Three years ago we started asking what would it look like for the church to care deeply for one another. We lived in a tension of knowing we should be doing more and doing better but feeling limited. We knew we didn’t want to simply create new programs or ministries but felt the conviction that God wanted us to learn to truly love one another and to grow in effectiveness in doing so. We were great at calling people to mission but weak at caring for people in the process.
One of the first things we realized was that most of the help we did have for people who were hurting was found on the fringes of the church or outside the church community. It was easier and much less messy to send folks to the hospital to get better until they could rejoin the mission. This started to change as we began to teach and live in the reality that we are all desperate for the power of the gospel to not only save us but to sanctify and change us daily. We began to train our elders, leaders, and church in the centrality and practicality of the gospel in dealing with our sin and suffering. Through this process the gospel became the primary lens we approach counseling with and and primary content of our counseling.
We also recognized that God designed community to be the primary context in which He changes us. All our individual stories involve God using some relationship in our lives as a means of changing us in profound ways and bringing us to Jesus again and again. So, we began to teach our small groups the importance of applying the gospel in the context of community and how to do it. We started telling people that the everyday life of working, playing, resting, eating, drinking with others is the space in which God’s Word and Spirit breaks into our lives and changes us.
This was a great shift but we also saw there are times when the tension of our sin and suffering is such that we are left in greater need for the gospel to be applied. With this, we saw a need for focused professional counseling, yet, not the traditional kind that is too often separate from our communities and different in content. We began asking what it would look like if we invited our communities into the professional counseling process and if the gospel was central to it. So, after much prayer, research, and many conversations with folks around the country, we opened the doors to the Austin Stone Counseling Center with a vision to provide gospel-centered, community-based, professional counseling to our church, the churches in Austin, and to our city.
It has been amazing to see what God has done over the last two years:
• We have provided over 5000 hours of counseling.
• We have served over 800 clients.
• All of this we have done in partnership with churches in our city and in many cases these clients have brought advocates in.
God is still writing the story and we are still learning.
I believe that God has even greater things in store for the churches in Austin and in our city in the days to come. We are humbled to have the opportunity to play a small role in this great story He is writing and the ways He is transforming lives. Thanks for your part in this!