Dale Johnson ~ An Intro. to Biblical Counseling

Image courtesy of ACBC.

This past Sunday at church, we had a guest speaker during the Sunday School hour. Since we’ll be hosting ACBC training soon, Dale Johnson, Executive Director of ACBC (the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) presented to us a very helpful, encouraging, and biblical introduction to the concept of biblical counseling and soul care.

If you’re not familiar with biblical counseling, the term might sound like it’s just another name for “Christian counseling” or a regular therapist who happens also to be a Christian. But both of those tend to use traditional secular psychological methods. Biblical counseling is a whole ‘nother animal. It’s more like what some have described as “deep dive discipleship,” or correctly applying the authoritative, sufficient Word of God to your problematic situation. You can learn more, find a certified biblical counselor near you, and find out about becoming a certified biblical counselor at the Biblical Counseling Resources tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

If you’re in, or can get to, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area this spring, and you’d like to attend the ACBC training sessions, click here. Other upcoming training sessions are being held soon in Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, and California. If none of those are close enough to you, contact ACBC for more information on training. We all counsel others every day. Why not make sure the counsel we give them is biblical?

Click here to listen to Soul Care by Dale Johnson


The Mailbag: You need to set up an appointment with your pastor for counsel…

A family member and I had a falling out…

I’m unequally yoked in my marriage

We’ve got this situation with my husband’s ex-wife…

My adult child lives with us and has broken the law…

…what do I do? How do I handle all of this?

I hurt for so many of y’all facing difficult situations out there. Detailed situations. Complicated situations. Situations you desperately need some help with.

Situations I get emails and comments about that I deeply want to help you with, but I can’t, because it would be unbiblical and irresponsible of me to try to do so.

It would be irresponsible, because I don’t know you. I don’t know the situation or the other people involved. I don’t know the laws in your area. And, although I’m sure you’re all truthful when you write to me, I’m only getting your side of the story, so I’m not getting a complete picture of what’s going on. I could give you advice that might inadvertently prove wrong or harmful.

It would also be irresponsible to my family, because my primary duty is to serve them. If I tried to spend as much time as it would take to properly counsel everyone who asks me to, I would be neglecting my family.

It would be unbiblical because there’s no “stranger thousands of miles away on the internet” role for me in the framework God has set up for Christianity. God’s framework for Christianity is the local church, and in that framework, if you need counsel, the person God has designated to be your first point of contact in most situations is your pastor, an elder, or a spiritually mature brother or sister in Christ.

Not only would it be wrong for me to try to usurp one of those positions, it would be robbing your church of the opportunity to shepherd and disciple you one on one, face to face, for the long haul. And it would be robbing you of the joy and blessings of being ministered to by your church family. When you and your church walk through a situation like this together, it strengthens your bond, grows all of you, and increases your joy in one another.

But I don’t have a church. I promise I’m not trying to pile on here, but I need to take this opportunity to drive home to everybody who’s reading this who has been lackadaisical or defiant about finding a church: this is one of the reasons you need to find, join, and get plugged in to a good church. This is one of the reasons Scripture tells us that, for Christians, church is not optional and non-negotiable. That we’re to meet together more as the Day draws near, not less.

Furthermore, being faithful to a local body can sometimes help prevent certain situations from happening in the first place because you’re getting good, biblical instruction, “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age”. (Titus 2:12)

If you’re not currently a member of a church (or you are and you’ve stopped attending), you need to make that right immediately. Disobeying God’s command for us to gather isn’t going to help your situation, and obeying it can do nothing but help.

If you’re not sure where to look for a solid church, start praying fervently for God to lead you to one. Then go to the blue menu bar at the top of this page, click on Searching for a new church?, and start by reading the materials in the “What to look for in a church” section.

But I’m hanging in there, trying to effect / waiting for change at a church that’s operating unbiblically and I don’t trust my pastor to give me biblical counsel. Believe me, I know from first hand experience exactly what that’s like.

