Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Friendship or Therapy?

On a recent "Generations" radio broadcast Kevin Swanson, Pastor and leader of the Colorado Christian homeschool association, made some great points about the modern state of friendship. His basic point was that for many modern people therapy or counseling has taken the place of friendship. See also Christian Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel's One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance (St. Martin's Press, 2005). In our day of hyper-isolation, we have to pay people to talk to us about our problems! Some large churches have even set up counseling services where the church members are treated as counseling clients. This mindset was all the rage while I was at SBTS (1987-1990) and the "clinical pastoral education" model of Wayne Oates was in the ascendancy (it isn’t any more thanks to the conservative resurgence in the SBC).

When I meet people in and outside the church who are struggling with problems in their lives—whether it be addiction, depression, family troubles, etc.—one of my first suggestions is simply that they begin the discipline of attending the meetings of the church. Why? Because I am convinced that if they will come frequently to our meetings they will begin to be immersed in the Word of God. They will sit under the reading and preaching and teaching of the Word. The Holy Spirit will counsel them through his Word (see John 16:13-15). And they will also begin to make friendships and relationships with believers. I am convinced that any believer who makes the effort to come to our church’s meetings will find a place where he will fit in. He will find people to talk to and share his life with. This will do him such an immense amount of good! Unfortunately, many times it seems that this very simple spiritual prescription falls on deaf ears. Some, it seems, would rather complain of their malady than commit to the cure.

Speaking of friendship, Al Mohler recently offered a great commentary on the damage done to male friendship by movies like "Brokeback Mountain." One of the best ministries our church offers is our men’s Bible study (each Thursday morning from 6:30-7:30 am). It is not "group therapy." Nor is it any sort of John Eldridge inspired "Wild at Heart" experience. We eat a big breakfast, talk sports (usually ACC related), politics, and current events for half an hour and then spend another half hour reading and discussing a passage from Scripture (we are currently slowly working our way through Hebrews). Each session usually ends with a circle sentence prayer as each brother lifts up the man on his right. This is usually little more than a prayer for each brother to be a committed and faithful husband and father and a faithful follower of Christ. No. There are no group hugs, no tearful confessions, no deep "sharing." There does not need to be. Along the way something better has happened. We have become friends, accountable to each other, and closer brothers in Christ.

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