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(You will not be able to get “community input” before you advise every person in your life. But if you have a habit of “borrowing brains” often enough, you will know almost every time what your competent peers would advise you, even if you don’t talk to them each time.)
If you do these four things, you have done the absolute best you can do when discipling another person. The beauty in this “fourfold balancing act” is that they work together to keep you from straying outside the lines of poor advice. Here are a few examples of how isolating any one of these means of grace can take your counsel off the rails.
There is an element of subjectivity in all counseling, so you don’t want to overthink what you’re doing. Embrace this subjective element while stepping into the pneumatic opportunity entirely. Being pneumatic is “walking in the Spirit.” It’s not a blind trust, but a biblically informed one, if you’re working within the four means of grace that I have outlined here.
Those means are the boundaries that you want to stay within, and you want to work to rest inside those parameters. Each of the four elements of sound decision-making alone may steer you in the wrong direction, but when you’re accessing all four of them, it’s the best you can do.
Because you are a unique counsel-giver, what you may advise will differ from the next person, which can be a temptation to compare your advice with the next person. You use these four means of grace and don’t get into a mind game about what someone else would say. To your own master, you must stand or fall. It’s your faith, not another. You don’t rest in someone else’s relationship with God, but your own.
There is no question that the next person would advise the same individual differently from how you did. That’s because they have a “unique faith” and personal walk with God that has brought different perspectives and experiences into their life. They are also at a different place in the sanctification process. You can think of it like mile-markers on the Interstate.
Each person is at a different mile-marker, which influences what they would say to someone. You must not get caught up in the “best advice,” but rest in the absolute most perfect counsel that you can give, which you will do if you measure what you say against these four means of grace.
As you think about the “mile-marker analogy,” you perceive the implication that your counsel will be different in the future. It’s true. Everything that you think and believe today will not be identical to your future perspectives. I hope not; you should always be maturing, growing, changing, and evolving. I gave counsel years ago that I would not do today, but that is not a call to worry about your “incomplete sanctification” today.
Another trap that a disciple-maker will jump into is the “results of their soul care.” This kind of person sees the “counseling formula” as watering, planting, and growth. They interpret this as proper counseling, which is a false formula. There are only two parts to outstanding advice-giving, according to 1 Corinthians 3:6. It’s watering and planting.
Your job is to practically share the good news according to your relationship with God, understanding of His Word, and input from the body of Christ. If you believe that transformation is the final vote about the quality of your counseling, you will be disappointed most of the time. If you push this perspective too far, you will begin to “manipulate the counseling” because you’re more interested in an outcome than being obedient to the process.
If you follow the process outlined here, the counseling will be excellent regardless of how the person receives it or reacts to it. To your own master, you must stand. You cannot measure your counsel by how others would do it or the results you hoped would happen. There is an “air of arrogance” in the person who affirms his counseling based on the results, e.g., “That was not a good counseling session” (because such and such outcome did not happen).
Give your advice according to God’s Word, as illuminated by the Spirit, affirmed by the community, and in-line with your conscience. That’s it.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).