If there is ever a question I receive most frequently - this is it. Starting in my graduate studies, it has followed me ever since.
Nowadays, I get asked this question as both the Program Head for Moody Theological Seminary's MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and the Clinic Director for our onsite community counseling center - MTSCC. I suppose it stems from an interest in understanding why a seminary would involve itself in the training of mental health professionals coupled with a curiosity from those intrigued by the concept of counseling, but hesitant to pursue it.
Either way, it's a fair question as the idea and practice of counseling is approached differently depending on the discipline, context, and experience of those involved. While my answer may not resonate with everyone, it does capture the soul of Moody's commitment to counseling as a discipline of service.
So, why counseling?
For me, the answer comes from the command I have to emulate the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. As disciples, we are called to see and reflect ALL of who Christ is as an act of ongoing obedience, but I believe we connect personally with specific aspects of his character with greater levels of passion and motivation.
I am deeply drawn to the compassion of Christ. At its Latin roots, compassion means "to suffer with." As I see it demonstrated in Christ's earthly ministry, His compassion was always connected to action. In Matthew 14:14, we are given an illustration of Jesus having compassion on a crowd that had gathered to receive His healing. In some translations, it says Jesus was "moved with compassion towards them." In these few words, we're given a picture of what compassion must look like - movement away from complacency.
Christ was a radical leader that challenged cultural and societal norms and practices. He approached and developed community with those on the outskirts of society. When a typical response to a situation might be defensiveness, outrage, or withdrawal, Christ was patient, persistent, humble, and present. Driven by an unwavering devotion to His Father and an incomprehensible love for His people, Christ was the embodiment of compassion.
Many years ago, our founder, D.L. Moody preached a sermon on Matthew 14. In it he said:
"No matter how low down you are; no matter what your disposition has been; you may be low in your thoughts, words, and actions; you may be selfish; your heart may be overflowing with corruption and wickedness; yet Jesus will have compassion upon you. He will speak comforting words to you; not treat you coldly or spurn you, as perhaps those of earth would, but will speak tender words, and words of love and affection and kindness. Just come at once. He is a faithful friend - a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." - D.L. Moody
Why counseling? Because we are called to actively demonstrate compassion towards others, without judgement or pretense, avoidance or contempt, just as Christ does for us.
At MTSCC, those that provide services - our interns, staff, supervisors, and clinicians - are held highly accountable to compassion. We are committed to serving EVERYONE in such a way if this is your time of need.