Sunday, June 1, 2008

What is "Biblical Counseling"???

We live in a time where there are all kinds of offers of solutions to life’s problems. Just look around you – you do not have to look far to see what the world wants to sell you to relieve your discomfort. We can walk in to almost any doctor’s office and throw out a few symptoms (anxiety, depression, fear, stressed out, temper, etc), and walk out of there with a pill to ease our symptom. We can turn on the television any time of day – Oprah, Dr. Phil, The Today Show, and others all claim to have the answers to our daily struggles with our stress, our relationships and our lack of peace. We stand in line at the grocery store and can read the headlines about quick-fixes and miracle cures and self-help techniques. Bookstore shelves (even at Christian bookstores) are full of books under the heading ‘Self Help’, where people have written their opinions in to a format that will sell because it sounds so ‘right’ and we just aren’t satisfied until we get those answers that feel good. Drive around town, and notice how many counseling centers there are, offering the psychological answers to your perceived needs, for a hefty price.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking questions like “Why do I feel so discouraged and lonely all the time? I can barely get out of bed in the morning, should I go on an antidepressant? I pray, read my Bible, and go to church, so why am I feeling so depressed? Do these panic attacks mean that I am a bad Christian? Who can I talk to at church about my failing marriage? My kids are rebelling, what kind of help is there for me? I have chronic pain and just feel so defeated all the time – what hope is there? I am so worried all the time, how can I trust God when things are so bad? Why can’t I sleep at night? I’m so stressed out, how can that change? How do I get these negative thoughts out of my head?”, and so many more.

Where do believers go, then, for answers? There is a philosophy of counseling that is contrary to what you will find in the secular realm, and contrary to what you will find in many professional counseling practices that offer Christian Counseling.
This type of counseling, Biblical Counseling, is done in the local church by trained lay-counselors in the spirit of bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”).

There are several benefits to counseling in the context of the church. The counselor is held accountable to the church leadership, to ensure this his/her own walk is growing in a godly direction and that ministry is solidly biblical. The counselor and counselee often have a relationship within the body aside from the counseling context alone. This enables the counselor to be involved in the counselee’s life more personally and deeply. The counselee, as a part of the church body, is ministered to by more than just the counselor as he/she participates in church life, and therefore is able to be held accountable. The counselee, as progress is made, can be encouraged in to areas of service according to their gifts. Also of importance is that biblical counseling is a ministry, and therefore there often is no charge, making it available to virtually everyone.

The goal of biblical counseling is change in a godly direction. The Bible contains both the truth which describes the answer to the problem (2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”), and the means to change (John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”). God has given us the Scripture for the very purpose of instructing, rebuking, correcting and training us in righteousness (abandoning sinful thinking and behavior). By His Word, God molds us into the kind of people He intends us to be. In this way He equips us to function as He intended us to live.

Application of scripture is the primary emphasis of biblical counsel. Counseling is the work of the Holy Spirit. He comes alongside the counselor and the one being counseled to apply the Scriptures to the human heart. Counseling is carried on with the understanding that the Spirit is the one who effects regeneration and sanctification. He produces His fruit in the life of the counselee. We also supply practical tools, to enable putting the Word into practice in life (Ephesians 4:22-24 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”). The focus of biblical counseling is on the biblical solutions to problems, and when the counseling ends, the counselee can have victory and be a ‘doer of the Word’ in that area of his/her life (James 1:25 “But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”)

My counseling ministry is currently thriving and growing. The counseling team I serve on currently consists of one certified counselor (me) and my pastor. God has seen fit to use the ministry to address some deep needs in the lives of women and marriages. The ministry has been focused on my church family, but is not necessarily limited to that. Currently the ministry offers 1:1 Biblical Counseling and discipleship for women and girls, as well as Ladies Bible studies in groups or 1:1. We also have available team counseling for couples. Referrals can be made for men and boys.
It is our desire to point people to the Word of God for the answers they seek, and walk alongside them through the process of change. It is an honor and privilege to see God change hearts and lives as we serve him!

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

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