How to Promote Biblical Counseling at Church

Modern Church Leader feat. Aaron Armstrong
How to Promote Biblical Counseling at Church feat. Aaron Armstrong on Modern Church Leader

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How to Promote Biblical Counseling at Church

Christian counseling is a fast-growing discipline, but this growth has not been without controversy. 

There is an idea floating around which tells us we cannot combine faith with mental health treatment. However, this can't be true because Jesus Himself was known for caring deeply about those dealing with emotional issues.

Church leaders should know how much stigma still surrounds counseling and offer resources without creating an additional barrier for those who need it most.

Everyone needs to be in counseling at some point in their life. Counseling is not about being broken or weak. It is about getting stronger and better with God's help. It is about the church reaching out to help people in their time of need. That's what it means to serve one another in love. And that's how a church should be. 

The church should provide this type of care for people, but often the church is left in the dark about what biblical counseling is and how to implement it.

Our guest, Aaron Armstrong, Senior Pastor at Dallas Bible Church, will provide you with everything you need to know about adding a biblical counseling component to your ministry.

"I've been a big proponent of counselors for a number of years. You need people outside of yourself to be able to speak the truth, hold you accountable, care for you, and help you ask questions that you can’t ask yourself.”
-Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the Lead Pastor of Dallas Bible Church. He received his Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

This is an opportunity for you to become familiar with biblical counseling and how it can benefit your ministry!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • How church leaders can reduce the stigma of counseling
  • How to promote biblical counseling at church
  • Why do pastors need a counseling community
  • The reasons to include counseling in the church
  • How churchwide vulnerability and honesty promotes renewal
  • The pastor support group that Aaron participates in
  • Acknowledging grief and sadness while recognizing the sufficiency of God
  • And so much more...

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[8:40] That's been one of the biggest challenges of the past year—the sadness of looking around and not seeing our body physically anymore.

[13:03] I've been a big proponent of counselors for a number of years. You need people outside of yourself to speak the truth, hold you accountable, care for you, and help you ask questions that you can’t ask yourself.

[14:49] I think that counselors are gifted by God in that way. We're able to ask questions and bring wisdom in the moments and care in the moments that are unusual in other relationships. 

[17:51] I need healing, and God through the Holy Spirit brings that healing every day. He's using our counselor friends and people that are gifted and trained in that.

[19:35] I want to encourage vulnerability, people being honest about where they are so that we can welcome the Lord to come in and to bring renewal and healing into their lives.

[30:34] It's not a program. It’s not even a group as much as I honor my group, my counselor, and everything else. But the times of worship, coming back, and continuing a rhythm of worshiping Jesus in the middle of an unstable year have been everything.

[31:47] If everything else falls away, God has proven to be all-sufficient and everything. In the middle of that grief, I've been able to turn to the Lord and open up His word and spend time in prayer and sing when no one else is around.


podcast transcript

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Aaron Armstrong (00:00):
I've been a big proponent of counselors for a number of years. You need people outside of yourself to be able to speak truth. There's some that say that biblical communities should be able to do everything for you, and that's idealistic. It's like if you've got that counselor in your group, wonderful, but most communities it's like, "We're going to care. We're going to pray together. We're going to do life together. We're going to weep and celebrate and all those fun stuff." But this dude's trained. This guy's gift is wisdom. This guy's paid to speak hardcore things to me.

Narrator (00:38):
Welcome to The Modern Church Leader, where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the Kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.

Frank Barry (00:52):
Hey, guys. Welcome to the podcast. Hey, Pastor Aaron. How's it going?

Aaron Armstrong (00:55):
Good, Frank. Good to meet you, man. Thanks for having me on.

Frank Barry (00:57):
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It's a blast. I love doing the show, I love talking to pastors. One thing that's cool is just hearing different stories of pastors and church leaders from all over the place. We've been doing this podcast for, I don't know, the better part of a year, and I've gotten to talk to pastors from super small churches in the middle of nowhere, to big megachurches and everything, all denominations all over the place. So I'd love for you to share a little bit of your story and how you got into ministry and the church you serve at now, and tell us a little bit about the church and everything.

Aaron Armstrong (01:35):
Yeah. So I'm at Dallas Bible Church, North Dallas area. I've been the senior pastor here for six years, but got into ministry, I wanted to be in ministry forever. Wanted to be in pastoral ministry for a long time. It happened in my high school years when-

Frank Barry (01:50):
Nice.

