IVP - Online Pulpit - August 2013 Archives

August 15, 2013

Transformative Encounters

by David Appleby

When it comes to counseling, many pastors don’t know what they are doing. It’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that we are required by our role to be generalists. That keeps us from getting the training we want and from developing the skills that we need. Most of the counseling work that we do focuses on the normal problems of life, such as grief, marital difficulties, illness and meaning of life. Many of us don’t feel adequately prepared to address these issues in the best therapeutic way. And since we work for free, we are often the first place our people stop when they need help. If questioned further, most of us would agree that we count on our winning smile and our biblical perspective to get us through. That is frightening.

When I was in seminary working toward my M.Div. I took one class in pastoral care. The main thing that I learned in seminary was how to preach (but not very well), to think theologically (more success) and to run a church (total disaster). What I didn’t learn was how to help people on a one-on-one basis.

As one who has spent forty years teaching undergraduate psychology classes, running a college counseling center, pastoring churches and teaching graduate-level counseling classes, I suspect that things haven’t changed all that much. What training pastoral counselors receive today is primarily solution focused. If things don’t get better after six sessions, we are supposed to refer our people to a qualified mental health provider.

Unfortunately, most mental health providers, even if they are believers, really don’t understand how faith and counseling practice can intersect. Even in Christian counseling programs there is little room in to look at how faith and practice can work together toward transformation. Professional and state licensing requirements are the 800-pound gorilla in the room— unrelentingly dominating almost every minute of classroom time. The things that we really want to talk about, the things that really interest us, the things that are more in line with our faith are rarely addressed.

Yet, deep down inside we still believe that our Christian faith should be able to change lives, even if we don’t know what that process looks like beyond salvation. We know that there has got to be more to a Christian counseling session than beginning and ending with prayer. Where do inner healing, theophostic, deliverance, contemplative prayer, Christian cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR with Christ imagery, and the role that the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit play in transformation fit in? We know that they should, but we don’t know how.

That’s why George Ohlschlager and I invited more than twenty-five academics, clinical practitioners and pastors to tell us what they are doing in their counseling ministries that cannot be done without the use of the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit. What works best in church settings, in settings where the staff has a little more clinical training, and what works best with trained clinicians? We wanted to know what that encounter with God looks like and how we might evoke it. We invited them to talk about all the kinds of things that we wanted to know about in seminary and graduate school but were afraid to ask. Transformative Encounters: The Intervention of God in Christian Counseling and Pastoral Care summarizes a broad range of topics with recommended resources so you can pursue those topics that the Spirit quickens to you. Now you can answer the questions that you always wanted to ask.

applebyOP.jpgDavid W. Appleby (Ph.D., University of Delaware; Ph.D., University of Northern Colorado) is a minister, counselor and trainer working in the overlapping fields of family counseling, psychology and deliverance ministry. He is the founder and president of Spiritual Interventions, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes spiritual interventions in Christian counseling practice. He also teaches courses in psychology and professional and pastoral counseling at the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 9:31 AM

August 5, 2013

Scripture: In Depth

by Andy LePeau, Editorial Director for InterVarsity Press

Looking for a way to help your congregation appreciate the unity of Scripture? Or maybe you’re looking for an all-church program that could tie-in to a sermon series?

If it is one or the other, or even both at once, IVP’s new LifeGuide in Depth series may be just the thing. As the name describes, they help people go deeper into a book or section of Scripture.

One key feature of these guides on James, Daniel, the Sermon on the Mount and the Fruit of the Spirit is the section “Connect: Scripture to Scripture.” Here users uncover how each passage is rooted in the parts of the Bible written beforehand. And when we understand those earlier passages, the Scripture comes alive and fresh.

Consider James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (ESV). Why orphans and widows? Why just them? Is there something special about them?

If we look at earlier parts of the Bible, what do we find? Deuteronomy 10:18-19 mentions the fatherless, widows and sojourners. In Job 29:11-17 we see the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the blind, the lame, the needy. In Psalm 146:7-9 we find the oppressed, the hungry, prisoners, the blind and, yes, widows and the fatherless. In these and many other Old Testament passages, widows and orphans are linked with other groups of disadvantaged people. So when James says “orphans and widows,” this is shorthand for all these types of people the Old Testament regularly considered together. James is not directing us to attend to these two groups to the exclusion of others—but actually the opposite. Knowing the Old Testament not only helps us understand but also to apply the text correctly.

The LifeGuide in Depth workbooks can also be used as the basis for an all-church program. They are designed for individual study during the week, with a small group study at the conclusion of each section. So one option would be for everyone in the congregation to individually work through the same section each week in one of the LifeGuides in Depth and then discuss it in a small group. A sermon that Sunday on the same passage would cap things off.

When everyone in a church is deeply immersed in the same Scripture passages, it will not only help them appreciate the unity of Scripture but can also bring a new unity to the church.

lepeauOP.jpgAndrew T. Le Peau is associate publisher, editorial, at InterVarsity Press where he has worked since 1975. Before that he was a campus staff member for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), serving in the St. Louis area.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 1:18 PM