BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the sixth of a several-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Updates on the Biblical Counseling Movement. We’ve asked several leaders of major biblical counseling organizations to share with you—our readers—what is happening in their ministries. You can read Part One here by Bob Kellemen of the BCC, Part Two here by Jim Newheiser of the IBCD, Part Three here by Wayne Vanderwier of OIC, Part Four here, and Part Five here by Kevin Hurt of IABC. Today, Heath Lambert, the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) shares about the past, present, and future of ACBC.
The Past: Some History
In 1976, biblical counseling existed, but there was no biblical counseling movement. Jay Adams had been training gospel ministers to do counseling at various churches and at Westminster Seminary.
He quickly realized that there was a greater demand to learn how to counsel biblically than could be met at the time. Adams created The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) to meet the growing demand. Several years after CCEF was founded, Dr. Adams and the CCEF board realized that if there was to be an authentic biblical counseling movement more than training would be required. It would also be essential to certify counselors that had been trained well and had demonstrated competency in counseling ministry.
In 1976, Dr. Adams and the CCEF board created The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) to handle the task of certification. NANC has continued to serve this crucial role for the last 38 years, certifying some of the best and most well-known biblical counselors in the world. We now have certified members and training centers in over 18 countries.
The Present: A Transition
In 2011, Randy Patten announced his plans to transition from his role as NANC Executive Director after serving in that position for 15 years. NANC’s board created a transition committee to hire a successor and create a transition plan. That transition committee recommended me as the NANC executive director. I began my work in that role on October 1, 2013. That was just five months ago. In that time a lot has changed.
First of all, our membership voted overwhelmingly to change our organization’s name to The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). This change was important as we seek to communicate more clearly who we are and what we believe to the many people who do not understand what nouthetic means.
A second massive change was the relocation of our headquarters from Indianapolis, Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky. Our offices are now located on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College where I have retained my position as Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling.
This is a massive amount of change for an organization in such a brief period of time. We got a new executive director, a new name, a new headquarters, new staff, a new website, new phone numbers, new email addresses, a new logo—everything—all in just a few months. We say in the office that everything has changed except our convictions!
The Future: Pursuing Excellence in Biblical Counseling
That last statement is true. There is a lot that has changed, but the most important things about us remains the same. As an association we remain committed to the sufficiency of Scripture and to certifying the most excellent biblical counselors in the world. When I look back at the history of the biblical counseling movement, the organization formerly known as NANC has been an indispensible part of it. As I look forward to the future of the biblical counseling movement, I expect that the same will be true. That observation grows out of conviction.
Together with the founders of our movement, I believe certification is crucial to the health of biblical counseling. Counseling, like preaching, is a teaching ministry of the church. Counseling, unlike preaching, is unobservable to most people in the church. The church can very easily assess the faithfulness of preachers. It is much more challenging to assess the faithfulness of counselors. Who sees and evaluates what happens in counseling? Who is equipped to render such evaluations? Who sets the standards? There must be someone who can vouch for the faithfulness of biblical counselors so that those in the church can have confidence that when they or their loved ones go to counseling they will meet with someone who has been proven faithful.
This necessity has always been in place, but it is becoming more essential by the minute. In everything from evangelism to the ethics of homosexuality, our culture is growing more hostile to the kinds of Christian commitments on display in the counseling room. As I mentioned in a blog at our website, the days are over when Christians will be able maintain their biblical convictions and be licensed by the state. It is therefore more critical than ever to pursue uniquely biblical certification to ensure the viability of our movement.
Anticipating this reality we are making crucial changes to our certification process. The traditional certification phases of training, examination, and supervision will remain. We are, however, updating the process to make more room for different kinds of people. On one end of the continuum, we want to allow for more lay people pursuing certification. On the other end, we want plenty of space for counseling professionals with advanced degrees and vocational ministries. We are updating the number of training and supervision hours required, as well as exam requirements.
We believe the changes we are developing will better serve the increasing numbers of people pursuing certification with a growing diversity of vocational interests. For years ACBC has included in its members a range of people from lay counselors doing ministry in their local church to professionally trained psychologists and psychiatrists working in all manner of counseling settings. We are revamping our processes to make this increasingly the case in the years and decades ahead.
At ACBC our tagline is, “pursing excellence in biblical counseling.” Our job is to focus on quality control. Quite frankly, it is not enough to believe in the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling. If we are to continue to have a movement in the future we must have people who know how to counsel the sufficient Word with excellence.
That has been the mission of ACBC since our founding. It will continue to be our mission as we move into our fifth decade.
Join the Conversation (Added by the BCC Staff)
How has NANC/ACBC ministered to you?