A recent phone call from a distraught man underscored our concerns about what is happening in the Body of Christ. The man who called explained that he had just learned that his esophagus needed to be removed and then reconstructed with tissue from his stomach. He was startled by the news, anxious about his future, and depressed about the possibilities. What often happens in such circumstances happened. The doctor recommended psychotherapy to help this man cope with his response to his diagnosis and proposed treatment. Typically in such cases the pastor agrees and the person goes to the therapist’s couch for help, rather than to his own church for ministry.
After expressing sorrow about his condition, we said what we have so often said to others. Go to your church. Find a man in your church who will draw alongside and help you bear this burden. After encouraging him to stay away from paying a professional for emotional support, we explained how to find a brother in Christ to help care for his soul. This would be a person who has found Christ faithful in the circumstances of his own life, who is abiding in Christ, and who will pray and provide biblical care and support.
The above example is just one of numerous situations in which doctors and pastors erroneously refer individuals into psychotherapy. It is also a tremendous opportunity for ministry, through which both the person in need and the one who draws alongside can grow in the faith. Such is the place for the practical outworking of Ephesians 4:11-16, as members of the Body of Christ edify one another in the faith, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. . . . From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
In our book Competent to Minister: The Biblical Care of Souls, we recommend against psychotherapy and encourage believers to minister to one another just as believers did for almost 2000 years before the rise of psychotherapy. In this book we answer the questions of who? what? why? when? and how? and urge believers to practice the care of souls according to the Scriptures.
(From PAL V4N6)