Search This Blog

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Class Assignment: SCHOLARLY OPINION PAPER Christian Counseling Approaches for the 21st Century


Christian Counseling Approaches for the 21st Century

TKU Course: Biblical Counseling BIBC-2301


Introduction to Christian Biblical Counseling

My father was an Alcoholic Pastor, turned Atheist Pastor, turned Atheist Crack-Addict Psychologist. Mental Illness and Addiction have plagued my family for generations, leading to death, divorce, and brokenness for all involved.

My own healing journey began in earnest in Spring of 2013, when a pastor who was also a PhD Psychologist, told me that it was okay to struggle and gave me the freedom to be “not okay”. He handed me a book called Grace the Power to Change (Richards, 1993), by Dr Jim Richards, who was himself a triple PhD in Theology, Medicine, and Psychology. A great deal of my personal foundation was laid under the ministry and practice of Bob Hamp, former Associate Pastor at Gateway Church and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) at the Think Differently Counseling Consulting and Connecting Center. The final and most profound steps of my journey were taken with Dr Jana Ross, Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) at Idaho Christian Counseling, who I began seeing for grief counseling shortly after becoming a widower, but eventually continued seeing for the remainder of my healing journey.

Meanwhile, my experience with secular non-Christian psychologists led me to believe that they are playing in the field of the mind and heart, without the full context of the entire being as it was created (which includes the human spirit, created in the likeness of God); therefore, they are hopelessly incapable of handling the deepest and most core issues related to the healing of the human being, resulting in years of counseling with no real change.

Christian Biblical Counseling

Over the years, various schools of thought have developed around the concept of Christian Counseling. These schools of thought range along a spectrum from a Psychology Trumps Theology approach to the other extreme of excluding any material other than the Bible in the treatment of the human condition. The book Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches (Sisemore, 2012) set the stage for discussing five related and overlapping theories about how to approach Biblical/Christian Counseling. They are:

A Levels-of-Explanation Approach, generally, states that Psychology and Theology are separate disciplines and provide separate explanations for the human experience. This approach seeks to understand these explanations separately and does not allow for integration of Psychology and Theology but treats them as separate studies.

An Integration Approach, is a Science First, Theology Second view. It says All Truth is God’s Truth and seeks to integrate the truths of Psychology with the truths of the Christian Faith. This approach sees secular Psychology as the dominant method of change as it is based in science while acknowledging that the Christian Worldview of the counselor will color or shape the knowledge achieved through the study of Psychology.

A Christian Psychology Approach, is a Theology Influenced Scientific view. It is directly counter to the Integration Approach. In this approach, the Christian Psychologist is encouraged to view The Bible and God’s Truth as the foundation upon which all truth is understood. Then, they are to build their own models, theories, scientific research, and practice from that foundation. Essentially, while Integration would leave God out of the research and then adapt the findings to the influences of the individual Christian Counselor, the Christian Psychology Approach would develop its own separate centers of science and research operating as a counter-culture to the secular research. This approach holds the most merit.

A Transformational Approach, takes the baton further along the pendulum swinging out of science and into a religious approach. In this modality, the goal is the spiritual formation of the human being into the image of Christ. Spiritual direction is the primary driver, and mostly Christian-Only resources are used. Secular psychology plays a less than minor role in the influences of these approaches, as it is primarily a theological driven approach.

A Biblical Counseling Approach, from my experience, could be the most dangerous of all five approaches. This approach sees the Bible as the only source of truth and sin as the only problem that needs to be solved. David Powlison summarizes his view:

…he contends, “Christian faith is a psychology. . . . Christian ministry is a psychotherapy” (p. 245; italics in the original). Conceding that there are many competing psychologies from outside the Christian faith, Powlison would direct us to the only one that is truly rooted in the nature of God and his revelation in the Bible. (Gingrich, 2012, p. 32)

As a result, this approach runs the danger of believing that “getting saved” will solve all their problems. Having extensive background in “The Church” in North America, and especially as a Pastor’s Kid growing up in a denominational church, I can say without any hesitation that the modern Christian concept of “getting saved” will not bring the lasting change for which people are grasping. Jesus came preaching (wholly) The Kingdom of God. He did not come preaching (solely) the forgiveness of sins. When we take one aspect of the Good News and fail to see the larger picture God was painting, we fail to address the real roots of the human experience. A total renewing of the mind to live inside of God’s Kingdom is required to see the lasting change we desire. That must include, first and foremost, a new way of thinking.

