One of the benefits of life in a local church is the opportunity to bear one another’s burdens in love (Galatians 6:1-2). We all go through challenges in life at one time or another in which we need the input and support of fellow Christians. This brief paper outlines some basic principles that guide our counseling at TCC.
Counseling is a ministry of providing biblical instruction, direction, and compassion to those having life difficulties that are weighing them down or spiritual questions that they cannot answer. As a local church, it is a privilege to minister to people in such times of need.
Scripture and Counseling
As a church, we are convinced that Scripture provides all that is necessary for life and godliness. It is sufficient to lead a sinner to saving faith in Christ (2 Timothy 3:15). It is also sufficient to enable Christians to live effective and joyful lives in whatever circumstances God has given to them (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Preaching and Counseling
TCC has a distinct view of the relationship between our pulpit ministry and counseling. We believe that God has appointed preaching as the primary way that the Holy Spirit works in the lives of His people. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said:
True preaching does deal with personal problems . . . The preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit, applied by the Holy Spirit to the individuals who are listening, has been the means of dealing with personal problems of which I as the preacher knew nothing until people came to me at the end of service (Preaching and Preachers, 37).
Church Membership and Counseling
TCC also has a distinct view of the relationship between church membership and counseling. Our counseling is primarily available only to church members. It is one of the benefits of church membership. Those who are unwilling to receive the general, public ministry of the church should not expect specific, private ministry from the church in counseling.
That is not to say we will not help those outside of the church. Our elders are available to anyone after each service for personal counsel. But our primary responsibility during the week is to our members. As a result, our help for those outside our church may be to refer them to other people and resources rather than personal availability in private appointments.
Church Life and Counseling
Many people underestimate the healthy effect that mere participation in the life and fellowship of the local church can have. We all benefit from the spontaneous love and encouragement that occurs from natural conversations before and after church services. Often it is the love and concern expressed from one person to another that ministers to the heart, rather than formal counsel at a table with an elder. Those who truly desire the help of God in their lives should avail themselves of all the means He has provided for us – and that particularly includes regular attendance and participation in the life of the church (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Those who approach TCC for counsel should also realize that the elders may not do the counseling personally. TCC has spiritually-minded members who are able to counsel others under the oversight of the elders.
It is not the counselee’s prerogative to insist that any particular person provide him with counsel. It is not a diminishment of care for the elders to delegate the counseling to someone else. A referral simply says, “We advise you to seek counsel from this person.”
As a general rule, our elders do not counsel women in private appointments. This approach protects both the elders and the women from any perceived or actual impropriety or emotional attachments that can occur when a man and woman privately discuss deeply personal matters.
We gladly speak to women when the church gathers for its public meetings. For those who need more extended counsel, we follow Scripture and encourage women to receive counsel from other women (Titus 2:3-5). TCC is blessed to have women gifted for this role and the elders will gladly make arrangements for this help to occur.
Personal Responsibility in Counseling
Those who ask for counsel are asking for a time commitment from TCC. We gladly offer that commitment; at the same time, the commitment should be mutual. That is why we provide counseling only to those who (1) attend TCC regularly and sit under its pulpit ministry; and (2) follow the counsel they are given.
Those who want counsel should also invest their own time in pursuing spiritual growth. Private reading and listening to sermons may well provide the needed help. If the counselor gives assignments, those should be completed earnestly and in a timely manner. There is no point to counseling if the counselee disregards the counsel and pursues his own course.
We recommend the following resources to assist you in your deeply felt hardship and sorrow:
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression
- John MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ
- Sinclair Ferguson, Deserted by God?
The following messages from our pastor:
Adopted August 4, 2021