Dump-truck Counseling

I used to practice “dump-truck counseling.” If one Scriptural concept was helpful to the person I was counseling/discipling then surely an entire truckload would be more helpful. Additionally, unknown to me at the time, I think was fearful that my first meeting with a person may be my only meeting and, therefore, I needed to at least attempt to tell him everything I knew that may help him overcome his problem. However, over the years, I have learned (and am still learning) that information overload, even if the “information” is pure Scripture, will not necessarily facilitate the small bits of progress—baby steps of obedience and faith—that effectively nurture faith, stimulate growth, and dispense hope. As a result of this realization, I am increasingly more intentional to choose only one key portion of Scripture to spend our time reading, meditating on, understanding, and directing our application.

Since true biblical counseling is a focused aspect of the discipleship process it must be relational. My earlier approach could simply have been accomplished by photo-copying a page out of a concordance and mailing it to the person. But my “new approach” requires much more work, which is why it bears more fruit. I also see it as consistent with the apostle Paul’s “counseling philosophy,” which was marked by wisdom. He described it this way: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col 1:28).

The Greek word translated “wisdom” is sophia, which refers to “the wisdom that is related to goodness, or to goodness itself as seen from one viewpoint, as the wisdom only the good can possess.” By choosing this word, Paul is making reference to the manner in which he carried out his ministry. In other words, he sought always to reflect the grace and goodness of God in how he treated people. This kind of wisdom recognizes that not all disciples are ready for equal doses of theological truth. Jesus’ teaching is an example for us to follow: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). The wise shepherd will not practice “dump-truck counseling.” That is, he will not give someone “ten new things” to practice this week when making progress in one area may be all he or she can handle, and to make progress in that one area will bring the encouragement needed to move that person farther along. As authentic ministers of the gospel, therefore, we must be wise. But that means more than being skillful, essential though that is; it also means that every word spoken to help or correct others is chosen for their good and reflects the mercy and patience of God. As shepherds, we must be the first to model Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

[Adapted from Discipling the Flock]

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