4 Biblical Compass Points for Gospel Conversations

August 11, 2015

Bob Kellemen

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Bob Kellemen

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the second of a two-part Biblical Counseling Coalition Grace & Truth blog miniseries. In this series, we’ve asked Dr. Bob Kellemen to introduce you to two new biblical counseling books he’s written: Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives (October 2014, Zondervan) and Gospel-Conversations: How to Care Like Christ (October 2015, Zondervan). You can read Part One at 8 Ultimate Life Questions for Gospel-Centered Counseling.

What Do You Do After the Hug?

For two decades I’ve offered local church seminars on How to Care Like Christ. I originally called the seminar: What to Do After the Hug. People who attend seminars on counseling, just like people who read books on counseling, have a heart to care, but they often share that they feel ill-equipped to know how to care in a Christlike way.

You might think this is true of “lay people,” but not of pastors. However, numerous studies indicate that pastors, even after graduation from seminary, feel inadequately prepared for the task of pastoral counseling.[i]

Our need to learn how to care like Christ is common to all Christians. The author of Hebrews recognizes this when he exhorts believers to consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Like all believers, the Hebrew Christians were struggling with suffering (Hebrews 10:32-34) and battling against temptations to sin (Hebrews 3:12-14). Throughout Hebrews, the author directs believers back to Christ and His gospel of grace—applied daily—as their sure hope and practical help (Hebrews 1:1-9; 2:1-4; 14-18; 3:1-11; 4:14-16; 10:19-23).

The two books in the Equipping Biblical Counselors’ Series—Gospel-Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations are written in obedience to this command to give careful thought and consistent attention to how to use the gospel to encourage one another to resist temptation and to respond to suffering with love for God and one another. Gospel Conversations provides an intensive, relational, hands-on equipping manual. Through it you will develop twenty-one biblical counseling relational skills so you can care like Christ.

What Is a “Gospel Conversation”?

What do gospel conversations look like and sound like? It will take this entire book to answer that question fully, but here’s my one-sentence summary:

Gospel conversations promote personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.

Jay Adams rightly summarized that, “All counselors have one goal in common: change…” and “use verbal means to bring about the change.”[ii] Biblical counseling is change through talking—but not just any type of talking. It is talking or conversation that relates Christ’s gospel story to our life story.

The essence of gospel conversations is helping one another to understand and apply the gospel to the details of our lives as saints who struggle with suffering and sin. Through your active participation in this training manual, you’ll learn how to use four biblical compass points to speak gospel truth in love—gospel conversations:

  • Sustaining: “It’s Normal to Hurt”—Learning how to weep with those who weep by offering biblical sustaining care for hurting people.
  • Healing: “It’s Possible to Hope”—Learning how to give hope to the hurting by offering biblical healing comfort and encouragement for suffering people.
  • Reconciling: “It’s Horrible to Sin, but Wonderful to Be Forgiven”—Learning how to be a dispenser of Christ’s grace by offering biblical reconciling for people struggling against besetting sins.
  • Guiding: It’s Supernatural to Mature”­—Learning how to disciple, coach, and mentor by offering guiding wisdom for people growing in Christ.

How Do We Get from Here to There?

Gospel Conversations is a local church curriculum map. It is a best-practice manual for equipping God’s people to care like Christ—to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth. But how do we learn to care like Christ? Is it just a “brain dump” where you read about gospel conversations?

Whenever I equip biblical counselors, I begin our learning time with the “big idea.” I’ll often state it like this to the group, “If you forget everything else today, remember this…” Here’s the big idea of Gospel Conversations. If you forget everything else in this book, remember this:

We learn to become competent biblical counselors by giving and receiving biblical counseling in the context of real and raw Christian community.

We don’t learn to be effective counselors simply by reading a book—no matter how profound the book. We don’t learn to be skilled people-helpers simply by engaging in role-play scenarios or even by watching experienced counselors—though both of these are very helpful methods. We learn to be effective biblical counselors through face-to-face gospel ministry where we speak the truth in love to one another.

Here’s the most important piece of advice I can offer you as you work your way through Gospel Conversations: do not try to use Gospel Conversations simply as a text to read or a lecture to give. That’s not how I designed it. I’ve designed Gospel Conversations as an experiential training manual that promotes real and raw, vulnerable and open relationships among your equipping group members.

Join the Conversation

How would you define “gospel conversations”?

[i]Michael Firmin and Mark Tedford, “An Assessment of Counseling Courses in Seminaries Serving Evangelical Baptist Students,” 420-427.
[ii]Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, ix.