- Educational Background: I completed my Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) in Philadelphia; PA. Westminster is considered by most to be the pioneer in Biblical Counseling. Their program is run in conjunction with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF), which among other things, means that many of the counselors that counsel at CCEF are counseling professors at WTS. I had the privilege of learning counseling philosophy and methodology under men and women who have been practicing and thinking through these things for dozens of years; men and women who have researched and written volumes on a gamut of counseling issues, and how the gospel is the answer to said issues. In addition to a MA in Biblical Counseling, I have 40+ grad level hours in Biblical studies – primarily from Reformed Theological Seminary and Covenant Theological Seminary – as well as graduate level training in clinical counselling.
- Experience: Prior to my graduation from WTS in May of 2010, I had been counselling/discipling informally for years, and had worked for several years in the social services, working with troubled and at-risk youth at group-home facilities and alternative schools (designed for students who have been, for whatever reason, expelled from public school). Since my graduation from WTS, I have been working continuously, at least part-time, formally counselling in a church or parachurch setting. Currently I am the Counselling Pastor for Shuswap Community Church, and Executive Director of Redemption Counseling, Shuswap Office. Prior to coming here, I was a counsellor for Home of Grace, a faith-based residential addiction recovery ministry in Southern, MS.
- Specialties: Given the eclectic nature of my experience, I am sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-at-nothing. If I had to choose one thing that I see more success in (and perhaps more experience with) than other areas, it would be addiction, but my philosophy of addiction is that we are all addicts. Some of us have more socially acceptable, or less dangerous, or more legal addictions than others, but at its root, addiction is a worship disorder; it is idolatry, and therefore we all struggle with it. In other words, very broadly speaking, all counselling issues are addiction – or idolatry – issues. I do not work with children issues or parent child relationships, simply because I myself do not have kids, and there are people on my staff that are far more qualified to work with children and families.
- Scripture and Prayer in Counselling: Scripture, and by extension the church, has taught for 1000’s of years that the God’s redeeming grace brings healing to the soul’s brokenness and suffering. Thanks to the enlightenment period of the 17 and 1800s, with the help of Freud and other pioneers of Psychology, we have been convinced that the care of the soul belongs more and more to the psychologists and medical doctors, rather than to pastors, theologians, and fellow Christian disciples. The Biblical Counselling movement would argue that it is high time that scripture and the church take back its rightful place as the foremost and primary source of care for God’s precious souls. That is not to say that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. Through God’s common grace, God has revealed to the clinical field much about things like counseling methodology; how the human brain is wired and its chemical make-up; the effect of trauma on the brain and the human body; the human psyche; etc. All counsellors will be more effective helpers if we take all that clinical psychology has learned into account. Also, we must recognize the intimate and messy interaction between the body and the soul. Even the Psalms makes reference to the physiological symptoms of emotional distress and visa-versa. But scripture and prayer must be the foundation and source of our help to broken and hurting people. Paul truly meant that God was the source of ALL comfort when he said that God was the source of ALL comfort in II Cor. 1:3. In fact, II Cor. 1:3-4 summarizes the Biblical Counselling philosophy of ministry:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
This passage us teaches us at least four things:
- True Healing of the soul begins with focusing on and praising “the God of all comfort.” All human suffering has at least one thing in common. It causes us to “retract in on ourselves.” Shame, fear, depression, anger, foolishness, pride, addiction, compulsion etc., etc., etc., all have at its center an obsession with self. Paul starts by “blessing” his God, just so he can keep his mind off himself and focus on His God. In Verses 8-10 of Ch. 1, we find out that this passage is written in the context of great suffering; suffering so severe that not only did Paul fear for his life, he goes so far as to say he “despaired for his life.” Not only was he afraid he was going to die, the pain was so bad that he actually thought that death might be preferable. But Paul doesn’t do what is natural; what human nature would demand of him and think only of himself in this situation. Rather than beginning his testimony with, “woe is me,” Paul begins to and continues to focus throughout on the goodness; the praiseworthiness of his God.
- God is the source of ALL comfort. If you keep reading and include verses 5-11, you realize that God’s comfort comes in the form of the gospel message. The person and work of Christ, and our participation in His affliction>death> and ultimately His resurrection, is God’s entirely sufficient answer to all that has broken us; all that needs healing.
- We as ministers of the gospel (counsellors) are the conduit of God’s comfort, not the source. In other words, we have to have experienced God’s comfort in the form of God’s redeeming grace, before we can offer comfort, in the form of God’s redeeming grace to others. This is humbling. It reminds me that I am not a saviour; a messiah. My job as a biblical counsellor is nothing more and nothing less than to point my clients to the Saviour.
- Lastly, this passage teaches that the commonality between the minister and the ministered to is not their problem, but the source of their comfort. My suffering doesn’t have to look like your suffering before I can help you. I don’t have to have been a heroin addict to offer God’s comfort to a drug addict because God’s comfort – God’s redeeming grace – is sufficient for ALL sin and suffering – mine and yours.
As for prayer, God’s redeeming grace is guaranteed by, and comes in the form of, the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14 and 15, for example). The power of the Holy Spirit is often ignited by prayer. Truth will not have its redeeming effects unless there is at least a mustard seed of faith that the truth’s referred to in counselling are indeed true. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that produces that faith; that gives us the strength to lean on; to trust in; to cling to the precious truths of God’s redeeming grace. It is through prayer that God makes us aware of His presence in our lives (in the form of the Holy Spirit). It is through prayer that God makes us aware of our neediness of Him, and it is through Prayer that God reveals that He has and is even now answering our neediness of Him – with Himself (The Holy Spirit). As such, not only do I pray regularly for and with my clients, I teach them a theology of prayer, and teach them how to pray.
- My Relationship with Christ: I grew up in the Church, but I quickly grew comfortable with playing the role of a Christian, without actually having a relationship with Christ. From middle school on I carried a bible to school, taught bible studies, wore all the Christian t-shirts… I was actually proud of being called a Jesus-freak or preacher-boy. All the while my private life was rancid. I was selfish, controlled by lust and pornography, and angry. These things (and a myriad of other sin) nearly destroyed me and my relationships, particularly my marriage. It wasn’t until I was 28 or so that God transformed me. I finally experienced that redeeming grace that I have already referred to, and it has progressively become my passion to share that redeeming grace with others who need it as much as I did then; as much as I do now. The incubator in which this transforming grace did its work in my life was and is the Church. It is through incredibly godly pastors, elders, small-group leaders, Sunday School teachers, bible study leaders, and godly friends that God grew me; is growing me, “out of darkness and into His glorious light.”