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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth
2016 BCC Global Conference: Revive the Nations | June 5th - 7th, Chicago, IL

A Short History of Biblical Counseling and Higher Education

BCandHigherEducation

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the first post in a several-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Higher Education. In today’s post, Dr. Howard Eyrich explores the history of the modern biblical counseling movement and higher education.

The Intriguing Journey of Seminary Education

Seminary education has been an intriguing journey as well as a major spiritual warfare battlefield. New School Theology of the 1830’s had its roots in the Calvinism of Jonathan Edwards impacted by the New Haven Theology of Nathaniel Taylor who integrated Scottish commonsense philosophy into his theology producing a semi-Pelagian framework for Charles Finney’s revivalism.[1] By the late 1800’s there was general movement to moderate the Old School New School difference.

Emerging out of these tensions grew two other sets of tensions. One was the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture over against the humanistic view of the Bible which fueled the liberal/fundamentalist debates. The other was between the traditional academic training of seminaries and the push toward practical theology. The latter was typified when Charles Erdman was called from the pastorate to the newly established Chair of Practical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary where the board concluded the need to supplement the more academic offerings in the curriculum. This was in contrast to the appointment of J. Gresham Machen (both in 1906) who had little time for “Practical Theology” as a New Testament professor.[2]

Biblical Counseling in the Milieu of Higher Education

There are a number of other such tensions we could trace to elucidate both the intrigue and the spiritual embattlement of seminary education. However, the point of this essay is a focus on biblical counseling in the milieu of higher education.

In 1970, there was no academic education in what we now label the “modern biblical counseling movement.” I was enrolled at CCEF (in its infancy). A number of us pressed Dr. Jay Adams to develop a doctoral program at Westminster Seminary. He indicated that it was several years away from a reality. At his encouragement, I enrolled in a D.Min. program at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary which allowed me to fashion a specialty in counseling, though the sheep skin does not designate it as a counseling degree.

During that same period of history, Dr. Clyde Narramore developed the Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology to provide a Ph.D. with a biblical perspective on psychology/counseling. Around the same period, Fuller Seminary developed a similar program. Thus, a new tension began. On the one side was the integrationist perspective, and on the other side was the biblical perspective.

The now well-known battle at Southern Seminary led by Dr. Al Mohler[3] typifies both the fascinating journey and the spiritual warfare often behind these machinations. This type of skirmish, with much less public scrutiny, has occurred in other seminaries and Bible colleges. Today a person can pursue academic training in a number of institutions where biblical counseling is a well-developed discipline.

There are other sophisticated integrationist programs where respected advanced degrees may be earned by those of this approach.

The Tension Continues

Hence, the tension continues. We should not be surprised. The last I checked the Bible, spiritual warfare played out in various venues remains a real threat. However, the same refining continues as it did with the Apostle Paul. When challenges arose (spiritual warfare) in the church, his responses brought preciseness to the theology we now have in the New Testament (Romans 8:28). So, these tensions push us to sharpen our theological, methodological, and psychological understanding.

In our Doctor of Ministry program at Birmingham Theological Seminary, in addition to our biblical content, we include the ever-evolving literature of both the secularist and the integrationist perspectives.

While we may be a little known regional seminary, we desire to produce biblical counseling practitioners who are culturally aware when they graduate and who are trained to stay culturally aware throughout their career of service in the Kingdom. I have been encouraged in my association with the Biblical Counseling Coalition that this is the trajectory of many of the institutions of our members. Nonetheless, there is an on-going necessity for all of us as leaders to proceed with caution and alertness[4] (1 Thessalonians 5:6, Ephesians 6:10-18).

Join the Conversation

How important is it for biblical counselors to be culturally aware?


[1]http://mb-soft.com/believe/txc/newschoo.htm
[2]Bradley J. Longfield. The Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalist, Modernist and Moderates.
[3]See his 20-year reflection: http://www.sbts.edu/resources/towers/twenty-years-%E2%80%A8and-counting-%E2%80%A8mohler-reflects-on-his-presidency-of-southern-seminary/
[4]See the Biblical Counseling Coalition volume, Scripture and Counseling, pages 157-176. Also, Totally Sufficient edited by Ed Hindson & Howard Eyrich, and in particular the first and last chapters.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Discipleship, Education, Equipping, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

Recovery and Redemption After a Failed Adoption

RecoveryFailedAdoption

A failed adoption presents the Christian family with an emotional trauma that is at once a crisis of faith and an opportunity for the gospel to expand the borders of belief.

In 2009, doctors told my wife and me that my cancer treatment from several years prior left us unable to conceive. We were shocked and dismayed at the news, but once we gathered ourselves spiritually and emotionally, we trusted that God intended to grow our family through adoption.

With the passage of six years and an outpouring of God’s grace on our home, we recently completed our third domestic adoption, doubling the size of our family in that time. God has graciously allowed us to experience on earth temporally what is true of all His people eternally.

In adoption, God gets the glory and we get the joy.

Dreams Crushed and Hope Fulfilled

Our adoption victories, for which we are grateful, have come amidst times of great pain. We learned in practice on several soul-crushing occasions what we knew in theory. No earthly adoption is final until a circuit court judge declares it so.

