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Editors note: This post is written by Krista Lambert who counsels for Biblical Counseling Center.  In this series, we are featuring articles written by the women of the Biblical Counseling Center, talking about how God has shaped them for their ministry of biblical counseling.  Krista shares how God has shaped her through struggle and how that enables the ministry she now has towards others.

It’s funny, isn’t it, the stereotypes we cling to?  Multiple stereotypes exist within the counseling world.  As a Biblical counselor I face not just those stereotypes, but also those which exist for people in ministry- those that say I must be as wise as Solomon, as concise and authoritative as the Apostle Paul, and as perfect as Jesus for God to use me.  When a counselee comes to me with the assumption that is who they will meet, what logically follows is the assumption that I will judge them, that I cannot possibly understand what they are going through, and that all I will offer is a Scriptural form of textbook answers concisely packaged to suit their brand of struggle.  

What I hope people find instead is that I am a broken person, just as they are, and desperately in need of my Savior.  I hope they see that any good in me is a testimony of His goodness and faithfulness. I hope they, as C.S. Lewis said, “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice.” 

My Story

I was the child of a parent from a legalistic, patriarchal religious belief system that emotionally abused its adherents.  My parents marriage was a storm, filled with nights crying myself to sleep while they screamed and yelled. They separated and began the divorce process when I was 7.  The night my mother drove away with our belongings in laundry baskets and I found myself sleeping on a relative’s couch was the night I first cried out to the God I had heard about in Sunday School, and somehow knew could hold me through the painful situation. 

Childhood was unstable, going back and forth between two vastly different homes, pulled between a desire to earn the love of two vastly different parents. At age 12 I was repeatedly sexually abused by a stepfather, fortunately finding solace and stability within a church youth group.  I didn’t disclose the abuse and begin to face healing until my senior year of high school.  Determined that God could use my mess for good, I went to Bible college as a counseling major, but there was a craving in my heart for Biblical knowledge, and I was disillusioned by workshops on medication and classes on psychological techniques.  I changed schools and changed my major to theology.

I married at 19, a man who, while having struggled with drugs and pornography addiction in his past, had the “picture perfect” family my heart craved.  I had to believe he had changed and was the Prince Charming who could give me a perfect family, too, the one I had never experienced as a child.  Unfortunately, I quickly discovered his walk with God was phony and fake, carefully constructed to gain the approval of his family, and under the surface he continued to violate our marriage with pornography and extramarital activities, through multiple failed ministry positions and the births of 3 children.

Finally, he dropped out of seminary, then out of ministry, and went full-time into the Army.  As soon as he arrived in Afghanistan for his first deployment he emailed me to tell me he was filing for divorce.  I discovered he had been having an affair for over a year.  I had been exposed to Biblical counseling through an ACBC counselor who attended the church we had been in prior to his joining the Army.  I called her, and she gave me wisdom to help me through that season, and connected me to a counselor in my area.  Biblical counseling was a lifeline, connecting me to practical, yet Biblical, help, encouragement, and wisdom. 

Overcoming My Stereotype

I didn’t believe God could use me anymore with the big scarlet letter of divorce across my forehead, but slowly He began to heal and restore my heart, not just from the rejection of adultery and heartbreak of a broken marriage and dreams, but from my past, as well- the hurt of my parents’ divorce, the wounds of sexual and emotional abuse.  As a single mother I started a daycare in my home so that I could be there for my own children as much as possible while still supporting them financially.  I went back to school online, working at night and naptimes.  At first I wanted to pursue a secular degree that would just pay the bills, but I realized that more than ever the call to counseling burned in my heart.  If God could redeem and use the broken pasts and stories of men and women of Scripture, could He possibly use mine? 

God began to send encouragers to build me up and help me start to dream new and different dreams, God-sized dreams.  I remarried, and my new husband urged me to close my daycare and work part-time so I could take classes full-time.  Eventually, I completed my bachelor’s degree, a Biblical Counseling certification, and finally, a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling from a seminary, unfathomable to me, as I had always thought my ex-husband would be the one with the seminary degree. My seminary graduation was a full 20 years after that first foray into college with those dreams of being a counselor.  Twenty years in which God shaped me into a completely different person and yet simultaneously restored me to the person He had created me to be all along.  He allowed me to overcome the stereotypes that should have defined a child of a broken home, the product of abuse, the divorcee, the single mom.

How You Can Overcome Your Stereotype

The heart of my ministry is found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” I am astounded at God’s goodness each time I realize a different story of something I walked through has not only been redeemed for me, but is being used to point someone else to comfort, to redemption, to hope.

How might God be calling you to allow Him to redeem your own story?  If you feel inadequate, remember Paul, who said he was “the worst of sinners,” and that God’s power was “perfected in his weakness.”  Remember that he wrote most of the letters that inspire us today from prison.  If you feel judged by outward appearances, remember Esther, who was seen as a mere object, and yet was called “for such a time as this.”  If you feel it’s too late, remember Joseph, who waited years for the dreams God had given him to be fulfilled.  Overcome the stereotypes that you’ve allowed to define you and your calling, and let God define your potential instead.

