When I finally realized what Ephesians 4 was calling me to I was shocked. There Paul writes that God has given to the church pastors in order that they might “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” That is to say, the saints do the work of the ministry, not the pastors. In Biblical Counseling this means seeking to equip more lay people to do the basics of soul care in the congregation. Dr. Mark Shaw believes that a team approach to Biblical counseling best fulfills this replication demand. His work Strength in Numbers will serve as a good introduction to the basics of Biblical counseling for many.
The book is broken down into three sections. The introduction gives readers a brief summary of the three common approaches to counseling: secular counseling, integrated counseling, and Biblical counseling. For readers not familiar with these distinctions Shaw does an excellent job of simply defining them and exploring their differences. This is a necessary setup to the rest of the work. The first section places Biblical counseling squarely within the realm of the local church. He explores its parallels to discipleship and the need for the whole congregation to be involved. Section two focuses specifically on Shaw’s specific contribution to the larger discussion by highlighting the “strength of team ministry.” In particular he notes that team counseling diminishes the pride and “glory stealing” that can come (intentionally or not) in an individual counselor model. He also demonstrates that in a team approach there can be a better balance in listening, note taking, observing, and speaking the truth in love. He makes a compelling case in this regard. Section three concludes the book by mapping out a plan for implementation and replication within a Biblical counseling ministry.
Overall Shaw’s book is a good introduction to the basic elements of developing a Biblical counseling ministry within the church. He is very accessible for readers and offers loads of practical insights. The book can be redundant at points. At times it seems like various chapters repeated the same point, but overall this is hardly a reason to ignore the book. Readers will not learn how to do counseling, but pastors and counseling directors will learn how to implement a model of replicating counselors within the church. As a basic volume it is a good starting place for development of counseling leaders, no doubt readers will need more than just what is contained in this volume (I recommend Robert Kellemen’s two volumes in his Equipping Biblical Counselors series). Yet this volume does serve as a good introduction, and I recommend Strength in Numbers for that reason.