(I also know that many readers’ knee jerk reaction will be, “Well, you need to get out of there and find a different church.” I get that, and in many cases that’s the right answer. But in other cases it’s not. There are lots of different reasons why someone might choose to weather a temporary storm at her church, and immediately bailing out isn’t always the godly answer.)

What about your Sunday School or Bible study teacher? A spiritually mature friend who’s also hanging in there? An older lady in the church? Think about it and pray for God to lead you to the right person who can help.

If you can’t find someone in your own church, what about a godly friend who goes to another (doctrinally sound) church? Talk things over with her. If she feels like your situation is outside her wheelhouse, perhaps she would be willing to introduce you to her pastor and he would be willing to counsel you. You could even “cold call” a pastor at a doctrinally sound church in your area and see if he counsels “walk-ins” who are members of other churches. It never hurts to ask.

If all else fails, see if there’s a church in your area that has an ACBC certified Biblical Counselor (this is not the same thing as a “Christian counselor/therapist”) available for counseling, or explore my Biblical Counseling resource in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

But there isn’t a doctrinally sound church in my area. I know that for a few of you, this is true. You live in a remote area where there are no churches. Or, everything close by is Catholic, or NAR, or progressive, and the nearest semblance of a doctrinally sound church is five hours away. You’re willing to make sacrifices to attend church, but there just isn’t one to attend.

But I also know that for some, what this means is, “My ideal church isn’t located within a 15 minute drive of me.”

I’ve addressed these scenarios in detail in some of the links above, so, long story short: check every single church search engine at the Searching for a new church? tab to make sure you haven’t overlooked a good church within achievable driving distance, move, or look into church planting. And, above all, pray that God would provide you with a good church.

But for the purposes of this article, if there isn’t a doctrinally sound church in your area, many of the same suggestions above will apply: talk to a godly friend, Zoom with a solid pastor friend in another area, or visit my Biblical Counseling tab (linked above).

But couldn’t you just recommend a book for me to read that addresses what I’m going through? No, I probably can’t, primarily for the very simple reason that there are thousands of books out there on zillions of topics, and I haven’t read them all. And if I haven’t read a particular book, I don’t know if it’s doctrinally sound, and I don’t know if it adequately addresses your issue.

Additionally, while good books can be somewhat helpful in a general, “one size fits all” sort of way, no book is going to address all the specifics of your particular situation. But a one on one, ongoing counseling or discipleship relationship with your pastor or a godly older sister at church can.

Let’s (I’ve been guilty of this too) be careful not to fall into the subtle mindset of, “If I could just find the right book, it’ll be the magic bullet to solve my problem.” I can practically guarantee you, it won’t.

All of that being said, if your pastor recommends a certain (doctrinally sound) book while he’s counseling you, by all means, read it. If the friend you’re talking things over with says, “This book really helped me a lot in when I was in your situation,” go for it. As you’re pursuing one on one, face to face counsel in the context of your local church, go ahead and read up (I’d recommend anything from Grace to You, Ligonier, or anything written by the folks at the Recommended Bible Teachers tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.)

I’m not saying good books aren’t helpful. I’m just saying books alone aren’t a substitute for godly counsel from real, flesh and blood brothers and sisters in Christ.

Life can be hard and painful sometimes. God knew it would be, and He knows the best way to help us. That’s why He gave us the church.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.


A New Addition: Biblical Counseling Resources

If you’ll scroll up to the top of this page, you’ll see a new addition to my resource tabs – the one that says Biblical Counseling Resources.

Often, women write to me needing help with difficult and complex life circumstances. It would be neither ethical nor effective for me to try to assist them via e-mail. They need someone who can sit down with them face to face for the long haul and help them walk through the situation biblically. A good biblical counselor can be a Godsend in situations like these.

So, what is biblical counseling? How can someone find a biblical counselor? Interested in training to become a biblical counselor? It’s all at the new resource tab, but I need your help.

