Every biblical counselor must know and follow the Bible. Not only must we be able to use the power of Scripture in the lives of those under our care, I personally see more and more “so-called brothers” sitting across the table from me who are largely biblically illiterate. Counseling the Word is an excellent work.
And, in my opinion, every biblical counselor should be a reader of books and journals written by trusted other biblical counselors who have done the good work of expositing Scripture for the purpose of wise counsel. I have a constant stack of new books to read and study, followed by more new books to read and study, following by more… (This will go on because, “of the writing of books there is no end” Ecclesiastes 12:12). These books are good and helpful.
More and more lately, however, I have found myself substituting the excellent for the good. I am not alone. What do I mean by this?
I am a member of a biblical counseling web group where those who minister as I do can ask questions and help one another in various counseling situations. What stands out to me in the last year or so is that almost every question begins with, “I am dealing with … Can anyone recommend a good book on it?” rather than “Can anyone share what God’s Word teaches on…” While we stand firm and defend the sufficiency of Scripture and the power of God’s Word to transform lives (For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13), in practice we often spend more time reading about the Word than actually reading the Word. Every Christian must understand and respect the difference between studying the Bible and studying books about the Bible. Reading books about the Bible can only compliment study of the Bible; they cannot replace study of the Bible. We substitute the excellent for the good.
The same goes for homework. How often do we recommend a good (and helpful) book to a counselee, work through it with them week-by-week, but don’t assign Scripture reading or memorization? When we do this, we have made the living and active Word of God a secondary resource to Tripp, Powlison, Welch, Lambert, Scott, Street, Emlet, etc. We have substituted the excellent for the good.
In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins begins chapter one with the statement, “Good is the enemy of great.” Are you a good counselor? Would you like to become a great counselor? While there are many things that entails, my proposition is that you can only move from good to great, from good to excellent, when the main focus of your study and counsel is primarily the Word of God.
I have experienced my counseling begin to slip in this way and have prayed for personal renewal in my personal study of the Word. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5.
I must abide – and so must you.