In the winter of 1968, I was a freshman in college, wondering whether to major in physics or Chinese history. I thought Christianity was shallow and irrelevant to what life is really about. The Vietnam War was on everyone’s mind. I read Lord of the Rings during reading week to distract myself from studying for final exams. In other words, I was an 18 year old. A few things have changed in the intervening years!
Also that winter, CCEF was founded in a little church near Philadelphia. It operated every Monday. Several pastors counseled in the church classrooms, and then discussed cases with a group of students. The premise was radical: Christian faith is deep, and directly relevant to what life is really about. The implications for counseling still had to be figured out. There were no articles, no books, no conferences, and no degree programs. A few things have changed in the intervening years!
John Bettler, CCEF’s first director and the pastor of that little church near Philadelphia, used to have a calligraphy of Isaiah 50:4 on the mantle over the fireplace in his office. It expressed our foundational aspiration:
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.
This does not change, however many years intervene. Over the course of 50 years, the Lord has sustained our ministry through his words and his Spirit. As we have grown and changed, God has continued to give us the privilege of sustaining others in their need.
I also see the Lord’s sustaining grace as the thread of faithfulness in my own life. I came to faith in 1975, just around the time CCEF’s building was purchased. Four short weeks later, I sat in on a CCEF class as a visitor. Five years later I began working here, and I’ve never left. In God’s lovely providence, my life work has ended up majoring in the depth and relevance of Scripture for what life is really about.
As we celebrate CCEF’s 50th anniversary, we want to take time to look back on our founding vision to see how the seeds God planted have borne fruit. We will also look at what is happening now with an eye to the future. I want you who care about biblical counseling to see God’s hand at work. The Lord has been faithful, he is faithful, and he will be faithful. It truly is “fifty years, and counting.”
I trust that you will be informed and encouraged over the coming months. I hope that you will be inspired, and that Isaiah 50:4 will live within your heart. As you ponder what the Lord is doing here, I invite you to prayerfully consider how you can be involved and how you can help. We depend on the prayers, participation, and generosity of men and women who share this vision.
Thank you so much,
In August of 2008, my life in shambles, I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Going through a contentious divorce, my sister advised that I speak to a counselor. At CCEF, I met with a kind and caring counselor who gently guided me in the unfolding of God’s precious truth–the gospel–and the love that my Savior Jesus Christ had for me, such a filthy sinner as I now knew myself to be. Fast forward 10 years later… I just graduated from WTS as one of the last MAC residential (on campus) students. I am again reflecting on the huge impact CCEF has had on my spiritual formation and my life. I am thankful for all of the CCEF instructors and staff. I feel like I cannot express my gratitude appropriately except to say that I will continue to pray for God’s richest blessings for all of you in your lives and in your ministry at CCEF. All praise, glory, and honor to our Father, who made it all possible.
My wife and I still remember the first time we heard John Bettler speak–about John the Baptist–and our lives have never been the same! God used him and the many other servants of His at CCEF to open our eyes to the realities of the human heart, the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and how the gospel can transform lives as God’s Word is accurately and meaningfully connected to our lives. God used CCEF to give us the lens of a Biblically-based, gospel-centered worldview. Thank you!
I have struggled and continue to struggle with OCD, especially religious scrupulosity. I have not been able to find many resources to help, but I did find some through Mike Emlet and CCEF. When it felt like no one understood or could help, I finally found some relief and a clear realization of the true root of my problems. I still continue to seek to lean hard on the death and resurrection of Jesus and to choose to look outward and love others.
My relationship with CCEF started almost 30 years ago when a dear friend asked me to take her there for counseling. This was my first experience with biblical counseling, and it amazed me to see how the Word of God rightly used in practical ways and properly interpreted was transforming my friend’s life. This experience led me to enroll in the School of Biblical Counseling where I learned to study the Word to understand the depth and complexities of my heart and the deep and transformational power and love of Christ. The teachings of David Powlison and Ed Welch and all their books greatly contributed to my spiritual growth! Thank you! May our Lord continue to bless this wonderful ministry.
I would be remiss if I did not remember and thank the many men and women who have given of themselves and used their gifts here since 1968. These men and women—counselees, counselors, faculty, staff, students, donors, readers, board members—created our past and continue to make us what we are today. You, the readers of this magazine, are foundational to our work. A better way to put it is, what we do with you. Our mission is fulfilled when Christians have wise conversations about things that really matter, with the Lord and with one another.
On behalf of everyone who has, who is, and who will serve the Lord through the ministry of CCEF, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. May Jesus Christ be praised!
David Powlison, Executive Director