My experience has led me to believe that a combination of the Integration and Christian Psychology approaches are best. There is no reason we should ignore the good work being done by secular psychology; however, as Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, we should be leading the way not following steps behind. If we pour our time, effort, and resources into research and developing practices and methods driven by our unique understanding of the world, we have a better opportunity to get at real, targeted, and holistic modalities that treat the whole of human experience, rather than dissecting the human into pieces and treating them as separate parts.

It is only through an amalgamation of processes that deal with the entire whole of human experience, that we can begin to heal the multi-dimensional wounds that result in unwanted behavior, thoughts, and feelings.


The Church and Mental Health

In The New Christian Counselor, Doctors Ron Hawkins and Tim Clinton provide a compelling frame to hang our understanding:

Throughout the world, trauma is the new mission field. In war-torn and impoverished areas, people suffer tragic emotional wounds and have tremendous spiritual needs. Leaders in the field have observed that trauma is a unique problem and an opportunity for Christian counselors to offer hope and healing to those who have been abandoned, abused, traumatized, enslaved, or otherwise mistreated. (Clinton, 2015)

We need well trained lay counselors in the church who are equipped to help people attain real freedom and lasting change. The vast majority of well-meaning lay counseling I encountered inside the walls of The Church was comprised of quoting Bible verses at you while telling you to “stop sinning”, in the vein attempt to create real change.

Only a Christian with a deep and relevant relationship with the heart of The Father, an understanding of the processes and patterns of thought life, and emotional development and emotionally healthy spirituality is equipped to wield the scalpel of The Word to create healing, rather that harm.

For my part, it was only after I began “renewing my mind”, as instructed by Paul in Romans 12:2 (God, 1984), that I began to see lasting, real, and meaningful change in my life. Lasting change cannot come without changing our thinking. Bob Hamp stated it this way in his book, Think Differently Live Differently (Hamp, 2010):

“In fact, the very thing He (Jesus) asked us to do – repent – literally means ‘to think differently afterwards’… There is a vital difference. We try to have new thoughts. Jesus says, ‘Have a new way of thinking’.

The Church can be an agent for real change. Much of the pre-work I needed to do to eventually accept the help of my Christian Counselors was laid in the form of classes and meetings through the Gateway’s Freedom Ministry and Kairos meetings. If executed well, the church can be the best place for healing. They can normalize the experience of being “not okay” and provide tools to understand the struggle through new lenses and ways of thinking. When we work with each other, we are living out the adage “Iron sharpens Iron”. We need other believers to walk this path with us.

Every church should either have a counseling center of its own; or if not equipped or funded, access to one in the local area they can trust and refer people to. Biblical Counseling should involve the absolute best of our understanding of what The Bible says about the human condition and the most current and proven modalities for healing.

In the best scenario, the counselee is seen by a spirit-filled Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), LMFT, or PhD, or similar. However, the sheer number of spirit-filled licensed counselors as compared to counselees, as well as financial and other hindrances, make this unlikely.

A well-trained lay person could likely handle most basic counseling sessions within a church or parachurch setting, referring to a professional when pre-determined indicators are present or when there is a gut-level feeling that deeper work by a more seasoned professional is needed. This is especially true if the potential for real medical intervention is needed. I would suggest each person who takes their health seriously have a family doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, and a licensed Christian Counselor that they see regularly. But costs and availability make this (currently) an unlikely option for many. “The Church” could pick up this slack by offering these programs and training lay counselors to work with the people, referring to a professional when possible or necessary.

Works Cited

Clinton, D. R. (2015). In The New Christian Counselor. A fresh biblical & transformational approach. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

Gingrich, P. F. (2012, November). Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches Denver Journal Book Review by Denver Seminary Professor Fred Gingrich. Retrieved from Denver Seminary:

God. (1984). Key Word Study Bible. In New King James. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Hamp, B. (2010). In Think Differently Live Differently: Keys to a Life of Freedom. Southlake, TX: Bob Hamp.

Richards, D. J. (1993). In Grace: The Power to Change. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

Sisemore, S. P. (2012). In Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.



Shalom: Live Long and Prosper!
Darrell Wolfe (DG Wolfe)
Storyteller | Writer | Thinker | Consultant @

Clifton StrengthsFinder: Intellection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input
16Personalities (Myers-Briggs Type): INFJ


Post a Comment

Be Nice, Be Kind, Be Thoughtful, Be Honest, Be Creative...GO!


* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

Powered by MailChimp