One of the great things about being a teacher/professor, and there are many, is that student questions force one to constantly be refining. Teaching in a classroom, my preference (though I do a lot of teaching online), because I can utilize group dynamics to engage other students in responding to the questions of fellow students. This often precipitates examining nuances of a subject that would otherwise slip through the cracks. However, I also like student questions because they force me to refine my thinking. Frequently I thank my students for teaching me by forcing me to refine my presentations. It is not that the material presented is weak and flimsy, rather it is the reality of the necessity to adapt and apply truth to an ever-changing environment and culture.
An Important Question
I am often asked, “What are the qualifications to become a biblical counselor?” The questioner is thinking in terms of degrees and certifications. Hence, my response is a bit surprising because here is my answer.
A Multi-Step Answer
The first and most important qualifications are found in I Timothy chapter three verses one through seven. Yes, Paul lays out the qualifications for a pastor/elder also in Titus, a set of very similar qualifications for deacons. The fact is these are baseline measures of spiritual maturity. Obviously, the appropriate application must be made for women counselors.
The second step of my answer goes to theology. A biblical counselor must have a global grasp of theology beginning with theology proper (a knowledge of God), then systematic theology (the fundamental doctrines of Christianity), and finally, practical theology (an ability to think biblical theology in life).
Thirdly, the aspiring biblical counselor must be able to translate theology into practical implementation for living in daily life.
Fourth, to become a biblical counselor requires the development of a skill set which requires significant training. That is, how to navigate the biblical counseling process. In my book, with co-author Bill Hines, I develop a very logical and systematic model of biblical counseling which has served well in teaching and training many Lay Biblical Counselors as well as Master’s and Doctoral students.
Aspiring to become a biblical counselor is good (see I Tim 3:1). Maturing in the Lord requires submission to His Lordship (1:1-7). Acquiring the skills requires both education and training (ordination and/or some form of certification). Practicing requires the humility of a fellow struggler on the journey of sanctification (Phil 3:10).
My posting of the essences of this essay on Facebook drew this question from one commentator. “What about compassion?” That struct me as very logical and strategic question that deserved an answer. Therefore, I engaged in a study of the Greek word for compassion and considered numerous occurrences in the New Testament. Here is my answer to the poster of the question.
Where does compassion fit into the qualifications to be a biblical counselor? It is not in the character composition of qualifications because it is an emotional response to the hurting. We find Jesus expressing compassion on several occasions (Matt 20:24, for example). The good Samaritan had compassion on the victim of robbers (Luke 10::25-37). My final qualifier in the final paragraph of my original piece, “Practicing requires the humility of a fellow struggler on the journey of sanctification” did imply compassion.
Hence, I would venture this answer to the question. Someone who has the character qualities to qualify as a biblical counselor is someone who will have compassion on those who are hurting. The very fact that a person aspires to be a counselor means engaging with hurting people (for many different reasons), would be an indication that they are a person who is compassionate. These character qualities produce a person who will be compassionate.
Thanks for asking and giving me the opportunity to consider the question and venture an answer.