As a church planters we often reach unreached, unbelieving, and very broken people. As a result, pastoral wisdom and gospel-centered counseling quickly become an important skills. After all, the biblical office we hold is not church planter but elder-pastor. How are you cultivating pastoral wisdom? How are you growing in your capacity to shepherd your flock with wisdom, truth, and love? Are you spending time with “slow” or “challenging” people each week? Or do you gravitate to “teachable” people, neglecting the weak and hurting sheep?
Why should we spend time counseling when we could be evangelizing or preaching? Because in order to plant healthy missional churches, we must grow in gospel depth and breadth. In order to guard and guide our people well, it is imperative that church planters have a regular intake of wisdom (applied theology) from which we can counsel, disciple, train, and lead. As we mature, our sermons should deepen with pastoral application that grows from spending time with struggling sheep. The best application is mined, not from homiletical brainstorming, but from pastoral counseling. Why counsel? Counseling the church is: 1) part of our calling/office 2) critical to healthy community and mission 3) essential for insightful application 4) part of being a church that speaks the truth in love.
Growing in Pastoral Wisdom
Nothing like regular time with unchurched, newly believing, broken people will alert you to the need for gospel-centered counseling. For years I’ve been reading the materials put out by Christian Counseling Education Foundation. I’ll never forget the first time I heard David Powlison speak with such measured wisdom at the Desiring God Conference in 1999. Since then, I have read The Journal of Biblical Counseling, followed nouthetic literature, and started a certificate program in biblical counseling with CCEF. CCEF offers tremendous insight into human motivation and how the gospel applies to everything from addiction to garden variety idolatry. I highly recommend the Journal, their books, and distance education.
Westminster Bookstore carries all CCEF materials at heavy discounts and highlights Best Sellers of the Month. CCEF offers a host of articles on a whole range of counseling issues for free on their topical resource page. In addition, you can buy a CD ROM of all the JBC articles from 1977-2005. Add to these resources, the fine work of Tim Chester. See especially You Can Change, The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness. Tim and Steve Timmis are currently working on a Gospel-centered Life Series that will be a tremendous help to equipping us to counsel on mission. And very soon, I will be releasing a short book called Fight Club: Gospel-centered Discipleship.
Counsel on Mission
Counseling on mission is critical. If we do not counsel while we are on mission, we will fail in planting missional churches. Gospel-centered counseling is the overflow of gospel-centered church planting. If our churches aren’t founded and shephered in the gospel, then church planting will devolve into service planting or crusade speaking. Mission must be accompanied by counseling. Without counseling, churchplanting devolves into mission minus discipleship, which hardly mission at all.