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.