On any given day Ed Welch and Todd Stryd may be found counseling, teaching or writing. As you may imagine, they spend much time considering how Scripture impacts our lives. Here is a glimpse of what they have been thinking about recently.
Todd, what have you been learning from Scripture lately?
I’ve been struck by the immense privilege we have thinking about and communicating the interaction of faith and life. I’ve spent the past few months in the gospel of Mark, and have been caught off guard by the practical riches that flow from his presentation of the good news.
Mark’s style is built around the subtle ways that Jesus, as the awaited Messiah, surprises and reshapes the reader’s expectation of God’s kingdom. Think of John the Baptist in Mark 1:4-8. The expectation of a first century Jew was that the Messiah’s base of operations and place of anointing would be the holy city of Jerusalem. His reign would begin with pomp and circumstance and validate everything the Jewish people knew to be true about the way the world worked. In contrast to these expectations, Jesus is anointed by a man dressed in garments of camel hair, on the margins of society, into a mission of repentance and service.
As you can imagine, this shocking and unbalancing picture of the Messiah has significant implications on the way we think life works—the way problems are solved, conflicts are addressed, and people are healed. It is influencing the way I think about counseling ministry. The Gospel of Mark makes me consider how my expectations in ministry bump up against the way Jesus says ministry works. The way of true life, and true ministry, is the way of repentance, compassion, and humility.
Ed, can you tell us a little about what you are learning in your work?
This is such an important question to me. Learning and growing, I think, are essential to our lives and our work.
As a teacher, I am always eager to study new biblical passages, read new books, and try to bring everything together in a way that is accessible and memorable. This past semester I targeted that wonderful phrase, “in Christ,” and ventured further into Paul’s thought, and God’s. I can’t think of too many things better than learning about that spiritual reality.
As a writer, I am reading my writing aloud as a way to edit and clarify. Ah, my longsuffering wife who listens to much of it.
As a counselor, I am learning to pray for people more. Of the different parts of my job description, I enjoy counseling the most. It is an honor to be brought into the details of someone’s life and then together to consider how God speaks to those details. So I don’t counsel because I think it is important to the rest of my work—though it is. I counsel because it is a pleasure that is hard but good.
Ed, you travel frequently to teach and speak. Where have you been recently?
Janet Nygren, one of our current counselors, was a student of ours and then became a representative of CCEF during a residency in Malaysia. She recently took me back to her old stomping grounds in order to serve the church in Malaysia and Singapore.
My wife Sheri and I recently returned to Poland to serve at the European Leadership Forum. We had been invited last year as well, which is the only way you can attend. This gathering draws together some of the most influential Christians in Europe, especially Eastern Europe. Days were filled with giving workshops and seminars, meeting with small groups of those wanting to grow in biblical counseling, and meeting with individual pastors and leaders. I was blessed and inspired by their wisdom and sacrificial love. And I am privileged to continue mentoring some of them.
Todd, what are some of the things you have been working on?
The spring term held the bulk of my teaching responsibilities for the year. I care deeply about students understanding and retaining the information they encounter in class. I pray that they continue to be blessed by what they have learned and that God would grant the glorious coupling of their soul and mind.
In terms of writing, I’m thinking about piggybacking on Ed’s most current writing interest and briefly exploring how our priestly role and calling flows into our counseling methodology. I want to consider how ministers of the gospel have a declarative function. Like the priests of the Old Testament, we have the responsibility and power of proclaiming God’s view of the person in front of us. The difference of course is that our declarative role in ministry is not determined by purity codes and the sacrificial system. Rather God’s declaration of people’s status and identity is now bound up with his declaration about his only begotten Son of whom he proclaims he is “well pleased.”
Scripture is so vital to our life and work. How would you like us to pray for you, for CCEF, and for the church at large?
Todd: David and Ed have encouraged the faculty towards a role that is a combination of practitioner-scholar–someone who does high-end pastoral care while simultaneously doing the hard scholarly work of mining Scripture and theology. I think I’m starting to move from a practitioner-heavy existence. The podcasts, blogs, journal, thinking in light of creating new content for classes, all of that is pushing me past sort of this passive scholar into one who is trying to be more active. The challenge is to try to balance the cares of people and the push and pull of their requests and needs with carving out time to think. I’m finding that difficult, so I would appreciate prayer for that. I love the model and I want to be able to attain that by God’s grace.
Ed: When we talk about scholarship, the question is how do we meditate on things that are especially important. My interest is in making scripture accessible but related to that, I want to be able to disciple people in biblical counseling more, meaning in such a way that they don’t simply receive little pieces of information that are useful, which they go to every once in a while. Scripture itself can seem like somewhat disconnected pieces, but as we know it better we see this one story that goes throughout and is coherent. Scripture really guides us and we need to follow suit with our own work. We’re looking for something not just accessible but coherent. How can we disciple people as biblical counselors and say here’s an entry, here’s what’s especially important, now let’s build on that. So people know where they are at all times and see the larger structure of how to do personal ministry. I would certainly like prayer for that process.