I penned a blog post for the BCC in June discussing three frequently asked questions about getting biblical counseling. You can read that post here.
While writing that post, it was very difficult to stick to the three questions addressed:
- Do I need counseling?
- What should I expect?
- When does it end?
I could feel the tension of so many other questions that have been asked. Below are a few more of the many questions that Christians ask about biblical counseling. With so much offered today in the form of “relational and personal help,” it is important that we understand what we are doing as biblical counselors and what makes biblical counseling different from other forms of counseling. This article is for people on either side of counseling. It is for those doing formal counseling or anyone engaged in relationships because, whenever we speak we are in some way giving counsel, encouragement, direction, or correction.
FAQ # 1: Is biblical counseling just an attempt to “Christianize” secular therapy and counseling?
To start off it is important to understand what biblical counseling is. We want to be careful that we are not just attaching a Christian word to a secular practice.
While approaches to counseling will vary, biblical counseling develops its model from the Scriptures. It takes the principals of what we are called to do for one another and puts them into practice. It may take place in a person’s living room, a local coffee shop, the office of a church, or perhaps in a more formal office setting. Biblical counseling is most like what we see in the call to disciple others. If your counseling begins to have a clinical approach it may be missing the truest aspect of what biblical counseling is. Deepak Reju of Capital Hill Baptist Church offers a helpful definition.
I describe biblical counseling as “an intensive form of discipleship” or “an opportunity to speak into someone’s life using God’s wisdom and not our own.” For my counseling students or counselees, I say something like, “My goal is to erect from the Bible a model and method to wisely help people with their problems.”
FAQ # 2: Shouldn’t my small group be enough?
Many times small groups are an excellent place to get the counsel and encouragement you need when facing a trial. The elements of counseling should happen in a healthy small group. The problem is, even in the best small groups you still have a bit of resistance to opening up the most fragile areas of your life. Personality and personal experience also come into play.
For some, opening up in a small group is very difficult especially if a person is struggling with trust. A group setting can sometimes be a hard place for some people to feel safe. One-on-one counseling may be a better option for some. Often the ideal situation is the blending of both where a church is a church of small groups and a church of biblical counseling/one-another ministry.
FAQ # 3” Shouldn’t my pastor be enough?
If you are in the midst of a crisis, your pastor should definitely be involved. He should be one of the many voices speaking into your life. But to look to him as the sole provider of counsel is sure to wear him out quickly. And recall that the ultimate calling of the pastor is to equip God’s people to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Allow your pastor to care for you, but remember you are part of a body and he is not called to bare your burden alone. Pastors are often a wonderful source for direction and may be able to give you more focused, individual counsel. Whenever it is appropriate inform your pastor of how your counseling process is going. Invite him in by sharing with him how things are progressing.
FAQ # 4: Is it bad if I don’t want to counsel with someone from my church?
This is actually a good question and one that needs an answer. Many times people will want to get counseling from someone outside their church to gain a perspective from someone who has no prior knowledge of them or their situation. In some cases this is a good way to get non-bias input. Other times there is a direct church connection to the specific area for which you are seeking counseling. Getting input from someone outside your church might provide a place for more open and honest conversations. Other times there isn’t anyone within the church that is equipped or able to walk with you through your specific trial.
That said, ideally, your local church is where God calls you to grow in Christ and to engage in mutual one-another ministry. Additionally, there needs to be some clear reflection on why you wouldn’t want to get help from your local church if it is available to you. Without taking the time to consider your motives, you can easily slip into avoiding significant issues. Be careful that you are not seeking to hide by going to someone who doesn’t know you.
FAQ # 5: What are some “hallmarks” of counseling that is truly biblical?
Regardless of the form or setting of counseling, make sure it includes two key characteristics. Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of the counsel, be sure it is always gospel-centered and biblically-derived.
Gospel-centered: Always pointing you back to the cross and to the reality of Christ’s finished work as the only foundation in which we stand. Behavior change is not the goal. Problem solving is not the goal. The goal is being found in Christ, not having a righteousness of our own but that which comes through faith in Christ. As we have experienced redemption for our souls we should seek to see redemption in our trials. The gospel is the only thing that can redeem our brokenness.
Biblically-derived: The words have a human messenger, but the message is from the Bible. This is an important element both for the counselor and the counselee. It is too easy to bring an agenda to counseling that is not derived from Scripture. Biblical counseling will seek to bring the Word of God in practical ways to the situation and point to the help and hope found there. This is not a cut-and-paste approach to applying the Scripture. People are not that neat and tidy and the Bible is more than a book of solutions. We must be on guard that we don’t approach people as something to fix, but rather as someone to love—as we speak gospel truth in love.
Join the Conversation
These questions are just a short sampling of some things that may have crossed your mind concerning biblical counseling. What other questions do you have that you would like to see addressed?