Aaron Armstrong (01:50):
... I came to faith very early on, the Christian home. And it was a good experience and faithful parents, and so it wasn't that hard to keep going with things. But I'd say God really got a hold of my heart in high school and I just say that he's never really let go since. So that continued through college and we wanted to go to seminary and do ministry. So we came out, I went to Texas A&M.

Frank Barry (02:15):
Nice.

Aaron Armstrong (02:17):
Don't hold that against me or anything, but we came out.

Frank Barry (02:19):
I was like, are we going to start talking football now?

Aaron Armstrong (02:21):
We could. I don't know that we want to go there, but...

Frank Barry (02:25):
Are you in a fantasy football league? Let's just ask that.

Aaron Armstrong (02:27):
I just had my draft last night.

Frank Barry (02:30):
Okay.

Aaron Armstrong (02:30):
Do we want to go there? Do we want to know who my first round pick was?

Frank Barry (02:33):
I did for the first time ever... Bear with us, listeners. For the first time ever, I did a live draft that was a snake draft, no computers, you got to know all your stuff. People were using computers for research, but it was a snake draft, but you had to nominate a player and you had a $200 salary cap for your team. So you would nominate a player and be like, "I want..." I don't know, Austin Ekeler or something like that, for $10. You nominate a player, then an auction starts happening and we had a live auctioneer.

Aaron Armstrong (03:18):
Whoa.

Frank Barry (03:19):
Doing a real auction.

Aaron Armstrong (03:20):
I'm right there.

Frank Barry (03:22):
You might nominate a great running back or Patrick Mahomes for $40 because he's the top QB. And then auctioneer would go off and all of a sudden, guys are bidding, bidding up, bidding up, bidding up. So it was three-and-a-half hours of crazy draft with, I think it's 14 teams, and it was a ton of fun. It was the first time ever doing a fantasy football draft like that.

Aaron Armstrong (03:45):
I may need to check that out next year. We'll see.

Frank Barry (03:48):
Yeah. It's intense. I don't know if I'm equipped for this league, but I'm going to give it a go.

Aaron Armstrong (03:53):
Well, good luck to you. It's the big time, so hopefully you got good prizes and stuff. We got a big WWF-sized gold belt for the winner, so hoping to preach in that one day. We'll see.

Frank Barry (04:05):
You have to do that.

Aaron Armstrong (04:06):
Yeah, right?

Frank Barry (04:06):
You have to do that.

Aaron Armstrong (04:08):
I feel like it would make its way into a sermon somewhere.

Frank Barry (04:10):
Yes. You better win. Don't come in last because that's sermon material too.

Aaron Armstrong (04:14):
That one's bad. We've got to do a bad TikTok video for the loser, and you don't want middle-aged pastors doing TikTok videos. There's nothing right about that.

Frank Barry (04:25):
Do middle-aged pastors even know how to use TikTok? I don't.

Aaron Armstrong (04:28):
No. Hopefully not. We are going to crash our youth group one night and let them film and it's just going to go bad for whoever loses this league.

Frank Barry (04:39):
We are going to reconnect at that moment because I just want to see the TikTok video now. I don't know what's going to go down.

Aaron Armstrong (04:46):
It won't be me. I'm going to have the gold belt. Anyway, that's all ministry related, right?

Frank Barry (04:52):
Totally. Hey, what better way to reach out to all the guys in the community than have a fantasy football league?

Aaron Armstrong (05:00):
That's what I think too. I think so too.

Frank Barry (05:02):
Yeah. So A&M, and then?

Aaron Armstrong (05:04):
Yeah. A&M, came out of there, met my wife. We both wanted to come up to Dallas to do seminary here. And we started doing seminary at Dallas Theological Seminary and connected with the church here. I was doing singles ministry for a little while there, and then I graduated seminary in 2011 and came up here in 2015.

Frank Barry (05:24):
Okay.

Aaron Armstrong (05:25):
So been in Dallas for about 18 years now and love it here and I love this church. It's fantastic.

Frank Barry (05:33):
Give us the makeup of the church. What's the size roughly? What was the size? Everyone answers that question with the pre-COVID and the post-COVID answer. So you can give us whatever version of the answer you want to give. But what's the church like?

