QUESTION: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve been married for twenty-eight years to my college sweetheart, Shirley. Shirley and I have two young adult children. Josh is twenty-four and married to Andi, and is in law school in Washington State. Marie is twenty-one and is a college senior at Purdue, majoring in chemistry, and lives at home with us in Crown Point, Indiana.
I graduated with my BA in Pastoral Ministry from Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit, PA. I earned my Th.M. in Theology and Biblical Counseling from Grace Seminary in Winona Lake, IN. I have my Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Kent State University. I’m also a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).
I pastored three churches in Ohio and Maryland. In two of those churches I was an Associate Pastor focused on counseling and equipping. I also have served as a Sr. Pastor. For over a dozen years I was Chairman of the Master of Arts in Christian Counseling and Discipleship Department at Capital Bible Seminary. I am now the Professor-at-Large for that program.
I am also the Director of the Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Network (BCSFN) for the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). Our vision is to equip people to use God’s Word to help God’s people to grow in Christlikeness. In my role as Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries (www.rpmminstries.org) I write, speak, and consult about Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation.
In all my spare time, I coach high school wrestling, play in a men’s softball league, run daily, love sci-fi, and am a life-long diehard Chicago Cubs fan.
I’ve been married to my wonderful husband, Paul, for 25 years. We have two children. Samantha, our youngest, is with the Lord. Our son, Paul, is married to Kristen and they have a beautiful toddler, Jocelyn, whom I adore. My mom lives with us along with our 80+ pound mutt, Daisy.
I have a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland. Then I waited 17 years before going back to school to get my M.A. in Christian Counseling and Discipleship (MACCD) from Capital Bible Seminary (CBS) in Lanham, MD. I started working in the MACCD department the week I started classes. I wore many hats at CBS, including Women’s Mentor, Adunct Professor in the Women’s Concentration, Academic Advisor, Director of MACCD Student Services, and Department Coordinator.
Prior to returning to school, I was a counselor and the Director of Development at an area pregnancy center. At the local church level I’ve been on leadership teams for Discipleship, Moms, Women’s, Counseling, and Retreat Ministries; provided lay counselor training; and ministered through speaking at women’s events. Most recently, I have launched Eternal Community (www.EternalCommunity.org), a ministry devoted to equipping, empowering, and encouraging professional counselors, the clergy, and lay men and women in the art of biblical counseling, discipleship, and spiritual formation through writing, speaking, and consulting. I also partner with RPM Ministries.
When I’m not working, I love hanging out with my family. I also enjoy traveling, gardening, scrapbooking, skiing, horseback riding, and sometimes I even enjoy cooking.
QUESTION: What’s the “big idea” behind Sacred Friendships? What would you like readers to take away from it?
Far too often we build our models of ministry by ignoring over half the Christian world—women. The big idea of Sacred Friendships is to give voice to the voiceless by celebrating the legacy of Christian women and by applying that legacy to our ministries today.
We want readers, men and women, to learn from godly women of the faith how to be powerful spiritual friends. Readers will be enriched by the powerful stories of the heroic sisters of the Spirit to apply proven ways to help people find healing hope in the midst of deep pain. They’ll be empowered to help people to find God’s grace for their sins and God’s strength for their journey.
QUESTION: You use a historic model of ministry as a map to tap into the resources of women in ministry. That map includes four “compass points” in the personal ministry of the word: “sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding.” What do each of these look like in real life ministry?
That question is vital to the main purpose of Sacred Friendships. Some books write about church history. A few focus on women in church history. Some highlight women counseling women. We took the daring and unique step of writing about the history of how women ministered personally to others, and then drawing implications for today. To do that, we followed a church history model of ministry.
In church history, there are four roadmap markers for what today we call “counseling.” They are known as sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. These four themes become like compass points on a map guiding us toward biblical soul care and spiritual direction.
Sustaining is like modern-day empathy where we say to a hurting friend, “It’s normal to hurt.” I like to use the somewhat macabre analogy of climbing in a casket. When the Apostle Paul was hurting in 2 Corinthians 1:8, he spoke of such agony that he “despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” Far too often, as Christians we refuse to let people go there—we want to race them to healing before we join them in hurting. Our women forebears climbed in the casket.
Of course, we don’t want to remain in the casket! So healing is the next road map marker. Healing says, “It’s possible to hope.” I like to use the picture here of celebrating the empty tomb. Paul said it this way, “But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Healing moves with people from casket-like pain to resurrection power. It empowers people to move beyond the suffering to healing hope.
If sustaining and healing move us from hurt to hope, then reconciling and guiding offers us God’s grace for our disgrace. Some models of counseling only focus on suffering, others only on sin. True biblical counseling and historical soul care and spiritual direction focus on both. In reconciling we say, “It’s horrible to sin, but wonderful to be forgiven.” This is where confronting sin, repentance, forgiveness, and grace are all crucial. And the women of Sacred Friendships were not timid about confronting sin!
The final compass point is guiding. With guiding we say, “It’s supernatural to mature.” Here brothers and sisters in Christ help one another to apply Christ’s changeless truth to their changing times. It is the mutual application of biblical principles to daily life issues and relationships. The women of Sacred Friendships were exemplary mentors and we learn so much about spiritual direction from them.
Susannah Wesley (1669-1742), mother of Wesleyan pioneers John and Charles, exemplifies in one breath these four interrelated callings. She wrote: “We are to be instructed, because we are ignorant [guiding]; and healed, because we are sick [healing]; and disciplined, because so apt to wander and go astray [reconciling]; and succored and supported, because we are so often tempted [sustaining].”
Susannah Wesley and uncountable Christian women like her followed a spiritual compass. Instead of N-S-E-W, their soul care and spiritual direction compass points read S-H-R-G: Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. Throughout Sacred Friendships, they gift us with their wisdom—wisdom for ministry today to God’s glory forever.
QUESTION: One of the first women you study in Sacred Friendships is Perpetua, who was the first female martyr of the church. What can we learn from her life and ministry?
There is a mighty company of gallant women believers from whom we can learn. Vibia Perpetua (181-203) heads that company. Anyone who has ever suffered for the faith or has been oppressed by the powerful can carry on a conversation and feel a bond with Perpetua.
In fact, in the introduction to her story, we read that it was “written expressly for God’s honor and humans’ encouragement” to testify to the grace of God and to edify God’s grace-bought people. Perpetua teaches us how to move from being a victim to a victor—in Christ.
Of course, even reading the word “martyr” likely causes us to imagine that Perpetua was a spiritual “super woman” whose life and ministry we could not possibly emulate. The story of her life, however, demonstrates just the opposite.
Perpetua lived in Carthage in North Africa during the persecution of Christians under Septimius Severus. At the time of her arrest in 202 AD, she was a twenty-one-year-old mother of an infant son. Born into a wealthy, prominent, but unbelieving family, she was a recent convert with a father who continually attempted to weaken her faith and a husband who was, for reasons unknown to us, out of the picture. Nothing in Perpetua’s situation or background prepared her for the titanic spiritual struggle God called her to face.
Perpetua, her brother, her servant (Felicitas), and two other new converts were disc
ipled by Saturus. We learn from Perpetua of the arrest of all these faithful followers of Christ. “At this time we were baptized and the Spirit instructed me not to request anything from the baptismal waters except endurance of physical suffering. A few days later we were imprisoned.”
Perpetua candidly faces her fears and expresses her internal and external suffering. “I was terrified because never before had I experienced such darkness. What a terrible day! Because of crowded conditions and rough treatment by the soldiers the heat was unbearable. My condition was aggravated by my anxiety for my baby.”
This very human woman exudes superhuman strength. In the midst of her agony, she empathizes with and consoles others. Her father, completely exhausted from his anxiety, came from the city to beg Perpetua to recant and offer sacrifice to the emperor. “I was very upset because of my father’s condition. He was the only member of my family who would find no reason for joy in my suffering. I tried to comfort him saying, ‘Whatever God wants at this tribunal will happen, for remember that our power comes not from ourselves but from God.’”
To the very end, Perpetua maintains her perpetual persistence. “The day of their victory dawned, and with joyful countenances they marched from the prison to the arena as though on their way to heaven. If there was any trembling, it was from joy, not fear. Perpetua followed with a quick step as a true spouse of Christ, the darling of God, her brightly flashing eyes quelling the gaze of the crowd.”
Perpetua provides riveting testimony to Christ’s power at work in the inner life of a Christian woman whose spirit could never be overpowered.
QUESTION: You explain in Sacred Friendships that many of the well-known Church Fathers were mentored by their grandmothers, mothers, and sisters. Tell us about theseremarkable, yet not-so-well-known women.
Nonna is an inspiring example of a wife and mother who stirs up the gift of God in her husband and son. Nonna lived from 300 to 374 AD. Her husband, Gregory the Elder, was Bishop of Constantinople. Her two sons, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, were Church Fathers who formulated the classic doctrine of the Trinity.
It was Nonna’s Christlike example and persistent prayers that led to the conversion of her husband from a strange medley of paganism and a heretical Christian sect. Unwilling to accept his status as an unbeliever, Nonna “fell before God night and day, entreating for the salvation of her head with many fastings and tears, and assiduously devoting herself to her husband, and influencing him in many ways, by means of reproaches, admonitions, attentions, estrangements, and above all by her own character with its fervour for piety, by which the soul is specially prevailed upon and softened, and willingly submits to virtuous pressure.”
Nonna’s example provides hope and direction for any Christian wife who struggles with how to relate to a beloved unbelieving husband. She certainly was no “wallflower.” Her method of reconciling combined the strong medicine of reproaches and admonitions with continual doses of character and piety. We see in her example the power of persistent prayer and the plan of God to combine prayer and action in all our reconciling relationships.
Nonna’s ministry to her newly saved husband did not end at reconciling. Gregory goes so far as to attribute his father’s spirituality and ministry success to Nonna. “But she who was given by God to my father became not only, as is less wonderful, his assistant, but even his leader, drawing him on by her influence in deed and word to the highest excellence; judging it best in all other respects to be overruled by her husband according to the law of marriage, but not being ashamed, in regard to piety, even to offer herself as his teacher.”
Her spiritual guidance was so extensive and intensive that when Gregory the Elder became abishop, he learned how to shepherd from her example. At his sister’s funeral, Gregory of Nazianzus says of his father and mother, “This good shepherd was the result of his wife’s prayers and guidance, and it was from her that he learned his ideal of a good shepherd’s life.”
Here we have a Christian wife guiding her husband. More than that, we find a wife teaching her husband how to shepherd. In church history, women have not taken a back seat to anyone in providing reconciling and guiding spiritual direction.
QUESTION : Tell us about your speaking, writing, and consulting through RPM Ministries.
Bob: I believe that most Christians care deeply, but struggle to speak the truth in love. RPM Ministries exists to equip lay people, pastors, educators, students, and Christian counselors to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth. We do so by speaking, writing, and consulting about Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation.
Our passion is to empower the church and para-church to care like Christ. As a result, God’s people enter deeply into one another’s lives and make a significant different in the lives of hurting and hardened people.
RPM is our acrostic for Resurrection Power Multipliers. We based the concept upon Paul’s prayer in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.”
We want to raise up a new generation of biblical counselors and spiritual friends who live out 1 Thessalonians 2:8. “I loved you so much that I gave you not only the Scriptures, but my own soul, because you were dear to me.”
To learn more about RPM Ministries, please visit www.rpmministries.org.
QUESTION: How can people get in touch with you and how can they learn more about your ministry and about Sacred Friendships?
Sacred Friendships is on sale at 40% off for $12.99 at: http://bit.ly/MG1l5
A free sample chapter of Sacred Friendships is available at: http://bit.ly/1S1haj
To learn more about RPM Ministries, please visit: www.rpmministries.org
Other Stops on the Blog Book Tour
Julie Ganschow: http://bc4women.blogspot.com/
Kary Oberbruner: http://www.karyoberbrunner.com/
Brad Hambrick: http://bradhambrick.com/
Stacy Harp: http://blogforbooks.com/
Angela Ambroise: http://godandmytalks.blogspot.com/
Jim Nestle: http://intentionalintimacy.blogspot.com/
Aaron Taylor: http://aarondtaylor.blogspot.com/
Angela Dockter Harris: http://angelaadockterharris.wordpress.com/
Lynn Mosher: http://lynnmosher.blogspot.com/
Sandra Peoples: http://sandrapeoples.blogspot.com/
Bill Higley: http://3rdjohn8.blogspot.com/
Joshua Young: http://salvationsogreat.blogspot.com/
Cynthia Russell Bailey: http://word4women.wordpress.com/
Rick Howerton: http://serendipityblog.com/
Mark Tubbs: http://www.discerningreader.com/blog
Ian Jones: http://bcsfn.aacc.net/?page_id=11
Phil Monroe: http://wisecounsel.wordpress.com/
Leslie Wiggins: http://www.discerningreader.com/
Scott Bane: http://www.the-next-wave.info/
Julie Clawson: http://julieclawson.com/
Dan Lacich: http://provocativechristian.wordpress.com/
Trevin Wax: http://trevinwax.com/
Mark Kelly: http://gracedependent.com/
Cornelius Jamison: http://duolosslave.wordpress.com/
Melinda Lancaster: http://dontfaint.wordpress.com/
Kelly Harbaugh: http://www.tabithas-team.com/Christian-Women-blog.html
Cathy Bryant: http://wordvessel.blogspot.com/
Lucy Ann Mull: http://lucyannmoll.com/
Keiki Hendrix: http://vesselproject.blogspot.com/
Jeff Caldwell: http://thetwobooks.com/