About Krista

I am wife to an awesome man and mom to three exceptional boys that we are raising in the Chicagoland suburbs.  I love to counsel women, families, children and teens and share with them my experience in finding God faithful.  I counsel in the Schaumburg office and via Skype.

The post Finding Comfort Beyond My Stereotype appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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Editor’s Note: Today, we are starting a series about women involved in the ministry of biblical counseling.  Our heart is that this equipping series will encourage more churches and more individual women to embrace the impact they can make for Christ through learning and engaging in effective biblical counseling.

During this series, you will hear from the women counselors of BCC, about their stories and how they have learned to effectively counsel women.

In recent months, many arguments about the roles of women in ministry have been widely debated on the internet and have distracted our attention from the ministry that God has called us all to do.

Do we realize that even if women aren’t permitted to preach in your church, they must still disciple? Even if women can preach at your church, they must still disciple!

Why are so many churches ignoring the biblical mandate to equip women to shoulder real world ministry?

What if churches stopped arguing about women like Beth Moore preaching and started equipping all the women of their church to be effective in ministry?

Since the pulpit only contains the ministry opportunity for one person per week anyway, should we not focus most intently on how to equip the larger portion of the church body for the ministry they are called to on any given week?

Despite the amount of ink that has been spilled in recent months about whether women belong in the pulpit of conservative churches (I won’t solve that dilemma here) there is one obvious concern that is being ignored, whether you embrace women in the pulpit or not.

If both sides of that debate really believe (I know they both do) that women are called by God to embrace ministry opportunities where they shepherd, disciple, influence, comfort, care, steward, exhort, and nurture, how is your church equipping them to provide life-changing impact?

Rather than focusing our discussions about the validity of the restrictions that many women face in ministry, why are we not focusing more time, energy, and ink on how to equip the greatest amount of women for the ministry that we are certain the women of our churches are called to do?  We can do better.

The Need for “Great Commission” Called Women

Equipping all of the women of the body to disciple others will result in ministry that will impact your church deeply.  Women must disciple effectively and shepherd compassionately throughout the week for a church to be healthy, and women are very effective engaging in this type of ministry.  I hope your church leadership sees the Great Commission as integral to the calling of every member, both men and women and the way for all of us to have the greatest impact for Christ.

Unfortunately, many women in our churches are unclear as to how they can best fulfill that calling and mandate of the Great Commission.  Biblical counseling provides a critical pivot point from the Great Commission in idea to the Great Commission in practice.

What if you equipped the women in your church to have discipleship conversations about the real struggles that women face every day?  These conversations are crucial to having a healthy church discipleship culture.  Issues like anxiety, parenting, marriage struggles, depression, family unity and spiritual disciplines are all areas where godly and mature women can share wisdom and experience for good. This is the heart of biblical counseling.

The Great Commission mandate is about evangelism, but also about teaching practical obedience and spiritual vitality.  Many women in our evangelical churches long to be discipled, but many have not experienced this life-giving experience. Many others long to teach what they have learned, they just don’t know where or how.

Biblical Examples of Women who spoke up with wisdom 

Not only are the discipleship conversations crucial to the health of your church, they are modeled by women of faith all throughout scripture.  As you read, you find bold conversations from women like Abigail, the Shunammite Woman, Hannah, Ruth, Esther, and others. These women knew that God was with them and they had the opportunity to make an impact in a way that pleased God and blessed his people.  Do your women share this same boldness and heart to make a difference?  If not, why not?

Diagnostic Questions to assess the health of your equipping strategy for women

  • Does the topic of equipping women ever become enough of a priority to enter into your leadership discussions?
  • Do the women at your church feel like they are responsible to disciple the next generation of believers at their church?
  • Do the women at your church dream big dreams about kingdom impact?
  • Do the women at your church feel like they have the support of the leaders?
  • Do the women of your church know who they can talk to about personal struggles they are facing?  Is anyone equipped to walk with them?

 A Simple Plan for Equipping Women in Your Church to have bold Conversations

I have often heard from leaders in our partner churches that one of the best pathways to equip their women for ministry was to train them to utilize biblical counseling principles in their everyday relationships.  You can equip women who are prepared to facilitate conversations with hurting women who desire to talk through their struggles with someone who cares enough to share wisdom and their own life experience walking with God.

Churches, large and small, urban or suburban, healthy or unhealthy, can grow their women in ministry skills to make an impact.  Pastor and Church Leaders, what is your vision for how the women within your church will make the greatest impact? 

An Important Opportunity for your Women

This month, the women counselors of BCC will be sharing wisdom and experience about how God called them into the ministry of biblical counseling and how God is using them in this role.  We will be sharing redemptive stories of God’s grace and resources that can equip women from your church to better fulfill the task of discipleship.

