05 June 2006

Evangelistic Counseling -- Part 2

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So far we touched on two difficulties with making Biblical counseling an outreach of the church. These problems occur at two sides of a spectrum. On one hand, no Biblical counsel can be put into effect by an unbeliever while he is hostile to God because all Biblical obedience is rooted in love for God; so the counseling is useless to him. On the other hand, all Biblical counsel provides an opportunity for the unbeliever to steal truth about God’s creation and illicitly incorporate it into his life, thereby bringing more condemnation upon himself. I have conceded that these are real obstacles in using Biblical counseling as an outreach. However, I think that they can be anticipated and overcome.

The first way to overcome these challenges is by acknowledging that, just like preaching, all Biblical counseling is evangelistic. Why would I say that? I’m glad you asked.

(1) All Biblical counseling is evangelistic because one believer can never be 100% convinced about the spiritual status of another. At any point the counselor may discover that the counselee is unwilling to follow the lordship of Christ and, in Jesus’ own words, “Cannot be my disciple.” The entire book of Hebrews is an example of the demands of discipleship applied to people who profess to be believers. Biblical counseling (and preaching) would do well to follow this author’s example.

(2) All Biblical counseling is evangelistic because the gospel provides the only foundation for real change. The counselee can never forget that without the gospel, he would be hopeless. As we have already said, the sinful mind is hostile to God. Regeneration and definitive sanctification is the only effective starting place for genuine improvement. (Note: “Genuine” here entails accordance with God’s standard for improvement.)

(3) All Biblical counseling is evangelistic because the gospel is the fullest revelation of the standard to which God holds us. The counselor must never allow the counselee to comfort his own conscience if he falls short of all God requires. This standard is revealed at many points of the gospel. But just off the top of my head: (a) Christ, in his active obedience, fulfilled all of the righteous requirements of God for humans. He shows us what God expects in “love and good works.” (b) Similarly, as the second (and perfect) Adam, Christ shows us what humans are supposed to act like.

(4) All Biblical counseling is evangelistic because the gospel is the fullest revelation of the depth of man’s depravity. The counselor must never allow the counselee to think that he is “not all that bad”; he must be clear where the counselee would be were it not for the gospel. This depravity is revealed at many points of the gospel. For instance, (a) Christ, in his passive obedience, reveals the height of God’s standards by displaying what it means to take on himself the penalty for breaking those standards. (b) Similarly, the gospel shows the vast disparity between man’s behavior and God’s requirements by showing just what would happen “if God were one of us.” Namely, we’d kill him (HT: Ken Brown of Community Baptist).

To sum up, in evangelistic counseling, the unbeliever will never be allowed to think that he is able to reach God’s standard. At every point he is reminded that, without Christ, he will never be able to legitimately incorporate God’s wisdom into his life. On the other hand, at every point he is reminded that the counseling is not useless because it presents the only way to genuine improvement.


T. Baylor said...

Nice post Pitts!

Jeremy Pittsley said...


Anonymous said...

Reading on urban mission, I came across a quote:
“Counseling is the process by which a person confronts the pain and distortions of finitude and sin, and the limits of his psychospiritual resources, so that his thoughts, perceptions, emotions, values, and behaviors are altered and he acquires skills for healthy living” (Craig W. Ellison, “Counseling and Discipleship for the City,” in Discipling the City, by Roger Greenway), p. 100.

It's been a few months since I read that chapter, but I think Ellison was making a distinction b/t counseling and evangelism though not divorcing them. I have quoted him w/out context. So, if it interests you enuf you can pick up the tome @ the library. Sorry for jumping in late on this conversation. It is fascinating.