My Understanding of the Ministry of Counseling Essay

 

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The concept of “ministry” through the years has started to be narrowly identified only with the religious and evangelical service.  Counseling through traditional and scripture based methods have become a matter of debate as to which one is more effective or even helpful for the person seeking guidance and help - My Understanding of the Ministry of Counseling Essay introduction. Which indeed is better? Theories presented by men or words written in the Scripture that impart God’s teachings. Does spiritual well-being take precedence over all other aspects of human life? Ministry seeks to define the many ways humans can help humans through ways both church-based or not.

 

My Understanding of the Ministry of Counseling

“David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.” Acts 13:36

Ministry is equal to service of God, his Church and fellowmen.  Beyond being a “leader” to his flock, ministry includes a personal commitment on the part of the minister to not only teach and spread God’s word but also set an example of how God’s words are applied to life. It requires a strong personal faith in the will of God and the Scripture, as well as a sensitivity to what not only the congregation’s needs but also the needs of the people in and around the Church.

To minister is to make people aware of God’s presence through service. Given this, ministry is not only achieved by preaching at the pulpit or enthusiastically exhorting a gathered crowd to believe. Simply by being there and helping people to the best that I can using God’s gifts even when there is no practical reason for me to do so is I believe part of ministry. How so? It makes people believe that God helps out one way or another.

It also alleviates people from worries that may be blocking their appreciation of God’s love as well as hindering them from fully immersing in their faith. It includes building relations with people in the congregation so that they may be put at ease should time come and they need help. Ministry is not so much limited in one’s rhetoric ability or bombastic approach when addressing a crowd. It is not simply an encyclopedic knowledge of the Scriptures or the constant utterances of biblical passages. It is the minister’s availability and presence that makes for ministry. Ministry is also to stand witness to God’s presence and love. Not because of a minister’s presence but because God has sent his servant to help his people in their time of need.

In the book of Genesis, God gave man stewardship of the world around him. Man has stewardship of creation (Genesis 1:28). One also has to look at it that humans are also part of creation. It would make sense therefore that humans should look after and care for other humans under God’s edict.

Counseling and Ministry

One of the ways by which man serves man is by being there as a counselor. There are three types of traditional counseling: the traditional psychology based counseling, Biblical counseling and finally, integrated counseling. (“Biblical Counseling”)

Psychological Counseling

In the kind of counseling or therapy done by psychologists, various approaches and theories are used to help the patient or for this paper’s purpose, the “counselee” to find their wholeness and address their problems. It is more of a “backtracking approach” where problems and behavior are the result of events and memories that happened from the present to the past. Some of the more popular theorists often referred to by psychotherapists are Freud, Jung, Skinner and Rogers.

In psychology, there is a belief that something inside a person’s mental and emotional make up is the source of the problems being experienced by the individual.  These “inner” things are drawn out in therapy sessions where each remembrance of pivotal events constitute breakthroughs by which a counselee’s progress is judged. The focus is more on the internal problems and fixing them. There are also solutions where behavior modification and assessment of priorities are done in order to address such problems. In some cases, it takes a combination of various theories in order to define what exactly is the counselee’s problem.

For example, the case of a businessman having marital difficulties may be diagnosed in two ways:

1. According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Career may take precedence over married life therefore the man is having marital difficulties because he chooses to focus more on work.

2. According to Freud: The businessman may have a yearning for a woman who is like his mother (Oedipus Complex). If his wife doesn’t turn out the way he expects her to, disappointment sets in. this may prompt the man to unconsciously find different ways of criticizing his wife thus creating problems between them. Similarly, the problems may lie with the wife who, suffering from “Elektra Complex” or preference for somebody like her father, may unconsciously resort to different ways to aggravate her husband which then becomes the reason for their marital difficulties.

In psychology, problems are rooted in something in the individual or counselee’s mental and emotional make-up.  Treatments are done through talk therapy, regression, and at times, medication.

Biblical Counseling

Biblical counseling on the other hand, finds its roots in the belief that problems and subsequent solutions are part of God’s will. As anti-thesis to all those theories purveyed by psychologists, problems and sufferings that man undergoes are all part of God’s plan to prepare man for a bigger and more significant purpose as well as groom him for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven.

“This is only one example of the fair, just way God does things, for He is using your sufferings to make you ready for His Kingdom.” II Thessalonians 1:5

Problems therefore are universal and inevitable. In fact, man should consider himself lucky whenever God sends trials to test him and strengthen his faith.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I tell you this so that no one may be deceive you by fine sounding arguments.  For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. (Colossians 2:2-5)

Advice and guidance given by the Biblical counselor are firmly rooted in the Scriptures, prayer, faith and the Holy Spirit. The idea is that above man’s solutions, there is no greater and more effective solution than God’s as written down in Biblical Scripture.

