Several years ago, the elders at Mars Hill Church in Seattle knew we needed to overhaul our counseling ministries. We had lots of different groups for people with various issues: those dealing with habitual sexual sin, emotional wounds from past abuse, substance abuse, and several more. Each one had its own curriculum, its own leadership system, and its own night of the week in one of our buildings. It was getting difficult to keep all of it working together harmoniously.
Those were some of challenges we meant to address when we started dreaming up what would eventually become Redemption Groups: intense small groups that dig deep into difficult and seldom-discussed areas of life, such as abuse, addiction, and trials of all sorts. You can learn more about how Redemption Groups came to be in the preface of Redemption.
What we didn’t fully realize at the time, though, was how much Redemption Groups would catalyze the community of the whole church, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, and boosting our capacity to care for one another. So not only is Mars Hill the kind of place where people with deep hurts and deeply engrained sin patterns can find hope and healing in Jesus, but increasingly, they can also find brothers and sisters in Christ who are prepared to walk alongside them. By God’s grace, this is becoming normal for us, even in a very large church.
Recently, I met with some members of a core team who were preparing to launch Redemption Groups at one of our newer Mars Hill churches. We talked about their impressions of Redemption Groups. Most of them had never been in one, but I suspected they’d heard enough to form an impression. I heard words like “intense, transparent, experience, gospel.” One comment especially stood out to me, probably because it came with tears: honesty. This woman’s impression was that, finally, she was in an honest church and she wanted to be part of a ministry that promoted such honesty. This woman had never been in a Redemption Group, but she had already experienced the blessing of being a member of an honest church.
We’ve learned that our biblical counseling ministries, with Redemption Groups being the prime example, are not ministry silos for “those” people—they are for all us. First of all, because we all find ourselves in times of need, and God invites us to His lavish grace and mercy especially in those times (Hebrews 4:16). But secondly, because fruitful biblical counseling in our local churches has been changing the way we talk to one another, not just within those ministries, but across all of our locations and the many little communities that comprise our whole church. Our relationships are growing deeper. We’re becoming better equipped to help one another. Finally, it’s not really about Redemption Groups; it’s about what Redemption Groups are about. Afshin Ziafat, a friend and pastor at Providence Church who also runs Redemption Groups, summarized it well: it’s about the real you meeting the real Jesus.
This blog post originally appeared on the Grace and Truth blog at BiblicalCounselingCoalition.org.