Books, books, and more books. Here are the top biblical counseling books of 2016, rounded up by guest writer Dr. Bob Kellemen. Enjoy!
If you are a counselor, pastor, student, one-another minister, small group leader, or spiritual friend, you want to know the most helpful books about the personal ministry of the Word— using God’s Word for helping hurting people.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the top 16 books published in 2016 about biblical counseling or important to biblical counselors.
I’ve selected these books on the basis of their biblical depth, relevance to life, practicality for one-another ministry, faithfulness to the sufficiency of Scripture, application to progressive sanctification, and by surveying what leaders in the biblical counseling world are saying about them.
1. Biblical Church Revitalization
Biblical Church Revitalization: Solutions for Dying and Divided Churches, by Brian Croft, Christian Focus
Biblical counseling is a discipleship ministry of the local church with a mission not simply to be a church with biblical counseling, but a church of biblical counseling. The biblical counseling vision is to saturate the entire congregation with confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture for daily life and ministry. Brian Croft shares that mission and vision. His book, Biblical Church Revitalization, is like engaging in a dozen biblical counseling sessions—for the whole congregation. Pastor Croft walks readers through the process of biblical church health—church progressive sanctification. Every church can benefit greatly from his wise biblical counsel for congregational renewal.
You can read a review of Biblical Church Revitalization by Erik Raymond here.
2. Biblical Counseling Guide for Women
The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, by John Street and Janie Street, Harvest House
As the modern biblical counseling movement has matured, its resources have progressed from foundational materials for general counseling issues to in-depth materials for specific counseling needs. The husband and wife team of John and Janie Street model this development in their book The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women. They use real-life vignettes, biblical wisdom, and counseling principles to address 17 relevant issues that women commonly face. The embedded discussion questions make this book valuable not only for individual use, but also for small group interaction.
You can read a review of The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women by Jenny Bergren here.
3. Counseling One Another
Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship, by Paul Tautges, Shepherd Press
In Counseling One Another, Paul Tautges builds the theological underpinning for biblical counseling in a way that is both comprehensive and compassionate. This book demonstrates a staunch commitment to an expository, exegetical examination of counseling as presented in God’s Word. Any pastor or lay person wanting a foundational starting point for understanding Christ-centered, comprehensive, and compassionate biblical counseling in the local church would be wise to read and apply Counseling One Another.
You can read a review of Counseling One Another by Zack Ford here.
4. Devoted to God
Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification, by Sinclair Ferguson, Banner of Truth
Glorifying God by becoming more like Christ is the heartbeat of biblical counseling. Sinclair Ferguson shares that passion. In Devoted to God, he offers a lifetime of biblical study as he exegetes 10 central biblical passages about progressive sanctification. His gospel-centered, relevant, practical, in-depth approach makes this an instant classic on the topic of growth in grace.
You can read a review of Devoted to God by Tim Challies here.
Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus, by Mark Dever, Crossway
Mark Dever’s latest book, Discipling, is part of the Nine Marks Ministries series “Building Healthy Churches.” Like each book in the series, it is a succinct yet robust biblical exploration of local church ministry. Just as biblical counseling seeks to equip the entire congregation for one-another ministry, so Discipling aims to cultivate a discipleship mindset throughout the entire body of Christ. As the subtitle suggests, this book provides the how-to of congregational discipleship.
You can read a review of Discipling by Casey McCall here.
6. Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk
Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends, by Brad Hambrick, Cruciform Press
Brad Hambrick thinks deeply about complex life and ministry situations. That’s certainly the case in Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. He notes that most conversations about same-sex attraction have become polemical and political rather than pastoral and personal. His desire in this book is to be a resource God uses to grow His people into excellent ambassadors—friends to their classmates, colleagues, and family members who experience same-sex attraction.
You can read a review of Do Ask, Do Tell by Sam Allberry here.
