• How Biblical Counseling Lost Its Way

    Posted on June 17th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Nine: How Biblical Counseling Lost Its Way

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

     

    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

     

    My Premise

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then such biblical counseling is only half biblical.

     

    Pulling Back the Pendulum . . . Too Far . . . One Way

     

    Recall the situation pastors faced in the 1960s when hurting parishioners walked into their pastoral office. You could turn to secular psychology to address their personal issues. Or, you could ignore their personal issues and just keep preaching from the pulpit theology unrelated to life.

     

    Those individuals who revived modern biblical counseling returned to the shepherding task of the personal ministry of the Word. However, when they pulled back the pendulum:

     

    1. They feared that anything other than confronting sin would be a return to the social gospel.

     

    2. They feared that focusing on life’s hardships might easily encourage evasion of moral responsibility and blame-shifting.

     

    3. They feared that “empathy,” “non-directive responses,” and “passive listening” would be a capitulation to liberalism and secular psychology.

     

    They pulled back the pendulum to the shepherding task of the personal ministry of the Word and to a focus on moral responsibility and sin—for which we all should be thankful.

     

    Their pull went too far, was one-dimensional, and fear-based—from which we should all learn.

     

    It is never biblical to ignore any part of our biblical calling out of fear that someone might respond in an unbiblical manner to our biblical ministry.

     

    We do not have to shift blame to past traumatic experiences in order to be a biblical emphathizer, encourager, and hope-giver. It is not blame-shifting to recognize the biblical truth that being sinned against causes pain (2 Samuel 13, the lament Psalms, etc.). It is not blame-shifting to empathize with, console, and comfort our suffering parishioners and spiritual friends.

     

    Our Calling to a Fuller Shepherding Response

     

    Given the climate in which they lived, pioneers of the return to biblical counseling saw suffering as an occasion for revealing either faithfulness or sinfulness. That much we can applaud.

     

    Their response, however, was primarily one-dimensional. They exhorted moral responsibility through the directive teaching of biblical principles. They viewed suffering exclusively as an occasion to warn against sinning. They explored suffering chiefly to discover sinful responses, to determine what responses would be morally appropriate, and to exhort such morally appropriate actions and behaviors.

     

    However, the Bible and Church history demand a much fuller shepherding response to suffering and sufferers. It includes, but is not limited to:

     

    1. Weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

     

    2. Comforting those who hurt (2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and over 100 occurrences in the New Testament of parakaleo—comfort and encouragement).

     

    3. Sharing not only Scriptures but our very own souls—our selves—relational connection (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

     

    4. Relating with the mutual care modeled within the Trinity (John 1, John 17).

     

    5. Bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-4).

     

    6. Encouraging one another and scores of other compassionate “one another” passages.

     

    7. Sustaining empathy and compassionate commiseration (the opposite of Job’s miserable counselors—Job 3-42) modeled by the Church Fathers, the Reformers, the Puritans, women throughout Church history, African American soul care-givers, etc.

     

    8. The collaborative application of Scripture emphasizing the use of passages such as the Psalms of Lament in a consolatory manner as Martin Luther and countless heroes of the faith did.

     

    9. The healing permission to and encouragement to grieve as those who have hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

     

    It is simply not biblical enough to say, “Oh, of course we deal with suffering,” and then to “deal with it” simply by exhortation to moral behavior. Such is not a comprehensive, compassionate, biblical, historical shepherding response.

     

  • The Battle for the Bible

    Posted on June 17th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Eight: The Battle for the Bible

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

     

    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

     

    My Premise

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then such biblical counseling is only half biblical.

     

    Reviewing the Situation

     

    Picture the historical situation. American Evangelical pastoral care had moved from a focus on suffering and sin to a focus on self during the 100 years from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement. In isolation from the insights of females and minorities, White male Evangelicals attempted to pull the pendulum back. Given the circumstances, not surprisingly, they pulled the pendulum toward a focus on sin without a commensurate emphasis on suffering.

     

    The Battle for the Bible (The Readers’ Digest Version)

     

    But there’s more.

     

    Preceding and merging into this era, we have the battle for the Bible between fundamentalists and liberals. Theological liberals focused on “the social gospel” and easily accepted the theories of secular psychology. They supplanted salvation with self-realization, replaced theology with psychology, and changed pastoral ministry from shepherding to social work,  psychologizing, and referring parishioners to therapists.  

