An interview with our executive director and two long-time board members.
I embraced the biblical counseling model out of a deep desire to make sense of people and their struggles. I was a natural counselor. People would come to me and tell me their problems, and I loved to help. For years I’d been reading every Christian counseling book available. Much of what I read tried hard to understand human experience and to explain the human heart from a Christian perspective. But it always fell short. The theories and practices never seemed to square with what Scripture teaches. But in the early-90s everything fell into place when I began to read the Journal of Biblical Counseling and to hear CCEF’s teaching. I got involved in CCEF’s Changing Hearts, Changing Lives seminars held in Texas—and what I learned made a profound difference both in my own life and in my approach to helping people. My interest and commitment led to being invited to join the board in 1999.
When I was in college, I was traveling with two Christian buddies one weekend, and we picked up a hitchhiker. The man was due back at his mental hospital by a certain time, and appreciated the lift. His manner was pleasant and his thoughts intelligent. But when my friends and I gently turned the conversation to Jesus, he grew uncomfortable and his sentences gradually became nonsensical. I would not pretend to know “the thoughts and intentions of his heart,” but spiritual issues clearly had some play in his life. I had recently read Jay Adams’s Competent to Counsel, and while I certainly felt incompetent that afternoon, the exchange awakened in me a thirst to understand people on a deeper level and in a biblical manner.
I love what biblical counseling seeks to do—to make sense of hard problems and offer wise help. But I often notice that when faced with practical ministry challenges, many Bible-loving people seem drawn to . . . what else can I call it? . . . anything but the Bible. Is our congregation shrinking? Let’s see what sociological studies teach about how to influence a community. Is our city vice-ridden? Let’s attend a seminar on how to oust territorial demons. Is my sister-in-law depressed, or bulimic, or traumatized by memories? The church is obviously not equipped—let’s refer her to a psychiatrist. In contrast, I love how biblical counseling actually shows how Christ and Scripture explain and address the deepest human problems. For example, although “bulimia” is nowhere in the concordance, the things that drive those behaviors express basic biblical themes: life-dominating desires and fears, a distorted belief system, confusion and enslavement. Christ’s grace and truth are directly relevant and transformative. Yet I also love how the best biblical counseling, even while refusing to yield the field to secular thinking and practice, shows humility to learn from the social sciences and from whatever wisdom God’s common grace has taught other human beings. I was honored to be asked to serve on CCEF’s board, and I joined along with Barbara in 1999.
The story of how I came to embrace biblical counseling and began working at CCEF is interwoven with the story of how I came to faith in Christ. I was an existentialist, and actively disliked Christianity. I had majored in psychology at Harvard, was working at McLean Psychiatric Hospital, and had been in psychotherapy myself for several years. I intended to pursue a mental health career. Psychiatry and psychotherapy promised a true understanding of people, a calling to help fellow strugglers, and the power to address human woes by bringing about healthy change. But I grew increasingly disillusioned. Yes, the hospital provided a caring and protective environment. And at our best we ameliorated some symptoms and helped some people to cope a bit better. But in three years I had never seen anyone qualitatively change from dysfunction to flourishing. Meanwhile I was finding Dostoevsky’s straightforward and Christian portrayal of human beings far more true to life than what our theories, diagnoses, and therapies were saying and doing.
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