(Adapted from Valley Bible Church)
We are committed to the mandate Christ has given us as a local church to make disciples by evangelising the lost and equipping the saints, as stated in our Declaration of Faith (Section 10). We believe today’s so-called mental health crisis is a spiritual problem at the root, for which the gospel of Christ alone is the solution. With compassion and courage, we want to be ready to minister God’s Word to a hurting and hopeless world (Matthew 4:19; 28:18-20). For the saved who join our church, we as elders are responsible to equip the saints to serve Christ and live a fruitful life that is pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 1:9-11,28-29; Ephesians 4:11-16).
Doing this in the 21st century requires that we examine the common practice of people seeking professional counselling for their personal problems (Titus 1:9; Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Too often the counsel they receive is opposed to the teaching of God’s Word (Romans 12:2; Colossians 2:8; Acts 17:11). The Bible has been given to us by God in order for His people to become what He has designed them to be (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is with this in mind that we affirm the following three convictions:
- God’s Word should be the counselling authority for Christians helping people with broken lives.
The basic problem of mankind is sin (Romans 3:9-18; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3). This sin problem includes our immaturity, our disobedience, our lack of knowledge and weaknesses (1 Thessalonians 5:14). It also includes the sin problem of others, which may affect us as well.
The solution found to the problem of humanity is found in God’s Word. The Word of God reveals the gospel message of freedom from sin and how we can be set apart from the power of sin (Psalm 119:9-11). Also, the Word of God reveals how we should respond to sin in the lives of others (Matthew 18:15-18; Galatians 6:1-2; Ephesians 4:31-32; 1 Peter 4:8).
God’s Word must be the sole authority in ministering to the needs of people because God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) and man’s ideas are inadequate (Isaiah 55:8-9; Proverbs 14:12; 1 Corinthians 1:25; Colossians 2:8-10). That is what ‘Sola Scriptura’ means, that ‘Scripture Alone’ is the basis for all our beliefs and practices. God has given us the Scripture for the very purpose of instructing, rebuking, correcting and training us in righteousness (abandoning sinful thinking and behaviour)(2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 1, 19, 119). By His Word, God moulds us into the kind of people He intends us to be. In this way He equips us to function as He intended us to live (1 Peter 2:1-3).
God is glorified when we trust Him and respond in obedience. When we ignore God’s instructions and seek the solutions of men, not only will it not work, but far more importantly, we have replaced God with man, which is the essence of idolatry (Exod. 20:1-5). (We confess and affirm the absolute authority and sufficiency of Scripture in Section 1 of our Declaration of Faith, as well as in our Sola5 Confession, Section 2, and Core Value #15.)
- Counselling is a part of the basic discipling ministry of the local church.
The goal of counselling is the same as discipleship: A mature relationship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 1:28-29; 2 Timothy 2:1-2; Galatians 4:19). The means of counselling and discipleship is the same: God’s Word (Psalm 1:1-3; 1 Peter 2:13).
God established the local church for the purpose of ministry. Therefore, we should expect that the ministry of God’s Word will be best served in the context of the church which God instituted (Matthew 16:18; 1 Timothy 3:15). There are several important advantages that counselling within the local church provides:
- The local church provides true accountability for the counsellor/discipler. It is true accountability because God has established the local church for the oversight of souls (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4). This oversight cannot be replaced biblically by any other organization. The help of any counsellor/discipler ought to be overseen by the local church.
- The local church provides a much broader exposure to the counselee/disciplee. In other words, more data about them can be gathered in the context of the local church. More people will know the person and the person will have more opportunities to interact with others in the church. Therefore, this person will be less able to misrepresent information about himself or others, wilfully or unknowingly (Proverbs 18:17).
- The local church incorporates the ministry of the body of Christ. God has established the church so that we can be helped by more than one person. It is far better for a person to have many relationships through which God’s truth can be passed and wisdom imparted to life’s issues (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6).
- The local church is person-oriented, not just problem-oriented. God desires righteousness in all areas; what we consider to be our problems are but part of our entire life that is undergoing sanctification (2 Peter 3:18). The goal of the Christian life is not just to stop certain behaviours; it is to live a godly life (Titus 2:12).
- God’s people can and should be able to counsel effectively.
Effective counsellors/disciplers must be Spirit-filled (Galatians 6:1), be willing to bear others burdens (Galatians 6:2), be committed to the full authority of the Scripture and convey God’s Word in a God honouring manner (Acts 20:27,31). With these essentials in place, every believer in Christ should be able to develop the abilities that God has given them to help others in this process (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
We recognize that some of God’s people will be more useful in the area of counselling. A person becomes more effective as a counsellor by knowing the Word of God (Romans 15:14), by personally applying God’s Word to life with wisdom (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) and experience in ministry. The knowledge and application of the Scripture is the most essential but as we learn to help others we will become better and better at discerning problems and communicating the truth of God’s Word to individual lives in a way that can be received (Proverbs 15:2).
However, while not everyone has matured to the point of being able to address the beliefs that underlie the actions that are causing difficulties in the lives of people, every believer can serve to bring comfort in ministering to the emotions. Many believers also can be useful in addressing behaviour issues that are either sinful or unwise. Whether it is ministry to the emotions, to the behaviour, or to the beliefs that are the root of the behaviour and emotions, all believers can participate in counselling/discipling to some degree, regardless of their maturity.
