A Message to our Friends

I recently had lunch with a great friend from out of town who is both a pastor and an experienced counselor. After lunch we drove out to visit Dr. Adams and on our drive home he said, “I wish I could visit South Carolina more often. It is the only time I get to hear what God is doing through Jay and the Institute. How often do you communicate with your students and friends of the ministry?”

I rehearsed for him my typical thoughts on the subject—I am very busy, our friends and students are busy, I don’t want to annoy people with unwanted email, folks will think I am trying to get money from them, Jay does not like to promote himself, if people are interested they can read the website . . .

At that point my friend cut me off. “Donn, shame on you! For over 50 years Dr. Adams has had an important ministry in the lives of thousands of people and for the past 12 years you and the Institute have had a life changing ministry to hundreds of students and, through them, thousands of counselees. These people love Jay, and they love this ministry. You simply must do a better job of communicating with them. Hundreds would love to help you if only they knew how!”

Well, of course I was chastened. It has been several weeks since that conversation and this letter is the fruit of my thinking since then. It is longer letter than anything I plan to publish in the future but I have some catching up to do. Please indulge me while I share with you, in some detail, what has been happening at the Institute and some plans for the future.

God is Prospering the Institute

Compiling exact statistics would require expending more time than the principle of good stewardship allows but the Institute now has thousands of students who have enrolled in at least one of our courses and hundreds of graduates who have completed our entire curriculum. These students and graduates are having important ministries in their local churches and are offering the hope only the Scriptures can give to hurting counselees on every continent around the world.

Our website is visited by hundreds of people every day. It not only provides information about the Institute and the training we offer but visitors can also find:

  1. a treasure trove of information about Nouthetic counseling, much of which is out of print and can be found nowhere else
  2. a daily podcast by Dr. Adams that features 8-9 minute discussions of every counseling issue imaginable (and some you never imagined)
  3. our blog featuring recent articles by Dr. Adams as well as, from time to time, classic articles which Dr. Adams has written in years past that can be found nowhere else
  4. our online bookstore
  5. our Facebook page which has over 1700 “friends” (Are you one of them?)

Our opportunities continue to grow. One of the most exciting partnerships we have developed recently is with Mid-America Baptist Seminary in Memphis where we are helping establish PhD, DMin, and MA programs in Nouthetic counseling. I taught for two weeks in January and will be returning to teach again in June. Next month (April 7-9) Jay and I will be speaking at their first conference on biblical counseling along with Martha Peace and Lou Priolo. More information can be found at their website.

Dr. Adams’ health continues to concern us. While God has given him a degree of improved strength he still deals with a number of challenges every day. Jay continues to write blog articles, Jay and I recently contributed an article to the new Theological Journal to be published by Mid-America Baptist Seminary, and recently R. C. Sproul’s Tabletalk magazine published an interview with Dr. Adams. When I am asked about Jay’s health I like to report that he is “full of sap and very green” (Ps. 92:14). I stopped by his home unannounced several weeks ago and found him reading Basil of Caesarea in the original Greek!

Our training continues to be the single most comprehensive, foundational, and convenient place to study Nouthetic counseling. That may sound like self-serving bluster but please hear me out. We have many friends, and we know of scores of others, who do a fine job of teaching biblical counseling in a number of venues—formal academic institutions, well-structured conferences and seminars, and local church training centers. Each of these, however, owes their existence to the foundational work done by Dr. Adams. Our advice to those seeking training in biblical counseling is to study under Dr. Adams first and establish a firm foundation studying under a teacher they can trust before navigating the wealth of good training (and the plague of poor training and exegesis) available in other places.

But We Have Challenges

Our growth and opportunities have required that we try to do more and more with the same amount of resources. The day to day operation of the Institute is handled almost exclusively by our Executive Director. His daily responsibilities include bookkeeping, taping and editing video lectures, writing and editing curriculum notes, maintaining our websites, interacting with students by phone, recruiting students, teaching, counseling, and answering email. In addition to these daily responsibilities he is working on several writing projects, speaking at counseling conferences, and teaching in an adjunct role in Seminary.

All of that to say, “We need help!” Our most pressing need is to hire an administrative assistant to handle some of the day to day operations. Coupled with that is the need to find better office space from which to function. Almost two years ago the wonderful office space we were renting in Greenville was sold requiring us to move out. Since then we have been working out of two spare bedrooms and an over the garage bonus room in the Arms home. I still have over 4,000 volumes of books packed away in boxes in the garage. Hiring an administrative assistant will require that we have more functional office space somewhere.

Meeting these needs will require more income for the Institute. Since our founding more than twelve years ago we have been largely funded by tuition paid by our students. We have discovered, however, what every other educational institution has learned—tuition income alone cannot cover the cost of training.

Our tuition is exactly the same as it was twelve years ago. We have never raised it—nor do we plan to. We want to keep training in biblical counseling under Dr. Adams accessible to as many students as possible. We believe raising tuition would keep many from students studying with us and as a result, reduce our income, not increase it. No, we believe the first solution is more students, not higher tuition.

Second, we have been lousy fundraisers. We used to wear this as a badge of honor partly because we do not want to be perceived to be focused on money. While Dr. Adams has had an important ministry to thousands over the years he has never cultivated donors. When he was once asked to become the president of a Seminary he turned them down, in part because he believed his lack of fund raising skills would doom the school financially.

As I said at the beginning of this letter, we have been challenged in recent days by several friends to do a better job of asking friends to help us. They have made the case that there are thousands of people helped by Dr. Adams over the years who would love to see others helped in the same way, and would want to help us if only they were asked.

How Can You Help?

Those are some of our current needs, now we want to boldly ask you to do FOUR things for us.

  1. Please make the ministry of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies a priority matter of prayer for the next month. I commit to you that I will do a better job of keeping you informed about the ministry of the Institute than I have in the past. Would you commit to putting this ministry, our students, and Dr. Adams personally, at the top of your prayer list for the next month?
  2. Would you help us advertise the ministry of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies?

    1. “Like” our Facebook page. Currently, we are right at 1700 likes. Help us increase this to 2,000 by the end of the month.
    2. “Share” our Facebook page with all YOUR Facebook friends and invite them to “like” us as well.
    3. Promote our blog, our podcast, and our website on YOUR blog or ministry website.
    4. Tell your family, your friends, your neighbors, your church family, your pastor, your in-laws, and everyone else you know about us.
  3. Would you navigate to our donation page and give as large a gift as you are able to this ministry? We pledge to use your gift carefully. There are no six figure salaries paid here. In fact, I will overcome my reticence to discuss such things and tell you that Dr. Adams has never taken a dime in income from the Institute. He has given of his time, his lectures, and his writings and as asked for nothing in return. As Executive Director devoting full time to this ministry, I have never taken an annual salary of more than 25K. We do not plan to change that until after these other needs are met.
    1. Give a gift today. The summer months as well as December are usually lean because fewer people devote themselves to studying during those times. Your gift now would help us prepare for the lean summer months that are just ahead. Would you make, what is for you, a significant gift today?
    2. Register to make a monthly donation. Please consider becoming a partner with us in this ministry by registering on our donation page to make a regular monthly gift. You can also send us an email to let us know you will be sending a check every month. We cannot hire an administrative assistant or secure office space until we have regular monthly commitments to cover those expenses. Your gift to the Institute will multiply several times over as it will not only be a blessing to us, but to those who will be learning how to minister the Word of God effectively in the counseling room, and then to those counselees whose lives will be changed by that ministry.

4.  Finally, would you help us by sharing your testimony with prospective students? Sometime today or in the week to come would you write a thoughtfully worded paragraph describing your experience as a student or graduate of the Institute? How has Dr. Adams impacted your life personally, and how have you used what you have learned to minister to others? We would like to share your testimony on our website. We can tell prospective students what we think and what we are seeking to accomplish but your testimony and endorsement would have a far more effective impact. Would you take perhaps a half hour to write up and share your experience with us? You can send it to us at feedback@nouthetic.org.

Thank you for staying with me through this longer than usual email. We treasure your partnership with us in this ministry. May God bless you as you consider how you can help us promote the ministry of the Word of God to hurting people.

Happy Birthday Dr. Adams!

DSCN1841Today is Dr. Adams’ 85th birthday. If you wish to send him a greeting you may do so at jay@nouthetic.org. He will not be able to respond to everyone individually but he will enjoy hearing from you.

God bless you Jay! May this day be full of joy as you celebrate with your family.

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green.

Psalm 92:12-14

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

indexFor the past three weeks it was a joy for Dr. Adams and me to teach a group of faculty members, PhD, and DMin. students at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. I traveled to Memphis to teach in person and Dr. Adams joined us via the internet. We will be teaching at MABTS again in June. