Can I Be a Biblical Counselor without Being a Part of the Biblical Counseling Movement?
In an ongoing public conversation involving David Murray, myself, and other friends, David recently shared, “I hope I can be a Biblical Counselor without being part of the Biblical Counseling Movement.”
Here’s my two-word answer to anyone who might ask that question, including myself, “Of course.”
No one has been given some “divine right” to decide what label another person can choose for their approach to counseling. Nor has anyone been given a right or authority to define who is “in” or “out” of the “biblical counseling movement.”
So, my short answer is, “Of course.”
Then again, it’s a tad more complicated than that, isn’t it? I know, it would be much simpler and perhaps seem much “nicer,” if we just left it at, “Of course.”
I’ll speak for myself here on two primary reasons why I’ve chosen to be a “biblical counselor” who is part of the “biblical counseling movement.”
And I speak as someone who has seen himself as being a “biblical counselor” for forty years, but who was not perhaps an active, collaborative part of “the modern biblical counseling movement” for all that time.
1. Parameters and Definitions Matter
For me, I’ve chosen to be a biblical counselor who is part of the biblical counseling movement because parameters and definitions matter.
When I was asked in 2010 to consider becoming the Executive Director for the proposed Biblical Counseling Coalition, one of the “requirements” we put on ourselves as a fledgling organization was that we would develop a confessional statement. We wanted to outline our definition of what makes biblical counseling biblical.
So, for nearly a year, nearly three dozen leaders in the “biblical counseling movement” crafted ten drafts of what became the Biblical Counseling Coalition Confessional Statement. It outlines in concrete descriptions, “12 Marks” of what we consider to be compassionate and comprehensive biblical counseling.
Not everyone who considers themselves a “biblical counselor” and in the “biblical counseling movement” has signed on. Nor would they all define the parameters of the movement in the same way. And that’s okay.
The Biblical Counseling Coalition has never said, “You have to sign on to the Confessional Statement to call yourself a “biblical counselor.” We have said, “If you would like to self-identify with the Biblical Counseling Coalition, then we would ask that you affirm the BCC Confessional Statement.”
Why? Why would we ask that? Why did we insist that we create a Confessional Statement? Because parameters and definitions matter.
The Confessional Statement is a document that lets people know what we mean when we say, “We are ‘biblical counselors.’”
I think anyone in the universe can claim the title “biblical counselor,” but it seems to me that they then should provide some definition to that term.
Either labels don’t matter and, therefore, we don’t choose to say, “I’m a ‘biblical counselor.’”
Or, labels do matter, and if we choose to say, “I’m a ‘biblical counselor,’ we can point to some definition and parameters of what we mean by that.
There are groups in the “modern biblical counseling movement” who are not a part of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, they claim the label “biblical counselors,” and they clearly define that term somewhere in their literature. That’s something I agree with 100%.
However, folks who want to claim the label “biblical counselor,” but not define what they mean by it, not set parameters around what they mean by it, I don’t understand that.
Back in the day when I labeled myself a “biblical counselor” but perhaps was not an active, collaborative part of “the modern biblical counseling movement,” I had very clear and public definitions of what I meant by “biblical counselor.” Someone could clearly look at my “label” and my “definitions and parameters” and say, “Okay, so that’s what you mean by ‘biblical counselor.’”
If we want to take a public label, then I believe the public deserves a public definition of the parameters of what we mean by that label.
So, if my friend David or anyone elses says, “I hope I can be a Biblical Counselor without being part of the Biblical Counseling Movement,” I would only say, “Could you point to the parameters of counseling that you are using that define what you mean by “biblical counselor”?
In David’s post, he noted that he and I could likely agree on 95% of the BCC’s Doctrinal Statement. That may be true.
But I don’t think that’s the question.
Many self-identified Christian Integrative Counselors (CIC), many self-identified Christian Psychologists (CP), and many self-identified “I think people only need good preaching” would likely agree on 95% of the BCC’s Doctrinal Statement. And I love my CIC, and CP, and Preaching-Only friends. And I consider them brothers and sisters in Christ on the basis of our mutual commitment to the fundamentals of the faith as identified in the BCC Doctrinal Statement.
But the question is, “What are your beliefs about biblical counseling?”
My point is not to question whether or not David or anyone else is a “biblical counselor.” I am encouraging people to help others know the counseling parameters and definitions they are using when they say, “I hope I can be a Biblical Counselor…”
2. Accountability and Collaboration Matter
For me, I’ve chosen to be a biblical counselor who is part of the biblical counseling movement for a second reason: because accountability and collaboration matter.
Now, I am not saying that anyone who is not a part of the BCC or a part of “the modern biblical counseling movement” lacks accountability or dislikes collaboration. I’m speaking for myself as it relates to counseling movements.
Over a dozen years ago, when I looked around the landscape of the counseling world in Christianity in the US, I made a conscious decision. Previously I had used the label “biblical counselor” and I had carefully, clearly, and concretely defined the parameters of what I meant by that label.
But I was something of an independent operator as far as “movements” went. Maybe I was somewhat like how David describes himself now—as something of a “loose cannon” and not that into “movements.” And maybe I was someone who, like David now, wanted to “provoke reflection and reformation—maybe highlight areas from time to time that need more thought and action.”
So, I think I understand something of where David and others are. And that’s fine.
For me, I made a personal decision to be part of a movement of men and women committed to mutual accountability, iron sharpening, and collaborative relationships. And this was over a half-a-dozen years before the launch of the Biblical Counseling Movement.
For me, and I can only speak for me, it was too easy to be the loose cannon lobbing outsider comments designed to provoke reflection and reformation. I chose what for me is the more time-consuming and energy-demanding path of working within a movement of men and women in a mutually respectful way that collaborates to reflect and reform, to grow and deepen.
That gives me accountability to a group of men and women that I respect. It invites them to speak into my life both personally and professionally. It invites us to enter into mutually accountable iron-sharpening relationships where we grow as Christians and as biblical counselors.
Please hear me. I am not saying that people who don’t join the “biblical counseling movement” lack accountability. I am saying that for my sake of personal integrity, I wanted accountability within the biblical counseling movement if I wanted to continue to use the label “biblical counselor.”
I wanted and have thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative relationships that have resulted in the past dozen-plus years, and especially in the past six years since the launch of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Those collaborative relationships have resulted in robust resources that I pray are a blessing to the Christian community.
There’s the old adage and acronym: TEAM—Together Everyone Accomplishes More. I also like a new adage and acronym: TON—Together Others Notice. That is, through collaborative relationships where we speak with one voice (not as clones, but as iron-sharpening brothers and sisters), others take notice. They think:
“Hmm, that’s a group of men and women I respect and they are speaking, writing, and ministering together. And they’re doing it robustly, and positively. I think it would be wise of me to check out what they are producing…”
So, when David or others asks, “I hope I can be a Biblical Counselor without being part of the Biblical Counseling Movement,” my personal answer has become, “I can’t do that.”
For me, if I want to state publicly that I am a “biblical counselor,” then because parameters, definition, accountability, and collaboration matter, I want to be part of the larger “biblical counseling movement.”
Join the Conversation
Do you think you can be a “biblical counselor” without being part of the “biblical counseling movement”?
How do you define “biblical counselor?”
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