Personal ministry gets you involved with people who are lost in the chaos of life, whose lives are complicated by their own foolish decisions or the sins of others. You will hear attempted solutions that failed and how the Enemy will destroy through deception, division as well as the impact of poor thinking and deficient counsel. It’s not about knowing the perfect thing to say in every situation (as the guru) but helping people connect to Christ so they are able to think as he would have them think and to desire the Godly thing. We expose hurt and broken people to God’s glory so they stop pursuing their own and live for His.
Our ministry is not just gathering the data but the goal is to bring it in contact with Scripture to make sense out of it. Our ministry ought to be one of giving Biblical perspective, identity, and calling rather than focusing only on what is “broken”. If we don’t help people to see their lives from a distinctly Biblical perspective then we’ll be doing nothing more than lobbing theological platitudes and principles that they’re not able to integrate and use to see how those principles align their vision of how they fit in God’s story.
Counsel takes preparation and equipping. We should never be winging it with others. If we’re not going to be the “blind leading the blind” then we need to understand Scriptures themes, perspectives, promises, and commands and be thinking in each situation how to think about information we receive in a Biblical framework.
Tripp notes that the first step in making sense of things is to organize information into Biblical categories. We take the information from a person and bin or sort the information in order to help to step back and see the big picture. The bins he recommends are these:
- The Situation (What is Going on?)
- The Responses (What does the person doe in response to what is going on?)
- The Thoughts (What does the person think about what is going on?)
- The Motives (What does the person want out of, or in the midst of, what is going on?)
He provides a helpful example of how these “hooks” might function in a case study that follows. The goal in Situation is to get to know the person in their world in order to build a bridge of understanding between the Word of God and the details of her life. Responses focuses on behavior and collects information to describe reactions to what is going on looking for themes and patterns. Thoughts looks at the heart that directs behavior to look for the seeds of wrong behavior in distorted and unbiblical thinking. Motives looks for the something or someone who is ruling our hearts (whatever rules our hearts will control our behavior). We look for things in this category that describe what the person truly wants, what desires rule their heart, and what idols are in control.
Tripp notes that emotions are not one of the four categories and discusses the role of emotions. He notes that emotions pervade our lives and is a significant aspect of every category as it is woven into every situation. We need to recognize that emotions play a significant role and that they are intended to help us live in communion with him as image bearers. They are good indicators of whether we are living in joyful communion with God or are in the service of something else.
Tripp concludes with an exhortation drawn from the teaching of Christ in Matt 22:37-40. Love of God demands handling His truth accurately and clearly to the details of others’ lives. Love of others demands that we do not lob general platitudes at others but taking the time to enter into others’ worlds with the understanding necessary to apply the help of Christ where it is truly needed.
 Tripp, Paul. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. P&R, Phillipsburg. 2002. Page 184