7. The Dynamic Heart
The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience, by Jeremy Pierre, New Growth Press
A stereotype of the biblical counseling movement states that biblical counselors focus primarily on external behavior. Jeremy Pierre’s work, The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, should put that perception to rest. Dr. Pierre presents a compassionate, comprehensive biblical understanding of people—image bearers who are spiritual, relational, social, rational, volitional, motivational, emotional, and physical beings. He examines every aspect of the heart in light of our coram Deo existence—we were designed as in-relationship-to-God beings. Pierre demonstrates how a biblical psychology (understanding of the soul) is essential for biblical counseling (bringing Christ’s redemptive hope to the whole person).
You can read a review of The Dynamic Heart by Theron St. John here.
8. Good and Angry
Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness, by David Powlison, New Growth Press
David Powlison is a brilliant thinker. He also happens to be an extremely compassionate counselor. That combination is fully evidenced in Good and Angry. With winsome wisdom, Dr. Powlison enlightens us to the God-intended purpose of righteous anger and to Christ-redemptive hope for addressing unrighteous anger. This book is not just helpful for anger; it is a model for how we can take every aspect of our emotionality to the cross.
You can read a review of Good and Angry by Tim Challies here.
You can read a review of Good and Angry by Erik Raymond at The Gospel Coalition here.
Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, Bethany House
Penned by Elyse Fitzpatrick, Home is not a journey-to-heaven-and-back tell-all memoir. Thankfully. Instead, it is a long-for-heaven-and-live-for-earth biblical narrative. We often hear, “that person is so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” Home encourages us to be so heavenly minded that we are of great earthly good. Even more than that, it invites us to sample a small taste now of the eternal banquet of relational satisfaction we will experience when we are forever home with our heavenly Father.
You can read a review of Home by Aimee Byrd here.
10. Marry Well, Marry Wisely
Marry Well, Marry Wisely: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation, by Ernie Baker, Shepherd Press
In Marry Well, Marry Wisely, Ernie Baker pens a pre-pre-martial manual. In doing so, he doesn’t simply equip us to answer the question, “How do I choose the right spouse?” More importantly, he prepares us to answer the heart question, “How do I become prepared to be the right spouse?” This blueprint establishes the firm groundwork of a Christ-centered and other-centered mindset that is essential for being a godly spouse.
You can read a review of Marry Well, Marry Wisely by Theron St. John here.
Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, by Paul Tripp, Crossway
Few things seem to drive us toward an external focus more than the challenges of parenting. Everything inside and around us screams, “Fix it fast!” In, Parenting, Paul Tripp directs us away from a “fix it” focus to a focus on love Him (God) and love your child (care for your child’s heart). Tripp moves us away from a works-based, pharisaical mindset to a grace-based, gospel attitude in our homes.
You can read a review of Parenting by Heidi Strawser here.
12. Theology of Biblical Counseling
A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry, by Heath Lambert, Zondervan
Of all 16 books on this list, A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert is the most important book for those wanting to understand the doctrinal basis of biblical counseling. Lambert, the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), explains that “Counseling is a theological discipline” (p. 11). Lambert models that truth in each chapter, as doctrine comes to life in real ministry to real people—dramatically demonstrating how theology intersects with the lives of actual counselees.
You can read a review of A Theology of Biblical Counseling by David Dunham here.
13. Tying the Knot
Tying the Knot: A Premarital Guide to a Strong and Lasting Marriage, by Rob Green, New Growth Press
If Ernie Baker’s book (Marry Well, Marry Wisely) is a pre-pre-marital book, then Rob Green’s Tying the Knot covers the classical pre-marital topics. However, it does not cover them in the classical way—simply as relational skills to be mastered. Rather, this nine-session study directs couples through issues such as conflict, expectations, communication, finances, and intimacy—showing how couples can face each with Christ at the center of their marriage.
You can read a review of Tying the Knot by Tim Challies here.
14. The Vine Project
The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, Matthias Media
The Vine Project by co-authors Colin Marshall and Tony Payne is the sequel to The Trellis and the Vine. In the prequel, Marshall and Payne cast the vision for an Ephesians 4:11-16 view of pastors as equippers. In The Vine Project, they put feet to that vision by providing practical insight into the local church disciple-making process.