     

    Fundamentalists pushed back hard. In reaction, and in an attempt to protect belief in the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Word of God, they:

     

    1. Separated Heaven from Earth:

     

    As fundamentalists rejected the social gospel, at times they pulled the pendulum back so far that they also threw the proverbial “baby out with the bath water.” They neglected the truth that Jesus came to give eternal life and abundant life now. Theology and ministry increasingly became about salvation from past sin and eternal life later, but decreasingly about sanctification now, abundant life now, and impacting the world now. It focused on rules and regulations (legalism) and on separation from the world.

     

    2. Separated Truth from Life:

     

    Fundamentalists observed liberals throwing out truth and theology. In their battle for the Bible, fundamentalists focused on theology, which was good, but did so often unrelated to life, which was bad.

     

    3. Separated the Pulpit Ministry of the Word from the Personal Ministry of the Word:

     

    In an attempt to counteract the diluted preaching and the watered-down theology of liberals, fundamentalists focused on the pulpit, which was good, but minimized the personal ministry of the Word (shepherding, counseling, comforting, Body life, one another ministry, etc.), which was bad.

     

    Ironically, now no one was using the Bible for counseling! Liberals dealt with daily life through the “social sciences.” Fundamentalists dealt with theology and heaven, but minimized the use of the Bible for one-to-one personal ministry. Fundamentalist-Evangelical seminaries during this era often did not even have a single course on pastoral counseling.

     

    The Climate that Birthed Modern Biblical Counseling

     

    Now imagine being alive in this era. Imagine being a pastor with hurting and hardened parishioners. Imagine your options. You could turn to secular psychology to address the personal issues your people were bringing to you. Or, you could ignore their personal issues and just keep preaching from the pulpit theology unrelated to life.

     

    So now, your task requires pulling back not one, but two pendulums—one that minimized truth and one that minimized life. One that preached and practiced the social gospel and one that preached the Word from the pulpit but did not practice historic shepherding.

     

    What would you have done? How hard would it have been to pull these pendulums back with biblical balance on heaven and earth, on truth and life, on the pulpit ministry of the Word and the personal ministry of the Word, and on suffering and sin?

     

    Where Do We Go from Here?

     

    Tomorrow we’ll observe how the modern biblical counseling movement pulled these pendulums back, but did so with more of a focus on sin, and less of a focus on suffering. We’ll also share why early leaders feared focusing on suffering. What did they feel the ramifications would be?

     

    In later posts, we’ll consider how their theological perspectives, their personal perspectives, their preaching training, and their views on emotions, all combined with their historical setting to “set them up” for moving from the Church’s historic focus on both sin and suffering.

     

  • Why Male Biblical Counselors Need the Perspective of Female Biblical Counselors

    Posted on June 16th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Seven: Why Male Biblical Counselors

    Need the Perspective of Female Biblical Counselors

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

     

    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

     

    My Premise

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then such biblical counseling is only half biblical.

     

    How We Lost Our Way

     

    Yesterday’s post (http://tinyurl.com/m945pr) explained that the failure to integrate the African American comprehensive perspective of suffering and sin is one reason why White Evangelical biblical counselors lost their way.

     

    Today we add another example of intercultural dearth: the failure to focus on the contribution of Christian women soul care-givers and spiritual directors.

     

    This dearth is why RPM Ministries is so passionate about Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling. When our counseling is predominantly taught by one segment of one cultural group (in this case, White males like myself), we lose the comprehensive perspective.

     

    In the new book released later this summer, Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith (http://tinyurl.com/ql8fqc), Susan Ellis and I share life-changing and ministry-altering narratives from 52 Christian women in Church history. Consistently they unite biblical ministry for suffering and sin.

