UNITED STATES CHIEF/GENERAL CHAPLAINCY MANUAL & MATTSAM GOSPEL MINISTRIES
By: Chief Commissioner General Chaplain Mathew Sammie, President Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, Mrs. Patti Garibay (AHG National Executive Director & Founder), Chief Chaplain (MG) Paul K. Hurley(USA), Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit (World Council of Churches general secretary) Rev. Dr. Jacob C Williams (Valparaiso USA), Rev Dennis Leon Deeter, Governor Mike Pence, President George W. Bush, Mr. John Brennan, Director General of the CIA, Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, Mr. Bill Marriott (Hotel Intl), U.S Commanding General Robert B. Abrams, British Major-General Alexander Cambridge.
PhD. Theology and Humanities General.
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WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF A CHAPLAIN?
Offering prayer for people is a main duty of chaplains.
Chaplains are spiritual servants who work in the pastoral care departments of organizations such as the military, government, prisons and hospitals. Their main purpose is to serve as a source of spiritual and emotional support for staff members, patients or residents of those organizations and their families. Chaplains may be men or women, ordained or non-ordained, and of any denomination, such as Protestant Christian, Catholic or Jewish. They usually need educational training or certification in pastoral care.
Chaplains minister to patients and clients one-on-one and for groups, providing spiritual counseling or crisis intervention based on their particular religious doctrine. A family member who is having a difficult time dealing with a soldier's devastating war injury, for example, might receive private counseling from a chaplain. Biblical and psychological concepts are used by chaplains to help their clients cope and heal. Chaplains make daily rounds, much like doctors, to check in on their clients according to greatest need. They might keep records as well to follow up and stay on track with each person or family cared for.
Offering prayer for people is a main duty of chaplains.
Chaplains must have knowledge of prayers relevant to the denomination and need of each client or patient. They facilitate sessions for prayer, reflection or meditation, whether with an individual or a group. Chaplains usually offer prayer during stressful circumstances and life events, such as for healing at the bedside of someone severely ill in a hospital, or at a ceremony they conduct to comfort family members grieving the death of military personnel. In addition to offering prayers, chaplains might further comfort their community members with cards, flowers or gifts.
RITUALS AND LEGAL
Chaplains administer the practice of rituals or ceremonies specific to religious denominations and life events, which may or may not be part of worship services also led by the chaplain, such as in a chapel. For example, Catholic chaplains might lead people in celebrating the Catholic sacraments. Chaplains also help families deal with legal paperwork during stressful times, such as death certificates, funeral home releases, living wills or advance directives.
The duties of chaplains extend beyond the spiritual and religious into education and building relationships. Chaplains attend conferences and committees regularly to learn better and new ways of serving their community members, such as with relationship counseling or workshops. They put effort into building relationships not just with patients or clients, but with volunteers or administrators of the organizations they serve. Chaplains also offer programs to these members to help them better serve patients or clients of the organization. Additionally, chaplains establish relationships with other clergy members in their community for consultation and education.
WHAT IS A MILITARY CHAPLAIN?
Serving as a military chaplain is a little bit different than working as a chaplain in other areas. Generally, chaplain is the term used for those who provide religious services and counsel in areas such as hospitals, prisons, police stations, and universities. However, while that is what a military chaplain does on a regular basis, they also have a few extra duties. These chaplains are more than just ordained ministers, too—they’re formal commissioned military staff officers in the United States Chaplain Corps. The Corps is broken down into three branches: the Army, the Navy (which includes the Marines, Merchant Marines, and Coast Guards), and the Air Force.
In addition to providing religious services and rites to military personnel on base, on ship, or on active duty in other countries, military chaplains may also need to serve as advisors to the executive officers of their unit. They will provide advice on issues related to religion, ethics, and morals. Military chaplains are often active within their own church communities and leadership structure, especially in areas where war, religion, and peace are discussed.
MILITARY CHAPLAIN DUTIES AND QUALITIES
While an officer in the Chaplain Corps, military chaplains are considered non-combatants. This means that they may not participate in hostilities, combat, or any direct mission where combat may occur. In fact, the U.S. prohibits chaplains from carrying weapons in the field, although they may participate in marksman courses and competitions. Chaplains enjoy special status as outlined by the Geneva Conventions—if captured, they must immediately be returned to their home country unless they elect to stay and minister to other prisoners. They are never to be considered a prisoner of war. Even those who elect to stay and minister to prisoners must be treated well and with respect.
Those who serve as military chaplains are under the supervision of the chaplain general or the chief of chaplains. Each of the three branches of the military has a chaplain general. These three serve on the Armed Forces Chaplain Board, which discusses issues that affect all chaplains in the U.S. military. However, they each individually report to the staff officer of their particular branch of service (for example, the Chaplain General of the Air Force would report directly to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force).
Military chaplains normally wear the uniform of their branch of service, except when they are performing religious ceremonies or services. They are given a rank that is based on promotion selection and their years of service, and they generally wear an insignia that identifies both the fact that they are a chaplain and what religion they are a part of.
STEPS TO BECOME A MILITARY CHAPLAIN
To become a military chaplain, you must meet all of the requirements to be ordained and be recognized as a chaplain. This includes earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree, completing all certification requirements, and meeting all the requirements of the U.S. military. Listed below is a summary of the steps required to become a military chaplain:
• Earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a closely related field such as religion, divinity, counseling, psychology or theology./li>
• Complete a master’s degree in religion or theological studies.
• Must be a U.S. citizen if applying for active duty or the National Guard.
• Become ordained- You must have ecclesiastical endorsement from your faith group.
• Become certified- Certification entails that you are qualified intellectually, morally, emotionally and spiritually to complete your duties.
• Apply and be accepted to the U.S. Chaplain Corps.
• Meet all requirements necessary to join the corps, including specific fitness, health, age, and fitness requirements.
• Must have two years of full-time professional experience, which has been verified by your endorsing agency.
To become a chaplain in the military, you must first become an ordained minister within your faith group. Ordination requirements vary from church to church, but the basic tenents involve demonstrating that you have the intellectual, moral, spiritual and emotional qualifications to serve. A formal training program is almost always part of the ordination process- for some, this is a bachelor’s degree; other churches do not require a degree but have their own educational courses. After meeting the education and training requirements of your faith group, most candidates will enter into a review process, sometimes called an "endorsement" or "certification" process, whereby members of the clergy validate that you meet all minimum requirements.
Remember- The U.S. Chaplain Corp requires a bachelors degree and a graduate degree to serve as an active duty chaplain. If your faith group does not have these educational requirements for ordination, you will still need to meet the minimum standards of the U.S. military before applying.
EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FOR MILITARY CHAPLAINS
Becoming a military chaplain involves meeting strict educational requirements. All candidates must earn a bachelor’s degree in religion or a closely related field, and a graduate degree in religion or theology. Religious studies involve an examination of the scripture, learning about other religions and belief systems, and examining the history of the church. You may also take courses in communication, counseling, and leadership, especially if your program offers a focus on Ministry.
Important: As a military chaplain, you will encounter military personnel, families and civilians who are members of other denominations or faith groups, so you must be sensitive to religious pluralism and be able to provide for the free exercise of religion. Understanding religious diversity and the concept that different belief systems have the ability to co-exist is an important part of religious studies.
If you plan on becoming a military chaplain, you may want to augment your undergraduate degree with courses in psychology, especially grief counseling and traumatic therapy. You may also want to take history courses or a course that examines the military. These courses aren’t required, of course, but they can be helpful.
Because the military does require chaplains to meet certain physical and health conditions, you may want to take more than the required physical education courses, or sign up for one of the university’s sports teams in order to begin conditioning your body to meet these requirements.
EARNING A MASTER'S DEGREE
To become a certified chaplain, and in some cases, to become an ordained minister, you will need to hold a master’s degree. Generally, this is a Master’s of Divinity or Theology, but some universities offer other graduate degrees in Religion. These programs offer more advanced studies in religion, including in-depth studies of the Bible and church history. Again, some of these programs, especially those that are aimed at preparing students for church leadership, will go into psychology, communication and counseling.
The university from which you receive your undergraduate and graduate degree must be accredited. This means that an independent third party accrediting body has completed the process of reviewing the university and its program for quality assurance and quality improvement. Both federal and state governments regard accreditation as a reliable endorsement of academic quality.
Important: Don't make the mistake of earning credit hours from a program without accreditation. The learnings you take from the program may have some value to you, but they will not be acknowledged by most employers.
The best resource to check on university or program accreditation is the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). For graduate degrees, most of the religious programs and seminaries are accredited by one of the following: the Association of Theological Schools, the Transnational Association for Christian Colleges and Schools, or the Association for Biblical Higher Education.
MASTER'S PROGRAM OBJECTIVES AND GOALS
These degrees focus on teaching people how to enter the ministry and how to lead a church. As a military chaplain, you will have the same training that other ministers have. That means you’ll meet the program goals of having strong leadership skills, being able to communicate effectively, and having a strong working knowledge of the church and the scriptures. You will also know how to effectively counsel and comfort members of your congregation, knowledge that will come in handy as a military chaplain.
EARNING PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE
Military chaplains often do not have any practical experience as a military chaplain before applying for the Chaplain Corps. However, they must be endorsed by their church, and that generally means having served in some position in their community for several years. In addition to this experience, becoming a certified chaplain does require working with an experienced chaplain for several years. This provides you with practical training under a supervising chaplain and prepares you for the certification exams.
CERTIFICATION AND ENDORSEMENT
Many chaplains are certified by the Association for Professional Chaplains (APC). This isn’t always necessary, however, but it is highly recommended. The APC is the largest professional organizations for chaplains in the U.S., and being certified by the APC can open many doors. Certification requires completing a master’s degree, being ordained, and completing several units from the Clinical Pastoral Education program (some of which may be waived if your bachelor’s degree came from a CHEA-accredited university). Your church must also formally endorse you for certification.
Before you can apply to be a military chaplain, you usually need to have the endorsement of a religious organization. Generally, this is the church you are a part of. Note that some religious that do not have an established hierarchy in place that makes decisions regarding appointments may not need an endorsement. Rabbis, for example, may apply without permission or endorsement by any organization.
MEETING ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS
In addition to meeting all religious, education and endorsement requirements, chaplains need to be fit and in good health. The requirements may not be as strict as those laid out for personnel who will see combat, but military chaplains may serve in areas where combat could occur at any time. As such, they need to be in good physical health and shape. Those who are not may not be accepted into the Chaplain Corps or may be stationed on military bases in the U.S. rather than abroad.
MILITARY CHAPLAIN JOBS & JOB DESCRIPTION
Military chaplains are responsible for managing the religious and pastoral care of military members and their families, regardless of which religion members identify with and regardless of where they are deployed to. While jobs do vary between venues, most military chaplains are comfortable performing the following duties:
• Facilitate and officiate at religious services and ceremonies
• Officiate at special functions
• Advise the Commanding Officer about religious accommodations issues, acting as the subject matter expert
• Consult on ethical dilemmas
• Counsel individuals and groups about spiritual and moral issues
• Attends to the morale of the unit; helping individuals process loss, regret, and stress
• Liaise with civilian faith groups
• Refer individuals to social workers, psychologists, or medical personnel as required
• Advocate on behalf of an individual to their commanding officer
• Provide counseling and care after significant life events
• Notify a member's next-of-kin after death and as directed
• Apply knowledge of military administration where beneficial
• Offer crisis pastoral counseling to individuals
• Coordinate pastoral volunteer services
• Visit with military families as appropriate
• Help individuals explore questions related to spirituality, religion, vocation and life purpose
• Offer spiritual formation and discernment programs and individual counseling
• Offer prayers
• Support unit parades
• Lead services to promote and encourage spiritual growth and exploration
• Curate and maintain worship materials
• Requisition new worship materials
• Provide pastoral services and support for marriages, funerals and baptisms
• Use volunteers to assist in the chaplaincy work when necessary and appropriate
WHAT IS A POLICE CHAPLAIN?
A police chaplain is a chaplain who serves in a precinct and works primarily with police officers to provide support and counseling. A chaplain is a little different from a traditional minister in that chaplains primarily work in secular areas—police departments, hospitals, military bases, prisons, etc. While chaplains, including police chaplains, are fully ordained and can lead a church, they are generally called ministers, pastors, or some other term in that case.
Police chaplains work in conjunction with police departments, sheriff departments, and other law enforcement groups to provide counseling, support, and other services to law enforcement personnel. This does mean talking with officers who have gone through traumatic experiences, but it also means visiting those who are injured, speaking to the family of an officer who died in the line of duty, and giving prayers at certain events. In most cases, a police chaplain offers religious counseling in addition to the ministers of an officer’s church. They don’t usually hold church services for the precinct or police station.
POLICE CHAPLAIN DUTIES AND QUALITIES
A police chaplain is a specially trained chaplain who works mainly with law enforcement personnel. If you’re going to be a police chaplain, you will have to fulfill all of the religious and educational requirements to be a full-fledged minister in your church. This means you could, if you later wanted to, lead a church congregation. You will, as an ordained person, have the authority to marry people and provide other types of rites. However, a police chaplain is more or less a minister without a church, so you may not often be called upon to perform these duties.
In some cases, especially in smaller precincts, the police chaplain is an unpaid position. A minister from a nearby church may volunteer to visit the station a few times a week to talk with the officers, or police officers may know to seek out the minister in times of need. However, generally these chaplains do go through an application process because not every minister is cut out to be a police chaplain.
That’s because police chaplains have to have more than just a deep faith and a calling to the ministry. Working with officers requires a greater understanding of loss and what it means for someone to be going through a period of intense grief. Officers may confront death on a regular basis, and very few go through their entire careers without being put in a threatening position. As their chaplain, you have to know how to approach these situations and help the officers through them.
You may be called upon to offer up prayers at specific public events, too, so you’ll need to have confidence in your public speaking duties. While this may not occur very often, you should expect to occasionally need to speak in public. In some cases, you may even need to officiate at an officer’s funeral.
STEPS TO BECOME A POLICE CHAPLAIN
Becoming a police chaplain is, in many ways, very similar to becoming a chaplain of any type. Before you enter the field, you will need to have the following:
• Have a strong faith and desire to work with those who are in high-risk situations on a daily basis.
• Earn a bachelor’s degree in an area such as religion or counseling.
• Consider a master’s degree.
• Get ordained.
• Complete a residency or internship if required.
• Get licensed.
• Must have a clean criminal record with no criminal convictions or offenses involving moral turpitude
All police chaplains, despite their work location, are fully trained, licensed, and ordained chaplains. They could minister at a church or lead other religious programs if they wanted to. This means that in order to hold a job as a police chaplain, you’ll need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, become ordained, and get certified. The requirements vary from state to state, and many precincts are looking for police chaplains who hold master’s degrees in the field.
In order to work as a police chaplain, you have to be ordained through your church. This is because police chaplains basically take on the officers of the prescient as their congregation. They offer counseling and advice to these officers about their lives, and because that can involve discussing life or death circumstances, police chaplains need all of the training than an ordained minister needs. While the process for ordination is different from church to church, in most cases you will need to have a degree, a strong faith, and be approved by a board of elders in your church.
Working as a police chaplain requires that you hold a bachelor’s degree. Most often, this degree will be in religion, and many chose programs that are designed to prepare them to go into the ministry. Some also get degrees in psychology. Taking courses in religion prepares them for the religious side of being a chaplain: they do an in-depth study of the Bible, learn how to approach topics using religion, and more.
Taking courses in psychology, even if it’s only a few courses or is a minor area of study, can be incredibly helpful. These courses will teach you various counseling techniques and how to work with people who are dealing with extreme stress or grief. Grief counseling is especially vital for a police chaplain because officers may lose co-workers in the line of work or may develop fear of losing someone.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCREDITATION
In order to graduate with a degree recognized by a number of professional organizations, you need to attend a university that is fully accredited by a third-party independent evaluation organization. These organizations will often accredit a university bachelor’s degree based on the professors, the courses taught, and how knowledge graduates are. There are many different accreditation organizations. However, in order to be better positioned for certification, you should look for universities that have been accredited by the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA). Those who hold degrees from CHEA-accredited universities may be able to skip some steps in becoming certified.
