The following is the newsletter article from the July 2014 Grace and Truth.
Isn’t the summer warmth a huge contrast to the long winter this year? Personally, I enjoy each season, because there are blessings and disadvantages to enjoy and overcome in each. What do you enjoy the most about summer?
Life is full of challenges. Some people enjoy the very things that others don’t! We are all very different; yet God is working a “oneness” in His church. Jesus said,
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.1
Within each of our unique characteristics, the Lord is working in us to achieve a spiritual oneness that reflects the unity of the Trinity. But that process includes individual challenges and problems. Hence, there is a need for Biblical Soul Care. One of the distinctive features of the counseling/discipleship ministries at Grace is the idea of having an “advocate.”
An advocate is someone who comes alongside of you while you are seeking help. Everyone has an Advocate and He is Jesus Christ! John wrote, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”2 Yes, Jesus stands as your support, and defense against any accusation that the enemy throws at you. Practically, what does that look like?
When Grace provides counseling, the counselee is requested to bring an advocate with him/her. The counselee chooses this person, because it must be someone who already has credibility and a loving relationship with him/her. What does an advocate do? And is an advocate really necessary? I’m glad you asked!
An advocate should reflect the character qualities of a growing Christian and have a sincere love for the Lord Jesus. He/she will submit to the counseling/discipleship process and support the counselor in follow-up and accountability. He/she should have a growing knowledge of the Word, a willingness to attend counseling sessions and a desire to grow and change with the counselee. Additionally we ask that advocates commit to humbly walk alongside the counselee for 3-6 months during and following counseling.
The purpose of counseling is not to feel better or “get over” the difficulty. The purpose is to continue the process of bringing each person into conformity to the image of Jesus and become a disciple-maker of others. The purpose of the advocate is to be a Proverbs 17:17 kind of friend right now, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” An advocate does not have to be a Bible expert, just willing to be used by God to love and help another believer.
Personal spiritual growth is seldom achieved in those who remain outside the context of community or won’t reach outside themselves for the sake of someone else. Jesus exemplified and called us to a life of service. Perhaps this is why we are urged over and over in Scripture to “love one another.” The world looks at this kind of care and is awestruck by the love and commitment of God’s people.3
Therefore, the advocate plays a key role in the counseling/discipleship process. They encourage the counselee, help with the homework given, and assist in accountability to the counselor. Also providing support in the integration or re-integration into the local Body, he/she ensures that the counseled one has reinforcement throughout the week, and support during this transformation process. The advocate often becomes the “glove” on God’s hand of mercy thathealstheheart. The advocate may be one who admonishes, because of the close trusted relationship with the counseled one.
In the past, I have used a team approach, especially in requesting that a woman join me in counseling another woman. However, I have not been intentional totrain the assistant on the advocate role. Through our ”soul care’’ approach, the advocate will again have specific responsibilities.
We all face difficulties in life and opportunities to grow in Grace. What a blessing that the community of the local church is designed to support and encourage one another!
May God richly bless His ministry as His people continue to seek His holiness in a community that worships only Him! May your summer continue to be warm and carry you through the rest of the year!
1John 17:20-21; 21 John 2:1; 3John 13:35