Addressing Risk Factors

One of the “wet blankets” that may hinder Discipleship Counselors is the fear of a lawsuit. Although informal peer-to-peer ministry seems to avoid this stigma, when churches and parachurch helpers move into a more formal pastoral counseling role, the risk factor may come up. How can these fears be addressed? How can the counselor take wise precautions?

Adopt and ethics statement

Although professional code of ethics documents are more detailed than needed and are biased with secular values and professional policies, the Discipleship Counselor can adapt and use a policy document. Here is an audio lecture on ethics by Dr. Cry Lantz:

http://gfirecovery.com/MP3/Cary_Lantz_ETHICS.mp3

and a sample document: Ethics Policy

In formal personal ministry, have a second person present or nearby for accountability (for the benefit of the counselee and the counselor).

Use relevant forms

When forms such as Informed Consent and Waiver of Liability are used, this documents that the counselee agrees to non-professional, non-secular, Christian personal ministry sessions. These forms should be signed and kept with the client’s case notes. Here are sample documents that can be edited:
Informed Consent Form sample
Waiver of Liability sample

Get insurance coverage

If you’re doing formal ministry (appointments, goals, secure notes, donations received, etc.), a liability policy is reassuring and also affordable (relatively speaking). Consider this agency that covers pastoral counselors for about $100 or so per year. (800) 421-6694
https://www.americanprofessional.com/covered-professions/clergy-pastoral-counselors/

As the apostle Paul admonished Timothy, let’s minister with integrity and confidence:
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6,7).

JBW

Ways and Means

The government has a “Ways and Means Committee,” and likewise the Discipleship Counselor also needs to be sensitive to the “ways and means” of personal ministry.

Miles Stanford observed, “Truth based upon law will be presented legally–it will be legislated. Truth based upon grace will be shared graciously, in love. ‘Adorn the doctrine of God’ by ‘speaking the truth in love’ (Titus 2:10; Eph. 4:15).”

Dr. Charles Solomon named the Exchanged Life Counseling approach “Spirituotherapy” in honor of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit inspired His written Word, illumines it to the believer’s understanding, and intends to guide the discipleship process (2 Tim. 3:16,17; John 16:13).

A devotional writer counseled that “There are two things that have to be taken into account in communicating truth. Not merely should there be certainty that it is the truth from God, but it must also be suited truth to those whom you address … We are to serve under His direction, and according to His pleasure; not just because opportunity or need offers. We require His direction, and the knowledge of His pleasure…”

The way to counsel those in need is to be good listener, sharing relevant truth by means of the leading and enablement of the Wonderful Counselor. Keep praying for His work in and though the personal ministry process.

“And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:4-6).

JBW

Limitations in Secular Counseling Policy

Although it’s commendable that some Christian counselors gone through the academic and clinical requirements for state licensure, secular policies may limit spiritual and moral guidance.
For example, the ACA code of ethics states:
A.4.b.
Personal Values
Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature. https://www.counseling.org/
This policy implies that values are neutral or are limited to the counselee’s perspective. Case in point: discouraging abortion could be considered inappropriate because abortion is legal.
But all types of counseling assume a set of values and a process of gaining and applying wisdom. But whose values? What kind of wisdom?
Biblical guidance is summarized in Psalm 119:105:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.”
If a Christian depends on a counselor who is bound to not give biblical guidance, the warning of Jesus comes to mind: “…They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matt. 15:14).
James compares two kinds of wisdom: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual… For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18).
Therefore the Pastoral/Biblical Counselor should be up front about his/her model and values so that the counselee can freely decide if they desire Christian Counseling. The use of an informed consent form is important to document this mutual understanding. Here is a sample: Informed Consent
Note: When the counselee desires and agrees to Biblical Counseling, this does not imply any pressure tactics on the part of the counselor. There is always unconditional acceptance in the confidential helping relationship and respect for the counselee’s responsibility to determine goals and to make scriptural faith choices.
J.B.W.

Online Courses

Grace Fellowship has launched a new online course platform. Now students can register and track their progress for personal enrichment and mentoring. There are six course in “GFI Study Hall” and each is free. These courses are useful for counselee homework and continuing education.