Pastors and church leaders, even if you don’t think women are to preach from your pulpit, can they use your office to care for hurting women?  Will you invest yourself and your church leaders in equipping women to stand on the frontlines of discipleship in your church and care for those seeking help and hope?  Your whole church will benefit if you do.

The post Stop arguing, and equip your women for ministry! appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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As families gather together to enjoy fireworks in early July, many fear that relational fireworks might appear too. Family gatherings, congregation church meetings, city council meetings and children’s playoff sporting events all have the potential for relational fireworks.

How do you prepare yourself when you have to be there, but you fear the relational hurt that often accompanies volatile situations? How should you approach situations in life where fireworks are likely to appear?

Often times after major holidays, our counselors spend time unpacking relational firework displays that occurred when family and friends gathered. Proverbs gives us some principles to evaluate our heart in the midst of conflicts. How ready are you to avoid the relational fireworks that may occur? These five principles will help you be ready!

Resolve to Love Deeply – Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

A posture of love towards difficult people is hard, but many fireworks can be defused by choosing to overlook offense. Our pride says, “We don’t deserve to be treated this way,” but we overlook the impact on the lives of others when we choose hate over love.

Our world has so much hate already, what if we choose this summer to be salt and light?

Resolve to React Appropriately – Proverbs 13:10 – By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.

If you are like me, you might have had to look up the meaning of the word “insolence.” Try Arrogance, Incivility, Offensiveness, Rudeness on as similar words. Sounds more familiar to many of us now. 

I was just at a dinner party with family where an older man engaged my sons in polite conversation by taking an interest in their world and what they enjoyed. It was a delight to watch even though I knew my boys would have likely rather stared at their phone. 

Finding common ground for good is rare. Division comes naturally, but many relational fireworks are diffused when we refuse to take the bait on divisive topics.   

Resolve to Speak Truthfully – Proverbs 16:28 – A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

Perhaps you grew up in a family where people just don’t trust each other.  We can lie to get along, but it always creates more distrust and the atmosphere where relational fireworks thrive.  Choose to be a truth-teller, but choose to do that with an attitude of love.  Trust will never take root without truth.  Also, speaking truthfully requires you to speak; so silence is not a healthy option long-term.  Try asking, “What could I do to help us all get along better?”

Resolve to Disengage Quickly – Proverbs 17:14 – The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.

Proverbs engages a word picture of a dam about to break or a leaky pipe about to burst to describe the ways that relational fireworks ultimately lead to a powerful explosion. We are told to quit an argument before it gets out of hand.  In your tense relational moments, it’s ok to throw in the towel on an argument you could still win. Most relational arguments don’t really have a winner. Pull out of arguments that are going nowhere, and return to constructive conversation. 

Resolve to Ignore Peaceably – Proverbs 20:3 – It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

If you hang out on Twitter or Facebook too long, you realize that many seem to revel in discussing and creating controversy. They encourage outrage, then move on to the new controversy of the week. It’s as if they wake up and think, “Who should I be angry at today.” 

While exposing fraud and abuse has its place, a constant quarreler is foolish. It saps your energy and stops you from loving those around you to whom you have the greatest responsibility.  It’s ok not to have an opinion about every controversial topic.  Relational fireworks result when we care more about being right on the controversies than we care about the people affected by them.

Conclusion

As you gather for July 4th festivities, or other places where relational hurt has been experienced by you, remember the wisdom that has worked for Christians for 1000’s of years. We don’t have to let our relationships explode because of “strife”. We can choose to be a change agent for good.

The post How to Avoid Relational Fireworks appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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Is God calling you to live brave or safe? This article by BCC counselor Donna Hart, PhD, which appeared first here on her website, encourages your heart.

Deep within us is the yearning to be brave. Courage empowers us to do the right thing even in the face of fear. Why does it matter so much to our souls to do the right thing rather than the safe thing?  It points to the nature and delight of our Creator. 

When we think about being brave we can picture the courage of Jesus. He spoke the truth without fear. He lived on earth with a selfless love. And he had the unflinching strength to allow himself to be nailed to a cross on our behalf. In our deepest being we are made to be like Him.

It is the tragedy of our fallen natures to choose to sin countless times leaving us very far from what our Creator intended. The reality of this can fill us to despair to be as God designed.  

Who we are designed to be is evidenced more by the yearning within us to be brave rather than our past history. The Lord sets before us a pathway of courage and heart boldness. How can we be prepared to receive this grace?  

What’s stopping you to live brave?

Reflect on the life you are living now, the anxiety you are carrying, and the sense of the life God is calling you to live. What is holding you back from living out your calling?

Nervous busyness?

The first step in preparing ourselves to get free and live for the opportunities God has for us is to get quiet long enough to explore the deep roots of our fears. We must acknowledge our fears and receive our rescue from God.

Many of us know that Jesus has rescued us from the judgment of sin and death. But are we, in essence, very busy trying to rescue ourselves?