When it comes to graduate degrees, you want to look for schools that have been accredited by one of the different organizations that specifically evaluate and accredit religion programs and seminaries. The three major organizations that accredit these programs are the Transnational Association for Christian Colleges and Schools, the Association of Theological Schools, and the Association for Biblical Higher Education.
MASTER'S DEGREES FOR CHAPLAINCY CANDIDATES
In past years, master’s degrees were not always required for certification or to find work as a police chaplain. However, today many jobs do require certification, which requires a graduate degree in religion. Holding a graduate degree will make it much easier to get a job, plus it will provide you with further training and education in the areas of religious studies, counseling, and leadership. Again, make certain the university or seminary you attend is accredited by one on of the recognized organizations.
PROGRAM OBJECTIVES AND GOALS
The goal of graduate programs in religion is to prepare students to enter into the ministry and become leaders in the church. Many of these programs don’t specifically aim to educate students to be police chaplains, but some do offer courses aimed at counseling and leading congregations of people with unusual needs, including police officers. The programs aim to teach graduates everything it takes to lead a church, including providing training and education in the areas of church administration, Biblical counseling, public speaking, and more.
EARNING PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE
You may be required to work with a certified chaplain before you qualify to work as a police chaplain. It depends on the state regulations and the precinct at which you’re applying. This practice experience functions like a residency or internship and can last for up to two years. It provides you with practical work experience while still offering the support of a supervisor and the resources of a fully licensed and experienced police chaplain.
The Police Chaplain Program also provides further practical experience and training. This program, a nonprofit organization, provides courses, training, and consultations to chaplains who are serving the police force.
CHAPLAIN LICENSING AND CERTIFICATION
For most chaplain jobs, you’re going to need to pass the Association for Professional Chaplains (APC) certification program. This program is designed to make certain that you are trained and ready to work in the field. In order to gain APC certification, you have to be ordained and endorsed by your church, have earned a master’s degree, and complete four units of the Clinical Pastoral Education program.
This program can be as much as an addition year of education and training, but it focuses more on working in the field than some degree programs do. These courses are offered by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. Most of their units take about three months to complete.
POLICE CHAPLAIN JOBS & JOB DESCRIPTION
Committed to those who ensure safety for members of the public, police chaplains work to provide the best resources, interventions, and support for the mental and spiritual well being of law enforcement individuals. While the role does vary from department to department, most police chaplains are comfortable performing the following duties:
• Provide sacramental ministries like marriages and funerals
• Provide counseling opportunities for officers
• Provide counseling to civilian members of the police department
• Provide counseling to officers’ families
• Visit ill or injured officers and their family members
• Create death notifications and contribute to obituary information
• Provide counseling, resources and assistance to victims
• Participate in hostage negotiations
• Lead classes and seminars for law enforcement personnel in areas such as stress management, ethics, family life and depression
• Provide resources for personnel in areas such as stress management, marital relationships, and ethics
• Participate in the crisis response stress team for officers and their family members
• Assist family and officers at suicide incidents
• Serve as liaison and subject matter expert with other faiths and clergy in the community
• Provide informed and empathetic responses to questions of a religious, ethical or vocational nature
• Advise the chief on insights to staff morale and spiritual well-being
• Offer prayers at various ceremonies and events
• Participate on various boards and committees
• Assist officers in accessing spiritual, emotional, and other supports in their community
• Assist officers’ friends and family in accessing community resources
• Facilitate and counsel officers’ family meetings
• Educate officers and ranking staff members on spiritual and religious issues
• Conduct communications and empathy training for officers and their families
• Assist officers’ families in processing anger while grieving loss of a family member
• Orient new law enforcement personnel
• Liaise with state and national professional organizations
• Administer religious programs
• Collaborate with faith teams to provide a variety of accessible worship experiences
• Network and partner with external faith-based groups
• Empower interfaith dialogue within the department
• Help officers and personnel find peace of mind
• Ensure that personnel of all religions and traditions are offered equal opportunity to practice their faith
• Offer crisis pastoral counseling to officers and families in need
• Coordinate pastoral volunteer services as appropriate
• Maintain materials and worship space
• Help officers reconcile their viewpoints of spirituality, religion and vocation
Professional Associations for Police Chaplains
As a professional chaplain, you may want to become a full member of the APC or of another professional organization. The APC is a nondenominational group, which means that it provides resources about counseling police officers from a number of different points of view. The association also gives police chaplains a chance to talk to those in other industries who do the same type of work, which can be very helpful for learning new ways of approaching patients and their issues.
MATTSAM GOSPEL MINISTRIES UNIVERSAL
1. Character – we are here to exhort one another to build character, with the Word of God in our hands.
2. Trust, prayer, faith – we are to encourage one another to pray and to exercise faith.
3. Worship and reflection – we are to encourage one another to worship with all our hearts, and practise constant thanksgiving.
4. Learning – we are to encourage one another to love and study the Word as our favourite pastime.
5. Sacrifice and service – we are to promote commitment to service for the Lord.
6. Outgoing and caring – we are to spread the blessedness of an outgoing, caring lifestyle.
7. To provide friendship and cheer – we are to give an example of, and promote in others, the practice of cheering up those around us.
THE SEVEN PILLARS OF COUNSELLING
This article is about the ministry of mutual admonition, or mutual personal help and encouragement.
‘And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another’ (Romans 15.14).
