• The Tale of Two Counselors

    Posted on September 2nd, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    How to Care Like Christ

    Part II: The Tale of Two Counselors

     

    Blog Series Note: How to Care Like Christ seeks to equip lay people, pastors, and professional Christian counselors with the biblical knowledge and relational skills to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth.

     

    Several years ago, “Tim” (not his real name) shared his story with me. His uncle had repeatedly sexually abused him while he was in elementary school. Tim never told anyone about the damage in his soul until he finally found the courage to tell a pastoral counselor. Hear Jim’s words.

     

    “Bob, it was incredibly hard. I felt so ashamed, but I got the words out—sobbing as I shared. The second I finished, my counselor whipped out his Bible, turned to Genesis 3, and preached a thirty-minute message on sin. Bob, it wasn’t even a good sermon! But worse than that, I knew that I was a sinner. I’m clueless as to how my pastoral counselor intended to relate that passage to my situation. At that second, did I need a sermon on my personal sin?”

     

    Tim did not return for his second session with his pastoral counselor. Instead, he arranged an appointment with a professional Christian counselor. Here is Tim’s rendition of his second counseling experience.

     

    “Bob, at first things went well. My counselor seemed to be able to relate to me, seemed to have compassion for what I went through. But after two months of counseling I was ready to have him help me move beyond sympathy and empathy. I knew that I wasn’t loving my wife and kids like Christ wanted me to. But my counselor kept telling me that I was too hard on myself and that I was too damaged to love the way I wanted to love.”

     

    The tale of two counselors. One hears a sordid story of sexual abuse and immediately responds to his sobbing counselee with a sermon on sin. The second hears his counselee’s longing to move beyond damage to dignity, from victim to victory, and informs him that he’s too disabled to function fully. These two diverse approaches illustrate the ongoing divide concerning what makes biblical counseling biblical. Just what is biblical one another ministry?

     

    Tim’s story forces us to ask ourselves some hard questions. Practical questions such as:

     

    *In your own life, do you tend to be more on the “truth/Scripture side” or more on the “love/soul side”? Why?

     

    *Has anyone ever interacted with you like either of Tim’s counselors? What did it feel like? What were the results?

     

    *What view of the Bible and of “people helping” might have motivated Tim’s counselors?

     

    *What content does a person need to know to be a biblical counselor, pastoral counselor, lay counselor, spiritual friend, soul physician, mentor, discipler, or people helper?

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    Return tomorrow when we explore how to make one another ministry truly biblical.

  • 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.

     

  • 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?