     

    Following Christian Women’s Historical Compass

     

    The biblical counseling approach of women in Church history is holistic, comprehensive. They practice sustaining and healing soul care for suffering and reconciling and guiding spiritual direction for sin. As Susan and I show in our Introduction:

     

    Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of Wesleyan pioneers John and Charles, exemplifies in one breath these four interrelated callings. “We are to be instructed, because we are ignorant [guiding]; and healed, because we are sick [healing]; and disciplined, because so apt to wander and go astray [reconciling]; and succored and supported, because we are so often tempted [sustaining].”[i] Susanna Wesley and uncountable Christian women like her followed a spiritual compass. Instead of N-S-E-W, their soul care and spiritual direction compass points read S-H-R-G: Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. Throughout Sacred Friendships, they will gift us with their wisdom—wisdom for ministry today to God’s glory forever.

     

    Don’t for a moment imagine that Christian women only focused on the “touchy-feely” area of suffering. Read Sacred Friendships and you will see that they out-confront the best male biblical counselor! It’s not that women provide the “softer side” of biblical counseling. It’s that women offer the comprehensive, non-compartmentalized “both sides” of biblical counseling.

     

    Conclusion

     

    Because we White Evangelical male biblical counselors pulled the pendulum back from a focus on self and because we did so with too little awareness of and connection with our sisters in Christ, we compartmentalized sin and suffering and minimized the development of biblical counseling approaches that produced comprehensive sacred friendships.

     

    Where Do We Go From Here?

     

    In my next post, we’ll explore additional reasons why some biblical counseling compartmentalized sin and suffering and focused too little on equipping God’s people to be a hospital for the hurting.

     



    [i]Clark, Memoirs of the Wesley Family, 398.

  • Why White Biblical Counselors Need the Black Church

    Posted on June 15th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Six: Why White Biblical Counselors Need the Black Church

     

    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

     

    My Premise

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then such biblical counseling is only half biblical.

     

    Why and How We Lost Our Way

     

    So, why do I think biblical counseling lost its way? What historical, cultural, and personal realities help to explain why some modern biblical counseling is only half biblical?

     

    E. Brooks Holifield, in his excellent study, A History of Pastoral Care in America, demonstrates how pastoral ministry moved from a focus on salvation to a focus on self-realization. It moved from Christ to self, from Scripture to humanism.

     

    In my own study of pastoral counseling in America, I’ve found that biblical counseling from the end of the Civil War (1865) to the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) moved from a focus on suffering and sin to a focus on self.

     

    Interesting, isn’t it, that for these 100 years, framed by the Civil War and Civil Rights, we lost our way with Christian counseling and pastoral ministry.

     

    In coming posts, I’ll share about the impact of liberalism and fundamentalism on pastoral ministry during this era. I’ll also describe how the modern biblical counseling movement pulled the pendulum back to a focus on sin, but not always to an equal focus on suffering.

     

    Why White Biblical Counselors Need the Black Church

     

    Here’s my conviction about why pastoral ministry moved from suffering and sin to self, and why modern biblical counseling pulled the focus back to sin but not as much to suffering: church segregation.

     

    From the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act, and continuing to today, Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in America. We lose so much by this church segregation.

     

    White Evangelical biblical counselors lose the amazing, beautiful, biblical blending of suffering and sin that so characterizes the Black Evangelical Church from its inception in enslavement right up to our day.

     

    In my book, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, readers enjoy 100s of lively narratives that consistently depict how the Evangelical Black Church never compartmentalized suffering and sin. Instead, the Black Church consistently integrated, mingled, blended, and kept united soul care for suffering and spiritual direction for sinning.

     

    A Sampler

     

    If you want to read a free sample chapter on the Black Church’s personal ministry of the Word, go here: http://tinyurl.com/nykc3h.

     

    Conclusion

     

    Because we White Evangelical biblical counselors pulled the pendulum back from a focus on self and because we did so in segregation from our Black brothers and sisters, we compartmentalized sin and suffering and ignored the development of biblical counseling approaches that help us to move beyond the suffering.

     

    Where Do We Go From Here?

     

    In my next post, I’ll share what White Evangelical male biblical counselors lost when we minimized the contribution of female soul care-givers and spiritual directors.

  • What to Do After the Hug

    Posted on June 14th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Five: What to Do After the Hug

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

     

    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

     

    My Premise

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then such biblical counseling is only half biblical.

     

    What To Do After the Hug

     

    Some might conclude, “But there’s really no need to teach people how to comfort the suffering because they do that naturally.”

     

    I’m sure Job would disagree with that as it relates to his “miserable counselors” who called his suffering “sin.”