Over the last 40 years, there has come in among Christians a great craze for counselling borrowed from the ideas of secular psychology, largely formulated by militant atheists holding a view of human personality and morality altogether opposed to biblical teaching. It is astonishing that even evangelical groups have enthusiastically adopted their systems, larger churches hiring teams of counsellors to ‘heal’ Christians who need biblical advice, not psychological therapy.
The so-called biblical counselling movement has abandoned the doctrine of the absolute sufficiency of the Bible for guidance and sanctification of believers, but we must cling to the inspired Word alone, and keep to traditional scriptural methodology when advising on personal problems, whether of depression or of behaviour.
Of course, we acknowledge that when it comes to very serious and painful depression, or irrational and delusional behaviour, the problem lies outside the troubles of ‘normal’ life. The afflicted person is ill and in need of medical help. The disaster of the ‘counselling movement’, however, is that it treats all believers as if they were psychologically ill, which is humanistic foolishness.
In a company of a hundred Christians, there will usually be three or four people at the most who will suffer the level of depression or other mental illness that requires psychiatric help and medication. If someone is really sick in mind, or has a breakdown of such a kind that they lose touch with reality, or are likely to do themselves or others considerable harm, then, sadly, they are ill, and need appropriate help.
We are not talking about such needs in this article. When we mention ‘depression’ we have in mind the kind which most people have at some time, perhaps involving sorrow, regret, distress, worry, anxiety, frustration, and even panic, all of which are within the normal experience of life. In the past the trials of life were never placed into the category of illness, requiring psychological therapy, and Christians believed that the Lord had given the riches of the Word to enable his people to draw close to him, and to be strengthened and comforted.
What does today’s ‘Christian’ counselling do? As Dr Martin Bobgan points out in several books analysing the techniques of ‘Christian’ pseudo-psychology, it attempts to deal with problems not with people. The Bible is exactly the other way round. If we have a marriage difficulty, the Bible does not tell us to complete a questionnaire detailing all our tastes and tiffs, and then find a counsellor to work through each problem. The Bible goes directly to the person, reforming us, making us more holy, and showing us how to live by the power of the Spirit, so that we manifest kindness and understanding, putting the other person first.
According to the Bible, if we become better people, then the marital problems will soon be dissolved. While the counselling books deal endlessly with the symptoms, the Bible reforms the people.
The Christian counselling movement is now a large industry, and the number of books produced is phenomenal. We should reject virtually all of these, even though many of the authors are evangelical, because they have capitulated to the anti-biblical ideas of atheistic psychology.
We shall now turn to the positive side of how all Christians should participate, as need arises, in the ministry of mutual admonition or mutual personal helpfulness, beginning with a very brief review of the texts that urge us to do this. Subsequently we shall look at biblical exhortations about the right attitude and approach, and then consider the seven great objectives or pillars of this precious ministry.
THE COMMAND TO MUTUALLY ADMONISH
Our Romans 15.14 text presents the duty and the rules of true counselling, Paul writing: ‘I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.’
The Greek word for ‘admonish’ means ‘to place in the mind’. It may be an exhortation, or a warning in the form of a warm, friendly urging to honour some duty or objective. We often connect admonition with words of reproof, but the Greek term has a broader use than that. What is placed in the mind may certainly be a caution or reproof, but it may equally be the gentlest suggestion or encouragement.
Three other verses on the place of admonition should also influence us, the first being Colossians 3.16:
‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’
Noted exegetes say that the semi-colon in this verse rightly belongs after the words ‘one another’, for we admonish by the Word. So, for example, if we see some friend who is not attending meetings regularly, or if we see another sliding into covetousness, then prayerfully we get alongside to bring the standards of the Word, for we all have a part in the ministry of admonishing one another.
We may look also at the letter to the Hebrews 3. 12-13 –
'Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. but exhort one another daily, while it is called to day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.’
Here is the duty of believers to help each other check any decline. We are to intervene and assist wherever necessary and wherever possible.
Of course, we have to cultivate the right spirit, and we will touch on that in a moment, but first we read from Hebrews 10.23-24:
‘Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.’
The admonition term is not used here (or in the other Hebrews verse), but it is the same thought. We have a duty of mutual ministering.
Returning to Romans 15.14, we are given some of the qualifications for this ministry, Paul saying that the people were full of goodness, and filled with all knowledge.
Goodness (meaning the qualities of kindness and consideration) is essential if we are to counsel others.
Equally it is vital to be ‘filled with all knowledge’, which refers to knowledge of the Bible, not of human wisdom.
Make no mistake, however, this is a dangerous ministry, with the potential, if mishandled, to destroy precious friendships, and even whole fellowships. For this reason we must spend a short time taking a kind of bath, and considering some of the qualifications we require, and the spirit in which we should go about this ministry.
Our first counsel comes from the words of Christ recorded in Luke 6.37 and 41,
‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven . . . And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?’
This caution highlights the disaster of a superior spirit, or a critical spirit, in helping one another. Admonition must be approached with humility, considering (or examining) ourselves, ‘lest thou also be tempted’ (Galatians 6.1).
We all have many sins, failings, weaknesses and difficulties, of which we should be deeply aware. We will ourselves fall in some respect, and need the help and even the reproof of others, and we are to approach one another in that humble spirit of awareness. This humility is very apparent to the person we seek to help, and makes our admonition acceptable, whereas the person who hands out advice from a dizzy height is seldom acceptable.
