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Gospel-Centered Counseling: Q & A with Bob Kellemen

Category: Counseling

ABC Staff Note: In this Association of Biblical Counselors author interview Q & A, we connected with Bob Kellemen to learn more about his newest book, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives.

ABC: “Bob, thanks for joining us, and thanks for your writing ministry. By our count, this is your 13th book! Who would you say your primary audience is for Gospel-Centered Counseling?”

BK: “I wrote Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives for the local church. I wrote it for every person who longs to see lives changed with Christ’s changeless truth, for everyone who wants to speak the truth in love.

As I wrote, I kept seeing lay people sitting with hurting friends in a Starbucks and wondering how the gospel helps. I kept envisioning a lay biblical counselor seeking wisdom to help someone caught in a besetting sin. And I kept thinking about the pastor in his office needing biblical guidance to relate God’s truth to people’s lives.”

ABC: “Bob, what is the main purpose of Gospel-Centered Counseling?”

BK: “For the past three decades, I have been pursuing one foundational question that I believe every biblical counselor must answer.

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

Thus the title: Gospel-Centered Counseling. What difference does the gospel make in how we counsel one another? What difference does the gospel make in our daily lives?

To answer those questions, throughout Gospel-Centered Counseling, I address 8 ultimate life questions. I build these questions on Christ’s gospel victory narrative.”

ABC: “Sounds fascinating. So, what are these 8 ultimate life questions from Gospel-Centered Counseling?”

BK: “The questions follow the traditional Creation/Fall/Redemption model, but they expand that concept to address a comprehensive biblical theology of biblical counseling. Here’s how I organize life’s 8 ultimate questions in Gospel-Centered Counseling.

1.     The Word: Where do we find wisdom for life in a broken world?

2.     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?

3.     Creation: Whose are we? In what story do we find ourselves?

4.     Fall: What’s the root source of our problem? What went wrong?

5.     Redemption: How does Christ bring us peace with God? How does Christ change people?

6.     Church: Where can we find a place to belong and become?

7.     Consummation: How does our future destiny with Christ make a difference in our lives today as saints who struggle against suffering and sin?

8.     Sanctification: Why are we here? How do we become like Jesus? How can our inner life increasingly reflect the inner life of Christ?”

ABC: “So it sounds like Gospel-Centered Counseling provides a theological foundation for counseling. Is that right?”

BK: “Yes—especially when we understand that theology matters. Theology is for life.

Everyone wants to know what makes biblical counseling truly biblical. I believe that counsel is biblical when we build our understanding of God, life, people, problems, and solutions on Christ’s gospel of grace. Gospel-Centered Counseling shows how robust, relevant, and relational God’s Word is for our daily lives. It is a theological primer, a gospel primer, that shows us how Christ changes lives.”

ABC: “That last phrase reminds us of your subtitle, which is so vital: How Christ Changes Lives. Tell us more about the importance of the subtitle.”

BK: “In our biblical counseling world we often talk about how people change. I have used that language and I will continue to use that language. However, the subtitle tweaks that in a significant way—it is Christ’s gospel of grace that changes us. We are forgiven by grace and we are changed by grace—made new creations in Christ. And we keep growing in grace—sanctification grace.

Gospel-Centered Counseling seeks to help counselors to unite the truths that: 1) we are already changed, 2) we grow by grace, and 3) we have a role to play. We respond to grace in the Spirit’s power by putting off the old person we once were and putting on the new person we now are in Christ.”

ABC: “You have a free discussion guide available also, is that right?”

BK: “Yes, it is. Anyone who orders a copy of Gospel Centered Counseling at my RPM Store will receive a free 55-page discussion guide. For each chapter there are discussion/interaction questions that help readers to apply gospel truth to their own lives. And there are discussion/interaction questions that also help readers to apply gospel truth to their biblical counseling ministry.”

ABC: “Bob, we understand that Gospel-Centered Counseling is part of a two-book series published by Zondervan. Tell us more.”

BK: “Yes, the second book, Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ, will be released by Zondervan in 2015. Together, these two books form the Equipping Biblical Counselors Series. I wanted a two-book set that churches (and schools) could use seamlessly to equip their people. Book one, as I mentioned, is a theological primer for relating the gospel for life. Book two, Gospel Conversations, is a methodology primer—providing the “how to” of the art of biblical counseling. I’ve written book two in a lab/small group training manual format. It walks readers through how to further develop 21 biblical counseling skills—I call them “relational competencies” so that we learn to speak the truth in love.”

ABC: “Bob, how can people learn more about Gospel-Centered Counseling?”

BK: “On my RPM Ministries site, people can visit my Gospel-Centered Counseling Page. They’ll find a free copy of the Foreword and Introduction, along with tweet-size summaries of every chapter, in addition to other free resources.”

ABC: “Thank you, Bob, for introducing our readers to Gospel-Centered Counseling. And thank you for your ministry equipping God’s people to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth.”

Posted on December 4, 2014