We recently sat down with faculty members Mike Emlet and Alasdair Groves and asked about some of the new opportunities in front of them. Here is what they shared.
First of all, Alasdair, we would like to congratulate you on your new role as the director for our School of Biblical Counseling (SBC)! What are you most excited about in this new season?
I am excited about the opportunity to think through questions like: How do we bless people who are in ministry and can’t come to Philadelphia to learn in person? Whether it is a 43-year-old pastor in Singapore, or a 60-year-old woman seeking to mentor younger women in her church in California, making these students increasingly our focus is such an opportunity.
When I initially started in this role, I felt like distance education was an inferior way of learning forced upon us by the geography of our students. In the last few months, however, I’ve come to think that distance education can ultimately be better than on-site training. Our online students are already connected in a local church and this is a powerful resource. I am excited about shaping a program that embraces and harnesses the potential of students who are already firmly rooted in a ministry context. Then, when I add the interactions I have had with potential ministry partners around the world (churches, seminaries, etc.), it’s fair to say I’m chomping at the bit to see what the next decade brings for CCEF.
Mike, how do your counseling and teaching interact with each other? And what new opportunities are you encountering?
My counseling and my teaching are absolutely interdependent. For me, teaching without counseling would be like explaining how to swim without ever having gotten into the water myself! Counseling repeatedly drives me to study Scripture to better understand and help the person I’m meeting with. And teaching allows me to share the fruit of that study with others. But it doesn’t stop there. Students raise good questions that send me back to further study and to reconsider my counseling theory and practice for a particular issue. My teaching sharpens my counseling and my counseling keeps my teaching grounded in real life.
One new opportunity for me is my upcoming trip to Australia. I will be presenting a one day workshop in Brisbane (two talks on addiction, two talks on anxiety), which will be repeated in Melbourne at the end of my trip. I will also teach at the biblical counseling residential conference in Sydney where I will lecture on psychiatric disorders, psychoactive medications, and offer several sessions of counseling observation using videotaped counseling. Finally, I will teach my Counseling and Physiology course to students at Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne. I am excited about the opportunity to be on the ground in a place where the biblical counseling movement has been more recently established. I expect to learn much as I see how biblical counseling is taking root in a context other than the United States.
Alasdair, how are you growing in your counseling ministry?
I’m growing in my understanding of the need to be directive and to set concrete goals with my counselees. Because I haven’t taken new counselees for two-and-a-half years, my counseling focuses on difficult and long-term issues. I’m increasingly aware of how important it is for people who feel deeply stuck or exhausted to see clearly how they can walk forward with the Lord.
We’ve talked about teaching and counseling, and I know you both have upcoming writing projects that you hope will serve the body of Christ. Mike, will you tell us about your new book, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications, which will be released this fall?
You don’t have to engage in many conversations in the church to find out that Christians disagree about both the nature of psychiatric problems and the use of psychoactive medications. My hope is that the book will offer a balanced perspective on how to understand psychiatric diagnoses and how to think about the benefits and drawbacks of using medications. To use the Goldilocks metaphor, I want people to come away from their reading neither “too hot” (overly enthusiastic) nor “too cold” (overly dismissive) regarding psychiatric diagnoses and medications, but “just right” (full of balanced biblical wisdom).
How would you like people to pray for you?
Please pray that I would not become weary in well-doing (Galatians 6:9). Pray for stamina and good health for my teaching in Australia—almost forty hours in two weeks (so it’s probably also important to pray that I don’t lose my voice!). Pray for a quick adjustment to the time change, and for my wife Jody, who in the midst of her own work outside the home, will be solo-parenting for the two weeks I am away. Pray for rich conversations with participants and students that would be helpful in furthering Christ’s work in their lives and ministries and that my own soul will be enlivened and refreshed.
These past six months have been particularly challenging with the combination of ministry responsibilities at CCEF, pastoral care as an elder in my local church, and serious health concerns for several members of my family. Annie Dillard writes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Pray that I would spend my days seeking and resting in the sufficiency of Jesus for all he calls me to in my family, at my church, and at CCEF.
Alasdair, tell us about the writing project you are working on and how we can pray for you.
I am working on a book about emotions with Winston Smith, who recently left CCEF to become a fulltime pastor. First, I ask you to pray that in our new roles we would still be able to carve out enough regular time to make this book happen. Secondly, I would greatly appreciate people praying for me as I’m bumping into some personal limits of my capacity in ways I never have before. I need the Lord to sustain me, and I want to lean on him more intentionally and frequently. Finally, pray joyfully with me, thanking God for giving me a job I love, and the raising up the support for us at CCEF so we are able to advance so many exciting projects!
Thank you both for what you have shared. As the faculty’s schedules change this fall, what new opportunities are you looking forward to?
Alasdair: Recently I’m realizing that we now have the opportunity to be more collaborative in our development of content. I think wisdom in this season is asking, “How can we function better as a team?” The end product is going to be so superior as we brainstorm and learn new ways of developing content that stands on the shoulders of what we’ve already done and yet takes it to a level we’ve never been able to achieve before.
Mike: I agree. You see that opportunity in other ways as well. For example, I am one of six faculty members who have started an advanced skills working group. We’re asking how we can do a better job of showing how our conceptual model works itself out in both informal and formal settings within the church. How can we ground everything we do in the absolute fundamentals of Scripture, so that our counseling methodology is not neutral? So then, when we talk about how to develop better listening skills, it’s absolutely connected to the God of the universe, to the way we understand human beings, and loves others well. I think this is a great example of the kind of collaboration we’re hoping to see.