     

    So, today we ask and answer the question: “What might it look like to train pastors and lay people to be soul physicians and spiritual friends who deal with suffering?”

     

    The Bible has a great deal to say not only about suffering, but also about how to comfort the suffering. Church history has highlighted two core biblical counseling competencies for suffering:

     

    *Sustaining

     

    *Healing

     

    In Spiritual Friends (http://tinyurl.com/nxbxes), pages 39-214 teach lay people, pastors, and students the following ten biblical relational skills for sustaining and healing. Here’s your primer:

     

    *Sustaining: “It’s Normal to Hurt.”

     

    Using the acronym GRACE, we need to learn five biblical relational competencies if we are to be comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed soul care-givers who offer sustaining comfort:

     

    1. G: Grace Connecting

    2. R: Rich Soul Empathizing

    3. A: Accurate/Active Spiritual Listening

    4. C: Caring Spiritual Conversations

    5. E: Empathetic Scriptural Explorations

     

    *Healing: “It’s Possible to Hope.”

     

    Using the acronym RESTS, we need to learn five biblical relational competencies if we are to be comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed soul care-givers who offer healing hope:

     

    1. R: Relational Treatment Planning

    2. E: Encouraging Communication

    3. S: Story Reinterpreting

    4. T: Thirsts Spiritual Conversations

    5. S: Stretching Scriptural Explorations

     

    How to Train Biblical “Sufferologists”

     

    My point is not to say that Spiritual Friends is a book that has cornered the market on equipping people how to offer biblical comfort for suffering. My point is that you can read many biblical counseling training manuals, attend many biblical counseling training seminars, and read many biblical counseling definitions, and find inadequate focus on equipping for “sufferologists”—biblical counselors who offer sustaining empathy and healing encouragement.

     

    Rather than assuming that we do this naturally, let’s do what the Bible and Church history do: let’s focus on biblical counseling and spiritual friendship equipping on how to train believers to deal both with sin and with suffering.

     

    Where Do We Go From Here?

     

    In subsequent posts, we’ll share why biblical counseling lost its way. What historical, cultural, and personal realities help to explain why some modern biblical counseling is only half biblical?

     

  • The Great Cloud of Biblical Witnesses

    Posted on June 13th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Four: The Great Cloud of Biblical Counseling Witnesses

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

     

    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

     

    My Premise

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then such biblical counseling is only half biblical.

     

    The Great Cloud of Biblical Counseling Witnesses

     

    The Bible exhorts us to honor and learn from those who have gone before us:

     

    “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you” (Deuteronomy 32:7).

     

    “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for yours souls” (Jeremiah 6:16a).

     

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

     

    So, how did the great cloud of biblical counseling witnesses in Church history deal with suffering? Well, for the detailed answer, please refer to:

     

    The Readers’ Digest Version

     

    As Church historians have probed the history of personal ministry, they have categorized all “people-ministry” using the four tasks of sustaining and healing for suffering, and reconciling and guiding for sinning. Though different terms were used in different eras, these historians have found consistent categories, definitions, and descriptions. Historically, comprehensive biblical care of people always involved the twin functions of soul care for suffering and spiritual direction for sinning through the four ministries of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding.

     

    John McNeil’s A History of the Cure of Souls traces the art of soul care throughout Church history and shows that Christians always provided ministry for suffering and sin.

     

    “Lying deep in the experience and culture of the early Christian communities are the closely related practices of mutual edification and fraternal correction.”

     

    Speaking of the Apostle Paul, McNeil notes:

     

    “In such passages we cannot fail to see the Apostle’s design to create an atmosphere in which the intimate exchange of spiritual help, the mutual guidance of souls, would be a normal feature of Christian behavior.”

     

    Throughout his historical survey, McNeil explains that mutual edification involves soul care through the provision of sustaining (consolation, support, and comfort) and healing (encouragement and enlightenment) for suffering. Fraternal correction includes spiritual direction through the provision of reconciling (discipline, confession, and forgiveness) and guiding (direction and counsel) for sinning.

     

    Historians of soul care, Clebsch and Jaekle, found that pastoral care has historically involved “helping acts, done by representative Christian persons, directed toward the healing, sustaining, guiding, and reconciling of troubled persons whose troubles arise in the context of ultimate meanings and concerns” (Clebsch and Jaekle, Pastoral Care in Historical Perspective, p. 4). 