Deeply rooted in our nervous busyness is the fear that God really won’t accept us unless we clean ourselves up first. We fear that people will reject us if we do not live up to their expectations. Underlying the fear can be the belief that our worth is measured by the quality and quantity of our possessions.

We must come to that place of grace where our worth is fully believed and affirmed, without condition, by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has fully redeemed us.  If we do not believe God cares for us we will not be equipped to minister in the needy world around us.

Playing it safe?

The second question is whether we are being brave or just looking to be safe? Are we too busy thinking about defending who we are and what we have?

In that process are we forgetting that Christ has given us everything we have to enable us to live fully for Him? We were never meant to safeguard our stuff; those gifts are given to us to be put at discerning risk and spent, we are in a battle of life and death (Ephesians 6:10-13).

Remember in one of Jesus’ parables, when the servant reported that he had safeguarded rather than investing what the master gave entrusted to him?  The master said, “You wicked, lazy servant” (Matthew 25:26).

God reminds us that He is on the offensive move, not the powers of evil. He says that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Are we fearful that the enemy is the aggressor and we need to always be on the defensive?

Light wins every time

If that is not enough Jesus says that the forces of darkness cannot resist the forces of light. When light is shining in the darkness the light wins every time. 

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

Who do you know that is overcome by darkness and having a difficult time believing God is always good? We need to go take our light to them. 

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16 NRSV).

Brave one, take a risk

It is time to cling to the promises of Scripture, step out, take a risk, and live as if they were true. They are true and God will prove it to us. Courage comes as we step out in faith and do the brave thing.

Courage comes as we step out in faith and do the brave thing.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:28-31).

God doesn’t call us to try to be brave. He calls us to train to be brave. We do not arrive at courage in an instant, we arrive there by God’s grace over time.

Do you want to train to be brave or safe? Jesus wants us to make the joyful choice to be brave knowing and trusting that He is with us every step of the journey. He takes care of us we are always safe with Him. 

Is it time for you to step out for the adventure of your calling?

The post Brave or Safe? appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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In a world turned upside down, we say “thank you” to God in all circumstances for this is his will. BCC counselor Lucy Ann Moll continues counseling by video-conferencing (Skype, FaceTime, Zoom) from her new office in Alabama. Her article appeared first here on her website.

A “Thank You” prayer popped up in my e-mail box, and it was exactly what I needed amid all the craziness in the world. The pray-er wrote it after a natural disaster. But your trial might be something else — a wayward child, an illness, a difficult marriage, a financial setback, or another difficulty, right? Right now, I’m dealing with some family stuff.

And so I say “thank you” to God who is always with me and loves me.

I just want to say Thank You.

Lord, I just want to say THANK YOU. Thank you because this morning I woke up and knew where my children were.

And I thank you because this morning my home was still standing, because this morning I am not crying due to my husband, my child, my brother or sister needs to be recovered from underneath a pile of concrete.

Because this morning I was able to drink a glass of water, turn on the light, take a shower, and because I was not planning a funeral.

Thank You for my voice

But most of all I thank you this morning because I still have life and a voice to cry out for the people who hurt.

Lord, I cry out to you, the one that makes the impossible, possible, the one that turns darkness into light.

I cry out that you give those mothers strength, that you give them peace that surpasses all understanding.

So I pray You may open the streets so that help can come, that You may provide doctors, nurses, food, water, and all needs in a blink of an eye.

Give us peace, hope, and courage

Father, for all those that have lost family members, give them peace, give them hope, give them courage to continue to go on!

Protect the children and shield them with your love and power. I pray all this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Friends, isn’t it tough to give thanks in trials? But this is exactly what God call us to do. Consider 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

So what does this mean?
  1. We give thanks in the circumstance not necessarily for it. Who in her right mind would give thanks for a tragedy like a child’s cancer diagnosis? But we say thank you to God for being with us in our pain.
  2. As crazy as it sounds, we give thanks in all circumstances, even the hard, for they draw us to the Lord.
  3. And we know giving thanks is God’s will. No question.

The post Lord, Thank you … even when the world is crazy appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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A pastor at one of our Launch partnership churches, Michael Wallenmeyer, recently shared a quote he picked up at a conference, “If the disciples we are making, aren’t making disciples, are we making disciple of Jesus?” This mission is at the core of why we train churches to biblically counsel, or as we often call it “intensified, personalized discipleship.”

Does your church view counseling as part of discipleship? It should, and your ability to make reproducing disciples will increase with an intentional strategy to equip disciples to become disciple-makers. This is the heart of biblical counseling and the end result of our Launch Partnerships.

Recently, we asked Launch partners across the country to give us feedback on the benefits they see when they have partnered with BCC to train their people. Here are some of the most common responses.

