-Betty-Anne Van Rees
This post addresses a question that was submitted at our February 2017 conference. We would like to offer answers to the questions that we were not able to address during the conference.
Q: If we are all counselors (Romans 15:14 ) and equipped, and if Scripture is sufficient (which I believe it is) is there any merit in getting any formal training? If not, why are there successful biblical counselors with medical, M Social Work, PhD, M Div, M Theology? Basically, should I bother with additional education through organizations like ACBC, CCEF, etc?
A: Great question and extremely meaningful for anyone serving the Lord in any capacity. We have the Holy Spirit within: guiding, bringing truth to mind, convicting of sin and giving light to the eyes in regard to those we seek to serve. How could we need more than Him? I guess the question is, “Is education or training ‘more’ than the Holy Spirit? Or is it actually a means of pursuing and deepening relationship with God? I’d like to suggest it can absolutely be the latter.
Choosing to pursue training in any field is a position of humility. It says, “I would benefit from learning from others who have gone before me.” It acknowledges that others have invested time and energy pursuing wisdom from God and intimacy with Him in ways that I have not yet done. It is only moderately different than sitting under the preaching of our pastors or the teaching of our Bible study leaders.
Secondly, pursuing training is also one way in which we live out the biblical principle of body life. We are not islands unto ourselves. We are a complexly interconnected unit living out the life of Jesus who is our head. Body life is a means of grace and education and training is a means of body life. As we counsel those we are privileged to influence, both in formal settings and in the coffee shop, the fact that we have sought training is a vital modelling of God’s design for the interconnectedness and interdependence of His people.
Lastly, while it is entirely possible for the Holy Spirit to guide one of His own in speaking truth and grace into another’s life with no training of any kind, it is also possible and even right to seek to learn how to serve fellow Christians with increased excellence. Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians rings down through the centuries: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23-24) While we plant our hope squarely in the generous provision of God through His gospel, we can pursue a wide variety of means of growth that will help us serve His kingdom purposes more effectively.
The Scripture guides us to a beautiful balance in this. When we draw truths such as “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15) together with “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov 3:5-6) we will find the Lord leading us on a path that is empowered by Him and full of His glory.