Gospel Conversations: a book review

Gospel Conversations is designed to help biblical counselors care like Christ for those we counsel. Navigating the compass points of the counseling coveration, Robert Kellemen explores how counselors bring healing through sustaining, healing, reconciling and guiding. Kellerman is the executive director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and CEO of RPM ministries. He sees his role as a counselor as bringing people face to face with the truth of God’s word and encounter with Christ. Through this book, he imparts tools that biblical counselors can use to grow in their competencies to comfort the afflicted and challenge the comfortable.

Kellerman suggests twenty-one competencies for biblical counseling, Sustaining relational competencies involve the counselor growing in their ability to connect, empathize, listen, comfort, and share scripture emphatically, Healing competencies include growing in our ability to effect relational mind and soul renewal, encourage, compose a ‘scriptural treatment plan,’  lead counselees in a Theo-dramatic conversation and in stretching scriptural explorations. Reconciling competencies probe issues theologically, expose heart sins, apply truth relationally, calm the conscience through grace, enlighten and empower.  Guiding competencies involve fanning into flame the gift of God in people, helping them author empowering narratives, constructing insight-based action plans,  and having target focused conversations.

Because of the place of the Bible in the healing process, Kellerman’s model is different than the contemporary therapeutic model. Kellerman (and other biblical counselors) urge us toward a thoughtful Christian model for soul care which differs from that of secular psychology (p. 98). There may be some antagonism towards psychology here, but the hope is that the Christian alternative is every bit as rigorous and comprehensive in dealing with what ails the human heart. Kellerman focuses on helping people get to the root of their problems (sin and suffering).

This is a helpful textbook and handbook for growing as a counselor. I have no antagonism towards psychology, per se, but my competency to counsel is different from that as a therapist. What I want people to do is to see themselves as God sees them, pursue a right relationship with Him and allow the Spirit of God to do the work of sanctification in them as they give their heart and mind to Him. Every Christian model of counseling (including a more psychologically oriented one) wants this. While I personally think other forms of counseling are tremendously helpful in the healing process, this model approximates what I do as a pastor when I meet with those in need. I have a Master’s of Divinity (that pastor degree), but the extent of my training in pastoral counseling is this: know when to punt to a more qualified counselor; nevertheless pastors play an important role in the healing process, reminding people of God’s presence, his work of salvation through Jesus and His ongoing ministry of reconciliation. Kellerman writes an engaging text for help students learn biblical counseling better and I think it is a great resource for anyone who engages in the ministry of pastoral counseling. I give this four staIrs.

Note: I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews (and Zondervan) in exchange for my honest review).

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3 thoughts on “Gospel Conversations: a book review”

  1. This is a valuable and timely piece. Sadly, too many are busy trying to convert those around them instead of looking inward and allowing the ‘outer man’ to fall away so that our inner connection to Christ conscious can evolve, flowing through to our actions to others.

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