My Searching for a new church? resource tab has been very successful in “matchmaking” readers with doctrinally sound churches, and that has been, in no small part, thanks to your recommendations of good churches. So once again, I’d like to ask for your help – this time, to build a list of recommended biblical counselors.

If your doctrinally sound church offers biblical counseling or you know of a good parachurch biblical counseling ministry you’d like to recommend, please explore the new tab (to see whether it’s already listed) and then add your recommendation to the comments section below.

If you’d like to make a recommendation, please be advised:

•The recommendation must be for a biblical counselor or counseling ministry. Recommendations for Christian counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, life coaches, etc. will not be accepted.

•The biblical counselor must have been trained and certified by a reputable biblical counseling organization or seminary.

You must include the website of the church, counselor, or counseling ministry you are recommending. Recommendations not including websites will not be considered.

If you know of any biblical counseling certification training programs or doctrinally sound Christian universities or seminaries that offer degree programs in biblical counseling, check to see if yours is listed, and, if not, recommend away!

Thank you for helping me help hurting women get the resources they need.


The Mailbag: Potpourri (Loneliness, Masons, Psych Meds…)


Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourrri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

I am wondering if it is common for women who really begin to exercise discernment and pull away from bad theology and false teachers to find themselves somewhat isolated and lonely? Are other women dealing with this same issue?

It probably sounds weird to say it this way but, no, you are not alone in your loneliness and isolation. I hear this often from:

…women who are growing in discernment and are beginning to realize that the rest of their church is growing more and more accepting of false doctrine.

…women who are having difficulty finding a doctrinally sound church to join.

…women who go to churches that are mostly doctrinally sound but can’t attend their church’s women’s ministry events or women’s “Bible” study because the event centers around (or the study is written by) a false teacher.

Sometimes the loneliness is something you just have to endure for a while. Maybe God has placed you at this church in order to pray for its health and work for biblical change. Maybe God led you away from your last church because it was too far gone in false doctrine to turn around and you haven’t been able to find a new church yet.

Be patient. Use this time of loneliness to draw nearer to the Lord. If you’re married, pour your energies into a closer relationship with your husband. Try to cultivate a deeper friendship with one or two other women instead of dwelling on the fact that there aren’t any classes or group gatherings for you to attend. And, secondarily (your primary focus should always be on face to face relationships), try joining a Christian women’s group on social media. Hereherehere, and here are a few I’m familiar with and can recommend.

And don’t forget, Jesus knows what it feels like to be lonely and rejected for standing for biblical truth. Rejoice – you are sharing in His sufferings.

The wife of a pastor I trust mentioned on social media that she went to [secular singer’s] concert and thought it was fantastic. I know his music isn’t something we should listen to but how do I deal in regards to her husband’s teachings?

Well… let’s back up just a little bit.

I’m not very familiar with the singer you named, but from what little I’ve been told, he’s not biting the heads off bats on stage or building an altar to Satan in his living room. He’s a “pop/Top 40” or “adult contemporary” kind of guy who mostly sings love songs. Now, does that mean it’s blanketly OK for Christians to listen to his music? Not necessarily. Does it mean we should blanketly question the sanctification of a Christian who enjoys listening to him, or the doctrine of her spouse? Not necessarily.

Assuming she would not publicly admit to liking a celebrity who is well known for blatantly promoting sin in his life or his music, what her social media remark probably means is that the singer’s music doesn’t generally glorify sin, and the pastor’s wife either isn’t aware that the singer overtly promotes sin (abortion, the homosexual agenda, a false religion, etc.) off stage or she’s familiar enough with his life to know that he doesn’t, so she has made the decision that it’s OK to listen to his music.

