by Greg E. Gifford, PhD
Missionaries experience some of the most difficult circumstances a person can face, and they often do it alone. It’s difficult enough to face miscarriages, panic attacks, and conflict with teammates when you have a community of people to encourage you. It’s quite another to face these types of difficulties with just you—and maybe your spouse. Worse yet, member care for missionaries is directly connected to their ‘fitness for duty’, so to speak. Meaning, if you get a bad review by your agency’s member care personnel, it could mean the end of your time on the field. This blog is a conversation starter to make known the idea of being a counseling missionary (CM) who provides care to missionaries and nationals, alike.
Counseling Missionary (CM)
A counseling missionary (CM) is a person, male or female, who uses their gifts in biblical counseling to serve those on the field. This missionary can be sent as an independent worker to a region to provide care for missionary and national. Unlike member care, the missionary is not exclusively focused on the missionary but also on the national. It’s like a bi-vocational educator and missionary—using counseling to serve nationals, yes, but equipped to serve member’s, too.
I’ve counseled with a dozen or so missionaries who couldn’t find a biblical counselor through their agency. When they requested help, a psychologized counselor was their point of contact for care. It becomes ambiguous because the missionary reached out for help, but the counselor is on a different theological page. The agency wonders if the missionary is really wanting help? “Why would they refuse the help of member care?,” they think.
Member care is a dead-end, at times, because the counsel offered is quasi-biblical but the missionary must at least cooperate so as not to be viewed as insubordinate. It’s tricky isn’t it? A CM, however, could provide support and care in that situation in a way that is objective, third-party, and yet still biblical and authoritative. A CM can perhaps best minister to the missionary because they aren’t in the chain of command and can speak openly.
But a CM’s ministry doesn’t stop there. ABWE advertises,
From talking to a poverty-stricken mother about the truth of abortion, to training national pastors on how to listen to their congregations, Biblical counseling helps bring God’s Word into the lives of people who need it.
What if you used your calling in biblical counseling to care for the broken who are filling churches abroad? What if your skill in helping with the sufficiency of God’s word went international? The CM could potentially have more in-roads to evangelization, since the presenting problems are a great starting point for sharing the Gospel.
Let the Nations Have Access to Biblical Counseling
Biblical counseling has advanced, as a field, in many, positive ways. It’s time for us to advance in the area of counseling as a vehicle for missions and cross-cultural evangelization. Let’s use the vehicle of a presenting problem to help people understand their need for a Savior. And let’s do it in a cross-cultural capacity. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Ps. 67:4). Who will take the baton and unlock the opportunities to be a counseling missionary?
 ABWE, Abwe.org, accessed November 9, 2020, https://www.abwe.org/serve/focuses/counseling.
 Jay Adams said of counseling an unbeliever that, “ … that is all you can do for an unbeliever; you precounsel him; you can’t really counsel him. And all that precounseling means is that you are going to do some problem-oriented evangelism” in A Theology of Biblical Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 320.