministers don’t say, “Physician, heal thyself.” Instead, we say, “Soul physician, go to the Soul Physician for healing before counseling others.”
When we do, we follow the ancient path of Nehemiah. Before he implemented a single change management principle, he prayed to the Soul Physician. To address his sin, Nehemiah turned to God for transformation.
“I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you” (Nehemiah 1:6).
Paul, perhaps the greatest-ever human soul physician, focused first on his own heart. To address his suffering, Paul turned to God for transformation.
“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8b-9).
Transitioning a church is hard work. Leading a congregation through the change process of a pastor-centered church to a church where every member is a one-another minister, is demanding.
It is impossible if the leader or leadership team is not addressing personal sin and suffering. Does your team want to change lives? Then, when you meet, don’t just talk about launching a biblical counseling ministry, be biblical counselors for one another.
Transforming My Attitude Toward God’s People: My Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Let’s be honest. When people resist the changes we believe God wants us to implement, it is easy to start seeing them as the enemy. I find it fascinating that before Nehemiah dealt with change management, he identified with God’s people. I find it instructive that before Paul dealt with conflict resolution, he identified with the very people who were criticizing him.
Nehemiah questioned Hanani about the Jewish remnant. Told that they were in great trouble and distress, he tells us that he “sat down and wept. For some days I mourned” (Nehemiah 1:4).
Nehemiah had it made in the shade, living the life of luxury 800 miles away from Jerusalem. Yet he cares about his brothers and sisters. The word “questioned” (Nehemiah 1:2) indicates much more than a passing interest. It means to inquire and express a genuine concern for the welfare of others.
When he hears of their defeat (they are shattered and broken); when he hears of their disgrace (their reproach and shame), he mourns. He is deeply grieved and moved by the plight of God’s people—of his people. His heart breaks for their suffering and sin.
Paul, even with the Corinthians with whom he experienced excruciating conflict, begins his second letter to them by identifying with them. Ten times in five verses he repeats a form of the Greek word for “comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
Think about that. When you are in conflict with people, is your first thought (and your second-to-tenth thought) about helping them to connect to Christ’s comfort? We can’t lead the launch of a biblical counseling ministry, which in part is about comforting one another in Christ, unless we can offer Christ’s comfort to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As leaders, are we making changes that are self-centered or self-focused? Are we leading change because it’s all about our leadership image? Or, are we shepherding a transformative process out of a heart changed by Christ with a changed attitude toward our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Transforming Our Worship of God: Shepherding People to Christ
Nehemiah begins his ministry with worship. “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love…” (Nehemiah 1:5).
His prayer of confession is a prayer of worship—Nehemiah links each sin to God’s people failure to respond wholeheartedly to God’s holy love. Worship is embedded throughout the book and it provides the bookends that frame the book. Nehemiah’s closing prayer of remembrance is a plea that God would remember how Nehemiah purified the priests and Levites for worship.
Worship is the ultimate focus of Paul’s introductory vignette concerning his despair over his suffering. Why did he share? So that “…many will give thanks…” (2 Corinthians 1:11). In every description Paul provides of his troubles, and there are many, his purpose is to direct people to God-dependence—to worshipping and trusting Christ alone.
The end goal of biblical counseling is worship—entrusting ourselves to, exalting, and enjoying God (Matthew 22:34-40). The end goal of the process of launching a biblical counseling ministry should be the same: to shepherd Christians to a deeper worship of Christ.
Launching a biblical counseling ministry isn’t a task to accomplish. It is a relationship—with God and others—to nourish and enjoy.
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