You can read a review of The Vine Project by Kevin Halloran here.
15. Visual Theology
Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God, by Tim Challies and Josh Byers, Zondervan
As a long-time follower of Tim Challies’ blog, I enjoyed the foundational material that eventually developed into Visual Theology. In the able hands of Challies and Josh Byers, those blog posts translate extremely well into book form. Visual Theology is powerful because it aligns with how God communicates in His Word, how Christ taught people, and how God designed our minds to think—visually, with imagination, in pictures and images. Biblical counselors can learn much from this book about communicating truths not only in words, but also in images and illustrations, especially to this visually-oriented generation.
You can read a review of Visual Theology by Aaron Armstrong here.
16. What Grieving People Wish You Knew
What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts), by Nancy Guthrie, Crossway
Nancy Guthrie is one of the foremost Christian writers on loss, grief, hope, and healing. What Grieving People Wish You Knew is the fruit of a lifetime of sharing the comfort she has received from Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Her narrative reads like a biblical counseling training manual for gospel conversations for suffering. Pastors, counselors, and spiritual friends can all learn much from her biblically compassionate writing.
You can read a review of What Grieving People Wish You Knew by Rachel Hurst here.
Dr. Robert W. Kellemen, Th.M., Ph.D.: Bob is the Vice President for Institutional Development and Chair of the Biblical Counseling and Equipping Department at Crossroads Bible College, and the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries. Bob was the founding Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. For seventeen years he served as the founding Chairman of and Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. He has pastored three churches and equipped biblical counselors in each church. Bob and his wife, Shirley, have been married for thirty-six years; they have two adult children, Josh and Marie, one daughter-in-law, Andi, and three granddaughters, Naomi, Penelope, and Phoebe. Dr. Kellemen is the author of thirteen books including Gospel-Centered Counseling.
Marie Notcheva highly recommends Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick. This gem articulates the gospel and encourages readers to live it every day. Marie is a featured Heart2Heart Counselor and writes a blog. Here article appeared first here on her website and is used with permission.
Elyse Fitzpatrick is who I want to be when I grow up.
Of course, I mean that completely in the Ephesians 4:15 sense of “grow up.” The ability to articulate the simple, profound truth of the Gospel and its implications for day-to-day life as beautifully as Elyse has in Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life speaks of a real spiritual maturity. Her passion, from the first page of this encouraging book, is for her reader to have the same joyful, settled assurance of Christ’s love that she herself has found in the pages of Scripture.
Whose Responsible for Your Spiritual Growth?
Why is it that so many of us recognize our need for the Gospel – the Person and work of Jesus Christ – for salvation; then slowly move past the Good News in our daily strivings to “please God”?
We come to the Cross for justification, but practically live as if sanctification depended solely on us.
Click & Tweet!
Elyse spots this tendency – which often leads to a moralistic, defeated attitude – and reminds the reader of the only antidote: applying the finished work of Christ to our continually sinning hearts.
Weaving the entire thread of Scripture around a central point – that God FIRST loved us – Elyse shows how getting this knowlege of His deep, abiding, personal, and unfathomable love for us down into the very marrow of our bones completely changes everything. In fact, it transforms our whole identity – who we reckon ourselves to be.
If we see ourselves as “foster children,” who can be evicted or abandoned at any moment, we will live like it. Realizing we are a permanent, cherished part of the family – His adopted children – transforms our hearts and enables us to live for Christ in His strength.
As she writes, “Any obedience that isn’t motivated by His great love is nothing more than penance” (page 148). Well said.
The Impact of the Gospel on You
How does the Gospel message impact our walk, 10, 20, even 30 years after our conversion, when we can rattle off the Doctrines of Grace like the days of the week?
If we don’t consciously live in the light of His love, the gospel will be secondary, virtually meaningless, and Jesus Christ will fade into insignificance. Our faith will become all about us, our performance, and how we think we’re doing, and our transformation will be hindered.
