Christ-centered ministry encourages spiritual growth and depends on the Lord to do the work in each individual through His Word and Spirit. Therefore, one can confidently assure believers that this ministry is more effective, long lasting, and spiritually rewarding than problem-centered counseling for those who are willing to go this way. For those who follow this Christ-centered ministry there will be spiritual growth, even if certain problems at hand are not resolved.Because Christ-centered ministry utilizes all that should already be available in every Bible-believing church where Christians are growing in the Lord, it avoids what we call the “onerous ones” that typify problem-centered counseling. We briefly touched on these onerous ones earlier. However, we will expand on them here to clarify some major differences between Christ-centered ministry and problem-centered counseling for the purpose of encouraging believers to take courage in exercising their gifts, talents, and responsibilities for ministering to one another without fear or intimidation from the counseling world.
One to One
Problem-centered counseling is typically a one-to-one relationship. Sometimes couples and families are involved, but the relationship is generally artificial and restrictive. The counseling relationship itself usually does not extend outside the counseling room. The relationship lasts as long as counseling is being provided and normally does not extend to other involvement, even in most biblical counseling centers. Problem-centered counselors commonly do not involve themselves with counselees outside the counseling room. That is why both psychological and biblical counselors sometimes use intake forms requesting a great deal of personal information. Because this relationship is generally isolated, the counselor and counselee can be selective as to what they want to reveal about themselves. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, research shows that counselees often lie to their counselors and protect themselves by concealing important information.
The great advantage of Christ-centered ministry is that it is not limited to an artificial one-to-one relationship where one has the problem and the other supposedly has the solution. In the Body of Christ all are growing together. There are many opportunities to know one another and to interact in genuine relationships. When a believer is experiencing problems, more than one person may be involved in ministering to that individual. One may be teaching. One may be reminding. Another may simply be extending support and fellowship. Another may be helping in practical ways. Another may be exhorting. Another may be admonishing. And, in a few cases, some may be exercising the responsibility of disciplining a fellow believer for the sake of restoration. But, all can be praying and encouraging the individual in the direction of the Lord. And, through all this, all are growing together and the relationships may deepen with one another as well as with the Lord.
One Day a Week
Problem-centered counseling is generally one-to-one, one-day-a-week, but rarely outside the office. Someone pointed out the paradox of the counseling relationship by saying that while the relationship is extremely intimate at times, the counselor has no interest in seeing the counselee outside the office. Many problem-centered counselors, including biblical counselors, avoid other contacts with their counselees, who cannot see the counselor outside the prescribed one-day-a-week, unless additional appointments are made.
In Christ-centered ministry the possibilities of seeing one another and communicating by phone are only limited by the number of individuals available. As mentioned earlier, Christians can choose when and how often to meet together for personal ministry. In the body of Christ this can be done freely without the one-day-a-week time constraints of problem-centered counseling.
In addition to the one-to-one and one-day-a-week errors in most problem-centered counseling, there is generally the fifty-minute hour limitation. Why a fifty-minute hour or similar restriction? The time restriction is a device to meet the needs of problem-centered counselors to regulate the flow of counselees for convenience and sometimes for income. This relationship governed by the clock benefits the counselor, not the counselee. And, if the counselee is late, the already reduced hour is further reduced; if the counselee is desperate and needs more time, it is already taken by other counselees.
Christ-centered ministry is governed by love rather than the clock. Giving time to a fellow believer is a way of saying, “I care about you.” And because the ministry is shared among believers, it supersedes what is available or affordable in problem-centered counseling. A local church is not bound by the one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour relationships of problem-centered counseling.
One Week after Another
One-to-one, one-day-a-week and one-hour shortcomings of problem-centered counseling are amplified by one-week-after-another….Today many problem-centered counselors continue to retain counselees over numerous weeks, months, and even years in spite of research that shows no advantage of long-term counseling….People in problem-centered counseling often become dependent on their counselors rather than on the Lord.
In contrast, Christ-centered ministry emphasizes dependency on the Lord Himself, and in a church where the ministries are functioning and the gifts are operating, the mutual care and encouragement of fellow believers are there to assist all believers in their ongoing walk with the Lord. Rather than a long-term artificial counseling relationship there is a relationship of mutual care in which believers are available to encourage one another as they are growing together in Christ.