     

    How extensive has the twin ministries of soul care for suffering and spiritual direction for sinning been?

     

        “The Christian ministry of the cure of souls, or pastoral care, has been exercised on innumerable occasions and in every conceivable human circumstance, as it has aimed to relieve a plethora of perplexities besetting persons of every class and condition and mentality. Pastors rude and barely plucked from paganism, pastors sophisticated in the theory and practice of their profession, and pastors at every stage of adeptness between these extremes, have sought and wrought to help troubled people overcome their troubles. To view pastoral care in historical perspective is to survey a vast endeavor, to appreciate a noble profession, and to receive a grand tradition” (Clebsch and Jaekle, p. 1).

     

    Have we in the biblical counseling movement received or ignored this grand tradition of biblical counseling both for suffering and for sin?

     

    Where Do We Go from Here?

     

    Tomorrow, I’ll address the question, “What might it look like to train pastors and lay people to be soul physicians and spiritual friends who deal with both suffering and sin?”

     

  • Embracing the Legacy of Comforting Biblical Counseling

    Posted on June 12th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Three: Embracing the Legacy of Comforting Biblical Counseling

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

     

    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

     

    My Premise

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then I am of the conviction that such biblical counseling is only half biblical.

     

    The Myth: Dealing with “Suffering” Is Surely “Secular”

     

    Here’s the myth we face when we say that we must deal with suffering as well as with sin:

     

    “Oh, that’s just modern secular psychotherapy.” Or, “That’s obviously influenced by Freudianism.” Or, “No one ever said biblical counseling was about suffering until after the advent of modern humanism.”

     

    Those are each myths.

     

    Our first post in this series highlighted the theological necessity for dealing with suffering—failing to care for the suffering actually minimizes the universal impact of sin.

     

    Our second post pondered just a few of many of the biblical mandates for dealing with suffering—such as Job; John 9:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; Romans 12:15; and the occurrence of parakaleo over 100 times in the New Testament.

     

    We could also add the Lament Psalms, the very character of God as the Father of the fatherless, David, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul. (In Soul Physicians I present an entire biblical theology of suffering—sufferology. In Spiritual Friends I spend over 100 pages outlining the Bible’s approach to helping the hurting.)

     

    The Reality: Dealing with Suffering Is Certainly Biblical

     

    Dealing with suffering is certainly biblical.

     

    Of course, one could say, “That’s just your flawed interpretation of Scripture.”

     

    Could be. While God’s Word is inspired, perfect, and inerrant, none of our interpretations are.

     

    So I’ve also spent over a quarter-century studying Church history: the Church Fathers, the Reformers, the Puritans, African American believers (Beyond the Suffering), and women in Church history (Sacred Friendships).

     

    Then again, we could run into yet another false accusation: “So, you are saying that tradition is on the same par as inspired Scripture!”

     

    No. Not at all.

     

    I am simply saying that since all our interpretations of Scripture are errant, and since some claim that those who deal with suffering are unknowingly influenced by modern secular psychology, that turning to conservative believers pre-Freud could be a good reality check.

     

    Church History Samplers of Comforting Biblical Counseling for Suffering

     

    I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the great Reformer, Martin Luther. What many do not know is that Luther was also a master pastor. He left us 1000s of letters of spiritual consolation where he comforted his world-wide parishioners so they could face suffering face-to-face with God.

     

    In my 359-page dissertation, 104 pages explore Luther’s work focused on suffering and sanctification. By comparison, 71 pages examine Luther’s work dealing with sin and sanctification. Luther, unlike some modern Christian counselors, accurately and adequately blended counseling for suffering and for sin.

     

    In Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, we learn from the amazing legacy of Black heroes of the faith. As the title suggests, our brothers and sisters understood that biblical counseling must include comforting the suffering. Yes, they certainly care-fronted the sinning, also. Like we should, our African American great cloud of witnesses did both.

     

    In the forthcoming book Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith, we see women like Margaret Baxter, Susanna Wesley, Sarah Edwards, Susannah Spurgeon, and 47 others, consistently integrating comfort for the suffering and care-fronting for the sinning.

