I have a great passion for the ministry of biblical counseling. The training I have received through ACBC (The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) has been invaluable to my ministry as a pastor, and seeing the Lord transform lives through His Word in the counseling room has been one of the true highlights of observing God in His church. I often recommend our annual biblical counseling conference and frequently point people to biblical counseling resources. But I can’t help but think that there would be less of a need for the counseling room if we, as church members, were being more faithful to our responsibility of informally speaking the truth to one another in love (Ephesians 4:15). A culture where the members of a local church are seeking to love each other through biblical encouragement, admonition, compassion, exhortation, hospitality, rebuke, and comfort would do much to stem the tide of sin struggles that lead to extended formal counseling.
According to veteran biblical counselor, Wayne Mack, there are 58 “one-another” commands in the Bible. “One-another” commands are those commands that can only be obeyed in relationship (specifically, within the church), not isolation. These commands are not given only to the leadership of the church, but all of its members. Mack says, “In all of Paul’s ‘one-anothering’ passages, he was instructing the members of a specific local church to act in these ways toward one another.” Did you catch that? It was the members of those specific local churches to whom Paul directed the one-another commands.
God’s beautiful design of church ministry is such that the leaders of the church don’t carry all the weight of ministry on their shoulders, but rather, these leaders are given to the church in order “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). The help that is given, the fruit that is borne, the comfort that is extended, and the restoration that is accomplished multiplies exponentially when the entire body of a local church is doing the work of ministry so that the body of Christ is built up. Yet, there are many who refuse to embrace this responsibility, and as a result more believers in the church reach the level of crisis and require the grace of the counseling room.
You may not be one who refuses one-another ministry entirely, but perhaps you only engage in the kind that is more well-received: encouragement, mercy, and comfort. You must come to terms with the fact that the harder one-another commands are for you as well: confronting, rebuking, and restoring. Whether well-received or uncomfortable, we would do well to think of “one-anothering” as promoting godliness in our church family and helping to keep each other from counseling room-level crisis for the glory of God. The author of Hebrews recognized this and wrote, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13). There you have it… faithful, frequent one-another ministry prevents spiritual hardening.
This kind of ministry is the reason why I think every Christian in your church should attend the Biblical Counseling and Discipleship Conference that the CBCD puts on each fall. Do not let the word “counseling” throw you off, as if this is only for a specialized group of Christians. Even if you never plan on getting certified as a biblical counselor, you should register for this conference because the one-another commands of Scripture are written to you and you could be the means God uses to keep your fellow brothers and sisters from crisis if you are faithful to obey them. I praise the Lord for the counseling room and all those who are trained to help God’s people work through crises, but that does not mean that I would not like to see less Christians in the counseling room because more Christians are doing the needed work of one-anothering.