I walked past the counseling room where two volunteer client advisors sat reading and discussing the latest article I'd given them on nouthetic counseling. They were excited and animated as they shared counseling sessions and how they had used God's Word effectively in reaching out to clients who professed to be believers, but who were not in obedience to God's Word. According to Jay Adams, nouthetic counseling is composed of three elements — concern, confrontation, and change. It involves sitting down with a client and, with loving concern for them, confronting unbiblical behavior in order to bring about life changes. Turning to Scripture and pointing out truths therein will bring about repentance and obedience to God's Word. That has become the No. 1 focus at our center.
Since we have abandoned all psychologized materials in our center and embraced nouthetic counseling, we have been amazed at the results. Hope National's "Focus on the Heart" manual (www.hopenational.net) for training volunteers has formed the foundation. We have continued to build on this counseling by using materials from authors such as Jay Adams, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Martha Peace, David Powlison, Paul Tripp, and others.
Recently a young man stopped by our center to share with us that he and his girlfriend, who had come to us frequently the previous year for counsel, planned to be married in June. We had spent hours with her in the Word, referred them to a Bible-believing local church, and prayed for them both to live righteous lives. Through the grace of God, both of them have quit abusing drugs, although they continue to face some of the consequences of that past sin. She has returned for additional counsel, and both told us that their change in lifestyle began at our center. They were confronted with their sin of cohabitation and now are convicted they can no longer continue that lifestyle. The pastor at their church has reinforced our counsel and has provided pre-marital counseling. Both had some knowledge of Jesus before coming to the center, but now are growing in the Lord. We are pleased to see how confrontation brought about significant change in this couple's life.
Not long ago, a young woman came to us for some material assistance. She indicated she was a believer, but it quickly became apparent that she was depending upon her good works to get to Heaven. The client advisor lovingly took her to Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast." She then listened to the DVD, The Good Test, and acknowledged she was a sinner because she had broken all the Ten Commandments. The client advisor turned to several verses in Romans, and suddenly she really understood salvation was through personal faith alone in Jesus alone. She believed! Now her heart was softened and she was open to additional counsel. The client advisor was able to address some other issues of concern in her life such as premarital sex. As she took the client out of her comfort zone to teach her God's will for her life and the need to live a life of purity, she acknowledged with tears the need to change. Upon leaving, she wrote on her exit survey: "It isn't just the material items, but also the comfort of knowing someone is there not just to 'patch' an issue but to learn how to really work through it the right way (through God)." We rejoiced! This client had just affirmed to us that nouthetic counsel had been a tremendous blessing in her life.
NOUTHETIC COUNSELING IS COMPOSED
OF THREE ELEMENTS —
CONCERN, CONFRONTATION, AND CHANGE.
However, without the Gospel in the picture, our counsel would be in vain. Every client that comes to us is given a clear presentation of the Gospel. As Jay Adams states, "...the Gospel is the central truth of our Christian faith. When it goes, everything else goes right along with it." It is good news that needs to be proclaimed: "It is good news because of the bad news that men are sinners condemned to hell. This good news tells them how they may be saved from the penalty for their sins and have eternal life instead, as well as a new life here in this present world."
Paul clearly points out to us what the Gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: "That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." If we add or take anything away from the Gospel, it is no longer the Gospel.
A client who has believed in Christ alone for salvation is ready for nouthetic counseling. Her now-regenerate heart is softened to seeing how the Scriptures can assist her in any of life's situations. No matter what she is facing, God has an answer. Our center staff is ready and eager to counsel our clients to the best of their ability using God's Word. Frequent articles, books, and even classes pertaining to nouthetic counseling enrich their counseling skills.
In addition to successfully reaching out to clients, our center has discovered that as we study the concepts of nouthetic counseling, we are not only able to better help others, but also have found ourselves more firmly grounded in the Word and living lives more obedient to the Lord.
SIDEBAR: A short bibliography listing of nouthetic counseling titles
- "A Theology of Christian Counseling" by Jay E. Adams
- "From Forgiven to Forgiving" by Jay E. Adams
- "Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety" by Elyse Fitzpatrick
- "Competent to Counsel", by Jay E. Adams
- "The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, and Self-Image" by Jay E. Adams
- "Women Helping Women" by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish, General Editors
Several booklets I have distributed to my volunteers include:
- "Psychologized Man" by Martha Peace
- "Self-Esteem: Are We Really Better Than We Think?" by David M. Tyler
- "So What's Wrong With Living Together?" by Jeffrey S. Miller
All these booklets are available from Focus Publishing. www.focuspublishing.com