Mental Illness

Folks let’s get this straight. The mind is not a physical organ. It cannot have a disease, illness, or injury in anything other than a metaphorical sense such as a sick economy or a sick joke.

Typhoid fever — disease
Spring fever — not a disease
Scarlet fever — disease
Bieber fever — not a disease

Paying the Pastor

Your Pastor is NOT going to get into this with you. He does not want to sound self-serving and he is going to trust God to provide for his needs. I believe it is a mistake many pastors make. We are commanded to teach “the whole counsel of God.” Every subject the Bible addresses should be taught by the pastor, including this one. If he does not, who will? Not many pastors have a guy like me blogging about such things. Hear what Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:7-14

Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

Paul’s logic is clear. Even though he had made a personal decision not to accept support from the churches in which he ministered, they still had a responsibility to support those who were to have a continuing ministry to them as their pastors.

“But Donn,” you complain, “No one thinks a pastor should not be paid. What’s your point?”

Stay with me here. I wanted to begin by establishing the basic fact that God requires us to pay our pastor. How much we should pay him is the more controversial question. Did you know the Bible answers that for us as well? No, it does not give us a dollar amount but listen to this:

The elders (pastors) who manage well should be considered worthy of double pay, especially those who are laboring at preaching and teaching.  (1 Timothy 5:17)

Paul is prescribing an attitude, not a figure. A mind-set, not a number. When it comes time to vote on a budget, and when the various committees meet to decide upon a salary package, how should they approach their decisions? Will it be “How much does our pastor need to get by?” or will it be “How generous can we afford to be?”

Paul urges you to consider your pastor to be worthy of twice the pay. No, you will probably not be able to afford to pay him double, but you should aspire to do so. Remember, your pastor will probably be one of the best educated people in your church. How many people in your church have a Master’s degree in whatever it is they do? He will have paid for his education himself. If the pastor receives a higher income than you do would you be jealous or would you be thankful?

Your pastor has many burdens, paying his bills should not be one of them. He should be paid well enough that he can purchase a home in the same kind of neighborhood you live in. He should be able to purchase a vehicle that is dependable and comfortable. He should be provided life insurance, health insurance, and a generous pension. His wife should be free to work outside the home if she desires, but she should not HAVE to work for the family to survive.

“But Donn,” you say, “we can’t pay him more than we have. All these things will bust our church budget.”

Well, I will admit I am not familiar with your church’s finances. All I am doing is pleading for a biblical mind set as you make decisions. There are many good and worthy ways a church can spend money. Of course you have to pay the utility bills, purchase insurance, and do maintenance on your buildings. But of all the other things in your budget, only one is commanded in the Scriptures—paying the pastor.

The cooperative fund, missions, convention agencies, camps, schools, and benevolence are all good and worthy things. But if a church cannot obey Christ in paying their pastor because they are supporting these other things, then ultimately, it is the pastor, not the church that is supporting them. Only one budget item is prescribed in the Word. All others come in second to that priority.

Happy Birthday!

TomorrowJay Adams, January 30, we will be honoring Dr. Adams on the occasion of his 87th birthday. We have set up a temporary email box for the occasion at jayeadams1970@gmail.com if you would like to send a word of greeting. Jay will not be able to respond to each message but each one will be an encouragement.

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and the Institute for Nouthetic Studies Announce New Biblical Counseling Program

Biblical CounselingTwo institutions with a strong history of teaching the sufficiency of Scripture are combining forces to create one of the nation’s most comprehensive educational programs for biblical counseling.

Dr. Michael R. Spradlin, President of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, along with Dr. Jay E. Adams, Founder of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, and Donn Arms, Executive Director of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, have announced that the Institute for Nouthetic Studies will become a ministry of Mid-America Seminary. The agreement becomes effective on July 1, 2015.

The agreement combines the strengths of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (MABTS) and the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (INS) in training men and women to serve Christ through the sufficiency of the Word of God.

MABTS, a SACSCOC-accredited institution, is currently a leading force in providing undergraduate and graduate training for effective service in church-related and missions vocations through its main campus in Memphis, Tennessee, and branch campus in Schenectady, New York. The Seminary guides students into a thorough understanding of the Bible and its relevance for today, preparing those, called of God, to preach and teach the Word of God.

