A Christian Counseling Model

The basic task of pastoring people is helping them to grow. A major component of this then is counseling. And both counseling and pastoring are tied closely to our view of sanctification, and our view of the human person. There are several major schools of thought today that provide us an approach to helping people to grow:

 

“Christian Counseling.” The Christian Counseling movement is very integrationist in its philosophy. The basic idea is to build on secular counseling insights and just insert Christian values without addressing the fundamental models. This school is best represented by Gary Collins and his book “Christian Counseling.” There are several problems with this. First, Secular Psychology and Christian psychology are based on very different premises. Starting with the existence of God, and working through the various facets of the human personality, traditional psychological models differ greatly from a Biblical view. Secular counseling for example has no concept of “sin” and therefore no idea of “correction.” Secondly, secular models are not static. Contemporary psychology has great diversity and the reigning paradigms change every decade or two.

 

“Biblical Counseling” Also called “Nouthetic Counseling.” This is the movement started by Jay Adams with his seminal work “Competent to Counsel.” Adams is a strong correction to integrationist approaches. Looking at examples from his books, you could almost caricature his model as “Scriptural Rebuke.” Basically this is the no nonsense, in your face, why didn’t you do the right thing approach, salted with a some Scripture verses. Now, this is certainly better than secular counseling for sure, because you are getting responsibility back on the person instead of just validating them.

 

“Deliverance.” In the Charismatic church, if you have a problem you can’t beat we say that you have a demon.  The idea is that if we cast it out, you will be able to break the cycle. This traditionally involves repentance of past sins, naming the spirit and commanding it to leave. A new movement of “Inner Healing” has rounded out the deliverance approach. This has meant a greater focus on the “Father’s Heart,” and healing of past wounds. Deliverance methods are great if the person you are working with has the anointing to just blast the devil off of you, but a lot of people end up frustrated trying to get free from their problems when the focus is on the devil alone.

 

“Discipleship Counseling” This is the name that Neil Anderson has chosen for his model, but I think a more descriptive name would be Christian Identity Counseling. Anderson’s model is kind of like Deliverance gone mainstream. He’s taken the concepts made them more palatable and consistent and give it his own twist, which has evolved over time. Anderson’s basic idea is that when you are not doing well it is because you are failing to recognize your identity in Christ. In addition, you may have demonic activity, which mainstream models essentially ignore. I am most familiar with Anderson’s model because I have tried, used it, and built on its insights. With time this has led me to identify what I see as flaws in the approach and move toward our own FCF approach.

Anderson, whether consciously or not, has much similarity with the “Word of Faith” movement. He leans toward a once saved always saved model of salvation and with it an approach that if things are going wrong it is because you are not walking in your already fully established identity in Christ. One sign of this is his use of the word “renounce” in several places where it would be natural to say “repent.” This seems to stem from the idea that if you are already perfect in Christ, you are simply needing to “renounce” the problem rather than take ownership of it and repent. The idea being that your spirit is perfect, but your flesh is not. Your flesh sinned.   This can lead to the thinking that “it really wasn’t me it was my flesh.”

 

Freedom Counseling”   This is our home grown method based on our experience using the approaches above.  We categorize it into 4 steps:

1.  Accept Responsibility
2.  Turn from Sin
3.  Accept God’s Love
4.  Apply God’s Love

I explore this in detail in my book “Free At Last”, but here are some general thoughts. Getting the person to accept responsibility is really the key to freedom. Once they see that they are in the driver’s seat, things can happen. Exposure is a major facet of freedom. Talking and bringing the problem fully out into the light is critical. What are the roots? How does it function? What is your pattern? Most people work very hard to “put up a front” for others to see.  It is critical that you tear down this idol of pleasing others and get real in order to be free. As long as you are trying to be someone you are not, you are in works, and God’s grace will not function for you. When you bring your real sins and real self before God only then through the blood of Christ can you be secure and accepted in his presence. If you are hiding like Adam and Eve were in the garden, you cannot experience the cleansing power of that blood. This is the reality about yourself.

In response to Anderson, we believe very much that you may not be saved, and that can lose your salvation. In addition, we see “In Christ” as an important reality which applies subsequent to repentance, not as a proxy for repentance. You must take full responsibility for having committed the sin, whether or not there was demonic involvement. You must then repent and turn away from it at the point that if it were offered to you again, you would not take it because you would rather have Christ. Then you can assert your identity in Christ, because you are now “in Christ” in this area. Being in Christ is something that happens by faith, and happens progressively. As you repent and excercise faith, you are more “in Christ.” This is not from a perspective of your salvation, but it is from a perspetive of your ongoing experience of God and victory over sin. This is the reality of your sin.

