This post is the second in a series tracing the dynamics of spiritual renewal in the Church as outlined in Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal by Dr. Richard Lovelace.
Pastoral counseling is essential for experiencing spiritual renewal and revival in the church, according to Dr. Richard Lovelace. In his book, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, he places pastoral counseling alongside preaching and teaching as necessary components of personal renewal, which is the precursor to corporate renewal in the church. As individuals are revived, so is the Church.
The kind of counseling that Lovelace recommends follows the historical examples of Richard Baxter and Philip Spener. Baxter augmented his preaching ministry with “house-to-house pastoral visistion” where he worked to apply God’s Word to the realtime spiritual needs of His congregation. A biblical president for this kind of ministry can be drawn from Acts 20:20, where Paul taught both in public and in the home.
Lovelace is skeptical of some counseling practitioners who follow the nouthetic approach. His first critique is their tendency to “write off all non-Christian psychological theory and practice as erroneous.” In addition, Lovelace believes that the nouthetic approach doesn’t take into account the serious nature of indwelling sin and therefore fails at delivering the necessary means of overcoming it. This is far from solving the ongoing debate about nature of Christian counseling in the church, but it helps to introduce a key set of doctrinal principles.
From Lovelace’s perserpective, spiritual renewal rests on four doctrines: justification, sanctification, the indwelling of Holy Spirit, and the authority of the believer in spiritual conflict. These “primary elements of renewal” must all be presented with equal force in context of a pastoral counseling conversation. Counselees should be encouraged to take hold of each of these four elements by faith as separate, but equal benefits of being united with Jesus Christ. They should find security in their adoptive sonship secured by Christ’s obedience and righteousness. They must also be committed to growing in their personal sanctification. Pastoral counselors also need to urge their audience to recognise and the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit as well as take hold of the strength they have in spiritual warfare.
Effective pastors will add personal counseling to the regular preaching and teaching of God’s Word if they want to stimulate spiritual renewal. They should look for ways to apply the truth of God’s Word to the individual situations and needs of their congregants. When these two practices are combined, they can be power and positive part of bringing spiritual renewal and revival to the Church.
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