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033 Interview with Brian Borgman {Transcript}

About This Transcript

Pastor Brian Borgman talks about how his church uses IBCD resources for counseling. He also unpacks what his 25 years of ministry has taught him about dealing with addiction. This interview was recorded live at the 2017 Institute “Addictions: Grace for the Journey.

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Craig Marshall:

Hello and welcome to the IBCD Care and Discipleship podcast. We’re here live at Mission Hills in San Marcos for our 2017 institute. I’m excited to have with me Brian Borgman. He’s one of our speakers this year, and has been for the last several years, and written several books on biblical counseling related topics. He’s a pastor at Grace Community Church in Minden, Nevada. Brian, it’s great to have you with us.

Brian Borgman:

It’s good to be here.

Craig Marshall:

Did I get all that right?

Brian Borgman:

Yeah, I guess.

Craig Marshall:

Okay. Brian, one of the things I love about having you at our conferences is just the pastoral presence that you bring as someone who takes the word of God seriously, takes shepherding seriously. You were coming to this conference yourself and then also can speak at it as well. I know you find these things edifying and helpful. That’s how I feel about them, so it’s great to have like minded friends.

What’s been helpful to you about biblical counseling and just thinking through one another care in the ways that have been talked about at IBCD and other things like that?

Brian Borgman:

Yeah, I mean we’re always trying to help people. We’re trying to point them to Christ. We’re trying to bring word of God to bear on their lives and help them see how the bible really does have the answers. Not just an answer book, per se, but it is God’s power. What IBCD has done, and this goes back years, is that it puts practical tools on how to help people into our hands. I’m glad we have four or five people from our church here this year. Saw a guy from Wyoming this morning. I said “Hey, I didn’t know you were coming.” He goes, “Well you told me to.”

Craig Marshall:

Oh wow.

Brian Borgman:

I just think that this is really one of the most practical and helpful conferences that there is. IBCD itself is just a treasure trove of resources. You can go to the website there’s … You know you can just … You’re dealing with something, you can have people listen, you can listen yourself, and so I love what you guys do and, of course, love what George and Jim have built into this over the years. I personally have profited from it. People in our church have profited from it. We’ve done levels one and two for Sunday school, for the care and discipleship. I just see this as really just sort of a hands on equipping type ministry.

Craig Marshall:

Thanks so much for your contributions to that content as well. Having you come and speak and the way you open the word on these topics. I know it’s always, it’s fun for me as we think about a conference theme and then you and I talk a little bit and what aspects need addressed and you’re always willing to tackle something and see what the scriptures have to say about that, especially with the pastoral one another component of it. That’s really helpful.

Then your writings, Viewings In Faith and Spiritual Warfare, they’ve just been really helpful in pastoral counseling settings. Really appreciate having you on the team that was as well. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’ll be talking about at this year’s conference?

Brian Borgman:

Well, if you remember rightly, Craig, I tried to bow out of actually doing anything this year, but our mutual friend brought a little pressure to bear. The breakout session is going to be on pastoral lessons on dealing with addictions. Basically when you and I had talked about that as a workshop I though “Oh well that’d be great.” Well, then I started trying to put it together and it was really hard because there’s a lot of stuff that you realize we did that wrong, we did that wrong. So what I decided to do to kind of help prepare for this is three people that had been in drug or alcohol addiction that had, all three had been under church discipline. All three, or two of the three had actually been excommunicated. They ended up being restored, repented and restored to the church.

I sat down with each of them and just asked them a series of questions, just interviewed them. You know, how did you get into it, all the questions dealing with the sin itself to what did the church do that was helpful, what did the church do that was not helpful. Once I started to put that together and see the way that these answers were sort of jelling, then it became a little more clear as to the direction that I would take.

Craig Marshall:

That’s a great approach to it I love that it’s based on that real life experience that way. We can blame Jim for how hard it was today ’cause he’s the one who … Then explain this for me. Last year you had talks, it was last year right, you were lined up to go, you have brain surgery and I’m saying “Brian, you don’t need to do it” “No I’m going to do it.” This year you’re trying to get out of it, and boy I just don’t understand but we’ll take it.

What are some of the commentaries, not to give away your whole workshop but just as you’re saying that I’m just intrigued of just a few things that the church has done right in your experience and then a few things where you look back and you say “Oh wow, it’s good to know this now.”

Brian Borgman:

Yeah, our church is 24 years old and I planted the church. It seems that from our very inception we have dealt with people with drug and alcohol problems all along. What the talk is going to consist of is me basically talking about first of all lessons regarding the offender and the sin, just sort of common themes. Some of the stuff will be obvious, some of the principles or lessons. It was important too that I assess what we did that wasn’t helpful. I had files and notes and went back over things and thought man, if we were doing this today we would not do that. But then there was other stuff that was somewhat instinctive.