This tendency to take our eyes off of Him and focus inwardly on our failure becomes a vicious cycle, especially when one is battling a life-dominating sin. Many of you bear witness to this fact. I once received the following e-mail from a reader:
…I have been REALLY struggling again lately. I have trouble turning to God, because I feel sometimes like I don’t deserve His forgiveness, or to ask Him for help.
Lately I have been obsessing about food and eating all day long, and binging and purging A LOT! I work as a nanny, so I am alone with kids and in a house full of junk food I wouldn’t buy, and have found myself unable to keep from destructive eating behaviors.
Please pray for me that I will go back to Christ for guidance, and be able to truly repent for my sin. Please also pray that I will stop worshiping false idols of food and thinness, and instead live to glorify Him… (emphasis mine).
This young lady sincerely loves God and wants to please Him, but her words reveal that she has fallen into the trap so common to all of us: living as if our position before God is based on our own merit.
When did any of us, in our “best” moments, EVER “deserve” His forgiveness? We didn’t. Christ secured it for us – while we were still His enemies. We forget this. When we succeed, we feel good and can worship. Failure brings shame and a fear of approaching God, which naturally leads to more failure and despair. We are, as Elyse points out in this book, essentially not trusting God that He is as good as He says He is.
This is unbelief, and it leads to idols. When we don’t feel fully secure in our position in Christ – solely based on His righteousness and grace – we seek the satisfaction that should be found in Him alone through counterfeits. Putting our trust in these “earthly treasures” leads to fear, worry, and anxiety – which leads us ever further away from the Cross.
Freedom from fear comes from contemplating and remembering the love of God, manifested in Christ. As I have written before (and Elyse so much more articulately), change in our behavior can only come from truly realizing and appreciating who God is and what He has done for us. Knowing that His kindness is what has led us to repentance (Romans 2:4) motivates us to love Him back, and approach Him with confidence. Our ‘identity in Christ’ (as Elyse refers to it; I might use ‘position’) is permanent and irrevocable. It is what frees us up to walk in love.
Remembering God’s Love for You
In the final section of Because He Loves Me, Elyse demonstrates how remembering and contemplating this unfathomable love God has for us is the true motivation for lasting change. She writes,
Our natural unbelief will always cast doubt on His love for us. It is the awareness of His love and only this that will equip us to wage war against sin. Until we really grasp how much He loves us, we’ll never be able to imitate Him.
We won’t come near to Him if we’re afraid of His judgment. We won’t repent and keep pursuing godliness if we don’t believe that our sin doesn’t faze His love for us one bit. We won’t want to be like Him if we believe that His love is small, stingy, censorious, severe. And we’ll never be filled with His fullness until we begin to grasp the extent of His love (Eph. 3:19).
As a member of His family, you’re the apple of His eye, the child He loves to bless.
Click & Tweet!
You’re His darling.
“Every failure in sanctification is a failure in worship.”
Far from minimizing the seriousness of sin, Elyse reminds the reader how costly it was to God – and invites her to rest in this reality. At the same time, we are thus enabled to “wage a vicious war against sin” – the imperative (command) that naturally follows the indicative (what God has already declared to be true). Every sin, from greed to sexual immorality, is a failure to love as we’ve been loved – at its root, unbelief.
The key to walking in freedom and joy, then, is remembering that we’re beloved children, redeemed by Jesus, set free from the power of sin. This settled confidence produces thanksgiving ane edifying speech, rather than complaining and bitterness. This is what applying the Gospel to every area of our lives looks like in practice.
I have been recommending Because He Loves Me to women who write me about their specific struggles, as well as counselors and anyone else who would benefit from the reminder of what Christ’s perfect life, love, cross, resurrection, and intercession really mean to us as we grow in Him.
In short, everyone reading this would likely benefit from the encouraging and joyful explanation Elyse presents on the synergy of God’s grace and our response. Like C.J. Mahaney’s The Cross Centered Life, Because He Loves Me trains the reader to reflect more deeply on the finished work of Christ on her behalf as a catalyst to worship, rather than presenting sanctification as a spiritual self-help plan.
