What is Christian Counseling?
Thank you for taking time to consider what I mean by “Christian Counseling,” the kind of counseling Agape aspires to.
Christian (or biblical) counseling must be “Christ-centered, biblically-based, and Spirit-filled to the glory of God and for the blessing and healing of His people. Christian counseling should also be characterized by agape or Christlike love that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
Please note, this is a relatively short description, so forgive what I leave out. I have studied both Christian counseling methods and secular counseling methods in seminary and at the graduate level. There are many very smart secular counselors and theorists who have made some good and helpful observations and deductions from nature. All truth is God’s truth.
The fundamental difference between secular and Christian counseling is Jesus. For the greatest gift of Christian counseling is Jesus Christ. He is Savior of all who will believe in Him, trusting in Him alone for the forgiveness of their sins and the restoration of their souls. Jesus is also the One who cleanses us from all the filth and stains left by those who have hurt us.
Real meaning and real hope are found in Jesus and it is to Him we look as we begin the restoration process in whatever issue we may confront. Ultimately, the highest end of Christian counseling is to assist you in establishing a deeper and growing satisfaction in all that Christ is for you, in order that you would get the joy, and God would get the glory, forever.
So often in counseling, the process of forgiveness and reconciliation is involved. The forgiveness that Jesus freely gave us through the cross reconciling us to God overflows with measureless grace and love, empowering us (sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly) to forgive and be reconciled with those who have wronged us.
Finally, you get to be prayed for and have the Bible helpfully applied to your issues in Christian counseling. This is a tangible part of recognizing that long-term solutions and real healing are dependent upon, and a gift from, God.
You may wonder, is Christian counseling practical and effective? Yes, absolutely. Christians have been doing “counseling” ever since Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, started doing it during His ministry on earth. Today, we Christian counselors have the Holy Spirit to guide us and God’s Word to apply, along with the wisdom of godly men and women who have been doing practical and effective Christian counseling with thousands and thousands of Christians and those who have been open to the Spirit’s leading and have come to Christian counseling in spite of still having doubts. We have also learned much from our research and study of marriage and family theorists and practitioners, neurologists and others (though never undermining the authority of the Bible).
You may wonder, am I just going to get a guilt trip about how I don’t have enough faith or a bunch of Bible verses thrown at me that I struggle to believe? No. Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, met people where they were in life and with what they were ready to handle. He met them with the amount of faith they had (“I believe, help my unbelief”). He met them with the amount of Bible knowledge they had. And that is just how you will be met here. Your pace is our pace. Jesus was the Gentle Healer and God is the God of all Comfort.
Also of significance, you may rightly be wondering about the fact that our spiritual growth in Christ continues for our entire lives. Does this mean your counseling sessions will last forever?! Great question. And the answer is no. Your season of counseling may end for a number of reasons. I think the best outcome is that you leave counseling when you have gotten to the point where your local church can effectively care for your needs and you are ready to be cared for by your local church.
Christian counseling is not meant to replace your local church, although I understand in some cases you may have been actually hurt by your church and that is a different case. My hope is that during your time of counseling you can be a part of a healthy, God-worshiping, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled, bible-believing, gospel-saturated, grace-filled church that is led by a spiritually mature pastor. It would also be wonderful if that church has a small group ministry where you could find a small group of other believers where you feel comfortable so that you could be part of a loving community who will be there for you to offer support, prayer and encouragement. I realize, however, that there are no perfect churches! And I am not asking you to search endlessly for one or to leave your present one if it is a good one. I am just pointing out what a spiritually healthy church, depending entirely on God for its strength, will always be growing more and more like.
Finally, you have the opportunity to hear a testimony by Aaron Sironi, a counselor who describes his conversion from being a Christian counselor who did secular counseling, to a biblical counselor, or what I call, someone who does “Christian Counseling.” I think Aaron points to some important distinctions between those who call themselves Christian Counselors but do not incorporate their faith into their practice and those who are Christian Counselors and do incorporate their faith into their practice.
Whether you use me or someone else, I encourage you to ask your prospective Christian Counselor if they intentionally incorporate their Christian faith and Christian methods into their counseling. You should do this because many counselors call themselves Christian Counselors but actually practice secular counseling alone, or rely on it primarily. Also, firms advertise using a Christian fish symbol (or “Ichthus”) do not necessarily practice Christian counseling.
If it is important to you, then check to see if are going to be seeing a Christian Counselor who will pray with you, apply God’s Word to your situation, and who will love you through your hard times. It's a fair question and a good counselor or therapist should not be offended by the question. You need to decide if it is you and your relationship with God that is primarily at stake in counseling and the healing process.
Your servant in Christ,