We all know people in our world are struggling—eating disorders, addictions, depression, sexual issues, marital problems—the list goes on and on. Can the church help or is that an outdated concept that no longer fits modern problems? In The Church as a Culture of Care, biblical counselor Dale Johnson explains that the church is still the primary place where those who struggle can receive lasting hope and healing.
Pastors and lay leaders in the church often feel inadequate to address certain needs and are unsure of how to help. This book is designed to help erase the stigma of “mental health issues” in the church and to present the church as the primary haven for answers to deep-seated human problems. Readers will learn that God has designed every function of the church to be an integral part of soul care. God has provided the church with the necessary resources for us to care well for one another. Prayer, the Word, the work of the Holy Spirit, and Christian community are God’s provisions to lead all of us to Christ—even those with the deepest struggles.
Counselors, ministers, and lay leaders will be empowered to have confidence in God’s purpose for the church, the power of his Spirit, and the sufficiency of his Word for soul care.
T. Dale Johnson Jr., MDiv, PhD, is the Executive Director of The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Director of Counseling Programs and Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously served as an associate pastor and continues to seek the strengthening of the church by training pastors and members to minister in their local churches. He is the author of The Church as a Culture of Care. Dale and his wife Summer live in Kansas City, Missouri with their six precious children.
“Historically speaking, the church has been the place where people in need of care received care. Toward that end, Dale Johnson has written a brief but powerful call to the church to reclaim this essential mission. As a pastor and counselor, I was encouraged and reinvigorated for this important work. If there were any doubts as to the church’s role in this vital work of counseling ministry, look no further than Dale’s excellent primer.”
Jonathan D. Holmes, Pastor of Counseling, Parkside Church; executive director, Fieldstone Counseling
“Dale Johnson shows that a high view of Scripture leads to a high view of the church and its essential role in soul care. He rightly contends that Christ is both true standard of what God intends to be ‘normal’ for humanity and the model for elders/pastors in caring for the sheep. I am hopeful that this book will contribute to the restoration of biblical soul care in the church.”
Jim Newheiser, Director of the Christian Counseling Program, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC
“Dale Johnson has written a very compelling book to show pastors and others how, by God’s grace and in love, to help those in their church become more like our Lord Jesus Christ. Many seminaries and pastors have embraced the world’s philosophies on how to help people solve their emotional problems. People are in pain and are seeking relief, but only giving them the world’s opinions on how to solve emotional problems robs them of the joy and peace that can only be found in Christ. Johnson has clearly, thoroughly, and biblically laid out his case. This book is amazing, and I highly recommend it not only to pastors but to anyone seeking a Christ-centered, God-glorifying view of the responsibility of the local church to shepherd its flock.”
Martha Peace, ACBC certified counselor; author of The Excellent Wife
“In this excellent work, Dr. Dale Johnson reestablishes both the care and the competency of what Jesus Christ intended for the church in discipling and counseling the deeper hurts and sinful failings of the soul. The Church as a Culture of Care thoughtfully illustrates how the church should be focused not only on the public but also the private ministry of the Word (Acts 20:20). It is the responsibility of the church, with complete reliance on the full sufficiency of the Word of God, to minister the whole counsel of God to the man or woman of God (Psalm 1:1–2; 33:4). Only within this ecclesiastical caring context will the suffering Christian receive true hope and help from God’s absolute and authoritative Word. This book is a must-read for any Christian who desires to disciple and counsel others, especially pastors, elders, and church leaders. It is a gold mine of insight!”
John D. Street, Chair, Graduate Department of Biblical Counseling, The Master’s University & Seminary
“Dale Johnson is a gift to the church, as is this book, The Church as a Culture of Care. I highly recommend it for all who strive for a richer understanding of local church ministry and all who are committed to biblical approaches to pastoral care and Christian community.”
Jason K. Allen, President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary & Spurgeon College
“This book is a positive and biblical encouragement for local churches to fulfill their privilege and responsibility to serve struggling men and women with truth from God’s sufficient Word. Readers will see Christ exalted as his church is given the position of prominence in soul-care that his precious blood purchased for our good and his glory.”
Steve Viars, Faith Church and Biblical Counseling Ministry, Lafayette, IN
“Dr. Johnson chronicles how the church abandoned soul care to secular professionals and presents the meaning and implications of the Scripture’s sufficiency. With a pastor’s heart and clear biblical teaching, he then clarifies the characteristics of a church that does soul care well. Pastors will find this book essential for fine-tuning their own vision, useful for leadership training, and helpful for Sunday school classes and small group discussions.”