We reasonably believed on three separate occasions that God was guiding a child into our home so that we might become their “Forever Family.” These occasions came to a screeching halt and left us reeling. One moment, we were changing diapers, feeding a hungry babe, and swaddling an infant; the next, we were being excused from that same child’s life—forever.

We may never know what a literal miscarriage feels like, but we have an idea. The loss we experienced through infertility was multiplied by each failed adoption and the loss of a hoped-for child.

In the days following our failed adoptions, it was important that my wife and I rally around each other and seek God’s face. It is one thing to believe in God’s sovereignty; it is quite another to bump into it in the context of pain and suffering. When all you want is to adopt a child and provide them a home, there are no words that satisfy the soul-shaking question of why God would say “No.”

Pressing On toward the Goal

Our hearts hurt when we see this play out in the lives of other adopting families. We know their pain. We also know their hope. After they have taken the time to grieve, we desire to see them reconnected to their adoption journey as they learn to walk by faith and not by sight. This will not be the final outcome for every couple, but we pray that most would not give up. Waiting children have no voice if God’s people retreat.

Here are three concepts that my wife and I learned through these difficult times:

1. Acknowledge the pain.

When we experience a trauma or crisis, we are tempted to deny the truth of the matter and isolate. While a certain period of “cocooning” is understandable as you grieve, avoid the temptation to isolate entirely. Confess your pain to God, seek Him in prayer and in the Scriptures, and allow trusted friends, family, or pastors to minister to you. Scripture: Psalm 6:6.

2. Embrace the hope.

A failed adoption will always be experienced as a type of loss. After you have grieved, and when you and your spouse are both ready, embrace the hope that a failed adoption is not necessarily an end to your dream. Trust that the God who loves the orphan and created adoption has a good and perfect plan for your family. It is a sweet and bitter providence of God when He teaches a waiting couple to say, “That was not our child.” Yet, we avail ourselves of God’s loving kindness and wait for the ones that by His grace will be grafted into our homes. Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:7.

3. Prepare to move.

Once you and your spouse have together embraced the hope for adoption that is yours in Christ, pray for the child that you were once planning to adopt, release them to God’s capable hands, and begin praying for the child He may bring at just the right time. This is a difficult step because it feels nebulous—how do you pray for a child you have never met? Trust that God is sovereign, and that He has your adoption journey well in hand. We hope in things unseen. Finally, remember that when God commanded Abram to move, he did not give Abram the exact coordinates of what would become his final destination. Instead, God simply commanded, “Go out from your land…to the land that I will show you.” Scripture: Genesis 12:1; Hebrews 11:1.

Blessed Vulnerability

One of the cruelest realities an adopting family can come to intimate knowledge of is that adoption is often the necessary result of life in a broken world. The final stories of adoption are often so full of joy that we can be tempted to forget that by adopting we are following the command of God to love the orphan by entering their loss, which most likely began with the loss of their birth family. When we do this, when we make ourselves available in this way, we enter a place of vulnerability. Yet, it is a place of blessed vulnerability, even or perhaps especially when we become somewhat acquainted with the orphan’s pain.

Theologian Sinclair Ferguson has powerfully said:

“Be obedient even when you do not know where obedience may lead you.”

Dear grieving family, through your obedience, you will recover, and God will redeem these painful days.

Join the Conversation

If you are an adopting family, how are you preparing your hearts for the possibility of a failed adoption?

If you are a family grieving a failed adoption, how are you finding hope in God’s commitment to the orphan as a basis for the hope that is within you?

Topics: Abortion, BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

5 Practical Ways to Help Your Counselees Find Friendships

HelpCounseleesFindFriendships

Yesterday, I wrote about the difficulties in finding and making friendships in the church. Too often, when self-sacrificial love is required to form friendships, we isolate and hunker down in our own foxholes of safety and security.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that a large majority of the people who I see for counseling have little to no friendships in their life. Indeed, many of the people who we see for counseling could be having some of those exact conversations with their friends, but unfortunately for a variety of reasons, they don’t have any.

Can you assign your counselees the task of “finding” a friend? I believe you can, and in many cases you should. Leaving your counselee with the task of “finding community” can be vague and lead to discouragement. Far too often, the intentionality of finding friends dies, not for lack of desire, but for lack of concrete steps to follow. Friendship lives and dies in the realm of “intentions.” You can have the best intentions aimed at finding and forming friendships, but if those intentions aren’t executed and realized in tangible action, you’ll find yourself exactly where you began.

Here are five practical ways we encourage counselees to find and form Christ-centered friendships.

1. Find someone who’s already in your current sphere of life.

In counseling we can complicate things more than necessary. I like to ask the counselee to find someone they already naturally run into. Who do they sit in church with? Are there overlapping activities in day-to-day life where friendships can be formed? Is there someone in their neighborhood, school, or work with whom they fellowship with?

2. Discover a common area of service in the church.

Finding a common area of service in the church offers a way to build up the body of Christ, but also builds a friendship. Could your counselee serve together on a Children’s Ministry team or host something in their home? Join together to make a meal for a new mom, someone who’s recently been bereaved, or better yet visit a shut-in member of the church.

