As the Christian community celebrates the eternal gift of salvation brought to us through the innocent and bitter suffering and death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the eternal hope that it brings to us, the Biblical counseling ministry of Cross Connections, Inc. in Fort Wayne is looking to reach out with hope to the Indianapolis area.
For the past 16 years, the Holy Spirit has been working through Scripture in the professional counseling ministry of Cross Connections, Inc. to change lives in the Christian community of Northeast Indiana. Beginning as an outreach ministry of Bethlehem Lutheran in 1999, the ministry has grown to include 64 churches and organizations that specialize in using Scripture within the professional counseling setting to comfort and encourage brothers and sisters in Christ that are experiencing loss, facing marital difficulties, recovering from substance abuse, struggling with family strife, and all of the many difficulties that this sinful world throws at us.
The professional and lay counselors (Covenant Partners) at Cross Connection work as an extension of the pastoral office within the church to assist pastors. This means they only see clients that are referred to them by the churches and organizations in the ministry partnership. “The Lord is accomplishing amazing things within the church through the work of the ministry,” says Executive Director Matt Konow. “The professional counselors and Covenant Partners use the clinical gifts that they have been given to reach out with love and hope to the clients that the Lord leads to them.”
At the end of 2014, the leadership at Our Shepherd Lutheran church in Avon, Indiana, recognized the need for a trusted theological resource as the need for professional counseling became more and more evident within their community. Pastor Dan Lepley, Senior Pastor at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, said, “Our hope when we reached out to Cross Connections was three-fold. We wanted to be able to offer our members additional spiritual care through Biblical, confessional counseling; open this resource to sister congregations, and foster a closer working relationship with neighboring churches.”
Working together, Cross Connections and Our Shepherd reached out to the other area pastors in the Indianapolis area at the District Convention in 2015 to share how the ministry works, the impact that it has made in the Lutheran community of Northeast Indiana, and to discuss how they can become involved. Since that time, the Lord has connected Cross Connections with six professional counselors in the Indianapolis area that agree to support and uphold the Statement of Faith and provide their services to their brothers and sisters in the church.
One of the ministry founders, Terrie Ensley, LCSW, will be working to train them in the Biblical counseling model of Cross Connections and to help establish the culture of hope and grace that has flourished in Northeast Indiana. Terrie, whose husband Steve serves as the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Louisville, Kentucky, is excited to see the ministry that she helped start with her friend and colleague, Kathy Eggold, LMFT, branch out to the Indianapolis area.
Ensley states, “Cross Connections was originally formed because it became obvious to Kathy and me that Christians need to hear words and principles from the Bible in order to heal. They need to hear God’s Word as final authority. They flourish in the forgiveness, grace, and love of their Savior. Those are basic tenets at Cross Connections. After 16 years, it is now time to take the Cross Connections model to other locations. God has truly blessed this model in Northeast Indiana, and He will bless it in the Indianapolis are as well.”
“We all know that there is a great need for hope in the world today,” Konow says. “The hope that we have as Christians is critical to help not only those outside the church, but also within the church, as we struggle with the challenges that we all sometimes face in our lives.” We are told in Romans 5: 3-5 that “… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” That is what the Biblical counseling ministry of Cross Connections is—a ministry of hope.