What Christ Fellowship Members May Expect From Pastoral Counseling with Our Elders*
The goal of all worthwhile Christian counseling is to help believers meet the challenges of life in a way that will please and honor the Lord. It is aimed at training believers how to walk without stumbling into sin, or how to recover from patterns of sinful behavior, and to teach them how to walk in consistent and joyful righteousness.
When you seek pastoral counsel from one of the elders of Christ Fellowship, or when one of our elders seeks you out because he recognizes a counseling need in your life, here are a few things you should expect and appreciate:
The Bible provides thorough guidance and instruction for faith and life. Therefore, the elders of Christ Fellowship are committed to giving counsel that is based on scriptural principles rather than on those of secular psychology or psychiatry. You are free to seek the advice of an outside professional if you so choose. If you do, the elder who leads your home congregation will likely request that he be included in communication with such an advisor. You should fully cooperate with this request. Secular counsel can easily lead you away from biblical thinking and perhaps even into sin. By including your elder in a “triangular” relationship with you and the secular advisor, your elder will be able to help you consider the outside counsel in the light of scriptural principles. If you choose to seek outside counsel with a biblical counselor, your elder should still be included since he is the one most directly charged by God with the responsibility for your pastoral care.
Encouragement to Seek Professional Advice in Some Cases
In biblical counseling there is often a need for significant advice with regard to legal, medical, financial or other technical matters. If your situation involves issues of this nature, your elder may encourage you to seek professional counsel (perhaps even from a member of our church who has expertise in one of these areas). Again he will likely ask to be included in communication with such advisors. For the reasons stated above, you should honor this request.
Confidentiality (With A Few Necessary Limitations)
The Bible teaches that Christians should carefully guard personal and private information that others reveal to them. Protecting confidences is a sign of Christian love and respect. It also discourages harmful gossip and invites confession, thus encouraging people to seek needed counseling. Since these goals are essential to the ministry of the gospel and the work of the local church, the Christ Fellowship elder who counsels you will carefully protect all information that he receives.
Although confidentiality is to be respected as much as possible, there are times when it is necessary for one elder to reveal certain information to others. Consider a few examples of this:
- When an elder is uncertain of how to counsel a person about a particularly complex problem, he may need to discretely seek advice from the other elders of Christ Fellowship. You should value your elder’s humility and his desire to obtain help in cases like this, since it is being sought for your spiritual benefit. This is a significant benefit for all the members of our church, where multiple elders can help each other to give the best godly counsel.
- When the person who disclosed the information to an elder, or to any other person, is in imminent danger of serious harm unless others intervene, our elders will need to warn or inform those involved, and/or those who can provide the needed protection or care (e.g., family members, medical professionals, law enforcement, etc.).
- Our elders are required by law to report suspected abuse in certain cases, particularly those involving children. Be aware that information provided to an elder in such cases must be passed along to the proper authorities.
- When a person receiving counsel for a serious pattern of sin refuses to repent, it may become necessary, in order to promote repentance and/or to maintain purity in the church, for our elders to inform the other elders, other members, or even the entire church, so that redemptive church discipline can take place.
These few pointers should help you better understand, appreciate, and support the elders of Christ Fellowship in their role as counselors in your own life and in the life of our church.
*Adapted from “Consent to Counsel,” a document used by Reigning Grace Counseling Center, Kansas City, Missouri.