MABTS President, Dr. Spradlin comments, “I am blessed and thrilled that MABTS and INS can minister together to strengthen the Lord’s call to train ministers of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God is sufficient; our ministries will continue to stand on the Word and Its power.”

Likewise, Dr. Jay E. Adams, Donn Arms, and the ministry of INS is at the forefront of a movement calling pastors and other Christian workers back to the Scriptures in their counseling ministry. Beginning with the publication of his book Competent to Counsel in 1970, Dr. Adams has been demonstrating the importance of understanding the sufficiency of the Word to bring about the kind of change that pleases God and genuinely helps the counselee. Both institutions, therefore, are enthusiastic about the agreement for continuing the stand upon the sufficiency of God’s Word in ministry and in giving Christ the preeminence in all things.

INS Founder, Dr. Adams explains, “I am delighted that MABTS has asked us to contribute to their furtherance of biblical counseling in the preparation of ministers. I can think of nothing better than such an alliance to bring the joint resources of our two institutions together to effect such an unexpected but joyous opportunity. I have found the administration and faculty of MABTS not only friendly but also deeply committed to biblical ministry to people in need. I look forward with large anticipation to the days ahead in the spreading of biblical ministries throughout the land.”

Combining the strengths of each institution in training men and women to counsel from God’s Word, the agreement now allows students the opportunity to earn an accredited MDIV degree in biblical (nouthetic) counseling residentially through MABTS or via their Connected Campus, the MABTS online degree program. If students do not desire to seek an accredited degree, however, they can take the present INS courses that are available online at www.nouthetic.org and earn a certificate of nouthetic counseling from MABTS. In addition, plans are in the works for students who have already taken courses through INS to receive credit for those courses toward a degree in nouthetic counseling from MABTS beginning in 2016.

Happy Anniversary!

Donn and SandyWhen introduced to my wife and me for the first time people often conclude I must be rich. Any woman this gorgeous, they often think, who would marry a lump like Arms must be after his money. While it is true that I am rich, it is not in this world’s goods. Were I as rich as Croesus, I could not afford to purchase what God has given to me freely. My greatest treasure is the most the most beautiful woman ever to grace the campus of Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa whom I somehow persuaded to marry me. It was 40 years ago today that I sealed the deal in a little Baptist church in Seymour, Iowa where her dad served as pastor.

Now, forty years later, I continue to live joyfully with the wife of my youth. Our four children, along with our seven grandchildren, rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her saying, “Many daughters have done well, but you are the greatest!”

I love you, Babe. Happy Anniversary!

Conversations with Dr. Jay Adams

indexA number of years ago a young man whose educational background was in secular psychology spent four days conducting a wide ranging series of interviews with Dr. Adams. Those interviews were transcribed but the interviewer was unable to do anything more with them at the time. Now, thirteen years later, those interviews have been published and the resulting book is a fascinating look into the thinking of Dr. Adams.

Before you click on the link below to order your copy, however, let me explain what it is you will be reading.

  1. This book consists of raw and largely unedited transcripts of a conversation between two people. Little, if any, of the pleasantries of conversation have been omitted. Nothing has been edited to make it an easier read.
  2. Because it is the record of a conversation between two people it does not follow any sort of logical outline. You will not be able to go to an index and find the place in the book where Adams discusses a specific topic. He may discuss a topic in which you are interested in several different places in the book.
  3. The folk who did the transcription were obviously British. Thus you will encounter some strange spelling (counselling, neighbour, etc.).
  4. This interview took place in September 2002. The interview reflects Dr. Adams’ thoughts at that time but not necessarily this thinking today. Now Dr. Adams is not tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and his thinking about fundamental issues of theology and counseling have not changed. However, the interviewer presses Adams for his opinions about various authors and organizations. Since those things do change, one should not extrapolate from this interview Dr. Adams’ opinions today.
  5. This is an unguarded interview. Dr. Adams spoke frankly with his interviewer and probably would have wished the final product had been edited. In fact, in one place, Adams expressed to the interviewer that something he had just said should probably be omitted—it was not.
  6. The interviewer wishes to remain anonymous and I will honor that here. I will tell you who it is not, however. He is almost certainly not someone you know, trust me. Today he is a businessman. He has never been a NANC/ACBC member, nor has he traveled widely in biblical counseling circles. This is the only thing he has published that has anything to do with biblical counseling or ministry in general.
  7. The Institute for Nouthetic Studies has no interest in the book. While we knew the interview had been conducted 13 years ago we were surprised that it was finally published. While the Institute receives no royalties or income from the book we do urge you to order it from this link as more of the proceeds will be used for good purposes if you do. You can also order it from Amazon or our own Amazon bookstore if you wish.

