The numbers of dysfunctional and emotionally hurting people in our society and churches are rapidly increasing. Some churches seem to be in denial of these facts and have even challenged the need for counseling within the church at all. Many other churches have taken the approach that if preaching, repentance and spiritual warfare are not enough, it is the person’s fault because the person lacks faith or is not willing to be helped. We, as pastors, have to admit that many times we have given shallow and simplistic advice for complex problems that we did not fully understand, with meager results.
The Growing Number of Hurting People in Our Society
The statistics of tragedy, dysfunction and emotional trauma within our society began to increase significantly around 1950 and reached epidemic proportions in the 1980’s. The trend has continued since that time. Currently, over one-half of our marriages are ending in divorce (Kreider, 2002, p. 18). One-half of those who are married are reported to have had at least one affair (Wright, 1996, p. 281). One-third of the women in America have been sexually abused and one-sixth have suffered incest (Martin, 1987, p. 147). Domestic violence occurs repeatedly in at least 25% of our homes (Paymar, 1993, p. ix) and at least once in two-thirds of marriages (Lindsey, McBride, Platt, 1996, p. 7). Approximately 20% of men abuse alcohol, 10% are dependent on it and 6% use illicit drugs (Grant, 1994, SAMHSA, 2001). Even though most of us would like to believe that these statistics do not apply in our churches, studies have indicated that there is little difference concerning psychological and abuse problems within Christian churches in comparison to the United States' society as a whole. A national survey of pastors conducted by the Task Force on the Family for the National Association of Evangelicals in 1984 concluded by saying that the "problems of today's Christian families compared to those of non-Christian families are more similar than different" (Martin, 1987, p. 15). The Barna Research Group in Ventura, California reported that the number of persons divorced among evangelical Christians, especially Baptists and non-denominationals, exceeded those of agnostics and atheists, and of our society as a whole. (The Barna Report, October 1999). Six to seven percent of Christians are problem drinkers or alcoholics (Minirth, Meier, Fink, Byrd, and Hawkins, 1988, p. 19). Battered spouses and children seemed to be more prevalent inside than outside the church (Martin, 1987, p. 15, 21, 130). Sexual abuse was estimated to be at least as high in Christian as non-Christian homes (Martin, 1987, p. 148). In fact, both incest and physical abuse have been more highly associated with those holding religious values than those who do not (Hoorwitz, 1983 and Wetzel, Ross, 1983). Archibald Hart, in his book, The Sexual Man, reported that approximately 12% to 30% of ministers have had some inappropriate sexual contact while in the ministry (1994, p. 185).
We Have Been Burying Our Heads in the Sand
For many Christians the statistics that I have cited concerning the problems within the church seem almost unbelievable. This is because the modern church has a long history of attempting to deny, hide, or refer rather than admit these problems and effectively deal with them. We have attempted superficial solutions by giving shallow advice and commanding repentance. Although most pastors have a good general understanding of Bible principles, they lack a deeper understanding of how to address most of the more difficult psychological, addiction, and abuse problems. The survey of pastors cited above went on to say that pastors as a whole lack sufficient training to meet these challenges effectively (Martin, p. 15). As an example, pastors in most fundamental churches have a notoriously bad record of sending battered women back into abusive relationships without help (Alsdurf, 1989, p. 20-24). With the lack of comprehensive biblical answers, it is not surprising that the most usual response of a pastor facing problems like abuse or addictions is to refer them to an “expert” outside of the church.
In spite of the great numbers of people who are in desperate need of help, the Christian counseling community itself is embroiled in an ongoing controversy concerning what Christian counseling should be, and to what extent it should be based on the Bible. Biblical counseling has been limited to a few basic approaches that are many times ineffective when applied to complicated psychological problems. In fact, it is almost impossible to even define what Christian counseling is, since it spans the range from Christians who call themselves counselors to counselors who call themselves Christians (in order to attract clients.)
Many Christians, especially those who come from the fundamentalist and evangelical denominations, would rather seek help from a “Christian counselor.” Unfortunately, even when seeking a Christian counselor, many times they become frustrated or disillusioned because of the large disparity in what is considered “Christian counseling” today. In actual application, Christian counselors may include:
1. Christians, without any counseling training who try to help by applying biblical concepts.
2. Christian 12-Step Programs and other types of support and self-help groups.
3. Pastors, who give their best advice, based on their experience and seminary education.
4. Christians who have a “deliverance ministry.”
5. Christian Marriage and Family Therapists.
6. Christian Social Workers.
7. Ph.D. Clinical Psychologists (who attempt to integrate Christian principles and secular counseling knowledge).
8. Christian professional counselors.
9. Secular counselors who call themselves Christians.
It is even more difficult to determine which of those who advertise themselves as “Christian counselors” are actually using counseling theory based on the Bible rather than secular theory and techniques. Let me demonstrate this from my own experience.
Churches today are caught between the growing epidemic of difficult psychological problems for which they do not have clear biblical answers, a secular psychological community that cannot assist from a biblical point of view, and a confusing array of what is called “Christian counseling.” Most pastors have attempted to resolve this situation by referring their members to counselors that others have recommended or with whom they have personally developed a relationship, or, at least, to a counseling center associated with a church of a similar doctrine. Unfortunately, not even this approach is without its problems. In many cases, even Christian counselors, working out of church counseling centers, have been primarily educated in secular training programs in order to be licensed by the state. Some churches only recruit counselors based on their secular accreditation. Because these counselors usually have had little or no actual Christian counseling training, they continue to use primarily secular theories and techniques. In fact, most of the Christian counselors I know have been trained as Marriage and Family Therapists and primarily use secular Marriage and Family Therapy techniques.
The Church Has “Admitted” it Does Not Have the Answers
In spite of the mixed results, the church of our day continues to refer its more difficult problems outside the church and, in doing so, to a large degree has abdicated the psychological battlefield to the secular community. In a world filled with more and more hurting people, we have chosen to “admit” that we do not have the answers to these more difficult problems. It is as if we have forgotten that part of Jesus’ commission was to “heal the brokenhearted and to set the captive free.” The mission of the church is not only to bring sinners to Christ, but also to assist those who have been saved to become completely whole and to be conformed to the image of Christ.
In addition, we have missed one of the greatest possibilities in our society to demonstrate that Jesus is indeed the answer for the world in which we live. What greater opportunity could we ask for than that hurting people come to us, looking for the answers to the problems in their lives? The Bible puts it this way:
When [men] are cast down, then thou shalt say, [There is] lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. (Job 22:29)
Few Agree on What Christian Counseling Should Be
Because we have not had a clear biblical picture of what Christian counseling should be or detailed biblical answers for many of the harder psychological problems, the entire area of Christian counseling has been caught up in controversy for many years. The basic underlying question is how much should Christian counseling be based directly on the Bible and how much should it be based on secular research and counseling methods.
In the Spring, 1996, issue of Christian Counseling Today, Dr. Worthington addressed this ongoing controversy, Christian psychology, including marital therapy, has been under attack for years by critics such as Jay Adams and the Bobgans. Attacks have centered around whether the assumptions of psychology are compatible with Christianity, whether psychology is scripturally correct (since it uses concepts, such as self-esteem, not found in scriptures), and whether science as a way of knowing is incompatible with revelation as a way of knowing. (pp. 9-10) Churches Do Not Agree on the Role and Content of Christian Counseling
There are numerous schools of thought on the subject of Christian counseling in our churches. Positions are as varied as the many flavors of Christian churches and denominations. Based on my experience, I recognize five distinct general categories or positions on these issues.
The first position is associated with churches that believe counseling does not have a place in the church at all. Among some of the most strict, fundamental churches, the feeling seems to be that when a person is saved and becomes a "new creature," (according to 2nd Corinthians 5:17), all his problems should rapidly be resolved. They admit that in actual experience, they see quicker results for some than others. In any case, the solution is to simply repent, stop sinning and rededicate your life. Any suggestion that these problems might have roots in the past is looked upon as trying to excuse wrong behavior or avoid responsibility for sin. The advice given by a pastor or elder should be enough to resolve any and every situation. “Spiritual warfare” is seen as the answer for the more difficult problems. If repenting, praying, laying on of hands, basic biblical principles, and deliverance sessions are not enough, then the problem must lie in the individual's unwillingness or lack of faith. Problems are usually seen as simplistic, short term, isolated, and individualistic. Psychology is seen as something to be avoided at all costs, since its basis is in humanism, many of its theories are anti-biblical and some of its techniques are reminiscent of the new age movement. A strong fear, not unjustified, is that "counseling" could provide an inroad for humanism into the church.
The second position is also taken by fundamentalist and evangelical churches and is many times referred to as "biblical" counseling. These churches would agree with many of the viewpoints already discussed, but they see counseling as the application of the Bible to life's situations. Sometimes counseling training seminars, which try to apply Bible principles to the lives of people, are given for pastors and laymen. Lay counseling programs are many times established in larger churches. The most important principle is that everything must be derived from the Bible. Usually secular psychology is not acceptable in any form. They would generally quote Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (NIV) Frequently, problems are seen as individual and simplistic. Unfortunately, this has often resulted in a shallow understanding of many of life's more difficult problems.
The third position is that the basic theories of Christian counseling are yet to be developed, based on a combination of biblical knowledge and a psychological (though not secular) understanding of the human soul. They are attempting to go beyond a secular understanding of psychology to develop a more uniquely Christian approach to counseling. Secular psychological theories are only accepted to the extent that they are perceived to agree with the Bible. Many of these theories are general in nature or problem specific, and fail to give quality answers to long-standing psychological problems. They are usually based out of a particular Bible college, school, or counseling center and, up to this point, have had a somewhat limited following.
The fourth category attempts to integrate secular counseling theory and techniques with Christian principles. It usually takes the form of Christian counseling within explicitly Christian counseling centers, Christian clinics or hospitals. In these settings, Christian counseling is based on the Bible as much as possible, but also uses experientially developed research and psychological knowledge, which does not contradict the Bible. Many of these counselors have degrees from secular universities and are licensed or registered in their states. Especially in Christian clinics or hospitals, Christian counseling is merged with secular medical and psychological practices. The emphasis is on providing effective help through a thorough understanding of the problem and applying whatever techniques are most effective. The justification is that all real truth is "God's truth," so that whatever is true and does not contradict the Bible is using God's revealed truth no matter which way it was revealed. They believe that psychology has discovered many relevant facts about the soul that can be used to help people.
The fifth category is the position taken by many of the more main line and liberal denominations. Christian and psychological principles are liberally mixed and biblical authority is not necessarily seen as the primary source of truth. Many of these denominations teach courses on psychology and pastoral counseling as part of their required seminary education for pastors. Much of what has been termed pastoral counseling also suffers from a shallow understanding of the more difficult problems, and in many cases is limited to the giving of advice based on the pastor’s experience.
We Need More Effective Biblically Based Therapy to Resolve this Controversy
At the core of this controversy is a dilemma. We are caught between two alternatives. At one end is a shallow level of biblical counseling which attempts to apply basic biblical principles to difficult life-dominating problems. This is the reductionistic approach. The other alternative is to lean more to secular theories or at least to research methods in order to more adequately address these problems. At the very heart of this issue is the lack of solid biblical theory and deeper biblical answers for these intricate problems.
