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The Influence of Counseling on Preaching

When I climb into the pulpit to preach on a Sunday morning, my biblical counseling training comes with me.

Jan 8, 2021

Biblical Counselors are united by a common conviction that the Word of God contains everything needed to live a life that is pleasing to God (2 Timothy 3:17). We firmly believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. But what really gets us up in the morning is the sufficiency of the Scriptures. We’re convinced the Bible contains everything necessary for life and godliness (a concept not original to us; see 2 Peter 1:3). We truly believe that, no matter what life throws at us or our counselees, the Bible has an answer that can be both known and applied to everyday life.

And here’s the thing; it’s near impossible to limit what you’ve learned in biblical counseling training to one area of your life or ministry. Even as a young single man, I remember writing down key principles of communication on the back of a paper plate, and affixing it to the refrigerator with a magnet for me and my roommates to consider as we lived together. Biblical counseling principles are simply too effective and, quite frankly, too exciting to be used for just an hour or two each week. Before you know it, you find yourself applying biblical principles to more areas of life, and it is sweet.

When I climb into the pulpit to preach on a Sunday morning, my biblical counseling training comes with me. It’s one thing to say “Thus saith the Lord,” and proclaim the truth of God. Preaching is certainly not less than that, but it is more. My desire for people to see the living Word of God as applicable to their lives is as present in my sermons as it is in the counseling room. In both venues, I want people to hear and understand the Bible when we’re together so they’re able to apply the Word when we’re apart. Here’s how I try to do that.

Even Though I’m Preaching to Many, I’m Speaking to Individuals

The typical worship center is way more crowded than the counseling room. I may be mic’d up and standing on a stage, but I’m keenly aware that the flock is made up of many individual sheep, all with different hearts, minds, and circumstances in life. That means, as I preach, I’m taking the time to ensure I’m not giving a lecture, or a presentation of what God’s Word says (after all, they can read that for themselves). Instead, I’m painstakingly taking the time to preach the Word in such a way that it is not simply informative, but instructive in how to live life. This is what Paul exhorted Timothy to do; to preach the Word “…with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:3).

I’m Preaching for Transformation, Not Just Information

As a biblical counselor, I’ve seen firsthand how the Word of God transforms someone’s understanding of themselves, their circumstances, their relationships, even God Himself. Once you’ve seen that in the counseling room, you’ll do anything to see it in the pews. I’m always looking for opportunities to reference the transformative power of the Word of God. My eyes are peeled for chances to point to God’s desire to transform us to be doers of the Word, not hearers only (James 1:22). When I preach, I want people to leave with a better understanding of the text or topic. Further, I want them to interpret their circumstances (especially the most difficult ones) through a biblical lens.

I Preach on Sunday for Monday

Of the 168 hours in a week, biblical counselors spend a precious hour or so with their counselees. That’s why we know the importance of solid, relevant, pointed homework assignments to get the counselee to interact with their Bible and the principles we covered in the session when we’re not together. It’s very much the same when I preach. If someone leaves my counseling office with hope, but loses it by the time they wake up the next morning, it’s not very useful. Similarly, if someone leaves my church blessed by the message, but can’t do a thing with it the next day, I have to wonder if I’ve done my job well as a pastor.

“What about You?”

Throughout the sermon (usually 1-3 times), I pause and say “What about you?” before I ask the people to consider something. It’s a simple practice that gets people thinking about themselves individually regarding what I’m about to say or ask. When younger preachers ask me to review and critique their sermons, almost every time I challenge them to ask “What about you?” three times the next time they preach. It forces them to drop points of application throughout the message instead of leaving it all to the end (where it’s usually rushed) or omitting it altogether.

Questions for Community Group and/or Personal Application

We provide a sermon outline for people to follow along if they so choose. At the end of the outline, I always include questions for people to consider on their own time. Ours is a church of many Community Groups that meet throughout the week, many of which are “sermon-based” (they discuss the sermon that was preached on Sunday), so it serves them to consider these things as they meet together. What I’m endeavoring to do for the flock is the same thing I strive to do for my counselees. I’m giving them a means by which they can apply the Word of God long after the sermon is done, just like homework gives counselees a means to apply what we covered in our session long after they leave my office.

This blog was originally posted at Servants of Grace, view the original post here.