Trying to get a team of people around a person, because in one sense I want to say that the drug and alcohol abuse are sins like other sins, but we also know there’s something unique about these sins as well. It’s very consuming. Well, the counseling becomes very consuming. Just to see the way that in the past we just sort of instinctively put people around people that were struggling. People that had both experience, personal experience. People that were grounded. So those kinds of things.

One thing that has been very important is our approach to church discipline, which some people would think that under these circumstances, you know, for instance we just heard that every addict deals with shame, and not to downplay any of that but actually the weight, the gravity of church discipline has been a significant thing. In fact, there’s a woman here from our church who was on the brink of excommunication and God used the discipline process to bring her to repentance. She’s here. So just some of those kinds of observations, lessons, positives, negatives.

Craig Marshall:

Yeah, that’ll be good. I look forward to hearing that. One of the things that you mentioned is just the intensive nature of these struggles in particular as we think of substance addiction. Then even just as I think more broadly, my life situation has changed in last year focusing more now on pastoring and preaching and shepherding, less on IBCD so that’s been a shift that now I’m experiencing this conference, thinking through it even more pastorally than before. I was serving as an elder before, but just the weight of shepherding, caring for a flock.

There’s a sense in which I love coming and hearing biblical counseling things but on the other hand it just makes you feel the weight of the needs in the church and just the gravitas of how there’s always more to do. How have you processed that as an experienced pastor of just the weight of shepherding a flock, especially in the midst of these intensive situations where you could always do more in a sense or it feels like, what are some things you’ve learned?

Brian Borgman:

There’s something about these sins in particular that really … I want to say you shrink back from because you know what’s coming. Once things start to be uncovered you start to realize “okay here we go again” and you realize that there is going to be lying and deception and that this is going to take a lot out of our eldership. It’s going to take a lot out of the people that we ask to get involved. There’s a sense in which I really do kind of shrink back from this emotionally, just I don’t want to do this. But you also then realize how much is at stake and somebody’s out there destroying their life and not just theirs but a spouse, children, a church body, people around them.

You realize what’s at stake and you try to be proactive. You try to be assertive, maybe even at times aggressive, in trying to deal with it. This is not something that you can say “Oh, Craig, you had an outburst of anger, why don’t we get together every other week and we’ll work through this or that.” You’re talking about something that is so consuming that that person basically needs supervision 24 hours a day, if truth be told, right. Thankfully we have very good group of elders. We have very loving church, people that are willing to get involved, but it is a daunting task.

Craig Marshall:

What do you think, as people in the church, ’cause I think of the people who are listening to this podcast we have some pastors, church leaders, but a lot of people who listen to it just care about other people in the church. They’ve caught a vision for one another care. As they dive into other people’s lives and people are opening up to them, they’re starting to find out there are things like this and they’re wondering how can I be of help. As you’ve looked back at how the church comes alongside and the people in the body are utilized, what are some things that you’d like to encourage them to do or be aware of even as they think about helping in these really tough situations?

Brian Borgman:

I think that if you’re going to really help people, if you’re going to have a congregation that really does in a sense rally to help, you need people that first of all understand the insidious nature of these sins. Because lying and deceit are so closely connected with drug or alcohol abuse, sometimes well-meaning people can be sort of sucked in and somewhat deceived into thinking that the church is just being harsh with this person who’s just really having a hard time or whatever.

I just recently shared a letter that must be 15 years old now with one of my co-pastors. We had put a man under discipline. The man himself agreed with the discipline. We got a very stinging rebuke from a guy saying “How in the world can you treat somebody like this” but he had bought into they’re being harsh with me and so forth. I think the idea of just being willing to say “You know what, I don’t think you’re being truthful right now, okay” but then also being willing to ask the hard questions.

One of the things that I think well-meaning church members do that is not helpful is that we speak in these generalities, right, so how are you doing? “I’m doing pretty good, struggle here or there.” We need to be specific if we’re going to help people. Tell me what your struggle actually is. Then just kind of realize that the two beers probably means ten. Be willing to push, because in a sense that’s how we’re going to love people is by speaking the truth to them in love, coming along, of course in the spirit of gentleness. We don’t want to be harsh, but we want to be relentlessly truthful with them. I think that’s hard for some people. Other people, God helps them and they can be quite effective at it.

