Mission Statement: Hear the Call
Our God has made it abundantly clear that we as His people are His family, and we are members of one another in the body of Christ. Therefore, we are all asked by God to discover and use our gifts and abilities to build up one another in an environment of honesty and safety. It is especially effective to impart wisdom, exhortation, and mercy in the confidential setting of counseling, to help bring about personal resolution and healing. From the foundation of authentic community, we reach out to our neighbors to share the great news of God's love for the world. The primary goal of our Care and Counseling Ministry is to help this calling become reality.
Christian Lay Counseling
The great value of Christian lay counseling is that it can be helpful at every point of a person's spiritual journey. God's truths can be shared with both young and old, involve every human situation and relationship, and further any person's journey towards the true and living God. In addition, it impacts all a person is and does, transforming his/her roles as spouse, parent, friend, employee, and ministry worker.
In our lay counseling, we seek to convey the profound truth that our God is a relational God. For reasons we cannot fully understand, He desires our love in an intimate relationship. He reaches for us. He is present to heal us. He has chosen to give to us, in such great measure, that we cannot fully comprehend it all at once. Relationship of this kind in all its fullness typifies His true character.
It is God's will for us to understand Him in the context of His generous love and grace, and receive this as much as possible, so that we can live out that love with the church and the world. As we share the great riches we have in Christ with one another, we are taught, healed, and built up in love. This is the abundant life. And once this Life is discovered and experienced in its fullness as God would have it, it is irresistible to His people and compelling to the world.
How does the Care and Counseling Ministry interface with other Church ministries?
We consider it a joy and privilege to interact with the larger Immanuel team in a synergistic way. The staff here works closely with other church leaders to encourage them and their causes, through teamwork consultation, inspiring vision, and special seminars. Moreover, the many support groups and lay counseling offered, contributes to the wholeness and health of the Christian body at Immanuel, equipping the people of God to better participate in other ministries. In short, the Care and Counseling Ministry at its best is a powerful health and healing factor in the church, which strengthens God's people for His purposes.
My personal journey to Christian Counseling
"Since my second year of college, I have felt called by God to help members of the body of Christ who struggled with emotional anguish, mental illness, and relational frustration. The journey of coming to such a conviction involved several years of searching and observations:
I personally experienced my own emotional and relational brokenness. I consistently encountered other Believers who were trying their best to serve and obey God but were thrown off the tracks by mental problems never fully resolved. I saw Pastors growing weary from taking on multiple roles, while many Christians still sat in the pews, unaware of their priceless spiritual gifts, abilities, and potentials. Would not God give the call to many if not all Believers to join in the vital endeavor of Body-life healing?
Moreover, I personally experienced and saw in others how emotional healing could strengthen our closeness to Christ, our relationships with family and friends, and our compassion for the world.
The Lord directed me to a Scripture and spoke to my heart that I would have a role in building up Believers, so that together we would become a holy temple for Him to fill and dwell (Ephesians 2:19-22). I was forever convinced that this was my calling. I sought to become as fully equipped as possible to be faithful to that mission."
Jack Merenda, Psy.D. Pastor of Care and Counseling Ministries
A Theology of Counseling
The Scriptures tell us that God's desire was for His creation to be magnificent – perfect! He created everything, and saw that it was good. When humans were created, they were made in God's image, and therefore had many of His traits, one of which was the ability to choose.
The Fall of Humankind
As we all know, by choice, man fell in the Garden, and this resulted in a ruinous change. This fallen, sinful state terribly affected humankind, as it changed the original state their minds, emotions, body, behavior, and spiritual connection with God. Men and women were no longer innocent, trustworthy, true, and kind. They said, did, and thought evil things they didn't want to. Often they even desired the evil things. This continuously hurt themselves, others, and their relationships.
The Indescribable Gift
As many of us have joyfully realized, God set out to redeem humans from their horrid condition. He went after them to bring them back to Himself. The Messiah came to the world by God's design, through a nation He chose, Israel. This Messiah, Jesus the Christ, lived, proclaimed, taught, healed, did miracles, bled and died, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father, in order to save us from our reprehensible state of sin. Jesus took on our sin (and the Father's wrath against our sin) and we were offered Christ's righteousness in its place. In this way, as we believed and embraced God's precious gift, we were justified (just-if-I'd-never-sinned!), given eternal life, and transformed into "a new creation."
The Promise of Restoration
Since we believed, we are now saved, yet we are still in the redemptive process. Through God's Holy Spirit, and the love and gifts of the Spirit within His people, we are cared for, nourished, loved, taught, and corrected in a patient, forbearing manner. Through this restorative relationship to God and His people, we are cleansed, forgiven, built up in love, equipped, strengthened and healed, in order to be and do all that God has planned for us. Therefore all of God's people are meant to be ministers of healing to each other and the world, following Jesus' example and mission.
The people of God are given not only natural talents and temperaments that are suited to help others in a variety of ways, they are also given special gifts of the Holy Spirit that empower them to do for others what natural talents could not do (1 Corinthians 12). In fact, God commands us to allow the gifts to benefit each other, that all might profit. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,'" because in fact we do vitally need each other, even if we do not always realize it.
There are spiritual gifts especially suited to help in the counsel of the people of God. Among these are the gifts of wisdom, mercy, exhortation, discernment, and teaching.
The Wisdom of Counseling
Receiving counsel is a healthy and normal enterprise, not in any way odd or shameful. God's Word (Proverbs 11:14, 24:6) declares that there is both safety and victory in the abundance of wise counsel! Therefore it is crucial for God's children to both give and receive counsel, so that we can all be led to safety and victory!
Safety and Victory
This safety and victory requires that: (1) The Church is willing to know and use its gifts (get out of the pews, ladies and gentlemen), and (2) we are humble enough to receive the counsel flowing through the gifts of wisdom, mercy, exhortation, discernment, and teaching (humble out everyone; we all get a turn to receive it).
Giving and Receiving
We are to give counsel: Our God rejoices when we freely give away what we have received, and He is blessed when we fully receive what is given to us. It is clear in the Scriptures, "We love, because He first loved us" and "He comforts us in all our troubles, that we can comfort others" (1 John 4:19, 2 Corinthians 1:4).
We are to receive counsel: There is an emphasis in Scripture for the people of God to bring their concerns and troubles into relationship so that there will be healing. We see that the Psalmists often brought their raw mental and emotional anguish to God as they cried out to Him. Further, James (known as the half-brother of Jesus) adds to this picture and tells us to bring our faults by confession into relationship with each other, in order to be cleansed and healed (5:16)! To round out the picture, the Apostle Paul instructs that the hearers are to listen in humility, bear the burden of the other, and to feel for (even weep with) the one confessing (Galatians 6:1-3, Romans 12:15). This is true fellowship. It is the Kingdom life.
Being Like Jesus
When we counsel to help heal others' troubled hearts, we are joining Jesus in His mission to "bind up the broken-hearted" (Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1). The goal of counseling is not at all to wallow in one's sorrow, complain irresponsibly, or get to know one's self merely for its own sake. The goal is rather to experience emotional healing and spiritual cleansing in the environment of relationship, so as to become close to and more like Jesus, fully strengthened for God's work and service (2 Timothy 2:21). In this way the Church and the world will be blessed.