Aaron Armstrong (05:49):
Yeah. So Bible church is a non-denominational denomination, so that's us. So pre-COVID, average adult attendance in the worship services, actual head counts was 550 averaged on a week, and was about 300 kids, that was birth through fifth grade, and about another 75 students. So what is that? 850 or 900 or something, on a Sunday morning?

Frank Barry (06:18):
That's math. I need a calculator.

Aaron Armstrong (06:20):
Yeah. I don't know that either but I think that's about right. And post-COVID, physical attendance is about 320 on average physical adults, and then you're seeing about another 100. Last week, we had almost 300 kids, but a lot of kids, obviously we're surrounded by a lot of wonderful neighborhoods.

Frank Barry (06:44):
Yeah. I was going to say, it's a lot of kids.

Aaron Armstrong (06:46):
And that's been the big boom is young families with young kids, elementary age and stuff. But we're seeing another 300-ish tune in live online.

Frank Barry (06:59):
So again... Oh, I'm sorry. Say that one more time just to make sure it's clear.

Aaron Armstrong (07:06):
So we're seeing about another 250 to 300 unique URLs tune in live on any of our different platforms and stuff.

Frank Barry (07:13):
Okay.

Aaron Armstrong (07:14):
So about 300 adult attendance and then another 250 to 300 unique URLs to make full time.

Frank Barry (07:20):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (07:20):
That's how we measure it.

Frank Barry (07:22):
Yeah, totally.

Aaron Armstrong (07:22):
It's like [crosstalk 00:07:22] and whatever else.

Frank Barry (07:25):
So if I'm roughly putting it together, do you think you're 60, 65% back in the building, give or take?

Aaron Armstrong (07:37):
Yeah. That's about right.

Frank Barry (07:38):
Something in there? Okay. Because just talking to a lot of churches, I think that's both reassuring to other pastors, seeing what's happening with other churches and how people are dealing with the pre-COVID attendance versus post-COVID. I think 65, give or take, is on the higher side of what I've heard. I've heard anywhere between like 40%, 60% roughly. People are roughing it, but you got some that are down in that 40% attendance and that's a rough go, and they're wondering what's going on.

Aaron Armstrong (08:20):
I'd say even with the 60, and knowing what's happening nationwide, for some reason it still doesn't feel that helpful to know, because it's a year plus of looking around and all of a sudden, being cut off from so many physically, in your body. I think that's been one of the biggest challenges of the past year that you thought you'd be prepared for, and the sadness, I think of looking around and being like, "I'm not seeing our body physically anymore."

Frank Barry (08:59):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (08:59):
So you know that you're on par with what's happening nationwide, but there's still a sadness of, "Man, it's not the same." We're not having fellowship and face-to-face engagements and able to care for people like we used to care for them, so it's a different feeling there.

Frank Barry (09:19):
Yeah. In this theme of pre-COVID and post-COVID church, with just with what you're saying, as a senior leader of a church who obviously cares deeply about the people and the church and the community, how are you dealing with it? Just the, "Man, I used to see person X, Y, Z, or family X, Y, Z," and maybe some that were like, "Oh, these were good friends, actually not just people that attended church and maybe I didn't know as well. Because when you're 1,000 people or 900 people in the building, you can't know everybody super, super well. But I imagine you had some good friends that maybe aren't showing up too much.

Aaron Armstrong (10:01):
Yeah, that's right. You don't know everybody in depth or anything, but you do see faces and there's familiarity, and there's a little bit of that loss.

Frank Barry (10:09):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (10:12):
I've always been a huge proponent of counseling community, of friendships even inside and outside the church. So I clung to that, apart from... This whole thing has personally just made me drive into the Lord and to really seek satisfaction from him, which has been really the redemptive part of this is to see God's satisfying and unique and powerful real ways. But even beyond that, at the beginning of COVID I jumped into reconnect with my counselor and told him, I was like, "Look, hey, I'm going to be coming to see you a lot and I want you to ask me tough questions, and I want you to ask me the questions that I probably won't want to answer. And I need you to help me make sure that I'm healthy. Help me see the things that I wouldn't be able to see if I was blind."

Aaron Armstrong (11:04):
So I spent a lot of time going to him and talking and processing, but then I've also got a good pastor networking group here in Dallas that we stayed connected and we meet very regularly, and those guys are everything. So we've walked through all the cultural ups and downs of the past year and how that's impacted people, our families, people inside the church. So that pastor networking group has been really, really strong to be able to come together for me and build each other up, and so that's been a big deal.

