It’s been said that “visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be.”
Tiffany Marie Olson’s Story
On December 7, 2005, Christine Olson’s daughter, Tiffany, was involved in a serious accident as the passenger on a motorcycle. The Florida state police were unable to find any contact information for her family. By the time they finally were able to notify Tiffany’s mother, Christine, Tiffany had passed away from her injuries. Her mother arrived too late to say her last goodbye to her teenage daughter.
Out of this tragedy, Christine developed a vision—that other parents would not endure what she endured. Christine worked tirelessly for years with the state of Florida so people could volunteer to have contact information placed on their Driver and Vehicle Information Data Base.
Christine was driven by the tension between what was—the inability to locate loved ones promptly, and what could be—a volunteer system where loved ones could be quickly notified in the case of a life-threatening accident.
The Biblical Counseling Story: What Is—Much to Celebrate!
Just a few short years ago, leaders in the biblical counseling world saw many wonderful groups doing the work of biblical counseling, but they did so in their “silos”—independent of each other. Thus the Biblical Counseling Coalition was born to promote collaborative relationships and to produce robust resources. It is the BCC’s passion and vision to promote personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.
There is much to celebrate with this vision—especially when we consider recent American church history. From the 1860s to the 1960s the church in America abdicated her responsibility to care for hurting and hardened people. Hurting people were typically referred to the dominant secular psychology resources of the day. Into this historical setting, among others, God raised up Jay Adams in the 1960s to exhort the church to return to her heritage of promoting personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.
Since the 1960s, the modern biblical counseling movement has seen God raise up a second and now a third generation of leaders, churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions that are returning the personal ministry of the Word to the church. There is much to celebrate.
What are you celebrating in “the BC world”?
What Could Be: Where the Gaps Still Exist
While much good has occurred, there still exist many gaps. Consider three.
Gap # 1: The Pulpit Ministry of the Word and the Personal Ministry of the Word
Many Evangelical Bible colleges, Christian liberal arts colleges, seminaries, and Christian graduate schools believe in and equip their students to present God’s sufficient Scripture from the pulpit. Homiletics (preaching) courses equip students to relate God’s truth to people’s lives, believing that the Bible is authoritative, sufficient, and necessary for real healing, change, forgiveness, and growth. Yet, in many of those same schools, when it comes to the personal ministry of the Word—pastoral counseling—students are not taught to have the same confidence in the Bible’s authority, sufficiency, and necessity to minister to broken lives (See Pastoral Counselor Preparation in Evangelical Seminaries for documentation of this assessment.)
You can see the same gap between the pulpit ministry of the Word (preaching) and the personal ministry of the Word (counseling) in some Evangelical local churches where pastors confidently relate truth to life in the pulpit, but then either refer people to secular sources or help people using secular principles in the pastor’s office.
The BCC longs for the day when Evangelical schools and churches are as committed to the sufficiency and necessity of Scripture for the personal ministry of the Word as they are for the pulpit ministry of the Word. The BCC longs for the day when increasing numbers of Evangelical schools and churches are promoting personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.
Gap # 2: Many Do Not Know “Us”
I have the privilege of teaching as an adjunct and of speaking as a guest speaker at many Evangelical higher education institutions. I’ll often mention to students the names of leaders in the biblical counseling world like Paul Tripp, David Powlison, Jay Adams, Steve Viars, Randy Patten, and more. Invariably less than 10% of these well-educated, well-read, well-informed students have ever heard of these leaders or read a single book they’ve written. I’ve named leading biblical counseling organizations like NANC, CCEF, IBCD, Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries, and few have ever heard of them. I recently spoke to over 200 Stephen Ministries from over three dozen churches. Few had ever heard of leading biblical counselors or of leading biblical counseling ministries.
The BCC longs for the day when Evangelical leaders know, read, and learn from leading biblical counselors and biblical counseling organizations. The BCC longs for the day when increasing numbers of Evangelical leaders are promoting personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.
Gap # 3: Some Who Know Us Do Not Think Highly of Us
In speaking to these groups, when some do say they have heard of our leaders and our organizations, I ask them to share their thoughts. “What’s your gut reaction when you hear the term ‘biblical counseling’?” “How would you define ‘biblical counseling’?” “What do you think of the writings and teachings of biblical counseling leaders?”
