What Makes a Good Biblical Counselor?
In 21st Century Christianity, biblical and counselor are two terms that unfortunately do not go together very often. Counseling is one arena that has been sabotaged by the enemy and infiltrated by non-spiritual and even demonic forces. With “Christian” counseling methodologies ranging from contemplative prayer to splankna, the bible and bible principles have been ignored and distorted in a way that should be both disappointing and convicting to the disciple of Christ.
Now more than ever there is a need for true biblical counseling and true biblical counselors in the church. Counselors that take a “nouthetic” approach, based solely on the bible and focused solely on Christ. Nouthetic counseling is biblical counseling. It comes from the Greek noun nouthesia (verb: noutheteo). The word, used in the New Testament primarily by the apostle Paul, is translated "admonish, correct or instruct." and occurs in such passages as
Romans 15:14: And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
The bible says that we have been called by the Lord to be able to admonish one another… to nouthetically counsel other believers in what the bible says about their current situation. So we should be concerned about being good biblical counselors. And I believe there are three primary characteristics that make up good biblical counselors. Of course there are others, but without the three characteristics noted below, I believe an individual will struggle to provide biblical counsel to those in need.
First of all, I believe good biblical counselors have:
1. Knowledge of Scripture
This kind of goes without saying… but if you are going to provide biblical counsel, you need to know what the bible says. And you need to know what the bible says specific to your counselee’s issues and needs. It is fine if you understand coping mechanisms, breathing techniques, and stress triggers, but none of those help you provide biblical counseling. If you are going to be biblical you need the bible.
God's people need their problems solved biblically. God's people need their lives directed by God's word. And if you’re dealing with someone that is not part of God’s family, then they need to get saved. So they need the bible too because 1 Corinthians 15:1-4defines the gospel “according to the scriptures.”
In the Bible the word of God is viewed as a comprehensive document, able to give you either directives or principles regarding how to address every area of life.
And this next statement I’m going to make is very bold. But I mean every word of it. It is inconceivable that there could ever be any issue that would come up that the Bible does not have either a principle or a command concerning.
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17.) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
So it is profitable in four ways:
Doctrine - What's Right
Reproof - What's Wrong
Correction - How To Fix It
Instruction in RIGHTEOUSNESS - How to maintain it
You see, the word of God is a comprehensive manual for life. It will teach you how to master the management of your affairs. It will make you a leader in life that others want to follow. The Bible knows nothing about a distinction between secular and spiritual. It covers everything you need.
And as people desiring to be biblical counselors, or at least have the tools in our tool bag, we need to know the bible so we can apply it in counseling situations or to others that are hurting.
Because the bible is the only book that can bring about real change. The bible is both authoritative and sufficient. Know that and believe that!
And this really is the key issue in counseling today. If you lose biblical authority you open yourself up to all the fads that psychology and the pseudo-sciences have to offer. Don’t do that. You can’t do that and be a good biblical counselor at the same time. Know the scriptures and place your full trust in counseling behind them.
2. Know the Human Heart
In order to be a good biblical counselor, you have to know the scriptures, but I also believe that you have to have an understanding of and know the human heart. And the core of the human heart is not inclined towards God.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
So if you are dealing with someone in a counseling situation it means they are struggling in one or multiple areas of life. This is typically because their heart (or the heart of someone in their life) has not desired the Lord’s way. And your goal as the biblical counselor is to get them back on track.
And this area of understanding the human heart is so important because one key aspect to being a good counselor is your desire to help the other person with their problem. But that very desire makes you vulnerable. Our strength as a counselor is almost always our greatest danger. So as the counselor, you must be able to clearly see that the person who is being counseled is obeying and applying all the Biblical principles. That they are turning their heart toward the Lord.
And this is a process. For most of us, we want to believe the best in the person sitting across from us. But as long as they are operating from the flesh, you have to assume the worst. The flesh will do everything it can to not die and the command we have from scripture is to die to ourselves… to die to our flesh.
Your goal as a counselor is simply to point them to the word of God and hold them accountable to the word of God. Their flesh will hate it, but it’s necessary for change. So you have to speak truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and understand that the human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Until their heart is convicted by the Holy Spirit to obey the bible, there will never be real change in your counselee’s life.
Then third. You have to know the scripture and know the human heart, but to be a good biblical counselor, you also have to:
3. Know Yourself
This should not come as any surprise, but we all have strengths, weaknesses, advantages, and limitations. And as a biblical counselor, you must recognize yours. So that means you need to know yourself with respect to capability.
There is a basic foundational understanding of capability that you as the counselor have to have and have to go into any counseling session with in the front of your mind. And that is as biblical counselors, we are dealing with the spiritual issues in people’s lives. And you have to know where that capability point is for you.
1 John 2:12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. (13.) I write unto you, fathers, because ye have know him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
Because if you as the counselor does not understand what the Bible says about any certain problem, you have gone beyond your limit. If you do not know what the bible says about a specific problem, get help. Don’t wing it!
So the question for this isn’t can you trust God… it’s can God trust you? Have you studied to show yourself approved in order to help people get victory according to the bible?
You also need to know yourself with respect to what you can handle emotionally. In handling counseling situations in a biblical manner, you have to get into the person’s life and get invested in them and the situation. But as we mentioned in an earlier point, this leaves you vulnerable. It’s easy for our emotions to get involved in difficult counseling situations, particularly when they involve someone you love. And it’s OK to involve your emotions in the Christ-like care of others however… your emotions cannot be allowed to hinder God’s truth. If you are at risk for that happening, then you are in over your head and you need to get someone else to help.
So you need to know yourself before you can truly help someone else.
Know the scriptures, know the human heart, and know yourself. These are three necessary characteristics for the good biblical counselor.