Craig Marshall:

Yeah, what you’re describing some of that has been surprising to me pastorally, and then also as we’ve worked with other situations at IBCD, you’re pouring all this effort into a person who’s caught in sin and lying and deceiving and then other people who come alongside to help all of a sudden they’re starting to buy into like the leadership’s not doing it right, or whatever. All the energy then it takes to rectify that situation. It’s like oh wow, and you can feel like you’re getting it on all fronts. I know I’ve come to appreciate so much when people in our church is they get close to … They find out about a situation like this and they carefully come to the leadership and just say “Hey I was talking to so and so, I’d image there’s probably more to what I’m hearing” like just that benefit of the doubt.

Brian Borgman:

Yes.

Craig Marshall:

I find that really blesses my heart pastorally.

Brian Borgman:

Yes, yes.

Craig Marshall:

But sometime we don’t have that opportunity and get to lovingly try and to help with that as well. I think that’s helpful for our people to know of, there’s probably more of the story when it comes to things like this.

Brian Borgman:

Right, right.

Craig Marshall:

The other thing that I’m wondering, as I hear this, is you’re talking about strong eldership and a church that cares for people deeply and people within the church who are willing to come alongside and bring the truth in love. How do we get there? People may be in churches where they say “My leadership’s trying to do this,” or “We as a church there are a few people who do.” You’ve been at this church now for 24 years. I’d imagine it isn’t this instant fix of you do this one program or go through level one and we’re all doing that. What are some things that the Lord has allowed your church to experience, to go through, or that you’ve chosen to do that have helped build this in?

Brian Borgman:

Well I think there’s two interrelated things that have to be in place. One is you have to have a culture, a climate, where helping each other is part of what’s expected. Part of building that culture, of course, is preaching and spending time on the “see to it brethren that there not be anyone among you with an evil heart of unbelief, that falls away from the living God, but encourage one another day after day.” For me what’s been really important in terms of preaching is not only the biblical admonitions to perseverance, but the way that the one another passages fit in with perseverance. We need each other to persevere in the faith. We are means of grace to each other. I think that’s one of the ways that the climate is built.

Then you have to actually put real tools into people’s hands. You can’t just say, this is what you’ve got to be doing and then let them figure it out on their own in a sense. You get some people that are going to gravitate towards that and figure it out on their own, but by and large you’re going to need to be equipping. So everything from the smallest things, like having a book room that’s stocked with books that are designed, so good biblical counseling books for instance. Seeing it modeled. Hearing it taught. Then taking specific opportunities to equip. I think the climate and then the particular equipping are actually two things that come together that help.

God has blessed us with a congregation that really loves each other. There’s really a sense of family. It’s not like we’re a tiny congregation, we’re not a mega church either, but we’re not a tiny congregation so it takes a little bit of work to be involved in people’s lives. I think that having that, in a sense, that biblical undergirding of “look we’re in this together and I’m going to help you and you’re going to help me.”

Craig Marshall:

So you are on sabbatical technically.

Brian Borgman:

Technically that’s true.

Craig Marshall:

Technically, preaching a lot on sabbatical so far, right. But you have a project that you’re working on. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Brian Borgman:

Yeah, so before I had brain surgery last year I was working on a book called The Gift of Preaching, which is basically designed for church members to better understand and then better profit from preaching. Lord willing I’ll get that done before the sabbatical is over. I have a burden for people to really be good listeners, good hearers, and good doers of the word. I think in a sense kind of framing people’s expectations. This is what God promises to do and preaching. This is how we can prepare to better receive it. I think that kind of thing is very helpful. We’ll see.

Craig Marshall:

A year ago you were pretty fresh out of brain surgery when you were here. How is the year since that surgery been going for you? Being back and coming back into the [pastorip 00:20:40]?

Brian Borgman:

Yeah, it’s … I mean in all seriousness I probably came back too soon. I mean I was here a month after brain surgery. I still had stitches.

Craig Marshall:

Yeah, it looked fresh.

Brian Borgman:

I probably didn’t do myself any favors because I went back to preaching, I probably should have taken a little more time off, but God’s been incredibly kind and my recovery has been very good. I mean I love what I do, and so sitting at home and listening to the sermon on the internet, I mean and the preaching was good while I was gone alright, so no complaints there, but it’s like God wired me to do what I do and I love it and so it was hard to be at home. But God’s been really kind in the recovery and I feel pretty good.

Craig Marshall:

That’s great. Well it’s great to have you back with us again this year and with your wounds healed up a little bit more than last time. We’re so thankful you love doing what you do and the gift that you are to the church and to this conference. Thanks so much for being with us and we’ll be sure to make your message from this conference available on our site and linked to it and then also some of the works that you’ve written as well. Thanks so much for taking time to talk with us, Brian.

Brian Borgman:

Thanks, Craig.

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