See more about this wonderful book here.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
How does a “plugged in” Christian help others online? In this book review, you’ll hear about Marie Notcheva‘s latest book: Plugged In: Proclaiming Christ in the Internet Age. Marie–one of the counselors listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory–is graciously giving a copy of her book to someone who leaves a comment about Marie’s book on this blog post at my website or on my Facebook page. Enter the giveaway now: Leave a comment and share it. Thank you, Marie. Thank you, sweet reader. –Lucy
This is Marie Notcheva’s second book, her first book (Redeemed from the Pit) I wrote a review for when it came out 3 years ago so I feel privileged to write a review for this one as well. This book is primarily written for Christians who desire to minister to others online whether it’s knowing how to respond to someone’s “I’m depressed” post, evangelizing or doing one-on-one counseling. A shorter book, just under 125 pages, but packed with really great advice!
The Internet Opens Ministry Doors
In our modern technological age the internet has opened to us a whole world to interact with. It’s also a whole new sphere where self-promotion is free to abound, where attention-seeking can be disguised and it’s a whole lot easier to be mean and say things you would never say to a person’s face.
On the positive side we have a multitude of opportunities to interact with people. We listen, we speak and seek to teach and encourage. With this comes great opportunity, but yet many challenges. How do we navigate communicating with people we have never met or rarely see face-to-face? Is it possible and effective to disciple someone online?
Marie has years of experience with online relationships and counseling. In this book she explores with us the World Wide Web as a tool to be used, but with wisdom and discretion.
It is a great tool for evangelism and building up others in the faith, but Marie also shares a few stories that illustrate well some cautions we should have when interacting and counseling people online. How do you respond to a “seeker” who seems to understand the Gospel? How do you respond to someone’s seeming cry for help via dark and disturbing posts?
Marie discusses various situations and how we can have more discernment in our responses. Many times we can learn to be creative in how we comment on something, but in some cases of more serious issues, private messages are better. Even a “hey, how are you doing?” communicates to people that you notice, and that you care about them. All relationships are built on trust, Marie reminds us, and trust must be built over time by listening, caring and encouraging.
True discipleship means a personal relationship, and truth be told, you cannot have a real personal relationship online. We are relational, physical beings and we need face-to-face relationships in order to truly thrive.
Marie emphasizes this throughout her book as well as the importance of the local church, which is the community that is absolutely needed for a Christian to grow. If a “seeker” is not interested in getting connected with a church or meeting with a believer in their area then unfortunately that is likely a sign that they are not truly seeking change.
Another important point Marie makes in this book is that social media interaction is not fellowship and online instruction is just that, instruction. It’s not discipleship. Marie writes that “a key component of real discipleship is lost online: accountability” (p. 35, emphasis hers) It’s important to be aware that many people say things online in order to gain attention. It’s easy to please people and say all the right things when you’re speaking through a computer screen.
Using Discernment on the Internet
There were a number of things I appreciated in this book. One was the reminder that just because someone wants to talk to us online doesn’t mean they need to monopolize our time.
Marie writes, “If you are spending hours writing to someone who doesn’t seem willing to understand or search the Scriptures himself, you may need to re-evaluate the time you are spending with them.” (p. 47). We need to keep our priorities straight and not get distracted by conversations that are not profitable.
Discernment is needed in this area, and Marie shares great advice on how to know when to let an interaction end. Another thing I was reminded/convicted about was how easy it is to follow what everyone else is doing online. Social media especially is so narcissistic (self-focused) and designed to promote self and it’s easy to slip into that. I also appreciated her warnings about how easy it is to be sarcastic and snippy, and act/speak in ways we never would in person. Again, super easy to do; it’s so easy to type something sarcastic and not think about how the other person might feel because we can’t see their reaction.
As Christians, everything we do, say and write should be done in love, for the edification of others and for the glory of God. And we all need to grow in this area!
In this internet-driven age we need Scripture-grounded thinking and discernment in how to use our time wisely and how to use the tools available to us. This book gives really practical advice on how to do that – especially for those of us who interact often on social media. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and be greatly edified by it!
You can purchase the book here, just $10 with Amazon Prime! (Also available on Kindle.)
