Something many people don’t realize about Biblical Counseling Center is that most of our staff counselors were first students in our online school, or interns as they finished advanced graduate level training in counseling.
Recently, we added Mark Johnson to our Indiana Counseling team. As a church elder, Mark took BCC Training nearly 20 years ago to improve his ability to care for and shepherd those in his church more effectively. Watching God at work through these encounters created a passion in him to continue to grow as a biblical counselor and make even more of an impact.
About a year ago, Mark retired from a successful business career, enrolled full time in a Master’s program in biblical counseling, and determined that his retirement years would be dedicated to spending more time with his family and impacting others in his church and Biblical Counseling Center. I asked Mark to share his story in his own words.
I grew up in a mainline denomination church in the rural climes of northern Illinois. The period was the 1960s and 1970s, and among mainline denominations, peace and good works were the dominant themes for preaching in the day. The social gospel did nothing to quell a rising fear of death that lurked behind me as I reached Junior High and High School.
It wasn’t until I was 15 when I first heard the gospel. I heard the news that the Son of God had died for my sins. Jesus was looking for me to turn from my sin and follow him. I can still remember sitting in the back of a 1970 Cadillac Fleetwood traveling home from a Bible study and turning to Christ.
It wasn’t until a few months later that I was in a friend’s house, and we were reading Hebrews together, specifically Hebrews 2:14–18.
“14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14–18)
The verses were like a breath of fresh air – I realized that I did not need to fear the nagging and persistent thought of death. Jesus, by his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, had delivered me from that fear and had given me hope for what is and what is to come in to replace it.
Biblical counseling has been that kind of hope for me and many others, replacing a nagging fear or an incorrect thought with the truth of God’s Word. I first heard of biblical counseling through the encouragement of our Senior Pastor, Robert Crain. Soon after coming to pastor our church, Robert had made an acquaintance with Ron and Sherry Allchin, who held some basic training classes.
Kelly and I, along with a few others from our church, attended and began hearing of the transformative power of the Word of God not only from the pulpit but in personal one-on-one settings, too. Biblical counseling resonated with my own life, and I began to see more opportunity in my capacity as an elder and Sunday school teacher.
I began to see the power of a church that was excited about pleasing God through caring for one another, encouraging one another, and comforting one another; the very kind of “one anothers” Paul so often mentioned in his letters.
I have seen many family and relational problems over the years that could have been avoided by folks looking for help from a church friend whom they could trust. As a father and a grandfather, I ache for families with no one to turn to in these challenging days. I long to see families helped by and helping one another, addressing the heart’s response to God, to circumstances, to others, and themselves.
The passion that I believe God has put on my heart is to see God’s people ministering to one another. I especially want to see families grounded in the spiritual disciplines, understanding their role and identity in Christ, and loving the Savior more and more. We need to see God’s people renewed in their thinking, changed in their affections, and transformed in their behavior.
Do you desire to have a front row seat to see God at work? Most of our students never become formal staff BCC counselors, but all of them are trained to faithfully share the word of God and make an impact right where they are. Biblical counselors should never forget that God is the hero of the story, however, we are privileged to use the gifts and training He has given us to make a difference for Him.