The real question here is a doctrinal one: How much are we to rely on the Bible for the direction and the healing of our lives? This is the real issue between fundamentalist and liberal churches. To the extent that a person believes that the Bible is God's totally inspired, complete, and infallible revelation, the more he will usually want to have Christian counseling based on the Bible. Broger (1994) states the most conservative point of view when he suggests that, "These man-made solutions to problems of mind, heart, and spirit are as unacceptable to God as are man's futile speculations and substitutes for salvation and the unalterable truths of God's Word." (Lesson 1, page 7) He backs this position with several verses:
1 Co 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
The opposite point of view agrees that God does reject man's wisdom and considers it vain or useless, but that does not necessarily mean He rejects knowledge, part of which, in reality, is God's knowledge or truth. Peter states that everything we need is available through "the knowledge of Him,”
2 Pe 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
The Apostle Paul suggests that one of the ways we learn this “knowledge of Him” is through our observation of His creation:
Ro 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
According to this point of view, Christian counseling should be based as much as possible on the Bible, but God does not reject knowledge discovered through research (the study of the things that were made). In addition, spiritual revelation is clearly supported by the Bible. However, we must be careful to determine, in each circumstance, what is really God's truth. This can be a difficult challenge.
Let me clarify the use of these three types of knowledge by an analogy: Your car is having a problem and needs to be fixed. You have three sources of help available:
1. A friend who is a backyard mechanic. He has no contact with the manufacturer and has never gone to a factory-authorized school to learn to work on cars, but has been working on them for some time. He has not necessarily even read the shop manual. Some of his ideas about cars may be misguided, but through trial and error and his own experience, he has had some success at fixing cars.
2. A mechanic with training from a technical school. He thoroughly knows the maintenance manual. He may not have as much experience fixing cars as the backyard mechanic; but by following the steps in the manual, he is successful most of the time.
3. A factory trained mechanic. He knows the engineer who designed the car. He understands the maintenance manual, but many times relies more on the engineer, who designed the car, when he cannot figure out a problem.
All three have some idea of what to do and all have their particular strengths, but not one of them can handle all automobile problems better than the others can. Which mechanic would you choose?
Of course, the analogy is simple. The backyard mechanic is the psychologist who has learned much of what he knows through research and experience, but you cannot trust his theories. We should remember that psychology is simply:
1. The science of the human mind in any of its aspects, operations, powers, or functions.
2. The systematic investigation of mental phenomena, especially those associated with consciousness, behavior, and the problems of adjustment to the environment.
3. The aggregate of the emotions, traits, and behavior patterns regarded as characteristics of the individual… or group…. (Funk & Wagnalls, 1963)
If the psychologist does not agree with the maintenance manual—the Bible—you better not let him work on your car. Some of his methods work extremely well and agree with the Bible, such as the use of systematic desensitization to overcome irrational fears, and others do not. Some backyard mechanics are absolutely dangerous, like a counselor who introduced a person who I knew was struggling with homosexuality, to homosexual friends. The backyard mechanic's strong points are his many years of experience fixing cars, his knowledge concerning specific problems, and a number of proven techniques. His weaknesses are some of his "off the wall" theories, his tendency to be influenced by political correctness, his unbiblical worldview and goals and his lack of spiritual insight. "Truth," in this context must be very closely examined, and only relied on when it clearly agrees with the Bible.
The technical school trained mechanic is the counselor who not only knows the Bible, but also has had some experience applying it effectively to people's lives. He understands the principles of the Bible, what the Bible says about most problems, and how to apply it in many cases. His strong point is a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible. His weak point is usually a lack of full understanding of multifaceted psychological problems. We can strongly rely on his biblical knowledge as far as it goes, but we must be careful to remember that he is limited by his depth of understanding the Bible, his correctness in interpreting the Scripture, his knowledge of the problem, and his ability to apply these correctly to a particular problem. I remember "biblical" advice that I gave as a new pastor, which was inappropriate because I lacked an in-depth understanding of the presenting problem.
The factory-trained mechanic is the spiritually sensitive pastor, who can hear from the Holy Spirit and knows how to get help from the design engineer (God). His strong points are his spiritual application of the power of the Holy Spirit, the Chief Counselor, through spiritual gifts and prayer. His weak points are usually a lack of in-depth understanding of psychological problems, the lack of absolute reliability in knowing for sure which insights are from God or himself, and not having the time to provide long-term therapy to deal with the more difficult cases. Here again, he must be careful not to think that every insight he has is unequivocally "God's complete truth."
Even if we accept that we need a combination of all three—practical experience and research, Bible knowledge and spiritual revelation—the real question still remains concerning how much our Christian counseling should rely on each type of knowledge. The answer, I believe, is that we need to rely on each to the extent that it is reliable. I believe that for most Christians, the Bible is clearly seen to be the most reliable of the three. Therefore, Christian counseling should rely as much as possible on the Bible, secondly on spiritual revelation, and, thirdly, on secular research, theories and techniques (that agree with the Bible) as is necessary to bring complete psychological healing to the client.
Ideally, if the Bible is God's most complete and reliable revelation, then it should provide the foundation for all that is done within the church. If God’s process of making people whole in the Bible is salvation by faith, then it should provide the basis for the counseling process in the church. I believe that if deeper biblical answers, based on the process of salvation by faith, were readily available for the tough psychological problems in the church, what has been called biblical or pastoral counseling and what has been called Christian counseling would become more congruent. In addition, I believe that if Christian counseling was primarily based on the process of salvation by faith, it would be more readily accepted into the church, and more churches would be willing to incorporate it within their church programs.
The Principles of Faith Therapy
As I will develop in detail later in this book, the biblical process of salvation or wholeness is based on faith in God and His promises to meet our needs. We start out in life motivated totally by our own self-interests and getting our needs met. When we believe in Christ, we begin a process of learning to trust God to meet all our needs. Only as we believe that our needs have been, are, and shall always be met by God, are we set free from the bondage of trying to meet selfishly our basic needs for love, security, worth and significance. As our faith grows and we experience the love of God, our self-bias or selfishness is replaced by love for others. Finally, it is this love that replaces self-interest as the primary motivation of our lives. This is the ultimate sign of both spiritual and psychological wholeness.
Because salvation by faith is God’s chosen method to bring healing and wholeness to people, then it only makes sense that whatever is done in the realm of Christian counseling must fit within God’s plan of salvation. As we will see, all other Christian counseling modalities can be integrated into this process, as a means for removing the blockages to what God is attempting to do in our lives. In addition, we must learn how to identify and discover the root causes that underlie the hindrances to the process of salvation by faith and resolve them through the application of faith. Underlying each blockage is always an unmet need, which the client has attempted to meet in some fashion through the flesh. When these problems are primarily the result of need deficits, I refer to them as deeply rooted problems since the root of the problem resides in the core psychological needs of the person himself. Therefore, the primary component of a deeply rooted problem is a lack of faith that God will meet that need.
Faith Therapy is a biblically derived and integrated method for psychological healing and spiritual growth based on the process of salvation by faith. Biblical models, principles and methods are used to identify the root cause of a problem, remove any hindrance to spiritual growth and develop the faith necessary to overcome the problem. The tenants of Faith Therapy were derived directly from the Bible, as God provided greater insights over a period of years. It began with an attempt to understand how the process of salvation or wholeness was achieved by faith in God. As this revelation began to unfold through the story of Abraham, the father of faith, it led to a widening understanding of additional models, principles and methods that effectively dealt with more and more of these deeply rooted psychological problems.
Faith Therapy is biblically integrated, because it has been derived directly from the Bible and embraces all aspects and doctrines of the Bible as a whole. It attempts to integrate all the principles of the Bible into a coherent, holistic approach for healing the entire person, including mind, will, emotions and spirit. In dealing with complex problems, it uses a narrative approach because it relies heavily on a biblical world-view and a study of numerous biblical narrative stories, using a types and shadows interpretation of the Bible. These narratives provide the advanced biblical principles and psychological truth that serve as strategies for therapy or healing. Faith Therapy focuses on dealing with the root cause, which is a lack of faith, not just the symptoms of the problem. It also addresses the overall growth of psychological and spiritual wholeness over the life span of the client. It suggests that the overall orchestration of the process of healing is the job of the Holy Spirit and that the counselor is enlisted for a limited time to address specific blockages in the process of salvation.
Faith Therapy is unique in that it is based solely on the process of biblical salvation by faith. After determining the root problem and helping the client to realize that he cannot resolve it without God, the most fundamental step in the healing process is leading the client to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior. Once Christ has been accepted, the Holy Spirit orchestrates the process of salvation or wholeness. The Christian counselor’s job is to help the client remove any roadblocks to this process and assist him to grow in Christian maturity once the roadblocks are removed. In addition to bringing relief to the presenting problem, faith therapy views all problems as symptoms of deeper life issues, which are rooted in a lack of faith in God to meet the client’s most basic needs. Bible principles and models are used for the overall direction of therapy to overcome the original presenting problem, since relying on God’s Word builds faith in God—the ultimate answer. These models focus directly on areas where faith is needed to overcome a particular psychological or spiritual vulnerability. In this process, numerous methods, ministries and counseling modalities are applied: preaching, teaching, intercession, prayer, worship, discipleship, confrontation, deliverance, compassion, insight therapy, faith healing, the gifts of the Spirit, prophetic ministry, Theophostic healing of emotions, mentoring, support groups, supportive relationships and many others. Faith Therapy is best applied within a dynamic body of believers in a local Church, where faith is taught and put into practice on a daily basis.
As I have already stated a number of times, Faith Therapy has been derived directly from the Bible. Therefore, this question really becomes, “What is the basic psychological model on which the Bible is based?” As I will discuss in more detail later in this book, according to the Bible the basis of most psychological problems is sin or “missing the mark.” In fact, it was the sin of Adam and Eve that is responsible for all sickness and pain in the world. If we accept the fact that, as a minimum, sin is the basis of at least all psychological problems that result from our free choices, then what is the basis of sin? It is based on our free choice to try to direct our own lives in order to meet our needs without God. Each of us is driven to meet our most fundamental psychological needs of the self: for love, security, worth and significance. Attempting to meet these needs of the self, in our own strength, is called self-centeredness or selfishness, and it lies at the core of our sin nature. These needs provide the motivation for everything that we do or attempt to do in the flesh. The flesh wars against the Spirit for the control of the soul in order to fulfill the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). What I have just described constitutes what I call the “basic need model” and it provides the psychological basis for Faith Therapy.
What Are the Primary Areas of Application?
Faith Therapy provides for the integration of Christian counseling within the framework of the process of salvation by faith and for the direct application of faith to resolve deeply rooted psychological and spiritual problems. This direct application of faith is especially effective in treating fears, anxiety, insecurity and stress. It specifically leads the client to accept Christ as Savior and Lord, and addresses problems that arise out of selfish attempts to meet the core psychological needs of love, security, worth, and significance through the flesh. However, through the application of counseling models and the development of counseling plans based on biblical principles, it is effective in addressing all spiritual and psychological problems.
How is Faith Therapy Integrated with Other Counseling Modalities?
Faith Therapy plays a pivotal role in integrating all Christian counseling modalities within a single overall framework, through an understanding of the process of salvation by faith. It fills the gap with faith, between the unmet needs of the person and the person’s unsuccessful attempts to meet those needs in their own strength.
Faith Therapy in the Church
As I have already discussed, there is a wide diversity of opinions as to the role of counseling in the church. Therefore, before proceeding with further discussion, let me first establish from the Bible that counseling belongs and is needed in today’s church.
Christian Counseling Belongs in the Church
The Bible is clear that counseling was to be an important part of Jesus' earthly ministry and anointing,
Isa 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
11:2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
The biblical basis for establishing Christian counseling in the church is found, in part, in Jesus' declaration of His own mission on earth.
