This is a counseling story in a Harvest Bible Fellowship planted church. This deals with how confidentially is violated and intimate knowledge shared with the church staff and small group. This troubling story should give people pause about Soul Care counseling. This Great Commission Collective church is still involved and plays a key role in the organization.
“Confidentiality is a virtue of the loyal, as loyalty is the virtue of faithfulness.”
Edwin Louis Cole
“Confidentiality is an ancient and well-warranted social value.”
Kay Redfield Jamison
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
Ephesians 1:7 ESV
El Capitan at dusk
Recently I put out a call for stories about experiences with Biblical Soul Care. I was contacted by someone who wanted to share their counseling experience. This is troubling and for me raises questions about the health of the Great Commission Collective (GCC). The GCC doesn’t fall too far from Harvest Bible Chapel as they share the same roots. In this situation a Harvest Bible Fellowship church violated a number of ethical guidelines. In telling this story the author did not want to say which current Great Commission Collective church this is, and I will honor that decision. Again this raises deep concerns about any kind of counseling inside the GCC. Caveat emptor!
For 9 years I was a faithful member of a church that was planted through the Harvest Bible Fellowship. I served in multiple ministries and was leader in the church. During the last couple years of my time there, my spouse and I received marriage counseling through the Biblical Soul Care ministry of the church. The counseling pastor promised confidentiality. To move forward, I was counseled to share everything from my past so I did just that as I was willing to do anything to help my marriage. It was confirmed the counseling pastor shared my confidential disclosures with the church senior staff. The counseling pastor also emailed some details from our counseling to the entire staff and my previous small group from two years prior. Never did I give my permission and this went well beyond “please pray for this person because they are struggling”. When I objected, I was told the counselors and pastors regularly share congregant’s issues with church leadership and others and they do not need anyone’s approval to do so. They call this “plurality of leadership” and believe this is biblical as there is wisdom in the counsel of many. When I said the website promises confidentiality and the pastor promised confidentiality, I was told there are always exceptions and it is common for them to discuss those matters.
The Harvest churches were taught they can do whatever they want in the name of discipleship or Soul Care. Garret Higbee’s Biblical Soul Care program includes disclosing confidential information learned from congregants to staff and really anyone in the church. One reason they do this is because the counselors are not trained and often do not know how to respond. I encourage anyone to enter into Biblical Soul Care or any type of discipleship within a Harvest or GCC church with your eyes wide open. Don’t assume there is confidentiality. Ask they get your permission before sharing with anyone. Sign disclosures. If you don’t get feel comfortable you are in a safe environment, do not share anything that you feel will be mis-used. Consider seeking outside professional Christian counseling services. Despite their best intentions, many church’s and pastors are simply not equipped to provide any type of intensive counseling. What I shared was directly used against me and it cost me much personally. I do not want that to happen to anyone else and that is the reason I am sharing my story.