     

    Together this great cloud of witnesses insists that true, comprehensive biblical counseling has always been about the business of helping both hurting and hardened people through comforting and care-fronting with the goal of increased Christlikeness.

     

    Where Do We Go from Here?

     

    Tomorrow, I’ll provide an even broader Church history study, sharing briefly the works of Clebsch and Jaekle, McNeil, Oden, and other Church historians—who each conclude that comprehensive pastoral care has always dealt with both sin and suffering.

     

    The next blog post I’ll address the question, “What then might it look like to train pastors and lay people to be soul physicians and spiritual friends who deal with both suffering and sin?”

  • Whatever Happened to Suffering?

    Posted on June 11th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Two: Whatever Happened to Suffering?

    by Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

     

    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

     

    My Premise

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then I am of the conviction that such biblical counseling is only half biblical!

     

    Whatever Happened to Sin?

     

    Some might object, “So, are you watering down sin? Are you saying that Christ came to heal our suffering and not to save us from our sin? Are you saying that our primary problem is our suffering rather than our sin?”

     

    No. Actually, anyone who omits suffering in their biblical counseling is watering down sin!

     

    Unlike the Church Fathers, unlike the Reformers, unlike the Puritans, and most importantly, unlike the Bible, we tend to make Christ’s victory over sin predominantly individual and personal, rather than also corporate and cosmic. Christ died to dethrone sin. Christ died to defeat every vestige of sin. Christ died to obliterate every effect of sin—individual, personal, corporate, and cosmic—including death and suffering, tears and sorrows, mourning, crying, and pain.

     

    That’s why twice in Revelation, John shares the blessed promise that, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4; see also Rev. 17:7). Christ died to defeat every enemy, every evil, including the devil who holds the power of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), and the last enemy—suffering and death (1 Corinthians 15:25).

     

    Yes, of course, in the evangelism and discipleship process, our first joy is helping someone who does not know Christ to surrender to Christ so his or her sins are forgiven. And, of course, as we disciple one another we want to help each other to grow in their victory over sin’s tentacles.

     

    Whatever Happened to Suffering?

     

    However, our calling from Christ is also to minister to one another concerning sin’s effects—including suffering. That’s why we are called to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). That’s why we are called to comfort one another (nine times in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11). That’s why the New Testament calls us to a parakaletic ministry (to come alongside to help, comfort, and encourage one another in suffering). That’s why the New Testament uses the word parakaletic over 100 times!

     

    Christ’s Cross defeated our deprivations—the evils we suffer, and our depravity—the sins we commit. Frank Lake explains Christ’s victory over both:

     

    “The very powers of evil, standing in the shadows behind ‘the mystery of iniquity’ and ‘the mystery of suffering,’ were dethroned by Christ’s active, obedient submission to their onslaught. Therefore, He reconciles to God by His Cross not only sinners, but sufferers. Not only memories of culpable sin which condemn the conscience, but the memories of intolerable affliction which condemn faith as a delusion, these too are confronted by the fact of Christ’s Cross. These passive evils, which are not of the soul’s own making, are not accessible to a pastoral care which can talk only in terms of the forgiveness of sins. Such sufferers are usually not insensitive to their status as sinners. They have sought God’s forgiveness. But, like Job, they complain of the comforters whose one-track minds have considered only the seriousness of sin, and not the gravity of grinding affliction” (Lake, Clinical Theology, pp. 24-25, emphasis added). 

     

    Lake makes several astute points.

     

    1. Academic Theology: As we have said, Christ’s died to defeat sin and sins’ effect—death and suffering, depravity and deprivation.

     

    2. Spiritual Theology: “Passive evils” are what some today called “innocent suffering.” Not that anyone is innocent (or sinless), but that some suffering is not directly due to our own personal sin: the woman who is raped, the child who is abused, the cancer patient, the parents of a dying child, the victim of a drunk-driving accident, etc.

     

    3. Pastoral Theology: Counseling such individuals, they typically understand that they are sinners. They want to know if their pastors, counselors, and spiritual friends understand that they are sufferers! If we do not, if we preach them a sermon on sin, then we are like Job’s miserable counselors with their false theology that God is a tit-for-tat God and that every incident of suffering is directly related to one’s personal sin. (See John 9:1-3 for Jesus’ theology of innocent suffering/sufferers.) 

