Changing the world, by God’s grace, one person or one family at a time
Many individuals in Greater Houston are untaught and/or uncared for by churches. Sadly, many professing Christians are unconnected to Christ-following churches, claiming to love Jesus, but not His church. They trust and obey Christ in ways, but have lost faith in the church as an organization. That’s widespread now in America. Sometimes churches neglect or abuse people, failing to care for Christ’s sheep.
Word of Hope aims to assist Christ’s churches, serving and imitating Jesus the Chief Shepherd1, the Good Shepherd2, and the Great Shepherd3, who calls each of His believers by name and knows all about us personally.4 Psalm 23 begins: “The Lord is MY shepherd,” telling us that Christ provides personal care for each of His believers.5 Paul names thirty-three people in Romans chapter 16 because he has a close bond with them. Jesus willingly chases after a single believer who strays.6 As your missionary here in Houston, this is what I aim to do too. Thank you for helping me reach out to unsaved, unchurched, uncommitted, untaught, unwanted, and unloved people who fall through the cracks and need Bible-based counseling.
God brought me to Jesus in 1976. After years of walking with Christ as His disciple and servant, I am grateful for growth He has given me in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. At the same time, I confess with Paul; “Here is a trust-worthy saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”7 As I minister to and with others, I never pretend to have arrived, but say with C. S. Lewis: “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted earlier, can give some advice.” By showing love, concern, openness, transparency, specific acts of kindness, interest, and involvement, as well as being a “self-revealer” (sharing my own struggles and victories, joys and sorrows, fears and failures), I seek to understand each person and tailor ministry to their needs.
Despite the increasing number of therapists in Houston, many people lack access to counseling. As a result many still turn to pastors for help with personal, marital, and family matters, as well as faith issues. Many need free or low cost counseling. We are happy to provide this. What I call “Pastoral Counseling” is really shorthand for four overlapping areas of ministry:
|1. Pastoral Care||2. Shepherding||3. Biblical Counseling||4. Spiritual Formation|
1. Pastoral care is helping based on Jesus’ Scriptures. It involves leading people to the Lord for salvation and tending to their welfare by watching over, nurturing, and guiding them. The goal is to promote the spiritual growth and maturity of individuals and families. After assessing people’s condition, we do whatever is needful to help them to greater Christ-likeness. This ranges from home and hospital visitation to formal counseling and includes:
acts and deeds of mercy
bearing burdens, befriending
Pastoral care looks after the personal and social well-being of people, teaching them to think and live like Christians and supporting them in this process.
2. Shepherding serves and imitates Jesus the Chief Shepherd and is a loving way of caring for people, not controlling them. This involves protecting, tending to needs, strengthening the weak, feeding with Bible-based spiritual nourishment, shielding, refreshing, restoring, guiding, and leading by example to help people pursue Christ-like holiness. Fanny Crosby’s great hymn reminds us to:
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, mighty to save.
3. Biblical Counseling goes back to Bible times, but was re-emphasized by Jay Adams in Competent to Counsel (1970). Individuals and families are trained, coached, and mentored in living by God’s truth. Romans 15:14 says Christians, “…are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and competent to counsel one another.”8 Biblical Counsel has three components: Speaking the truth in love; out of deep concern; to help people make godly changes.
3A. Speaking the truth in love means we advise from the Scriptures. We focus our guidance on the Bible’s timeless truth, believing that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so we be thoroughly prepared to do good things.”9 We eagerly bring the Lord’s comfort in Christ, but can never compromise God’s truth to make people feel comfortable in their sins.
3B. Concern means counseling is done with a warm, family way, helping one another become more like Jesus. “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children…..We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.”10
3C. Change means we seek to help people grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, to become more like Him–loving God and neighbors. Jesus is our Savior and our Standard. God is able to change us as the Holy Spirit powerfully works in us with His Bible. Helping us to put off ungodly beliefs and behaviors and to put on Christ-like ones.
Here are some areas that we deal with:
|Alcohol and drug abuse and addiction
Assurance of Salvation
Conflict and Dispute Resolution
Equipping for Service
Facing Death with Hope
Freedom from Guilt
Interpersonal Communication Skills
Job and Career Advice
Loving Difficult People
Marriage, Family & Relationship issues
Reconciliation and Peace-making
Responsibility and Boundary Issues
Stewardship (Time, Talent, Treasure)
4. Spiritual Formation is a newer term for an aspect of pastoral ministry that goes back to Bible times. Christian Spiritual Formation is a life-long process as a believer desires to become more like Christ in attitude and action, belief and behavior, character and conduct, words and deeds. This is possible only by the empowering presence of God the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this is also called “discipleship” or “coaching.” Paul writes:
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us,
to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.11
Spiritual theology, direction, and formation deal with living the Christian life instead of just thinking and talking about it. The counseling movement is often heavily psychologized and problem-centered. Spiritual direction doesn’t always begin with a problem, but deals more with spiritual health, wellness, and growth in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Some biblical references to Spiritual Formation:
The LORD who created and formed you says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.12
Those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brothers.13
We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.14
He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.15
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.16
Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and people.17
1 1 Peter 5:4
2 John 10:14
3 Hebrews 13:20
4 John 10:3,27
5 See also Acts 20:28
6 Luke 15:4
7 1 Timothy 1:15
8 Charles B. Williams translation
|9 2 Timothy 3:16,17
10 1 Thessalonians 2:7f.
11 Ephesians 3:20,21
12 Isaiah 43:1
13 Romans 8:29
14 2 Corinthians 3:18
15 Ephesians 4:11-13, The Message
16 Romans 12:2
17 Luke 2:52