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Prof: Biblical counseling vital to God-honoring churches

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Churches must place greater emphasis on the discipline of biblical counseling in order to nurture believers to spiritual maturity, David Powlison said in chapel at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 3.

Powlison, who teaches practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa., and serves as editor of the “Journal of Biblical Counseling,” delivered Southern’s annual Norton Lecture Series Feb. 1-3 at the Louisville, Ky. campus.

Churches that are focused on Jesus Christ naturally should become “communities of wise counsel,” although many churches inappropriately relegate the discipline of counseling to a secondary role, he said.

“When Christ lives in our midst, when He lives in our hearts individually and lives in our hearts corporately, of course what He creates is a community of wise counsel,” Powlison said. “It could be nothing else.”

The importance of disseminating wise counsel in the community of believers demands that biblical counseling be practiced in the church, he said.

“When you really think about it … is there any other place where it matters more what interpretations of life are being used, what advice is given, what ways of understanding suffering are communicated?” he asked.

In order to remedy the widespread neglect of biblical counseling, Powlison outlined a process through which churches and denominations can travel in order to develop a vision for the discipline.

The process must begin with believers recognizing that biblical counseling is important for the body of Christ, he said.

“For many people the idea that you would not just preach Christ but counsel Christ isn’t even on the radar screen,” Powlison said. “It’s below the horizon of visibility. So you might say the first stage is you have to even know that it’s possible that this could be so.”

After believers recognize the necessity of biblical counseling they must also understand that counseling based on God’s Word is superior to secular models of counseling, he said.

“None of [the models of counseling] except the biblical view grapple with the problem of evil that is the core human problem,” Powlison said.

“Evil is always a two-fold problem. Evil is what we are. There are things about us that are insanely wrong. And evil is what comes out of us…. It is the problem of evil that Christian faith uniquely identifies and addresses, and no other model does.”

To move from understanding the necessity of biblical counseling to practicing it in churches, Christians must seek training and acquire counseling skill, Powlison said. As churches train biblical counselors, leaders will emerge to carry the discipline into a position of prominence in society, he said.

“The church is the place where education started,” Powlison said. “The church is the place where hospitals started. Why can’t we see that in the area of counseling? Because we should be able to say that, and we will say it as we start to envision from a uniquely Christian point of view.”

When Christians implement a vision for biblical counseling, they will begin to see effective ministry occurring in churches, he said.

The greatest testimony to the importance of biblical counseling “is when lives are affected” by counseling ministry, Powlison said. Heaven rejoices when biblical counseling yields changed lives, and churches grow stronger, he added.

As churches catch the vision for biblical counseling, they will influence educational institutions to help spread the practice of sound biblical counseling, he said.

By spreading the vision for biblical counseling to churches, educational institutions and individuals, Powlison hopes that Christians can establish a culture dedicated to the care of souls.

“There is a need for educational institutions that are committed to a vision where the take on individual ministry, conversational ministry, is as well thought-out and institutionally committed as the take on missions or worship or evangelism,” he said.