Frank Barry (11:41):
Look, I didn't even know it would take this turn, but I think pastors, people, whether it's a senior pastor or just the pastoral team at a church going through the last 18 months, obviously COVID crazy, but then you got politics and the election and you've got a lot of social issues and things happening in the world.

Aaron Armstrong (12:10):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (12:10):
And I'm like, man, every single pastor I talk to, whether it's on the podcast or just friends or other conferences, it's been hard. Really, really hard. And I love that you said, "Look, I go see my counselor and I've got this pastor's group that I stay super connected to in my community." I imagine you guys get together in person. Maybe you did some Zoom stuff for a while, but it's together. I guess those two things just stand out in that you're taking care of yourself. You mentioned first, really relying on God and that part of it, which is obviously the most important piece of it all. But then you're also adding, "Hey, I'm going to a professional."

Aaron Armstrong (12:56):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (12:57):
"I'm going to a professional counselor and I've got this group." So I don't know, talk a bit more about that. What opened your eyes to going to see a professional counselor, and what's that journey been like for you?

Aaron Armstrong (13:07):
I've been a big proponent of counselors for a number of years and we opened up a big... I've always believed you need people outside of yourself to be able to speak truth, hold you accountable, care for you and help you ask questions that you can't ask yourself. And a lot of times, that is your natural community, community groups inside the church and things like that, but I like paying somebody who I know is not going to be nice to me. So I was like, I need the confidentiality there, somebody who he's just going to tell me. And he's a retired pastor too, so he knows what ministry is and the ins and outs of it.

Aaron Armstrong (13:48):
So that was a big part was, I've been a big proponent of it, and quite honestly, it was sobering this past year, seeing so many friends, acquaintances and partners in ministry, all around the city, all around the country, really... You've seen the numbers of people that have retired early, people that have quit, people that have been fired, and some of them for just cause, a lot of them probably not for just cause, and it's sobering. It's really, really sobering. So it's like I need to do everything we can to just make sure that I'm healthy and that my family is going to be healthy and that we're going to bring healthy and to our church as best as we possibly can.

Aaron Armstrong (14:39):
So that was it. It's been a big value. We brought in counselors and stuff, just to do the same thing and to check in on our marriage. I've just always been a big proponent of that. I think that counselors are gifted by God in that way, to able to ask questions and to bring wisdom into moments and care into moments that are unusual in other relationships.

Frank Barry (15:05):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (15:05):
So I think I really value them a lot.

Frank Barry (15:07):
And they have professional training too. There's something to that.

Aaron Armstrong (15:11):
Right. They're experts in this right?

Frank Barry (15:12):
Yeah. They're actually asking-

Aaron Armstrong (15:14):
My friends that I have in biblical community, there's some that say that biblical community should be able to do everything for you, and that's idealistic. It's like, if you've got that counselor in your group, wonderful, but most communities it's like, "We're going to care. We're going to pray together. We're going to do life together, we're going to weep and celebrate and all those fun stuff." But this dude's trained. This guy's gift is wisdom. This guy's paid to speak hardcore things to me. And even if there's not a whole lot of consequences there, he can be really honest and I think it brings a value that you can't get in a lot of other places.

Frank Barry (15:49):
Yeah. I imagine for pastors, I don't know if this person goes to your church or not, but having a safe place that you can go that isn't other staff or-

Aaron Armstrong (16:03):
That's it.

Frank Barry (16:03):
... people in your church or whatever, that's important, right?

Aaron Armstrong (16:06):
Right.

Frank Barry (16:06):
Because you feel safe. You feel like you work on things.

Aaron Armstrong (16:12):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (16:12):
There's just something to it. I don't know.

Aaron Armstrong (16:13):
Never been inside your...

Frank Barry (16:14):
I've never been a pastor doing it, so I don't know, but I'm like, I imagine it gives you a real safe place.

Aaron Armstrong (16:20):
It is. And we pay for that for all of our staff. We pay for them and have them go to counselors, biblical counselors that are going to be able to do the same thing, help care for their soul in a way that's honest, they're not afraid for their job or anything like that.

Frank Barry (16:39):
Right. I'm looking at a note. I was talking... Gosh, I wish I could remember this off the top of my head. I was talking to a former pastor who got involved with a Christian counseling network. So basically, a nonprofit that was made up of Christian Bible-based counselors that pastors could go to, sourcing them so that pastors like yourself could go find something like this, because it's not...