Connected with this is the issue of faith and works. If you try to fight your sin without really repenting, or fight the devil without really removing, you will be in works. You will be trying to please God by doing good things instead of accepting that God loves you regardless of your inability to do good things. It is by abiding in this unconditional love, and by receiving forgiviness for your sins that results from repentance that you will have the power of God living inside of you. When you try to get God to love you more by human effort, you are in works.

Rather than deal with any demonic oppression up front, we see this at the end of the process. His role is as the iron padlock on the door of your sin. He keeps reinforcing it by making it hard to do the right thing, and easy to the wrong thing. He supercharges the evil, and fights you on the good. He plays tapes in your head and until you accept them. He’s an evil bully. We will command him to go, but you must be ready to take back the ground one piece at a time. We look for “total disfellowship” as the condition of his removal. Every thing that causes you to “like” him being there must be gone. But I don’t like the devil being there? You like what he offers you on the front end, just not what you get on the back end. You like the drinking but not the hangover. When you stop liking the drinking, the devil’s days are numbered. This is the reality about the devil.

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The basic task of pasturing people is helping them to grow. A major component of this then is counseling. And both counseling and pastoring are tied closely to our view of sanctification, and our view of the human person. There are several major schools of thought today that provide us an approach to helping people to grow:

“Christian Counseling.” The Christian Counseling movement is very integrationist in its philosophy. The basic idea is to build on secular counseling insights and just insert Christian values without addressing the fundamental models. This school is best represented by Gary Collins and his book “Christian Counseling” There are several problems with this. First Secular Psychology and Christian psychology are based on very different premises. Starting with the existence of God, and working through the various facets of the human personality, traditional psychological models differ greatly from a Biblical view. Secular counseling for example has no concept of “sin” and therefore no idea of “correction.” Secondly, secular models are not static. Contemporary psychology has great diversity and the reigning paradigms change every decade or two.

“Biblical Counseling” Also called “Nouthetic Counseling.” This is the movement started by Jay Adams with his seminal work “Competent to Counsel.” Adams is a strong correction to integrationist approaches. Looking at examples from his books, you could almost caricature his model as “Scriptural Rebuke.” Basically this is the no nonsense, in your face, why didn’t you do the right thing approach, salted with a some Scripture verses. Now, this is certainly better than secular counseling for sure, because you are getting responsibility back on the person instead of just validating them.

“Deliverance.” In the Charismatic church, if you have a problem you can’t beat we say that you have a demon. The idea is that if we cast it out, you will be able to break the cycle. This traditionally involves repentance of past sins, naming the spirit and commanding it to leave. A new movement of “Inner Healing” has rounded out the deliverance approach This has meant a greater focus on the “Father’s Heart,” and healing of past wounds.

“Discipleship Counseling” This is the name that Neal Anderson has chosen for his model, but I think a more descriptive name would be Christian Identity Counseling . Anderson’s model is kind of like Deliverance gone mainstream. He’s taken the concepts made them more palatable and consistent and give it his own twist, which has evolved over time. Anderson’s basic idea is that when you are not doing well it is because you are failing to recognize your identity in Christ. In addition, you may have demonic activity, which the other two models essentially ignore. Overall, Anderson’s I am most familiar with Anderson’s model because I have used it, and I see several weaknesses

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9 Comments

  1. Not an area I have a lot of expertese in to tell you the truth but a very interesting discussion. Thanks for posting it up.

  2. I really don’t. I had a conversation with a pastor about it recently, but I haven’t done their training or anything to really know the details. I think it is a modified version of deliverance/inner healing.

  3. Pingback: Christian HEALING
  4. Will – coming to this discussion late, as per, but I hope you’ll forgive the fact that I haven’t properly toured your site yet – there’s plenty here to see! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m interested in your take on the whole “inner healing” thing (admittedly a simplistic label, but it’ll do for now). I haven’t read your book yet, but I have read all the amazon reviews. Er – OK, that’s a weak substitute, although you’ve evidently applied your usual standard of thought to it, so it looks good so far. If I may, I’d like to ping out a short string of thoughts. Helpfully, they are in no particular order and do not add up to a coherent theology!