Benefit #1 – Confidence in the Word and Confident Leaders

“More of our people see now that the scriptures really do help; more people are confident that help is really found in God’s word.” – Steve Whicker, Indiana

“The greatest benefit of Biblical Counseling Center’s training at our church is our people learned that the Bible has the answers for life’s complex problems. BCC’s training has brought hope and transformation to those who attended and has also made them more confident to help people in our congregation in every day discipleship.” – Matt Black, Illinois

“It trained our leaders and gave them confidence to counsel others.” – Michael Wallenmeyer, South Dakota

Conclusion: Three separate pastors in three different states shared “Confidence” as a key result of this training. They found that the Launch partnership brought confidence that the Word brings hope and healing, and confidence that this is how God would enable them to serve if they were willing.

Benefit # 2- Care for the Hurting in you church

“The benefit is that your people are equipped to help hurting and broken people get healed and restored, by guiding them in applying the Word of God to their lives through Biblical Counseling.” – Theresa Johnson, NC

Conclusion: Theresa ministers with her husband Danny in Roxoboro, NC and came to us a few years ago for help. They were burdened that they needed their church to offer better help, and no one in their community offers any sort of biblical counseling. Theresa has organized and led a group of faithful leaders over the past two years, who are now having deeper conversations and engaging in new ways.

Benefit # 3 – Community and Mission

“The top benefit of doing counseling training at your church is that members get to interact with each other in their home setting and they respectively teach and grow with each other. They unite on a common mission of learning how to counsel and care better. The counseling training in the local church delivers a unique experience in the context of existing relationships.” – Pat Stream, Wisconsin

Conclusion: No other biblical counseling training that I am aware of equips your church through a training process for making disciples. Our Launch partnerships help your church understand this important aspect: you are called to make disciples of everyone who walks through your doors or who is within your surrounding community. Your leaders will grow as you equip them, and they will reach others with what they have learned.

So many churches are putting on church services but rarely making disciples. Biblical Counseling training will refocus your church on why it exists: to make disciples.

We work with churches all over the country and will train your leaders or church staff to oversee the training. Reach out, we would love to talk with you and explain the partnership process.


The post A plan for better discipleship appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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Moral relativism — it defines topsy-turvy postmodern culture and is coming to a counseling room near you. How might a counselor think compassionately about such things? This article by BCC Counselor Lucy Ann Moll, DMin candidate, ACBC, appeared first here at The Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Remember the blind men and the elephant? Six blind sojourners come across different parts of an elephant in their life journeys and each, in turn, creates his own version of reality based on his experience. One proclaims the elephant is a wall, another says it’s a snake, another a spear, and so forth.

This illustration is the poster child of moral relativism, which insists that “what’s right for me is my truth.” It asserts that personal truth is the highest form of truth. Moral relativism dominates our culture and has likely barged into your counseling office, as it has mine, noisily demanding that one must “live their truth.”

Moral Relativism Is Old News

It reaches back to the Garden. The smooth-talking serpent questioned the Truth-giver’s truth—that Adam and Eve may eat from all the trees but one, or “you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17)—and the first couple gobbled Satan’s lie.

Adam’s new not-true “truth” sent him running and hiding and blaming. “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). He hid because of the shame of his sin of disobedience. Then he compounded his lie in blaming the woman, who in turn blamed the serpent.

God hates lying. Proverbs 12:22 declares:

“Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”

Its opposite is truth, of course. God determines the truth. Not me, not you, and not our counselees.

Moral Relativism in Modernity

Back in the ‘70s, I believed the lie of moral relativism packaged as a pro-choice argument. I admit this with great embarrassment. My friend Ellen was “with child,” thanks to her college boyfriend, a condom failure, and her belief that sex before marriage was “just fine, thank you.”

The good Catholic girl that I was, I thought abortion was wrong, and “I’d never get one,” but “if it’s right for you, then that’s your choice,” and thus I supported her decision. A mutual friend and I checked out the abortion clinic with the Better Business Bureau before she went because we cared about her.

And the baby? What baby?We all tried to forget. Moral relativism had won.

Now let’s zip to today and survey the cultural landscape: drag kidstransgenderism, an alphabet soup of gender “expressions” (whatever that means), pedophilia disguised as man-boy love, and of course abortion on demand through all the months of pregnancy. And when abortion “fails,” infanticide.

Moral Relativism in the Counseling Office

A little while back, the parents of a teen girl named “Kaylee” wanted me to talk with her about her older brother’s decision to transition to be “a female.” He had begun hormone therapy and was considering radical surgery to remove his genitalia. There was also talk of breast implants.

Equally confusing, my counselee’s brother was dating a bisexual. A man transitioning to a woman was dating a guy who admitted to liking men and women. Weird, right? Yet my counselee took it in stride. “She’s happier now,” Kaylee remarked, using the appropriate progressive pronoun. “She’s who she wants to be, who she’s meant to be.”

The parents professed Christianity as did Kaylee. The mom wasn’t outwardly upset over their son, but the dad seemed embarrassed and said so. Their concern now was making sure Kaylee was fine with their family’s new not-true truth while also admitting they walked a road where up is down and right is wrong.