Sad to say, many of the answers are not positive. They respond with stereotypes about the nature of biblical counseling—calling it shallow and labeling it a “one verse-one problem-one solution approach to helping people.” They stereotype it as “truth-telling without loving connection.”
I know that this is hard to believe if we travel only in biblical counseling circles. When we only talk to those who self-select in as committed to biblical counseling, we can imagine that biblical counseling has won the day. We assume that every Evangelical Christian is committed to, understands, learns from, and thinks highly of biblical counseling. That simply is not true.
While much good work has been done in closing the gap from the 1960s to today, much more work needs to happen.
The BCC longs for the day when Evangelical Christians understand, appreciate, and apply the beauty and power of biblical counseling that embodies Gospel truth in love. The BCC longs for the day when increasing numbers of Evangelical Christians are promoting personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.
There Is Hope: Closing the Gap Together!
Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. You’ve read what is. Now let’s consider what could be, and how we get there from here.
Vision # 1: We All Need to Be the Macy’s Santa
When I explain to people what the BCC is all about, I say, “The BCC is not about the BCC; the BCC is about BC.” We want to be a megaphone for biblical counseling. We do that not by pointing people back to us, but by pointing people to the best of the best in biblical counseling resources and organizations.
I picture this by saying that we want to be like the Macy’s Santa Claus in the movie The Miracle on 34th Street. In the movie, when Macy’s did not have the product that a child wanted for Christmas, instead of talking the child into buying something at Macy’s Department Store, the Santa Claus sent the child and the parents to Gimbels Department Store—their arch “competitors”!
We can’t see one another in the biblical counseling world as “the competition” or as “rivals.” We must become more like the Macy’s Santa Claus and send people to the best of the best in biblical counseling—whether it’s a resource by “our organization” or by another organization or author.
This requires a major mindset shift from life as a zero sum game where there are limited “customers” that we are fighting for, to life as filled with almost unlimited needs/needy people and God as our infinite God who will supply all of our needs.
We need to be pointing people to the best of the best in biblical counseling—even if it’s something someone else wrote, blogged about, or created. We are stewards, and as good stewards we can’t think simply about me and mine, but must focus on advancing God’s work of promoting personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.
Vision # 2: TEAM and TON
You’ve likely heard the creative and wise acronym: TEAM—Together Everyone Accomplishes More. That’s our message.
But, I’d like to add another acronym that communicates another message: TON—Together Others Notice.
When we work together, others take notice. I’ve had many educators from schools that do not typically describe themselves as “biblical counseling schools” say to me, “If forty leading biblical counselors worked together to author Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, then I’m going to require my students to read it.” Together Others Notice.
The BCC has had many churches ask us, “Could we use the BCC Confessional Statement as we begin to transition to a biblical counseling-focused church? We understand that over three dozen leading biblical counselors worked together to develop the Confessional Statement—we affirm it and their work!” Together Others Notice.
A 2053 Vision
Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be.
I have a vision that a generation from now, four decades from now—when I’m either in heaven or in a nursing home!—people will look back and say, “How in the world was it possible that Evangelical seminaries believed in sufficiency for the pulpit ministry of the Word, but not for the personal ministry of the Word!?”
I have a vision that folks in 2053 will look back and say, “Wow! It must have been so hard to minister in a day and age when the prevailing Christian culture was not promoting personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word!”
I have a vision of the day when confidence in God’s Word for life in a broken world is the norm—for the personal ministry of the Word.
We Have Much Growing to Do
None of this implies that the BCC or the biblical counseling world has “cornered the market” on how to speak the truth in love. None of this is to say that we don’t have much to learn about how to view and use God’s Word for life in a broken world.
It is because we know we have much to learn and much growing to do that we launched the vision of the BCC as a place where collaborative relationships result in robust resources. Together we long to impact not only those who currently are committed to biblical counseling, but also those who would be committed to it if they only knew about it and saw maturing examples of it.
Join the Conversation
How Are You Working Together to close the gaps?
What is your vision for promoting personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word in 2053?