    Overall though, it seems to me that since God restores my soul, and we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, then these processes must work somehow. Jesus was anointed to bind up the brokenhearted, among other things. And if it’s biblical, then it’s necessary in some way. So I accept the idea of emotional healing of one kind or another, as a part of the process of discipleship. Moreover, misuse is no excuse for disuse: I recognise the need to get a handle on it and learn to do it properly. Which you’re evidently doing, by the way.

    I can’t help feeling that nowadays we overuse the language of “hurt” and “healing” in a way that sometimes infantilises Christians rather than strengthening them and spurring them on to good deeds. This may be a reflection of secular “compensation culture”, at least in the UK. There’s money to be made and, in the public sector, career-assisting kudos to be gained, by being seen to “protect vulnerable people”. I don’t know whether you’ve come across Tana Dineen’s book “Manufacturing Victims”, in which she makes this point with a passion. But I’ve certainly seen leaders attempt to foist “healing” on people who are not injured, and label as “hurt” people who have simply encountered the ups and downs of life and are getting on perfectly well. Accompanying the so-called nanny state, there may be such a thing as the nanny church.

    As a related point, I suspect we sometimes get the four steps you’ve identified (or other similar ones) confused; and attempt to seek healing when actually we need one or more of repentance, challenge, practice, revelation, or even just time spent living life.

    I’ve also noted that the healing experience occasionally becomes an end in itself. I listened to a series of sermons once in which the teacher (a decent fellow, by the way) described a string of very intense healing experiences he had undergone in the course of his Christian life. He used the words “healing”, “cleansing” and “purifying” a great deal. And yet… he never seemed to reach a point where he was whole, clean or pure; he always needed more healing. Perhaps the healing experience is sometimes like scratching an insect bite; it feels great for a few moments, but doesn’t actually resolve the problem and may even make it worse.

    And one more: the creation of healing franchises. I’m a bit wary of healing approaches being packaged as formulas and then marketed as a product complete with branding and expensive training courses. I concede there’s a balance to be struck. If you’ve put in a lot of honest work to develop something really effective, than the worker deserves his wages. On the other hand, I’m concerned at the lack of pioneers here in Scotland and our tendency to import prefabricated solutions that we understand academically but, perhaps, not in spirit. [Just had a thought, though; a culture in which pioneers are heavily discouraged is the perfect place to train pioneers.]

    Maybe I should just read your book!

  5. Nick, Thanks for your feedback, It’s always appreciated. I hadn’t seen Dineen’s book, but now that you have pointed it out, I have added it to my wish list.

    If this topic is of interest to you, then yes, I definitely recommend you pick up a copy of my book. Based on your comments I think you will enjoy it. I’m not sure of the shipping involved, or I’d be glad to send you one for free. Email me your address, and I’ll give it a try. We have developed a method for approaching this problem which we believe is both Biblical and different that most of what is out there today.

    I understand your point about healing franchises. Honestly being in parachurch ministry is quite difficult. You don’t have the benefit of a settled tithe coming your way, and it takes a lot of time to develop really good materials. We have full time jobs so that’s not an issue for us, but I appreciate why ministries must charge in some way or other. I see your broader point about foisted healing though. There is a certain mentality where healing becomes an end instead of a doorway.

    Our experience is that the number one thing required to get free is initiative, which means that those sitting around waiting for healing will never get it, and those who pursue it, will probably get it while they are on the road after God.

  6. Hi, Will – sorry I’ve been out of touch for so long. Will do better this week…

    Thanks for your kind offer to post a free copy. On the principle of the worker being worthy of his wages, I will purchase one through appropriate channels (assuming that if I order a new copy from, say, Amazon, royalties will find their way to you in some useful manner). We can then pick up this particular conversation properly once I’ve read it!

    The whole question of how one earns a living at the same time as carrying forward a non-traditional ministry, and doing it really well, is one we’re also grappling with at the moment. In a nutshell, we’re setting up a not-for-profit recruitment agency that we’ll run with the unemployed, for the unemployed. The latest we have from the Holy Spirit on how we’ll fund it is from Proverbs; those who get rich at the expense of the poor amass their wealth for the use of others who will be kind to the poor. We call this the “Proverbs 28 Fund”. God has, I think, some lessons for us on how we access it – which will be interesting.

  7. Aha! Success… sorry about that, Will – I’ve not done this through my WordPress account before. Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

    Thankyou for your kind offer of a free copy. Based on the principle of “the worker deserves his wages”, I’d rather buy one – I assume some form of royalty finds its way to you if I do this through Amazon? (Obviously, I’m talking about a new copy here!)

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