What neglected ministry skill training most powerfully changes pastors – thereby strengthening churches – causing them to more faithfully fulfill the Great Commission by becoming more intentional and effective in their disciple-making? Biblical counseling – or, more broadly, soul care – training, of course!
Most of us tend to work close to home, so we’re not alert to 1) the peculiarities of other cultures, and/or 2) the doctrinal perspectives of other ministries. That was certainly true of me during my years as a pastor, 25 of which were invested in one town in middle America. But, traveling to teach—even in the USA, but especially around the world—will inevitably cause you to be faced with the collision between culturally-generated ideas and (what you have been taught are or what you believe to be) scriptural mandates.
It seems impossible to believe that Overseas Instruction in Counseling is already a little more than 10 years old. When, in the Fall of 2005, Susie and I began to envision a ministry that would train pastors around the world in biblical sufficiency-based soul care, we never could have imagined the ways God would open doors of opportunity and expand the ministry we began in June, 2006.
Overseas Instruction in Counseling, a faith-based missions ministry, was launched in June, 2006. The very next month Susie and I traveled to the Philippines to conduct the first of five annual biblical counseling conferences in partnership with the international evangelism and discipleship ministry, Word of Life, Philippines. The director at that time, Mike Foster, had identified the need for soul care based on biblical sufficiency for the pastors in the Philippines. He invited us to begin the process of addressing the need for biblical counselors who could train others to also do biblical counseling.
The concept of “cultural imperialism” has been the subject of innumerable books and journal articles in the Christian missions community (and the missions communities of other religions) for many decades. There is general agreement on the basics: The Word of God is eternal, the gospel is unchanging, and believers of every culture are sanctified through the same biblically-prescribed disciplines of faith. Therefore, the discussion on this topic focuses on the application of those principles. And, throughout the history of missions the pendulum has swung from one extreme (obliterate every vestige of cultural expression to make the evangelized group “Christian”) to the other (allow even unbiblical practices and perspectives to remain in the evangelized group to avoid an “imperialistic” impression).
American ethnocentricity can have devastating consequences. To be clear, I’m an American. And I’m grateful for the blessings God has made available to me as an American. One of those…
As I write, Susie and I are enjoying a week at home between our ministries in Ukraine and Egypt. (That sounds like a real-life illustration of the idiom, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire!”) We were joined in Ukraine by Andrew Rogers (Pastor of Soul Care, College Park Church, Indianapolis) who taught Biblical Counseling and Theology, the final course in our Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling through Kyiv Theological Seminary for Overseas Instruction in Counseling.
Because we’ve just returned from extended ministry with our Arab brothers and sisters, that part of the world is, today, especially on our hearts. In partnership with a well-respected, regionally-accredited, Christian academic institution (the largest in the Middle East), OIC currently directs graduate degree programs (Master of Biblical Counseling) in both Egypt and Lebanon. A similar program is scheduled to begin in Jordan in Fall, 2014.