Not surprisingly, when Kaylee and I read Scripture verses and discussed their meaning, she—like many counselees—was quick to say, “What this means to me is ….” That little prepositional phrase “to me” is a sign of our moral relativistic times and a bane to Bible study.

An Important Place to Reclaim Truth

As we open our Bibles and read Scripture, there may be no better place to reclaim truth in the counseling office than proper Bible study. Today’s prevailing cultural message to “live your truth” is demanding and noisy and a lie. It lures people, including Christians, to live whatever way feels right to them (Prov. 14:12).

But historical-grammatical Bible study provides a process to understand a text as God intended, protecting us from falling into error. Many excellent volumes have been written on how to study the Bible. I encourage you to ask your pastor or a spiritually mature Christian friend for recommendations. One of the many excellent resources is John MacArthur’s How to Study the Bible (Chicago: Moody, 2009).

Along these lines, let us start with three primary questions we can encourage our counselees to ask as they read a passage of Scripture:

  1. What does it say? (Not what does it say to me.)
  2. What does it mean? (Not what does it mean to me.)
  3. How should it change me? Here, the “me” is spot on and we might follow it up with these additional questions:
    1. What does this passage teach me about God?
    2. How does this aspect of God’s character change my view of self?
    3. What should I do in response?

Moral relativism is our culture’s precious grandchild now. It gets a pat on the head and sugar for supper. It demands its way like 2-year-old. And it barges into the counseling room. So how might you quiet it? Feed your counselee Truth.

Questions for Reflection

Which Bible study process helps your counselees have a correct understanding, interpretation, and application of Scripture?

Describe a time when you saw moral relativism play out in the counseling office, classroom, or church lobby. What was your response?

How are you guarding yourself and your family in today’s moral relativistic times?

The post When Moral Relativism Comes to Counseling appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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In my seminary’s counseling class, professors challenged the pastoral training class to find a good counselor or psychologist and outsource the vast majority of their counseling once they became pastors. The professors explained that the risks, frustrations, and relational pitfalls of counseling people would far outweigh the benefits that a pastor devoted to counseling might see. For many in the class, this confirmed the fear they already had about counseling as part of their pastoral calling. 

However, many of my classmates quickly grew quite concerned that this advice actually hindered their pastoral ministry. Many colleagues quickly learned that while pastoral counseling has some risk, the benefits actually outweigh the risk, and not all risk is bad. There are many disadvantages to outsourcing all of your counseling as a pastor and church.  This article highlights four.

1.  Outsourcing Counseling leads to a disconnect between religious struggles and “real world” struggles.

Is depression a spiritual struggle or a health concern? Once you have walked with enough Christians struggling with depression, you realize that this answer is complicated, clearly not the same for every person, and that the answer is both in the vast majority of cases. Churches should embrace a balanced plan that cares for the physical effects of depression, challenges the spiritual growth that leads to endurance and hope, and patiently agrees to walk alongside for as long as it takes.

What happens when a person sees no spiritual connection in the midst of their depression? They will typically ignore the resources that would be available within their faith to help with encouragement, hope, doubts and anxieties. They will typically seek symptom relief rather than dealing with issues like anger, anxiety, guilt, stress, and broken relationships that so often multiply feelings of depression.    

When churches outsource counseling they unfortunately imply that marriage struggles, depression, anxiety, addictions, and other common struggles have better answers in the world than in the Word. We ought not be ashamed of the answers that the Word of God gives us. 

2.  Outsourcing Counseling often means that many opportunities to care for the hurting will be lost.

Where do your people turn when it feels like their world is falling apart?  One of the most frustrating things for church leaders is when we find out that our people feel like they have to suffer alone. If you haven’t created an approachable culture, many people who are hurting will turn to sources of help outside the church. Rather than building a loyalty to Christ’s church, they build a loyalty to an organization, counselor, or philosophy that was there for them in their time of need. 

Rather than using their story of victory or lessons from disappointment to be a tool that God uses to grow his church, the church doesn’t benefit from the experience that was learned as people go through trials.  2 Corinthians 1 reminds us that we go through trials so that we bring comfort to others who may experience that same trial in the time to come. When the only comfort and care to be found, is outside the church, it leads individuals away from the church body over and over. They may find some help, but this is not God’s plan. Our churches can and should do more.

3.  Outsourcing Counseling overlooks a tremendous opportunity to serve and to be served.

The metaphor of the body reminds us that we all play a part in the growth of the whole into maturity. When a church body can care for its own, the whole body grows. During seasons of instability, the immature need the loving guidance of those whose compassion and wisdom would help them have the greatest change of success. If the struggling soul will connect with those with wisdom and compassion, they will often find rest for their weary souls from experienced saints who have a story of redemption and faithful lives that mark all those whom they touch. 