Lu 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Unfortunately, in most churches there are many people who have accepted Christ, but just do not seem to be able to receive an emotional healing by faith, overcome their past or acquire God's abundant life. They seem to have invisible obstacles that they just cannot overcome. They are stuck in the process of salvation; or at least, they need assistance in knowing what to do to become whole. Since the Greek word for salvation, sozo, also means to be made completely whole, this should not be the case. Although not all of these obstacles are psychological, the majority are, and in order to carry out the mission that Christ has now passed on to His church, we are going to have to learn how to deal effectively with these problems.
If counseling was to be part of Jesus' ministry and He is the head of the church, then where does counseling fit into the New Testament church? Since the goal of counseling is to assist in bringing individuals into complete wholeness, I believe that counseling must be accomplished by those within the leadership and ministry of the church. Ephesians Chapter 4 makes it clear that the leadership of the local church is God's means of bringing Christians into "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
I see counseling as a specialized and specifically anointed ministry within these callings, filling the role of a shepherd who helps very sick sheep or of a spiritual "veterinarian." Ideally, counseling should be a fully integrated function of the leadership of each church, possibly through pastor-counselors or elders who specialize in counseling. In smaller churches, if elders or trained counselors are not available, this ministry may have to take the form of a pastor who has learned to counsel, or a lay counselor who helps with long-term problems through individual counseling or support groups.
A second biblical reason for including Christian counseling within the church is that Christ directed His church to go into all the world with the gospel (Mark 16:15) and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NLT). Since counseling will draw significant numbers of people to the church in order to get their needs met, it can become a very effective method of evangelism in our society. People with problems naturally seek the answers for those problems by turning to support groups and counselors. When those support groups and counseling methods are salvation-based, the counseling process naturally leads to addressing the subject of the client’s salvation. Although it is never appropriate to attempt to coerce the client into accepting Christ, the majority of those who are not already saved will accept Him once they understand that Jesus is indeed the answer to their problems. When the counseling is conducted within the church setting, it is natural for those who are not already established in churches to want to attend where they have found the answers that have improved their lives. Consequently, both reaching out to our society in an appropriate way and making disciples is facilitated through the integration of Christian counseling within the church.
The Structure of Christian Counseling in the Church
When we attempt to determine how Christian counseling should be structured in the church, I believe that under the direction of the Holy Spirit, it must provide the most effective structure or means that helps the largest number of hurting people within the resources of the church. For most churches, this means a combination of approaches: Pastoral counseling, some professional or lay counseling and a support group or care ministry.
I believe that almost any attempt to begin a counseling ministry in the church will eventually result in this same basic structure. This structure will be shaped by the needs of the hurting people coming and the limited resources of the church. Counselors attempting to practice in a church will eventually realize that they can only help a small number of people on an individual basis. Support groups effectively minister to large numbers of people at little or no cost. Certain types of problems, such as addictions and codependency, are most effectively dealt with in groups. In addition, support groups provide the unconditional acceptance, nurturing and long-term care that is required by many clients after therapy has been completed.
I do not believe that because Christian counseling and especially Faith Therapy primarily belong in the church that this excludes a role for the Christian counselor who practices outside the church in private practice, a separate counseling center, or Christian clinic or hospital. Most churches cannot afford to have a professional counselor, counseling center, clinic, day hospital or hospital to deal with the more specialized or extreme problems. Most of these centers include comprehensive programs that cannot be easily supported in a church environment. Just as the general practitioner medical doctor refers to a specialist for difficult cases, I believe this is one of the functions of the Christian counselor in the church: to refer clients beyond his general expertise to specialized Christian counseling centers, clinics, or hospitals. Reciprocally, these Christian centers, clinics, and hospitals need to provide as much technical support to church counselors, support groups, and local churches as possible, since a coordinated healing process is essential.
In reality, there is a natural dividing line between Christian counselors in the church and Christian counselors who have also had secularly approved training. Most states do not license, register or regulate Christian, biblical, or pastoral counseling. They usually do license, register and regulate Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists, Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Drug and Alcohol Counselors. In almost all cases, Christian counseling training programs, especially if they are faith based and not regionally accredited, are not accepted for licensure in any of these secular specialties. Some Christian counselors have chosen to obtain a secular degree in order to be licensed. Others are not willing to spend the time or money to learn secular counseling theory and methods that do not agree with the Bible in order to obtain licensure. Unlicensed counselors are not usually accepted as insurance providers and, therefore, find it hard to establish a financially successful independent practice. This natural dividing line between those with and without licensure usually separates the few stand-alone Christian counseling centers, clinics, and hospitals which are capable of becoming financially successful outside of the church because they are insurance providers, from Christian counselors associated or integrated into the church.
Consequently, I suggest two practical roles for Christian counselors. First, each church should have at least one full or part-time trained pastor-counselor, Christian counselor, or elder who is part of the church staff who can provide individual counseling in the church or at least lead a support group ministry. He would probably not be licensed, would not accept insurance, and serves as a “general Christian counseling practitioner.” He would usually charge fees determined by an income-based sliding scale, or he may be a lay counselor who provides his services for free. Because he would not be licensed, he would be less restricted by state regulations and secular ethical codes. He would still be required to maintain professional counseling insurance if he charges fees. Otherwise, he could be covered by the church’s pastoral counseling insurance. The second role is that of the licensed professional Christian counselor who practices in a private practice, explicitly Christian counseling center, clinic or hospital. This counselor is able to take insurance and develop specific expertise beyond that of the church counselor. His role is that of the specialist. He deals with the most difficult cases and provides capabilities like inpatient care which are beyond the capabilities of almost all churches. This role does not preclude the use of Faith Therapy theory or methods that may integrate other Christian counseling modalities.
The Role of the Church Counselor
Just as the apostle, prophet, teacher, and evangelist must be submitted to the senior pastor, so the church counselor should be submitted to the local church pastor, so that the church and the “perfecting of the saints" can be conducted as an integrated, unified whole. It is common for a person to seek advice from several ministers and get different opinions based on the different ministers' backgrounds and approaches to counseling. Because of this, it is important that the role of the church counselor be clearly defined. He should deal only with the support group ministry and counsel long-term critical problems. Short-term problems and the giving of advice, direction, pastoral care and discipline should remain another pastor’s job.
This position of counseling in the church presents some unique challenges for the counselor. He must be integrated thoroughly into the church, but avoid dual relationships with the members of the church where he counsels. This means that he cannot counsel personal friends or make church decisions that personally impact his clients. Consequently, it is important that the church counselor avoid disciplinary or executive roles in the church. The counselor must be able to flow with the amateur, volunteer atmosphere of most churches. Professional counseling offices require well-trained staff, excellent maintenance, top-notch facilities, soundproofing and the exclusive use of offices. This ideal situation will probably not be available in most churches. Flexibility is an important trait for anyone hoping to provide counseling and work with support groups within the church setting.
The church counselor must be involved in all aspects of the church, but not take sides in conflicts. To be effective, the counselor must be seen as impartial. His job must be structured in such a way that he can support and bring healing to the church, without becoming embroiled in conflicts in the church. He must be the solid supporting rock that weathers even the most severe divisional storms. Pastoral staffs, in most churches, have a notoriously high turnover rate. He must not see his job as a stepping-stone to another position. He must be convinced that, ultimately, he has been called by God to fill the position of a church counselor. His position in the church should have the title of an associate pastor or elder to reflect the authority necessary to be effective in helping to resolve church conflicts and the problems of his clients in the church. These restrictions should not be taken to mean that the counselor should be isolated from the other functions of the church. He should be closely involved in staff meetings, boards, and other decisions in the church, especially those that affect the well-being of the members of the church.
As is the case with other staff, the counselor must loyally support the Senior Pastor in every way. This does not mean that he is a “yes” man, but that when a final decision has been made that he comes under spiritual authority and supports it (unless it violates clear legal, moral, or scriptural principles). If clients criticize a pastor or question decisions made by leaders, he should direct them to the offending person, according to Matthew Chapter 18.
The church counselor should be expected to raise up, teach, and supervise additional counselors and support group facilitators in order to meet the needs of the congregation better. As the counseling ministry grows, he will also need to disciple additional leaders to become involved in various aspects of the counseling ministry. Although he might also provide counseling for those outside of the congregation, members of the congregation should be given priority. Counselors working with members of other congregations need to obtain a specific written release of confidentiality in order to discuss issues that may relate to the client's church and to coordinate efforts with the client's pastor.
Licensed Counseling in the Church
In some cases, larger churches will find it desirable to have support groups, church counselors, and licensed professionals operating within the church. I believe that all of these ministries can and should employ the methods of Faith Therapy, since it will be more easily accepted and integrated within the church structure and doctrine. When handled in a coordinated manner, this combination of groups, church counselors and licensed professionals provides more credibility and increased potential to reach unsaved people in the community. Licensed or court approved programs, such as drug and alcohol counseling, domestic violence programs and sexual abuse support groups draw hurting people to the church. However, additional specific counseling programs should be carefully evaluated before inclusion in the church setting. Whatever is done must be integrated with and not contradict biblical principles and models appropriate to the church situation.
Liability Issues with Christian Counseling in the Church
One of the biggest hindrances to the growth of Christian counseling in our churches is the fear that it could lead to malpractice litigation. In actuality, if a counseling program is carefully constructed, the increased risk of litigation is small. This additional risk can be easily overcome through the use of counseling malpractice insurance at a minimal cost. I suggest the following guidelines:
1. Advertise and conduct group therapy as self-help or support groups. Self-help or support groups claim only that they attempt to support members in their recovery from a particular problem, facilitate exchange of common experiences and attempt to help each of the members grow in the recovery process. In fact, many self-help leaders are simply those that have recovered or are in the process of recovery and have a burden for others still suffering from the identified problem. Because self-help groups do not claim to provide expert advice and counseling, there is almost no potential for filing a malpractice lawsuit.
2. Cover any support group leaders, lay counselors and pastors under the church’s pastoral counseling rider, on the church insurance. As long as no money is received for counseling services, most church insurance will add any “ministers” to the policy for a very nominal cost.
3. Add any professional Christian counselor or counselors, who charge for their services, as contractors and require them to carry their own counseling insurance covering the church as an “additional insured.” Contractors are normally self-employed and hired to provide a complete service to the church, meet their own ethical and legal obligations to their profession, and provide their own supervision if required. The normal obligations that a church has to its employees like workman’s compensation, income tax withholding, employee evaluations, being totally responsible for the employees conduct and providing detailed oversight are not required to the same extent for contractors, as long as the contractors fulfill the obligations of their contract. If they fail to provide these services, the contract can simply be terminated. Consequently, claims of negligence due to a lack of detailed oversight are difficult to prove. One million dollars of mental health practitioners insurance for a self-employed counselor currently costs less than $200 per year when purchased through professional organizations such as the American Association of Christian Counselors. The additional charge for covering a church as an “other insured” usually costs less than fifty dollars. Unfortunately, most mental health insurance agencies require that counselors have at least a Bachelor’s degree in a mental health field. An exception is NAADAC, which serves Drug and Alcohol counselors. Consequently, lay counselors that have not obtained at least a Bachelor’s degree will not usually be able to obtain professional counseling insurance and, therefore, should not charge for their services, so that they can be covered by the church’s insurance policy.
4. Require that all counselors attend counseling supervision on a periodic basis and discuss all of their cases with a licensed or degreed therapist. Supervision is required by most states for all licensed therapists for at least the first few years after they obtain their license. Although this is not normally required of Christian counselors, this practice is one of the best methods of insulating the church from litigation. Supervision can be provided by any licensed or degreed therapist on staff or by a contract counselor. Charges for supervision, which is normally done in groups, are usually not expensive.