     

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be known as a miserable counselor. I want to be known as a Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counselor!

     

    Frank Lake again explains what that looks like.

     

    “Clinical pastoral care has, as its introduction, the task of listening to a story of human conflict and need. To the extent that our listening uncovers a situation which borders the abyss or lies broken within it, we are nearer to the place where the Cross of Christ is the only adequate interpretative concept” (Frank Lake, Clinical Theology, pp. 18-19).

     

    Sin and suffering—they both offer us the opportunity to provide wisdom found only in the Gospel. When we skirt our biblical counseling responsibility to minister to the suffering, we limit the limitless power and infinite relevancy of the Cross of Christ.

     

    When we talk about the sufficiency of Scripture but in practice deny the relevancy of Scripture to address human suffering, then we have watered down sin and we have diminished the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ!

     

    When we understand the Cross of Christ, then we practice biblical counseling that combines the sufficiency and the relevancy of Scripture and that unites counseling for the sufferer and for the sinner.

     

    Where Do We Go from Here?

     

    Tomorrow we’ll start addressing the following vital questions.

     

    *So, has anyone else in Church history ever said we must focus on both sin and suffering?

     

    *So, what would it look like to focus on both sin and suffering?

     

    *So, what’s your definition/description of truly biblical counseling?

     

  • Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical

    Posted on June 10th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical

    Part One: The Gravity of Grinding Affliction

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

     

    *Note: If you find yourself upset that I am saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then I would ask you to be sure to read my comments at the end of this blog post. Thanks!

     

    Thankful for Modern Biblical Counseling

     

    I thank God for modern biblical counseling and biblical counselors. I consider myself one of them. That’s why I direct the Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Network 

     

    I also know that any human “movement” is imperfect and that all human beings are finite and are born fallen. Thus, we need to and are called to learn from one another.

     

    My Premise: Half Biblical Counseling

     

    Having said that, here’s my premise:

     

    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering.

     

    When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then I am of the conviction that such biblical counseling is only half biblical!

     

    My Premise Expanded: One-Quarter Biblical Counseling

     

    Throughout this blog post mini-series (first run from June 1 to June 18, 2009), I will develop a further premise:

     

    Even when some biblical counselors do address suffering and sufferers, their focus seems to be upon “directive” counseling that exhorts the suffering Christian to be faithful. When we provide only or primarily directive exhortations to faithfulness, but fail to engage in biblical “sustaining” (empathy, compassionate commiseration, weeping with those who weep, sharing Scripture and soul, “climbing in the casket”), and when we fail to engage in biblical “healing” (encouragement, collaborative exploration of biblical responses, trialogues, spiritual conversations, scriptural explorations, “celebrating the resurrection”), then such biblical counseling is only one-quarter biblical. 

     

    The Evils We Have Suffered and the Sins We Have Committed

     

    Over a quarter-century ago, when I was a seminary student, “counsel wars” erupted over two “competing models” of counseling. As I watched the wounded souls strewn across this Christian battlefield, I kept saying to myself:

     

    “Surely the Church has always been about the business of helping hardened and hurting people.”

     

    After over twenty-five years of biblical and historical research, I can assure you that the Church has always been about the business of helping hardened people to deal with their sin and helping hurting people to deal with their suffering.

     

    When we fail to deal with both, then our biblical counseling is, at best, only half biblical. Frank Lake says it well,

     

    “Pastoral care is defective unless it can deal thoroughly with the evils we have suffered and with the sins we have committed. The maladies of the human spirit in its deprivation and in its depravity are matters of common pastoral concern.”

     

    When the Rubber Meets the Road

     

    Of course, every Christian biblical counselor is loving. As bearers of God’s image and as renewed image bearers because of our redemption in Christ, we all love the people we minister to.

     

    And, of course, every Christian biblical counselor spends time at the bedside of a cancer victim, or at the gravesite of grieving loved ones.

     

    But please hear this. That does not mean that our focused approach to biblical counseling comprehensively emphasizes suffering and sin.

     

    I’d ask you to do this. Browse through some of the comprehensive biblical counseling texts. Review your notes from a biblical counseling training seminar. Read the typical definitions of “biblical counseling.” How much time is spent on how to deal with sinning counselees versus how to help suffering counselees? How often is “suffering/hurting” included in definitions of what makes biblical counseling biblical?

