A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the final post in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Higher Education. In today’s post, Professor Kevin Carson of Baptist Bible College of Springfield, Missouri,asks and answers the question, “Why Should You Pursue Higher Education in Biblical Counseling?” You can read Part 1, by Dr. Howard Eyrich here, Part 2, by Dr. Robert Jones here, and Part 3 by Professor Lilly Park here.
A Great Question
Often I am asked why someone should pursue higher education in biblical counseling. Great question. I believe there are several reasons why one would choose either an undergraduate or seminary education in biblical counseling. Certainly there has never been a greater time of need. Culture is complicated. Relationships are complicated. Problems are complicated. Diagnoses are complicated. Yet, we know that God’s Word is sufficient and up to the challenge of all these complications.
Exegetical and Theological Excellence
The foundation of biblical counseling is the Bible. Our ability to live or speak the Bible either enhances or limits our capacity to counsel others. As those who are in union with Christ, the Bible functions as the lens through which we engage life. As we interact with others in conversational ministry, our capability to accurately understand this person as an individual in a complex situation as it relates to God depends upon our exegetical and theological underpinnings.
As you contemplate higher education, you will want to pick a program if possible that offers classes such as hermeneutics, biblical languages, biblical and systematic theology, and biblical exposition. Consider the importance of each: hermeneutics provides you the basis for understanding the biblical text at the meaning level. All Bible knowledge and wisdom flows out of well-developed exegetical skills. It is imperative for the biblical counselor to be able to say, “This is what this passage means.”
Related to biblical languages, good exegesis takes into account the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of individual passages primarily from Greek and Hebrew. Gratefully, there are many tools to help us in this pursuit. However, the more background you have in the languages, the easier and more profitable the tools become.
Biblical and systematic theology are the fruit of the hermeneutical process. As you learn individual texts, your ability to put together that body of knowledge into a unified whole at the book level and overarching level deepens. Systematically, this is where you classify the knowledge gained through your individual passages and book studies into helpful categories or doctrines (i.e., Bible, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Sin, Salvation, Church, Last Things, among others).
Finally, in biblical exposition classes you learn the ability to move from the text to the counselee with skill. Special attention is given to communicating the truth of the passages clearly through well-stated and exegetically-driven outlines. Furthermore, you learn how to create clear implications from the text that engage the counselee’s life with corresponding homework as well.
Counseling Competence and Skill
Higher education helps the biblical counselor grow deeper in the key elements of biblical counseling: data gathering, discerning the problem, gaining involvement, providing biblical instruction, giving hope, discipleship, and personal accountability. You also gain the knowledge and understanding of historical and contemporary counseling philosophies and methods. Additionally, you both observe and engage in supervised biblical counseling.
Pertaining to the counselee, the student learns how to hear and articulate key areas of suffering and sin. Higher education provides the opportunity for special focus on various areas such as medical issues, abuse, and various disorders. Suffering and sin both impact key relationships inside the home, workplace, and church. Further, you learn about human motivation (the heart, inner man issues) and how worship (including idolatry) plays out in daily living.
Your educational experience provides a controlled environment where you learn alongside others. The professor provides guidance as the student strives to piece together new insights from the Bible, new counseling content, and new challenges to communicate it in conversational ministry.
Exegetical and theological excellence plus counseling competence and skills only go so far in higher education. The key component of higher education is characterological maturity. One of the most important differences between biblical counseling and all other forms of counseling is the intense focus on the personal growth of the biblical counselor. In writing to Timothy, Paul encouraged him to pay special attention to his own heart and behavior. “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all people. Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this, you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:15-16).
Whereas in other systems of counseling the personal life and growth of the counselor may matter little, in biblical counseling, the personal life and growth of the counselor is paramount. The counselor’s life is proof-positive to the truth of the gospel message. The counselor’s life cannot contradict the authoritative Scriptures that he or she so eloquently counsels. A necessary part of preparation for the counselor is personal growth toward Christlikeness for God’s honor. The need and process of personal self-counsel are taught and practiced as the counselor matriculates through a program.
So What Is It Worth to You?
What a privilege to do conversational ministry! Just to think that God trusts us to be His voice to His children to help them respond in God-honoring ways to the complications of life—amazing! On many levels, the stakes cannot be higher. As we engage people around us at home, church, work, and play, we steward those moments to both help the one to whom we speak as well as our own hearts. God graciously provides for us the opportunity to help another person take the next step for Christ. In the process, God uses those same interactions to help us grow as well.
Higher education in biblical counseling becomes a perfect fit for both men and women who desire to serve the church in a variety of contexts both formally and informally. You learn to counsel from a position of strength. Your better understanding of people, circumstances, and God provides you the opportunity to speak truth that fits the occasion in love and with wisdom. By God’s grace through the work of the Spirit and the Scriptures, you become the conduit of grace and truth another person needs in his or her time of need.
Join the Conversation
What are some specific areas of training where you would have liked to have received additional training or still would enjoy better training?