Using the guidelines that I have just discussed, we have not even had one threat of litigation in more than ten years. We provide support groups, lay counseling, drug and alcohol counseling, Christian counseling, and licensed professional therapy involving over twenty group leaders and counselors. Of course, we thank the Lord for His protection because we live in a litigious society.
Counseling Outside the Church
Although it is my opinion that Christian counseling will be more effective and do more to advance the Kingdom of God when integrated within church programs, I still believe that there is a place for Christian counseling outside of the church setting. As I have already stated, licensed Christian counselors practicing outside of the church should develop full-time counseling practices at Christian counseling centers, clinics or hospitals that specialize in meeting the unfulfilled needs of the church. Their goal should be to serve as a specialist for a number of churches or the entire community. They must be careful to walk the fine line between the obligations of their Christian counseling calling, state regulations and the secular ethical codes of their licensed profession. This is especially problematic when it comes to avoiding dual relationship with members of their own church, and the temptation to suggest strongly that Christian truth is the only answer. In most states and licensed counseling professions, it is considered unethical for a licensed therapist to tell a client what is or is not absolutely right or wrong for him. Instead, the counselor is expected to help the client understand his own values and explore the alternatives. Licensed professionals are clearly at more risk for complaints to regulatory boards and malpractice litigation.
In order to develop a model for biblical narrative therapy, we must learn more about the overall process of salvation (or wholeness), and how it is actually carried out by the Chief Counselor, the Holy Spirit. Although other models for counseling might suffice for dealing with problems of a less complex nature, we need a comprehensive model that focuses on the entire person when attempting to address the complex difficult problems addressed in this book. The Bible gives us exactly what we need. Possibly the best known, most extensive, and clearest type and shadow in the Bible is that of the story of the children of Israel's exodus from Egypt and their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The story of the exodus of the children of Israel is found in the Bible in the books of Exodus through Joshua. When understood in-depth, it provides us with an almost unfathomable wealth of information concerning the process of salvation by faith, the types of psychological struggles that Christians can expect to encounter, and a method for overcoming these severe problems.
Deliverance from Egypt
The first step in the journey toward complete wholeness is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as savior. A significant number of clients seen at Christian counseling centers are not "saved" and definitely have not yielded the direction of their lives to Christ. Therefore, one of the first steps toward wholeness is the initiation of the basic process of salvation. In most cases, a trusting therapeutic relationship with the counselor must first be established through empathetically listening to the client's presenting problems. Then the counselor will be in a position to demonstrate to the client that salvation is essential to his full recovery. This need for salvation will become extremely clear once the problem is isolated, and the process for dealing with the problem is explained.
The process of this first step is seen in the story of the children of Israel's struggle to leave Egypt (which stands for the world with its riches and opportunities). I believe Moses represents the Holy Spirit, whose job it is to lead us out of the world. I believe that Aaron, whose name means enlightened, represents the enlightened Christian counselor who is called to speak for Moses to assist in the deliverance of God's people. God defines the relationship between Moses and Aaron in Exodus 4:16: "And he (Aaron) shall be thy spokesperson unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee (Moses) instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God."
The first job of the Christian counselor (Aaron) is to build hope and faith in the client. The Bible uses the Greek word paramutheo, which means "to speak close" or “comfort,” to describe this style of counseling. Comforting begins by telling the client of God's plan of deliverance.
Ex 4:29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel: 30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.
The signs referred to in verse 30 are the signs given by God to Moses in Exodus 4:4-9. They are: 1. When he cast down his rod it became a snake and when he picked it up again it became a rod. 2. When he put his hand into his bosom it became leprous, and when he put it back again it became whole. 3. When he poured water from the river onto the land, it became blood. I believe these three examples stand for what Christ has done for us. The snake or sin, when picked up by the tail, was transformed into a rod of authority. Christ, who was made sin for us, has given this authority us over Satan. The hand (or our actions) that were leprous or sinful because of the selfishness of our hearts, is made whole through God's power. This is accomplished through the forgiveness of our sins and our sanctification through faith. Finally, the water from the river poured out on the land, stands for the outpouring of the Spirit, which brings life (represented by the blood) to the whole world. We, as counselors, are to bring hope by demonstrating through our own lives and the lives of others that God has power over Satan, has provided the forgiveness of sins, and has given us His abundant life through the power of God's Spirit.
The second job of the Christian counselor is to confront the world and Satan who hold the client captive. The word in Colossians 1:28 translated as “warn” is noutheteo which means "to warn or confront." Jay Adams (1973) has based his entire style of counseling on this principle. Here we have a definite application of that style.
Col 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
Confrontation is accomplished by challenging the ways of the world used by the client, and demonstrating that these ways do not work. Many times this is quite easy in a counseling setting, because the client has come to counseling after realizing that what he is doing does not work. This openness to new ways of dealing with life is one of the reasons that counseling is such an effective tool for evangelism. However, we must not expect Satan to give up easily. In fact, the client's problems may initially increase when he decides to quit relying on his worldly ways of coping with life. This is exactly what happened to the children of Israel in Exodus Chapter 5. Pharaoh increased the amount of work required of the Israelites by refusing to give them straw. We should also not be surprised if the client, family, and friends blame us for these increased problems just as the children of Israel did when they blamed Moses and Aaron.
The judgments and miracles of God in Egypt represent this type of confrontation with the world's system. As I have noted below, each was a specific challenge to one or more of the gods of Egypt. (See Missler, 2000)
1. Aaron cast down his rod and it became a snake. The Egyptians magicians also cast down their rods and they became snakes, but Aaron's snake swallowed up their snakes. The cobra was the symbol of Egyptian sovereignty. The snake is also the symbol of Satan and sin. This sign demonstrated that the authority and power of Christ (the rod) is greater than that of world and Satan (the magician’s rods). The effectiveness of Christian counseling today demonstrates that the power and methods of Christ are greater than the secular theories and methods of the world.
2. When Aaron struck the Nile River with his rod it turned to blood killing all of the fish in the river. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile as the source of life. Osiris, the chief god of the Nile River, was one of the most respected gods of Egypt. Those who worship the God of this world will find out that the world’s life only results in the death of the very things they need most in their lives (the fish). The world cannot and will not truly meet the client's needs. Nonetheless, worldly people (the Egyptians) usually just ignore their own selfish ways and see their struggles as just a natural part of life; not a clear indication of their need for God.
3. The land was covered with frogs. One of the chief goddesses of the land was Hekt, the wife of the “creator of the world.” She was represented by a frog. Egypt’s worship of frogs prevented them from destroying the frogs that polluted the land. I believe the frogs stand for the dishonorable habits and the addictions of life. The world uses its addictions and habits as a way of coping with life. All of us agree that these habits and addictions make life stink and that the world is not capable or completely willing to eradicate them. The frogs that remained in the river show that as long as the client relies on the god of this world, he will not escape his addictions. It is interesting to note that even many secular addiction therapy programs today use Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program. This treatment process was originally derived from biblical principles because most other secular therapy programs are less effective. Unfortunately, today reliance on Jesus Christ has been replaced with a “higher power ” in order to appeal to our secular society.
4. The dust became lice on man and beast. What the King James Bible translates as “lice” were most probably sand flies. (Missler, 2000) Since these sand flies came from the soil, they were a great embarrassment to Geb, the Egyptian god of the earth, to whom the Egyptians gave offerings for the bounty of the soil. Man was created from the dust. Man has no answers to explain his origin and the end of life, but the question bothers man and beast like sand flies or lice bother us. It is almost impossible to get rid of these thoughts about life and death. Evolution, which is a poor theory without reasonable support, is man's best attempt to address this question. This is the first miracle to which the Egyptians had no answer, and the client must see that, without God, he does not have an answer either.
5. The swarms afflicted the Egyptians. These were probably the scarab beetle. Amon-Ra, the king of the Egyptian gods, had the head of a beetle. These stand for the evil and selfish deeds of others that afflict every person and society in the world. These swarms did not bother the Israelites living in the land of Goshen, which means "drawing near." Christians who draw near to God through faith are set free from their selfishness and evil deeds and are protected from the deeds of others. If he will turn to God for help, God is able to deliver the client from evil just as He took away the swarms of flies from the Egyptians when they asked for help.
6. The flocks were destroyed in Egypt. Apis was the bull god and Hathor was the cow-headed goddess of the deserts. These gods were so prominent that the Israelites later made a golden calf in the wilderness to represent the gods of Egypt. The wealth and resources of the world are destroyed by catastrophes and problems like plagues, earthquakes, famines, and floods; but Christians who draw nigh to God (live in Goshen) are delivered.
7. The ashes of the furnace became boils upon man and beast. This was a challenge to Thoth, the god of intelligence and medical learning. It was the custom of the priests to throw the ashes of their human sacrifices into the air, which would be borne by the wind over the worshippers. These boils stand for the shame which results from sin. It brings inner pain and results in the ego defenses constructed by all sinners. The Christian who draws near to God (lives in Goshen) receives forgiveness, not condemnation and toxic shame. The only hope for dealing with toxic shame is received through confession and accepting the forgiveness provided by the death of Christ on the cross. A sinner can even feel conviction by just being in the presence of righteous people.
8. The hail killed all men and beasts that did not take shelter. Egypt was sunny without much rain. Where were Shu the wind god and Nut the sky god that should have protected them? This hail represents God's judgment on the earth for sin. Even the sinner can take heed of the warnings and choose to escape judgment by accepting Christ, or he will eventually be judged for his sin.
9. The locusts brought by the East wind devoured all the good things of Egypt. The locusts were a challenge to Nepri, the grain god, Ermutet, the goddess of crops, and Anubis, the jackal-headed guardian of the fields. These stand for the problems of life (the devourer of Malachi Chapter three) that are inevitable and which devour the client's blessings. God alone can heal and protect the client from life’s problems, as He did for the Israelites that lived in the land of Goshen.
10. A thick darkness covered Egypt for three days. The thick darkness was a challenge to Ra, the god of the sun, Aten, the sun’s disc, Ankh, the symbol of life from the sun, Horus, the god of the sunrise, Tem, the god of the sunset, and Shu, the god of light. The world does not have any true purpose or direction for life. It cannot predict the future, and its knowledge is so limited that it is truly darkness. If the client tries to direct his own life, he will stumble and will be unable to accomplish anything of eternal significance.
11. The death of the firstborn of Egypt. The fact that the firstborn were killed on a night with a full moon was a challenge to Thoth, the moon god. (Moses and the gods of Egypt, Wade Cox, 2000) The world has no answer for life after death and eternity. The Egyptians built huge monuments and mummified their leaders in order to provide for life after death. All die eternally, except for those saved because of Christ and His blood sacrifice for sins. When the bitterness of death comes to the firstborn of the world, the need for salvation and eternal life becomes most apparent. How many have been led to the Lord with the question, "If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?" Possibly this miracle was also in retribution for all the sons of Israel that the Egyptians had ordered to be killed in the effort to subjugate the Israelites.
12. The victory over Pharaoh through the miracles and the Red Sea. The final sign is that Pharaoh (Satan) and his forces could not follow the Israelites through the Red Sea, which stands for baptism. When an individual decides to follow Christ, trusts in His power, and submits the direction of his life to God, he will be delivered from all the power of Satan.
Building Faith in the Wilderness
The third job of the Christian counselor is to help the client build faith, as they pass through the wilderness. The newly saved person who still knows little about spiritual warfare, Christian principles, and faith is extremely vulnerable to spiritual attack. It is in the wilderness that the client is led by his circumstances to rely on God, build faith, and die to self. The Greek word parakaleo means, “to come along side of, or to console.” It is also the word for “comforter” which is used to refer to the Holy Spirit (the Chief Counselor). In Exodus Chapter 13, it is made clear that God took the children of Israel through the wilderness to prepare them for spiritual warfare.
