FORT WORTH As people navigate the increased levels of fear prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, churches such as Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth are reaching out to offer the hope of the gospel through biblical counseling.
Greg Cook, Soul Care pastor at Christ Chapel, said Scripture “speaks to the deepest needs of our hearts and our experience.” Soul Care primarily uses trained volunteers to minister along the lines of 2 Corinthians 1, he said, with people who have been comforted then comforting others.
In Christ Chapel’s counseling ministry, volunteers lead people to “the Helper, the Counselor,” and discipleship drives the ministry, Cook told the TEXAN.
“As we’re called to share the gospel with others, make disciples of them and send them out, there’s no difference between that and what we’re trying to do; it’s just a specific area,” Cook said.
All counseling is about change, Cook said, adding that the fundamental change a person needs is a restored relationship with God.
“For those who don’t know Christ, we try to introduce them to the real source of true comfort and peace because unless we’re restored to God, we can’t be restored well to others,” Cook said.
Soul Care, in part using curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources, guides individuals and small groups through loneliness, fear, rejection, grief, addictions and struggles with purity, among other challenges.
“Oftentimes in the individual care process, I’m having others observe and learn how to do this work of caregiving,” Cook said. “It’s formal. I hope it translates to something more informal later on. We have a lot of dedicated volunteers who just give their time to listen and then hopefully speak biblical truth into each other’s lives.”
Christ Chapel has continued their small groups online during the pandemic. Their website includes an invitation for people to seek help, and they plan to offer more training online in the coming days.
“We have individual mentors, and they continue to make calls,” Cook said. “That ministry has continued. Part of our ministry is individual-based, part of it is small groups-based and part of it is training and equipping.”
Some of the classes Soul Care offers encourage people to think about the role of emotions, “and that opens people up to the idea of the heart as a focus of change, realizing our emotions are never disconnected from the rest of us. They’re closely connected to our desires and longings,” Cook said.
“How do we understand our angry responses, our fearful responses, our depressive responses in light of what the Scriptures say is true about us?” Cook said. “Of course we have hope because by the work of the Spirit we can be transformed and become more and more like Jesus. Those emotions can come under the control of the Spirit and the purposes of the Savior.”
Last year Soul Care served an estimated 750 people, and they typically have 20 to 30 lay counselors, Cook said.
Cook reminds people of God’s sovereignty and his unchanging character during this uncertain time.
“It’s helpful to know God is in control, and though this [pandemic-prompted] change represents a great threat to us, it’s never threatening to God. There’s a great hope in knowing the one who is unchanging is guiding us through, whether we can tangibly feel it or not,” Cook said. “He’s always presenting himself as a source of peace to us, and I think the peace comes from the knowledge of his character.”
Often, Cook said, the temptation to try to predict how things will go “only creates chaos.”
“When I’ve struggled off and on with depression, it’s overwhelming fear and also a hopelessness,” he said. “Hopelessness is attention to a circumstance or our own power, so when I look to the person of God, his character always settles what’s unsettling to me. In other words, my focus is either on the circumstance or on the Savior.”