What is Care and Counsel as Mission?

Author:  Bradford M. Smith, Chair, Lausanne Care and Counsel as Mission Interest Group (LCCMIG)

The Lausanne  Care and Counsel as Mission Interest Group—the newest initiative within the Lausanne family of working and special interest groups is asking the question, “What is the role of Christian counseling, broadly understood, in taking ‘the whole gospel to the whole world’—especially a world of unprecedented suffering and woundedness?”  

What is Care and Counsel?

We use the phrase “care and counsel” to capture the breadth of multidisciplinary work done by Christian counselors and caregivers which goes beyond traditional counseling to include church and community-based ministries, emergency response to traumatic events, and educational outreach programs focused on marriage and family life. It includes people-helpers involved in counseling, pastoral care, spiritual direction, psychotherapy, coaching, mentoring, social work, crisis intervention, trauma treatment and more.

Whom are we helping?

Often when people hear the words “Christian counseling” and “missions” in the same sentence, they think of the vitally important work of member care—providing counseling for missionaries, humanitarian workers, and their families. As crucial as that work is, we believe there is a broader role for Christian counselors in world mission.

We are encouraged by the example of counselors who are using their people-helping gifts to bring compassion and healing to all people who seek it.  For example, psychologist Saul Cruz and his family have lived and worked among the poor in Mexico City for the past twenty years. Pavel Raus, a counselor and seminary professor in Prague, leads marriage seminars open to the public and draws in the wounded and disillusioned from the streets of that highly secular city. Gladys Mwiti is a clinical psychologist and founder of Oasis Africa in Nairobi, which has trained more than five thousand counselors in sixteen African countries—places where AIDS is making orphans of many. Saul, Pavel, and Gladys are part of the emerging new face of Christian counseling worldwide which wants to shed the perception of Christian counseling as limited to “50-minute hours” in well appointed suburban offices.

  • We envision paradigm of care and counsel as mission as three concentric circles: member care i.e. care for missionaries and humanitarian workers, Christian counseling in support of the global Church, and care and counsel for the whole world.
  • (See http://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/perspectives.php/1119?pg=2 for more information on the three circle paradigm).

While there are networks and publications focused on the work of the two smaller circles—member care and pastoral care–it appears that proportionally little research, training, theological reflection, or global conversation had focused on the overwhelming needs of the “big circle” and how Christian caregivers can respond.

What is the theological basis for care and counsel as mission?

Matthew 9: 35, 36 says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

The Lausanne Care and Counsel as Mission Interest Group (LCCMIG) is building on the theological foundations that have been a hallmark of the Lausanne movement. The definition of holistic mission found in the Lausanne Occasional Paper on the subject states,

“Holistic mission is mission oriented towards the satisfaction of basic human needs, including the need of God, but also the need of food, love, housing, clothes, physical and mental health, and a sense of human dignity.”

In 2007, the Lausanne Theology Working Group, at a consultation entitled, “Following Jesus in our Broken World,” noted, “The claim that Jesus is the truth must be demonstrated in the Christian praxis of attending to human pain and meeting human needs.”

What are the future goals of the LCCMIG?

Nineteen Christian caregivers from the fields of counseling, pastoral ministry, psychology, psychiatry, social work, and theology met in Mexico City 5-9 January 2009—the inaugural meeting of the Lausanne Care and Counsel as Mission Interest Group–to explore the future role of Christian counselors in the Church’s mission of taking “the whole gospel to the whole world.”

With participants from eleven countries, the Lausanne Consultation on Care and Counsel as Mission was hosted by Saul and Pilar Cruz, co-founders of Armonía Ministries.  Much of the talk and passion in Mexico City was around serving the poor, understanding care and counsel as integral to a transformational “whole gospel” perspective, and making greater use of indigenous Christian theological reflection.

Beginning with the early morning Bible studies and prayer led by Dewi Hughes, theological advisor to Tearfund and a member of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, the importance of care and counsel to be culturally informed and biblically grounded was much on the minds of the Mexico City group.

With a three stage process focusing on past influences, present needs, and future actions and with the Lausanne Mission statement in mind, four perspectives were developed:

-Preparing (training and preparation)

-The Whole Church (building bridges within the Church)

-To take the Whole Gospel (developing a Biblical view of mission)

-To the Whole World (mobilizing for mission).

The most prominent trends and themes that emerged from Mexico City were:

-the challenge of poverty/growth of the poor

-holistic transformation

-the use of collaborative and co-creative processes

-spiritual poverty

-indigenous Christian theologies

-Biblical social justice

-the continuing conversation on evangelism and integral/holistic mission.

 These themes will be expanded in the blogs that follow.

Future plans include:

-communications and publications about care and counsel as mission

-networking opportunities

-training, supervision, and consultation

-research and development

-administration and funding

-a presence at the Cape Town Congress

-an international institute comprised of theologians, anthropologists, mental health practitioners and students to engage serious dialogue and training about the cultural context of healing.

We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

For more information, see Care and Counsel as Mission: Christian Counseling’s New Global Look, http://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/perspectives.php/1119 and Counseling as Mission, http://www.lausanne.org/issue-counseling-as-mission/overview.html.