Three questions for biblical counselling

Most of us are suspicious of new things. Rightly so. If we’ve managed fine without this new-fangled idea for years, why would we need it now?

In the UK, biblical counselling is new and I hear a fair bit of suspicion. This can be helpful. It’s good to question. It enables us to work out if we need this new thing or not.

Here are three questions I’ve heard recently:

Question 1: Isn’t biblical counselling taking pastoral care in a professional direction?

To which my answer is: sort of… but not really.

Sort of… because biblical counselling certainly is serious about doing pastoral care well. In the UK we have come late to this party. Many of us struggle in personal ministry. Many of us find it hard to connect biblical teaching with broken lives in ways that are intentional and helpful. There’s a lot of catching up to do, a lot to learn.

But if professionalising pastoral care means making it business-like and clinically detached, then the answer is a resounding “No!” Pastoral care in the Bible is passionate and personal. Look at Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8:

“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

Or take a look at Jesus speaking tenderly to the woman at the well in John 4. Biblical counselling sees this passion. It sees this whole-life perspective and is committed to nothing less.

Question 2: Isn’t biblical counselling always banging on about sin, sending people on idol hunts and lobbing Bible verses like hand grenades of truth?

To which my answer is: sort of… but not really.

Sort of… because growth does come through repentance. There is nothing more loving you can do for me than show me, once again, that I am a sinner who needs a Saviour; a sheep who is straying and needs to be led. When you do that you help me mature.

But does that mean biblical counselling coldly dispenses judgement and acts all holier than thou? No, no and no again! When Paul writes transforming words he almost always mixes passion and agony. In 2 Corinthians 7:3 he writes,

“I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.”

He is beside himself with concern for the very people he has just had reason to rebuke.

Those who impart biblical counsel must love no less. Christ-like care must course through our veins.

Question 3:  Isn’t biblical counselling simply too American? It just doesn’t fit in the UK.

To which my answer is: sort of… but not really.

Sort of … because the main writers in biblical counselling have stemmed from the States. Many have been influenced by the more psychologised nature of American culture and, yes, it is high time we developed our own UK writers, speakers and counsellors.

But the Bible transcends culture. We in the UK may be more reserved than our American brothers and sisters but there is no escaping the fact that there is brokenness and pain here, too. Tears are being shed. There is a need for people to hear the hope that only the gospel can bring.

It’s biblical to express emotion. The apostle Paul was an emotional man ministering to emotional people:

“[Titus] told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.” (2 Corinthians 7:7)

Engaging with such expressiveness may not come naturally to those of us for whom the stiff upper lip is the norm. But it is a great path to tread.  Because when moulded by God’s transforming word it’s a path that leads to Christ-likeness.

Biblical counselling is new to us. It’s OK to be suspicious. There are questions to be asked. Please do keep asking. I’m convinced the answers are worth having. I’m convinced that exploring biblical counselling is worth the effort. Because many in our churches are hurting. They need to hear the transforming words and see the sacrificial actions that biblical counselling can encourage us to bring.