     

    In my book, Soul Physicians, I attempt to address both sin and suffering throughout, and I add two core chapters on biblical sufferology. In my book, Spiritual Friends, half of this biblical counseling training manual focuses on equipping counselors to provide sustaining and healing care for suffering counselees (pages 39 to 214).

     

    Now, let me be clear—my works are just as imperfect as any other books. I am not saying that I’ve cornered the market on the perfect balance.

     

    I am simply saying, when the rubber hits the road, when we train people in our books and in our seminars, when we offer definitions, when we launch lay counseling ministries in our local churches, are we dealing both with the evils we have suffered and with the sins we have committed?

     

    Where Do We Go From Here?

     

    I know, you have a million or even a bazillion questions. I’m glad. So do I!

     

    This is just one post in a series of blog posts. In future posts I’ll try to address some of the questions that I imagine that you have. Questions like:

     

    1. So, are you watering down sin?

     

    2. So, are you saying that Christ came to heal our suffering and not to save us from our sin?

     

    3. So, are you saying that our primary problem is our suffering rather than our sin?

     

    4. So, has anyone else in Church history ever said we must focus on both sin and suffering?

     

    5. So, what would it look like to focus on both sin and suffering?

     

    6. So, what’s your definition/description of truly biblical counseling?

     

    7. So, why do you think this “imbalance” exists?

     

    8. So, how can we equip people for comprehensive biblical counseling?

     

    9. So, how can we shape biblical counseling so that it deals comprehensively with real life issues?

     

    10. So, how can biblical counseling become a natural part of one another ministry in the local church?

     

    I’ll address questions like these and quite a few more.

     

    *Note: Why I Am Addressing This Topic

     

    All who have followed my ministry know that I am about bridge-building and not about wall-building. You might wonder then, “Bob, why blog about something that is surely to be controversial?”

     

    Those who follow my ministry also know that I am about equipping God’s people to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth through Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation.

     

    Biblical counseling that fails to deal with suffering, fails the test of Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling. I would be a hypocrite to my calling if I remained silent.

     

    Others might wonder, “Are you talking about a particular ‘model’ of modern biblical counseling, or about a particular person or persons who are writing today?”

     

    No. I am not. This is not an attack against. These blogs are not directed toward any one person or group.

     

    These blogs are directed to all of us—myself included—who love biblical counseling. They are for all of us—myself included—who need good Bereans to help us to assess how biblical or unbiblical our approaches to biblical counseling truly are.

     

    Still others might wonder, “But why not at least name names?” Frankly, I am not called to be part of the growing blog movement known as the “Discernment Movement.” Their calling seems to be to call out publicly those they feel are psycho-heretics. I have no desire to engage in such tactics.

     

    If my blog posts were an “academic” tome, then for scholarly purposes I would quote some people directly. But these are simply blog posts and I am not attempting to demean any person or group.

     

    Additionally, some pastors, student, lay people, and counselors who may practice “half biblical counseling,” are “nameless” to me. I have had numerous godly, mature Christians tell me of pastors and others who have confronted their sin but never comforted their suffering. It would be neither possible nor wise for me to try to name names.

     

    I write to help, not to hurt. I write to equip, not to attack. I write to start a conversation, not to finish one.

     

    Please join the conversation.

     

     

  • Welcome!: Our Calling Meeting Your Calling

    Posted on June 1st, 2009 admin No comments

    Welcome!: Our Calling Meeting Your Calling

     

    Welcome to the BCSFN Blog!

     

    We know that as a pastor, lay person, spiritual friend, student, Christian psychologist, or Christian counselor you care deeply. We also understand that sometimes we all struggle to speak the truth in love.

     

    The Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Network exists to equip you to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth. It is our goal to empower you to care like Christ.

     

    We are passionate about equipping you through Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation. We are a community learning together how to use the Bible powerfully, effectively, and lovingly.

     

    The Apostle Paul expresses the desire of our heart. “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). True biblical counseling offers Scripture and soul—truth and love.

     

    Join the journey. Post your comments. Share the Scriptures and your soul.

     

    Bob Kellemen,

    On Behalf of the BCSFN Team