Posts Tagged ‘ Growth ’

VerseD: 2 Corinthians 9:6

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

2 Corinthians 9:6, ESV

Paul is not necessarily promising financial peace and prosperity for our generous giving. Rather, it is the promise that our giving shows the righteousness of Christ growing abundantly within us.

The Growing Need for Counseling Pastors

From the time I was a student in Seminary the Lord consistently brought people into my life who were in need of counseling. Though I did not realize it at the time, he had already prepared and called me to this important task of counseling ministry from a very young age. I have been in counseling ministry since 2006, but have been studying psychology and human behavior from childhood. 

I recall being about seven years old and observing an unhealthy relational interaction that kept recurring. This led me to ponder, and pray to the Lord about how to break that pattern, and replace it with a consistent healthy, loving, relational interaction, so I set out on a mission to find the answers to help people. Over time, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with the support and wisdom of my parents, in particular, my mother, I sought to understand the root of each problem, and the motivation and perspectives that drive them.

By age ten I finally had the courage to intervene in the unhealthy interaction I had observed a couple years prior, and was determined to change it. Though my hope was to be conciliatory, at that point, I was looking only for change, and I remember thinking that it did not matter if the change was good or bad, but only that the pattern be broken. The next time I observed the unhealthy interaction, I spoke up and it made an impact. There was an immediate and noticeable difference, partly in the other parties, and partly in me, for this marked the first time my role was that of a counselor.

Since we, as Christians, recognize that God can and does immediately and completely heal people from all types of ailments, physical and mental, we must also recognize that this is more often the exception rather than the rule. The problem is when Christians who continue to struggle are told from well-meaning brothers and sisters in the Lord that they have not received God’s miraculous healing touch yet, because they lack faith, or need to pray more, or have some hidden sin in their life that they need to confess, etc. The fact is, that oftentimes when God chooses not to miraculously heal someone, it is because he wants them to work through the process of healing, which can and does bring great spiritual growth (See Cloud and Townsend How People Grow). That process of healing is wrought in the context of Christian Counseling.

With all that has transpired in the world over the course of a couple short years, I am seeing an exponentially greater number of people in need of counseling. This, unfortunately, has emphasized an underlying problem, that many pastors are not up to the task of counseling. There are as many reasons for this problem as there are possible solutions, but the fact remains that there is a great shortage of effective Christian Counselors.

The best solution for most churches to consider is hiring a Counseling Pastor, that is, someone who has extensive experience in Counseling Ministry and whose primary role on staff is as a Christian Counselor. In many churches this may be a dual role such as “Counseling and Teaching Pastor,” “Counseling and Discipleship Pastor,” “Pastor of Counseling and Spiritual Growth,” etc.

While this role may, at first glance, appear to be the job of the senior pastor, he may have neither the time nor the training necessary to deal with some of the more complex issues that come up in the counseling session. Christian Psychologist Larry Crabb makes an excellent point in his book Effective Biblical Counseling that counseling (like prophet and teacher, etc.) is a gift given to the church (Rom 12:8 Gk). Additionally, it is beneficial to have a pastor to whom people can go and confidentially confess their struggles without the threat of church discipline (with the obvious exception of extreme cases which would be handled in like manner in secular counseling) or feeling like every sermon will be directed at them. Counseling is kept strictly confidential and therefore compartmentalized for the sake of the dignity and growth of the client.

In conclusion, since it is incumbent upon the leadership to make sure the church is mentally and spiritually healthy, it is imperative to consider the need for the role of Counseling Pastor on your team, and to hire one who is both humble and competent.

Jesse Walker is an ordained pastor who is a Christian Counselor.

He is the founder and lead counselor of Christian Counseling Ministries in Phoenix, AZ.

VerseD: Hebrews 12:11

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11, ESV

God allows and even ordains difficult and evil things to come our way. Sometimes to discipline us when we are wayward in our walk.
Always to grow us more into the image of His Son.

VerseD: Galatians 5:25

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25, ESV

Living by the Spirit means we will grow in love and self-control (along with all the fruit of the Spirit), serving others and glorifying Christ in all things.

VerseD: Philippians 4:9

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:9, ESV

As we grow in Christ, He uses us to help others grow. Let Christ work in you through reading the Word, hearing the Word, and living with the Church.

What kind of Pastor are you? Church Politics 101

My intention in writing this is to enlighten, and not to harm, though it may hurt…because the truth hurts. As I ask many times in my articles, if you are going to read this, please commit to reading it in its entirety, because there will be some difficult points and thoughts to ponder, but if you let the Lord speak to you, the conclusion will be worth it.

I have always been somewhat of a reluctant leader…leading by necessity and calling rather than desire. Because the church “leadership” failed in many ways to help me grow, I found early on that I had to lead myself first, and then offer to others that which the leadership failed to give me. God used the situation for good, but the battle has been hard fought.

