5 Foundational Spiritual Disciplines of Biblical Counselors

October 5, 2015

Shannon Kay McCoy

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Shannon Kay McCoy

Biblical counselors are unique gifts to the church. They have a passion to understand who God is and how He works in our lives. Biblical counselors faithfully place themselves in the line of fire. They are willing to roll up their sleeves and participate in God’s plan to grow others into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). However, biblical counselors are only as useful as their growing relationship with the Lord.

How can biblical counselors effectively and adequately counsel others from God’s Word? They must know the Bible well in order to have a biblical worldview as opposed to a secular worldview. They must also live what they know. Biblical counselors must not only know the gospel but know how to apply the gospel to their own lives first. Then they can help and encourage the counselees to allow the gospel to change their lives.

In order to effectively counsel others biblically, the biblical counselor must possess at least five foundational spiritual disciplines: dependence on the Holy Spirit, dependence on praying, dependence on God’s Word, dependence on worship, and dependence on church fellowship.

1. Dependence on the Holy Spirit

Biblical counselors must not forget that biblical counseling is a battle in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12) and is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). First, biblical counselors must understand the work of the Holy Spirit and must experience that work in their own lives. It is far too easy for biblical counselors to operate from the human intellect in the application of spiritual truths only to eventually see the lack of God’s power at work. Biblical counselors must depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 16:13) and to help them counsel in the Spirit and not in the flesh (Romans 8-9).

Second, biblical counselors must depend on the Holy Spirit to work essential and elemental changes in the human heart. Without dependence on the Holy Spirit, counselors will only experience discouragement, frustration and failure. Otherwise, the counseling process will simply be another version of secular counseling. Only the Holy Spirit can give the spiritual insight and biblical motivation for permanent heart change. Total dependence on the Holy Spirit is vital for biblical counselors to be effective in their own lives and in counseling others.

2. Dependence on Praying

Dependence on the act of praying is essential for biblical counselors. (I purposely did not use the word “prayer” because it has become somewhat of a spiritual colloquialism. It’s a word Christians have spiritualized that seems to have no meaning or power anymore.) Biblical counselors know that they need to be praying for themselves and for their counselees. However, they find themselves whispering a quick prayer of “help us Lord” to heaven right before the counselee walks into the room. Why do biblical counselors lack dependence on praying? A few suggestions may be:

  • Praying is taken for granted.
  • Praying requires humility.
  • Praying requires time.

First, biblical counselors may take the act of praying for granted. They know they are gifted and called by God to counsel other believers. They expect God to always be available to them as they counsel. They have experienced God’s power working through them even when they have not adequately prepared for a session. Perhaps they give recognition and thanks to God at the end of the session.

Second, biblical counselors may not depend on praying because it requires humility. (The act of praying demonstrates that we do not possess the power to have victory over our own sin, let alone the counselee’s sin.) As they grow in knowledge and experience of the counseling process, biblical counselors may depend more and more on that experience. Eventually the counselors will get “stumped” in the middle of a session, panic, and not know what to say next. Finally conviction sets in and the counselors must confess their pride by acknowledging in their hearts that they cannot counsel without total dependence on the Holy Spirit through praying.

Third, biblical counselors may not depend on praying because it requires time. The ministry of counseling involves the counselors and all of their counselees. The counselors must pray for themselves and their own personal issues. Biblical counselors are just like their counselees—sinners saved by grace. Biblical counselors have sinful issues that they must deal with too. They must take the time to pray about their own heart issues so that they can be free to counsel others. After data gathering, counselors could spend a lifetime praying for all the issues of their counselees. That’s a long time! Thinking of the troubles of others can be overwhelming and time consuming. This burden of time causes most biblical counselors to put off praying.

Biblical counselors must be dependent on praying because the Christian life requires it. The act of praying acknowledges that Almighty God is in control of our lives. It acknowledges that we do not have the power in our own flesh to produce heart change. Praying can also be our greatest time saver because the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom and guides our praying.

3. Dependence on God’s Word

Biblical counselors are the champion of God’s Word. They are some of the greatest advocates, proponents, defenders, and crusaders of the Word of God. The very title “biblical” means that they use the Bible as THE counseling tool. They have spent many, many hours studying the Scriptures to become certified in biblical counseling.

With all of the focus being on the Bible, how can biblical counselors get to the point of not depending on God’s Word? Unfortunately, this can happen when biblical counselors depend more on biblical counseling books and resources than on God’s Word. This is a great time for biblical counseling because more and more books and resources about how to counsel are being produced. There are little booklets on specific topics that you can grab and read right before a counseling session or just hand it to the counselee as a homework assignment. Those resources are great because someone else took the time to study God’s Word to teach us how to apply it to a particular problem.

Unfortunately, these great books and resources can circumvent the personal study of God’s Word in the life of busy biblical counselors. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul tells us: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

In order for 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to come alive in the counselors’ lives, they must go back and do the work themselves. Personal study of God’s Word is vital for biblical counselors to be effective in their own lives and in the ministry of counseling. Do not let biblical counseling books and resources be short cuts to the counseling process, but let them supplement your own personal study of God’s Word.

4. Dependence on Worship

Biblical counselors should be worshipping counselors. It’s probably not the first thought that comes to mind when describing a biblical counselor, but it should be in the top five list of foundational spiritual disciplines of biblical counselors! Biblical counselors should be dependent on worship because God seeks it. John 4:23-24 states, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Biblical counselors are dependent on worship because:

  • Biblical worship is God-centered. It’s an expression of our love for God from the heart. It’s not a to-do list, performance or duty.
  • Biblical worship is radically life-altering. We see God’s love more real, more satisfying and more beautiful than any other love (Matthew 14:33).
  • Biblical worship is freeing. It removes the controlling idols from our hearts. It allows us to die to those things that control us by placing our will, emotions and mind on Christ (Psalm 57).
  • Biblical Worship is healing. It reassigns our value from where it is to God. It replaces anxiety, depression, fear, addictions, etc.
  • Biblical Worship is powerful. It dictates the meaning and purpose of our lives (Matthew 4:9-11). The self and the devil’s influences are weakened when we worship God.

5. Dependence on Church Fellowship

Biblical counselors are dependent on church fellowship because biblical counseling is born out of the church. The church has the responsibility to equip the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). However, Christians struggle with the temptation to live independently. Both biblical counselors and their counselees struggle with having their own kingdoms on earth. Eventually they find themselves on a deserted island they thought was their kingdom.

Church fellowship is a relationship among believers in Jesus Christ that offers unity in the Spirit (John 17:23) in order to help build God’s kingdom. Biblical counselors first need to recognize their dependence on a solid, biblical, and loving church fellowship where they are spiritually built up and protected from self-destruction. Then they will be equipped to admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone (2 Thessalonians 5:14). Dependence on church fellowship offers the mutual benefit of iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). The relationship between biblical counselors and their counselees is a beautiful picture of God’s means of grace in church fellowship.

Join the Conversation

Do you practice all five of these spiritual disciplines?

What other spiritual disciplines are useful for biblical counselors?

Which spiritual discipline do you depend on the most as you ministry in counseling?