So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up by him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing in thankfulness.  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2: 6-10)

Going back to the example of the businessman with marital difficulties, what does the Bible say in this kind of situation?

“And that a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever united to his wife. The two shall become one—no longer two, but one! And no man may divorce what God has joined together. (Matthew 19:5-6)

Are solutions to be found in the Bible? If one goes by the guidelines of Biblical

counseling, it must mean then that problems arise because the married couple may not be living their lives according to God’s words on marriage as can be seen in the Scriptures .

“And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the church when He died for her…That is how husbands should treat their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he loves his wife! (Ephesians 5:25-28)

The Bible also provided advice on how the couple should address their problems.

 

“You husbands must be careful of your wives, being thoughtful of their needs and honoring them as the weaker sex. Remember that you and your wife are partners in receiving God’s blessings, and if you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not get ready answers.” (I Peter 3:7)

“You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of His body the church. (He gave His very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the church obeys Christ.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

In fact one of the most common advice given to married couples about how long they

 

should let a problem or feelings of anger stew may find its origins in the Bible:

 

“If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly.” (Ephesians 4:26)

It is interesting to note that the passage in Colossians regarding scriptural advice that man not be caught by “hollow and deceptive philosophy” dependent on human and world tradition  (Colossians 2:8) may easily be construed as “Them’s fightin’ words” against the foundations of psychology.

Criticism against Sole traditional and Biblical counseling:

Is true counseling only possible through one method? Indeed there have been criticisms of how much counseling has wandered from the Church and into the more detached clinical setting of the psychologist’s office (Fitch 2000). Believers in psychotherapy as a more effective mode of counseling,  view Biblical counseling as too narrow. There is often the question as to the sole Scripture-based (Sola Scriptura) counselor’s ability to address problems with people who afflicted with illnesses like “Bi-polar disorder,” and other mental and emotional health problems brought about by trauma and kinks in a person’s physical make-up and chemistry.

Biblical counseling stands firm however that everything happens according to God’s plan. Solutions may not at all be obvious at first but they will be forthcoming with sufficient faith and trust in God’s plan and wisdom. In scripture based counseling, it is believed that people hurt because of sin either they have committed or have been committed against them.

The obvious problems are not the main problems but more of a reflection of something deeper like lack of faith or disbelief in the sacrament of matrimony. People need counsel in order to be more like Christ in the way they lead their lives (Peter 1:3-10, Romans 8:28,29). One might almost be led to say that psychology’s many theories can be interpreted as conveniently and scientifically provided “rationales” or justifications for sins without any clear standpoint as to what is morally right or wrong. Another things is that treatment through medication is only a temporary thing.  No medication can address issues that are the product of weakened faith and diminished spiritual guidance.

Integrated Counseling: The Joint Effort of Science and Theology

It seems that there are three words that stand out in both psychological and church based ministry: problem, truth and inevitability.

In his essay “The Need for More Preaching in the Psychologists Office or “”Why Therapy Never Should Have Left the Church in the First Place,””(2000) David E. Fitch states:

There is no incompatibility between the truths of psychology and those found in the faithful preaching of Scripture. The two are merely different approaches to knowledge about the same core experiences and realities that everyone experiences.  One is based upon science, and the other based upon revelation, but both are reliable sources of the same truth. (Fitch, 198)

Problems in the human life experience seem to be inevitable. That much psychology and the Bible agree upon. Whether the problems be a result of a biological or chemical disturbance in the human psyche or something more abstract such as faith issues, the way to get at solutions and answers to questions is to face and accept truths.

Truth in psychology is demonstrated as a counselee starts detailing his or her life in events both past and present to his or her psychotherapist. A counselee’s admission of the presence of problems and his or her concerns as to the effect of this problem on his or her life and faith in a council session with a pastor is also a kind of truth.

The nature of problems are also truths whether they be defined by scientific or psychological theory or spiritual edicts in the Bible.

Since it is a marriage of sorts between faith and science, some religious quarters particularly the evangelical Christians initially viewed the scientific influences with reserve as they saw it as opposing some Christian teachings. The Bible itself however, proves to be rather open-minded about the opportunity and indeed, the possibility of an effective partnership for the secular and biblical modes of counseling. Indeed in one passage in the Proverbs, the Bible basically tells us that man should not be limited by pre-existing views and traditions:

“The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them.” (Proverbs 18:15)

 

The idea of an integrated approach to counseling has attracted a large number of the  clergy of the mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews.  Its integration of science and religion,  psychology and theology, have attracted numerous people from these religious communities to the profession of pastoral counseling.