With those caveats, I urge you to purchase a copy. It is a fascinating read. I have the unusual privilege of being able to visit with Dr. Adams in his study and talk with him at length these days about whatever topic interests either of us. You do not. This is the next best thing.

Let’s Be Careful Out There

imagesA popular cop show in the eighties began each episode with the officers assembled in the briefing room where the Sargent would give out assignments for the day. At the end of each briefing the officer in charge would exhort his officers with the admonition, “Let’s be careful out there!”

Biblical counselors would do well to embrace that exhortation as well. Today’s biblical counselor is blessed with training opportunities and resources we could not have imagined 30 years ago. The first NANC conference I attended was held in a church Sunday School room. At the first February conference I attended in Lafayette I was one of 35 students. The books available to me that dealt with biblical counseling fit on less than two feet of bookshelf.

Today, thousands attend these conferences every year, the books I own on biblical counseling fill an entire wall, most people can find training in biblical counseling within one or two hours of driving time, dozens of theological seminaries now have courses in biblical counseling, and our Institute has hundreds of students studying under Dr. Adams on every continent around the world. We have much for which to be thankful as God’s people have come to embrace the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Scriptures.

With all these successes and opportunities for learning, however, we will quickly find ourselves disqualified and our ministries impotent if we do not embrace the words of Sargent Esterhaus to “be careful out there.” The august responsibility of the ministry of the Word to hurting people should fill us with a sober desire to minister the Word carefully, accurately, and skillfully. God’s Word is not magic. We do not simply tell counselees to “read God’s Word and He will bless you.” Before the counselor can minister the Word to his counselee he must first be a student and exegete of the Scriptures and become skilled at using them as God intended them to be used.

I was reminded of this again as I read a blog recently at a biblical counseling website. The author’s purpose was worthy—he was seeking to show how counselees can be encouraged in their suffering by understanding that our Lord Himself endured suffering. Sadly, his use of the Scriptures to make his point served only to confuse and, even worse, taught some very bad theology which, if understood rightly, would discourage a counselee about the ability of Christ to meet the need of the hour.

The author began by asserting, in spite of the clear teaching of Philippians 4:6, that anxiety is “not necessarily” sinful. He made his case by quoting a bizarre translation of Mark 14:33 (the Amplified Bible) and concluded that Jesus had a “panic attack” in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The author then moved to Hebrews 2:10 which he claimed teaches that Jesus’ sufferings were “part of His maturing and perfecting for our sake.” He later added that “as Jesus was perfected through various sufferings, including anxiety, so are we.”

The biblical counselor should be careful to understand that the word translated “perfect” here is used in the sense of “complete” as it is in Hebrew 10:14. Christ’s sufferings completed His task as the “Author of their salvation.” They did not serve to mature Him in a sanctifying process as they do for us. The idea of a Christ who is just like us and in need of “maturing” is, well, sub-orthodox.

The task of exegesis is of primary importance. Do not neglect it. Handle God’s Word with care and sobriety. From behind my podium in our briefing room here in our little corner of the internet I plead with my fellow counselors—let’s be careful out there!

 

Building “Relationship”

During the latter part of the 19th century a handful of seminary professors took a summer sabbatical together to tour England and hear as many of the great English preachers as possible. During that summer these men were able to hear Henry Parry Liddon, Alexander Maclaren, J C Ryle, R W Dale, Robert S Candlish, and Alexander Whyte. After hearing each preacher the men would gather outside the church and discuss what they had heard.