Illustration from 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
God calls us to godliness (Matthew 5:48). He has provided His Spirit and His Word to bring godliness about (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Should believers go to the world’s ideas to bring spiritual health in their lives? 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 answers this question. Of course not!
1 Corinthians 6:1-11 speaks about a specific issue of conflict between believers in Christ. The Corinthians are being rebuked by Paul for seeking out the world’s help for their problems. The reasons Paul gives for his exhortation to seek help from God’s people are: (a) God’s people are competent to counsel (v. 2); (b) the people of the world are not accountable to the church (v. 4); (c) the people of the world should not be considered wiser than God’s people (v. 5); (d) taking our unrighteousness before unbelievers is an embarrassment to Christ (v. 6); (e) the solution is worse than the problem itself; it is worse to seek the help of the world in the courts than it is to be defrauded (v. 7); (f) the world does not know God (v. 9). This same rebuke falls on those today who turn to the world for help for their problems.
Four Foundational Counselling Questions
- What is the goal of biblical counselling?
The main goal of biblical counselling for unbelievers is evangelism, proclaiming the gospel to the lost (1 Timothy 2:3-4; Acts 1:8, etc.) For believers, the goal is their growth in Christlikeness (Romans 8:28-29). For marriage/family problems, struggles with sin, fear, difficulty to cope with life, anxiety, depression, trauma, et.al., the Bible contains both the truth which describes the answer to the problem and the means to change (John 17:17). Our pursuit is the biblical solution of problems, so that believers have victory and are doers of the Word in that area of their life (Romans 8:37; James 1:19-27; 1 John 5:1-4). They also have a walk with Christ and understanding of the Word which equips them for the rest of life (Hebrews 5:12-14).
- How does change occur?
We gather information to understand the problem and the underlying issues. We build a Christ-centered relationship of care and trust (Proverbs 27:4-5). We provide basic encouragement from God’s Word, outlining the certainty of being able to be equipped and strengthened to change with God’s help (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Then we provide them with the truth from Scripture, which addresses the root problem. We also supply practical tools, to enable putting the Word into practice in life (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5-17). As the believer chooses to obey God’s Word, the Lord does His part, strengthening the person to establish new life patterns in subjection to the Word.
- What hope can a believer have when facing the storms of life?
The Bible is filled with pertinent hope for the Christian during trials. We can know there is a purpose for this day (Psalm 139:16; Ephesians 2:10; John 12:27-28a). The Bible gives us important facts about difficult times (1 Corinthians 10:13; Psalm 1:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). God has spoken of trust, refuge, confidence, courage, peace and overcoming (Psalm 62:8; John 16:33; Philippians 1:6; Joshua 1:5-9). God is aware of our circumstances and has a good plan for their outcome (Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4; Genesis 50:20).
God can also provide all we need to obey Him (2 Corinthians 9:8; Hebrews 4:15-16; Philippians 4:6-7; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 2:18). The Bible teaches that hearts which can possess this hope desire to honour God (1 Peter 4:10-11; Philippians 1:20-25; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 1:6-9; Galatians 2:20). The Bible says believers can change (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 John 1:9; James 1:25; Galatians 5:16-17; 1 John 5:3-5). This hope, given by the living God to His children through the Word, is essential in counselling and discipling.
- Is there a difference between biblical counselling and psychology?
While psychology is diverse and includes many schools of thought, the foundation of psychology is in opposition to biblical truth. In biblical counselling God is the focus. He exists, is active, holy, all-powerful, the Creator, the final judge, and the author of salvation (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
In psychology man is the focus, not God. Our problems are not viewed in the light of God’s holiness but in the light of our feelings and how we can have a better life. This is why loving yourself becomes the greatest love. It is difficult to understate this difference.
In biblical counselling we are responsible for our sins and we can be forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice; sin can be overcome by the believer through the Word (Romans 3:10; Romans 3:23-24; 1 John 5:3-5; Romans 6:10-12). In psychology people are seen as basically good, as illustrated by beliefs such as your “inner child” is pure, that you must believe in yourself, and there is no sin because “it’s not your fault.” This diminished view of sin comes from the idea that man is good, which goes back to the wrong basic view of God (Genesis 3; Isaiah 6).
In biblical counselling, the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, changes the heart (1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 5:16-17). God’s Word is the tool used to get to the heart level (Hebrews 4:12). When problems are uncovered, the Lord equips us, through the Word, to deal with them (Psalm 119:105). In psychology, the search goes inward since truth is found deep in the soul and self is the basis for hope and is worthy of esteem. There simply is no objective truth standard in psychology.
Psychology is man’s attempt to deal with biblical issues. It is a different approach to topics thoroughly addressed in God’s Word. As believers we deal with all the issues of life based on our relationship with the One who created us (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10, etc.). This is why we cannot integrate or combine the psychological system with a biblical system of counselling (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18).
Through observation, man can learn about the problems that people develop. Psychology has developed a good deal of information to classify the problems of people. We can find God’s common grace in some of their research, observations and descriptions. But we cannot accept their interpretations, diagnoses and remedies which are often contrary to Scripture.
For further information, we’ve found helpful this statement: