I teach at a missional seminary. You might wonder what “missional” is all about. Well, I’ve tried to articulate why missional is all about redemptive and redeeming relationships. Such relationships change the ways we relate to those we seek to serve, whether here in the U.S. or in any other part of the world. To read a bit about how missional relates to serving others in Africa, read this post over at the Biblical Seminary faculty blog. It came out on Halloween but Hurricane Sandy made her appearance a few days earlier so I doubt many saw this.
Category Archives: Doctrine/Theology
Over at Biblical Seminary’s faculty blog, I have a new guest post up pointing readers to 7 important questions to ask as they review their church’s existing abuse policy. One of the questions ISN’T whether or not your church HAS an abuse policy. I assume that every church has one already.
Read the post here.
Why do we have to study theology? I don’t need that to be a good counselor?
These are words I have heard from students studying counseling and/or psychology in both university settings and seminaries. What would you say?
Biblical and theological training in professional programs?
Most Christian institutions offering counseling or psychology graduate programs require some level of theological engagement. Otherwise, why exist? Some do so via specific course work while others embed the theological or biblical material into classic counseling courses. At Biblical, we do both. We require traditional counseling courses such as Marriage & Family, Helping Relationships, Psychopathology, Social & Cultural Foundations, etc. In these courses we explore counseling theory and practice from an evangelical Christian psychology perspective. We also require students to complete courses like, “Counseling & the Biblical Text” and “Counseling & Theology: Cultural Issues” where they engage biblical texts and theological study as they consider how it forms counseling theory/practice and shapes the character of the counselor.
Is all counseling theological?
Yes. And David Powlison in the most recent CCEF NOW magazine (2-4) talks about this very fact. Here are some choice tidbits,
…counselors deal with your story. In fact, they become players in that story. By word and deed, even by their line of questioning, they inevitably offer some form of editing or rescripting, some reinterpretation of your story.
Counseling is inescapably a moral and theological matter. To pretend otherwise is to be naive, deceived, or duplicitous.
…all counseling uncovers and edits personal stories…. All counseling must and does deal with questions of true and false, good and evil, right and wrong, value and stigma, glory and shame, justification and guilt.
All counseling explicitly or implicitly deals with questions of redemption, faith, identity, and meaning.
Thus, if value-free counseling is not possible (the very questions we ask lead clients in one direction or another), then it stands to reason that every counselor ought to explore the theologies (doctrines, interpretations, beliefs, etc.) he or she brings into the counseling room. Who is God? How does God operate? What is the purpose of the Bible? Does it have anything to say about my life, my attitudes, my relationships? What is sin? What is my purpose in life? What does God think about my suffering? And on we could go.
But counseling is NOT theologizing
But lest you think that Christian counselors spend a great deal of time plying clients with the right answers, on sin hunts, or catechising clients, let us remember that exhortation rarely makes for good counseling. In fact, most clients are well aware of their sins–even those who do not call themselves “believers.” And those who have correct theology are not less likely to have trouble in their relationships or less likely to struggle with racing thoughts or depression or less likely to get caught in addictive behavior.
Instead, good christian counseling consists mainly of,
- loads of stimulating questions designed not to get the “right” answer but to awaken the client to how they think, act, believe, relate, etc.
- Short observations to stimulate more critical understanding of the personal narratives being written, and
- Collegial exploration and practice of new narratives, perceptions, and behaviors.
Wait, just what is Christian about these three points? Couldn’t unbelieving counselors agree with this list? Sure they could. What makes these three activities Christian is the submission of both counselor and client to core convictions and practices of Christ followers.
The website, www.christianpost.com has picked up one of my recent blog posts about whether our bodies can cause us to sin. Never heard of the site before but nice to be noticed. You can see the post here if you missed it on my site: http://blogs.christianpost.com/guest-views/can-your-body-cause-you-to-sin-11696/
Over at Biblical Seminary’s Faculty Blog you can read my second of two posts on the topic of bodily weakness, sin, and culpability. I conclude with the realization that there is something more important in this conversation than ascribing blame or parsing fault.
I’m curious about your thoughts. How much does culpability really matter when determining your response to those whose bodies seem to cause them to sin?
I’ve written a post over at our Biblical Seminary faculty blog about the art of disagreeing with others in public. By public I mean the kinds of conversations that take place in face-to-face with an opponent, discussions of a thinker’s position in a classroom, or the kind that take place on Internet sites (e.g., blogs like this, news sites, etc.).
Check out my 5 tips to more loving disagreements. Try it out with your next conflict with a friend or family member.
Check out this blog entry from my colleague, Steve Taylor. Steve helps us consider what to make of the “unrebutted” charges against God found in Psalm 89. If you ever struggle with feeling that God has not kept his promises or struggled with what to do with OT passages that seem to charge God with failure to keep his promises…read this:
During my recent trip to the DRC and Rwanda I practiced French by reading the Bible in French and English. Not sure it helped much but I did discover an interesting difference in Matthew 5:6 between the two translations that made me stop and think.
First the NIV:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Now the French:
Heureux ceux qui ont faim et soif de la justice, car ils seront rassasiés!
Notice something different? Most English translations use the word righteousness. Those who hunger after righteousness will be filled (or satisfied). Now, when you substitute the word justice–those who hunger and thirst for justice–does it add meaning to you? It does to me.
