In his book Loving Messy People, Scott Mehl issues the call for all Christians to engage in the loving ministry of soul care. He uses Galatians 6:1, which says that we who are spiritual are to restore those caught in sin, to demonstrate God’s desire for all of us to enter into the messes of one another’s lives. He points back to Galatians 5:22 which lists the fruit of the Spirit who indwells all believers. This disputes any objections of those who would argue that they are unqualified to serve in this capacity. Every believer is spiritual.
After making the case that all believers are called to engage in soul care, Mehl explains the goal of loving others through soul care. In chapter 2, he states what that goal is, “God’s goal for us is that we would become more like Christ” (29). I believe that once we understand that loving others through this ministry does not mean we are called to “fix” people’s problems, we will feel less uncomfortable about doing it. In chapters 5 to 14 he lays out what loving others looks like by explaining the process of Knowing, Serving, Speaking, and Gospeling.Mehl writes, “When we love God, we want to listen to Him in His Word. When we love others, we want to listen to them through their words.” Click To Tweet
When entering into the messes of others, we are often initially overwhelmed by the circumstances people find themselves in. Mehl explains that listening carefully is the first thing we must do, however difficult it may be to do. We often encounter distractions that interfere with listening well. In chapter 5, Mehl writes, “When we love God, we want to listen to Him in His Word. When we love others, we want to listen to them through their words” (69). Asking good, probing questions is also an important part of knowing others. Once we have listened to the person, we must interpret what we hear, and consider what they need most.
Unlike the professions of psychiatry, psychology, and therapy, we believers must truly get involved in the lives of those we lovingly minister to. Serving is the second component Mehl talks about. We are called to love others as Christ loved. In chapter 7, he points out that, “To love the way Christ loved requires that we pray for one another” (98). Pursuing and sharing our lives with those God brings into our lives are also a part of serving them.
Speaking is obviously a part of soul care, after we have listened and interpreted the situation correctly. Mehl explains that the speaking that fosters true change includes giving hope, affirming, correcting, and teaching. He points out that true hope is found in God’s Word. In chapter 9, Mehl writes, “To the extent that we encourage others to put hope in anything other than God Himself, we will ultimately be feeding their hopelessness” (128). Affirmation is also something we are to speak to others. God has gifted each of us with strengths, and pointing those strengths out in others is loving.
Gospeling is the last component of gospel care that we are instructed in. Mehl talks about the importance of reminding and being reminded of the truth of the gospel. My favorite quote in the book comes on page 188. I have often used the book of Ephesians to remind my counselees of the amazing gifts we have been given in Christ. Mehl emphasizes this point when he says, “The depth of our sin may be deeper than we ever knew,” but that just means that the magnitude of God’s grace is greater than we’ve ever imagined.