Ex 13:17. And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not [through] the way of the land of the Philistines, although that [was] near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: 18 But God led the people about, [through] the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.
In the verses that follow in the scriptures, we see the presence of God manifested in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The first step in the process of salvation occurs in baptism and was symbolized when the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea. Baptism is an outward manifestation of the inward commitment of the client to die to self, separate from the world, and look for God to direct his life. Although baptism is essential to the process of salvation, it is many times neglected in the Christian counseling process. Moses commanded the children of Israel in Exodus 14:13 "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD."
To the extent that the new convert is still overly dependent on himself, others, and/or the world, and is not willing to forsake his sin and die to himself (as is typified by baptism), he is still an idolater or, in the language of recovery, a codependent. This term and its biblical application will be discussed in more detail in later Chapters as one of the complex problems blocking salvation or wholeness. All of the children of Israel struggled with this problem of codependence due to their experiences as slaves in Egypt. Everyone is codependent and will manifest codependent symptoms to the degree they still excessively rely on the world to meet their needs. Codependent problems account for much of the interpersonal conflict in the church. It is the counselor's job to come along side the codependent, allow him to learn from his own choices and consequences, and help him develop enough faith to enter God's "land of promises." This is no easy task. Moses and Aaron became extremely frustrated as they attempted to lead the children of Israel through the wilderness. Let us see what we can learn about this part of the salvation process.
1. Clients must appropriate for themselves what Christ did on the cross. The waters of Marah were bitter. They were made sweet when Moses cast a tree into the water. The tree represents the cross of Christ. The client must apply Christ's crucifixion to his life which will bring forgiveness and make it sweet. Simply having our spirit saved is not enough. Our flesh must be "crucified with Christ." Continuing to try to meet our own basic needs in our own strength will only make life bitter.
2. Clients can only escape the problems of life by trusting God to heal them. In Exodus 15:26, God declares himself as "the LORD that healeth thee." He promised that if the Israelites would obey, He would put none of the diseases of the Egyptians upon them. As already discussed, the diseases of the Egyptians were not only physical illnesses, but the psychological consequences of trying to meet their needs through the world which has no answers.
3. To have the abundant life, clients must accept God's government of their life by making Jesus their Lord or boss, not just their Savior. At Elim the Israelites found 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees. Elim means palms, which stands for radiant believers living under austere conditions (Wilson, p. 476) The number 12 stands for the government of God, and the number 70 stands for God's complete provision in Christ. God is limited in his ability to help those who refuse to completely submit themselves to Him, because they will not obey His directions.
4. They must learn to trust God for all their needs even in hard times. God provided the manna in the wilderness. The Israelites complained that what they ate in Egypt under slavery was better than what they were getting in the wilderness. For most clients there is a time of having a pity-party or acting as victims when they remember the pleasures of sin—their old coping mechanisms and addictions. The counselor must help them find Christ who is the true manna that will always be available in the wildernesses of life and which truly satisfies the soul. They must learn to desire the spiritual feeding of the word daily in order to develop the faith necessary to come into the even greater provision of the promises of God (the land of Canaan).
5. Client must learn to use God's authority to meet their needs. Moses smote the rock in Horeb and water came out. Complaining in the desert (Horeb) of life is not the answer. When clients asks if "the Lord is among us or not," they must be taught to use God's authority (rod) to retrieve water (life) from the rock that was smote (Christ). Getting needs met though Christ must become a reality. Many times clients will fail to do their part by not using the authority given to them by Christ.
6. The war between the flesh and the Spirit must be won. The decision to choose the spiritual answer instead of the fleshly one is critical. In Exodus 22, in the battle with Amalek (the flesh), Joshua (Jesus) had to do the fighting, but the battle was determined by Aaron (the counselor and the person's intellect) and Hur (the person's spirit) holding up Moses' hand holding the rod of authority. Jesus has already won the victory over the flesh, but it must be worked out in the client's life by the constant correct use of God's authority (the rod) assisted by his right mental choices (with counselor’s inputs) and his reliance on the Holy Spirit. We are warned that although God (Jehovah-Nissi) has promised to lead us in the battle against Amalek (the flesh), this battle will continue to be fought "from generation to generation." We should be encouraged that God promises us the final victory in that He "will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek (the flesh) from under heaven" when we are received into his heavenly kingdom. (Exodus 17:14)
7. Clients must be lead and directed by the Holy Spirit. This, of course, requires that they learn to discern the direction of the Holy Spirit. In Exodus Chapter 23, God states that he will send his angel or messenger to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. We are told that God's method of change is slow, rather than fast. Transformation occurs as we replace our old ways of coping with the new spiritual ways of meeting our innermost needs. The Holy Spirit is not in a hurry during this process.
Ex 23:29 I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. 30 By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.
8. God's first method of motivation is the law. Clients must get to know God's law as a mirror to convict of sin, not as a solution to life's problems. In it, Christians will find God's directions for living a good life and the fact that, without faith, they are powerless to obey the law. They must learn that they can be saved only through God's grace and power. When Moses delivered the law, they all agreed to obey it. However, as soon as they felt let down by God (Moses was gone 40 days), they quickly returned to the gods of Egypt. Unfortunately, so did Aaron, our model counselor. We, as Christian counselors must be careful that our own codependency and need to be successful does not lead us to return to worldly solutions for our clients!
9. God's second method of motivation is allow clients to learn from the consequences of their decisions. In order to learn, clients must be allowed to make their own choices and reap the associated consequences. Options, not advice, should be given. The children of Israel had returned to worshipping the gods of Egypt by making the golden calf. Moses broke the tablets of the law, confronting them with the fact that they had broken the law by making and worshipping the golden calf. He made them drink the powder of their idol after he had the gold the calf was made of burned, ground up, and sprinkled into their drinking water. Three thousand men were killed by the Levites, they were filled with shame because of their nakedness, and they now faced the possibility of being separated from God. Neither Moses nor Aaron attempted to protect them from these consequences. Finally, Moses entreated God that His presence would again accompany them to the Promised Land. In the same way, we as counselors are to allow our clients to face their own consequences for their sins but continue to reassure them of God’s forgiveness for their sins, His unconditional love, and His acceptance.
10. God's third method of motivation is judgment. If clients will not learn from their consequences, more direct discipline from God will be required. Clients must learn that continually lusting after worldly things brings judgment. In Numbers Chapter 11, the children of Israel began lusting for meat like they used to have when they lived in Egypt. God gave them more than they could possibly eat, but along with it came a plague that killed so many that the place was named Kibrothhattaavah, which means the grave of lust.
11. The counselor must be careful not to take sides with his clients too quickly. This is especially important if the issue is with a husband, wife, pastor or elder. The Bible warns never to judge something before hearing both sides (Proverbs 18:13) and that an accusation against an elder or pastor must be substantiated by at least two or three witnesses (1st Timothy 5:19). In Numbers Chapter 12, Aaron took sides with Miriam against the Ethiopian woman whom Moses had married. Miriam became leprous and Aaron had to appeal to Moses to ask God for her healing.
12. Without faith the giants of life cannot be overcome, and God's promises cannot be claimed. The consequence of not developing a strong faith in God is dying in the wilderness without appropriating God's abundant life here on earth. In Numbers 13, the ten spies (human infirmity) reported that the Promised Land was desirable, but that the giants in the land could not be defeated. Only Joshua and Caleb had enough faith in God to desire to enter the land of Canaan (low self-image) and drive out the giants (psychological problems). How many people in our churches have settled for a life in the wilderness, because they did not develop the faith to believe the promises of God and deal with their problems? Other attempts of clients to find his own way in life (like the children of Israel who tried to take the land without faith) are destined to fail again and again as clients are defeated by the flesh (the Amalekites) and the problems associated with there low self-image (the Canaanites).
Dying in the Wilderness
The fourth job of the Christian counselor is to help those who have chosen, due to a lack of faith, to live as carnal Christians (in the wilderness). Clients must learn, through the consequences of their own decisions, to put off the immediate gratification offered by sin (die to self). This includes learning to deal with issues such as church splits, conflicts with church authorities, divorces, and generational sin. These clients usually come to counseling only when life becomes unbearable and stay only long enough to get a little relief. Fortunately, even some of these clients can eventually find the faith to come out of the wilderness.
As the account of the children of Israel continues, we can clearly identify additional counseling principles for dealing with problems associated with unbelief.
1. The counselor must help clients deal with forgiving others and themselves. In Numbers 15, Moses was directed to provide specific sacrifices to make atonement for the sins which had been committed. Aaron was to assist with guilt sacrifices, just as the counselor is to assist clients in dealing with their guilt and shame through the forgiveness of sins, which was purchased by Jesus Christ. Those who were defiant, were to be cut off from the congregation, just as those who refuse to repent, are to be excluded from the church.
2. Through prayer, counselors should try to minimize the damage caused by rebellion. In Numbers Chapter 16, Korah challenged Moses' and Aaron's leadership, and consequently, he and his followers were swallowed up by the earth. Moses and Aaron pleaded with the Lord not to consume the whole assembly, and Aaron took a censor (containing incense which represents prayer) among the congregation to stop the plague after it had killed 14,700 of the Israelites.
3. If challenged, the counselor should allow the results of his counseling to speak as the proof of his anointing. It is not necessary or desirable for us as counselors to defend our calling if we are challenged by clients. It is the client's choice to come to us, just as it was the Israelite's choice to follow Moses and Aaron. Many of these challenges to authority are the result of transference and should be dealt with directly by addressing the real issues. If we are an effective counselor called by God, the results of our work will validate our calling. The counselor must avoid the trap of trying to please clients instead of doing what is best for them. Aaron's rod budded, proving that he was chosen by God to do his calling. (Numbers 17:8) In extreme cases, when the client is very uncooperative, referral to another counselor is always an option.
4. The counselor must closely follow the directions that God has given and not deviate from them. In Numbers Chapter 20, at Meribah, instead of speaking to the rock, out of frustration Moses struck the rock (Christ) twice to produce water. Even though the technique worked before and it did produce the needed water, both Moses and Aaron were judged for their disobedience and were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. They did not trust God's direction on the method to use to meet the needs of the Israelites. Using our own methods instead of what God directs us to do, even if our methods produce some success, will result in our own judgment for disobedience.
5. Counselors must avoid burnout through trusting God with their caseload. If we as counselors believe that we are responsible for the recovery of the people that we counsel, if we try to fix them or if we try to make their recovery happen in our own strength; we will eventually burn out and become as frustrated as Moses and Aaron. As counselors, we are warned to avoid getting frustrated with our clients, especially if this frustration leads us to try to do things our own way. Because of this frustration, Moses and Aaron were not able to personally lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.
6. Faith in Christ is to be used to deal with impatience which eventually leads to sin and judgment. In Numbers Chapter 21, rather than fight against Edom their brother, Israel was directed to take a longer way around Edom's territory. Because of impatience (wanting immediate need gratification), Israel sinned and was plagued by snakes (which represent sin). Impatience results in trying to make things happen ourselves, and this results in sin. The Israelites complained that they would die in the desert (God would not save them), that there was no bread (worldly pleasure), that there was no water (spiritual life), and that they detested the manna (the Word of God). These are symptoms of faithlessness. God's answer was to direct them to again put their faith in Christ (represented by the bronze snake on the pole, since Christ took our sins upon himself). Consequently, we must direct the client to again place his faith in Christ when he becomes impatient and turns to sin to meet his needs.