One Fixed Price
The one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour, one-week-after-another errors of problem-centered counseling lead to one fixed price that is charged (or a donation that is expected). Some biblical counselors charge fees or request donations for their services for some of the same reasons as psychological counselors. The establishing, billing and collecting of fees (or encouraging of donations) are a significant aspect of most problem-centered counseling. Because of salaries to be paid, the one fixed price (or donation) becomes a necessity that limits the relationship. If one cannot pay his bill (or contribute) the relationship is usually over. The money paid (or donated) must match the mark in the appointment book and the hand on the clock. After all, a problem-centered counselor who charges a fee must fill enough appointments to make a desirable income.
One Right after Another
One right after another fits right into the one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour, one-week-after-another and one-fixed price onerosities. In problem-centered counseling there is usually a progression of one person right after another. Counselees know others have preceded them and others will follow. No one has set a limit on how many counselees per day one counselor can effectively manage. Counseling eight hours a day, five days a week, with large numbers of people always has and always will lead to superficial relationships lacking genuine compassion, even in the biblical counseling office. There is no biblical example for one-right-after-another, problem-centered counseling. No, not even the example of Moses, since he was judging disputes between people, rather than getting into the pattern of problem-centered counseling as practiced today.
In Christ-centered ministry, the personal ministry load can be spread among many believers. There is no need for one-right-after-another or the other onerous ones. There is often a temptation for the pastor or a paid staff member to carry the load of personal ministry. When this happens, one right after another can weaken the overall ministry, overburden the pastoral staff, and be affected by the onerous ones. Believers need to learn to minister to one another and to receive ministry from each other rather than depending on the pastor or a staff counselor for such help.
One Up/One Down
The one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour, one-week-after-another, one-fixed price, one-right-after-another are eclipsed in problem-centered counseling by the tragic onerosity of the one-up/one-down relationship, with the counselor considered as the expert with the gnosis to perform the cure….Rather than an expert being responsible to fix the problem, Christ-centered ministry draws both the seeker and the helper to the Lord for wisdom and transformation. When the Lord calls one believer to minister to another believer, both are seeking the Lord in meekness and humility. Believers may be especially gifted to minister to one another in the faith, but all (even those in leadership) stand on an equal plain at the foot of the cross. Indeed, it is the Lord who truly accomplishes the restoration and sanctification of the believer.
Our goal is to remind believers of their call and empowerment to serve in the Body of Christ. Obviously not all the necessary information regarding Christ-centered ministry is in this short book, but the Lord will bring forth what is missing through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the Body of Christ as you seek to serve Him. He will give you opportunities to grow spiritually and serve according to His will, through His Word, and by grace through faith.
We seek to encourage ministry and to discourage the use of problem-centered counseling. We seek to encourage the dependence on the Lord and His Word to minister to one another in the Body of Christ, without intimidation by or dependence on biblical counseling manuals, workshops, seminars, degrees, or certificates. We hope to see ministry shared among believers in their local fellowships with their focus on Jesus Christ and the Word of God. The Lord will enable them to serve as they are constant in prayer, diligent in Bible study, and marked with the humility of a servant’s heart and as they are ready to serve without having to be in a superior position or to have a title of superiority.
Ministry among believers should be constant and ongoing, which will result in souls beset with problems seeking the Lord through His Spirit, Word, and Body rather than turning to counselors trained in psychological or biblical counseling….What a privilege to be included in the mighty, miraculous work of God in one another’s lives. All believers have opportunities to minister to fellow believers to encourage them along the way.
If you are one who is experiencing problems of living and looking for assistance, find someone in your local church who can minister to you. Find someone who is mature in the faith and is walking with God the way you desire to walk. Ask that person to come alongside, minister the Life of Christ, speak forth the truth of God, encourage you in your walk with the Lord, and earnestly pray.
If you are a Christian, know essential biblical doctrines, are walking according to your new life in Christ and growing in the Lord, you already have what it takes to minister the Life of Christ to a fellow believer. You have a living God, the source of all life and healing. You have His living, enduring, abiding Word (1 Peter:1:23-25), which ministers truth to the mind, direction and encouragement to the will, and grace for the emotions. Christ-centered ministry is not a position of expertise (one-upmanship) but one of side-by-side seeking the Lord. It does not lead believers into the downward spiral of problems, but rather upward to the Life of Christ and the Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Can you think of anything more worthwhile than to serve God in your own family, in the Body of Christ, and in the world? Every person in whom the Holy Spirit lives is enabled to serve and can say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13)? Take courage! God will indeed work His own good pleasure in and through His children.
Soli Deo Gloria!