3. Ask them to pray for you, and ask how you can pray for them.

In counseling we are not only asking questions and building rapport with our counselees, we are actually seeking to model a way of conversation and relationship. I find people can get scared at having “deep” conversations, and often allow this to keep them from having any conversation. Here’s an important question, but one that allows for a variety of answers which will grow in depth and vulnerability as the friendship matures and grows.

4. Invite them into an ordinary aspect of your life.

We are constantly seeking to break down the divide between sacred and secular when it comes to life. Like the Puritans, we believe all of life is lived coram Deo, and thus able to be redeemed and done for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). The common and mundane tasks of life are ripe for opportunity to glorify God and build life together in community. Ask your counselee to invite their friend to do something ordinary: share a meal together, run an errand, take a walk in the park, sit in church together, exercise and hit up the gym, or take in a local sporting event.

5. Select something from your counseling, and share it with them.

Maybe this is the scariest aspect of the suggestions above, but it’s also the one which can begin moving a friendship from the shallow waters of getting to know each other to the deeper currents of understanding the heart of each other (cf. Proverbs 20:5). Encourage your counselee to open up and share something God is teaching them and growing them through. What is something good, hard, or bad that would be helpful and meaningful to share.

Surely one of the goals in counseling is to help our counselees transition back into the body of the church, not as a perfected individual, but a person committed to the ongoing, progressive work of gospel-centered change. Keeping your counselee dependent on the counseling relationship can often work against you in the long run, so make it a priority early on to help your counselee form and develop Christ-centered friendships and watch the Spirit grow and change them!

Join the Conversation

As a counselor, do you typically include in your “treatment plan” helping counselees to find spiritual friendships?

What additional suggestions would you give regarding practical ways to help counselees to find friendships?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Friendships, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

Why Is Friendship So Hard?

WhyIsFriendshipSoHard

Since the publication of The Company We Keep (TCWK), it’s been encouraging to see more being written on the topic of friendship here at the BCC. One of the ongoing questions I’ve received since writing TCWK is in regards to the difficulty of forming friendships in the church.

I’m reminded of an article in the New York Times from Ben Schrank[1] who asked a similar question. In the article, Schrank details his friendship with Dan: photographed as infants together at 6 months old, elementary through graduate school shared with one another, groomsmen at one another’s weddings, mutual family vacations…then suddenly their friendship ended. What in the world happened? Schrank explained:

“There was no cinematic blowup: it just evaporated. I believe I disappointed or annoyed or let Dan down in some way, and he chose to end the friendship rather than to confront me. Dan and I haven’t spoken for over a year, save a cool encounter at that same mutual friend’s holiday party.

Men no longer know how to fight. Don’t get me wrong—we know how to confront strangers when they cut in line at the butcher’s or block the door on the subway. What we don’t know how to do is have the kind of unpleasant talks that articulate feelings to real friends when those friends ignore our wives at a dinner, or don’t think to call us when we are fired. Instead, we either shrug off the slight or end the friendship.”

Towards the end of the article, Schrank surmises about what went wrong, and how it can be put back together. He concludes:

“I would love to say that I am psyching myself up to stop caring about what is expected of me and sit down and hash things out with Dan. I would be lying, though.

Imagine it. I’d have to call (and that’s already a nonstarter because then I’d be using a phone), but imagine anyway. I call Dan and say: ‘I feel sad that we had a falling out. I care about you. I would like us to be friends. What did I do wrong? Come on, yell at me. I can take it.’ Not happening. Dan has two children and a wife, a staff, innumerable obligations; he’s a busy man. I care about him too much to fight with him. So no, I’ll never reach out to him and say all that stuff.

But Dan, if you are reading, let it be known: I miss you, man.”

If you’re curious as to what the prevailing sentiment of the day is regarding friendship, Schrank, I believe, offers an insightful glimpse and microcosm into what makes friendship so hard: self-sacrifice.

In a secular economy of friendship, self-sacrifice has no significant place. Why should it, after all? Friendship is about my needs, my wants, and my desires. Secular friendship is more about compatibility than Christ, more about comfort than cruciform love.

Yet, as you read the pages of Scripture, you see Christ-centered friendships must embody this singular characteristic of self-sacrifice if they’re going to resemble God’s pattern. If the pre-eminent expression of Christ’s movement to us is that He is a Savior who moves towards us in self-sacrificing love and redemption, then why should it surprise us that self-sacrificial love is what best embodies the true heart of friendship?

Recently my wife and I had a conversation, which brought this to surface. I realized in many ways, I had grown slack in this area. I wanted friendships that were more 9-to-5 and comfortable for my schedule. I wanted friendships where generosity was present, but not to the extent where it hurt my bank account. I wanted friendships where there were more joys than sorrows, more laughter than lament.

Unfortunately, many Christians struggle in a similar manner. We want all the benefits of a friendship with none of the responsibilities. We want the success of friendship without the self-sacrifice.

May we reflect and meditate today on Christ who self-sacrificially gave of himself to be in friendship with you and I. And may that spur us on to self-sacrificially pursue friendships.