Jim Berg, ACBC and ABC Certified Biblical Counselor; council member, Biblical Counseling Coalition; professor of biblical counseling, Bob Jones University Seminary; author of Changed into His Image and Quieting a Noisy Soul; founder of Freedom That Lasts
“Dr. Dale Johnson does an excellent job at pointing out how the church has greatly relinquished the care of its people. But as Johnson so clearly shows from Scripture, true care happens life-on-life within the church. In this book, Johnson takes us to Christ and his care and explains how under-shepherds are to care for others in imitation of Jesus. He then reminds us what the church’s care and equipping goals should be. Johnson has met a true need with this book and very appropriately issues a clarion call for a more excellent way to care for one another within the church. A scholar and former pastor himself, he has a clear passion to encourage leaders within the church to build a culture of care consistent with Jesus and his Word, for his glory and the sake of his body, the church.”
Stuart W. Scott, Professor of Biblical Counseling, The Master’s University, Santa Clarita, CA; director of membership services, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC)
“Broken people living in a broken world need care—God’s care. But too many misunderstand and overlook Christ’s gracious provision of the church, his body, as his means of doing so. Dale Johnson presents God’s design and intention for the church as the context for real nurture and growth through biblical care and counseling. This volume is a treasure chest full of ecclesiological wisdom conveyed in practical instruction for both leaders and laity. I’ll be asking our whole church body to read and apply it!”
Rick Holland, Senior Pastor, Mission Road Bible Church, Prairie Village, KS
“As God’s household, the church of Jesus Christ is the pillar and foundation of God’s truth, yet the modern church has neglected its role to biblically counsel its members. Against this backdrop, Dale Johnson asserts a simple, timely, compelling claim: God has called the church to be a culture of care. Gratefully, Johnson captures the Bible’s vision and provides direction for how church leaders and church members should fulfill it.”
Robert D. Jones, Biblical Counseling Professor, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of Pursuing Peace, Uprooting Anger, and coauthor of The Gospel for Disordered Lives
“Dale Johnson writes a timely and needed primer on the role of the church in the care of souls. This reminder comes with gentle exhortations, informed critiques, and humble clarifications. Moreover, it provides a biblically informed call to action for the church of Jesus Christ. As a pastor and a missionary, I am thrilled for this much-needed resource to be in the hands of church members, pastors, and seminarians.”
Juan F. Moncayo, Senior Pastor, Iglesia La Fuente, Quito, Ecuador
“This book makes the brilliant move to aim at the whole culture of a church—its shared beliefs and values, which will shape its practices far more effectively than any policy change ever could. Care should seem normal in the church because it is at the heart of Jesus’s ministry.”
Jeremy Pierre, Lawrence & Charlotte Hoover Professor of Biblical Counseling, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life
“’The church is God´s agent to care for the souls of his people.’ That’s a game-changer statement that needs to impact the church. Dale did a great job writing about a much-needed topic in a clear, biblical, loving, and accurate way. The day that every member of the church embraces the supreme calling to be what God designed us to be, maybe the church will be that oasis of love, grace, truth, and care that de world so desperately needs to see. With clear and key definitions, examples, and essential theological concepts for every believer, this is a must-read for every believer to know and be challenged to obey God’s Word to care for one another (Galatians 6.2).
Kike Torres, Lead Pastor, Horizonte, Queretaro, Mexico; ACBC Certified member; president of the Biblical Counseling Coalition Mexico; author of A New Life
“The church is the arena in which we enjoy the love of God triune. One of the chief ways we express and experience this love is in caring for one another. In this volume, Dr. Dale Johnson provides a timely reminder of this truth, along with an insightful analysis of what it means for the church to cultivate a culture of care. Here is a rich resource for all believers, whether they be in the pulpit or the pew.”
Stephen Yuille, Vice President of Academics, Heritage College & Seminary; associate professor of Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Believers who limit the responsibility of the church to preserving faithful theology, while removing from it the responsibility to care for struggling persons will not get faithful theology nor care for people. Dr. Dale Johnson effectively shows how the church is the good and proper place for the care of souls and how this care flows from and leads to faithful Christian theology. It is a crucial book that brings needed clarity in the midst of much confusion.”