A second counsel from the words of the Lord urges us to be ready to share our own spiritual lessons and experiences. Luke 6.45 reads:
‘A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man . . . that which is evil.’
This verse refers to gracious deeds and uplifting, edifying conversations, but when applied to the ministry of admonition, the ‘good man’ naturally urges and comforts from the treasure of his experience of God’s grace toward him.
Giving admonition can be a very humbling experience. If we see someone heading into a problem that we ourselves once had, we must be ready to acknowledge that we did that same foolish thing and fell into a snare. ‘I am afraid,’ we may say, ‘that you are doing the same.’
Admonition, as we have noted, is not from a dizzy height. Our counsel will come from the Bible, and be supplemented from our own experience of failure and recovery, and we must be ready for this.
In Luke 17.1-2 there is a remarkably serious caution, and while it primarily applies to children, it surely applies also to all God’s spiritual children. The Lord said to the disciples,
‘It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.’
The caution for the ministry of personal admonition is that there should be no callous, rough handling.
We have to be very careful, fair and well-moderated in this ministry, and not go for a person, hitting this way and that. For one thing, the problem we think we see in that person may not be the true picture, and we may have misread the apparent ‘evidence’. The person may be entirely innocent, or there may be factors which greatly reduce any blame. Further, the ‘straying’ person may have been spoken to by others already, and will feel caught in an avalanche of criticism.
Admonition never sets out to inflict pain, dislike, irritation or vengeance, and if it does, according to Christ’s caution, the admonisher becomes the guilty party. So we deal with one another as respected and valued fellow believers, and never in a rough, cavalier kind of way.
Our fourth counsel is from Luke 17.3-4:
‘Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.’
The key point here is that motive matters. To be qualified to engage in mutual shepherding we must possess a sincere desire to see advance, rather than to be seen as ‘the instructor’ or anything of that kind. What is our motive? Is it really to help, and to see the Lord glorified and his work speeded forward? Is there true sympathy in our heart? In Romans 12.15, Paul writes, ‘Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.’ This is the spirit of mutual personal ministry.
Here is another qualification for admonition, drawn from Romans 15.14 and Colossians 3.16: ‘Teaching and admonishing one another.’ The question for us is this: Are we willing to be admonished, warned, urged, or helped by others? If we are not, we are certainly not qualified to admonish. If we are too touchy, prickly, proud or sensitive to have someone say to us: ‘Brother, sister, you should not have done that,’ then we should not try giving admonition ourselves. Personal ministry is a two-way traffic, and a lack of humility to receive it is quickly detected. The one we seek to help or correct can see perfectly well that we are not the kind of person who would take kindly to returned admonition.
The sixth counsel is this: A bond is the best basis for admonition. We find this in Colossians 3.14 – ‘And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.’ These words occur just two verses before the exhortation to engage in mutual admonition, and there is obviously a connection.
Do we have a bond with the person whom we intend to draw alongside for admonition? Is there a basis of friendship and respect, or is the person relatively unknown to us – in which case it would be better to let another, better placed, person do the work. Love covers a multitude of sins in various applications, and a wayward believer, or one in need of advice, will receive help most readily from someone who values and knows him.
The seventh counsel comes from 1 Peter 5.2-3, and it is another qualification, namely – Have we set an example? Peter’s words are primarily to ministers, but they apply to all in the ministry of mutual admonition:
‘Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples [patterns] to the flock.’
Have we set an example before we speak? Are we clear in the matter ourselves? If our own walk is inconsistent, and we have conspicuous, unaddressed faults, we obviously cannot help others.
To extend this point, in 1 Timothy 4.16 we read: ‘Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them.’ We are to take heed concerning ourselves first of all. We should check our repentance, for example, asking if we repent every day in the same general way, instead of examining our hearts. Do we pray to the Lord for progress on real sins that have been clustering round us, whether sins of word or deed?
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Following these counsels and cautions we come to the seven great pillars of personal ministry. If readers are familiar with the new genre of counselling books, chiefly drawn from secular ‘insights’, they will notice at once that these pillars are about changing people, not behaviour.
The advice offered here is not novel, but very old, the kind of aims and objectives that believers would have been given in Reformation times, in Puritan times, and in Victorian times, in fact, right up until the 1970s when secular psychology suddenly became more attractive to many evangelicals than their Bibles.
THE SEVEN PILLARS
1 HOLINESS IS THE GOAL
The first and the most obvious aim of personal ministry is that of promoting holiness and character. Our Romans 15.14 text contains the words – ‘full of goodness’ – this not only being a qualification for mutual admonition, but its main aim. Take marriage problems, the example referred to earlier in this article. Should we convene a number of counselling sessions giving time for much digging and delving, setting of homework and assignments, and all the other elaborations of the counselling books? Or should we urge couples to godliness, so that they change as people?
All the rules for marriage are found in the magnificent thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and also in Ephesians 4 and 5. They are the great standards for Christian godliness, and if only we can commend these to those in trouble, their marriages would repair and blossom gloriously.
Take 1 Peter 3.7, where we learn that a spouse should be held in honour, meaning in esteem, with dignity, care and love. In effect, husbands and wives must be precious to one another, each showing appreciation, kindness and consideration, all of which flow from godly character. If only they can build up godly character in themselves, by the help of God, they will become much nicer people, and their marriage will be wonderful. Each will be considerate, and will do for the other everything they ought to do. It is the person or people that we must change, and problems will then be resolved. We should be encouraging and helping one another to build character and to manifest all the wonderful fruits that are described in the sublime character passages of the New Testament. A good book on marriage will be one that simply expounds these passages.
The characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13 are the best and the most profound statements on the subject in all human literature, and this is so because they are of divine origin. Here are challenges that define real love, and if we can respond to them with the help of God, then we will build character. So the first pillar of personal ministry is to urge one another to character and godliness, and not to intrude into details of private behaviour, which, in the case of marriage, means that the ‘counsellor’ betrays and fractures the bond of marital privacy and intimacy.
2 Trust Promoted
Our second pillar of personal ministry is the building of faith, as expressed in Romans 15.13: ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.’
This is a life of faith, and we are to be advancing in trust in God. Is someone very low, troubled or anxious? Then that believer needs to be encouraged to trust the Lord no matter what; to trust in his providential dealings, to commit his all to the Lord, and to pray for the strength to go through difficult situations.
In mutual admonition we help each other not to fall into self-pity, grumbling and groaning, and considering ourselves badly dealt with. We exhort to faith, for we are the Lord’s, and know that he will not let things happen to us which we cannot deal with by his help. Through every situation of life he is training us, perhaps even chastising us, but he is at work, and we must trust him.
The task of bringing one another to deeper trust, laying hold on the Lord, and praying and rejoicing in his love, is the second great aim or pillar of personal, mutual shepherding.
If only we can persuade one another of these things we will never be crushed. No situation will damage and corrupt our spiritual disposition and wellbeing while we walk by faith, and bring all matters before the throne of grace. The rule of Scripture is: ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.’
3 Worship & Reflection Deepened
The third pillar of our mutual personal encouragement is the promotion of sincere worship and reflection, referred to in Romans 15.6: ‘That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Paul goes on to speak of God’s promises that the Gentiles would praise him (verses 10 and 11). We could refer again to Colossians 3.16, where the exhortation to mutual admonition flows into the use of hymns, psalms and spiritual songs.
Without doubt the promotion of the twin activities of worship and reflection should be a major pillar of personal counselling. So much of the discomfort of believers may be relieved by worship and gratitude for all that God is, and all that he has done. This is the way to lift up the soul and to trample down discouragement and difficulty.
Thanksgiving, coupled with intelligent reflection on the ways and promises of God in the Word, and his past blessings to us, more than anything else dispels sadness, anxiety, and insecurity. Certainly it dispels vindictiveness, selfishness and worldliness.
This is why worship should never be worldly in character, borrowing the polluted styles of worldly entertainment. True worship is an antidote to all this, lifting the soul far above the self-centred, sin-centred thinking and emotionalism of a fallen world.
Is a believer angry with someone who has offended him? The answer is to engage in worship and praise to God for all his amazing kindness, and the unworthy anger is shamed away. Self-pity withers and dies before a glorious Saviour, therefore we urge one another to reflective praise, thanksgiving and adoration. A good traditional book on worship would be worth a thousand counselling books, if it brought us to reflect personally and deeply on wonderful truths and sentiments in Scripture, as well as on hymns that sustain the blessing.
4 Scripture – for Knowledge & Happiness
Pillar number four for personal ministry is the study of the Bible, so that all may be:
‘ . . . filled with all knowledge’ (Romans 15.14). One of the great aims of inter-personal ministry should be the promotion and encouragement of individual Bible study.
Paul emphatically identifies Scripture as the source of all comfort, saying, ‘For whatsoever things were written aforetime [the Old Testament] were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope’ (Romans 15.4).
We therefore urge one another to be great learners, to read the Word of God, together with Matthew Henry, or whatever commentator helps our understanding. Believers should always have to hand a commentary which assists with difficult verses, such as Matthew Poole (available in three volumes), who is one of the best and most concise of the Puritan commentators for resolving difficulties. One factor that impedes Bible study is the number of verses that people simply don’t understand, but Matthew Poole frequently resolves them in a few plain words.
Many years ago my wife and I frequently had tea with a very aged lady who would tax us to the limit, because she was always studying the Scripture. She would raise many interesting problems, saving them up for our visits. She would ask how one passage could be reconciled with another, and what this or that prophetic statement meant. We were often caught out by her astute questions, and it was clear that she was a great student of the Word, and that it kept her bright and alive and full of love for the Lord. It was her life to be studying the Word in her advancing years, and we would hope to be like her, great learners right to the end of life’s journey.
Is someone inclined to be sad and troubled in their mind? There is no book that imparts happiness like the Word of God, sincerely studied. Even at a technical level it is so very wonderful, so consistent, so profound, and so comprehensive in scope.
I have known many other elderly people who have been great lovers and students of the Word, and whose grasp of its riches furnished and thrilled their minds and hearts through all the vicissitudes of life. It is so inspiring to interact with those who have been great learners of the Book divine throughout their earthly pilgrimage.
If we are crushed by life’s burdens, tired of other people, and of ourselves, spiritually cold and cast down, despairing of Heaven, overcome by some besetting sin, or overwhelmed by some problem, it is likely we have stopped feeding on the glorious Word of the living God.
The authors of hordes of counselling books seem to think that they can do better than the Word of Life, but they have forsaken the fountain of living waters and hewn for themselves broken cisterns in the ever-shifting ground of human psychology, and their counsels take people away from reliance on the Lord, and from seeking joy in spiritual truth and blessing.
Therefore, our fourth pillar is to always be promoting and stimulating the study and learning of God’s Word and showing one another how it can be the source of knowledge, power, happiness and fulfilment for us all, in the service of God.
