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Making Counselees Disciples

Making Counselees Disciples

by Pastor Will Lohnes, DMIn, ACBC & IABC Certified Biblical Counselor

I would like to ask you to consider a method and manner of biblical counseling that uses the principles and truths of the Scriptures to develop the counselees as disciples and not just corrected and cured Christians. My history explains how I came to realize the importance of this.

I first learned of biblical counseling while a counselor at a Christian camp. We visited conferences, churches, and learned curricula that would produce godliness in the soul if obeyed, submitted to, and believed in without exception. I journeyed through the labyrinth of counseling hundreds of counselees during the last forty years. Eventually I realized I may have missed a major emphasis in the Scriptures when it came to making disciples through biblical counseling. I had been taught early on that the Spirit in the Scriptures has all that is needed for godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but was I using Scripture correctly, completely, and consistently with the direction presented to me by Jesus in the Great Commission? Could I use biblical counseling to fix a problem and then stop short of making a disciple because I was averse to relationship?

Making disciples of Jesus Christ does not happen without relationship. Our commission is not to fix problems, solve issues, or correct the sinner but to make disciples. What I had been taught was a fix it and forget it, go to the next counselee.

As a church planter, I spent seven years in a very small church counseling more outside the church than within the church. I studied principles, truths, ideas, and solutions for years to help those who were in need. I started two biblical counseling training centers that indoctrinated scores of counselors in the wisdom of counseling from the Bible as the authority. Later I planted and pastored in two other churches and developed training centers to help direct counselors into wise and fruitful ministries that are still growing and equipping others. However, in much of this, I missed the true and honest relationship part of a healthy counseling model.

In retrospect, it seems that during this time I had indoctrinated a Christian behaviorism that simply flooded the market with steps to take, things to accomplish, and disciplines to implement—and all would be well. What I did not realize is that biblical counseling must be part of the disciple-making commission of Jesus, which requires relationship. Relationship is essential even in the correcting before the character building of discipleship. If biblical counseling occurs without relationship, it becomes sterile and clinical. We need to seek to awaken and revive. God calls us to make disciples, not just fix problems—and that requires relationship.

How many counselees have you had in your ministry? If you have served as long as I have, you may have counseled at least hundreds. How many are disciples of Christ? How many are your friends? How many of them worship, walk, and work for Christ? Those are some difficult questions but the answers are vital to understanding if you are truly fulfilling Jesus’s commission.

I believe biblical counseling requires vulnerable, honest, and authentic relationship. Without it, biblical counseling loses its connection with the Great Commission of Christ and limps along as a different type of psychological type of helping people. Counselees need to see Christ in us through relationship—not just on a page of homework. It is like being a preacher without being a pastor. You can give the truth without love. However, if you are going to make a disciple, you must add the love, for that is the mark of Jesus (John 13:35). Love demands relationship. Speaking the truth without love is counseling without relationship. Making disciples can be messy and menial, but mirrors Jesus’s heart and is always magnificent in God’s eyes.

I realize relationship cannot be developed with every counselee. Some of them simply want a listening ear without any commitment to change. Others want to counsel so they can actually teach or even correct the biblically trained counselor. Still others do not have the tools to discipline themselves so as to discipline yourself unto godliness, as Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7. Finally, some want a quick fix without moving on toward discipleship, which takes courage and love. I recognize all this. However, when the counselee is seeking to become a disciple of Christ, willing to follow God with the whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13), wanting to do the Father’s will (Matthew 7:21), and desiring to love others (John 13:35), then we ought to be ready and open for a deeper relationship for mentoring with the love of Christ.

Learning all this has changed my method and manner of counseling biblically. I become friends with my counselees, just as Jesus did. He counseled the twelve, losing one, rebuking all, loving all, relating His life and ministry to all, never keeping a professional distance. I can’t counsel without sharing my life with the believing counselee. They learn about my family, my marriage, my home, my faults and failures, and frictions in my life. I don’t hide or present an image of being the guru of counseling. Nope. They learn and see my weaknesses because I want to speak truth in love to them.

Let’s not build façades in our churches by being unwilling to admit our own faults and failures. Let’s open our hearts and lives to those God brings to us and love them as Christ did with His disciples. Following this path will change the entire aroma of your counseling and make it more biblical. Most importantly, you will be following in the footsteps of Jesus.

by Pastor Will Lohnes, DMIn, ACBC & IABC Certified Biblical

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 17th, 2021 at 7:50 am and is filed under Featured, Newsletter, Spotlight. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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