I’ve always chuckled a bit whenever someone recognizes his viewpoint is from the cheap seats; however, I think that works this time. I’m not on the board at either the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF @ccef) or the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC @acbc). However, I did have the privilege this past week to attend both annual conferences (#CCEF14 and #ACBC2014). Two great conferences. Two great themes. Two great locations. Many great plenary and breakout sessions. Great worship services and concerts. And, great food.
As great as they were, there are two other observations that I believe far surpass any of these.
They were both serious about suffering.
CCEF discussed loss and ACBC focused their conference on mental illness. Neither one was gospel-lite. They both recognized the fact that not only do people sin, but the church is filled with people who live in the midst of deep suffering. The annual conferences highlighted the significance of suffering and emphasized the church’s role in helping. Often those who hold to the sufficiency of Scripture are maligned as not being serious about dealing with mental illness or having the tools necessary to help one with loss; however, both conferences demonstrated the fallaciousness of that caricature. The plenary and breakout sessions provided Biblical counselors much to say and many ways to help those who need it from God’s Word through the church.
They were both filled with Christ-honoring conversations.
Maybe the most encouraging part of both conferences were the conversations. These annual events allow for biblical counselors to come together to discuss how God is working in their own lives and ministries, how they have seen God work in the lives of others under their care, as well as how they have been challenged to think wiser related to particular issues or people. These conversations take place in sessions, hallways, over meals, and, this year, walking down or sitting at the beach. What a joy to experience the genuine smiles, authentic handshakes, or caring hugs of others contending with you to provide help and hope for those in our various communities and contexts that need it. What a privilege to be reminded again of all those individuals who desire to remain faithful to the gospel while seeking to provide meaningful care for those who suffer. What an encouragement to know that we walk side-by-side seeking to love others as Christ with practical, gospel-centered hope of victory in Christ.