4. Outsourcing Counseling often leads to conflict and disagreements over your churches position.

After doing ministry in the same community for nearly 20 years, it has been sad to observe the shift in churches and counseling centers to reflect more of the thinking of the world. Issues related to divorce, addictions, sexuality and pop-psychology theories too often reflect the trends of the world rather than being anchored in the unchanging word. If your church holds to clear convictions on significant issues, do those who counsel your people hold to the same positions?

In a recent training, we were talking with students about why they desire to get involved in biblical counseling training. Over and over, the students spoke of Christian counselors that gave them advice that didn’t match with biblical teaching. It was confusing and ultimately disheartening. It’s time that Christian counseling be more committed to helping people pursue faithfulness to Christ as a primary agenda, because this choice helps re-arrange so many other choices that they need to make.  It makes the priorities more clear. 

Conclusion

It may seem odd that a counselor who accepts referrals from churches might push back against more referrals, but I am convinced that a better balance is needed than I encounter in many churches. Rather than standing with their people in the greatest times of need, they disconnect from the process through outsourcing counseling. There is at times some middle ground with professional counselors who will engage with pastors and churches, but I have found this all too rare. Providing trained lay people to counsel those who are struggling may seem like an overwhelming task, but it has proven to be surprisingly effective. Download the resource below to learn more!

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Interested in knowing if counseling done by church members is effective?
We've found 4 main reasons why lay counselors are effective at helping hurting people. If you're interested in starting a counseling ministry at your church, you'll want to understand these benefits of lay counseling!
Download Now - Free

The post Four Disadvantages of Outsourcing Counseling appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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BCC executive director Dr. Tim Allchin tackles questions on confidentiality in counseling. His article appeared first here and is used with permission.

One of the most common concerns about biblical counseling is how we handle the issue of confidentiality and how our ethical standards would be enforced if there were to be a violation.

Critics propose that biblical counseling will never be safe for those we counsel until confidentiality similar to the standards for licensed counselors is the mandated ethical standard for biblical counselors.

A critic’s proposed ethical standard

A recent critic proposed an ethical standard she wishes that all biblical counselors would adhere to:

We believe that client confidentiality is vital to the health of a counseling relationship. Confidentiality will not be broken except when necessary to report crimes; to report suspicion of abuse; or if the client poses a harm to him/herself or others. In these cases, the concern will be reported to legal authorities. Other than these exceptions, what is disclosed in counseling will be kept private.

The counselor will be the only one with access to files concerning the client, unless the counselor is under supervision for the purposes of training, and then only that supervisor would also have access. These files will be kept locked up where other church employees will not have access. If digital, the files will be kept password-protected.[1]

Other confidentiality concerns

We have often seen other critics, typically who are responding to abuses of power in the church, detail how expectations of confidentiality have not been met within various biblical counseling contexts.[2] These stories often articulate survivor stories and the pain they feel when private matters become a public discussion. I don’t doubt that some biblical counselors have done this and have caused great pain.

Furthermore, there has been some recent discussion of churches that “weaponized” information from biblical counseling ministries in an abuse of power to silence and manipulate critics. It’s clear that our position and practice of confidentiality require careful thought if we are going to earn a good reputation for quality care.

Biblical limits of confidentiality

Biblical counselors have spoken for years about the biblical limits of confidentiality.[3] However, little has been written to expand upon what we mean by this and the way that these limits work out in reality.[4] 

This has created confusion and fear for those seeking biblical counseling and caused others to seek counsel from organizations where the assurance of complete confidentiality is mandated. How we describe and practice confidentiality is a matter of concern and one in which our movement can seek to grow.

Most biblical counselors practice confidentiality and would agree that confidentiality most often brings safety and benefits to the counseling relationship.[5] Scripture directly confirms this principle, “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28). 

However, we have not stressed nor frequently articulated the benefits of confidentiality that we see, nor do we describe how we would deal with some trickier ethical situations and why we might practice more limited confidentiality in some settings.[6] 

Examples of confidentiality as beneficial

Following are some examples of how we would view confidentiality as beneficial:

  • College students are protected from parents’ prying eyes as they work through family or personal struggles.
  • Spouses are protected from abusive and controlling partners weaponizing counseling records in marital or custodial disputes.
  • Pastors are protected from the prying eyes of concerned parishioners when dealing with personal issues.
  • Employees are protected from self-serving employers accessing mental health records to wrongly terminate those with mental health struggles.
  • Citizens are protected from unlawful invasions of privacy from government or corporate interests.
Less clear-cut examples?

The following examples are more difficult to determine how to best apply the limits of confidentiality and uphold the principle of “doing no harm”:

  • Husbands are protected from having to admit they are deceptively committing adultery when visiting massage parlors.
  • Spouses are protected from letting their spouse know of undisclosed debts or financial obligations.
  • Employees are protected from admitting they have stolen from their employers.
  • Juveniles are able to confess they are addicted to pornography while being protected from fear of embarrassment and awkward conversations.
  • Addicts are protected from the shame of disclosing a hidden relapse and a hidden stash of opioids.
  • Young adults who drive home drunk after a night-clubbing escapade are protected from being called out by friends or family.

