The Ubiquity of Biblical Counseling

November 20, 2012

Kyle Johnston

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Kyle Johnston

The Ubiquity of Biblical Counseling

Biblical Counseling is ubiquitous. Helpful counsel, based on Scripture, is found all over the world—wherever and whenever God’s Word is ministered to another in wise love. Although in many parts of the world the term “Biblical Counseling” may not be used, biblical counseling does occur because wise, relational, Word-based ministry occurs. Biblical Counseling occurs with global ubiquity because it has Scripture as its foundation, regarding both its theoretical framework and methodological process. And because Scripture is eternally true, it is transculturally true and therefore its counsel is globally applicable. Biblical Counseling is, and should be, ubiquitous.

Why Does This Matter?

Here’s one of the reasons why this is such a live issue for me. Cape Town, South Africa, is my ministry context. Although my primary shaping influences regarding biblical counseling training has been North American in origin, my weekly ministry appointments are with people who are living, working, suffering, and sinning in Cape Town. Because in-depth Biblical Counseling training is not available in Cape Town, I’ve received most of my input from North American sources. Yet, because the focus of the training is on knowing and applying Scripture, it has helped me to minister more effectively in my own local context.

In any given week, there are a variety of folks walking into my office, looking for God’s perspective on their unique life and problems. In the last few months, I’ve met with refugees from other African countries, young urban professionals, the educated and uneducated, both the hard-hearted and spiritually sensitive, those entrenched in sin and those overwhelmed in their suffering. The variety has been staggering: young and old, rich and poor, English, isiXhosa, and Afrikaans—a multiplicity of ethnicities and cultures. Cape Town is a large and diverse city, and this is reflected in the people I aim to provide pastoral care for.

If I had been trained in primarily a modern, Euro-American psychological framework, I would not have been able to help many of the people I meet with. Modern psychological ideas, developed mainly in the West, “may be applicable to only a relatively small part of South African society. It has limited relevance for the majority of South Africans (Whittle, 1985)…It does not address the realities of the circumstances, mental functioning and problems of the majority of South Africans.” [1]

A Veracious Biblical Foundation

Thus, such a framework would not only have lacked the veracious Word of God as its foundation, it would have had a distinct cultural bias in it that would have prevented truly effective care from being given in a vastly different context. However, even though my training has been largely North American in origin, it has been biblical in nature. Therefore, it has focused on God’s Word as a timeless and transcultural body of truth.

Whilst there have been some components of my training that are shaped strongly by its native culture, most of what I have learnt applies equally to those I meet with who come from a variety of cultures. A truly biblical psychology explains all people, provides a veracious perspective on all situations. The biblical understanding of the soul and the biblical method of change is transcultural. Therefore, my North American-based training has been extremely effective in helping me counsel people in my own local context, who themselves come from a variety of contexts.

Praise God for the transcultural truth of His Word, such that even my foreign training has local relevance!

An obvious implication of this is that, when training focuses on knowing and applying God’s truth, it equips its recipients to minister everywhere. I am so grateful that my teachers focused on teaching me God’s perspective on the human condition, because that has helped me to love others through relational Word-based pastoral care. My lecturers have been working hard at fulfilling the Great Commission: they have discipled me to be a disciple-maker in another part of the world to people groups different to their own. Although Biblical Counseling is by its very nature ubiquitous, they have helped make it more ubiquitous through discipling me to disciple others.

What Does This Mean for You?

I’d like to end this brief reflection with an encouragement and a challenge. Because biblical counselors rely on God’s Word to shape our normative framework, the practice of biblical counseling is and can be ubiquitous. God’s counsel reached us, didn’t it? This is an amazing thing—we can counsel from within an eternally and transculturally veracious framework! Because of what it is, inherently, biblical counseling can be ubiquitous. All over the world, those caught in sin and overwhelmed in suffering can find concrete help and hope through the loving and wise relational ministry of God’s Word. That’s the encouragement.

Here’s the challenge: We should see biblical counseling happening globally, and we should want to increasingly see it happen globally. So, how are you helping to further this? Biblical counseling can happen, and should happen, anywhere in the world where there are sinning and suffering people. How are you helping make this happen? Is it through your own local church as a faithful member or pastor? Is it through participating on short-term mission trips in which you help equip others to do Biblical Counseling? Is it through providing resources? Whatever it is, how are you helping the inherently ubiquitous practice of biblical counseling become even more ubiquitous?

[1] D.A Louw and D.J.A Edwards, Psychology: An Introduction for Students in Southern Africa, 2nd Edition (Johannesburg, Heinemann, 1997), 27.

2 thoughts on “The Ubiquity of Biblical Counseling

  1. Good question, and I would like to hear answers from others.
    as for me, I am helping spread Biblical counseling by providing Paul Tripp DVDs to my church.

  2. Encouraging to those called to cross cultural work, stick with the words of THE original culture crosser

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