The planter as generalist: Counseling

By Milton Campbell

Anyone that has ever attempted to start a business quickly learned this truth: There is a major contrast between what you thought you’d be doing verses what must get done. You thought working for yourself would give you more time to do what you love doing. However, the grunt work of start-up CEOs sounds much better on paper than it does in practice. The things you envision outsourcing to others, quickly become your responsibility. If this is true in the marketplace, then it is multiplied in ministry. Church planter, perhaps you entered this calling excited about the opportunity to persuade people with God’s Word. That is certainly our primary responsibilities as planters, to proclaim God’s truth. However, we often find that our sermons are rarely birthed in the quietness of study but in the chaos of counseling.

Now, let me be clear that the planter must be vigilant in guarding his preparation time to proclaim God’s Word. Like the budding, young entrepreneur, planters discover that they must quickly become the generalist. Counseling for the planter is a must-have skill set if you are truly reaching the lost. No skilled fisherman expects fish to jump into the boat already clean, so the planter must recognize that his strongest team member will be found in the harvest. We discover that they join Christ mission marred by sin. That is where the skill of counseling comes in. Now, I imagine that you consider yourself to be lacking in that area. Perhaps you are not wired to counsel and see the greatest way to serve these individuals is to pass them over to a more qualified team member. The solution to you is to pray and recruit someone with a stronger counseling bent. That is one way, but bear with me because it may not be the best way. Here are a few points to remember.

1. Remember that we preach the gospel to ourselves and others.

The same gospel that has transformed your life is the same gospel that will transform others. Counseling others is just another opportunity to remind ourselves and others of the power of the gospel. I say to my church often, that the gospel is not a one-time event, but it is the love and power of God to save and redeem us broken cisterns. View counseling as another opportunity to point people to Jesus.

2. Point them to God’s truth that applies to their circumstance.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Our aim is to help them begin to comprehend and crave the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is alive, and the Holy Spirit uses it to transform our hearts. One day we will be unavailable and the greatest work we will do as a counselor is help them to know how to rightly interpret God’s Word.

3. Model the beauty of community.

I struggle with a lone ranger mentality and believe too many planters do as well. However, when we do it alone we miss a beautiful opportunity to invite them into deeper community. The young Timothy you have been discipling will grow tremendously by watching you counsel others. He/she also grows in their ability to shepherd and pursue others. Don’t let the fear of you saying the wrong thing keep you from involving others. Those you lead need to see that you don’t have all the answers, which makes room for grace and reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

4. Know when to pass the baton.

There is a time to point them to trained and licensed counselors. Cultivate relationships with licensed Christian counselors. In this information age, finding a Christian counselor can be done in a matter of seconds by searching the internet. However, take the extra step to meet this counselor to see where they stand theologically, because you do bear some of the responsibility once you make the referral.

Here are a couple of resources I encourage you to add to your library for intentional growth in this area.

Published August 14, 2017

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Milton Campbell

Milton is one of the last 10 natives of Atlanta. He matriculated through the Atlanta Public Schools System. Milton is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While at UNC-CH, he was a member and captain of the track and field team. He won several ACC and NCAA championships during his collegiate career. Following college, he competed several years in professional track and field. Rumor has it that he garnered a world record. Milton holds a master's of divinity and master's in leadership from Luther Rice University.

Milton always knew that Atlanta was the city he was destined to reside in and make a mark upon. However, he thought it would be through professional track and field and coaching. After years of running away from God, he soon learned that his speed, skills, and plans were inferior to those the Lord had for his life.

He is married to Christina, who is an accomplished athlete in her own right. She is a graduate of Georgia Tech and has a law degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She currently runs her own law practice specializing in adoption law. They have two extremely adventurous and athletic daughters, Malia and Moriah.