Author of Counseling One Another
Interview by Fred Zaspel of Books at Glance
Books At a Glance (Fred Zaspel):
The first thing that struck me when I opened the book is that in your title – Counseling One Another – you intend something more than we may catch at first glance. Explain your title for us. What is your book all about?
This book is about biblical discipleship. It’s that simple. The ministry of counseling has too often been relegated to the professional outside the church because we don’t understand what discipleship entails. This is not to say there is no need or place for the professional counselor; however, the lion’s share of this personal ministry can and should be done as part of the natural function of a body of believers growing in grace and truth, together. I prefer to call counseling “intensive discipleship.” It is an expression of biblical love to come alongside one another when we are struggling with our faith, are suffering, or are losing the battle against the power of indwelling sin. Hence, the subtitle: A theology of inter-personal discipleship.
Okay, unpack that for us just a bit. You don’t mean that every Christian should set up a counseling office and hang out a shingle. What does “counseling one another” look like?
Counseling one another looks like every one of us always being in the process of moving toward maturity in Christ, ourselves, which includes learning to speak the truth in love to one another. As we minister the truth of the Word of God to one another in an atmosphere of genuine concern, as an extension of grace, we make progress in our sanctification. Yes, we each have responsibility for our own spiritual growth; however, we also have responsibility for one another. Sanctification truly is a community effort that is lived out in relationship with others.
Let’s take it a bit further. First, what is a disciple?
A disciple is one who follows another’s teaching. Therefore, a disciple of Jesus Christ is not merely one who confesses Christ, though that certainly is true (Rom. 10:9), but one who intentionally attaches him- or herself to Him and adheres, or submits, to His commands as the new standard for living, and consequently becomes like Him. A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who is committed to a lifelong process of growing in obedience to his Master’s commands and, by doing so, becomes like Him.
And what is discipleship?
Jesus’ command to His followers was nothing short of a mission of spiritual reproduction. The verb form of mathetes means “to instruct with the purpose of making a disciple. Matheteuo must be distinguished from the verb matheo (which is not found in the NT), which simply means to learn without any attachment to the teacher who teaches. Matheteuo means not only to learn but to become attached to one’s teacher and to become his follower in doctrine and conduct.” In other words, the task of the church is to lead others not merely to acknowledge the Son of God as having come in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ (though that is an essential point in a doctrinal system that is truly biblical; see 1 John 4:2–3), but to lead them to become submissive Christ-followers. Therefore, the church must take the initiative to pursue a biblical approach to ministry that involves training believers to reproduce themselves spiritually in the lives of others.