7. Contention must be decisively dealt with in relationships and in the church. Contention must be resolved through counseling, or it will infect the church and destroy unity. The Moabites (lust) enlisted Midian (contention) to tempt the Israelites to commit fornication and worship Baal-Peor. Only the decisive action by Phinehas saved the Israelites from the consequences of their fornication, which had already resulted in the death of 24,000 Israelites.
8. Support groups are important in the church as places of refuge for hurting people. In Numbers Chapter 34, six towns were set aside to protect those who had accidentally killed someone. In the church, we need places of refuge from the abuse of the world. I believe that this is one of the most important functions of care groups and support groups in the church.
Entering the Promised Land
The fifth job of the Christian counselor is to help clients defeat the psychological giants in their lives and appropriate the promises of God by faith. I believe that the names of the tribes of the land of Canaan represent the major complex psychological problems that each of us may face to one degree or another in our lives. Through an understanding of the meanings of these Hebrew names, it is possible to identify the psychological problems associated with each. In a way, this is the biblical counterpart of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) used in secular psychology to categorize mental problems. Reginald Klimionok has made a good attempt at these meanings, but not as they relate to underlying psychological problems. As an example, he identifies the Amorites as the tongue since the word means, “to speak against or boast publicly.” I have identified the Amorites, which also means prominence, as suggesting psychological problems with significance or prominence, which sometimes result in speaking against or boasting. He identifies the Canaanites, which means lowland, or brought low by traffic or trade, as problems with greed and lust for material goods. I identify the Canaanites as low self-image problems, which many times result in greed and lust. He identifies the Perizzites as the need for protection. In counseling, these are called "boundary problems." He identifies the Jebusites, which means treading or trodden down, as condemnation. I suggest it means problems of abusing others, which result in condemnation of self and others. For the Girgashites, which are mentioned later in Joshua, Klimionok suggests backsliding—based on alternate meanings of turning back from a pilgrimage and dwelling on clay or muddy soil. I believe that the implication here is "getting stuck," turning back, or quitting, which in counseling is typified by emotional problems like depression, grief, and attempting suicide.
Except for these specific differences of interpretation that I have just discussed, I agree with Klimionok’s suggested types for the remainder of these tribes. Here, to the best of my current understanding, are the giants of the land as they are listed in Exodus Chapter 23:
Ex 23:23 For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites (prominence or significance problems), and the Hittites (terror and fear problems), and the Perizzites (open country with unwalled towns or a lack of boundaries problems), and the Canaanites (humiliation or self-image problems), the Hivites (life-giving or things we do to try to meet our needs including addictions and intimacy problems), and the Jebusites (treading down or threshing place, i.e. abusive behavior): and I will cut them off (deliver you from all these problems). 24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods (be controlled or addicted to these things), nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images (false assumptions or lies that cause them)...
The analogy of tribes or organized forces is consistent with the idea that these represent groups of difficult problems, rather than individual disorders. In addition, I agree that spiritual forces take advantage of these psychological problems as suggested by Klimionok (p. 20). The psychological and the spiritual are so interwoven that all psychological problems probably have a spiritual component (Bufford, 1988, p. 51).
Because the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV, 1994) is the most recognized secular method for categorizing psychological problems, I will compare it to this biblical list of psychological giants. First, I believe that the biblical list is more general and includes a broad spectrum of common problems and dysfunctions as well as mental disorders. Conceptually DSM IV only addresses mental disorders (or mental illness). The categories of DSM IV have been empirically derived and have been significantly influenced by societal pressure and what is considered politically correct.
1. Amorites (prominence or significance problems)—This is what I call codependent independence. It results in excessive drive, performance self-worth, people pleasing, arrogance, pride, workaholism, imperativeness, desire for worldly prominence, and rescuing. Because our society is so driven by a desire for prominence, this problem is not even identified in DSM IV as a psychological disorder. Some of the symptoms of prominence appear in the Histrionic and Narcissistic Personality Disorders.
2. Hittites (fear)—This is the basis of phobias of all types, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, shyness, and withdrawal from relationships. Codependent avoidance is my recovery term for this disorder. When this problem becomes extreme it is called Avoidant Personality Disorder in DSM IV. Other problems with fear are categorized as anxiety disorders, panic disorders, adjustment disorders, and other types of personality disorders.
3. Perizzites (boundary problems)—This is classical codependent dependence with its people pleasing, inability to confront problems, staying in abusive situations, depression, angry outbursts, and enabling. When extreme, this problem sometimes results in Dependence Personality Disorder in DSM IV.
4. Canaanites (lowland or self-image problems)—This is low self-image which leads to passivity, codependency, addictions, and dysfunctional relationships of all types. Low self-image is categorized as "Problems Related to Abuse and Neglect," but may also be listed under almost all other areas because self-worth problems underlie most other problems.
5. Hivites (life-giving desires or lusts of the flesh)—This includes all addictions especially those relating to eating, intimacy and lust such as chemical dependency, alcoholism, eating addictions, romance addiction, relationship addiction, sexual addiction, and homosexuality. In DSM IV, these kinds of problems fall under substance abuse, sexual and gender disorders, and eating disorders. Homosexuality is not listed as a mental disorder in DSM IV.
6. Jebusites (to tread down, reject, trample down)—This includes all forms of control and abusive behavior including verbal, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse as well as domestic violence. Possibly the most appropriate category in DSM IV is Impulse Control Disorders and problems related to abuse or neglect. The only clear mental disorder identified by DSM IV in this area is Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
7. Girgashites (to be stuck in the mud or to turn back)—This includes all forms of emotional problems; especially depression, grief, and suicide. DSM IV lists these under mood disorders or bereavement.
God promised that the spirit of Christ would go before the Israelites (Christians) and cut off all these problems from their lives. In the verses that follow, it is clear that this is to be done in a progression of victories by faith over time. All the land on which their feet trod was to be theirs, but it had to be taken one-step at a time. Kenneth Hagin (1993) suggests that when a Christian is born again, his spirit that is saved. The salvation of the soul is then the responsibility of the Christian. My experience is that almost no one is immediately delivered from all of the giants of the Promised Land. Unfortunately, many Christians seem to have missed this progressive plan of God and the reasons behind it, and therefore expect that salvation will solve all their psychological problems immediately without great effort on their part. God understands that someone who has spent his life coping by worldly means, will not immediately trust Him to supply all his needs. Slowly these dysfunctional coping mechanisms must be replaced with spiritual ones. Faith and spiritual strength must be developed that is equal to the problems to be encountered.
Ex 23:28 And I will send hornets (stinging or scourge—an inner sting of increasing guilt as we better perceive the holiness of God) before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. 29 I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. 30 By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.
But God expects us to take all of the land and, in the end, totally replace our fleshly means with spiritual ones through faith. We are not to compromise with them even in the slightest way or let any remnant of them remain in our lives. If we do, they will cause guilt and shame which will eventually undermine our faith, which is the very basis of our salvation.
Ex 23:31 And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. 32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.
As we prepare to continue our journey of faith into the Promised Land filled with these psychological giants, we must be careful to understand the strategy laid out for our clients and us. The fact that Moses and Aaron did not accompany the children of Israel into the Promised Land is significant. At this point in the counseling process, clients must take responsibility for their own recovery. This is also clear because upon entering the Promised Land the manna stopped. Consequently, in the remainder of this story we must assume our own responsibility for our choices as we follow our Joshua (Jesus) to victory.
1. We must yield totally to God's plan for taking the Promised Land by faith. Joshua, whose name means Jesus, is to be our leader. Moses directed the people to obey Joshua completely. His spirit is to go before us. Joshua was warned in Joshua 1:7 to "turn not from it (God's direction) [to] the right hand or [to] the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest." One of the greatest difficulties in counseling is trying to get the client to decide to do what God requires to resolve the situation. Most clients feel far more secure trying to direct their own lives. Many a client has to be warned that if they keep doing the same thing, they will keep getting the same result.
2. In order to have success, they must meditate day and night on the Word of God. Joshua 1:8 makes this clear, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." The Bible is our main faith builder, and it is the blueprint of our campaign to conquer the Promised Land of complete wholeness and spiritual maturity.
3. An assessment of the strongholds in the clients’ lives is essential. An important part in understanding these problems is determining whether clients are truly saved and to what extent they are relying on God to meet their needs. If they have not made a total commitment to follow Jesus (Joshua), they are not qualified to enter the Promised Land. Consequently, a true salvation experience needs to become a priority in the counseling plan. Rahab the harlot, who had faith, was told to put a red string in her window when Jericho was attacked. This stands for the application of the blood of Jesus. Without true salvation, where Jesus is Lord and boss, taking any of the promises of God by faith is impossible.
4. God’s method includes experiencing the Baptism of the Holy Spirit through faith in order to enter the Promised Land. The children of Israel had to follow the Ark of God through the Jordan River, which divided and backed up to the City of Adam (which stands for our human nature). Although some might disagree, I believe that the crossing through the Jordan River is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, just as crossing through the Red Sea is the baptism by water. My experience is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit equips the Christian for spiritual warfare and makes them more spiritually sensitive. Consequently, those so equipped, are more capable of overcoming the spiritual and psychological giants of the Promised Land. I believe that the Israelites who chose to dwell on the West side of the Jordan represent Christians who choose not to pursue the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but who are still required to fight the psychological giants of the land.
5. Christians must do their part in order to get their needs met through the promises of God in the Promised Land. On entering the Promised Land, the automatic provision of manna stopped. God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. If He did, He would be enabling us, and God is not a codependent! While in the desert the manna was necessary for survival, but in the land of God's promises, all our needs are to be met through faith. The “milk of the Word,” manna, was easily available, but now we must learn to do our part and dig deeper into the Word of God (the meat of the Word) and believe its promises in order to meet our deepest needs. As a Christian counselor, we must realize that we cannot give out to our clients more than we have taken in from the Spirit of God. We will end up relying on ourselves instead of the Holy Spirit, and we will eventually “burn out” when our inner supply of the Spirit is exhausted.
6. The flesh and sin must be set aside in order to prepare for the spiritual battle. God commanded that all of the children of Israel (males of course) were to be circumcised, because the generation that grew up in the desert had never been circumcised. According to Wilson’s Dictionary of Bible Types (1957), circumcision means, "the act of reckoning one's self dead unto sin and of laying aside the desires of the flesh.” (p. 113) Clients cannot hope to be victorious over psychological giants through the means of the flesh. Counseling can only weaken the flesh, not overcome problems through the flesh. It takes the power of the Spirit to overcome the flesh and sin.
7. The church is God's designated base of operations for the good fight of faith. The first camp for the children of Israel after crossing the Jordan River was Gilgal, which stands for the church. There they were commanded to keep the Passover, which in the New Testament is represented by the Lord's Supper. It was at this time that the manna was cut off, indicating that God expects the church to meet its needs though faith in the promises of God. It was near Gilgal, while scouting Jericho, that Joshua encountered the "Captain of the Hosts of the Lord." In the same way, it is in the church that God gives direction for taking the Promised Land. I believe it is extremely clear that the local church is to play a very significant part in God's plan for defeating the psychological giants in the lives of its members.
Jericho is the fortress of fear. Consequently, it represents our struggles to overcome the insecurity in our lives. We can verify that the city of Jericho represents fear by the fact that each time the city is mentioned, the people were living in fear. Rahab said that the inhabitants were in fear of the Israelites and that the gates were locked out of fear. (Joshua 2:9, 11, 6:1) The clients’ fears are the first formidable challenge. We are later told that all the tribes were represented at Jericho. All sorts of psychological problems make their homes in the client's life based on fear. Probably the best known are fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of shame, and fear of punishment. (McGee, 1990) Phobias, anxiety attacks, some panic attacks, obsessive-compulsiveness, codependency, domestic violence, and most other psychological disorders have their roots in fear.