The leadership failed for two primary reasons: First, what I needed, they didn’t have. Second, if they did have it to give, they gave just enough, dangling it like a carrot to keep me coming back, but never was I filled. They kept giving me fish when I desperately wanted to know how to fish. The first was a failure of preparation, the second was a power play. They didn’t want to help me grow into the person God was calling me to be, at least not fully, because they were comfortable being the spiritual ones in charge. This is not simply my perspective, I had objective observers tell me these things before I ever vocalized them. It was a bittersweet confirmation of what I already knew.

This emphasized the fact that the church organization has a hierarchical structure, even if you are part of an independent, non-denominational church. The church organization has defaulted, and continues to default to a hierarchy of established people and expected norms. This is the nitty gritty of what is known as “church politics.” Of course, when one looks at actual politics it is quite clear that, whether you like it or not, there was a political revolution in the presidential election of 2016. The “establishment” politicians were overthrown and kicked out.

The church has an “establishment” too, and if you are one, you should desperately check your life and be sure you get on the right track with the Lord, because it is only a matter of time before He rectifies things. You don’t want to be included in the “church establishment” because these people will eventually be kicked out as well.

(I will be using leadership and establishment interchangeably in this article)

Here are some points to help you determine if you are part of the church establishment, the primary causes of which come from “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (the pride in position and possessions).” 1 John 2:16

  1. Manipulation – Do you help people grow to the point where they don’t need you anymore? If you help them grow a little, but not as much as you actually can, you are probably doing it so they remain dependent upon you for spiritual guidance. This protects your position as a leader, because the underlying motive is that they not reach the spiritual summit that you assess yourself to have reached, for fear they may become closer to Jesus and/or more popular with the masses than you, thereby eclipsing the position you have attained. Be careful because this is a form of manipulation for the purpose of maintaining control and power. Are you manipulating people by holding them back from being the person they can truly be in the Lord?
  2. Greed – This goes hand in hand with the first point. Remember that old adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”? The church establishment gives people fish every Sunday to keep them coming back. They neglect to teach people how to fish so they can grow on their own, in order to keep butts in the pews and tithes in the purse. Are you allowing money to keep you from doing what’s right?
  3. Power – The church establishment is destined to fail because they were never supposed to be “in power” in the first place. Christ is the head of the church and all authority has been given to Him. How often do you hear a message on how to hear the voice of God? Not very often, because the establishment thinks that “lay people” aren’t learned or responsible enough to understand such deep, intimacy with the Father, that should be left to those who have a theological degree. That is an elitist mentality that protects its’ own. The fact is, shortly after Moses, the Exodus, and the promised land (which foreshadow Jesus and his mission of leading us out of the bondage of sin and into the promise of His Spirit), comes a book which I am convinced is a foreshadow of Christ and the church – the book of Judges. In this book God speaks to, and employs those He chooses at any given time for any given purpose. Subsequently, the people want an established human leader but God wants to lead them Himself, and speak to them personally. As many of you know, the Lord eventually gives the people what they want in the form of King Saul, but it was not God’s original, perfect will for them. His original will was essentially a Theocracy – a nation led by the Lord Himself. This is why Jesus said “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” By these verses it is clear that the Lord does not want hierarchy of power within the church, because that simply leads to an elitist mentality. He should be on the throne of every heart. Are you usurping Gods’ perfect will? Do you have an elitist mentality when it comes to ministry and the things of God?
  4. Jealousy – I know of a pastor (we’ll call him John) who has had the call of God on his life for ministry from the time he was a teenager. Johns’ goal has always been to help people grow so much, and get so close to Jesus, that they don’t need John anymore. However, other pastors and leaders have been jealous of the gifts and anointing that the Lord has placed on Johns’ life, and they feel threatened by Johns’ Biblical knowledge, youthful zeal, purity of heart and maturity in the Lord. They are secretly afraid that John will take their job because he is more qualified both in the eyes of man and in the eyes of God. Because of their jealousy and fears, they have held him back from accomplishing the call of God and operating in his giftings. Their actions have deeply wounded John because these pastors and leaders are people who should know better. They should put their pride aside and, at the very least, allow the Lord to work through John in his giftings. However, an even better, more mature response would be for them to help John in ministry in whatever way they can so that the church may thrive. To make things worse it hasn’t been just one church or pastor that has felt this way and done this to John, the majority of pastors John has worked with over the years have responded out of jealousy and fear. The only consolation is that John is in good company, because the religious leaders of the day treated Jesus the same way. Of whom are you jealous? Who do you feel threatens your position in ministry?
  5. Bias – Singles are treated as second-class citizens of ministry (See the article “Church and Singles“). Do you have a biblical view of singleness and marriage?
  6. Favoritism – I have a friend who is a fellow minister and who is intimately familiar with church methods for obtaining staff and guest speakers. As a pastor and speaker myself, I was refreshed yet deeply saddened by a comment he made. Refreshed because he was unabashedly honest, and saddened because it is unfortunately true. He said nobody cares if you have a great message, they only care if you have a big name and can draw a crowd. Unfortunately, the ways of the world creep into the church. Whereas God looks at the heart, man looks at the outward appearance. If one doesn’t fit the mold that the establishment thinks one should fit (the way one looks, dresses, talks, yes, sometimes even what one drives), or if one doesn’t have a big name that can bring big bucks, they are ignored by or passed over by the leadership, even if God’s anointing is upon them. Do you rely on your own desires, or on God’s Spirit when looking for staff and speakers?
  7. Nepotism – This is very rampant in the church establishment, perhaps because the church establishment has become a career rather than a calling. It is also one of the most obvious and therefore hurtful mistakes that the establishment can make. I have witnessed excellent candidates who were not even considered for a position simply because the pastors brother-in-law wanted the job. Odds are that anyone who has been in church any length of time has negative feelings on this issue. Is ministry a calling or a career for you?