Just visit, bookmark the site, and create an account there. The course portal is gfi.thinkific.com

Motivational Gifts

The topic of spiritual gifts can be a beneficial aspect of Discipleship Counseling. The teaching context would include 1 Peter 4:10,11, Eph. 4:11-12; and 1 Cor. 12-14.
Personal discipling/mentoring/counseling could facilitate the disciple’s appreciation, recognition and deployment of his/her gift(s).
A model that I have found very helpful over the decades considers the seven gifts Romans 12:3-8 as “motivational gifts.” In other words, each of us as believers has one of these seven gifts as a primary motivational gift. With that motive/orientation you may have one or more “ministry gifts”… and the use of these abilities may sometimes show up in a “manifestation gift.”
Here are some resources that unpack this approach:
(click the link on each of the seven for more detail)
An online (and downloadable) survey is at:
Books using this model include:
And note Charles Stanley’s sermons on the seven (motivational) spiritual gifts :
If the Discipleship Counselor appreciates the importance of spiritual gifts in life and ministry, he/she may discover this topic to be more scriptural and beneficial than the popular four personality categories (as used in the DISC profile).
JBW

Appropriation

Classic Exchanged Life Counseling applies the cross-oriented deeper life message to strategic Discipleship Counseling. It deals primarily with the heart, so that behavior change and topical guidance are primarily addressed on the resurrection side of the cross (Gal. 2:20).

Handbook to Happiness and Handbook for Christ Centered Counseling by Dr. Charles Solomon have been foundational to this branch of Christian Counseling. Those familiar with Grace Fellowship’s edition of the “Wheel diagrams” recognize that the process boils down to the counselee reframing his/her journey from the self-life to the Christ Life (see F.B. Meyer’s book by this title).

This past year GFI has started to use a new diagram to assist people in understanding the process of how to appropriate Christ as Life (Col 3:1-4). Although our identification with Christ is a gift of God at the new birth (1 Cor. 1:30) our practical experience of this (in the soul and behavior) is conditional. How does one move from the defeat of Galatians 3:1-3 to the victory of Galatians 2:20;5:22-24?

Some (trying to avoid the mistake of self-effort in sanctification) say “there is no how to.” Others assume that the practical experience of victory is automatic if the exchanged life is interpreted in a psychologically comfortable way. Consider the following biblical, practical explanation.

The appropriation diagram has been helping counselees with a simple summary of the response God calls us to for the abundant life (John 10:10).

Notice the sample Scripture verses in the diagram that support the five “R”s:

  1. Repent (Admit errors of your natural way and align with God’s way.)
  2. Relinquish (Present yourself to God as a living sacrifice.)
  3. Recognize (Discern your co-crucifixion and co-resurrection with Christ.)
  4. Reckon (Count on this revelation to be true personally.)
  5. Rest (Depend on Christ to live His Life through you.)

As the discipler cooperates with the Holy Spirit, he/she facilitates this process of appropriating Jesus Christ as Life. In this way the counselor serves like Joshua (Josh. 1-3), guiding the redeemed wanderer cross the Jordan River into Canaan.

Those who are involved in personal ministry are invited to study and share this appropriation diagram. We would appreciate your feedback about this appropriation tool.

The God-Centered Legacy of DeVern Fromke

An author that taught the message of union with Christ with a God-centered perspective was DeVern Fromke. Books such as The Ultimate Intention are on the required reading list for our network of Galatians 2:20 counseling ministries. I appreciated some personal calls and correspondence with him in his later years. Brother Fromke went to be with the Lord a couple of years ago. Author Frank Viola posted his respects for Devern Fromke’s ministry at Frank’s popular blog:

“One of my mentors has gone to be with the Lord. A treasured spiritual luminary has left this earth. DeVern Fromke is now with God. He was 93.

“I met DeVern in 1993 along with Stephen Kaung (disciple of Watchman Nee)… Fromke ministered in conferences with the man who has had the most influence on my life, T. Austin-Sparks–though Sparks left this realm before I ever heard his name. All of these men gave me my foundation in the Eternal Purpose of God. And I still marvel at the depth of revelation whenever I read Sparks…

“He, along with Kaung and Sparks, were pioneers of God’s Ultimate Purpose. I’m grateful for his life and legacy. Beyond everything else, he showed me how to carry the Lord’s highest message without being egotistical or high-minded. DeVern was a portrait of the humility of Christ in a gifted vessel.”

Posted by Frank Viola, October 29, 2016
https://frankviola.org/2013/02/22/devernfromke/

DeVern Fromke’s books for adults and children are still available at https://fromke.com/