About two years ago, I found myself on my way to becoming what I thought was God’s calling in my life. I had just completed all the training to become a Biblical Counselor at my church, and I was beginning to counsel others. I was all set to get started. I had my puritan prayer book, my counseling session binder all put together with the resources given to me from my local church, and oh yeah – I had my Bible. Everything was perfectly organized in my Biblical Counseling bag. It seemed like something was missing though . . .
On the outside, it looked like I had it all together. But on the inside, I was fighting an intuitive feeling that something was not right. I found myself continually dismissing that feeling. I kept telling myself that it was just Satan trying to scare me away from my calling.
After meeting with my first counselee in a small rectangular room for 60 minutes, that feeling did not get any better. The hundreds of psychotherapy sessions that I went through before becoming a Christian began to flash through my mind. The nagging question kept coming back to mind over and over. Was this Biblical Counseling that I was now involved with really any different than psychotherapy?
Biblical Counseling was different at least on the surface. Everyone in the Biblical Counseling program kept telling me that it was different. On the first day of Biblical Counseling training, they gave us a chart that compared Biblical Counseling to Psychotherapy. Biblical Counseling appeared much different because it used the Bible as the ultimate authority. The sessions usually started with prayer, ended with prayer, and there was always some biblically based homework. All the counselors were Christians and prayed daily for their counselees. Somehow, against my better judgement, it all convinced me to move forward. I talked to many of my friends. They were also interested in becoming counselors at our church, but for some reason they always got the run-around from the ministry. My friends would volunteer, but our church would never follow up on getting them “approved” to continue. However, I was chosen for the ministry. They were very interested in me entering the Biblical Counseling ministry. It seemed easy for me, like it was God’s plan.
I regret that I did not listen to my intuition. It was likely the Holy Spirit trying to nudge me and wake me up. I should have searched the scriptures and been more sober minded about the experience. I began to examine the scriptures about what God says about a counseling ministry. That examination proved to be extremely short. In fact, it never really happened at all. The Bible actually does not say anything about a counseling ministry geared to life’s difficulties. There are no parallels or anything that even remotely resembles such a ministry. Instead, God instructs all believers to minister to each other. We are all to be ministering and encouraging each other.
I was shocked to find out that our church’s biblical-counseling waiting list was extremely long. People would wait several months for “counseling.” How could this be? The answer is simple: there were not enough Biblical counselors to minister to all the hurting people. Meanwhile, many of the members of the church were sitting around idle because they were not “qualified” to minister to their brothers and sisters in Christ. This was a recipe to a sick and dying church: Idleness + Hurting Members = Dead Church.
If God calls all members of the body to minister to one another with the help of the Holy Spirit, then where does this model used in the Biblical Counseling Ministry come from? It does not come from the Bible at all. My dear brothers and sisters of Christ, it comes from the world. It comes from Psychotherapy.
In fact, the founder of the Biblical Counseling Movement, Jay Adams was influenced by psychologist and behavior therapist O. Hobart Mowrer. Adams completed a summer internship in two psychiatric hospitals in Illinois. Following his internship, he integrated psychology and behavioral therapy with Christianity. He believed that Christians somehow need an “alternative” to psychotherapy, coming up with a new genre, “Biblical Counseling.”
For this reason, Biblical Counseling looks very much like psychotherapy. For example, Biblical Counseling meetings are usually called sessions. Many times, the sessions last for 60 to 90 minutes and are scheduled once or twice a week. The sessions take place in a room that is much like an office used for psychotherapy. It is very common for the counselee to talk almost the entire session while the counselor analyzes (and makes assumptions) about the counselee’s life. Each Biblical Counselor is also trained and certified. These concepts, however, are completely foreign to scripture. They follow instead the functional models of modern psychotherapy. Biblical Counseling can help some people, but usually they are the people struggling with the simplest problems to solve.
The Bible teaches something much different. Fellow Christians struggling with big problems are to be ministered to by the body of Christ, led by the Holy Spirit. They need to “do life” with as many Christians as possible. Devoted, Christian friends must be committed to telling the truth. These Christian brothers and sisters help each other live out their lives just how the Bible prescribes. It is that simple.
In contrast, I know from my experience that I could offer very little help as a Biblical Counselor. I was limited to having a professional relationship with the counselee. This inhibited my ability to really get to know and understand the counselee. In fact, it precluded me from entering their life in any meaningful or long-lasting way at all.
In my experience, the people who have ministered to me the most powerfully were simply close friends who were led by the Holy Spirit. On the other side of that, I have been able to minister to fellow Christians only when I have a close friendship with that particular someone.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let’s stop using this worldly model where “certified counselors” are the only ones qualified to address life’s deepest problems. Let’s all follow God’s way instead where all the Body of Christ humbly ministers to each another. Let’s not be idle Christians like Satan wants, let’s take action!