After arriving very early Sunday morning, catching a brief nap and attending church, we rested much of Sunday! Monday began our classes. There were 45 students, mostly pastors, enrolled in this special holiday session, an intense two-week offering of six courses, three of them in the morning and another three in the afternoon. My class, Biblical Counseling, was an afternoon class and nine students attended.
I crammed the first three BCI courses (30 hours) into 15 hours the first week and courses five through seven into 12 hours the second. The impact on the students was astounding.
Each day, they were amazed to hear how sufficient the Bible is for counseling oneself and for counseling others. The daily homework assignments were geared for both the accumulation of truth and for the practice of that truth. I did not want them to become hearers only!
I was told that the students loved to learn theology, but were poorly educated about living the Bible out in relationships. Marriages and families struggle in sub-Saharan Africa, and many pastors are weak in practical application of scripture. They are burdened to apply biblical counsel to themselves and disciple others.
Here is an overview of some of the class assignments:
- List the most important truth you heard each day and how it will change your life
- Choose a problem you have struggled with and desire to overcome. Explain what you think is causing the problem. Pray for wisdom and victory.
- Make an appointment with a Christian you have broken relationship with. Humble yourself and seek reconciliation with him/her. Write how the meeting went and what needs to happen next.
- Explain the downward spiral and give an example of how it works.
- Choose a married couple in your church you know struggle with each other. Pretend you will counsel them someday. Write out specifically what you would do, including scriptures you would use and homework you would give.
- Last class: report on your progress with your problem. Have you improved? Have others noticed a change? Have they commented?
Of the nine pastors, five of them listed anger as their problem. One listed fear and another unable to love his enemies. One pastor admitted to me that he was a liar.
Here are some of their progress reports from the final exam:
“The word of God is softening and replacing the hard heart of mine that use always and then delight in ‘lying.’ I have started now to realize who I am and what I am suppose to do before God, for now my confident is in the Lord and his word alone. Inside me always feel joy whenever I speak something ‘true.’ Yes, people have noticed change because my brother-in-law knew very well that I always and then a very good liar, when I called him telling him I am going to visit him this coming week on Wednesday and I even have already to my parents, my wife, my brothers about it, he did not trusted me, he called my wife, my parents and found it is true, then he thanked me. There was a lot of comments from my parents, a word of thanks. My wife was happy and she ask me a funny question that it seem to be I getting change – is it because I am getting transformed from the school? My brother-in-law told me if I continue telling him the truth again we will be friends again. So I stared realized my guilt and hurting to him before.” – S.O.
ANGER – Have others noticed any changes in you?
“People who know me at my village have now noticed a change in our love and they do comment as they ask me to what happened – due to too much love as per present. “ -J.M. (!)
LOVING UNSAVED ENEMIES
“My progress has gone from 2 to 8! My forgiveness and love have improved so much. My understanding have changed. My thoughts no longer condemned them. I plan to hold my peace and joy with the Lord as I have learned the secret. It’s up to me to maintain Christlikeness so that, that is what pours out of my vessel as the arrow shoots. I will dare to live by that principle in my daily life.” – J.O.
Wow! How wonderful that these pastors responded so well and quickly to God’s Word. All nine were reconciled with the people they met in one meeting! One wrote:
“I made a friendly approach with humility and respect . . . the tone, voice was one of the son to the father, since the uncle is elderly. Warm and overwhelming reception and respond was experienced by me from the uncle who had never expected his presence back home since it had been a long story. The peace and joy evident was eminent as tear rolls both their faces. In short, this was the most successful reconciliation I have ever attended. Truly I witness that if all is given up to the Lord in openness and transparency, the Lord also comes whole. He restores broken relationship!” – J.O.
Another pastor was reconciled to his tailor, who he had been hiding from since September because he owed her money! (He made full restitution and more!) A woman pastor was reconciled to her eldest daughter (29) and still single (not good in that culture). She said, “I have seen tremendous change in this girl’s attitude towards me. The change is so dramatic that sometimes I am not sure am seeing the same person. . . I am experience such joy for the restored relationship. I regret the days of darkness, days when I thought what we had between us was normal when in fact it was not.” – C.N.
Some final quotes from the final exam: “I have learned that worrying has been my soul problem. I’m at 4/10 now but I want it at 0/10 and I know how to get here: one day at a time with Jesus.”
“This course have changed my view/opinion of the Bible: that is effective and powerful tool to counseling. This class has never left me the same.”
“I start to feel the joy of reading the bible and I am falling deeper and deeper in love with the Bible.”
“My view of the Bible has greatly broadened to include counseling. I know the Bible to be the word of God but I have never looked at it as a prescription for all problems. The full counsel of God. I thought theories of men like Freud were central to a counseling process, but not anymore. Surely God who created man is the only one who understands man. Therefore He has the solution to man’s problems. I am grateful I attended this course.”
I was very humbled by these pastors who sat before me as a sponge. They were teachable and eager to learn how to apply the scriptures to everyday life. Many had learned some psychological principles and had faith in them, thinking they could not adequately counsel people with mental and emotional problems without getting degreed training in psychology. That misplaced faith was challenged by the scriptures and the Holy Spirit renewed their minds, transferring their faith to Jesus and His Word. PTL!
I am thankful to the many who prayed and gave toward this mission. There is clear evidence that the kingdom of God was advanced, and the kingdom of darkness was set back. We should all rejoice!