Dear reader, thank you for your kindness in taking time to consider what I mean by "Christian Counseling," the kind of counseling Agape aspires to.
Christian (or biblical) counseling must be "Christ-centered, biblically-based, and Spirit-filled to the glory of God and for the blessing and healing of His people. Christian counseling should also be characterized by agape or Christlike love that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit."
Sometimes the best way to describe what something is, is to say what it is not. I'll be very brief, so forgive what I leave out. I have studied both Christian counseling methods and secular counseling methods. I will grant that there are many very smart secular counselors and theorists who have made some good and helpful observations from nature. All truth is God's truth. But all secular counselors and theorists fundamentally misunderstand human nature because they do not believe in sin and the need for Jesus Christ and His work on the cross to forgive sin and to heal. They cannot offer you any real hope, if they offer you hope at all, because real hope comes from outside of us by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ. Secular counseling cannot truly restore relationships or heal victims of trauma because true forgiveness is misunderstood. It's sad, but true, that secular counseling has only recently come up with the idea that "forgiveness" is important in healing. But it is only a darkly veiled kind of forgiveness. For, how can you possibly forgive if you do not not do it out of a heart that has been forgiven by Jesus and with His help? Finally, you will never be prayed for and never apply the Word of God to your issues in secular counseling. How can you receive long-term solutions and real healing apart from prayer and God's Word?
You may still wonder, is Christian counseling practical and effective? Yes, absolutely. Christians have been doing "counseling" ever since Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, started doing it during His ministry on earth. Today, we Christian counselors have the Holy Spirit to guide us and God's Word to apply, along with the wisdom of godly men and women who have been doing practical and effective Christian counseling with thousands and thousands of Christians and those who have been open to the Spirit's leading and have come to Christian counseling in spite of still having doubts.
You may wonder, am I just going to get a guilt trip about how I don't have enough faith or a bunch of Bible verses thrown at me that I struggle to believe? No. Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, met people where they were in life and with what they were ready to handle. He met them with however much faith they had and however much Bible knowledge they had. And that is just how you will be met here. Your pace is our pace. Jesus was the Gentle Healer and God is the God of all Comfort.
Also of significance, you may rightly be wondering about the fact that our spiritual growth in Christ continues for our entire lives. Does this mean your counseling sessions will last forever?! Great question. And the answer is no. Your season of counseling may end for a number of reasons. I think the best outcome is that you leave counseling when you have gotten to the point where your local church can effectively care for your needs and you are ready to be cared for by your local church. Christian counseling is not meant to replace your local church, although I understand in some cases you may have been actually hurt by your church and that is a different case. My hope is that during your time of counseling you can be a part of a healthy, God-worshiping, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled, bible-believing, gospel-saturated, grace-filled church that is led by a spiritually mature pastor. It would also be wonderful if that church has a small group ministry where you could find a small group of other believers where you feel comfortable so that you could be part of a loving community who will be there for you to offer support, prayer and encouragement. I realize, however, that there are no perfect churches! And I am not asking you to search endlessly for one or to leave your present one if it is a good one. I am just pointing out what a spiritually healthy church, depending entirely on God for its strength, will always be growing more and more like.
Finally, you have the opportunity to hear a testimony by Aaron Sironi, a counselor who describes his conversion from being a Christian counselor who did secular counseling, to a biblical counselor, or what I call, someone who does "Christian Counseling." I think Aaron points to the critical difference between many who call themselves Christian Counselors and those who actually are Christian Counselors. Whether you use me or someone else, I would ask you to consider using a Christian Counselor. Be careful, however, because many counselors call themselves "Christian Counselors" but actually practice secular counseling alone, or rely on it primarily - and just because a website has a Christian fish symbol (or "Ichthus") on it does not mean that most of its counselors practice Christian counseling. Make sure you are seeing a biblical, or Christian Counselor who will pray with you, apply God's Word to your situation, and who will love you through your hard times. You deserve to know. For, it is you and your relationship with God that is primarily at stake in counseling and the healing process.
Your servant in Christ,