We sat down with Doug Chrystal, our Pastor of Biblical Counselling, to ask him a few questions about his life and the ministry that he leads here at Christ City.
So, Doug, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was saved at the age of 26, and from my earliest days as a believer I wanted an answer to the question, what does it mean to be a Christian? As much as I strived to learn what it meant to be saved, I wanted to know what it meant to live the Christian life, what obedience to the will of God looked like in everyday life. As I wrestled with these questions, I grew to appreciate the practical guidance and wise counsel of the more mature believers in my life, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, these interactions nurtured the desire in me to become a biblical counsellor.
Early on, I decided to go to seminary to grow in my biblical and theological understanding. During my time there I recall reading about the Anabaptists, and I was struck by the emphasis they placed on “walking in the newness of life” (Rom 6:4). This emphasis spoke to me. It seemed so obvious, so faithful, and so simple, of course, I soon discovered that it wasn’t so simple. The practical realities of living life in a fallen world, with a fallen nature, greatly complicated my desire to live a Christlike life.
This internal wrestling marked the beginning of what would be a twenty-year journey where God providentially worked on me before opening the door for me to fulfill my desire to serve Him in ministry as a biblical counsellor.
And what specifically is your role at Christ City Church?
I am the Pastor of Biblical Counselling at Christ City Church, which is a citywide, network ministry. In this role, I provide counselling for Christ City members, as well as oversee the training of new counsellors, the ongoing coaching and supervising of our existing counsellors, and the implementation and administration of new counselling ministry initiatives.
In describing who we are and what we do in this ministry, I like to quote Paul Tripp by saying that we are, “people in need of change helping people in need of change.” I like that description because it points to the humility that we hold as we pursue the privilege of counselling others with the Word of God. In short, it recognizes the Matthew 7 principle of taking the log out of our own eye before helping someone else take the speck out of their eye.
In broad terms, what is Biblical Counselling?
Simply stated, biblical counselling is counsel from the Bible. It is a time of focused, restorative, discipleship that is aimed at heart change. It is one believer walking alongside another believer and helping them see their struggles from a biblical perspective. It is discipleship that highlights the practical application of the Word of God to the various issues that believers are wrestling with.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 states: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Biblical counsellors believe that the Word of God is sufficient and essential for counselling and there is no textbook or theory of man on the same level of the Bible which is able to help the Christian live a life full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
How has it been going since the ministry started?
With the blessing and support of the citywide elders, we started this ministry in February of 2020. The plan was to spend a few months writing policies and procedures and reaching out to the congregation for members to consider getting trained as counsellors. Then Covid 19 hit and our mostly comfortable worlds were turned upside down, we soon realized that we needed to start counselling right away, and so we did. I find it telling, that since that date we have not gone a single day without someone waiting for counselling on our waitlist. The waitlist has grown and shrunk, but it has never not been required.
Quite simply, the demand for counselling has consistently outpaced our capacity. Which is why I am so thankful for the members of our church who have taken up the call to get trained to serve their brothers and sisters as biblical counsellors. God has graciously added to our team so that today we have six counsellors counselling and about another six working through counsellor training.
As much as you are able, tell us about the impact the ministry has had so far.
Much of what we do is in private and as such, flies under the radar. But the impact of our ministry has not been lost on the Elders, the CG leaders, and the Pastors who have witnessed the change in those who have been served by our ministry. However, the biggest impact is probably best articulated by those who have successfully completed counselling and have experienced a Holy Spirit wrought change in their lives. They are, without a doubt, the best testimony for our ministry.
We have seen lives that were plagued by anxiety and panic attacks transformed by the sovereign grace of God. We have seen fractured relationships restored, bitterness unearthed, and forgiveness granted. We have seen anger in marriages and in families repented of. We have seen addictions replaced by grace filled obedience. We have seen long held idols rejected, repented of, and the restoration of God to His rightful place in the believer’s life.
Imagine being married for 10 years and 9 of those years being marked by anger and bitterness because of something that happened early in the marriage, and then seeing your situation from a different perspective. A perspective that included your own idolatry, and that perspective allowed you to experience reconciliation and the revitalization of your marriage.
Or imagine living a life that for years was plagued by the terrifying fear of anxiety and panic attacks, and then experiencing the gracious, peaceful calm of God’s presence in a way that you didn’t think was possible.
Or imagine living with what seemed like an unshakeable addiction to pornography or some other vise. For years you had repented and tried to quit by sheer willpower only to experience the crushing dejection of repeated failure and relapse. Then, finding the deeply buried idol that was driving your addictive motivation and bringing it into the light of day so it could be crucified in your life.
These examples are not imaginative stories but real counselling cases that our ministry has witnessed victory and restoration in by the grace of God and the power of the gospel message.
Lastly, what is your vision for the future of this ministry?
By God’s grace, our vision is to grow the ministry to the point where we will no longer have a waitlist that is marked in months, but in days or weeks. That we will have the capacity to counsel not just Christ City members, but also to counsel those believers outside of our neighbourhood churches.
In addition to this, we would like to become a regional training center where Christians from other churches can come and get trained in biblical counselling so they can then go back to their home church and start a biblical counselling ministry there. In this way, we hope that this vital one-another ministry would be multiplied across our city and across our province, and God would be greatly glorified by that.