5 Sacrifice & Service
Any treatment of the importance of sacrifice and service – our fifth aim or pillar – is generally absent from counselling books, yet the former are essential to the spiritual well-being of believers, for this is what we were saved for. In Romans 15.16 Paul makes a seemingly mysterious statement, and speaks in an almost priestly manner, saying that God made him – ‘the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable.’ He seems to say, ‘In evangelising Gentiles I am offering them up as a priest does, making an offering in the Temple.’
Paul tells us what he means in chapter 12: ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.’
Gentiles are being won for the Lord to sacrifice themselves to his service, to live and witness for him, and be entirely at his disposal. This is the great fifth pillar of all personal ministry, the urging of each other to be wholly offered up and given up to the Lord’s service. We are intended to be the acceptable offering of the Gentiles.
I hope readers will not find this over-critical, but I notice that the so-called mega-churches in the USA (and some here), which have hired professional counsellors, sometimes having teams of a dozen and more paid therapists, have a characteristic in common. The members of these churches barely do anything. If the church wants something done, they simply hire staff. They have a minister (and his staff), a worship minister (and staff), a bus minister, a this minister, a that minister, a minister or staff member for everything.
The members mostly attend only the morning worship (plus church concerts and banquets) and spend the best of their energies living comfortable, self-indulgent lives; indeed, one might say, mildly sanitised worldly lives. What matters is that family, house, car, education, college, and all these things must be as splendid as possible.
Why do such church members need so much professional counselling? The answer is – their lives are not applied to the great goal of Christian service. If they are truly converted, and yet have been denied their calling as people sacrificed to the Lord and his service, it is not surprising that their lives lack spiritual fulfilment. They are missing the blessing of having serving priorities, answers to prayer, special upholding by the Lord, fruit and fulfilment. They are not what God meant them to be.
If, as believers, our chief priority is the Lord’s service, we forget about our aches and pains, offences, difficulties and problems, rejoicing in our calling and forgiving one another.
I remember Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones once saying – I don’t know where he got the figure from – that during the years of World War II, consultations with psychiatrists plummeted, because people had something greater to engage their minds than the pressures of everyday life. Similarly as believers, if our hearts are in the Lord’s work, then our priorities are right. If evangelisation, children’s Sunday School work, and other activities for Christ concern us, then we get all other matters in perspective, seeing them for what they are, and processing them with Christian calm.
If Christ comes first, then all other things fall into place, which is partly what the Saviour meant when he said: ‘Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? . . . But seek ye first the kingdom of God . . . and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matthew 6.31-33).
To encourage each other to live lives of sacrifice and service for the Lord is a vital pillar of the ministry of admonition.
6 The Outgoing, Caring Lifestyle Advanced
This pillar of personal ministry – that we should press and urge one another to be an outgoing and caring people – is seen strongly in the words of Romans 15.1-3:
‘We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.’
The Puritan Richard Baxter’s great cure for depression (or melancholy as it was then called) was to advise sufferers to do things for other people.
If we were more outgoing as people, then we would be less inclined to take our woes and knocks so seriously. There are many people in our family circle, our church, and beyond who need encouragement from us. There are both children and elderly friends to care for, Christian workers to pray and provide for, newcomers to the church to befriend and assimilate – a never ending list – beside the concern we have for lost souls. We should have no time and no spare emotion for self-pity or emotional self-indulgence.
We recall what happened to the mother of Charlie Chaplin. This name is closely connected with the area around the Tabernacle, because Chaplin was born in East Street at the end of the 1880s. His father was a drunkard who abandoned his wife and boys. They lived in various rented rooms in little back streets behind the Kennington Park Road. They are lovely little houses now, but they were crumbling slums then. Their mother earned what she could through relentless labour, but they were desperately short.
Although the boys knew about hunger they never starved, for it was their mother who starved, going without constantly. The lads were too young to quite realise what was going on, but the years of malnutrition later affected their mother’s mind, and she was committed to a grim mental hospital.
When the boys were adults, and successful, they took her to the United States, where she died, a very sick woman, in the 1920s.
But here is the point. Mrs Chaplin was a regular worshipper at a Bible-believing church.
It was not the Tabernacle, I am thankful to say, but we cannot criticise the church because Christians can be very disappointing, and this can happen anywhere. She attended Christ Church, just opposite the Lambeth North underground station, which was then, of course, the church of F B Meyer. (Today it has lost its spiritual heritage and is an ‘emerging church’, denying some of the fundamentals of the faith.) Mrs Chaplin worshipped there, covering up as far as she could her poverty.
The church folk did not realise that she had eaten nothing for days on end, but if anyone had been sensitive enough to notice this hollow-cheeked, gaunt, emaciated lady, surely they would have grasped what was happening.
It is said that one of the reasons why Charlie Chaplin put up a barricade against God, was his resentment at how a church failed to help his mother, one of their regular worshippers. They took no notice. They did not seem to care about her. She was just one of the poor.
I mention this for our benefit. Are we ‘depressed’? Then we should look out to help someone else! We should pray to God for a sensitive, outgoing heart to notice the needs of others, and draw alongside. Then we would cure our depression and help someone else at the same time. So this is one of the great pillars of personal counselling – ‘to provoke unto love and to good works,’ and to be increasingly outgoing as a people.
This is echoed in the appealing words of Galatians 6.9-10:
‘Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.’
Modern counselling ministry books are all about us and our needs, whereas the Bible turns our gaze outwards, and makes us more Christ-like as people.