What should a biblical counselor’s resume look like? What would you list to demonstrate your qualifications? Actually, the Apostle Paul has already written such a resume for us. It’s found in Romans 15:14. I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. This is an important verse because it gives us four qualifications which are necessary to be effective in the personal ministry of the Word. However, before we consider them, the following case study will help us see how important they are. (This story and the listed qualifications are adapted from Bob Kellemen’s book, Gospel Conversations, a part of the Equipping Biblical Counselors Series).
A CASE STUDY
A married couple, Tony and Trudy, were recommended to seek marriage counseling from you. At the beginning of the first meeting, Tony leans forward, looks you straight in the eyes, and says, “I want you to know that I have seen a divorce attorney already. I was recommended by someone to see you before we make any final decisions. If I’m putting my future on the line with you, I want to know what makes you qualified to help us.”
Well, that caught you off guard, but eventually you regain your composure and manage to say, “Tony, one of the reasons I’m qualified to help you is my commitment to the Scriptures as the sufficient source of wisdom for life, and for helping you and Trudy in your relationship to Christ and your relationship to one another.”
So, Tony leans back, strokes his chin and responds, “That’s great. Now, could you tell me how that’s working for you in your marriage?” Tony raises a good question, doesn’t he? The application of biblical wisdom to our lives, relationships, and ministries ought to be high on the list of qualifications for effective biblical counseling. God calls us not only to know his Word richly, but to apply His Word relevantly to our lives so that we grow in Christ-like character.
So, you say, “Tony, that’s a fair question. By God’s grace, my wife and I seek to apply God’s Word to our marriage. While our marriage is not perfect, it is a growing marriage that honors Christ as we both seek to lovingly minister to each other so that we become more like Jesus.”
Tony nods favorably. Then he squints and says, “Okay, thank you for your honesty. I have one more question. So, you know God’s Word and you apply it to your life. But how successful have you been in helping others with their marriages?” Tony raises another valid point. Rich knowledge of God’s Word applied to our lives provides a powerful foundation for biblical counseling. But counseling involves engaging others and helping them in applying truth to their lives. Therefore, our competence as a counselor in sharing Scripture—relating truth to life— is also vital.
So, you might say to Tony, “By God’s grace, couples confirm that their marriages have been significantly helped by my counsel.”
This story illustrates the importance of the four qualifications we find in Romans 15:14.
- Christ-like Character—counselors should be full of goodness. Goodness is the same word used of the fruit of the Spirit; referring to Christ-like character; spiritual maturity (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9). To be effective counselors, we need to be growing toward spiritual maturity. The Bible says that God is good and that He does good. He causes the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous. Being full of goodness pictures mature, godly character flowing through Christ to us, then spilling over from us into the lives of others. To the degree that we increasingly reflect Christ and relate to others like Christ does, to that degree, we will be fruitful biblical counselors.
- Biblical Content—counselors should be filled with all knowledge. To be effective biblical counselors, we need to be growing in our understanding of God and His Word, and how it applies to the problems we face in life. In the Great Commandment, Jesus calls us to love God with all our mind (Matthew 22:37). Filled with all knowledge means having spiritual insight and perception of the nature of God and man, of God’s will for our lives, of the redemptive work of Christ, and of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. If a counselor is to have an understanding of biblical issues relating to human nature and behavior then the study of the Scriptures will be fundamental to his or her qualifications and effectiveness. It would be contradictory for someone to say they are a Christian counselor, yet are not able to provide biblical explanations to issues and problems. We are exhorted in 2 Timothy 2:15, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
- Counseling Competence—counselors should be able to instruct. This has to do with our ability to relate truth to life. It’s being able to give practical and pertinent spiritual direction to someone who is struggling in some way. The Greek word for instruct is noutheteo. Literally it means “to put into the mind” or “to lay on the heart;” i.e., to implant truth into the mind/heart so as to guide, correct, and instruct (cf. Proverbs 1:2-5; Colossians 1:28). The stress is not only on the intellect, but also on the will and the heart. The Apostle Paul is exhorting us to give practical, real-life wisdom and counsel with the Word of God. We must have the ability to help others apply the truth to their lives.
- Christian Community—counselors should encourage local church involvement. The context of biblical counseling is seen in the words, my brothers and one another. In other words, the qualities listed in this verse are embedded within the context of a local church. It speaks of the importance of a counselee being in a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching local church. Transformed lives occur in the context of the body of Christ. Christians do not grow as “lone rangers.” I don’t think that any of us believe that a formal hour-a-week meeting with a counselee is sufficient for their spiritual growth. The full one-another-ministry of a local church is needed for spiritual growth (cf. Romans chapters 12-16; Ephesians 4:11-16).
As we consider these four qualifications, we must realize there is weakness in a de-emphasis of one or more of them. We may have biblical content, but if it’s only head knowledge we will not be able to relate truth to life. We may be all heart and compassion, but lack biblical insight and counseling abilities. We may think of the counseling session as the “magic hour,” without exhorting the counselee to be in a nurturing environment of a local body of believers.
Thinking about the “4Cs” of Character, Content, Competence, and Community, which do you think is your current strength as a biblical counselor? Which do you think is your current weakness and needs growth and development?
[Today’s guest post is written by Armand Tiffe, Pastor Emeritus at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, and director of our counseling ministry. He is also the author of Transformed Into His Likeness: A Handbook for Putting Off Sin and Putting On Righteousness.]