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Want to Change Lives?

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I had a great time facilitating the Center for Church Equipping Pre-Conference on Equipping Counselors for Your Church. Hosted by the Association of Biblical Counselors, over sixty attendees participated from a wide array of backgrounds (denominations, ethnicity, church size, roles—pastors, counselors, elders, deacons, ministry directors). At the end of our all-day overview of the “4Es” (envisioning, enlisting, equipping, and 

empowering), we shared together some of the major “take-aways.”  Here are some samplers of what folks thought was most vital for their lives and ministries.

Biblical Counseling Training Is Serious Stuff!

As one person put it, “I’m so glad you encouraged us to maintain a high standard in our training of God’s people—we’re dealing with souls!” I agree 100%. We can’t “dumb-down” our equipping. Yes, we can do it well and wisely, in the most efficient way possible (which is part of the design of the “4E” model), but we have to take this seriously. No short-cuts.

Biblical Counseling Training Is Relational

One attendee shared, “I was so glad you emphasized that we have to train biblical counselors through biblical counseling—by helping each other to apply Christ’s changeless truth to our daily lives.” Exactly! Far too much biblical counseling training becomes a mere “brain dump.” We open the cranium, pour in lecture information, and expect that alone to equip someone to be competent to counsel. Content—biblical content—is vital. That’s why I authored the 500-page Soul Physicians ( which is a comprehensive theology of biblical counseling. But it must be content applied to life—first to our lives, and then jointly to the lives of our counselees.

Biblical Counseling Training Changes Our Lives

Somewhat similarly, another participant shared with me, “I so appreciated your comment, ‘Launching a biblical counseling ministry is not a task to accomplish; it’s a relationship with God and others—to nourish and enjoy.’” We explored how both Nehemiah and the Apostle Paul focused on transforming their own hearts, before they focused on transforming others. I also quoted from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “You have to deal with the darkness within, before you can deal with the darkness out there.” It’s not simply the end produce (trained counselors); it’s the enduring process (changed people) that results from a biblical counseling training ministry.

Biblical Counseling Training Must Fit with the Whole Ministry of the Church

At the end of the day, one person reflected back on the beginning of the day. “At the very start, Bob, you reminded us that it’s more than counseling; it’s a vision for the entire church.” In fact, we carried that theme throughout the day. We must first saturate our entire congregation with a focus on every member a disciple-maker (not just every member a minister) (Ephesians 4:11-16). Within the context of a congregation of biblical counselors, we then can launch a congregation with a focused biblical counseling ministry.

Biblical Counseling Training Requires a Ministry Mindset Shift

Several people emphasized an image we used throughout the day: “Are we like Milton Berle or are we like Ed Sullivan?” (For a fuller explanation, read Want to Change Lives? ( On his TV show, The Texaco Star Theater, Milton Berle kept the focus and spotlight on himself. Ed Sullivan, on the other hand, called others to center stage. Examining Ephesians 4:11-12, we concluded that “the calling of pastors and ministry leaders is to equip God’s people to fulfill their calling.” Are we one minister, or an equipper of many ministers? Do we minister by addition or by multiplication?

Biblical Counseling Training Must Be Comprehensive

Several people shared that, “Everything you shared today confirmed what I’ve been thinking, but I hadn’t been able to put it all together like this. It wasn’t that it was novel, but that it was laid out in a way anyone could use for their ministry launch and development.” I agree. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s not rocket science. But the beauty of the “4E” model, as illustrated by the 24 best-practice churches we studied, is that it maps out a plan and a relational process that each church can uniquely implement.

Biblical Counseling Training Is Not a McDonalds’ Franchise

With apologies to my brother-in-law who owns several McDonalds’ restaurants, folks highlighted the thought, “I appreciate how the seminar kept emphasizing this is not a strait-jacket, but rather relational replication.” I shared how I made this mistake when I moved from my first ministry (an urban mega-church) to my second ministry (a “small” country church). I tried to plop down and force onto the second church the identical training strategy as I had used in my first church. Bad idea! The principles for launching and leading a biblical counseling ministry are similar everywhere, but the implementation must be congregation and community-specific.

Biblical Counseling Training and Trainers Must Be Real and Vulnerable

Folks mentioned several times that, “It’s refreshing to hear that you don’t have to have it all together, that you can be working on and growing in your own spiritual life as you help others also.” Absolutely. As Paul Tripp says, it’s all about people in need of change helping people in need of change.

Biblical Counseling Training Should and Can Be Done!

There’s so much more we enjoyed together. But I’ll conclude with this thought shared by many. “I came here thinking this would be good for me to do, but doubted if I could do it. I’m leaving here convinced that God calls us to equip His people to speak and live His truth in love—biblical counseling. And I am confident now that by God’s grace and empowering, it can be done. I can do it—in Christ!” Others have. So can you.

Join the Conversation

Which of the nine reflections about biblical counseling training stand out to you? Why? What other reflections have you had about the ministry of training others to speak God’s truth in love?

Posted on May 20, 2012