Aaron Armstrong (17:12):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (17:12):
You know?

Aaron Armstrong (17:14):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (17:15):
There's something to it and it can have a little bit of a stigma or it could be looked down upon, or it just has all kind of baggage potentially with it. So he was doing something really cool, trying to make it acceptable and also provide those counselors like, "How do you find one?"

Frank Barry (17:31):
"Well, here's a whole huge resource full of them."

Aaron Armstrong (17:36):
Yeah. There definitely is a stigma that if you go see a counselor, you're sick, there's something wrong with you.

Frank Barry (17:42):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (17:43):
And I'm going, "What? Isn't that the basis of the gospel is the acknowledgement that we're broken and that Christ is coming and is all sufficient in this?"

Frank Barry (17:52):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (17:52):
It's like, "Yeah, I am."

Frank Barry (17:54):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (17:54):
I am. I need healing and God through the holy spirit is, is bringing that healing every single day. And he's using our counselor friends and people that are gifted and trained in that thing, that's their unique contribution. And I honor that and welcome it in my life.

Frank Barry (18:14):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (18:14):
So we want to break that down quite a bit. And that was a big thing that we wanted to come, a few years back. We opened it up in marital counseling in our church. We haven't hired that professional-trained counselor, because we think that counselors are very unique and you've got to find a right fit. So we've curated this list, but we pay for our members and people in our church. If you're willing to get counseling, we will pay for you.

Frank Barry (18:37):
Wow.

Aaron Armstrong (18:39):
And get the right help and the right specific directional care and training that you need to be healthy in your marriage, healthy in your relationship with the Lord, recovery things. And we do recovery groups and things like that too, but sometimes it needs to go a little further.

Frank Barry (18:54):
Right. When did you introduce that, I don't know, program, for lack of a better word?

Aaron Armstrong (19:00):
So one of my first things to tackle when I started was a $2 million debt that we needed to pay off and we'd committed to the church.

Frank Barry (19:09):
So you said the that'll send you to counseling right away. You just...

Aaron Armstrong (19:13):
Basically, as soon as we got done with that thing, that was one of the things we wanted to open up and we wanted to prioritize.

Frank Barry (19:20):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (19:20):
But there was a lot. There was a lot of, we were moving. So that was the big hurdle. But when we got debt free, I think that was gosh, two-and-a-half years ago now. That was one of the big movements was definitely want to open this part up, and I want to encourage vulnerability, people being honest about where they are so that we can welcome the Lord to come in and to bring renewal and healing into their lives and a lot of difference. So that was a big deal, and we saw people take us up a lot. A lot. And that was a really cool thing.

Frank Barry (19:55):
Yeah. That was my natural next question. How's it going? How did the church take it? How did you announce it and bring it in, and then how is it going?

Aaron Armstrong (20:04):
I dripped it a lot in different messages. I think in telling my own stories and stuff, they heard affirmation and valued there in the industry. I think there was one Sunday, a few years back, one of our ministers on staff, our women's minister got up and talked a lot about anxiety and how God used counseling and a biblical counselor to bring healing in her life, so we highlighted it from the front. Then in vision casting for becoming debt free, I dripped a lot of, "This is what we want to be as one of the elements for vision casting." So people were excited to pay off our debt early, I think, and we did. We got it done earlier than we'd committed to.

Aaron Armstrong (20:55):
It was interesting. I get away every July and do some prayer and "Okay, what's the Lord saying, and where's he going?" And come back and download that on Elders and staff each August. And came back, I think it was a couple years ago now and was like, "I feel like this is the year that people are going to take us up on this vulnerability thing and getting help." And man, the floodgates opened. It was beautiful. It was a beautiful thing to see people saying, "Yeah. Here's what's really going on in my marriage. Here's what's really going on behind the doors of my life," and creating a culture of vulnerability, honesty, and really safety so that they can come and get the care that's needed once you are vulnerable, not be crucified for it and killed for it.

Frank Barry (21:43):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (21:43):
Man, the floodgate's opened and so that's been really neat to see people connect that way and marriages get healed, and people reconnect, get over the shame and the guilt and shame of what a lot of sin does to us, and return back to affection for the Lord and to see worship happen in their life again. Honest worship. Not just church stuff, honest worshiping that people to say, "Wow, God broke into my life in this unbelievable way," and that's what it's about. But you don't get that apart from honesty and vulnerability, and so we needed to do whatever we could to create that safe space. Yeah.

