Does Biblical Counselling Have a Future in South Africa?

May 25, 2016

Kyle Johnston

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Kyle Johnston

BCC Staff: In this post we hear from one of the presenters who is scheduled for the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Global Summit, June 5-7, 2016. To interact more with Kyle’s insights on the international scope of biblical counseling, please consider joining the conversation at the Summit, either on site in the suburbs of Chicago or online. We hope you can join us!


Like many other parts of the world, we are in the early days of biblical counselling in South Africa. We’re seeing some encouraging new initiatives kicking off, but the major Christian counselling approaches that have been established here have not emerged out of the modern Biblical Counselling Movement. So, in the light of its relative obscurity, does biblical counselling have a future in South Africa? In order for us to answer this question meaningfully, it’s helpful to be clear about what Biblical Counselling is, and what role it should play in the lives of God’s people.

The Nature of Biblical Counselling

Biblical counselling, in a nutshell, is the interpersonal ministry of God’s Word. Biblical counselling is about (wisely!) applying Scripture to both the ordinary and complex struggles people face. Biblical counselling is, therefore, a theological and pastoral activity as problems are addressed in the light of God’s Word and grace.

Here’s another way to think about it: when faced with complexity and suffering, biblical counselors endeavor to conceptualize the problem of their counselee through the lens of Scripture. This doesn’t mean that we ignore helpful information about certain problems provided by contemporary society, and it also doesn’t mean that we are competent to address medical concerns, but it does mean that we seek to understand the human condition through a biblical perspective. Biblical counselors say: “I am going to apply the rich and timeless perspective of Scripture when interpreting this issue. My categories for understanding people and how they are helped and change is going to arise from God’s Word.” This is the nature of biblical counselling—personally and lovingly connecting Scripture to people’s lives.

The Need of God’s People

What is it that the people of God spiritually need? What is it that the church needs to feed on if it is to grow into maturity, even in the midst of hardships? Of course, the biblical answer is that the people of God require the Word of God. The Word of God is able to build us up (Acts 20:32); it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), and it is able to comfort us in our pain and suffering (1 Peter 1:3-11). All this is said to emphasize the simple idea that God’s people need God’s Word. If we are to grow, if we are to stay on course, if we are to maintain our spiritual health and be effective in our walk with God, then we must be nourished, cared for, and counselled with the Word of God.

It’s worth recognizing that the need of God’s people for God’s Word is a need that extends across cultures and through generations. In South Africa, we have enormous diversity in the church—young and old, male and female, black, white, and more! But as God’s people (regardless of whether we live in an urban or rural context, whether we speak Afrikaans, Xhosa, English or Zulu), we need God’s Word for our health and growth.

So, if biblical counselling is the personal ministry of God’s Word, and if the church in South Africa needs the Word of God in order to grow into maturity, then the obvious conclusion is that biblical counselling must have a future in South Africa!

Pray with me that Biblical Counselling would have a future in this precious country. Because the church of Jesus Christ in South Africa needs the transforming Word of God applied to her members, we must work hard in two areas: in the area of current pastoral ministry and in the area of equipping upcoming ministry workers. We need to counsel the Word in our churches today, and we also need to raise up a generation of ministry workers who can apply the gospel interpersonally. We have various initiatives in place helping us train biblical preachers; we need to see more initiatives emerge that develop biblical counselors.

What is your response to this? It wouldn’t be uncommon for South Africans to respond by saying how American the modern Biblical Counselling Movement is. Fair enough, it did start in the USA! But because it is rooted in biblical convictions, what came out of the USA must not stay there. Interpersonal gospel ministry, personal counselling from God’s Word, must be practiced wherever God’s people are—including in South Africa! If you are curious and would like to find out more, please investigate the website of the BCC Global Summit http://bccglobalsummit.org where you can learn about how God’s Word, personally applied, is bearing fruit all over the globe.