Counseling is done for the purpose of helping people and doing them a service. Whether the service is rendered clinically or in God’s name, the desired end product of helping an individual gain well being be it through physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually never varies.

What makes a fully “healthy” person?

A human being’s state of health is not simply narrowed into his or her capacity to breath, move, walk and talk. To look at human life into mere physiological functions is just too narrow a view.

The standards set by biology and medicine are simple enough in establishing an individual’s physical health. Even the Bible has its stand on how people should value their physical health if they truly value their life with God:

“Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that He lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God, because He owns it.” I Corinthians 6:19-20

The mental and emotional states of humankind as studied by psychology are also essential to one’s journey towards spiritual health and well being.

“A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick.”( Proverbs 17:22)

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank Him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

It seems that the admission of truths in one’s life is the starting point on the road to overall wellness. Arthur Freeman’s essay on “Spirituality, Well-Being, and Ministry” describes how their pastoral ministers minister to the spiritual wellness of counselees. At this point it is important to remember that the word “minister” should not be defined solely in the religious context. Doctors minister to the physical well-being of their patients by doing thorough physical check ups, while psychotherapists minister to the psychological health of their patients or counselees through various therapy methods and sessions.

What then describes a fully healthy person? The science of medicine and the Bible agree that a physically healthy person does not indulge in drinking too much alcohol or excessive eating (Proverbs 23:20-21) and has sufficient physical activity and rest (Exodus 20:8-10).

Psychology and the Bible also agree that for an individual to be mentally and emotionally healthy, there must be level of peace that allows people to stop wallowing in self pity and come to terms with what is mentally and emotionally ailing them. Such action will allow them to move forward and live their lives peacefully.

“And now, brothers, as I close this letter let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.”  (Philippians 4:8)

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

Ministry, Counseling and the Congregation

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

There are many reasons why people come to worship. The top reasons for Church attendance usually are:  1. Sunday obligation; 2. to give a little time to attend to their spiritual health as well as give thanks for blessings, and 3. to seek and pray for guidance from the Lord.

It is to the last that ministry is most needed. . Turton’s essay on “Expectations of counselling: a Comparison between Evangelical Christians and non-Evangelical Christians”(2004) state that the needs of people seeking guidance hardly ever varies. People seeking counsel whatever their evangelical orientation, gender, sex or race need to be reassured that they will be listened to without judgement.

The way to do this according to James E. Ditte’s book on Pastoral Counseling: The Basics (1999a) as cited in Brita Gill – Austern’s article on “Pastoral Counseling: The Art of Ascetic Witnessing” (2003) is to ascetically witness the counselee’s life story. By doing so, the minister or counselor may be able to help the counselee determine for him or herself the values they place on certain events in their lives and just how much it is affecting their state of mind and daily lives.

The value of being able to ascetically witness people lives on the setting of a counseling session is that the counselee feels that no prejudices or judgments are being leveled against them.. Thus they can speak freely and admit to their vulnerabilities.  This step is vital for it only then that the counselee recognizes for themselves just what things must he or she address in their lives.

The session becomes a place of peace or “sanctuary” where counselees can see for themselves the problem that they need to fix as well as their own capability to fix it without any external influence even from their religious minister. The counselor’s or minister’s goal is simply help the counselee recognize and find what is already there without imposing his own opinions. While expected to generally reserve their judgment and discriminations, religious ministers such as pastors are also tasked to minister to and keep their congregation together as well as maintain the congregation’s faith by living a life of example according to God’s word:

“For a pastor must be a good man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must have only one wife, and he must be hard working and thoughtful, orderly, and full of good deeds. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and must be a good Bible teacher. He must not be a drinker or quarrelsome, but he must be gentle and kind, and not one who loves money. He must have a well-behaved family, with children who obey quickly and quietly. For if a man can’t make his own little family behave, how can he help the whole church? The pastor must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and pride comes before a fall. (Satan’s downfall is an example.) Also, he must be well spoken of by people outside the church—those who aren’t Christians—so that Satan can’t trap him with many accusations, and leave him without freedom to lead his flock.” (I Timothy 3:2-7)

Ministry is not an exclusive calling or even something that requires ordination and special vestments. It is more of a personal choice that people make to serve their fellow men to the best of their abilities. Simply put, it is just being there for others and being ready to help out whatever way one can without any judgement or discrimination. The congregation is just a small unit of the brotherhood that is humankind. Ministering to a congregation should not be defined by four walls or even by the day of the week. Ministry does not stop with just Sundays.  A sincere minister gives the gift of his ability and availability to people who may not even be part of his formal or religious congregation.

