Since the topic of counseling is connected to many debatable topics, we think it is best to articulate what our general approach to counseling is. 1 What should we expect of those who counsel? What does the Bible say about this counseling relationship? These sixteen points are crucial to make sure that what we are doing is indeed biblical. Counselors will readily agree to these points, and will be accountable to work toward these ideals. They all answer the question: “How will we counsel?” The answer: We will counsel.
With prayer. We will strive to pray with our counselees as we seek the Lord’s help in the process. During counseling, we recognize our complete and prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit and our need for his wisdom and empowerment. (Ephesians 6:18-20, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
By building trust. We recognize the importance of building trust with counselees, and seek to do so by providing a safe environment. This includes appropriate confidentiality, compassionate listening, and appropriate disclosure of our worldview out of which we will be counseling.
By promoting the Gospel. We will not be on a judgmental hunt for sin, but will rather present the comfort and call of the gospel. The comfort of the gospel deals with our suffering, guilt, and shame. The call of the gospel prompts a renewed repentance and faith in Christ. (Mark 1:15, John 1:29, Mark 10:43-45. Colossians 1:13-14)
With appropriate and gentle confrontation. As we interact with mindsets and worldviews that are not anchored in Scripture, we will seek to confront them in a way that is both appropriate to the situation and gentle to the counselee. (Galatians 6:1, Ephesians 4:1-2, 2 Corinthians 10:1)
With patience and perseverance. “Believing that the root of every emotional and relational problem is sin profoundly affects the conception of how to heal, but it does not lead to simplistic estimations of how easy healing is.” 2 We know that the internal and external struggles of life can be very complex. We seek to be patient and are committed to the process by which the Holy Spirit may work in a person’s life. (Ephesians 4:2, Romans 12:12, 1 Corinthians 13:4, 2 Timothy 2:24-25)
With the truth of God’s Word. We recognize that only God’s Word ultimately has “a power to rearrange the mental world and waken the conscience and create hope.”3 That is why this is ultimately a Word-based ministry. Within the Bible’s overall guidelines for the personal ministry of the Word, there is room for a variety of practical methods of change, all anchored in applying scriptural truth to people’s lives and relationships. (Matthew 4:4, Romans 15:4, Hebrews 4:12- 13, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Isaiah 55:11)
With grace-infused talk. Recognizing that words have power and influence, we seek for our language to be full of grace, love, hope, and encouragement. (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Romans 15:14)
By engaging with God’s love. We seek to enter into a person’s story, listen well, express thoughtful love, and engage the person with compassion. We seek to speak the truth in love. Wise love based on Scripture takes many appropriate forms, “from caring comfort to loving rebuke, from careful listening to relevant scriptural exploration.”4 (1 Thessalonians 2:8, 5:14-15, 1 John 4:7-21, Hebrews 4:14-16, John 13:34-35, Ephesians 4:11-16).
As emotionally-in-touch. We want a healthy awareness of our own emotions and the emotions of others. This includes what is being felt in counseling, even if not expressed. “We will take into account what people are experiencing and not merely what the biblical truths are that come to bear on the problem. We will seek to feel appropriate feelings and know when our emotions are out-of-sync with the situation. This means we will sense what others are feeling and know how to adjust the way we speak the truth so that it fits the moment.”5 (Deuteronomy 32:2, Romans 12:15, Hebrews 4:15, 13:3)
As culturally-informed. We will seek to be aware of the historical, social, cultural, and family factors that shape the sin, suffering, and righteousness of our lives. We will not estimate cultural, social, or family factors above spiritual ones relating to the power of sin and grace, but we do recognize that the shape of sin and righteousness is influenced by family, social, and historical things that may help people distinguish between what is sin and what is not, and what is virtue and what is not.6 (Acts 17:23,28, Proverbs 6:6-8, Job 38-41)
With a view towards the whole person. We will focus on the full range of human nature as created in the image of God. The Bible sees human beings as “relational (spiritual and social), rational, volitional, emotional, and physical. Wise counseling takes the whole person seriously in his or her whole life context. We recognize the complexity of the relationship between the body and soul. Because of this, we seek to remain sensitive to physical factors and organic issues that affect people’s lives. In our desire to help people comprehensively, we seek to apply God’s Word to people’s lives amid bodily strengths and weaknesses. We encourage a thorough assessment and sound treatment for any suspected physical problems.” 7 (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:7, 1 Peter 3:8-22)
With wisdom. The Bible is comprehensive in wisdom, which means that the Bible makes sense of all things. “This does not mean that it contains all the information people could ever know about all topics. We affirm that numerous sources (such as scientific research, organized observations about human behavior, those we counsel, reflection on our own life and experience, literature, film, and history) can contribute to our knowledge of people, and many sources can contribute some relief for the troubles of life. However, none can constitute a comprehensive system of counseling principles and practices. When systems of thought and practice claim to prescribe a cure for the human condition, they compete with Christ. Scripture alone teaches a perspective and way of looking at life by which we can think biblically about and critically evaluate information and actions from any source.”8 “The Bible calls us to use wise methods that minister in Christ-centered ways to the unique life situations of specific people.” 9 (Proverbs 15:23, 25:11, Ephesians 4:29, 2 timothy 3:16-17, Colossians 2:2-10)
With a view towards mission. We believe that God’s heart is mission-minded. He desires for all to be saved by repenting and believing the gospel. We also understand that we will counsel people of varying levels of faith. In interacting with people with whom we differ, we want to communicate in ways that are respectful, firm, gracious, and clear. 10 Though our goals and intentions may not change with unbelievers, we recognize more wisdom and strategic love may be needed to counsel them well. (1 Peter 3:15, Titus 2:10-15).
By equipping people for community. The goal of conformity to Christ is not a private expedition. Good spiritual health includes healthy community with other Christians. In the counseling process we will seek to encourage and equip counselees to be appropriately engaged in biblical community with others. (Romans 15:14, Hebrews 3:12-19, 10:19-25, Ephesians 4:15-16)
As humble co-strugglers. As forgiven followers of Christ, we know we have not arrived, and that we ourselves still need the comfort and call of the Gospel. “We admit that we struggle to apply consistently all that we believe. We who counsel live in process, just like those we counsel, so we want to learn and grow in the wisdom and mercies of Christ.” 11 (2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Galatians 6:14, Philippians 3:12)
With accountability. Because this is a ministry of a local church, we recognize the importance of accountability. We are ultimately accountable to God for how we counsel. So we seek to be faithful to Scripture. We also know appropriate supervision is needed over and among counselors, and that this ministry is under the shepherding guidance of the elders and pastors of Calvary. (Hebrews 13:17, Romans 14:12)
1 – Debates include: relationship between the Bible and science, relationship between psychology and theology, use of medication, and many others.
2 – John Piper, “Toward a Definition of the Essence of Biblical Counseling” www.desiringgod.org.
3 – Ibid.
4 – Confessional Statement of Biblical Counseling Coalition, biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/about/confessionalstatement/, page 4
5 – John Piper, “Toward a Definition of the Essence of Biblical Counseling”
6 – John Piper, “Toward a Definition of the Essence of Biblical Counseling”
7 – Confessional Statement, page 5.
8 – Confessional Statement, page 2.
9 – Confessional Statement, page 4.
10 – Confessional Statement, page 2.
11 – Confessional Statement, page 1.