Heath Lambert, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville
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Johnson believes the church is to be the place for soul care for Christians. “God has provided the church with the necessary resources and designs for us to care well for one another with the Word of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we are led by Christ.” (138/2981) The church is positioned and equipped to best understand human problems and minister to the problems of life. (Well, maybe not exactly, as I note below.) He defines and explores biblical counseling including oversight of God's church, the authority and sufficiency of God's Word, and the work of the Holy Spirit. He notes, “Pastors are called and responsible to care for the souls of God's flock.” (529/2981) “...Scripture places the responsibility for the care of souls on pastors.” (1071/2981) But then he adds, “...God places that duty square upon the shoulders of the elders of his church.” (1084/2981) But wait. The elders have the “particular purpose” to equip the saints for soul care. “Saints are to be equipped to serve the church by ministering the word of God for the care of souls.” (2245/2981) A question that comes to mind is who trains the elders to equip the saints to adequately provide soul care? What does that equipping look like? I found some of the book a bit puzzling. For example, Johnson says, “Every believer is a counselor.” (2499/2981) He clarifies in saying he does “not mean every believer is called or qualified to do formal counseling with individuals struggling with very difficult forms of sin and suffering.” (2499/2981) He further clarifies the “every believer is a counselor” as in our gestures, our attention, attitudes, behavior, and words. (2499/2981) Yet, he says, God intends that the Word dwell in us so richly “that we are able to counsel one another from his wisdom.” (2499/2981) I am confused. Are lay people, with the sufficiency of the Word, able to counsel one another, or, are we not qualified for “formal” counseling? Johnson suggests a church shouldn't have a formal counseling ministry anyway, unless closely guarded. (2544/2981) Formal counseling, Johnson says, is like having a specialist called in by a general medical practitioner for a more intense look at an acute issue. (2544/2981) Ah, are we talking about someone specifically trained to counsel? Does that mean God hasn't really provided the church with the necessary resources and designs for soul care as Johnson said earlier? Is it, “God has given us exactly what we need to care appropriately in the moment,” or do we really need trained counselors? (2647/2981) Where do they get trained? Johnson is an associate professor of biblical counseling at a major seminary so perhaps that is the kind of institution where such training needs to happen. I really like the idea that God has provided for adequate soul care within the church. I was dismayed to find that Johnson added the need for “formal” counseling. I liked the idea of the sufficiency of Scripture with the leading of the Holy Spirit when it comes to soul care. But it sounds like, for tough issues, that really does not apply. “Formal” counseling, I am assuming, by someone trained (and not by the church elders) in biblical counseling techniques is needed. Johnson notes that this is merely the first in several books on biblical counseling. I look forward to them as I was left with many unanswered questions in reading this one. I could recommend this book be read by church boards as discussion questions are provided. However, I think the book might leave them with knowing what is supposed to be true but with no idea how to get there. I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
Johnson has written this book for church leaders and elders, seeking to re-establish the church as the central place of soul care. He challenges the perception that secular psychology has outdated the church, but proposes than God has equipped people for every function of the care of souls, placing Jesus at the centre of restoration. Most of the book is devoted to expounding a biblical vision for soul care. God made the church to care for people, Christ is the head of the church as well as our good shepherd, that those in leadership are meant to care, and to equip the saints to care for reach other. Chapter 3 (when the church doesn’t care) was one of the strongest, and one those in church leadership would do well to ponder. Johnson outlines how we have embraced secular psychology, abdicated discipleship, and we hesitate to obey and apply God’s word. Chapter 8 (counselling in the local church) was also very helpful, with the distinction between preventative and intensive soul care. Preventative care should be a normal part of the one-anothering life of the church, and intensive care is that which requires immediate attention through formal counselling or intensive discipleship. This is a helpful offering to assist church leaders consider why biblical soul care and counselling is an essential part of the the role of the church. I felt it was more wordy that it needed to be, and yet still didn’t get specifically practical, in terms of how a church or a pastor might go about making change. Having said that, he has laid excellent groundwork for churches to think through their own culture of care, what they may be missing, and the reasons for that. Numerous people would benefit if these principles were put in place in more churches.
In The Church as a Culture of Care: Finding Hope in Biblical Community, Dr. Dale Johnson provides a superb resource showing the role of the church in soul care. He does this by showing the writer how God has equipped believers for the task, the Lord as the head of the church, his role as the good shepherd, leader’s roles as under-shepherds, and suggests ways of creating a culture of care in the church. It is highly recommended