Join the Conversation 

What role does Christlike sacrificial love play in your friendships?


[1]Ben Schrank, “Can’t Guys Just Learn to Fight for a Friendship?” The New York Times, October 26, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/fashion/cant-guys-just-learn-to-fight-for-a-friendship.html?_r=0. Accessed 31 July 2015.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Friendships, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

BCC Weekend Megaphone Post: An Invitation from David Powlison

A Word from Your BCC Team: We love to use our BCC “megaphone” to get the word out about major upcoming biblical counseling events. This weekend we are re-posting this invitation from CCEF Executive Director, David Powlison, to attend the CCEF Side by Side conference. You can also view this invite at the CCEF site here.

SideBySide

Dear Friends,

I invite you to attend this October’s CCEF National Conference in Virginia Beach. Our national conference is one of the highlights of my year. The teaching is fresh, the worship heartfelt, and the opportunity to connect to brothers and sisters is a delight.

1. We will have three days of learning together—and a fourth day if you choose to come to the preconference. In eight general sessions and with 16 breakout options, we will dig deeply into God’s Word about how we are created to live life side by side.

2. Matt Mason and his team of gifted musicians will lead us in worship together. We take the time to praise our God for the good gifts he gives us, because worship expresses the goal of God’s grace.

3.Our conference is a context for fellowship together. Old friends and new gather over meals and during breaks, reflecting on the things we are learning.

As you consider attending, or as you prepare for the conference, please enjoy the new free resource How We Help Others by Ed Welch (below). It prepares us well for the topic we will be looking at together in October.

Warmly,
DavidPowlisonSig
DavidPowlisonPic

David Powlison, Executive Director

Register Now


EdWelchFreeResource

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Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Conference, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

 

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

25 Resources on Suffering

Brad Hambrick has been collating his prolific resources. Today’s link directs you to 25 Resources on Suffering.

10 Reasons a Christian Must Be Pro-Life

Pastor Paul Tautges outlines 10 Reasons a Christian Must Be Pro-Life.

You Can’t Be Neutral

Pastor Kevin Carson addresses the pro-life issue in his post, You Can’t Be Neutral: What’s Your Choice?

A Pastoral Response to Transgenderism

In this ACBC podcast, Dr. Heath Lambert shares A Pastoral Response to Transgenderism.

The Epidemic of Worry

Tim Lane shares biblical insights for addressing Epidemic Worry.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Abortion, Anxiety, BCC Exclusive, Fear/Worry, Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Suffering | Tags: , , , , ,

Get Out of the Way

GetOutOfTheWay

When you meet with someone for counseling, it is always good to remember that you, too, are in the counseling room. Our hearts are always active and counselors are not above getting caught up in the situation. It shouldn’t surprise us that we can get in the way of the work going on in the room. Our focus must be on what the Lord has called us to. We have been given a ministry by the Lord and we must follow Him. He is working in our own hearts, too, in the midst of the counseling session. There are surely many ways a counselor can get in the way when counseling. Here are three common ones.

Assumptions

Probably one of the most harmful times a counselor gets in the way is in the area of assumptions. It is easy to do. We hear a story, and we start filling in the gaps with what we think people said, did, felt or thought. At that point we are no longer fully with the person in front of us; we are bringing our own narrative to the circumstance.

When we start making assumptions, we stop asking good questions.

This will cripple any counseling relationship. Proverbs 20:5 can help us to remember to avoid assumptions and seek to draw out the person we are with. In order to really care for people, we have to get out of the way and stay with the person, not our assumption of the person or situation.

Anger

Counselors are exposed to significant sins. Most of the time the people committing these sins are blinded, to some extent or another, to how damaging their actions really are. You don’t have to be an angry person to be tempted as a counselor to take up offense for others that people are hurting. But anger must be carefully watched. Being angry or even annoyed at the person we are caring for can hijack the direction the counseling needs to go.

Anger is always revealing—take the time to see what it is revealing in you.

If you find yourself not liking the person you are talking with, it is time to do a personal heart check. Our anger will never produce the righteousness that God requires (James 1:19-20). Properly dealing with our own sin helps us to be in a much better place to lead others to properly deal with theirs. In order to really care for a person, we must get out of the way and deal with any anger or annoyance we feel towards them.

Avoiding

Another way we can get in the way is in avoiding. In effort to incarnate “love bears all things,” we can avoid bringing loving confrontation. Several things can lead us to avoid saying the hard things that need to be said in a counseling meeting.

One trap that leads to avoiding is a desire to be liked by the counselee. We can stifle the counseling relationship when our desire to be liked by our counselee has more influence over us than speaking the truth. Another way avoiding takes place is when we don’t want to be hated by the person. This isn’t so much a desire to be liked as it is a desire to avoid being the object of that person’s displeasure. Maybe you have seen how ugly the person can be towards those they despise, and you just don’t want to be included in that lot.

To be brutally honest though, probably the reason we avoid gracious and appropriate confrontation is because we love ourselves too much. It is uncomfortable to have to be the one to bring exposing truth to a person’s life. We like being comfortable.

When we avoid, we are loving ourselves more than others.

