• A Church OF Biblical Counseling

    Posted on June 19th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Eleven: A Church Of 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 such biblical counseling is only half biblical.


    Half-Biblical Counseling Negatively Impacts Body Life


    Half-biblical counseling negatively impacts Body life—the natural, ongoing, daily one-another ministry of God’s people in the church. When we define biblical counseling as discerning what God wants to change and confronting sin problems using God’s Word, then we make normal spiritual conversations specialized to a subset of real life.


    If I’m at a church picnic with a friend, or at Starbucks with a co-worker, or talking over the backyard fence with a neighbor, I don’t simply want to be thinking, “What need for change do I need to confront?” That stymies true Body life and natural conversations.


    So what happens? Sometimes we have sin-spotting conversations. More often, we simply delegate “biblical counseling” to what happens in formal counseling settings between the “counselor” and the “counselee.”


    Comprehensive Biblical Counseling Positively Impacts Body Life


    “Counseling” already has enough baggage. To me, “biblical counseling” is a subset of full-life discipleship. In fact, I like to use a number of synonyms for biblical counseling to convey how multi-faceted, broad-based, and real-life focused it is:


    Spiritual friendship, encouragement, discipleship, soul care, spiritual direction, spiritual formation, mentoring, coaching, spiritual conversations, Body life, one another ministry, etc.


    Even my more “technical” definition of biblical counseling seeks to highlight how basic it is to one another ministry:


    Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling depends upon the Holy Spirit to relate God’s inspired truth about people, problems, and solutions to human suffering (through the Christian soul care arts of sustaining and healing) and sin (through the Christian spiritual direction arts of reconciling and guiding) to empower people to exalt and enjoy God and to love others (Matthew 22:35-40) by cultivating conformity to Christ and communion with Christ and the Body of Christ.


    Now, when I’m at a church picnic with a friend, or at Starbucks with a co-worker, or talking over the backyard fence with a neighbor, I enjoy a full-range of spiritual conversation options. I can be a spiritual friend who response biblically (Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed) about whatever my friend shares: suffering or sin, hopes and dreams. And, I do so with the relational focus of loving my neighbor as myself and with a mindset of cultivating communion with Christ and the Body of Christ.


    A Church Of Biblical Counseling


    If we want a church of biblical counseling rather than just a church with biblical counseling, then we must define biblical counseling comprehensively so that it deals with all of life: sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. And we must emphasize that we are doing biblical counseling just as much when we are at the bedside of the grieving widow as when we are in the office with the adulterous spouse. And we must clarify that both consolation and comfort for suffering and confronting and correcting for sinning require more than “input in.” It is more than sharing Scripture. It is always Scripture and soul.


    Therefore, we must be sure that our definitions of biblical counseling, our texts on biblical counseling, our seminars and conferences on biblical counseling, and our illustrations and descriptions of biblical counseling give equal time and weight to suffering as to sinning.


    Spiritual Friendship: A Normal Feature of Christianity


    John T. McNeil, in A History of the Cure of Souls, when speaking of the Apostle Paul’s plethora of passages on soul care, explains:


    “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.”


    Only when we combine issues of suffering and sin, can our ministry become a normal feature of Christian behavior. Otherwise, we become a church with biblical counseling rather than a church of biblical counseling. Otherwise we become sin-spotters and problem-saturated, rather than grace-sharers and one-another-saturated.


    A sin-spotting, problem-saturated orientation is neither biblical, nor is it practical for day-by-day living, nor is it conducive to natural, ongoing spiritual friendship.


    Where Do We Go From Here?


    I have heard some pastors argue, “But Bob, my people don’t come to me with suffering issues. They come with sin issues!” In our next post we ponder what to make of such a situation and how it relates to comprehensive biblical counseling that is church-based.


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