I was recently sharing our counseling ministry with a pastor friend and he asked this question: “What exactly is biblical counseling?” I appreciated his transparent honesty.
How would you answer? If you do a quick internet search you will be bombarded with a variety of opinions and attempts to define the term. The purpose of this blog is not to debate or defend the calling God has placed on my wife and me. It is simply to inform. Confusion still exists about the nature of biblical counseling and there is still a stigma in the minds of many when they hear of a believer going to “get counseling.” One of our ministry goals is to help churches, ministry leaders and families see biblical counseling as a necessary and normal part of the local church ministry, not just something that you do when everything falls apart.
Here is Selah International’s concise working definition of biblical counseling:
Biblical counseling is the belief that the Scriptures are sufficient to deal with any personal or interpersonal problem a believer faces in their life that is not related to a physical or a medical diagnosis.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
There is no doubt that when a sinner is born again by the Spirit of God, he/she becomes a new creature in Christ. There is now life where there was death and there is a process of change that the Holy Spirit has begun that will last until that believer reaches heaven. Sadly, many believers are never brought into a local church culture that promotes this kind of growth. After taking a new believer’s class with other converts, many are left to themselves. Some will experience true spiritual growth and lasting change in this system, but many do not. That is why some new converts fade away and are never seen again. But the Bible clearly states that we are to evangelize AND make disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20) The making of disciples is the difficult and often messy part of bringing the Word of God into the personal lives and families of new believers…encouraging, confronting, and strengthening them to continue in their walk with the Lord.
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
All of us, even ministry leaders, must have Truth spoken into our lives by other believers. When was the last time you shared a weak area in your life with another believer and asked them to give a biblical perspective and to pray for you?
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Timothy 4:16)
In reality, biblical counseling is INTENSE, FOCUSED DISCIPLESHIP.
Sometimes we need to be challenged. Sometimes we just need to be encouraged. Other times we need to be confronted. Sometimes the issues are more complex, and the sinful habits are difficult to overcome. This will require a more skilled approach. Here are a few definitions by leaders in the biblical counseling field that can help deepen our understanding.
“Biblical transformation is more than behavior modification. It is about changing who or what is your God. I have found that the more I help people stand amazed at the mighty deeds and glorious characteristics of the God of the Bible, the more the Spirit of God enables them to be motivated in a divine change that the world cannot know.” Tim Bryant
“Sanctification is the Bible doctrine of how change into the image of Christ takes place. [It is] that process whereby the Spirit of God (agent) uses the Word of God (means) to make the people of God (subjects) like the Son of God (model) amidst the circumstances we face in the providence of God (context).” Jim Berg
“Biblical counseling is about loving people by taking the time to understand them, interpreting their life situations through the grid of Scripture, confronting them with God’s framework, and challenging them to engage in the put off, mind renewal, and put on dynamic of Ephesians 4:22-24.” Howard Eyrich
“Biblical counseling is an intensely-focused and personal aspect of the discipleship process whereby believers come alongside one another for the threefold purpose of teaching, warning, and leading one another toward the biblical love and godliness that mark progress toward spiritual maturity (2 Timothy 3:16-17).”Paul Tautges
“Redeemed sinners partnering together in the body of Christ to ‘speak the truth in love’ to counselees so that all involved may know God intimately, glory the Lord, become more like Christ, fulfill the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40), and fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). It is disciple-making that is Christ-centered, Gospel-driven, Word-based, and Holy Spirit-empowered. This type of counseling must always be compassionate!” Mark Shaw
This is real discipleship; this is real biblical counseling.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is time to seek out relationships in our local churches that promote this kind of transparency that will lead to humility, that will lead to brokenness, that will lead to repentance that will then lead to the lasting change all of us desire.
Do you feel that you will never be able to overcome anxiety?
Do you feel that you will never be able to obtain victory over a habitual sin?
Do you feel that you will never be able to get out of the pit of depression?
Do you feel that you always leave a trail of broken relationships in your path?
Do you feel despair that your marriage will always be this way?
Do you feel that you are losing your children to the current culture and you don’t know what to do?
Do you feel cynical about the people that you are ministering to?
Do you feel doubtful of God’s call?
Do you feel that God may not be good after all?
The Scripture gives hope and answers to all these real-life issues.
Reflect on the experience of a pastor friend who was struggling with depression and uncontrollable fear:
“I allowed my fear to deteriorate into full-blown depression. My personal walk with God, my marital and family obligations, and my ministry responsibilities went into autopilot and were all drifting toward disrepair. Of course, I then began to fear what would result in each of these areas now because of the debilitating depression. It was a vicious cycle that I could not reason my way out of.
My only lifeline at that point was biblical counsel from a mentor pastor during my many moments of crises. Unfortunately, I allowed this worry, fear, and depression to intensify to the point that I needed greater intervention. I took a brief time away from the ministry to seek intensive biblical counseling. While receiving patient, loving, Scripture-filled counsel from this pastor and his wife in the evenings, my wife and I spent many hours during the day ingesting biblical counsel from trained biblical counselors.
Without a doubt, the intensive biblical refocus that I received was the key to my healing. I had lost hope and God used several biblical counselors who patiently pointed me back to the comfort of the Scriptures to reset my footing and to reestablish my thinking to be biblically informed instead of emotionally unstable (Romans 15:4). This process took and continues to take much time, prayer, and meditation upon Scripture. While worry will likely continue to tempt me to despair, God graciously provides tremendous victory through the power of His Word.”
What exactly is biblical counseling? It is a Christ-centered process between believers that affects the body, the mind, the heart and the soul…a process that will bring forth healing, hope and lasting change for the glory of God.
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 24–25)