 

References

 

Fitch, D. (2000, January). The Need for More Preaching in the Psychologist’s Office or

Why Therapy Never Should Have Left the Church in the First Place. Pastoral

Psychology, 48(3), 197-209. Retrieved September 17, 2007, from ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials database.

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000907194&site=ehost-live

 

Freeman, Arthur (1998, Spr). Spirituality, Well-Being, and Ministry. Journal of Pastoral

Care, 52, 7-17. Retrieved September 17, 2007, from ATLA Religion Database

with  ATLASerials database.

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001000

357&site=ehost-live
Gill-Austern, Brita L. (2003) Pastoral Counseling: The Art of Ascetic Witnessing.

Pastoral Psychology 52 no 1-2 N, p81-96. Retrieved September 23, 2007 from

ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=5&hid=106&sid=a770096e-6ab9-44cc-

bc23-ceeb8677b0f6%40sessionmgr107

 

“How is Biblical Counseling different than other types of counseling?” Biblical

Counseling Center. Retrieved October 7, 2007 from http://www.biblicalcounselingcenter.org/Content/?content_id=2

 

 

Turton, D. (2004, July). Expectations of counselling: a comparison between

Evangelical Christians and non-Evangelical Christians. Pastoral Psychology,

52(6), 507-517. Retrieved September 17, 2007, from ATLA Religion Database

with ATLASerials database.

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001441985&si  te=ehost-live
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Referred to Scriptural Passages:

 

Acts 13:36    David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.

Genesis 1:28  God blessed them and said to them: “Be fruitful and increase in

number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 

II Thessalonians 1:5   “This is only one example of the fair, just way God does things, for

He is using your sufferings to make you ready for His Kingdom.”

 

 

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not

lacking anything.”

 

(Colossians 2:2-5)My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in

love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I tell you this so that no one may be deceive you by fine sounding arguments.  For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

Colossians 2: 6-10   So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live

in him, rooted and built up by him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught,

and overflowing in thankfulness.  See to it that no one takes you captive through

hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the

basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ, all the fullness

of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who

is the head over every power and authority.

 

Matthew 19:5-6  “And that a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever

united to his wife. The two shall become one—no longer two, but one! And no

man may divorce what God has joined together.

 

Ephesians 5:25-28 “And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as

Christ showed to the church when He died for her…That is how husbands should

treat their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife

are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he

loves his wife!

 

I Peter 3:7″You husbands must be careful of your wives, being thoughtful of their needs

and honoring them as the weaker sex. Remember that you and your wife are

partners in receiving God’s blessings, and if you don’t treat her as you should,

your prayers will not get ready answers.”

 

Ephesians 5:22-24      “You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same

way you submit to the Lord. For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same

way Christ is in charge of His body the church. (He gave His very life to take care

of it and be its Savior!) So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in

everything, just as the church obeys Christ.”

 

Ephesians 5:21     “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

 

Ephesians 4:26     “If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go

down with you still angry—get over it quickly.”

 

Proverbs 18:15     “The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for

them.”

 

I Corinthians 6:19-20     “Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy

Spirit God gave you, and that He lives within you? Your own body does not

belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of

your body to give glory back to God, because He owns it.”

 

Proverbs 17:22″A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes

one sick”

 

Philippians 4:6-7″Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God

your needs, and don’t forget to thank Him for his answers. If you do this, you will

experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can

understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as

you trust in Christ Jesus.”

 

Proverbs 23:20-21,  “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on

meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in

rags.”

 

Exodus 20:8-10,  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor

and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it

you shall not do any work.”

 

 

Philippians 4:8 And now, brothers, as I close this letter let me say this one more thing:

Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are

pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you

can praise God for and be glad about.”

 

John 14:27″I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give

isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

 

I Timothy 3:2-7 “For a pastor must be a good man whose life cannot be spoken against.

He must have only one wife, and he must be hard working and thoughtful,

orderly, and full of good deeds. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and must be a good Bible teacher. He must not be a drinker or quarrelsome, but he must be gentle and kind, and not one who loves money. He must have a well-behaved family, with children who obey quickly and quietly. For if a man can’t make his own little family behave, how can he help the whole church? The pastor must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and pride comes before a fall. (Satan’s downfall is an example.) Also, he must be well spoken of by people outside the church—those who aren’t Christians—so that Satan can’t trap him with many accusations, and leave him without freedom to lead his flock.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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