Perhaps you would make a different decision about your own listening habits, but it’s not your place to impose your listening standards on this woman or to judge her husband’s entire body of doctrine by one remark his wife made on social media. Scripture doesn’t say we can never listen to an unsaved singer or that we can never listen to music that’s not expressly “Christian.” The Bible does say we’re to set our minds on things that are pure, lovely, excellent, etc., but it does not say that you or I get to determine what is pure, lovely, excellent, etc., for another person’s conscience, unless rightly handled Scripture clearly addresses it. We are to work out our own salvation on issues about which the Bible is silent.

Unless the woman’s social media remark was just one in a pattern of questionable or sinful comments or behaviors, I don’t think it’s fair to jump to the conclusion, based on this one comment alone, that the pastor is doctrinally unsound, a poor spiritual leader to his wife and family, or otherwise unfit for ministry. Continue to exercise as much discernment when listening to him as you would with any other pastor or teacher you follow.

Do You MIND? Five Reasons for Pastors to Mind What their Brides are Reading

Would you have a problem being a member of a Lutheran church? Our church is possibly disbanding and my husband (Southern Baptist all his life) is interested in visiting there. I read about a few differences, but I am not sure if they are differences to keep us away.

(I just want to note that this reader asked me if I would attend a Lutheran church, so that’s how I’m answering – for me. Naturally, if my husband and I were faced with this issue, we would discuss it and pray about it, he would make the final decision, and I would gladly abide by that (biblical) decision. Also, I’m not answering for anyone else. I have godly, doctrinally sound friends who are Lutherans, and I’m certainly not saying they – or anyone else – need to leave a solid local Lutheran church.)

Like your husband, I’m also a lifelong Southern Baptist, and though I’m Reformed (most of the SBC isn’t), and there are a lot of problems in the Southern Baptist Convention at large, I’m not ready to jump ship just yet. There are still a lot of doctrinally sound SBC churches out there (I’m a member of an awesome one) and there is space for those churches and doctrinally sound individuals to continue working for change to correct those problems. So, to answer that aspect of your question, I would not seek out a church of any other denomination at this point in my life.

However, if my family had to move to another place where the only doctrinally sound church available to us was a Lutheran church, knowing only what I know right now about Lutheranism – which, admittedly, is at a moderate level – I would joyfully attend it. (I would definitely study up on Lutheran doctrine more, though, if I were in that situation.)

The Lutheran doctrines I’m most familiar with that I don’t agree with are some (not all) of their beliefs and practices regarding baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Those are the areas where I would suggest you and your husband start studying. Examine the Lutheran application of the Scriptures regarding those issues, pray about it, talk to the Lutheran pastor about it, talk to a non-Lutheran pastor you trust about it, and decide whether you can submit to Lutheran doctrine in those areas. I don’t know if those or other Lutheran doctrines are differences that would keep you away or not. There are plenty of doctrinally sound folks who are Lutherans, so obviously, they’re differences that don’t keep everybody away.

Let me point you toward a couple of those doctrinally sound Lutherans who might be able to help with your questions and give you better resources than I can:

Chris Rosebrough – a Lutheran pastor – heads up one of my favorite podcasts, Fighting for the Faith. You might want to give him a listen and/or contact him for some advice or resources.

Jorge Rodriguez, also Lutheran, admins the Fighting for the Faith Facebook group. I’ve seen several questions on Lutheran doctrine in the group, so you could post questions there or contact Jorge through his blog, Faithful Stewardship.

I’m not sure how much time either Chris or Jorge has to answer individual messages, but it’s worth a shot.

Should Christians be Masons?

I don’t know what’s going on with the Masons and their infiltration of the church these days, but I’m seeing this question pop up more and more.

No, Christians should not be Masons if for no other reason than that their ceremonies, beliefs, etc., are so shrouded in secrecy. Christians are people of the light, not people of the darkness. But there are many more unbiblical tenets to Masonry that preclude a genuinely regenerated Christian from joining. Here are some resources if you’d like to study up:

Should Christians Join the Masonic Lodge? by Steven Tsoukalas

What is Free Masonry and what do Free Masons believe? at Got Questions

Freemasonry and the Christian at The Master’s Seminary

I wanted to know your take on Christians and anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety medication.

