Philosophy of Soul Care
Adapted from the Confessional Statement of the Biblical Counselling Coalition
We are dedicated to a theology and practice of the personal ministry of the word known as Soul Care.
We are convinced that Soul Care centered on Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, shaped by the Scriptures, and focused on the truth of the gospel, offers real hope, and real loving help, to people living in a fallen world.
Our goal is to provide relevant biblically centered resources and training that equips the church to build itself up in love for the glory of God, by the power of the Spirit (Epheians 4:15-16, John 15:8, Galatians 5:22-23). We seek to interact in a way that is winsome and wise, maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).
We confess that we have not “arrived” (Philippians 3:12–14). We readily admit that we struggle to apply consistently all that we say we believe. We who counsel live in process, just like those we counsel, so we want to learn and grow in Jesus’ wisdom and grace.
All Christian ministry arises from and is anchored in God’s self‐revelation in the Word—the written Word (Scripture) and the living Word (Christ).
In light of this core conviction about Christ‐centered, Word‐based ministry, we affirm the following central commitments:
1. Soul Care Aims to Be Centered on Jesus
We believe that wise counselling centers on Jesus and his cross and resurrection where God reveals the depths of our sin and the heights of his grace. Wise counselling gets to the heart of personal and interpersonal problems by bringing to bear the truth, mercy, and power of Jesus’ gospel of grace. There are no truly mentally healthy people and there are no truly healthy relationships without understanding the desperate condition we were in without Jesus, and without experiencing the joy of deliverance from that condition through his death and resurrection on our behalf.
We point people to a person, Jesus, our Redeemer and greatest Treasure. People need a real and personal relationship with him, not a system of self‐salvation, self‐management, or self‐actualization. Authentic counseling guides people to a dynamic relationship with Jesus. We desire to lead struggling, hurting, and confused people to the hope, resources, strength, and life that are only available in Him. Our counselling is not one of many systems of change; rather, it places its trust in the transformative power of the one who is our Redeemer and greatest Treasure, as the only hope to change people’s hearts.
2. Soul Care Aims to Be Rooted in Scripture
We believe that the Bible is inerrant, sufficient, powerful, profound, and enduringly relevant. No other source of knowledge is ultimately authoritative to equip us for the task of counselling focused on heart change. The Scriptures, rightly interpreted and carefully applied, offer us all‐encompassing wisdom for understanding who we are, the problems we face, how people change, and God’s provision for that change in the gospel. The wisdom given by God in the Bible is distinctive and robust—comprehensively addressing the sin and suffering of all people in all situations. A system of faith and practice for wise counselling is not a mere collection of proof‐ texts from the Scriptures, but a wise application of God’s all‐embracing truth, culminating in the person and gospel of Jesus, to our complex lives.
The Bible actively drives our theory and practice as we interpret it accurately and apply it relevantly so that our conceptual framework and practical methods emerge as much as possible from the biblical text itself. When we say that Scripture is comprehensive and all‐encompassing in wisdom, we mean that the Bible makes sense of all things, not that it contains all the information we could ever know about all topics. God’s common grace brings many good things to human life, but it cannot cure the soul. We affirm that numerous sources contribute to our knowledge of people, but none can constitute a comprehensive system of counselling principles and practices.
3. Soul Care Aims to Be Grounded in Theology
We believe that biblical counselling is fundamentally a practical‐theological discipline because every aspect of life is related to God (Romans 11:36). God intends that we care for one another in ways that relate human struggles to his person, purposes, and promises. Wise counselling arises from a theological way of looking at life—a mindset, a worldview—that informs how we understand people, problems, and solutions (Colossians 3:16). Thus the best biblical counsellors are wise, balanced, caring, Spirit‐dependent, sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10), and theologically grounded. The ideas, goals, and practices of biblical counselling should cohere primarily with the Scriptures, but also secondarily with the historic creeds, confessions, and other wise writings that are shaped by the Scriptures and express the church’s consensual wisdom for living.
