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by Hilary Tompkins
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Thu Sep 04, 2014
Closing the gap in biblical counseling
A lot of good work has happened in the field of biblical counseling since the 1960s. And a lot of good work still needs to happen.
For those of us who are biblical counselors, when we only talk to those who self-select in as committed to biblical counseling, we can imagine that biblical counseling has won the day. We assume that every Evangelical Christian is committed to, understands, learns from, and thinks highly of biblical counseling. That simply is not true.
Since the 1960s, the modern biblical counseling movement has, by God’s grace, made big strides. Yet, while much good has occurred, there still exist many gaps between what biblical counseling is and how people perceive it. Here are three of those Christians and church leaders can work to address and close.
Gap #1: The pulpit ministry vs. the personal ministry
Many Evangelical Bible colleges, Christian liberal arts colleges, seminaries, and Christian graduate schools believe in and equip their students to present God’s sufficient Scripture from the pulpit. Homiletics (preaching) courses equip students to relate God’s truth to people’s lives, believing that the Bible is authoritative, sufficient, and necessary for real healing, change, forgiveness, and growth. Yet, in many of those same schools, when it comes to the personal ministry of the Word—pastoral counseling—students are not taught to have the same confidence in the Bible’s authority, sufficiency, and necessity to minister to broken lives.
You can see the same gap between the pulpit ministry of the Word (preaching) and the personal ministry of the Word (counseling) in some Evangelical local churches where pastors confidently relate truth to life in the pulpit, but then either refer people to secular sources or help people using secular principles in the pastor’s office.
Gap #2: Many do not know the legacy of counselors before them
I have the privilege of teaching as an adjunct and of speaking as a guest speaker at many Evangelical higher education institutions. I’ll often mention to students the names of leaders in the biblical counseling world like Paul Tripp, David Powlison, Jay Adams, Steve Viars, Randy Patten, and more. Invariably less than 10% of these well-educated, well-read, well-informed students have ever heard of these leaders or read a single book they’ve written.
I’ve named leading biblical counseling organizations like NANC, CCEF, IBCD, Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries, and few have ever heard of them. I recently spoke to over 200 Stephen ministers from over three dozen churches. Few had ever heard of leading biblical counselors or of leading biblical counseling ministries.
Gap #3: Some who know us do not think highly of us
In speaking to these groups, when some do say they have heard of our leaders and our organizations, I ask them to share their thoughts. “What’s your gut reaction when you hear the term ‘biblical counseling’?” “How would you define ‘biblical counseling’?” “What do you think of the writings and teachings of biblical counseling leaders?”
Sad to say, many of the answers are not positive. They respond with stereotypes about the nature of biblical counseling, calling it shallow and labeling it a “one-verse-one-problem-one-solution approach to helping people.” They stereotype it as “truth-telling without loving connection.”
I know that this is hard to believe if we travel only in biblical counseling circles. While much good work has been done to close the gaps from the 1960s to today, much more work needs to happen.
Read the entire article here to learn how you can help close the gap.
The Biblical Counseling Coalition exists to promote personal change, centered on the Person of Christ through the Personal Ministry of the Word. They provide a wellspring of resources for people who offer care, seek care, and train caregivers.