Justice? Righteousness? Do you hear differences?¹
When I hear the word righteous, I think of individual holy acts, attitudes, and character. When I hear the word justice, I often think of fairness, judgment, and legal outcomes that make right prior wrongs. In reading this verse in French and in Goma, DRC where so many have no justice and can’t return to their villages due to ongoing conflict, my mind considers that Jesus might be saying that those who hunger and thirst after justice are going to be blessed in a particular way.
Obviously, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will also long for justice for individuals, communities and states. One cannot be righteous and yet unjust or just and unrighteous. However, it is possible for us to fight against sin in our own lives, practice individual acts of righteousness, and yet forget to pray and work for justice for those who are being oppressed.
Some years ago Carl Ellis, in a class on African American theology, suggested that White evangelical churches often preach and teach about individual righteousness (i.e., what to put off and what to put on) but rarely teach about corporate righteousness unless it is to rail against worldly matters (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, greed, etc.). I do think this is changing as evangelicals are paying attention to matters of justice around the world. Yet, we can be reminded that God cares about those who are unjustly treated. It is not just Abel’s blood that cries out (Gen 4:10) for justice.
Thankfully, there is a just and righteous outcome. The sacrifice of Jesus “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:24). Yet when you read Matthew 5 don’t forget that God is actively blessing those who are oppressed. He will satisfy them by fulfilling their desires. Let us not forget to hunger and thirst after justice for ourselves and for the world.
¹In this post I am not tackling the best translation for the Greek word (δικαιοσύνην) used in this verse. The 92 times it is used in the KJV are all translated righteous/ness. However justice is implied in 2 Peter 1:1 as we have faith due to the righteousness of God.
I know, 9/11 remembrances have come and gone. However, this reflection from Diane Langberg speaks to the struggle of the workers on the “heap” and her experience with them while they were uncovering their colleagues who had died trying to save others. As usual, Diane has a way of seeing God in the midst of death.
Here’s the link.
I am frequently asked about the best materials out there for churches interested in building a lay counseling ministry. There are materials out there that help to teach people to be good listeners. There are materials out there that give lay counselors an education on the nature of problems and how God is in the business of changing hearts and minds. These same materials help readers realize that lay counseling can be a credible and highly important ministry in the church. While professionals are needed for difficult cases, many counseling needs can be handled “in-house” if the church supports and supervises wise lay counselors.
Well, a new book is out and though I have not read it all, I have gotten a flavor of it, enough to recommend it to you all if you are looking for such a book. It is written by Robert Kellemen, author of a number of counseling texts and frequent blogger. Don’t miss his answer to a question of mine at the bottom.
Why is this an important book?
- Most prior books on this topic present lay counseling either as an anemic listening only task or speak only in theological terms and fail to actually train lay counselors to listen well. This book considers both the biblical basis for lay counseling AND is concerned about listening skills as well.
- Most prior books forget to bring the WHOLE church along in the vision of biblical counseling. Bob has the readers consider the church culture and health. If the church (leaders) aren’t buying in to this, there won’t be a counseling ministry.
- Bob focuses on the character of the counselor. This is HUGE. What’s worse than a poorly trained counselor? One who is well-trained but arrogant and un-reflective.
- Bob covers practical matters of a counseling ministry including the ethics of lay counseling. This is extremely important if a church doesn’t want to make mistakes that could lead to lawsuits.
Click here for more on the book including a table of contents, video trailer, and sample chapter.
So, I asked Bob this question:
Most churches seem divided between those who support lay biblical counseling and those who think counselors should be specialists outside the church. How does your book speak to both?
Bob’s answer is extended but helpful:
That’s an excellent question. Anyone who knows the focus of my ministry knows that I tend not to be an either/or person, but rather a both/and person. I believe God calls both biblical counselors in the church and those who counsel outside the church.
Equipping Counselors for Your Church, by the very nature of the title, is much more focused on local church-based equipping. However, in chapter one I address More Than Counseling: A Vision for the Entire Church. Here I outline seven different “styles” of meeting counseling needs in the Christian community–including the “specialist model.”
A main reason I choose to focus on equipping counselors for the church is that very few others are doing so. While we have scores and scores of books about training professional Christian counselors, the last book written on equipping counselors for the church was Tan’s 1991 book–based upon his 1980s dissertation which in turn was based upon research from the 1970s. We’ve gone an entire generation without a book on equipping counselors for the church! Frankly, that’s inexcusable given the Bible’s clear mandate that we equip God’s people to speak the truth in love so that we all grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Further, we have 100s of counselor education programs in Christian colleges, graduate schools, and seminaries, but in my research, few of those programs have required courses in equipping counselors. In the one course I took on the topic in my seminary MA, we were told that it was not possible to equip counselors for the local church! I couldn’t disagree more. I always tell pastors, counselors, and students that if you are going to obtain a Master’s Degree that means you have so mastered the topic that you not only are able to do the work of counseling, you should be able to equip others also.
So, we could debate the issue forever (biblical counselors in the church or specialists outside the church), but the fact is, there’s a dearth of biblical, best-practice material available for those who are committed to equipping one-another ministers for the church. Equipping Counselors for Your Church brings together two-dozen best-practice churches who are doing it successfully now, plus my experience launching and leading biblical counseling ministries in three very different churches. It provides a biblical, logical, theological, relational, field-tested, practical step-by-step “4E” process: envisioning, enlisting, equipping, and empowering.