For more information about Marie, to hear her testimony and learn about her counseling ministry, visit her blog: http://redeemedfromthepit.blogspot.com/
Review by Amelia Coburn. Her review first appeared here and is used with permission.
Leave a comment to enter the giveaway. Watch for the announcement of the winner on Tuesday. Best to you!
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Friends, as you know, I counsel hope and happiness to the heart. Among my newest favorite books on counseling and the gospel is Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ by Dr. Bob Kellemen.
Bob asked me to share this book with you and I readily agreed. It is practical and honors Christ and is for any Christian who wants clear instruction on how to encourage, counsel, and comfort a hurting friend.
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. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Why Gospel Conversations?
LAM: Bob, with all the books available on biblical counseling, what prompted you to write Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ? What is unique about this book?
BK: You’re correct that we live in a wonderful time where many fine books are being published on gospel-centered living and on biblical counseling. However, there are very few books designed as a training manual for becoming more like Christ in how we help hurting people.
Gospel Conversations walks readers through a biblical process for learning 21 biblical counseling relational skills, and it does it with one overarching strategy in mind:
We learn to become effective biblical counselors by giving and receiving biblical counseling in the context of real and raw Christian community.
LAM: Tell my readers more about this strategy of “learning by doing” that you emphasize in Gospel Conversations.”
BK: Here’s part of the problem, as I see it, in our equipping of biblical counselors and one-another ministers: most of our equipping is done by lecturing. As a result, many of our trainees end up thinking that counseling equals lecturing. Counseling training becomes a “brain dump” of content, rather than the personal application of God’s truth to our lives.
Instead, Gospel Conversations teaches that biblical ministry is always a combination of Scripture and soul, of truth and love. That’s why I designed Gospel Conversations with literally hundreds of built-in interaction guides where users of the book can give and receive counseling in their own lives.
Gospel Conversations is a relational training manual. In Gospel Conversations, we not only gain counseling competency to care like Christ, we also grow in Christlike maturity as we become more like Christ. There are hundreds of built-in prompts for “self counsel” so that readers are learning to apply truth to their lives as a foundation for learning to apply truth to other’s lives.
What Is a Gospel Conversation?
LAM: Clearly, Gospel Conversations is not your father’s textbook in biblical counseling equipping! So, what is a gospel conversation?
BK: In the book, I describe “gospel conversations” in several overlapping ways:
- In gospel conversations, together with our counselees we derive our understanding of earthly life from heaven’s viewpoint—we see life with Cross-eyes.
- In gospel-centered counseling and gospel conversations, the whole Bible story impacts the whole person’s whole story.
- Gospel-centered conversations promote personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.
- In gospel conversations, we first understand the gospel story, then we seek to understand our friends’ stories, then we journey together to intersect God’s eternal story and their temporal story.
Let’s ponder that last description. Picture yourself with a hurting and struggling friend. You’ve embedded gospel truth in your soul, but you don’t just shout, “Gospel!” the second they ask to talk. No. You listen well and wisely, compassionately and comprehensively, to their journey. Then, rather than just quoting a verse, perhaps out of context, together you explore the narrative of God’s Word as it specifically relates to their life—the whole Bible story impacting the person’s whole story.”
Two Guideposts of Biblical Counseling
LAM: You outline gospel conversations with the picture of two guideposts of biblical counseling. Help my readers to understand these guideposts.
BK: Again, let’s place ourselves sitting across from a troubled, hurting, and confused friend. They’ve just “spilled their guts.” Our minds are racing. Where do we start? Where do we go?
We need a GPS—Gospel Positioning Script. We need some basic biblical handles to provide some wisdom structure to our counsel. Here’s a phrase I use to help us to ponder those handles:
We are saints who face suffering and fight against sin on our sanctification journey.
I’ve found that some counseling seems only to focus on suffering. Other counseling seems only or primarily to focus on sin. Instead:
Biblical counseling must deal thoroughly both with the evils we have suffered and with the sins we have committed.