We work to relate the Scriptures relevantly to the life of the counselee. All wise ministry understands particular texts and a person’s unique life experience within the context of the Bible’s larger storyline: God’s creation, our fall into sin, his great redemptive plan, and the consummation of all things in the person and gospel of Jesus. Thus as soul physicians and spiritual friends, we engage in person‐specific, naturally flowing conversations growing out of a comprehensive biblical theology, culminating in the gospel, to the exaltation of Jesus.
4. Soul Care Aims to Be Dependent Upon the Holy Spirit
We believe that genuine change of heart and lifestyle depends fully upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We know that it is impossible to speak wisely and lovingly to bring about true and lasting change apart from the decisive, compassionate, and convicting work of the Spirit in the counsellor and the counselee. We acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the One who illumines the gospel and energizes its application in everyday life.
We serve in the strength which God supplies so that in everything God receives the glory (1 Peter 4:11). We affirm the absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit to inform, guide, and empower both the counsellor and the counselee.
5. Soul Care Aims to Be Focused on Sanctification
We believe that wise counselling should be transformative, change‐oriented, and grounded in the biblical reality of progressive sanctification. The aim of wise counselling is intentional and intensive discipleship—growing spiritually mature persons who increasingly reflect Jesus by enjoying and exalting God, by trusting more fully in God’s promises to us, and by gladly ministering to others. Our goal is spiritual, personal, and interpersonal maturity evidenced by relationships, desires, thoughts, motives, actions, and emotions increasingly resembling Jesus, our Redeemer and Treasure.
We seek to maintain the biblical compatibility of God’s sovereign role and human responsibility. God’s strength and mercy call for our response of the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5), a response he himself empowers (Philippians 2:13). Biblical counselling helps believers to grasp our new identity in Jesus and to apply the principles of progressive sanctification by cultivating communion with Jesus and his body, the church. The lifelong change process begins at regeneration and continues until we see Jesus face‐to‐face (1 John 3:2).
6. Soul Care Aims to Be Embedded in the Church
We believe that we best reflect the Triune God as we live and grow in community. Sanctification is not a self‐improvement project, but a process of learning to delight in God and serve others in love (Galatians 5:6). This embeds personal change within Jesus’ community—the church—with all its rich resources of corporate and interpersonal means of grace. We believe that the church is the ideal context for, and should be the center of, Jesus‐focused, gospel‐centered counseling.
By example and exhortation, the New Testament commends the personal, face‐to‐face, one‐ another ministry of the gospel (Hebrews 3:12–13; James 5:16)—those activities which our culture calls “counselling.” God calls us to mutual wise counselling just as he calls us to public ministries of the gospel in preaching, teaching, and observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God desires that his people love and serve each other by speaking his truth in love to each other (Ephesians 4:15). The primary and fullest expression of counselling ministry is meant to occur in local church communities where leaders effectively shepherd souls while equipping and overseeing diverse forms of every‐member ministry. Other like-minded counselling institutions and organizations are beneficial insofar as they seek to serve alongside of, and lead persons to, the church, as well as seeking to encourage the church to counsel biblically.
7. Soul Care Aims to Be Founded in Love
We believe that Jesus’ incarnation is not just the basis for care, but also the model for how we care. We seek to enter into a person’s story, listening well, expressing thoughtful love, and engaging the person with compassion. The wise and loving personal ministry of the gospel takes many appropriate forms, from caring comfort to loving rebuke, from careful listening to relevant scriptural exploration, all while building trusting, authentic relationships.
