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SBC Asian Collective NextGen pastors encouraged to look at counseling as part of discipleship

Author Deepak Reju addressed the SBC Asian Collective NextGen luncheon June 12. Describing what he calls a “glorious partnership” between doctors, licensed counselors, and everyday people, Reju said Christians should not relinquish the hard parts of discipleship to just professionals. Photo by Josselyn Guillen

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – More than 100 Asian pastors and their families were encouraged to lean into counseling as part of the discipleship process at an SBC Asian Collective NextGen luncheon held on June 12 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans.

The gathering featured a talk by Deepak Reju, co-author of “The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need,” and a panel featuring DeAron Washington, a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary adjunct professor, and Carianne Pritchett, a licensed counselor and pastor’s wife. They each addressed the topic of counseling in the church and how it can be used in Asian contexts to encourage, equip, and empower God’s people.

Describing what he calls a “glorious partnership” between doctors, licensed counselors, and everyday people, Reju said Christians should not relinquish the hard parts of discipleship to just professionals.

Every lay member of the local church should be involved in the hardest things – or else it makes a statement that the Gospel cannot transform the really hard cases (of deep depression, suicidal ideation, abuse, and other issues), he said. By not leaning into the hard cases, “we inadvertently say the Gospel is transformative—except for the really hard cases!”

He noted professional healthcare providers have, at best, one or two hours a week to dedicate to helping a person work through their issues. A church, on the other hand, has the capability of surrounding a person throughout the week.

“It’s simply one Christian caring for another Christian,” he said, pointing to various Scriptures that instruct believers to honor, be devoted, accept, be kind, and instruct one another. “We have that obligation, despite what the problems are.”

Contending for the local church to be the normative place for this care, Reju urged leaders to develop a church culture that includes counseling and care as part of the discipleship process. Churches must create meaningful fellowship, model such care as leaders, and set expectations early in a new disciple’s life, he said.

During the panel discussion, Washington said Christian counseling cannot be separated from the church and must rely on the Holy Spirit. To help destigmatize counseling in the local church, he suggested leaders talk about fallenness and brokenness and the disruption caused by sin. They should also talk about lament and how the scriptures “go down to the depth of our souls.”

“Psychology can be helpful because it gives us some good language to use to navigate through issues,” agreed Pritchett, saying she believes counseling is discipleship and part of the sanctification process. “In a counseling room, it is often a safe place for confession. If you can’t be honest, you can’t get to healing.”

This luncheon was the second annual SBC Asian Collective NextGen luncheon, which was initiated last year to engage Asian Americans/Canadians to help connect and resource English-speaking pastors and leaders among the various Asian ethnic fellowships.

Currently, there are more than 2,000 Asian churches representing 27 different Asian nationalities affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Peter Yanes, associate vice president of Asian relations and mobilization at the SBC Executive Committee, told Baptist Press. These include Burmese, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, and Vietnamese, among others.

In 2021, Yanes formed a leadership team for the Asian Collective NextGen Pastors Network, consisting of two California pastors, Hyung Lee of Living Rock Church in Pasadena, and Terrence Shay of First Chinese Baptist Church in Walnut, who serve as the national coordinators. They recruited a core team of regional pastors from Arizona, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia.

Noting there can be a “disconnect between older and younger Asians,” Shay said they wanted to bring everyone together to focus on the topic of pastoral friendships, mentoring, and partnership across ethnic fellowships of the Asian Collective.

“For our convention of churches to be better, stronger, and have a greater Gospel witness, we need greater connections and involvement with younger Asian pastors and their churches,” explained Lee. “One of the best resources to provide Asian pastors is to meet, connect with, and encourage fellow Asian pastors. Encouraged pastors lead to encouraged churches, and encouraged churches lead to an encouraged convention.”

To that end, the group has held retreats, book clubs and entity visits, and has hosted booths at SBC events. They also have reached out and connected with ethnic fellowship, association, state and national leaders and are brainstorming a mentoring program. All of this will lead to an inaugural national conference at the 2025 annual meeting of the SBC in Dallas.

Learn more at www.facebook.com/groups/sbcasiannextgen.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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