This is contrary to the call we have in Philippians to love others better than we love ourselves (Philippians 2:3). In order to care for a person well, we have to get out of the way and lovingly address the hard things when the timing is appropriate.

Leaning on the Wonderful Counselor

The best way to get out of the way is to be fully dependent on the Lord in our counseling. Spending time in prayer outside of the counseling room can make the time inside the room line up with what the Lord has in store for everyone, including the counselor. Jesus Christ is the change agent in people’s lives so relying on Him will get ourselves out of the way so He may use us for His redemptive purposes.

Join the Conversation

What are ways that you find yourself “getting in the way” in counseling?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Relationships | Tags: ,

12 Things That Every First Time Dad Should Know

12ThingsEveryFirstTimeDadShouldKnow

So your wife is expecting? How kind of God to give you a child. There are many things to think about as you prepare for fatherhood. Here are 12 for you to consider as you get ready to meet your son or daughter.

1. You will mess up.

Ouch. What a way to start. Of all the things to start with, why that? The Bible tells me that you are a sinner (as am I), and consequently, you are going to need God’s grace every day. Just remember that now . . . and don’t forget it, because you’ll need to remember it many times in the years ahead. You will say dumb things. You’ll forget things. You’ll get angry, tired, and frustrated (especially in the first few months when you are sleep deprived). You’re imperfect.

So, ask your wife now for grace. Remind yourself now of your need for grace. Ask God now to let you be a father who is characterized by grace. Grace-filled parenting—that’s what you and your child will need.

2. Your wife needs you.

More than likely, your wife’s been a little sick recently. Morning sickness takes over; she is nauseous all of the time and often on the verge of throwing up. This part of the pregnancy is difficult, but sickness is a good sign because it means your baby is still growing. Even if your wife isn’t sick (some women aren’t), she will definitely be exhausted. So she will need more help at home. You’ll need to pick up some of the slack, both now and especially after the baby arrives. As a guy, don’t be shy or stubborn about the domestic duties. Take out the trash. Do the dishes and laundry. Cook dinner. If you haven’t helped like this before, consider it a very practical way to show your wife you love her. If you are wondering how to build intimacy with your wife during this difficult time, this is really the best way to start. She needs your help right now!

The most common question throughout your wife’s pregnancy should be, “Anything I can do to help you?” Make sure to check in with her regularly to see how you can serve her both before and after the baby arrives.

3. Be humble enough to ask for advice.

Ask dads you respect for fatherly advice. What lessons have they learned? What mistakes have they made? Take some time to read about parenting; find a good book or read from sources you trust on the Internet. If your church has one, go to a parenting class. Listen to podcasts.

Whatever you read, listen to, or attend, do it together with your wife so you can get on the same page about parenting. Talk with your wife about your fears, joys, and expectations. Pray for your baby with her. Pray for a healthy child and for the Lord to sustain your wife, but begin also to pray for your child to know God’s love. If you don’t do anything in preparation for becoming a parent, you’ll take on your family’s default posture and parent like your parents did. For some of us, that may be a good thing, but for many of us, it is not.

4. God is in control.

As a father, you are going to desire to control your child or be “sovereign” in his life in a way that only God can. In your baby’s first year of life, you are reminded of this fact when you want the baby to do something (sleep, eat, burp, stop crying) and yet nothing you do seems to help. These moments don’t happen all of the time, but they do happen and serve as a good reminder of who is really in control.

Imagine this situation: It’s the middle of the night. You’ve fed the baby, given her a clean diaper, and she refuses to go back to sleep. Even worse, she’s crying nonstop. You get this sinking feeling of doom, and a thought flashes across your mind, “I’m not in control anymore.” Those moments are good reminders: God is their Lord; He is sovereign over your baby’s heart and life; you are not. This won’t be the last time you have to remember that God is in control and not you. This might seem scary at first (who likes to not be in control?). But when you realize that God knows what’s best for you and your child, you will be able to trust Him for your long parenting days and sometimes even longer nights.

5. Be warned: Your sex life will change.

For some guys it starts in pregnancy. Your wife is sick, so sex slows down. As the pregnancy progresses, sex can be awkward. After the baby, she’ll need to recover (and recovery is longer after a C-section). As the baby is up at all hours of the night, you’ll both desperately want sleep, but you will (secretly) yearn to be intimate with her. In the midst of all this, you’ll miss her more.

Don’t worry, eventually intimacy will come back. One more way to help your wife through this time is by accepting that this is a difficult season for intimacy and not pressuring her to be intimate when she is not ready for it.

6. Get on the same page about visitors before the baby arrives.

Some couples want their family around soon after the birth. Other couples need a little space before family or friends start their invasion.

Make sure you talk to your wife about her desires before the baby comes. Does she want her parents around? When can your family see the child? What if her friends from church or work ask about coming over? Answer these questions now rather than at the spur of the moment after the baby is born.

7. The delivery is both scary and amazing.

The first time I saw my wife deliver a baby, I was speechless. Blood. Body fluids. Doctors and nurses everywhere. Machines, lights, sounds. The eager anticipation for the moment to arrive. The pain of contractions, and patiently loving your wife through the highs and lows of every contraction. It was a lot to take in, and that’s just for a normal delivery.

