As a biblical counselor, I believe my counsel should flow from the Gospel. Therefore, I was very excited to read Dr. Bob Kellemen’s new book, Gospel Centered Counseling. I love his writing anyway, and this book provides so much robust and relevant counsel for the counselor that I had difficulty putting it down.
I found this book to be warm and comforting, like having a conversation with a friend. The tenor of the book reflects the heart of a Pastor/Teacher/Counselor who longs to impart loving, biblical truth to the reader.
A Counseling Model Built on the Gospel of Grace
Bob sought to determine what a biblical counseling and discipleship model built upon the gospel of grace would look like. He asked the following questions:
- The Word: “Where do we find wisdom for life in a broken world?
- The Trinity/Community: “What comes into our mind when we think about God?” “Whose view of Go will we believe- Christ’s or Satan’s?
- Creation: Whose are we?” “In what story do we find ourselves?”
- Fall: “What’s the source of our problem?” “What went wrong?”
- Redemption: “How does Christ being us peace with God?” “How does Christ change people?”
- Church: “Where can we find a place to belong and become?”
- Consummation: “How does our future destiny with Christ make a difference in our lives today as saints who struggle against suffering and sin?”
- Sanctification: “Why are we here?” “How do we become like Jesus?” “How can our inner life increasingly reflect the inner life of Christ?”
Bob carefully, compassionately, and accurately develops a gospel-centered model throughout the book as he answers these questions.
There is more in this book than a short review can do justice, so I will give you my personal takeaways and mention a few of the things I found especially noteworthy. Bob reminds us early on that the relationship between counselor and counselee is centered on the love and gospel of Jesus Christ. We are cautioned to avoid the common pitfalls in helping people, giving more love than truth or dispensing all truth and no love.
In the second chapter, Bob carefully mines the gold from the book of Colossians, stressing the importance of the counselor’s confidence being in the Bible, not in human wisdom. He presents a balanced and reasonable approach to the complex mind-body connection, respecting all dimensions of who we are. Bob carefully outlines the dangers of blending human wisdom with Christ, and stresses the message, “Jesus knows people!”
He reminds us that biblical counseling is not about us as the counselor and is not ultimately about the counselee; that biblical counseling is about “giving people a glimpse of the wonder of our God” and helping them to grow so they will glorify God in their lives.
Heart Change for Life Change
Bob provides a rich view of counseling on the heart level, carefully developing, explaining, and teaching the process of change at the heart level. He refers to counselors as, “Biblical Cardiologists,” and exposes the various chambers of the sin-sick heart before revealing the cure as it is found in the redemption story.
In several key places, Bob includes role-play with fictitious counselee’s to illustrate the brokenness sin brings into life. The narratives are rich with compassion and provide a peek into the counseling process. They bring to life the practical concepts he presents as well as highlighting the necessity for gospel saturation when giving counsel to hurting souls.
The Importance of Community
Instruction in heart change and life change are to take place in the context of the local church. The local church is the one place all Christians can and should call home. It is the place we should bear one another’s burdens, it is a hospital for broken people. Through exegeting Ephesians, Bob gives a close up look at the church community as the place to belong and the place to learn how to become like Christ. It is within the churches that hope, healing and help for the problems of life are found.
Page after page of this excellent book amplifies a statement Bob makes in the opening pages, “The gospel is about God radically changing people.” This book has been added to the required reading list for our biblical counselor training program. I would highly recommend it to pastors who want to understand what biblical counseling truly is about. I would recommend it to both equippers and those being equipped for ministry.