Eight Core Convictions That Every Biblical Counselor Should Know

March 28, 2016

Garrett Higbee

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Garrett Higbee

A pastor friend of mine used to say that we can place our beliefs on the bed stand at night, but we sleep with our convictions. Convictions are things we are willing to stand for and stand on regardless of the consequences. Another saying that goes back to the early church is “in the essentials unity, in the nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.” In this post I want to talk about the “essentials” in the biblical counseling (BC) movement. These are things that have been taught for decades and are widely agreed upon among the BC leaders regardless of denomination or affiliation. These come right out of the BCC’s Confessional Statement that many of our partnering organizations have adopted as their own. The reason we are so confident these core convictions are true and timeless is that they are deeply rooted in the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. These core convictions are a unifying centerpiece for this year’s BCC Global Summit keynote presentations. I will lay out the basis for each one below, but in order to fully appreciate their significance and grasp a more comprehensive understanding of their foundational importance to the BC movement, you will want to attend the BCC Global Summit.

Conviction #1: Biblical Counseling Fulfills the Great Commission

There is a wonderful partnership between the public and private ministry of the Word of God. Most of us know quite well the passage in Matthew 28:19-20. But have you ever really thought about how biblical counseling plays a major role in fulfilling the Great Commission? The public proclamation of God’s Word and the private and personal application of God’s Word to everyday life are inextricably connected. Most of us emphasize verse 19 “to go and make disciples of all nations,” focusing on the initial presentation of the gospel to non-Christians. However, equally important to making mature disciples is teaching them to “observe all that God has commanded.” Most Bible-believing Christians are not just lacking knowledge, they are more likely lacking consistent application. Therefore, both emphases are crucial: How will they know of the gospel if no one preaches or proclaims the Word? How will they know how to apply it if no one teaches the Word as it relates to everyday struggles and challenges?  Pastor James MacDonald will help us see how biblical counseling plays a huge role in answering mile-wide and inch-deep Christianity.

Conviction #2: Christ-Centered Counsel Redeems and Reconciles Relationships

At the center of any truly biblical counsel is the person and work of Jesus Christ. The beauty of our gospel-rich biblical counsel is that it is not just problem-solving or behavior change; the ultimate goal of biblical counseling is maturing in Jesus Christ. Christ doesn’t just teach us to contrive a pragmatic plan or strive toward some functional version of oneself. Christ redeems our pain and our past. Christ-centered counsel turns bitterness into selfless forgiveness; it turns tragic circumstances in to abiding faith and hope. David Powlison will present a persuasive apologetic showing us that anything other than Christ at the center of our counseling will fall short of eternally significant transformation (Eph. 4:22-24) and reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20-21).

Conviction #3: Sound Theological Counsel Speaks with Relevance to Diversity

Unfortunately diversity has become an overbearing—and separatist—concern in our day. Yet, within the church, God loves unity in diversity and His Word brings all things together.  At the Global Summit, a diverse community of likeminded counselors and leaders will meet in one place. More than ten nations will be represented and unified by the Word of God and its profound relevance to those cultures.  Heath Lambert will help us to understand the transcendent truth of the Scriptures and how it strongly speaks into every cultural context—“from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

Conviction #4: Spirit Led Counsel Provides Supernatural Help and Hope

Our work is Spirit-led, and the Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to guide us. By his power lives are changed, and we see breakthroughs in our counselees that our secular counterparts only dream of. Something happens as the counselor and the counselee interact with the help of the Holy Spirit that is nothing short of supernatural. Charles Ware will give us a fresh sense of how the Spirit brings conviction and hope through our counseling (Jn. 16:7-11).

Conviction #5: Heart Focused Counsel Changes Minds and Changes Lives

Biblical counselors know the heart overflows into all of life, so the target of our counseling is always the heart of people. How does God’s Word bring about a change of mind, will, and emotions? Steve Midgley will underscore the importance of focusing on the heart of the counselee so that we do not just bring “conforming” counsel but transforming counsel to our people (Rom. 12:2).

Conviction #6: Church Based Counsel Engages and Matures the Body of Christ

The best counsel in the world happens in the local church. That is because the Word of God, blessed by the Spirit of God and offered in the community of God, is a potent combination. Instead of becoming a church with a counseling department, how does the local body become a church of biblical counselors, a priesthood of believers? Is everyone really expected to counsel? What about competence and experience? Garrett Higbee will look at all these questions and more as we endeavor to better engage the congregation in maturity and mutual ministry in Christ (Eph. 4:11-16).

Conviction #7: Application Oriented Counsel Leads to Love in Action

Biblical counseling is not talk therapy. Its ultimate goals are not a higher self-esteem or simply a relief of what ails us. Biblical counseling leads to more God-glorifying worship and other edifying actions. Steve Viars will teach us how the indicatives of Scripture (who Christ is and who we are in Him) empower the imperatives of Scripture (what we are told to do as obedient followers of Christ). We will see how formal counseling is not finished until counselees begin to bear the fruit of good works, comfort others, and love their neighbors (Gal. 6:1-10; 1 Jn. 3:18).

Conviction #8: God Glorifying Counsel Reaches Out to All Nations

If we are going to grasp God’s heart for the nations, we can’t think small and keep biblical counseling in a box. We believe biblical counseling is a discipline and gift that God desires to be given away. The BCC aspires to see biblical counseling as a global movement with widespread impact.  For this to happen we need to further develop a well-coordinated outreach to every nation, tribe, and tongue. We will consider together how we can better use the Internet, international training, and translation of resources to reach the nations. The Summit is only the beginning of a deeper collaboration and opportunity to learn and grow together. Deepak Reju will challenge us to more unity in broader diversity as we think beyond our borders.

We have a responsibility to help bring the private ministry of God’s Word to all the nations. Applying the foundations of biblical counseling across cultural boundaries leads to better care and better equipping of believers. The Global Summit’s unique gathering of leaders and counselors is a way to memorialize our agreement to the essentials of biblical counseling and to embrace ethnic and cultural differences that creates a new high watermark in the BC movement.  I hope you will join us as we break down silos, build increasing synergy, and experience how God designed for us to be better together.

May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.
Then all nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed. (Ps. 72:17)

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