Romans 15:14-16 HCSB - My brothers, I myself am convinced about you that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.
After writing his most thorough explanation of basic Christian beliefs and practices to the church at Rome, Paul reminded them of a few important things. Although they are not perfect, the Christians in Rome were sufficiently full of both goodness and knowledge. Because of that, they were able to instruct and counsel one another. God most often grows and frees His people in the context of relationships. Jesus Himself modeled a ministry of companionship and community, only retreating for seasons of solitude long enough to get recharged and then back into active relationships. Mature Christianity is on display when good counsel, Biblical wisdom, and loving insights are prayerfully shared with one another. This does not mean that people with legitimate mental illness or some similar trauma do not need help from skilled therapists, but it does mean that life changing improvement, encouragement, and help should absolutely flow freely among those in Christ’s church. Spiritual gifts such as words of wisdom and knowledge flow in healthy relationships, not in isolation nor foolish friendships. How many friendships in the church just devolve into little more than complaining, gossip, or superficial conversations about trivial matters rather than what God intended? Consider the following Scriptures:
Proverbs 15:22 NLT - Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.
Proverbs 13:20 ESV - Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
This does not mean that we should play amateur psychiatrist with one another or be nosy gossips or pot-stirrers. But it does mean that the New Testament method was for believers to be filled with sufficient goodwill and trustworthiness - as well as sufficient knowledge of Biblical truth - in order to be able to counsel one another in real life circumstances. Again, having a Biblical worldview and advice rooted in Biblical truth is necessary. Often by the time someone makes a pastoral counseling appointment, a relationship is already ruined or an irreversible, bad decision has already been made. If there was a trusted and godly circle in which those same people would have been open to make confession and receive wise counsel, their problems could have been solved before things spiraled out of control. Until there is a restoration of this Biblical method, too many Christians will suffer in isolation or wait until it may be too late to seek help - and even then it may only be of a pastor or professional counselor. How’s that way seem to be working for most Christians today? Perhaps the Biblical pattern of building prayerful, knowledgeable groups (circles of trust and encouragement) is a pretty good idea. In healthy Christian relationships, God designed the process for us to give and receive wise insights and encouragement. It is here where we learn and are inspired by how God helped others who have gone through similar hurts, habits, and hangups. We also come to realize we are not the only ones to experience hardship. Bottom line: it is in selfless and trusting Christian community that God builds up His church.
Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV - And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.