Very few things in my life fit in the category of a miracle, but childbirth certainly does. The moment is breathtaking. When my wife got pregnant with our second child, I approached the birth with the attitude: “Been there, done that.” But I was wrong! The second birth was just as miraculous and wondrous as the first.

8. Parenting is a great picture of God.

After you become a father, you will grow in your understanding of God’s love for you. Parenting is a great picture of God’s love for His children.

Every time you pick up your crying child and hold him, it will remind you of how God cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). When your child scrapes his knee and you clean and bandage it, think about how God comforts you in your distress (2 Corinthians 1). If your child wakes you in the middle of the night, don’t forget that God never sleeps, but He is watching over you day and night (Psalm 121:3–4). If your child makes a mistake, think about how God disciplines us in His love and also forgives when we ask, no matter how often we fail (Hebrews 12:7–11; 1 John 1:9–10). Thinking about all of the ways God is a perfect Father to both you and your child will fill you with thankfulness.

9. Be prepared for sleep deprivation.

You’ll have less sleep all-around and some sleepless nights. It’s incredible how one little person can cause so much tiredness. Talk with your wife about how you can help her get rest, whether it’s by staying up with the baby at night or making sure she is able to nap during the day.

It’s your job to make sure she rests as much as possible and doesn’t feel a lot of pressure to take care of stuff around the house. You pick up the slack wherever possible so that she is able to rest.

10. Adjust your expectations.

Don’t assume that you will be able to do everything in the same ways that you did before. You will need to adjust your expectations and the expectations of your family and friends about what travel, hospitality, time hanging out, etc., will look like after the baby is born.

Don’t make any major commitments before the baby is born that would hinder your ability to serve your family after the baby is born. Once you have settled into a new normal, post-baby, you can re-evaluate your commitments and decide what would be wise to take back on.

11. Begin praying for your child’s salvation.

Because you haven’t met your son or daughter yet, there is an opportunity for you to dream the impossible dream. Your son or daughter might be smart enough and politically savvy enough to one day become President of the United States. Impossible? Tell that to Bill Clinton or Barak Obama’s mother. Or, maybe you’ll settle for a major league baseball or an NFL player. My father wanted his kids to be doctors and lawyers and financiers, so he’d have people to take care of him in his old age. Most parents though, as they go through the highs and lows of parenting, move from the impossible dream to a more realistic dream—I just want my child to marry well, to provide for himself, and to be a decent contributing member of society.

But the most important hope for every Christian parent is only something God could grant—that He would save your child (Jonah 2:9). Begin to pray even now that your child would one day become a Christian. Better to have a son who is a faithful, God-fearing plumber than an unbelieving president.

12. Look to the best of fathers.

The greatest Father, the Father of all fathers, is our heavenly Father. He gives us the ultimate picture of what true fatherhood looks like. Looking to the examples set by other fathers and reading books written by experienced dads can be helpful. With each good father, we get a glimpse of how to grow in love for our children. But as they teach us principles and tell us stories about parenting, we only get one piece of the picture of what a real father might be.

The only complete picture of fatherhood comes as we look to God. True fatherhood is found in the character of the One who was willing to send His Son to die on the cross for sinners like you and me. He alone knows how to parent us perfectly. Where your parenting falls short, as it certainly will, you can look to God who does all things well. You can depend on Him to do what you can’t do and to give you wisdom when you don’t have any. Look to God and depend on Him in the days ahead.

I’ve been a father for many years now. There have been plenty of good days and bad days. But through it all, our heavenly Father has remained faithful to my family. Because God has been faithful in the past, I can look to the future with confidence that He will remain the same—present, faithful, forgiving, and loving to me, my wife, and our five children (1 Thessalonians 5:24). With many years of parenting left to go, I am so thankful to my faithful God who gives grace in abundance to those who do not deserve it.

Join the Conversation

Do you know a first-time dad who is getting ready for the big changes of fatherhood?

If this was helpful, you can find a much more extensive version in the New Growth Press booklet Preparing for Fatherhood. Mail him a copy, or even better, read it along with him, and talk and pray together about his entrance into fatherhood.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Marriage & Family, Men/Husbands, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

4 Biblical Compass Points for Gospel Conversations

4BiblicalCompassPoints

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the second of a two-part Biblical Counseling Coalition Grace & Truth blog miniseries. In this series, we’ve asked Dr. Bob Kellemen to introduce you to two new biblical counseling books he’s written: Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives (October 2014, Zondervan) and Gospel-Conversations: How to Care Like Christ (October 2015, Zondervan). You can read Part One at 8 Ultimate Life Questions for Gospel-Centered Counseling.

What Do You Do After the Hug?

For two decades I’ve offered local church seminars on How to Care Like Christ. I originally called the seminar: What to Do After the Hug. People who attend seminars on counseling, just like people who read books on counseling, have a heart to care, but they often share that they feel ill-equipped to know how to care in a Christlike way.