This is not an exhaustive list, and there is a lot of overlap, but I listed all of these things to point out how “the pride of life” (the pride of position and possessions) is manifest in the church establishment, and God’s word says that “God opposes the proud…” and that pride goes before a fall. Therefore, from one pastor to another, I challenge you to answer these questions honestly and evaluate whether you are a part of the church establishment.

After you have given yourself an honest evaluation ask yourself “What can I change to become more like Jesus?” and “what am I actually prepared to do?”

In conclusion, just like there was a political establishment, there is a church establishment. A loving rebuke and warning to those of the church establishment: You think you are elite but you are not. You teach on maturity but you are the ones who are immature. You talk about love but you love money, influence, power, and control. You love all that is in the world. But no matter which way it is divided, it all boils down to lust and pride. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of Life (the pride of position and possessions). You have no room in your heart for Jesus, but this is your chance to change, and who knows, the Lord may forgive and cover your transgressions as if you never even wandered off the path. I pray this is the case, and it begins with you making a decision to soften your heart, abandon your elitist attitude and in humility ask for forgiveness from the Lord. Open your heart, once again to Jesus. You know Him, now let Him know you.

(See also “What you need to know about church“)

About Jesse Walker

Milk Does a Body Good

Get some good spiritual milk over at Proverbial Thought!

There are three main stages to the Christian walk:

  1. Acceptance and Growth
  2. Understanding and Growth
  3. Teaching and Growth

As we walk through this life, we should never stop growing. In this life, we will never achieve perfection, full Christ-likeness. This is one reason why Paul wrote, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)

We never stop growing, it is true. However, just as some things stay with us as we grow and age from infant to death, so there are things we need from the moment of salvation knowledge to the end of this life.Mugstache

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
1 Corinthians 3:2

We need our mothers milk when we are young. We cannot handle other foods, because our bodies are not ready for solid food.

We come to a saving knowledge of Christ through the presentation of the Gospel: We have sinned against God. We have willfully broken his laws, separated ourselves from Him; and we generally refuse to love others and Him the way we should. Therefore, God came to earth as a man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, to live a perfect life and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins to reconcile us to Himself. He rose from the grave three days later, giving us a hope of eternal life with Him.

This gets us excited, and we want to share this information with everyone. Unfortunately, too many people stay at this level of maturity for years.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
Hebrews 5:11-6:3

Repentance is good, and it is something that is needed throughout our walk with Christ. Too many congregations and even whole denominations have gotten stuck on repentance and forgiveness without moving forward on the individual level (“Get ’em saved!” if you will, without helping new converts grow in righteousness, as Paul said.)

Just as a child eventually grows to eating solid food, so we must grow to be able to discuss the deeper things of our faith, such as prayer, service, and even miracles. The biggest reason we do not see as many miracles today is not because they are no longer used by God. Rather it is because the Western Church largely has abandoned the rites and practices that help us grow deeper in our faith and that position us to be used by God in miraculous ways.

There have been strides as of late to correct this within the Church. This is evidenced by the rise in social reform, but it is only one way God wants us to grow. We must also focus on theological and spiritual needs within ourselves and for others.

The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
Proverbs 10:21

Something happens with most of us as we grow: we fall in love, and we procreate – we make babies! All of a sudden we have to help these little ones survive and then learn and grow into adulthood. This requires using all we have learned and experienced to help them, but sometimes we need help.

Likewise, as followers of Jesus Christ we are commanded to make more followers. We are told that we are to take the knowledge of salvation to bring others to new life. We are then to help them grow in their walk with Christ, as we should have been doing. And we need help, which is why we have priests and pastors and each other who meet each week for communal worship and learning.

A warning, though, is that, as Paul again said, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

This has happened multiple times throughout Church history, but it is certainly prevalent today. It used to be that most churches would start with the basic milk of doctrine: faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. That is no longer a requirement for some churches. In either event, the teachings can range from “Be a better person by thinking this way or doing these things,” to full on cult-ish ideas and practices that are at best morally and cognitively dangerous and at worst physically dangerous. All of these are spiritually bankrupt!

Therefore, we must remember the milk of our faith – believing in the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Son of God for the forgiveness of sins; that we must grow to understand more of our walk with God and of who God is as well as love others through word and action; and that we must learn to teach others of this knowledge, understanding, and service in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.