there are many terms that are thrown around and often misunderstood in church life. ‘COUNSELING’ is one of those words.
the truth is that counseling has never been foreign to the Word of God or the people of God and was common in the new testament church community. one of the reasons that we struggle to view counseling and church life is because we have so many definitions and presuppositions concerning counseling.
when we think counseling, our thoughts tend to drift to the stereotypes of psychology: a stiff, monotone professional (in a white dress shirt, usually wearing glasses) asking an introspective, nearly lost in their own story, individual who is laying on a couch staring at the ceiling. now, it is no surprise that psychology dominates our thoughts on counseling (specifically the way it is portrayed on movies or tv). but, we need to broaden our understanding and consider that although psychology shapes our understanding of counseling, it does not define it. after all, psychology has only been around since the end of the 19th century and has really only been prominent or mainstream since the 1960s. counseling, on the other hand, has been a part of human history since the beginning.
counseling is defined as ” instruction directing the judgement or behavior of another.”
why has counseling been around since human origin? simple. because we have always needed wisdom in our thinking and behaving. [insert sarcastic joke on men and women here]
now, we don’t have time and i dont have the knowhow to discuss the development of counseling nor the source of counsel from every culture throughout history. whether it be a deity, a priest, a spouse, a witchdoctor, the stars, or a professional psychiatrist, mankind has always sought wisdom and counsel for the purpose of guidance, revelation and change. The only thing that has differed throughout history is the source of the counsel that is sought.
with that in mind, lets take a quick dip in the counseling pool of scripture.
Since the beginning (Gen. 1) God has spoken his Word into creation, directing, sustaining, and counseling.
‘Counseling?’ you say. Yes. Counseling. in fact, scripture goes so far as to say that God is the fountain from which all wisdom and all true counsel flows. (Job 12:13) After all, if God’s very nature is the fullness of wisdom and knowledge, why wouldn’t He be the best counselor of all time?
Surely this is what the scripture declares. the Lord is spoken of as the counselor . . . infinite in wisdom, he leads his people according to his Word. (ps. 32:8, 73:24) He counsels those he loves, instructs their souls with His Word daily. (Ps. 16:7, 119:24)
the kings of Israel sought the Lord’s counsel as the managed a people and led a nation. (1 Kings 22:5)
Christ promised that a Counselor would come to all who believe, to all who are included in the universal church, and that He would teach them all things concerning life and godliness. (Jn 14:26)
Counseling is not only what God does, it is part of who He is.
As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, ‘for to us a child is born, to us a son is given. . . and He will be called WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace.
The scripture reveals that God is not only the greatest counselor of all time- whose counsel is available for those who seek it- it also tells us that every person who believes in Christ is called and equipped to engage other believers in counseling. (please take captive any temptation to envision a psych. office or mental institution, church-facility redesign.)
Seriously- The New Testament calls believers to be Counselors.
7 times we are called to counsel. the Greek word used by Paul and Luke is noutheteo. it is most often translated in our modern english versions of the Bible as , ‘warn,’ ‘instruct,’ ‘counsel’ or ‘admonish.’
in secular (that is, non christian) greek literature, the word noutheteo means ‘to exert influence upon the mind. the use of advice, warning, teaching or admonition to redirect the ways and behavior of another.’
noutheteo means ‘to provide instruction for the purpose of correcting the thoughts and behavior of another.’ (yes, this is very similar to our English definition of the word counseling or counsel)
So what should we conclude.
- Counseling has been a part of human history since the dawn of human existence.
- There are many forms of counseling and many sources of counsel.
- Psychology should shape our understanding of counseling, but, since it is just one form(and one of the newest at that) and one source of counseling, it should not define it.
- Counseling is part of the work and nature of God. All who call on him for His many wonderful names- ‘prince of peace,’ ‘everlasting Father,’ should also call on Him as their ‘Wonderful Counselor.’
- Counseling has been an essential part of the church since Christ commissioned it.
- Counseling from scripture should be understood as the practical application of scripture to correct and shape thinking, attitudes and behavior.
- Church life devoid of intentional counseling in the midst of community and discipleship is missing a critical part of biblical community.
some great links on counseling and the church: