QUESTION: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve been married for twenty-eight years to my college sweetheart, Shirley. Shirley and I have two young adult children. Josh is twenty-four and married to Andi, and is in law school in Washington State. Marie is twenty-one and is a college senior at Purdue, majoring in chemistry, and lives at home with us in Crown Point, Indiana.
I graduated with my BA in Pastoral Ministry from Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit, PA. I earned my Th.M. in Theology and Biblical Counseling from Grace Seminary in Winona Lake, IN. I have my Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Kent State University. I’m also a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).
I pastored three churches in Ohio and Maryland. In two of those churches I was an Associate Pastor focused on counseling and equipping. I also have served as a Sr. Pastor. For over a dozen years I was Chairman of the Master of Arts in Christian Counseling and Discipleship Department at Capital Bible Seminary. I am now the Professor-at-Large for that program.
I am also the Director of the Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Network (BCSFN) for the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). Our vision is to equip people to use God’s Word to help God’s people to grow in Christlikeness. In my role as Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries (www.rpmminstries.org) I write, speak, and consult about Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation.
In all my spare time, I coach high school wrestling, play in a men’s softball league, run daily, love sci-fi, and am a life-long diehard Chicago Cubs fan.
I’ve been married to my wonderful husband, Paul, for 25 years. We have two children. Samantha, our youngest, is with the Lord. Our son, Paul, is married to Kristen and they have a beautiful toddler, Jocelyn, whom I adore. My mom lives with us along with our 80+ pound mutt, Daisy.
I have a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland. Then I waited 17 years before going back to school to get my M.A. in Christian Counseling and Discipleship (MACCD) from Capital Bible Seminary (CBS) in Lanham, MD. I started working in the MACCD department the week I started classes. I wore many hats at CBS, including Women’s Mentor, Adunct Professor in the Women’s Concentration, Academic Advisor, Director of MACCD Student Services, and Department Coordinator.
Prior to returning to school, I was a counselor and the Director of Development at an area pregnancy center. At the local church level I’ve been on leadership teams for Discipleship, Moms, Women’s, Counseling, and Retreat Ministries; provided lay counselor training; and ministered through speaking at women’s events. Most recently, I have launched Eternal Community (www.EternalCommunity.org), a ministry devoted to equipping, empowering, and encouraging professional counselors, the clergy, and lay men and women in the art of biblical counseling, discipleship, and spiritual formation through writing, speaking, and consulting. I also partner with RPM Ministries.
When I’m not working, I love hanging out with my family. I also enjoy traveling, gardening, scrapbooking, skiing, horseback riding, and sometimes I even enjoy cooking.
QUESTION: What’s the “big idea” behind Sacred Friendships? What would you like readers to take away from it?
Far too often we build our models of ministry by ignoring over half the Christian world—women. The big idea of Sacred Friendships is to give voice to the voiceless by celebrating the legacy of Christian women and by applying that legacy to our ministries today.
We want readers, men and women, to learn from godly women of the faith how to be powerful spiritual friends. Readers will be enriched by the powerful stories of the heroic sisters of the Spirit to apply proven ways to help people find healing hope in the midst of deep pain. They’ll be empowered to help people to find God’s grace for their sins and God’s strength for their journey.
QUESTION: You use a historic model of ministry as a map to tap into the resources of women in ministry. That map includes four “compass points” in the personal ministry of the word: “sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding.” What do each of these look like in real life ministry?
That question is vital to the main purpose of Sacred Friendships. Some books write about church history. A few focus on women in church history. Some highlight women counseling women. We took the daring and unique step of writing about the history of how women ministered personally to others, and then drawing implications for today. To do that, we followed a church history model of ministry.
In church history, there are four roadmap markers for what today we call “counseling.” They are known as sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. These four themes become like compass points on a map guiding us toward biblical soul care and spiritual direction.
Sustaining is like modern-day empathy where we say to a hurting friend, “It’s normal to hurt.” I like to use the somewhat macabre analogy of climbing in a casket. When the Apostle Paul was hurting in 2 Corinthians 1:8, he spoke of such agony that he “despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” Far too often, as Christians we refuse to let people go there—we want to race them to healing before we join them in hurting. Our women forebears climbed in the casket.
Of course, we don’t want to remain in the casket! So healing is the next road map marker. Healing says, “It’s possible to hope.” I like to use the picture here of celebrating the empty tomb. Paul said it this way, “But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Healing moves with people from casket-like pain to resurrection power. It empowers people to move beyond the suffering to healing hope.
If sustaining and healing move us from hurt to hope, then reconciling and guiding offers us God’s grace for our disgrace. Some models of counseling only focus on suffering, others only on sin. True biblical counseling and historical soul care and spiritual direction focus on both. In reconciling we say, “It’s horrible to sin, but wonderful to be forgiven.” This is where confronting sin, repentance, forgiveness, and grace are all crucial. And the women of Sacred Friendships were not timid about confronting sin!
The final compass point is guiding. With guiding we say, “It’s supernatural to mature.” Here brothers and sisters in Christ help one another to apply Christ’s changeless truth to their changing times. It is the mutual application of biblical principles to daily life issues and relationships. The women of Sacred Friendships were exemplary mentors and we learn so much about spiritual direction from them.
Susannah Wesley (1669-1742), mother of Wesleyan pioneers John and Charles, exemplifies in one breath these four interrelated callings. She wrote: “We are to be instructed, because we are ignorant [guiding]; and healed, because we are sick [healing]; and disciplined, because so apt to wander and go astray [reconciling]; and succored and supported, because we are so often tempted [sustaining].”
Susannah Wesley and uncountable Christian women like her followed a spiritual compass. Instead of N-S-E-W, their soul care and spiritual direction compass points read S-H-R-G: Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. Throughout Sacred Friendships, they gift us with their wisdom—wisdom for ministry today to God’s glory forever.