You are a Counselor: counseling Others with the Gospel
Kim Kira | NOVEMBER 13, 2018 | 6 MIN READ
You are a counselor. How does that statement sit with you? Maybe you think counseling is only for professionals or for pastors in the church.
Even though you may not be a formal counselor, you are a counselor nonetheless. Although our culture has formalized the term, we must remember that a counselor is anyone who counsels – meaning a counselor is anyone who helps others understand a situation and how they should live and act.
So if someone comes up to you after church and says, “I am so stressed,” whatever words come out of your mouth are counsel, good or bad.
Build up or corrupt?
So let that sink in – you are a counselor. One way or another, you are advising people; you are revealing to others your sense of truth; you are arguing for a worldview; you are exhorting some sort of action or inaction; and you are encouraging hope and trust and worship in something or someone.
To add an even greater sense of gravity, Ephesians 4:29 offers only two outcomes that result from our counsel. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” This means you are constantly counseling with two consistent outcomes – the building up or the corrupting. You offer grace or destruction.
Counseling that seeks less than true transformation
With this in mind, we must be Gospel-centered in our counseling. This attitude recognizes the reality that what people need most is Christ. More than we need changed circumstances, changed behaviors, or changed feelings, we need changed hearts.
Unfortunately the world, and at times even the church, can often fail in this task by pursuing less than true transformation. For example though the Bible describes pride as one of the most dangerous sins, we live in a culture that is constantly pushing “self” as one of the keys to life – self-esteem, self-actualization, self-love, self-confidence.
The church can also fail here when it offers various versions of behavior modification that end up simply being a modern day version of Phariseeism, focusing on outward behavior but neglecting true heart change (Matthew 23:25–28).
The power of the Gospel
While the Gospel doesn’t promise to change our circumstances, it transforms our hearts. This is what makes the Gospel so powerful in the life of a believer. It is why Paul writes, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
The Gospel as revealed in the Word is what we need. This is not simply for getting into heaven but for the totality of the Christian life. As we think of the here and the hereafter, of the mundane and the monumental, of the difficulties of this life and of eternal life to come, we know everything we need is given to us in the Bible, God’s revelation of himself.
Whether you are a formal counselor in your church or a member who is trying to love better with the Truth, the Gospel needs to be central in your counsel. This then is what Gospel-centered counseling is – loving and wise conversations that help those in need trust, love, and worship Christ.
Needless to say, how to counsel with the Gospel is too big a discussion for this article, but here are two truths and two applications to get you started in your ministry of the Word:
At the heart of life is trusting Jesus. Most of us know this. We have heard this advice and probably given it. Going through a trial? You need to trust Jesus. Struggling with sin? You need to trust Jesus? Trying to make a wise decision? You need to trust Jesus. Though this make sense, it doesn’t seem very practical. How do you just “trust Jesus”? This brings us to truth #2.
People struggle to trust Jesus because they barely know the Jesus they are supposed to trust. Just like we would struggle to trust a person we barely know, people struggle to trust Jesus because they have such an anemic understanding of who he truly is. In light of this, people invariably will put their faith somewhere else.
Help people to see the sin and idolatry that draws their gaze away from Christ. The question isn’t “will people believe and worship,” but “what or whom will they believe and worship.” We must help them see the false saviors they have put their trust in so that they might reorient their hearts towards Christ.
Help people to know the Jesus they are struggling to trust. This is how we put it in our counseling class – Gospel-centered counseling means helping others know Christ more deeply and accurately, so that they would trust him more truly, love him more intensely, worship him exclusively, and live for him more faithfully.
May God’s grace be with you as you counsel with the Gospel.
Kim Kira is the primary preaching elder at Lighthouse Community Church in Torrance, California. His ministry is driven by a deep desire to encourage people with the transformative power of the Gospel, the Good News that offers not only entrance into heaven but powerful and practical hope for change in everyday life. Beyond ministry, Kim loves to spend time with his wife Jen and their four children, Caleb, Josiah, Karissa, and CJ.