It’s Normal to Hurt
and Possible to Hope
LAM: You then build upon these two guideposts by talking about 4 biblical compass points for biblical counseling. What are these compass points?
BK: Real life is messy, right? As is real and raw counseling. And most counseling situations will always deal with suffering (parakaletic care) and sin (nouthetic care). But the question is, ‘How do we care like Christ in suffering and sin?’
Based upon my examination of Scripture and of church history, in Gospel Conversations, I outline four compass points to give us some wisdom-based direction. The first two relate to suffering/sanctification and parakaletic care.
As you engage with a suffering friend, picture yourself pivoting between two worlds: the earthly world of their suffering where life is bad, and the eternal world of their hope in Christ that reminds us that God is good. We always listen with both ears—to our friend’s story and to God’s story. In sustaining, we offer comfort by empathizing with our friend and communicating that ‘it’s normal to hurt.’ In healing, we offer encouragement by enlightening our friend to the gospel truth that in Christ ‘it’s possible to hope.’
It’s Horrible to Sin,
Wonderful to Be Forgiven, Supernatural to Mature
The second two compass points relate to sin/sanctification and nouthetic care:
- It’s Horrible to Sin, But Wonderful to Be Forgiven
- It’s Supernatural to Mature
Here we are once again pivoting—this time between sin and grace. And we always do so with a Romans 5:20 mindset that where sin abounds grace super abounds. Further, we maintain the mindset that grace is not only salvation grace but also sanctification grace—so we help people to grasp the depth of their sin (‘it’s horrible to sin’), the infinite depth of Christ’s grace, (‘it’s wonderful to be forgiven’), and the power of grace to make us more like Christ (‘it’s supernatural to mature”).
Gospel Conversations journeys with readers through 21 biblical counseling skills of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. Through counseling illustrations, you learn the art of biblical parakaletic and nouthetic counseling.
LAM: I know that there is a companion book to Gospel Conversations called Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives. How do these two books relate to each other?
BK: Both books are part of a two-book series I’ve published with Zondervan called the Equipping Biblical Counselors Series. As we’ve seen, Gospel Conversations is a training manual in biblical counseling methodology—relational competencies to care like Christ. Gospel-Centered Counseling is a training manual in biblical counseling theology—showing how Christ changes lives. In Gospel-Centered Counseling, we learn together how the gospel victory narrative relates to our counseling ministry. We learn how theology relates to counseling and to daily life.
LAM: Bob, how can people learn more about Gospel Conversations?
BK: Thanks for asking. At my RPM Ministries site, visitors can view blog posts about Gospel Conversations, they can read endorsements, they can read the Foreword by Pastor Brian Croft, and they can purchase Gospel Conversations for 40 percent off at the Gospel Conversations portion of my site.
Counseling Hope and Happiness,
Does gospel-centered counseling really work? Isn’t this a crucial question for biblical counselors and counselees? Listen to this story.
Meet Ashley and Nate
Ashley and her husband, Nate, met with Pastor Bob Kellemen at church the day after their twin sons’ eleventh birthday. With tears streaming down her face, Ashley shared that twenty-five years earlier, not long after her eleventh birthday, a relative had begun sexually abusing her.
Those who knew Ashley would have been shocked. She grew up in a Christian home, was active at church as an adult, served as a leader in the women’s ministry, and was always “pleasant.”
As Ashley described herself, “I’m the good girl from the good home.
“The good mom; the good wife. But nobody knows the ugliness I feel inside. Nobody knows how I’ve pretended and denied all these years. I just can’t keep faking it any longer. Depressed to the point that at times I’ve thought about suicide. Fearful and anxious—terrified I’ll displease someone. Terrified someone will find out what an empty but evil thing I am…”
As Ashley’s voice trailed off, Nate asked, “Pastor Bob, can you help?”
Does the Bible Offer Any Hope?
“Does the Bible offer any hope for my wife?”
How we respond to Ashley’s soul struggles and to Nate’s life questions depends on how we answer a foundational question: “What would a model of counseling look like that was built solely upon Christ’s gospel of grace?”
Continue reading this post at Biblical Counseling Center.