IVP - Online Pulpit - Transformative Encounters

August 15, 2013

Transformative Encounters

by David Appleby

When it comes to counseling, many pastors don’t know what they are doing. It’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that we are required by our role to be generalists. That keeps us from getting the training we want and from developing the skills that we need. Most of the counseling work that we do focuses on the normal problems of life, such as grief, marital difficulties, illness and meaning of life. Many of us don’t feel adequately prepared to address these issues in the best therapeutic way. And since we work for free, we are often the first place our people stop when they need help. If questioned further, most of us would agree that we count on our winning smile and our biblical perspective to get us through. That is frightening.

When I was in seminary working toward my M.Div. I took one class in pastoral care. The main thing that I learned in seminary was how to preach (but not very well), to think theologically (more success) and to run a church (total disaster). What I didn’t learn was how to help people on a one-on-one basis.

As one who has spent forty years teaching undergraduate psychology classes, running a college counseling center, pastoring churches and teaching graduate-level counseling classes, I suspect that things haven’t changed all that much. What training pastoral counselors receive today is primarily solution focused. If things don’t get better after six sessions, we are supposed to refer our people to a qualified mental health provider.

Unfortunately, most mental health providers, even if they are believers, really don’t understand how faith and counseling practice can intersect. Even in Christian counseling programs there is little room in to look at how faith and practice can work together toward transformation. Professional and state licensing requirements are the 800-pound gorilla in the room— unrelentingly dominating almost every minute of classroom time. The things that we really want to talk about, the things that really interest us, the things that are more in line with our faith are rarely addressed.

Yet, deep down inside we still believe that our Christian faith should be able to change lives, even if we don’t know what that process looks like beyond salvation. We know that there has got to be more to a Christian counseling session than beginning and ending with prayer. Where do inner healing, theophostic, deliverance, contemplative prayer, Christian cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR with Christ imagery, and the role that the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit play in transformation fit in? We know that they should, but we don’t know how.

That’s why George Ohlschlager and I invited more than twenty-five academics, clinical practitioners and pastors to tell us what they are doing in their counseling ministries that cannot be done without the use of the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit. What works best in church settings, in settings where the staff has a little more clinical training, and what works best with trained clinicians? We wanted to know what that encounter with God looks like and how we might evoke it. We invited them to talk about all the kinds of things that we wanted to know about in seminary and graduate school but were afraid to ask. Transformative Encounters: The Intervention of God in Christian Counseling and Pastoral Care summarizes a broad range of topics with recommended resources so you can pursue those topics that the Spirit quickens to you. Now you can answer the questions that you always wanted to ask.

applebyOP.jpgDavid W. Appleby (Ph.D., University of Delaware; Ph.D., University of Northern Colorado) is a minister, counselor and trainer working in the overlapping fields of family counseling, psychology and deliverance ministry. He is the founder and president of Spiritual Interventions, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes spiritual interventions in Christian counseling practice. He also teaches courses in psychology and professional and pastoral counseling at the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at August 15, 2013 9:31 AM Bookmark and Share

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