9 Surprises of Biblical Counseling

Last month, while attending the annual leadership retreat of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, I posted a summary of a brief challenge from the Word of God given by David Powlison of CCEF. In some recent communication with David he has clarified and expanded on his list of “surprises of biblical counseling,” which I believe are worth further consideration.

As he walked us through Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 we saw graciously exposed before our eyes the pastoral insight and careful soul care of the Good Shepherd. It was very helpful to see how Jesus acknowledged three important aspects of life as He counseled His sheep.

  • Jesus saw the good in His sheep and affirmed it.
  • Jesus saw His sheep in the context of the hardness of life as both a sinner and sufferer in this fallen world.
  • Jesus saw the bad, the sin and disobedience in His sheep and confronted it.

As David wrapped up his challenge he described what happens in the minds and hearts of those with whom we counsel the Word. When our counseling is working, doing its job, those whom we counsel will normally encounter some of the following surprises.

9 Surprises of Biblical Counseling

  1. People are surprised by your humility, that you are a fellow sinner/sufferer/struggler who can relate to their situation.
  2. People are surprised that you genuinely care for them and their spiritual welfare.
  3. People are surprised when you ask “How are you really doing?,” that you really mean it, and then really listen.
  4. People are surprised when you ask the kinds of questions that are searching and revealing.
  5. People are surprised when what you say and do is relevant.
  6. People are surprised when the God of grace Himself comes into view in the midst of their situation.
  7. People are surprised when you help them find small practical acts of obedience to move them forward, rather than a large overwhelming task.
  8. People are surprised at finding out that you as a counselor are willing to be patient with a slow process of change.
  9. You, the counselor, will often be pleasantly surprised at how Jesus shows up, and shows that he is at work in people through his Spirit and Word!

As those who are growing in our love and ability to counsel the Word to one another, let us refocus on Christ, the ultimate pastor, and continue to surprise others, and be surprised ourselves, by Spirit-empowered biblical counseling.

[Also read David Powlison’s  personal and surprising Journey to Biblical Counseling.]

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