Category: Missional Church

When Mission Gets in the Way of Counseling

Should we spend time counseling when we could be out evangelizing, building community, strategizing for mission or preaching? Isn’t counseling something missional leaders “refer,” not something we do?

Well, it depends on how we define the word counsel. If we mean specialized sessions devoted to psychological issues that can not be addressed by the gospel, then perhaps we shouldn’t counsel. However, if we mean discipling others with gospel wisdom in the full range of human thinking, feeling, and behaving, then perhaps we should reconsider our default practice of referring.

Overlooking Counseling

Mission-minded people tend to overlook or look down on counseling. We may see it as an obstacle to mission. Too often I’ve heard things like, “God called me to preach not to pastor.” “I’ll save ‘em, somebody else disciple ‘em.” Or “Counseling isn’t my gift.” But this simply doesn’t square with the Bible. Counseling might not be your gift but it is your responsibility.

Even the greatest church planter, the Apostle Paul, had time for counseling. His letters are charged with gospel-centered counsel that springs from an intimate knowledge of people’s everyday lives. Very often, his counsel is to counsel (Rom 15:14; Eph 5:25; Col 3:12-17; 3:12-13; 10:23). Peter, James, and the writer of Hebrews also counseled their churches and counseled them to counsel. If we’re biblically faithful, counseling is something that is required of all God’s people, even church planters!

Professionalizing Church Planting

Church planting has already become an industry. Just Google “church planting”(897,000 hits). A multitude of conferences and businesses have sprung up around church planting. Best practices and best venues dominate planting conversations. Church planters borrow business language and practice in order to “plant” churches. Consider this string of questions:

  • What are you running? What are your numbers like?
  • Are your groups multiplying?
  • When are you going to plant next?
  • How are you reproducing leaders?

We’re quick to talk numbers and slow to talk transformation. If we’re not careful, church planter will become another religious profession in an increasingly professionalized Church. Planters will share more in common with entrepreneurs than they do with apostles, elders, and pastors. Church planters will become disobedient to God and irrelevant to his Church. They will build buildings and launch services, not pastor people and cultivate community.

Pastoring while Planting

Missional people often reach unreached, unbelieving, and very broken people. As a result, pastoral wisdom and gospel-centered counseling quickly become important skills. For church planters, the biblical office we hold is not church planter but elder-pastor. How are you cultivating pastoral wisdom? How are you growing in your capacity to shepherd your flock with wisdom, truth, and grace?

In order to plant healthy missional churches, we must grow in gospel breadth and depth. It’s imperative we train others to think the gospel down into issues of the heart and back into the struggles of their past. This will enrich our sermons with pastoral application that grows from spending time with struggling sheep. The best application is mined not from homiletical brainstorming but from pastoral counseling.

Counseling on mission is critical. If we do not counsel while we are on mission, we will fail in planting missional churches, while succeeding in starting organizations and events. Gospel-centered counseling should be the overflow of gospel-centered church planting.

4 New Videos on The Unbelievable Gospel

Here’s a string of new videos to go with my book The Unbelievable Gospel, which won “Book of the Year” in the Evangelism/Apologetics category in the Christianity Today awards. Feel free to use them in teaching, posting on your blog, or however they might be helpful.

What is Re-evangelization? from Jonathan Dodson on Vimeo.

Does Anything Need to Change in Personal Evangelism? from Jonathan Dodson on Vimeo.

Why Do People Find the Gospel Unbelievable? from Jonathan Dodson on Vimeo.

What is a Multi-Dimensional Gospel? – Jonathan Dodson from Jonathan Dodson on Vimeo.

10 Stirring Quotes on the Church

I’m reading through Kevin Vanhoozer’s Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine, and there’s a tweet on every page. So, instead of loading up people’s twitter feeds, I thought it would be more merciful to list out some quotes here.

A brief set up. Vanhoozer is helping us see how doctrine must be done, which is good for the ivory tower preachers, theologians, & bookish types. When Jesus said  to “observe all I have commanded,” he was saying more than “take notes” (xiii). And yet, desire for God, without doctrine, is blind (xiv). Doctrine gives direction for bearing faithful witness, for speaking understanding” (1). How, then, does doctrine speak? Through the church, of course, for good or for ill, depending on you.

Here are a string of quotes that articulate the church’s glorious responsibility to live our doctrine as a theatre of the gospel in and for the world:

The church is ultimately a triune production, a theater of the gospel wherein we begin to see how God in Christ is “reconciling the world to himself.”

 

The church is not only the “people of the book” but also “the (lived) interpretation of the book.”

 

Doctrine serves as a finishing school for disciples by helping them to view their lives as Christ did his, as caught up in the area drama of redemption.

 

The church is the place where Christ rules by his word, which dwells in disciples’ hearts.

 

The church is not an empty space but a peopled place where God exhibits his gospel.

 

The church is the public revelation of the mystery of salvation.

 

The evangelical church finds itself in danger of being indoctrinated by culture rather than by Scripture.

 

The argument in the present book is that the church is a theater of the gospel in which disciples stage previews of the coming kingdom of God.

 

Imagination is biblical reasoning in its Sunday best, lost in wonder at the creativity of the Creator.

 

There is nothing more authentic that being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, the prototype of true humanity.