You might think this is true of “lay people,” but not of pastors. However, numerous studies indicate that pastors, even after graduation from seminary, feel inadequately prepared for the task of pastoral counseling.[i]

Our need to learn how to care like Christ is common to all Christians. The author of Hebrews recognizes this when he exhorts believers to consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Like all believers, the Hebrew Christians were struggling with suffering (Hebrews 10:32-34) and battling against temptations to sin (Hebrews 3:12-14). Throughout Hebrews, the author directs believers back to Christ and His gospel of grace—applied daily—as their sure hope and practical help (Hebrews 1:1-9; 2:1-4; 14-18; 3:1-11; 4:14-16; 10:19-23).

The two books in the Equipping Biblical Counselors’ Series—Gospel-Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations are written in obedience to this command to give careful thought and consistent attention to how to use the gospel to encourage one another to resist temptation and to respond to suffering with love for God and one another. Gospel Conversations provides an intensive, relational, hands-on equipping manual. Through it you will develop twenty-one biblical counseling relational skills so you can care like Christ.

What Is a “Gospel Conversation”?

What do gospel conversations look like and sound like? It will take this entire book to answer that question fully, but here’s my one-sentence summary:

Gospel conversations promote personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.

Jay Adams rightly summarized that, “All counselors have one goal in common: change…” and “use verbal means to bring about the change.”[ii] Biblical counseling is change through talking—but not just any type of talking. It is talking or conversation that relates Christ’s gospel story to our life story.

The essence of gospel conversations is helping one another to understand and apply the gospel to the details of our lives as saints who struggle with suffering and sin. Through your active participation in this training manual, you’ll learn how to use four biblical compass points to speak gospel truth in love—gospel conversations:

  • Sustaining: “It’s Normal to Hurt”—Learning how to weep with those who weep by offering biblical sustaining care for hurting people.
  • Healing: “It’s Possible to Hope”—Learning how to give hope to the hurting by offering biblical healing comfort and encouragement for suffering people.
  • Reconciling: “It’s Horrible to Sin, but Wonderful to Be Forgiven”—Learning how to be a dispenser of Christ’s grace by offering biblical reconciling for people struggling against besetting sins.
  • Guiding: It’s Supernatural to Mature”­—Learning how to disciple, coach, and mentor by offering guiding wisdom for people growing in Christ.

How Do We Get from Here to There?

Gospel Conversations is a local church curriculum map. It is a best-practice manual for equipping God’s people to care like Christ—to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth. But how do we learn to care like Christ? Is it just a “brain dump” where you read about gospel conversations?

Whenever I equip biblical counselors, I begin our learning time with the “big idea.” I’ll often state it like this to the group, “If you forget everything else today, remember this…” Here’s the big idea of Gospel Conversations. If you forget everything else in this book, remember this:

We learn to become competent biblical counselors by giving and receiving biblical counseling in the context of real and raw Christian community.

We don’t learn to be effective counselors simply by reading a book—no matter how profound the book. We don’t learn to be skilled people-helpers simply by engaging in role-play scenarios or even by watching experienced counselors—though both of these are very helpful methods. We learn to be effective biblical counselors through face-to-face gospel ministry where we speak the truth in love to one another.

Here’s the most important piece of advice I can offer you as you work your way through Gospel Conversations: do not try to use Gospel Conversations simply as a text to read or a lecture to give. That’s not how I designed it. I’ve designed Gospel Conversations as an experiential training manual that promotes real and raw, vulnerable and open relationships among your equipping group members.

Join the Conversation

How would you define “gospel conversations”?


[i]Michael Firmin and Mark Tedford, “An Assessment of Counseling Courses in Seminaries Serving Evangelical Baptist Students,” 420-427.
[ii]Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, ix.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Equipping, Gospel-Centered Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sanctification | Tags: , , , ,

8 Ultimate Life Questions for Gospel-Centered Counseling

8UltimateLifeQuestions

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the first of a two-part Biblical Counseling Coalition Grace & Truth blog miniseries. In this series, we’ve asked Dr. Bob Kellemen to introduce you to two new biblical counseling books he’s written: Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives (October 2014, Zondervan) and Gospel-Conversations: How to Care Like Christ (October 2015, Zondervan).

Picture With Me…

Picture with me a committed Christian sitting at Starbucks with her best friend and fellow church member. Her heart is pounding as she silently prays, “Lord, please give me wisdom.” Her friend has finally opened up about the fear, anxiety, and panic she experiences daily, and shared, “I know the Bible talks about trusting the Lord and taking all my anxiety to Him. But how in the world do I relate who God is and what His Word says to my fears?” I’ve written Gospel-Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations for this committed Christian friend and thousands like her—for folks like you—who want to know what to do after the hug.

Picture with me a pastor stepping out from behind the pulpit. He’s just finished confidently preaching on James 4:1-4 and the source of relationship problems. During the meet-and-greet time after the service, a visitor, not knowing that this is typically time for casual chit-chat, asks the pastor, “How could my wife and I apply your message to our marriage? We’ve seen a divorce attorney, but we’d like to save our marriage. Could you help?” While looking poised on the outside, inside the pastor is thinking, “They taught me how to preach in seminary, but not how to help a struggling couple to change.” I’ve written Gospel-Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations for this pastor and thousands like him—for folks like you—who long for the same confidence and competence in the personal ministry of the Word that you have in the teaching ministry of the Word.

