What is Biblical Counseling?
I think people in the church often have the wrong idea about what discipleship counseling is. At Reigning Grace Counseling Center, we use the term “biblical counseling” more for those outside the church than in it. Because we live in such a therapy-minded society, the word “counseling” is attractive to those in our community, giving us an appeal to those who are looking for spiritual answers and guidance. However, biblical counseling and discipleship is nothing like secular therapies or even so-called Christian counseling.
Biblical counseling is a term that is often used for intensive biblical discipleship. The original phrase was Nouthetic counseling (from the Greek verb “noutheteo” or the noun “nouthesis”) and means “to admonish, to warn, to teach or to counsel.” That term was coined by Dr. Jay Adams in the 1970s when, thanks to him, soul care began to return to the church. The word is found in numerous passages of Scripture and describes the manner in which we are to counsel and help other Christians.
I am afraid there is a great misunderstanding about the role of the biblical counselor in our larger church world. What we do is biblical discipleship – mentoring! We develop relationships based on Romans 15:14, 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Galatians 6 and numerous other passages of Scripture. These are relationships in which two people sit down together and engage in teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training each other in righteousness, that they may be complete and holy before God. It is a mutual edification process.
Sometimes discipleship is general and takes place in an informal manner, like meeting in a coffee shop or over lunch. Perhaps a woman just needs to know how to handle a simple or maybe not so simple issue that she’s dealing with. The person who is called a biblical counselor is trained for that. Other times the issues people face are very large and complicated and require a more formal meeting in the office. The biblical counselor is also equipped for that. In addition, we also meet with couples who are facing a particular area that is troublesome in their marriage, and we help parents know how to biblically disciple their children. We use targeted studies, and teach them how to make personal application of biblical materials that are designed to address particular issues in life. Our training is in the skillful use of the Scriptures applied to the heart, and we know that is what brings about change in a person’s life
I will say it again; Biblical counseling is discipleship! Discipleship is biblical counseling! There are times I wish the word counseling wasn’t even used. I know people in the church are fearful of coming to see us because there is a stigma that goes along with seeing “The Counselor.” Others don’t come because they don’t think their problem or concern is bad enough to see “The Counselor.”
I would like to discourage the idea that biblical counseling is only for people who have serious problems. Yes, we do crisis counseling but don’t wait until it gets that bad! History has shown us that if people would seek us out for mentoring or discipleship before things got to a crisis level, they would find things are 1) more manageable; 2) there are fewer complicating problems; and 3) take much less time to address or resolve. Waiting until an issue hits critical mass is never recommended in any area of life. The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is certainly true when it comes to issues in our lives.
People who do biblical discipleship counseling care about others. We want to help. We are a resource! People sometimes get the idea that because there are small costs associated with visiting a biblical discipleship counselor, we are professionals. One of my favorite lines was spoken by Dr. Heath Lambert who is the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors at a conference that I attended a year ago. He said to us, “Brothers and sisters, we are not professionals.” While every biblical counselor strives to be as knowledgeable as he or she can be, our role is primarily ministerial. We minister to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and we evangelize the lost.
It is true that everyone of us has specialized training, and I think you want that! You want someone who knows how to rightly handle the Word of God, and you want them to know how the Word addresses your problem. More than that, you want them to be able to show you how the Bible addresses your problem, and how to change. We have been trained in theology and methodology that enables us to help people apply Scripture and biblical principles to the problems, concerns, and issues that we all face in life. We help people to realize that Scripture applied to the heart is what brings about changes in a person’s life.
Some people don’t think it’s right that discipleship counseling has any fees at all. Every one of us has been through years and years of training. All of it at our own expense. The Bible says that the laborer is worth his wages, and anyone who does biblical counseling and discipleship will tell you that they are not getting rich from what they are doing. Those biblical counseling centers that have fees don’t exist for profit, they have fees because they would not be able to provide ministry if they didn’t! Very few are supported by their church’s budget. Many times the fees they charge are not paid to any salary but go toward the expenses of running an office. If they can’t keep the lights on or pay the rent, they won’t be of much help to anyone.
So, what is biblical counseling? It is a one-to-one discipleship relationship where one Christian comes alongside another, using the Word of God to help them with issues and problems they are facing in their lives. If you could use some help navigating the storms and swells you are in the midst of, there are numerous places to go for help. Both the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (www.biblicalcounseling.com) and the International Association of Biblical Counselors (www.iabc.net) can help you find someone in your area. Reigning Grace Counseling Center is on the list of both of these excellent organizations.