Welcome to the fourth installment of Counseling One Another’s feature Journey to Biblical Counseling. Here, I interview various pastors, teachers, trainers, authors, and leaders in the biblical counseling movement. What led them to biblical counseling? What were some of the influences the Lord used in their journey? How do they now define biblical counseling? These are just a few of the questions they are answering for us.
Our special guest today is Deepak Reju, Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Deepak does individual and couples counseling, leads groups, develops the vision for the counseling ministry, and supervises the counseling team. He did his theological training at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., PhD). Deepak and his wife, Sarah, have been married for ten years and have four children.
Deepak, what is your current involvement in biblical counseling? My day-to-day involvement in biblical counseling is in my church. I have the distinct privilege of serving as the pastor of biblical counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. If you ask my wife or closest friends, this is not just a job for me. I have a very strong affection for this congregation in particular, and I love what I do (teach, shepherd, train, counsel and when time permits, write—to use five words!). I really feel like I’ve got one of the best jobs on the planet.
In regards to the movement, I’m heavily involved in the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and I’m very grateful for the relationships that have been fostered over the last few years as many in the movement have attempted to crawl out of their individual silos to partner with others who are very committed to biblical counseling.
In 50 words or less, how do you define Biblical Counseling?
My definition depends on who I am speaking to—for lay people in our congregation, I describe biblical counseling as “an intensive form of discipleship” or “an opportunity to speak into someone’s life using God’s wisdom and not our own.” For my counseling students or counselees, I say something like, “My goal is to erect from the Bible a model and method to wisely help people with their problems.”
How does your definition, today, differ from your thinking 5 or 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, I would not have thought of biblical counseling as a sub-category of discipleship. What do I mean by “subcategory”? Discipleship is the larger category we see in Scripture that describes one Christian relating to another Christian with the intent of helping them grow in Christ. What is biblical counseling? If we think about discipling as a continuum, biblical counseling involves those things we find on one end of the continuum that are the hardest things we face in the Christian life. i.e., suicidal thinking, eating disorders, marital conflict, struggles with internet porn, drug or alcohol addictions, etc.
What people, circumstances, influences, etc. did the Holy Spirit use to move you from your former thoughts to your current convictions?
My pastor from high school (Stan Sutton) handed me my first Jay Adams’ books during my first summer break in seminary. His wife (Maureen) had a degree from CCEF and she let me sit-in on her counseling. That was my introduction into the movement.
A few months before I started my training as a counselor, I got to spend an afternoon with David Powlison. I had planned for one hour, but at the end of each hour, he kept on saying, “If you are not in a rush, then stay and let’s keep talking.” We talked the whole afternoon! In that conversation, David helped a young, ignorant, well-intentioned young man to see more clearly how the Bible shaped how we think about counseling and he answered (quite literally) my one thousand or so questions. That conversation set a trajectory for my life.
Seminary had a very important role in laying down some foundational building blocks for pastoral ministry and gave me my first opportunity to think about counseling theory.
Currently, the people I counsel, both the really hard cases and the most humble members, help me to see what real change looks like as I shepherd their souls towards eternity. Counseling real people with real problems has helped me put my theology to the test and to see how rich and powerful God’s Word is for life.
And finally, the brothers I work with, the elders in our church, have had a deep and abiding effect on my approach to the Word. Both their public teaching of the Word and their private instruction have shaped my approach to the Christian life.
What do you see as the relationship of biblical counseling to the local church?
Every member of my local church is having “biblical counseling” conversations as they live life. You don’t have to be a trained counselor to know how to care for and counsel others (2 Cor 1). The front-line of biblical counseling is not the counseling room, but the conversations that take place every day in homes, over lunch meetings, in Bible study, in conversations after church, over the phone, or even on email or text messages. Life in a fallen world presents thousands of opportunities for normal, everyday Christians to minister the Word to one another.
Is biblical counseling for every believer? Why or why not?
In some important ways, Yes. Scripture makes very clear from the “one anothering” texts (John 13:34-35; Romans 12:10; Rom 13:18; Romans 15:7; Romans 15: 14; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:11) that every Christian is called to a ministry of discipleship. We can’t avoid the fact that believers are required by Scripture to care for one another. Sinners are to walk alongside sinners; sufferers alongside sufferers.
In some important ways, No. I don’t expect that every member will know what to do if a friend confessed suicidal tendencies or a struggle with eating disorders or a drug addiction. So our pastors/elders seek to equip our members to know how to love wisely and counsel carefully members who are struggling with some very hard things (Eph 4:11-16).
If you had the power to immediately change one thing in the ‘Biblical Counseling Movement,’ what would it be?
More books and articles on some very important topics. I regularly run into or deal with topics where I have the thought, “I really wish someone in the BC movement would write something substantial on this topic.” Booklets and blog posts are helpful, but they are drops in a large bucket.
If someone wanted to be equipped to better serve the Lord through the ministry of counseling, what do you suggest should be their first few steps?
First, find a discipler and a good, Bible-preaching, gospel-centered church. There is no legitimate substitute for living the Christian life out with a body of committed believers. As you grow and mature in the Christian life, so also will you be able and ready to help others grow, too.
Second, read a few basic biblical counseling books, articles or booklets that deal with a problem that you struggle with. You need to see how a profoundly biblical approach to problems stands as a stark contrast to how most of the world deals with sin and suffering.
Third, if you haven’t lost interest just yet, then read Paul Tripp & Tim Lane’s How People Change and Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. The former describes a theology of sanctification; the later describes a theology and methodology for counseling. Both are good intro texts into the movement.
Lastly, if you still want more, then pursue lay certification or formal educational training through the manifold of organizations or educational institutions that provide instruction and training in biblical counseling.
Thanks, Reju, for sharing how the Lord providentially led in your journey to biblical counseling.