This is a vision I have for Tuolumne and Merced Counties. It’s not to say it’s not already a reality, but it would be so incredible to see more open communication between lay counselors in the communities throughout California. Churches are supposed to be safe houses for believers and the lost, not the building but the people of God, caring for one another and the lost, encouraging, lifting up, pointing to God for His eternal delights and presence.
Every church ought to have a few people the body agrees upon and honors as lay counselors, people the church endorses and mentions routinely to the body as being those one can go to for candid and consistent counsel and encouragement. The whole body should be working to self-sooth, of course; that’s what God put us together for in part, to care for one another. He also put us together to reach out together, or else we become overly introspective. Therefore, we should also be equipped to do the work of ministry outside of the community we see built in our local church family. As a family, we look outward to the surrounding community and we seek to be sensitive to God’s compassion for those we encounter. Part of how we see genuine transformation in the broader community is by seeing God at work through us as local bodies of believers. We become lay counselors and encouragers to those we encounter.
Counseling is not just theraputic like a good hour-long back massage. It’s often soothing, of course, but it has change and hope as the goal. Imagine, for instance, Abram and Sarai (soon to be Abraham and Sarah) were listen more humbly to the counsel of the LORD in Genesis 15 to 17. We don’t have to spend hours doing what-if scenarios with God’s Word, but imagine the simplicity of Abram’s life going forward if he had of trusted God’s counsel instead of listening to his and Sarai’s fear regarding childbearing. Similarly, God gives us the opportunity every day to experience hope and nourishment and transformation through His Holy Spirit’s counsel for us from His still small voice through Scripture and prayer and contemplation in our alone times, but also through encouragement and correction amongst the body of Christ, His people.
Lay counsel is a much neglected practice in the church. We all know this. We like to share our opinions – I’ll admit this right away by how I monologue with this blog routinely. Counsel amongst and from God’s people to the lost is not first offered. It comes after relationship is established in community life.
This is KEY TO COUNSEL BEING EFFECTIVE: We must be listeners before we can ever hope to be impactful with biblical thoughts for those we encounter. We must first be ministered to by God’s Word and by others before we can ever think we will have something to offer those we encounter. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t give it a go every day to be an encouragement and breath of fresh air to those we encounter. This part of counseling is something we should all do every day: Encourage one another and the lost! However, corrective or transformational thoughts offered into each other’s lives and the lives of the lost, these should be prayed over and brought creatively only in the context of relationship and community and much showing of love. Then, those we share such thoughts with will know we care and genuinely want them to know the love of the Savior. The best way to share a concern though, irronically, is not in the form of a statement but in the form of a question and through genuine relationship.
I’m not sharing these ideas as my own but as summaries from the counsel my wife and I are receiving and from books I’ve been reading about lay ministry throughout last year and going into this year. Please know that I by no means have the corner on the market for information regarding lay ministry, but I am excited to learn and seek to apply God’s wisdom from His Word.
LORD of Heaven, we submit to You as You minister to and through us as Your children. Your care for those we encounter is precious and incredible. Please remind us that our encounters are divine appointments. May we be thrilled to be Your instruments and tools of grace and favor toward those we encounter. Help us to be more consistently gentle and relational instead of merely seeking to be right. Forgive me for my pride through the years and for my self-righteous attitude toward others when I have failed in so many ways to abide by Your Word and rest in Your Spirit. We know You are sovereign and sufficient, so we rest in You as we run in Your favor poured out on our lives. Until the Savior returns, we run in Your favor and seek to show this grace-filled favoritism to those we encounter. May we be wreckless in showing grace and be wrecked in that wonderful way of the cross as we study our Savior and His way amongst us through the Holy Spirit. In Your joy and character we pray this, LORD JESUS, asking for these good gifts from You, Father, empowered and enlivened by You, Holy Spirit. Amen.