While many of the above scenarios involve illegal actions in a technical sense, none of them would allow confidentiality to be broken by those adhering to clinical counseling ethics. With most of these situations, biblical counselors would strongly agree that violating confidentiality would cause serious harm. However, I suspect all counselors would be a little more torn about what to do in the manipulative case scenarios listed above.

“Do No Harm”

It is one thing to say that “confidentiality is the best practice in the most amount of cases and leads to the best overall care,” but it is another thing to refuse to admit that blanket confidentiality can cause harm in other cases. Biblical counselors are committed to “do no harm,” but this requires more than a simple affirmation that confidentiality would never allow us to disclose counseling content. Our ethical standard requires us to think through the question of “do no harm.”[7]

Part Two will discuss the principles of confidentiality and propose seven principles that should guide the practice of confidentiality for biblical counselors.

Questions for Reflection

What are the best practices for confidentiality in the setting where you counsel? How can we better articulate the benefits of limiting confidentiality in some situations for the good of the counselee and their family?

[1] Sheila Gregoire, “A “Bill of Rights” for Biblical Counseling Clients,” to Love, Honor, & Vacuum, April 5, 2019, https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2019/04/a-bill-of-rights-for-biblical-counseling-clients/.

[2] Dee Parsons, “Another Reason to Avoid Biblical Counseling: Confidentiality is Not Guaranteed When Sin is Involved,” The Wartburg Watch, September 26, 2018, http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/09/26/another-reason-to-avoid-biblical-counseling-confidentiality-is-not-guaranteed-when-sin-is-involved/.

[3] G. Scipione, “The Limits of Confidentiality in Counseling,” Journal of Biblical Counseling, 7(2), (1984). 29-34.

[4] One brief article that does address the limits of confidentiality within biblical counseling can be found here: Deepak Reju, “Strict Confidentiality?” Biblical Counseling Coalition, June 12, 2012, https://www.biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/2012/06/12/strict-confidentiality/.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Robert W. Kellemen, “Gospel Conversations: How to Care like Christ” (Zondervan, 2015), 373.

[7] ACBC Standards of Conduct, adopted October 4, 2016, https://biblicalcounseling.com/certification/standards-of-conduct/.

The post The Conundrum of Confidentiality, Part 1 appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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I had a great talk with a friend who leads a family-strengthening organization who was quite disappointed in recent developments in our home state of Illinois.  Despite rallying churches and families to seek to pass moral laws, our state is seemingly unconcerned with what God thinks about many moral issues.

That he was disappointed was not a surprise to me. What surprised me was his conclusion about how he needed to respond.  He said, “I need to learn to counsel those who are dealing with difficult issues that will result if marijuana use, abortion rates, and sexual brokenness all are increasing.”  How can we respond?  We can choose to curse the darkness, or we can choose to be light in an increasingly dark culture.  One candle, in a very dark room, makes a far bigger difference.  He was organizing a group from his church to go through our biblical counseling training because they want be candles in the midst of the darkness. 

I quickly thought of what Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:14–16.

[14] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. [15] Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. [16] In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (ESV)

It wasn’t just our state going through hard choices this week.  We experience darkness on a personal level too: both those who claim to be followers of Christ and those who have yet to appreciate Jesus as light.  You might be in that spot today – the darkness either personally or in those around you feels oppressive.

How do you respond to the personal darkness that might be around you? Some examples might include:

  • Your child forms an addictive habit
  • Your spouse cheats on you.
  • Your abuser still walks free.
  • Your family mocks you for your faith in God.
  • Your parents question your loyalty in painful ways.
  • Your church/pastor seemingly self-destructs.
  • Your employer puts you down because you won’t bend the rules.

This week, the BCC offices and online video counseling sessions were full of conversations about how to live as light in the midst of personally dark circumstances that we so often face.  We can throw up our hands in despair because those around us choose to walk in darkness, or we can choose to come near them with the light.  Your light might give them the chance to walk out of the darkness and back into the light.

If we are going to be light in the darkness, the Bible asks us to remember four things so that our Light will shine bright.  Check out what Paul said in Philippians 2:14–17.

Check your attitude

 [14] Do all things without grumbling or disputing,

Consider your example

[15] that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Cling to Christ

[16] holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Choose to be faithful

[17] Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. (ESV)

Two clear applications of this truth:

If you are in the midst of  the darkness now:

We can get sour because God has put us in or near a dark place in our family, marriage, church or culture. However, this dilemma is not new those who follow Christ.  We can choose to be faithful in walking from the darkness personally or next to those who need the light of Christ to light their path.  The light we have from Christ is not really for us, but it impacts those all around us. 

If you want to make a difference and learn to shine a bright light for others in need of hope and help:

Learn how to speak to the darkness with the hope of Christ by getting training in biblical counseling.  You may organize a small group of people from your church to go through on online video based training at your church or you can take our training wherever you are.

The post How to Be Light in the Darkness appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

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