And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. Romans 15:14 (NASB)
This verse is a staple in my world. I strongly believe that while each of us is gifted differently we are all called upon to strengthen and encourage one another. For some it means entering into a specific program of training in the process of what is called biblical counseling.
We teach the students in our counselor training program that biblical counseling is discipleship. It is the one-to-one relationship aspect of progressive sanctification within the body of Christ. When a counselee is unregenerate, our initial goal is to make them a disciple by presenting an accurate view of their spiritual condition (Ephesians 2:1-3) and offering the hope found in the gospel.
Once regenerated, the person is enabled to become a Christ-follower or disciple of Jesus. Without the critical exchange of His righteousness for the counselee’s unrighteousness I can only offer good advice and a moral way to live. It is important to note that while the counselee is in my office and under my teaching she is being trained in the righteousness of Christ (2 Tim 3:16).
As biblical counselors, our goal is to expose the counselee (disciple) to the critical necessity of heart change that will bring life change. We help them to see their sinful thoughts, beliefs, and desires are at the root of the presenting problem they brought to the counseling table. The idols of the heart are exposed and deposed as the Word reveals how they can be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2) and be conformed to the likeness of Christ.
When I was in training to become a biblical counselor I learned a very wise saying, “The best counselor is a good counselee.” It is an adage I agree with and it is something we teach our students. We encourage them to make personal application of what they are learning to their own hearts as they are preparing to help others. We are not creating professional biblical counselors, but equipping fellow sojourners to walk alongside and support a stumbling or fallen friend (Gal. 6:1-2).
Our encouragement to the students is to share the successes and failures they have had on their personal walk of faith. We promote transparency and urge them to be willing to reveal their struggle—the ones we all encounter (1 Cor. 10:13)—and help the counselee to see that even though we desire to live according to the Spirit we sometimes fail.
This is a humbling and necessary thing for counselor and counselee alike. Many times the turning point for a counselee has come as a result of my personalizing passages such as Romans 7 and Galatians 5:17. As I reveal my own battles with the desires of the flesh, I am removed from any elevated platform or position the counselee might want to place me on and instead shows her that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.
It is a great responsibility to share myself and my spiritual growth with others. I know I must model the obedience of Christ and imitate Him in life and practice. As I meet with a woman for a number of weeks, I may be the only representation of Jesus she has ever seen.
As discipleship counselors we don’t change anyone, we are merely a conduit that carries the truth of life transformation from God’s Word to the counselee’s heart. We leave the burden of implanting it to the Spirit of God.