Picture with me a couple called by their church to lead their congregation’s new one-another equipping ministry. It’s designed to train “the average person in the church” to be “competent to counsel.” Sorting through literally hundreds of excellent books on counseling, the husband says to his wife, “So much great material. But where do we begin? My head is swimming with information, but at the same time drowning with overload.” His wife, nodding in agreement, replies, “We need something that ties this all together, that guides us from the big picture to the nightly lesson. You know, like the Evangelism Explosion training manuals do for sharing our faith.” I’ve written Gospel-Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations for this couple and thousands like them—for folks like you—who long for a focused local church counseling curriculum. For folks who want a best-practice approach for equipping God’s people to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth so they can care like Christ.

Not “Smurfy” or Trendy, but Eternal and Daily

In Gospel Wakefulness, Jared Wilson tells about a gospel-loving friend who asked him, “Do you remember The Smurfs? Do you remember how they used the word ‘smurfy’ for everything? If something was great, the Smurfs said it was smurfy.” His friend then wondered whether “all the gospel-centered this and gospel-driven that is just our version of ‘smurfy.’”[i]

It’s a legitimate concern. Is “gospel-centered” like “smurfy”? Are we just jumping on the proverbial bandwagon? Mimicking the popular lingo? Enjoying being trendy by dropping a gospel buzzword into every other sentence?

I’d prefer to think gospel-centeredness reflects Paul who said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). I’d prefer to believe that gospel-centeredness echoes the author of Hebrews who penned every sentence in Hebrews as a word of gospel encouragement (Hebrews 13:22) applied to the life of believers enduring suffering and battling besetting sins.

The KJV version captures well our potential attitude toward gospel-centeredness: “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6, KJV). We could be gospel-centered in a way that’s trendy or in a way that’s eternal. We could be gospel-centered in a way that’s “smurfy” or in a way that applies Christ’s changeless truth in our changing times to change lives.

I’ve been equipping biblical counselors in the local church and seminary settings for three decades. I summarized those thirty years in Soul Physicians:

I have doggedly pursued the fundamental question: What would a model of biblical counseling and discipleship look like that was built solely upon Christ’s gospel of grace? What does the gospel offer? What difference does the gospel make in how we live, how we relate, and how we offer help?[ii]

I have had a lifelong passion for gospel-centered counseling—applying God’s eternal plan of salvation and sanctification in Christ to our daily lives and relationships.

What does gospel-centered counseling mean? When I joined three dozen counseling leaders in a yearlong process to craft the Confessional Statement of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, we united to describe counseling centered on Christ and the gospel.

We believe that wise counseling centers on Jesus Christ—His sinless life, death on the cross, burial, resurrection, present reign, and promised return. Through the Gospel, God reveals the depths of sin, the scope of suffering, and the breadth, length, height, and depth of grace. Wise counseling gets to the heart of personal and interpersonal problems by bringing to bear the truth, mercy, and power of Christ’s grace. There is no true restoration of the soul and there are no truly God-honoring relationships without understanding the desperate condition we are in without Christ and apart from experiencing the joy of progressive deliverance from that condition through God’s mercies. We point people to a person, Jesus our Redeemer, and not to a program, theory, or experience.[iii]

What does gospel-centered counseling look like? It will take me two books—Gospel-Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations—to answer that question. But here’s a one-sentence summary:

Gospel-centered counseling promotes personal change centered on the Person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.

Life’s Eight Ultimate Questions

What does that look like in “real life”? In my study of Scripture, I’ve found that the Bible’s grand gospel narrative defines for us eight ultimate life questions.

  • The Word: “Where do we find wisdom for life in a broken world?”
  • The Trinity/Community: “What comes into our mind when we think about God?” “Whose view of God will we believe—Christ’s or Satan’s?”
  • Creation: “Whose are we?” “In what story do we find ourselves?”
  • Fall: “What’s the root source of our problem?” “What went wrong?”
  • Redemption: “How does Christ bring us peace with God?” “How does Christ change people?”
  • Church: “Where can we find a place to belong and become?”
  • Consummation: “How does our future destiny with Christ make a difference in our lives today as saints who struggle against suffering and sin?”
  • Sanctification: “Why are we here?” “How do we become like Jesus?” How can our inner life increasingly reflect the inner life of Christ?”

Together, these eight ultimate life questions seek to answer the biblical counselor’s foundational question:

“What would a model of biblical counseling and discipleship look like that was built solely upon Christ’s gospel of grace?”

In Gospel-Centered Counseling, I explore, chapter by chapter, each of life’s ultimate questions as they relate to your life and ministry as a biblical counselor.

Join the Conversation

How would you define “gospel-centered counseling”?


[i]Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness, 213.
[ii]Robert Kellemen, Soul Physicians, 3.
[iii]The Biblical Counseling Coalition Confessional Statement: http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/about/confessional-statement/.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Equipping, Gospel-Centered Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sanctification | Tags: , , , ,

About the BCC

The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.