1) Introduction: Priority & Centrality of Word Ministry
I am very thankful God for the like-mindedness we share as a leadership team in Crossing – among the staffs and with all the CGLs. It’s remarkable. In particular, I’m thinking about our shared conviction that God’s Word must be at forefront and centre of our life and ministry. Jesus told Peter before he ascended – feed my sheep, feed my sheep (John 21:17). And that’s precisely what we seek to keep doing here at Crossing. I am thankful for the team’s perseverance in priotizing God’s word. Their grit has been infectious. It has been an encouragement to me to press on to do likewise.
This webinar concerns Word ministry. More specifically, it is about interpersonal word ministry (IWM). God designed the church to be built up, as its members speak the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:!5). In a local church, this manifests itself formally in different ways – public preaching, workshop, CG, triplets, 121s. Today we’re focusing on the times when we speak God’s truth into specific situation a specific person is facing in life.
Such wide-ranging challenging situations include irregular at CG, always late for church, suffering depression/suicidal, once CGL but now burn-out, suffers a chronic illness engaging in pre-marital sex, consistently stressed with work, conflict w another CG member, dating non-Christian, bullied at work, confessed to porn addiction, angry, blows up at home/work, prioritises work/socials over CG, dejected by failed relationship, in marital conflict w spouse, struggling w infertility, stressed by newborn, struggling w singleness, loneliness, confronted w past abuse, persecuted at home/work, pressured to perform, upgrade, promote at work, prizes/pursues worldly, pleasures and successes, struggles w image/identity issues, struggles w disciplining children, angry with God amidst CB e.g. retrenchment, isolation, grieving the loss of loved one e.g. cancer, suicide, miscarriage…
“My CG member has a pastoral issue… XYZ. I’m at loss how to help. It’s complex. It’s messy. I lack experience. Frankly, it just seems beyond my pay grade. I’m not trained. I tried but nothing happened.”
Interpersonal ministry can be intense. And having stayed in the specific situation for a while, sometimes we can get muddled. My aim for this session is to refresh and reorient us such that: while we may approach counselling ministry with apprehension (in weakness), we’ll also approach it with some level of renewed enthusiasm, clarity, humility, confidence.
2) Approach with Enthusiasm
When faced with a difficult pastoral situation, we can often feel daunted. We often see it as a disruption to life and ministry. It’s often emotionally draining and time consuming. We want peace to be restored to the galaxy a.s.a.p. But under such troubling circumstance – we can still be enthused. Here are 3 reasons why:
i. Pastoral counselling is as exciting as preparing to preach a sermon or to teach a study. Why? Well, because it is essentially the same powerful word of God at work. When I preach and teach, I’m driven by a desire to see ‘God’s kingdom come, his will be done’ as Christ by his Spirit through his word moves in to rule over his people. Well when you counsel with God’s word, the preparation and execution may be slightly different but it’s essentially the same thing; it’s God’s Word-meeting-God’s people. And that is always exciting.
ii. We can be enthusiastic about counselling also because it has the ability to keep us honest and real and grounded. In counselling, it’s much harder to keep the word you teach in the intellectual realm. Because the word is immediately ‘field tested’ on real people living in a real world facing real issues in real time. Pat answer or pet doctrine without true conviction just won’t cut it in the real world.
iii. Lastly, counselling ministry is exciting because through it God grows us In dependence on him. He also leads us to deeper self-understanding. That in turn leads to deeper appreciation of the gospel. And through counselling, God allows us to witness up close how he transforms people at his pace for his glory.
My guess is some of what I just said would have resonated with your own experience of counseling too. Such that while counseling has been daunting, we can still approach difficult pastoral situation with godly enthusiasm.