The basis of overcoming simple fear by faith is outlined in this event:
1. The first step in overcoming fear is to confront it. In preparing to take Jericho, the Israelites marched around it for six days. They were not to speak at all. Negative self-talk and speaking about fear increases the power of fear. Marching around Jericho represents surveying the things that cause fear in our lives from a distance as we build our faith that we can conquer them. Six stands for man's sufficiency. Speaking about or relying on man's sufficiency is the basis of most fears. It takes faith in order to overcome fear. The client must get close enough to the thing that is feared; yet maintain his faith that, with God’s help, it will not harm him.
2. To overcome fear we must trust God to meet our needs. On the seventh day they encompassed the city seven times. Seven stands for God's complete provision. They had to get to the point where they trusted God's complete provision so much that they were willing to openly declare and act on their faith.
3. They were to confess their faith. They blew on the ram's horn. The ram stands for Christ, our perfect sacrifice. The ram's horn stands for preaching. Faith comes by hearing. They were then to shout, or declare their faith in unison. When they did this, the walls or defenses of fear (Jericho) fell down. When we no longer believe the feared thing can harm us, it is defenseless. Hebrews 11:30 declares that, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days."
4. They had to physically occupy the territory of the fear. The battle was not over until they actually killed the enemy and burned the city. Until we actually do the thing that is feared, we do not yet have complete victory.
5. The credit for overcoming our fear must go to God. This was the first of ten cities and, as such, its wealth was the first tenth, or tithe. Joshua placed a curse on anyone who took anything from the city. If clients take credit for overcoming their fear, their fear will eventually return. This is because the clients are again relying on themselves. Self-reliance is the root problem underlying fear.
6. The city of fear must never be rebuilt. Joshua cursed anyone who would rebuild this city. The curse was that the children of those who rebuilt the city would die. (Joshua 6:26) Clients bring a curse on their posterity if they rebuild fear in their lives, since fear is transmitted from generation to generation. Unfortunately, this often happens because old patterns of thinking can easily return. (It is interesting to note that the first and last child of Hiel the Bethelite, the man who rebuilt Jericho, died (1 Kings 16:34)).
7. Only those with faith will not be destroyed by fear. Rahab, alone, was not destroyed with the people of Jericho. She believed that the Israelites would take Jericho. We need to believe that with God's help we can defeat all fear in our lives. (Hebrews 11:31 lists Rahab as one of the heroes of faith.)
If we take a close look at these events, we find the basis for a method for confronting fears that has been called systematic desensitization. It is possibly the most effective method of behavior modification for dealing with fear. First, the client is taught how to relax. Relaxation helps to alleviate fear. Because most persons cannot be relaxed and afraid at the same time, tension can also be used as an indicator of fear. Usually, clients are progressively exposed to fearful scenes in their minds in a hierarchical order (as they are able to remain relaxed and to overcome each fearful scene.) In this way, the client is slowly conditioned to be able to tolerate the feared stimulus. Finally, each of these situations are experienced in the same order in real life until clients can face even the most fearful situation that they can imagine. (Comer, 1995) When we examine the process of systematic desensitization, we find that it is no more than slowly developing faith that the feared situation can be overcome.
Secular systematic desensitization can only go so far. It helps people with irrational fears, as they perceive them. With faith in God, all worldly fears can be overcome; because we trust in His protection. My experience is that helping clients build a realistic faith in God, in combination with systematic desensitization, produces outstanding results in overcoming all fears and anxieties.
Ai was one of the most insignificant Canaanite cities. It means "heap of ruins." The word Canaanite means "low land" and represents our evaluation of ourselves. Here Ai represents the ruins of our lives due to sin, or our shame. It is one of the keys to the problem of low self-image. Guilt or shame, when not properly dealt with, turns to toxic shame. It changes from "I did a bad thing" to "I am a bad person." When Achan chose to take the gold and garments from Jericho, he did a bad thing. When he chose to hide them in his tent (ego defenses), his sin became part of him. He was relying on himself to meet his needs instead of God. The battle of Ai gives us the strategy for overcoming toxic shame, which, as we will see later, is the basis of addictions and codependency.
1. Sin in the camp must die. We must repent of our life of sin. Achan means trouble and that is exactly what sin brings us. As long as we choose to try to meet our own needs, our sin will cause our own defeat as it did for the Israelites at Ai. We cannot hide sin and defeat low self-worth (the Canaanites) at the same time. Achan sinned by taking some of the spoil of Jericho, and because he refused to deal with his sin and hid it, he was destroyed by it. Just as the Israelites were in fear of the other tribes because of their defeat at Ai, so shame makes it impossible for us to stand before or deal with the other psychological enemies in our lives.
2. The shame must be drawn out and exposed. Israel drew the soldiers of Ai away from the city and overthrew it with an ambush. The ambush that God has provided for us in order to defeat shame is the cross of Christ, which provides the forgiveness of every one of our sins. Jesus took our shame upon Himself. It is our job to admit our sins, accept His forgiveness, and trust Him to take away our shame.
3. The entire city or foundation of shame must be destroyed. The Israelites completely burned the city. In the same way, we must totally destroy our shame and the worldly evaluation of ourselves that is based on toxic shame. Our evaluation of ourselves based on our past actions must be exposed as a lie. It must be burned completely and replaced with our position in Christ and what Christ has done for us. The King of Ai, who I believe stands for pride (the defense of those struggling with low self-worth and shame), was hung on a tree and buried under a monument at the city gate. In the same way our pride is to die forever along with our shame and be replaced with God's evaluation of us according to faith.
4. Accomplishments and capabilities developed to overcome shame can be used for our good. The cattle and spoil of the city were taken for use by the Israelites. Those struggling with low self-worth and shame are many times motivated to be over-achievers who accomplish and learn many things. These capabilities and the things that have been accomplished in our futile attempt to build our low self-image can still be used as a blessing to us.
5. We must always be on guard against rebuilding shame. Ai was to remain in desolation forever. We must be careful to confront and confess our sin and deal with it as soon as it is detected. Toxic shame, the result of hiding our guilt, must never be allowed to develop again. Pride must never be allowed again in our lives.
After dealing with fear and shame, we must confront our life-giving desires that we believe are the very basis of our lives. These desires are the results of our attempts to meet our deepest need for love and acceptance.
The story of the subjugation of Gibeon seems confusing until we realize that Gibeon was a city of the Hivites, which stands for our deepest selfish, life-giving desires. It is clear that the complete destruction of Gibeon was God's perfect will. Instead, the Israelites were tricked into making an alliance with it. Unfortunately, very few Christians have been able to totally eradicate all of their deepest selfish desires and completely trust God to direct every aspect of their lives. These desires are so crafty that they look to most of us as something that God desires for us. We see this played out in the story of the subjugation of Gibeon beginning in Joshua Chapter 9.
1. Our deepest selfish desires, sexual passions, and lusts are really our enemies. They are under the influence of our flesh and, as such, are incapable of bringing life and carrying out the will of God. The inhabitants of Gibeon, who were Hivites (selfish life-giving desires), sent ambassadors to Israel. These ambassadors craftily deceived the Israelites into making a treaty with them. Gibeon means "feller of trees." Trees in the Bible often stand for men. Without doubt, selfish desires have caused of the fall of many men. Our selfish desires fool us by making us think that they are no real threat to us and are something to be desired to meet our needs.
2. We must submit our deepest desires to God. The mistake of the Israelites was that they did not inquire of God before making a treaty with the people of Gibeon. Our desires have the same excuse that the Gibeonites had—they do not want to die. The Gibeonites even came to Gilgal, which represents the church. Unfortunately, many in the church have been fooled into making these deep selfish desires an ally without recognizing the danger or consulting with God. Lust is really unlimited, selfish, life-giving desire. Lust must be controlled and transformed into unselfish love, or it will lead to sin and spiritual death.
3. Life-giving desires are subjugated by limiting their activities through boundary agreements. Although God's original plan was the complete replacement of our desires with His will through faith, it is possible to subjugate these desires and use them for our good. Because very few clients are anywhere near spiritual maturity, the counselor must many times settle for the subjugation of the client’s desires. This is the establishment of self-boundaries. The Gibeonites agreed to become hewers of wood (Christian activities) and drawers of water (spiritual life) for the sanctuary. In the same way, the Christian is to limit his deepest desires to doing only the will of God and for the use of the Church.
4. These desires must be turned into unselfish love and obedience. The Gibeonites became loyal followers of God, and so can our desires. During the time of David, because Saul mistreated the Gibeonites; a famine came on the land. We also can learn to subjugate even sexual lust into a giving, loving marital relationship. Self-boundaries must be set on our thought-life, fantasies, and sexual acting-out.
5. We must defend our desires from the attack of prominence. Probably one of the most insidious attacks on our selfish desires is the drive for prominence (Amorites). In Joshua Chapter 10, the five Amorite kings rose up to destroy the Gibeonites, because they had lost a strong ally. This is a victory that must be won, otherwise our desires, which have been subjugated, will rise again as a multitude of lusts, leading to sin and ultimately spiritual death.
Defeating the Amorites
One of our basic psychological needs is our need for significance. This is not to be confused with our need for self-worth. Self-worth has to do with intrinsic value while significance has to do with our success in using that potential. In the world, prominence is the general measure of how significant others see us. The world is motivated by this desire for prominence. Almost anything will be done to achieve it. The "rat race" of life itself is based on the unlimited lust for more, fueled by a search for prominence in life. Our fleshly drive for prominence wants to take over our desires, which in the past have been one of its strongest allies. At stake in this battle with the Amorite kings (prominence) were the towns of Jerusalem (peace), Hebron (relationships), Jarmuth (worth), Lachish (invincibility), and Eglon (vigor). We must defeat the temptation to pursue our own prominence if we are to have peace, have healthy relationships, feel worthwhile, obtain the invincibility that only comes from God, and vigorously pursue the Kingdom of God. The real question is, are we going to trust God to meet our deepest desires or are we going to attempt to meet them through achieving prominence in this world through the flesh? The strategy for victory over prominence is this:
1. We as Christians must recognize the threat of the drive for prominence in our lives. This threat is revealed through our desires. It was the Gibeonites (life-giving desires) who sent word to the camp at Gilgal that they were being attacked by the Amorites (drive for prominence). Every time we feel a desire to be first, best, or overly competitive, we should recognize the attack of prominence. Pride and selfishness are also clear signs of attack. Because many Christians have been fooled into thinking that a desire for prominence is normal, the attack goes undetected, and our deepest desires are again made our enemies.
2. The church must swiftly attack the drive for prominence using the Word of God. The children of Israel took the Amorites by surprise and slew them with the sword (the Word of God). In the same way, the Word of God shows us that our desire for prominence is wrong and leads us to submit to God's plan of obedience and humility.
3. God will judge our desire for prominence through consequences. The Bible tells us that pride comes before a fall. (Prov 16:18) Eventually, everyone will reach the top of their ability and be forced to accept their human limitations. More of the escaping armies were killed by the hailstones (judgment) from God than were killed by the Israelites. The long-term consequences of our drive for prominence will eventually bring us to our knees if we refuse to let God deal with it. Jesus said that if we want to be great in the Kingdom of God we must be the servant of all. (Mark 9:35)
4. If we ask and truly desire His help, God will even supernaturally suspend nature itself in order to assist us in this fight with prominence. When Joshua took the authority given to him by God and commanded the sun and the moon to stop, they stopped their movement for an entire day in order to provide additional time to defeat the Amorites. (Joshua 10:12, 13) Possibly the most important part of this battle to overcome prominence is reaching a point where we completely submit ourselves to God's rule in our lives and desire only to please Him. Then He will “move heaven and earth” on our behalf.
