5 Concerns and Responses about Biblical Counselling in the UK

April 14, 2015

Steve Midgley

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Steve Midgley

UK 2nd draft

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the second of a multipart BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on International Biblical Counseling. Sometimes, because it is international, it will even be spelled with two L’s like this: International Biblical Counselling. That’s the case today as Steve Midgley updates us on 5 Concerns and Responses about Biblical Counselling in the UK. You can read Part One by Kyle Johnston at Biblical Counselling in South Africa.

The Early Days

We are in the early days of biblical counselling in the UK. It’s a new initiative trying to foster interest in biblical counselling here. The whole idea is pretty novel over here—even the term ‘biblical counselling’ is new to most.

So what are we noticing? What is it about biblical counselling that has gained the most attention? As you might hope, there are lots of positives—but what about the negatives? What tends to produce concern? And what can we learn from that?

Here are five questions (or concerns) that I often hear from other UK pastors (followed by five reflections in response.)

5 Concerns

  1. It’s not very British. This focus on our hearts, our motives, and our feelings isn’t the way we usually talk. (Some of that is cultural—we really are quite reserved! Some of it is sinful—because we would rather not have our sin exposed. And some just reflects the fact that nearly all the books and articles on biblical counselling come from the US and inevitably have an American flavour. You even spell counselling differently!
  1. Can we use it in evangelism? Will this help us engage with non-Church friends? Does it work in outreach or is it “insiders only”? Will it show how the gospel can gain traction with those who aren’t very interested in Christ?
  1. How will we ever find time for this? It sounds so demanding. We are busy in ministry already. Where can we possibly find time to learn yet another new thing?
  1. Won’t it distract from, perhaps even undermine, the ministry of the Word (by which people generally mean preaching)? There are lots of good things we can do. But with limited time, isn’t God’s first calling for us to preach the Word? Only the gospel has the power to save. Spending lots of time helping people with their problems can only get in the way.
  1. What’s really so new about all this? Isn’t it exactly what we’ve been trying to do for years? Who says we need some new-fangled technique in order to do ministry?

Of course, this is an abbreviated version. People wouldn’t be so blunt. We are British, after all.

How would you respond? How do I? Here are some initial thoughts.

5 Initial Responses

  1. It’s not very British. Yes, this is at odds with our culture. It will demand greater engagement with the messiness of one another’s lives than we are used to. It will require more openness than the “stiff upper lip” usually allows. But isn’t the gospel always counter cultural? Shouldn’t we constantly be asking how Christ challenges our “usual way of doing things” and calls us to live distinctively for Him? If we understand it properly, shouldn’t we expect biblical counselling to sit uneasily with every culture?
  1. Can we use it in evangelism? I certainly don’t want to slip into a therapeutic gospel, but won’t understanding how Christ helps me with the mess in my own life make me better able to speak to others about the mess in theirs? So that instead of starting with “Christ saved me from eternal judgement” (which requires my non-Christian friend to buy into an awful lot of my worldview), I can begin with “faith in Christ has made a big difference to the way I parent my teenage children” (which has rather more common ground).
  1. How will we ever find time for this? Time spent doing good things rarely backfires. Attending to my own walk with the Lord never does. If exploring biblical counselling means encountering Christ more richly (and it does), then it has to be good for everything I do in ministry.
  1. Won’t it distract from, perhaps even undermine, the ministry of the Word? Tim Keller once said (and I paraphrase): If I do too much counselling, my preaching will suffer, because I won’t have time to prepare; if I do too little counselling, my preaching will suffer, because I won’t be any good at applying the Bible to real life. I think he’s right.
  1. What’s really so new about all this? Nothing much. At least that’s been my experience. When I first encountered the world of biblical counselling, I met the same familiar gospel I’d always believed. The difference was that someone was finally showing me how to apply it to my heart. And that was new.

Slowly, we are getting these things across. Slowly, we are developing some training. Slowly, we are developing a network. But we still have a lot of catching up to do.