Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Biblical Counselling In Namibia - Why We Are Making This A Part Of Our Church’s ministry ?

My own pilgrimage in the field of counselling began in 1986 when I was a student at a seminary in Cape Town. Our lecturer at that time in the field of counselling was a committed Rogerian [1] (also known as Client Centred Therapy). I was exposed to and trained in this method of counselling  but we were given no assurance that we could handle the difficult counselling cases that would arise in the church.

Our lecturer  then  taught us to refer and defer the afflicted church member to the ‘professionals’ – i.e. the psychologist and the psychiatrist. So, if the church member was depressed or anxious or if he or she showed any signs of abnormal behaviour, they were to be referred to the ‘helping team‘ - the psychologist or psychiatrist. This greatly discouraged me at that time, for I really wanted to be a pastor who could help his people.  And so the inevitable question arose, - “if I really want to help people, should I not become a psychologist?” 

Three major questions circulated in my mind:

1. Unless the pastor has additional training in psychology, should he be counselling his people?
2. Is the Bible a sufficient help for the wide range of counselling needs of the congregation?
3. Who did the counselling before the emergence of psychology – which, as we know is a relatively new discipline?

My search for alternatives began in about 1987 and in the course of time I came across the book “Competent to Counsel” by Jay Adams[2]. I was intrigued by the fact that here was a Reformed theologian and pastor who had dared to effectively challenge the counselling systems of revered icons of the world of psychology, such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers.

Dr. Jay Adams
Jay Adams answered all three of my questions. He believed that counselling belonged to the church and her ministers. He believed that the Bible was a sufficient guide to help people with their varied psychological problems. He believed that this had been the work of the church long before psychology made its entrance on the world stage.

I am aware of the fact that Dr. Adams has received a lot of criticism – and much of it from  Christian quarters, and some of it  may be justified. Heath Lamberts' book, "The Biblical Counselling Movement after Adams"  (Crossway: 2012) has offered some helpful critiques  – but after 25 years in the pastoral ministry, I  thank God  that  Jay Adams helped me to trust in the sufficient  Scriptures.You see, as a historic Protestant I am committed to the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture (SOLA SCRIPTURA). I believe in the power of the Gospel. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and I believe that He has delegated His authority to the church to make obedient disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). I believe in the Holy Spirit who comforts, counsels and convicts the world of sin through the work of the church. All this  is affirmed in the system which I understand to be "Biblical Counseling".

I have come to see that pure psychology (if there is such a thing) is nothing less than a humanistic substitute for biblical theology and biblical anthropology , which ought to be  the basis of all genuine pastoral work. Modern psychology is essentially steeped in humanistic thinking with respect to the problems of the psyche (soul) of man. It is an attempt to get rid of God and the Bible when dealing with people. The system of evolution is its willing handmaiden, for the doctrine of evolution is an attempt to replace the Christian concept of a personal Creator - God. The atheistic doctrine of “evolution” (i.e. a series of impersonal, random, chance happenings) is an attempt to do away with mankind’s personal accountability to its Creator.

Sadly, many Christians have bought into the psychological model of counselling. In many cases psychology (in its various forms and expressions) has been dressed up in Christian language to make it acceptable to the church. There is, of course, some overlapping of Biblical counselling with the insights that psychologists derive from empirical evidence and observation. 
The difference between biblical counselling and humanistic psychology lies in the ultimate questions and answers that only the Bible provides. A secular psychologist may describe a symptom accurately, but he easily fails  to prescribe an accurate cure, because he ignores biblical revelation about the nature of man and God. 
It is true  psychotropic medicine  has become the ‘miracle cure’ of the modern psychologist. They appear to provide relief, but they do not provide ultimate relief. Psychological medications do not deal with  the problems of the soul and the thought-life of a person. They mask the symptoms, and do not really deal with the symptoms.

Biblical counselling is no easy walk in the park! I have come to see that authentic Christian counselling, or Biblical counselling is hard work. There is nothing simplistic about it. It presupposes that the counselor knows God and the Bible really well. It presupposes that there is a true understanding of the fallen-ness of man with respect to his Creator and hence an understanding of the nature of sin and its terrible effects upon the world. It presupposes that there is a healing balm - a solution to mankind’s dilemma. It presupposes that God in His mercy has provided a solution for sin. He is Christ the Saviour. It presupposes that this Saviour has mandated His church to exercise her spiritual gifts among other things for the healing of sick souls. It presupposes that this Saviour has invested real power in His church. He has given the church power and wisdom and knowledge and prayer to truly help tortured souls in this world. All that genuinely come to Him He will never drive away.

Wayne  and carol Mack at Eastside  2014 
Now Dr. Jay Adams is the father of the modern biblical counselling movement, and Dr. Wayne Mack, another venerable pioneer in the Biblical Counselling movement has recently told me, “we all stand upon the shoulders of Jay Adams”. Dr Mack considers Jay Adams as a modern Martin Luther, leading the church back to her true roots and to her source of true authority in the field of the care of the soul.

We are thankful that others, such as the men and women of the Christian Counselling and Education Foundation (CCEF) have followed in his footsteps to recover for us a renewed confidence in the sufficiency of the Bible with respect to the discipline of counselling. 

So why are we doing this?

1. We believe that biblical counselling helps the church to truly reach out with the compassion of Christ and the wisdom of His word to a needy world. We recognize that  many people have broken minds, hearts  and bodies. The love of our Lord Jesus compels us to reach out to them in His strength and by prayer.  

2. For many years we have been asking how we can get practically involved in our community in a life transforming way. Our conviction is that the church exists to make Christ known through His Word. This happens through the regular and faithful proclamation of the Word of God through our regular church services and in our small groups. Many people in our community however do not darken the door of a church. However, since our community is extremely needy in terms of marriage issues, child raising issues, financial issues and similar other matters we will be able to reach into their hearts through this means. Personal counselling and regular seminars that will speak to the community’s real needs will go a long way to help.

3. We are committed to train and disciple skillful, thoughtful, loving biblical disciples who will go a long way to help others in our our community to find the Lord Jesus Christ as a living LORD, and who through obedience to His Word are enabled to live truly happy lives.

[1] Named after Carl Rogers,  (1902 – 1987) an influential American psychologist  and among the founders of the humanistic approach  (or client-centered approach) to psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research.
[2] Jay E. Adams : Competent to Counsel,  Presbyterian & Reformed , 1970 

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