Wise counselling takes into account all that people are experiencing (desires, fears, attitudes, thoughts, goals, actions, words, emotions, struggles, and situational pressure) as the context for understanding how the gospel and the Scriptures relate to all life. Such awareness not only shapes the content of counselling, but also shapes the way we speak the truth in love so that everything said is “constructive, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
8. Soul Care Aims to Be Attentive to Issues of the Heart
We believe that human behaviour is inextricably tied to deeper thoughts, intentions, and affections of the heart, either sinful or redeemed (Ephesians 4:17–24). We emphasize the primacy of the heart and target the inner person because all human acts are acts of worship, either disordered or rightly ordered in relation to God in Jesus. The Word of God alone reveals and penetrates our heart (desires, beliefs, and motives) and behaviour (relationships, words, and actions), rightly weighing who we are and what we do before the eyes of God (Hebrews 4:12). We seek to address both the inward and outward aspects of human life to bring thorough and lasting change into the image of Jesus.
The Bible is clear that human behaviour is not mechanical, but grows out of a heart that desires, longs, thinks, chooses, feels, and is oriented towards or against Jesus. We desire to work to see struggling people experience change at all levels: to love Jesus with heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love one’s neighbour as oneself (Matthew 22:37–39). Our focus is on both the vertical and the horizontal dimensions, both the inner and the outer person, both issues of the heart and behaviour.
9. Soul Care Aims to Be Comprehensive in Understanding
We believe that our counselling should focus on the full range of human nature created in the image of God. A comprehensive biblical understanding perceives human beings as relational, rational, volitional, emotional, spiritual, and physical. We take the whole person seriously in his or her whole life context.
We recognize that people are physically embodied by God’s good design and that a variety of bodily influences impact moral response. Appreciating the complexity and mystery of the interface between body and soul, we recognize that there are physiological factors and organic issues that affect a person’s life and that treatment of those factors may require medical diagnosis in some circumstances.
We also recognize that people are socially embedded by God’s design and that a variety of historical, social, cultural, and family factors may impact moral response. Appreciating the complexity and mystery of the interface between persons and their social environment, we seek to remain sensitive to social factors, as the context within which God calls a person to the obedience of faith.
We further recognize that people are spiritually influenced, under God’s wise control, by the spiritual realm and that demonic factors may impact moral response (Ephesians 6:10–20). Appreciating the complexity and mystery of the interface between a person and the spiritual world, we seek to remain sensitive to those spiritual influences and address them accordingly.
While we do not view all these factors—physical‐embodiment, social‐embeddedness, and spiritual‐influence—as determinative, recognizing these factors and the interplay between them does help us address the influence they may have on how people relate, think, choose, and feel.
10. Soul Care Aims to Be Thorough in Care
We believe that the Scriptures, rightly interpreted in Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44–45), are profitable for dealing thoroughly with the evils we suffer as well as with the sins we commit (2 Timothy 3:16–17). We seek to discern both the differences and interconnections between sin and suffering, and to minister appropriately to each.
We desire to address suffering and engage sufferers in many compassionate ways, including by offering God’s encouragement, comfort, and hope for the hurting. Our counselling also addresses sin and engages sinners by speaking Jesus’ truth in love in numerous caring ways, including by offering God’s confrontation of sins and by presenting God’s gracious forgiveness in Jesus.
11. Soul Care Aims to Be Relevant in Methodology
We believe that commitment to the sufficiency of the Scriptures results in ministry that demonstrates the relevancy of God’s Word. The Bible calls us to use wise methods that minister in relevant ways to the specific counselling problems of specific people. While a gospel‐centered conceptual framework is essential, embodying relational competency in the practical issues of the counselling process is critical as well.
The Bible has conceptual authority for counselling as well as authority with regard to counselling methodology. Within the Bible’s conceptual framework there is room for methodological diversity.
12. Soul Care Aims to Be Missional in Orientation
We believe that Christianity is missionary‐minded by its very nature. Therefore, our counselling should be a powerful evangelistic and apologetic force in our world. We want to bring the good news of Jesus to the world that God created and only God can redeem. We seek to speak in relevant ways to Christians and non‐Christians, to draw them to the Saviour and the distinctive wisdom that comes only from Him