Taking the Remaining Land
Once our fear, shame, selfish desires, and drive for prominence are defeated; our most significant enemies remain in our mind or intellect.
1. We must recognize that our mind is the battlefield for overcoming most psychological enemies. King Jabin (intellect) of Hazor (enclosure or castle) gathered all the enemies of the Israelites to the waters of Merom, which means “elevation.” Intellectualism protected by closed-mindedness unites the remaining psychological enemies of self-pity (Jobab), strife (Madon), lack of motivation (Shimron), control (Achshaph), low self-worth (Canaanites), prominence (Amorites), fear (Hittites), boundary problems (Perizzites), abuse (Jebusites), and lust (Hivites).
2. We Christians are not to be afraid of intellectual arguments or of challenging our intellectual assumptions. Since the assumptions of life provide our world view and our security, we seldom want to challenge our long-held assumptions. This is especially true of those premises of life held in our subconscious mind. Joshua was told not to be afraid of these enemies, but that God would deliver them into his hands slain. (Joshua 10:6)
3. God's wisdom must be chosen over man's wisdom for the direction of our lives. The battle was to be fought at the waters of Merom, which means “elevated.” Man takes pride in his thoughts and intellectual achievements and thinks that they make him higher than others. We must decide to base our lives on God’s wisdom—not man’s—and choose to do the will of God instead of our own will.
4. False premises are to be permanently disabled and logical arguments destroyed. Jesus overcame His temptations by quoting the truth from the Word of God. (Luke 4:2-13) Wrong ways of thinking provide the basis of most psychological problems. Even our emotions are controlled by the way we look at situations. Joshua was ordered to hough (disable) the enemies’ horses (premises) and to burn their chariots (arguments) to ensure that they would never be used again.
5. The renewing of the mind is to be done quickly and completely. The Israelites "suddenly" attacked the enemies at Merom and completely destroyed them. The Bible tells us that we are to think on good things (Php 4:8) and that out of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)
6. Intellectualism and closed-mindedness must be completely destroyed by the Word of God. Joshua then returned to Hazor (closed mindedness) and burned it, after killing King Jabin (intellectualism) with the sword (God's Word).
7. Only worldly knowledge that opposes God's word must be
destroyed. Hazor was burnt with fire, but all the cattle were taken as plunder. This battle is not against the knowledge of the world, but the false knowledge of the world that opposes God's truth. The good things produced by intellectual pursuit are to be used for the Christian's good.
8. The struggle for the supremacy of the Word of God over man's wisdom takes a long time. The Bible tells us that "Joshua made war a long time with all those kings." (Joshua 11:18) It also tells us that it was God's will that all the tribes of Canaan be completely destroyed.
9. We must destroy all the remaining psychological giants. The final battle was to eliminate the Anakins (giants) remaining in the mountains. I believe that these represent the more difficult and complex problems in each of the areas represented by these tribes. They will be addressed in detail in the following Chapters.
10. When the giants are finally eliminated from the land, the blessings of the promises of God are to be given as an inheritance to all. Joshua was ordered to divide the land, allotting a part to each of the children of Israel. This tells us that all us will not necessarily receive every blessing, but that God who "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think...” (Ephesians 3:20) has wonderful blessings awaiting each one of us who is willing to conquer our Promised Land by faith.
11. One of the most important lessons that we must learn is how to fairly maintain personal boundaries. The Israelites were to respect the boundaries that God established for them. Offenses come from violations of healthy boundaries. Without understanding personal boundaries, the commandment to love one another cannot effectively be carried out. In modern terms, we are said to be assertive when we have learned to maintaining our own personal boundaries while respecting boundaries of others.
12. The final blessing is rest, which is the result of spiritual maturity. Our psychological rest is based on our faith that God has and will always meet all of our needs according to his riches in glory. (Philip 4:19) We can exit the rat race of life as we simply trust, obey, and follow Him in all we have been called to do. This does not mean that we will no longer have any struggles, but that, because we are trusting in God for total victory in all we do, we will not be shaken by anything. Joshua 21:44-45 states, "And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he swear unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass." This is the fulfillment of our salvation and it is glorious!
As we examine what we have just learned, we can see a basic structure or plan for the conduct of Christian counseling. This model suggests a life-long developmental approach to counseling directed by the Holy Spirit as the Chief Counselor. It is He that orchestrates the overall process. The client is brought to us to help him remove any hindrances to going forward into the next phase of the process of salvation by faith. The use of the narrative approach to teaching psychological truth simplifies the teaching process and continues to build faith in the client that God’s truth, the Bible, can be trusted. Reliance on God’s plan for salvation for the ultimate healing of the client is, and always will be, essential for long-term and lasting results. The basic steps of this plan are discussed below. I have indicated the origin of each step as they relate to the story of the exodus of the children of Israel in parenthesis. A complete case study using this method of counseling is presented in the last Chapter of this book.
1. Determine the problem. (Identify the type of slavery.) While the process begins like most counseling intakes—determining the problem—the remaining steps are contingent on where the client is in his spiritual development. Determining the problem involves asking the client his reason for coming to counseling, gathering background information, analyzing the information, and attempting to fit the pieces of the puzzle together to form a hypothesis concerning the underlying cause. When dealing with complex problems, the counselor should attempt to determine if the problem fits one of the models developed later in this book. The children of Israels’ problem was that they were in slavery and afflicted by the cruel taskmasters of Egypt (the world). Before we are saved, we are the slaves of sin and the world, and need to be delivered.
2. Demonstrate that what the client is doing will not meet his needs and build hope that his problems can be overcome through Christ. (Confront the Gods of Egypt.) Until the client is convinced that his methods do not work, he will continue to do them and will get similar results. Moses had to demonstrate to Israel that the Egyptian’s methods did not work before they were willing to leave Egypt. He also had to demonstrate that God’s methods could deliver them from their slavery. I usually try to show my clients that the entire rat race in life makes no sense and that everyone is eventually promoted until they fail. Even all those who get to the top are eventually replaced and what they have accomplished has no lasting significance. In fact, without God, nothing they do will have lasting value and they do not have enough information even to attempt to direct their own lives. Life is but a vapor and only God can make them eternally happy.
3. Use the biblical principles and models to help the client perceive and understand the problem from a biblical perspective. (Understand God’s plan and repent.) Few clients will have an in-depth understanding of the problem identified in step one. Consequently, the counselor will need to use Bible principles or a narrative biblical model to help the client understand the problem from a biblical perspective. Moses had to help the Israelites understand that they were the chosen people unto God; and that it was God’s perfect will for them to live in the land of Canaan, not serve the Egyptian gods in Egypt.
4. Determine where the client is in the process of salvation and, if appropriate, lead him to accept Christ, be baptized, yield the control of his life to God, and help him get established in a church. (Cross the Red Sea.) After determining the problem, the counselor should locate where the client is in the overall plan for his salvation according to the model of the exodus of the children of Israel. The client must be saved, baptized, and established in a good church to provide the support and a basis for this process of salvation or wholeness. When counseling someone who is not saved or who has a weak spiritual foundation, these initial four steps are essential. If a client has progressed beyond these steps, we must identify where they are in their spiritual walk in order to determine the next step to take.
5. Help the client take responsibility for his own actions, not blame others or react to what they do, and do everything as unto God. (Quit murmuring.) Most clients come to counseling blaming their parents, past events, or someone or something outside of themselves for the problem, just like the children of Israel did. Many times, they want the counselor to take the responsibility to “fix” them. They must understand that they are responsible for “working out their own salvation” (Philip. 2:12b) and that when they stand before God, He is not going to ask them what someone else did but how they responded to what others did. They must learn to do what is right in spite of what others do. The Israelites had to learn to quit murmuring, blaming Moses, and threatening to return to Egypt.
6. Help the client grow in his personal relationship with Christ and build faith that,with God’s help, he can overcome the problem. (Build faith in the wilderness.) It is at this point that the first generation of Israelites, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, failed. In order to trust God, the client needs to develop a personal relationship with Christ and build faith that God will help him overcome every aspect of his problem and meet all his needs. Without it, the client will not have the faith required to face his complex psychological problems. The client will fail if he tries to rely on himself, fix himself, or meet his own needs through the flesh.
7. Assist the client in receiving the empowerment of the baptism of the Holy Spirit if he chooses to do so. (Cross the Jordan River.) The baptism of the Holy Spirit received at Pentecost empowered the disciples to effectively move into the supernatural realm and trust God beyond anything they had yet experienced. Teen Challenge attributes much of their high success rate in helping to deliver incorrigible addicts from years of addiction to the enablement of the Spirit in their client’s lives. However, just as not all the Israelites chose to permanently dwell in the land of Canaan, the counselor needs to respect the right of the client to skip this step; especially since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is still controversial or even spoken against in some churches. Faith is required to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To have faith each client must be fully convinced in his own mind.
8. Help the client apply the biblical principles or model to overcome the identified psychological problem. (Conquer the giants.) Most clients come into therapy totally caught up in the methods and problems of the world. They are usually facing one of the giants of dysfunction, fear, codependency, abuse, addiction, or depression. By this time in the therapeutic process the client has overcome most of the lies of the world system and realizes that he cannot overcome his problems by relying on his flesh. Now, the worldly lies that he has believed that underlie each of these strongholds needs to be replaced with the eternal truth of God. This is accomplished through the application of biblical principles or the application of complex models provided in the later Chapters of this book.
9. Determine the root cause of the difficulty and assist the client in developing faith to overcome this root problem. (Conquering the cities of Canaan.) All counseling problems eventually can be traced to a basic need for love, security, worth or significance. In the story of the exodus of the children of Israel, Jericho stands for overcoming a lack of security or fear, Ai stands for overcoming low self-worth or shame, and Gibeon stands for overcoming the lusts of the flesh (fulfilling the need of love). The cities of the Amorites, Jerusalem (peace), Hebron (relationships), Jarmuth (worth), Lachish (invincibility), and Eglon (vigor), stand for overcoming problems with significance or trying to find worldly success in life. Finally, Hazor, which stands for the strongholds in the mind, must also be overcome. Through analysis, the counselor should help the client realize his needs, understand how he has been trying to meet them through the flesh, and help him begin to place his trust in God to meet them all. Without this step, a long-term resolution of the problem cannot be assured since the unmet needs will eventually re-assert themselves in another form. For example, addicts many times change from one form of addiction to another when the root cause of the addiction is not fully eradicated. The Israelites had to fully defeat all of the tribes and cities of Canaan before final victory was assured.
10. Release the client again to the care of the Holy Spirit so that He can continue to orchestrate the process of salvation by faith in the client’s life. (Enjoying the Promised Land.) We must remember that it is the Holy Spirit or Chief Counselor that orchestrates this entire process. Furthermore, it was Christ that made it all possible, and we, as counselors, only have a small part in it. As the counseling process continues, it is our job to work ourselves out of a job. As the client finds greater and greater success, the counselor should require him to face more of his problems on his own (with God’s help) or with the help of a support group. The client should be seen for counseling less frequently until the client only calls for an appointment if he is afraid he will relapse, or if he cannot resolve some problem on his own with God’s help. Finally, God must be given all the glory and thanksgiving for the positive results that have been accomplished during the counseling process and the client should again be released to the sole direction and care of the Holy Spirit.