They spent the final Sunday of their tour in London where, in the morning, they attended the City Temple and heard Joseph Parker preach. In the evening they crossed the Thames to Elephant and Castle where they heard C H Spurgeon preach at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. That morning in London they assembled on the front steps of the City Temple and all concurred with the first man to speak who proclaimed excitedly, “Joseph Parker is a wonderful preacher.” Upon exiting the Metropolitan Tabernacle that evening the entire group fell to their knees on the church steps as the same spokesman quietly said, “Jesus Christ is a wonderful Savior.”

Of course, Spurgeon was indeed a wonderful preacher—probably the greatest English speaking preacher in history. But Spurgeon understood that it was his responsibility to point his listeners to Christ and not allow himself to become the focus of attention. Sure, he used illustrations from his own life and had a delightful, self-deprecating sense of humor in the pulpit, but these were employed only to illustrate truth and were a means to the end of preaching Christ.

Biblical counselors would do well to take a similar stance in the counseling room. There has arisen a school of thought these days that teaches counselors to focus first on relationship building with counselees and to hold off offering any sort of directive counsel until the counselor has brought his counselee to the place where he is “ready to receive” instruction and help from his counselor.

Now, of course nouthetic counselors understand the importance of building involvement with counselees. In Competent to Counsel Jay Adams confronted the prevalent notion of the day that counselors should take a stoic, detached stance toward counselees. He pointed out that Paul counseled “with tears” (Acts 20:31) and “intense concern” (2 Cor. 11:29) (CTC pp. 52-54). But involvement or relationship building is never a prerequisite to biblical counseling, it is the result!

I recently heard a “biblical” counselor describe one of his cases in which a young woman had come to him seeking help with a problem. After several sessions of relationship building and “getting to know her” the woman finally asked her counselor, “Don’t you have any guidance for me?” The counselor replied, “Yes, I have some thoughts about your problem but I am not sure you are ready to hear them yet.”

Nouthetic counselors are horrified upon hearing such things. When believers come to us for help we believe in helping them—as quickly as possible. This woman had come seeking help in session one but the counselor had decided to assume the Holy Spirit’s role and decide himself whether or not she was ready to hear.

Another counselor once told me that many of his counseling cases go on for over a year and that he has counselees he has been working with for several years. As he waxed eloquent about the need for relationship building he informed me that often counseling is simply building a friendship with people. He was not as amused as I was when I asked him how much he charged people to be their friend (in his case it was $95 per session).

Consider this from a recent blog over at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website:

In counseling, I have found building relationships for the long-haul is key if any person, regardless of sexual orientation, is to experience true, biblical change. In the instances I have had the joy to observe, change in the area of sexuality has been slow, incremental, and at times painful; yet through all of it, our God is faithful and true.

For this author, “Relationships Are Key.” For the nouthetic counselor, the ministry of the Word is key and relationships, while important, are secondary—perhaps even tertiary. Counselees do not change as a result of a relationship with the counselor, they change because of a relationship to Christ and through obedience to His Word.

It is especially tragic to hear this author’s expectation that “true, biblical change” is “slow” and “incremental.” If change is dependent upon a relationship with the counselor perhaps that expectation is justified. Nouthetic counselors do not seek to wean counselees from their sin. Because counselees draw on the power of the Holy Spirit Who wields the Word of God as His sword we expect significant change from week to week and victory over sin in a relatively short period of time as old habits are put off and new ones are put on.

Picture a man working under the hood of his car in his driveway. Along comes a relationship guy who stops and engages the shade tree mechanic with questions about the car, the problem, his job, his family, his health, his lawn, his pets, his longings and desires. The relationship guy shares stories of his own struggles with dysfunctional automobiles and communicates how sorry he is that this car has broken down and that his friend has to deal with the problem. Finally, he promises to return later to check on his new mechanic friend and encourage him in his journey toward resolution.

The nouthetic guy, however, upon encountering this mechanic takes off his coat, rolls up his sleeves, and crawls under the car.

“I see the problem,” he calls up to his neighbor. “The starter is not aligned properly. Raise it up a bit and I will put the bolt in from here.”

From under the car the nouthetic guy guides the socket onto the nut and holds it in place while the mechanic turns the wrench above until it is tight.

Now, which one has built involvement with his neighbor?