I’m neither qualified, nor do I think it would be wise, to make a blanket statement for or against these types of medications. As a maturing Christian and student of the Bible for many years and as someone with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and half a master’s in family counseling here is what I’m willing and qualified to say:

☙Many of the issues people see therapists for – including some forms of depression and anxiety – are actually spiritual issues. Before seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist, and certainly before trying any psychotropic medication, I would recommend that someone talk with a pastor, a mature Christian friend, or an ACBC certified Biblical counselor (not the same thing as a “Christian counselor”) to make sure she correctly understands and has applied the biblical gospel and what the Bible says about the issue she’s facing. It’s not by accident that our God has names like Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counsellor, Comforter, and the Great Physician.

☙Sometimes Christians – doctrinally sound Christians who aren’t living in any unrepentant sin – have emotional or organic brain issues that require psychological/psychiatric intervention and/or psychotropic medication. There are psychological/psychiatric treatments that do not conflict with Scripture, and no Christian should feel guilty for partaking of them if she has dealt with all potential spiritual issues related to her problem and has exhausted all other less extreme measures to deal with her problem. Christians who play armchair expert and blanketly denounce any form of psychological/psychiatric intervention as unbiblical and satanic are misinformed and aren’t helping anybody, least of all brothers and sisters in Christ who are dealing with mental issues.

☙Psychotropic drugs can have some intense side effects, which is one reason I would recommend exhausting every other possibility first: first spiritual issues, then behavior and/or talk therapy. If you find you must take a medication, make sure you have a good doctor who knows your medical history, get a second or third opinion, and do lots of research.

What are some biblical ways of addressing my child’s mental illness?

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.


The Mailbag: What are some biblical ways of addressing my child’s mental illness?


My adolescent son has been engaging in recurring sinful behavior that I believe might have led to a mental illness. He recently attempted suicide and his doctor believes medication is the best treatment option. I don’t know what to do. I just know I want my child to be safe. I know you aren’t a doctor, but I was wondering if you had any advice about other things we could try instead.

I know this is a really difficult situation, and I deeply wish I could be of more help. However, as you rightly pointed out, I’m not a doctor and don’t know your son’s situation, so I wouldn’t dream of suggesting changing or stopping any particular treatment.¹

In addition to working closely with your son’s doctors, I would recommend a few things:

1. Continue to pray for his salvation and repentance. Share the gospel with him and point him to Christ whenever you have the opportunity to do so, but use wisdom and be sure you’re not pushing him past what he can deal with at the moment. Trust the Holy Spirit to do the work on your son’s heart that only He can do.

2. Set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling- for you, your husband, and any other children still living at home. If your son would be willing to see your pastor for counseling – in addition to any other treatment he’s receiving, not instead of – that would probably be beneficial as well. Your pastor should have received training in counseling in seminary and can help guide your family through this situation.

3. If your pastor is unable or unwilling to counsel you (or in addition to your pastor’s counseling), you might want to seek out a Certified Biblical Counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. This is not secular counseling with a Christianish tilt to it, but counselors who have received extensive training in Scripture, theology, and counseling to help you apply the Bible to your situation as you walk through it, and help your son understand his sin and the gospel. They are very helpful, and I highly recommend them.

As I said, I wish I could do more to help. I can’t imagine how painful this must be for you. I’m taking a moment to pray for you now, and ask everyone reading this to pray for this family as well.

¹A brief note to my readers- I know many of you strongly disagree with psychological and psychiatric treatment. There are many aspects of these disciplines which I disagree with as well. However, it would be dangerous, unethical, unwise, and ungodly for me to recommend for or against any specific type of treatment in this forum. Any comments suggesting this parent should discontinue any type of mental health treatment her child is currently receiving will not be published.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.