The Public and Private Ministry of the Word

As I’ve been enjoying the 2011 Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago while representing the Biblical Counseling Coalition several “dual images” have come to mind. 

  • Preaching and Counseling
  • The Public Ministry of the Word and the Mutual Ministry of the Word
  • The Preaching Ministry of the Word and the Personal Ministry of the Word
  • Air Wars and Ground Wars
  • Bombing the Shores and Hand-to-Hand Combat 

Changing Lives with Christ’s Changeless Truth

Each twin metaphor compares and contrasts how God’s Word changes lives with Christ’s changeless truth either through the public proclamation of the Word (preaching, teaching, corporate worship, etc.) or through the mutual ministry of the Word (counseling, one-another ministry, personal discipleship, small group ministry, spiritual friendship, soul care, etc.). 

Both “types of ministries” should be ministries of the Word. Both should be based upon the conviction that God’s Word is authoritative, sufficient, relevant, and profound. That foundation should never change, although the “method” of communication/connecting is quite different in preaching than in personal counseling. 

Here’s what excites me about the Gospel Coalition and the Biblical Counseling Coalition. We are both committed to the public ministry of the Word where expository, exegetical preaching relates God's truth to people's lives, andwe don’t “jump ship” and change our commitment when it comes to the personal (or private/mutual) ministry of the Word (counseling). We see no dichotomy between the foundation for the public and the private ministry of the Word. 

Gospel-Centered Commitment 

In other words, as pastors and teachers, when we’re in the pulpit or at the lectern, we trust the power of God’s Word to change lives, and when we’re in our offices with a struggling parishioner or at Starbucks with a spiritual friend, we maintain that trust, rather than trusting instead in worldly wisdom. We are confident that God’s Word is profoundly relevant to change lives when shared from the pulpit, and we maintain that confidence in the personal/mutual ministry of the Word when sitting across from a parishioner.   

Again, I’m not suggesting that counseling equals individual preaching. I am, however, suggesting that counseling (the personal/mutual ministry of the Word) equals spiritual conversations based upon biblical insights for living mutually explored in the context of a committed, caring relationship (Ephesians 4:15-16; Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 2:8).I am suggesting that the Word is powerful to change lives both when preached from the pulpit and when applied together in the relational context of one-another ministry. 

Join the Conversation

Why do some Evangelicals seem to lose their confidence in the authority, sufficiency, and profound relevance of God’s Word when they move from preaching/teaching to personal counseling? How can we encourage and equip God's people to minister the Word powerfully in all contexts?

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  1. I think there is a security to the pulpit, a freedom of expression if you will, to boldly share the Gospel. Face to face, insecurity often becomes a factor. The distance is removed and we are up close and personal. The challenge is to integrate the two and speak with authority in either situation. Easier said then done…but God is faithful to equip us if we only ask. Blessings! Sam

    April 19, 2011
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