Frank Barry (22:30):
That's amazing.

Aaron Armstrong (22:31):
So that's been a buildup and it was time for me to drink my own medicine a lot this past year.

Frank Barry (22:36):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (22:38):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (22:39):
That's super cool. Maybe mechanically, just share with the folks listening, how does that program exist in the church? Is it just like, "Hey, go to this website and set up an appointment," or is it like you've got, "Here's the 10 counselors we recommend"? What's it look like in terms of people learning about it and then taking the next step?

Aaron Armstrong (23:02):
Yeah. So it would be things that we drip quite a bit from the front, but honestly, it's when people come and talk, when they come and reach out to ministers, and we'll hear about it, so that all of our ministerial staff knows what's up, and we'll be proactive with people as we come across them and get to know some of their stories and invite them into it, because not everybody's going to come in and ask for help. But they will come and say, "Hey, look, I want to talk to you about a marital issue. I want to the about addiction," or whatever it may be.

Aaron Armstrong (23:32):
And we use those opportunities to come and say, "Hey, number one, we've got an incredible Freedom Prayer Ministry," which is a whole separate thing that's developed. That's a whole different thing I could talk forever about, but that Freedom Prayer Ministry, which is really intensive, just coming before the Lord and letting the Lord just free you of bondage addiction and all these heavy, heavy things. That's one element. And then we bring them through there and get them connected into these ministries. So I have a care pastor on our staff. He organizes these requests, deals with the reimbursements, has the curated list of counselors that we've vetted, trust and would recommend. So he will meet with the people and talk about their needs, make some recommendations and help them work to find the right counselor that they're going to gel with. And we do reimbursements, and so we just go like that.

Frank Barry (24:30):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (24:30):
And then he follows up with them on a pastoral level. Whereas, the counselors are able to go more in depth with a wide... That allows us to go wide with care in a very specific and deep and meaningful way.

Frank Barry (24:43):
Right. Right. Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (24:45):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (24:46):
Man, I love it. I love it. I hope the folks listening tune in and even reach out to you and just ask more about how you guys have done it and what it looks like, and even your personal experience, that kind of stuff. It's super cool. You mentioned the local pastor group too though.

Aaron Armstrong (25:04):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (25:04):
Let's talk about that a little bit because I think the theme of the show is just pastors taking care of themselves through all of this and how that can look. There's lots of ways to do it, but you've mentioned two things that I think are massively important, like the counseling side, but then you got your local pastor group, how did that form? And you're nondenominational, so it doesn't sound like you're affiliated with-

Aaron Armstrong (25:29):
Right.

Frank Barry (25:29):
... any particular already built-in grouping, right? You had to find your own thing is what it sounds like.

Aaron Armstrong (25:35):
Yeah. That's obviously the downside of being non-denominational is there's not a lot of organization and higher levels and stuff. But we are in town of, we got the seminary networks and there's a number of Bible churches and stuff around us, and so we connect that way. But honestly, it was a little slower for me to really establish. When I was the new pastor here, I was young pastor in Dallas Bible and I was a rookie in a veterans' field in Dallas, and so I didn't have that community. I had other friends in ministry, I was pretty connected in Dallas, but not at senior pastor positions.

Aaron Armstrong (26:11):
So it was a few years ago, just I was able to connect to some friends and say, "Hey, look, we really need to be intentional about this. I know we're busy and I know that we've got a million things going on and it's hard, it is hard to collaborate, and it's hard to make time to spend a couple hours a month with each other in an intentional way." But they were all on the same page and everybody was hungry for the same thing. So I found those friends and it really amped up during COVID.

Frank Barry (26:43):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (26:43):
At the beginning of COVID we were like, "Hey, we're going to need this a lot more than we did in the past." So the differences I joke with my elders, when I recruited them prior to COVID, it was like, "Y'all are peace time elders." They did hospital visits and prayed for people and it's like, "Yeah, what are we celebrating this week?" That's what our elders were like. And then we get into COVID and it's like, "All right. Here's the crisis. Here's the crisis. Here's the crisis."

Frank Barry (27:12):
Right. The wartime elders.

Aaron Armstrong (27:14):
Yeah. Those meetings are not two hours anymore, it was going on and on, and so that was pastoral ministry too. In peace time and in flourishing time we get to come and it's easy, but this is a season where we really need each other a lot more and amped it up a lot more.

