Brad Hambrick on the Therapeutic Benefits of Christian Community

Millard Erickson makes an important point when he says, “The church is one of the few aspects of Christian theology that can be observed” (p. 1036 in Christian Theology). If his statement is true, then the place where theology should have its most tangible impact is in the community of people who strive to live in its truth.

Secular researcher Barry Duncan, in his quest to determine what makes counseling effective, found that 40 percent of what determines whether counseling will be effective is the quality of relational resources an individual has outside counseling (in The Heart and Soul of Change).

Too often, we only ask the question, “What does the profession of counselinghave to offer to the church?” In light of this research, I believe the question, “What does the community of the church have to offer to counseling?” is at least equally valid.

In my counseling, I will frequently ask people: “Who do you have whom you can talk to about this struggle? Who are you honest with and don’t have to pretend like everything is OK? Who asks you, ‘How are you doing?’ and really wants to know the answer? When do you meet with another person(s) just to discuss how life is going and encourage one another?”

Most often, the answers are no one and never. But it is being able to answer this question that accounts for 40 percent of the success rate in overcoming a life struggle. Notice counseling will never be able to provide this kind of resource. Even in an ongoing support group, you are forever defined by your struggle even as you seek to overcome it.

But the church (when operating as God designed—a living community) is precisely this kind of resource. This becomes even more profound when you consider the second largest variable in success: the level of trust between the counselor and counselee. This accounted for 30 percent of the success rate.

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Source: Church Leaders