Frank Barry (27:33):
Wow. Yeah. I never thought about it that way, but it totally clicks, like totally resonates with what's going on.

Aaron Armstrong (27:42):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (27:43):
How does the group function? It sounds like you meet once a month, you form this thing. But I don't know, what's it like? What do you guys do? How do you meet up? What do you talk about?

Aaron Armstrong (27:53):
It's not a big group. It was only five of us for a while, and that's good because we could talk and share each other's stories, and so really all we do is we pray, we eat lunch and we go around and we tell stories of what's happening. And each time, somebody's got something really heavy going on in the church, especially since 2020, anyway.

Frank Barry (28:19):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (28:19):
Before that, like I said, it was celebratory in a lot of ways, and it was peace time and it was encouragement and that kind of thing. But this was a lot of carrying each other's burdens and bringing them to the Lord together, and a lot of grieving.

Frank Barry (28:33):
Just being able to share it with peers, right?

Aaron Armstrong (28:38):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (28:38):
Like guys or girls, I don't know, that are in that same position as you. So you can come together at the same level, dealing with similar things.

Aaron Armstrong (28:49):
That's it.

Frank Barry (28:49):
Being-

Aaron Armstrong (28:51):
It's helpful to know that, "Okay, this isn't just here."

Frank Barry (28:54):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (28:56):
The tensions, the divisions that people are having in the body, this isn't just our place. This is national.

Frank Barry (29:03):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (29:04):
This is national, and the same conversations are happening in every congregation.

Frank Barry (29:08):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (29:09):
Man, that was really interesting to see. So that's how it plays out. It's not formal. We eat lunch, we talk, we pray, we wept, and we moved on.

Frank Barry (29:24):
Any golf involved? Do you guys get out and... You know?

Aaron Armstrong (29:28):
Not with these guys, we haven't played any. Yeah, we didn't play much this past year. So no, we were talking about a lake house up here pretty soon and going out and getting away together, but...

Frank Barry (29:44):
Yeah. That's amazing. Well, I think we could keep talking about a bunch of other things, but I feel like it took a different path and talking about pastors and how to take care of yourself through this is really important stuff. So I don't know, maybe as we wrap up, you talked counseling, you talked having another group, local pastors, peers. I don't know, how else would you encourage pastors that need to take care of themselves? What would you encourage them to do? What would you encourage them to think about? Any resources on your mind that you could share?

Aaron Armstrong (30:27):
Not to go pastor answer here or anything like that. It's rediscovering the joy of your first love in so many ways, quite honestly.

Frank Barry (30:37):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (30:38):
It's not a program, it's not even a group as much as I honor my group and my counselor and everything else, but the times of worship to be able to come back and continue a rhythm of worshiping Jesus in the middle of just a really unstable year has been everything. It's been everything. I think I started probably six years ago and my hope and expectation has been I get to retire there 25, 30 years from now. I love the church. Just love it. Love what I do and I love this church. So I hope I get to stay there forever. And this past year, you see so much instability in pastoral world and people falling off left and right.

Frank Barry (31:30):
Yeah.

Aaron Armstrong (31:31):
Falling into sin, getting fired, getting unjustly fired and retiring early, and you're like, "Holy crud. I may not get to retire here. It may not always be my choice." I hope it is. And I hope it is, and in the middle of that, to be able to come back and just say, "if everything else falls away, man, God has proven to be all sufficient in everything." So I don't want that to be churchy answer and stuff, but that's the real answer is that in the middle of that grief have been able to turn to the Lord and open up his word, and spend time in prayer and sing when no one else is around, and it's everything.

Frank Barry (32:13):
Right.

Aaron Armstrong (32:13):
It's everything. Yeah. Really, that's it. It's not a book, it's not a program or anything like that. It's like, all right, we may have less in our building now, but his mission moves on and his glory is deserving. His glory is deserving. So if it's half the crowd, two thirds of the crowd, we're just going to keep going and keep doing what we do, and people are going to come to know him and people are going to grow up in him and they're going to discover how beautiful he is, and we're just going to roll with that.

Frank Barry (32:59):
Yeah. Keep trucking, Amen to that. Pastor Aaron, this has been awesome. Thanks for coming on today.

Aaron Armstrong (33:01):
Thanks, man. Yeah, I really appreciate it. It's really good to meet you.

Frank Barry (33:04):
Yeah, you too.

Aaron Armstrong (33:05):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (33:05):
Where can folks go that are listening just to learn more about the church or you personally? Give us some of your online credentials.

Aaron Armstrong (33:15):
So our website is dallasbible.org. So on social media, I'm not as active as I need to be, and that's one of the convictions I've had-

Frank Barry (33:24):
Well, there's a TikTok video coming very soon.

Aaron Armstrong (33:27):
That's only for the loser, and so I don't expect that one to be coming out pretty soon. We'll see. Hopefully Jonathan Taylor will take me to the championship. We'll see.

Frank Barry (33:35):
That's awesome.

Aaron Armstrong (33:38):
Yeah, probably not, but anyway... So yeah, I'm on Facebook and Instagram and you'll get a little bit of insight there. But it's dallasbible.org.

Frank Barry (33:47):
dallasbible.org.

Aaron Armstrong (33:48):
Yeah.

Frank Barry (33:49):
All right. I love it. Pastor Aaron, thanks for today. I appreciate it. Thanks for everybody listening.

Aaron Armstrong (33:54):
Thanks a lot.

Frank Barry (33:54):
I'll catch you guys on the next episode.

Narrator (33:58):
If you enjoyed this episode of The Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple Podcasts or Spotify, so you never miss an episode, and we'll see you again next week with another conversation here on The Modern Church Leader.

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How to Promote Biblical Counseling at Church

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How to Promote Biblical Counseling at Church

Do you want to learn how to promote biblical counseling in your church, but don’t know where to start? This episode will help you find the right words, overcome objections and develop a strategy for sharing biblical counseling with your congregation.

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How to Promote Biblical Counseling at Church

Christian counseling is a fast-growing discipline, but this growth has not been without controversy. 

There is an idea floating around which tells us we cannot combine faith with mental health treatment. However, this can't be true because Jesus Himself was known for caring deeply about those dealing with emotional issues.

Church leaders should know how much stigma still surrounds counseling and offer resources without creating an additional barrier for those who need it most.

Everyone needs to be in counseling at some point in their life. Counseling is not about being broken or weak. It is about getting stronger and better with God's help. It is about the church reaching out to help people in their time of need. That's what it means to serve one another in love. And that's how a church should be. 

The church should provide this type of care for people, but often the church is left in the dark about what biblical counseling is and how to implement it.

Our guest, Aaron Armstrong, Senior Pastor at Dallas Bible Church, will provide you with everything you need to know about adding a biblical counseling component to your ministry.

"I've been a big proponent of counselors for a number of years. You need people outside of yourself to be able to speak the truth, hold you accountable, care for you, and help you ask questions that you can’t ask yourself.”
-Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the Lead Pastor of Dallas Bible Church. He received his Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

This is an opportunity for you to become familiar with biblical counseling and how it can benefit your ministry!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • How church leaders can reduce the stigma of counseling
  • How to promote biblical counseling at church
  • Why do pastors need a counseling community
  • The reasons to include counseling in the church
  • How churchwide vulnerability and honesty promotes renewal
  • The pastor support group that Aaron participates in
  • Acknowledging grief and sadness while recognizing the sufficiency of God
  • And so much more...

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[8:40] That's been one of the biggest challenges of the past year—the sadness of looking around and not seeing our body physically anymore.

[13:03] I've been a big proponent of counselors for a number of years. You need people outside of yourself to speak the truth, hold you accountable, care for you, and help you ask questions that you can’t ask yourself.

[14:49] I think that counselors are gifted by God in that way. We're able to ask questions and bring wisdom in the moments and care in the moments that are unusual in other relationships. 

[17:51] I need healing, and God through the Holy Spirit brings that healing every day. He's using our counselor friends and people that are gifted and trained in that.

[19:35] I want to encourage vulnerability, people being honest about where they are so that we can welcome the Lord to come in and to bring renewal and healing into their lives.

[30:34] It's not a program. It’s not even a group as much as I honor my group, my counselor, and everything else. But the times of worship, coming back, and continuing a rhythm of worshiping Jesus in the middle of an unstable year have been everything.

[31:47] If everything else falls away, God has proven to be all-sufficient and everything. In the middle of that grief, I've been able to turn to the Lord and open up His word and spend time in prayer and sing when no one else is around.


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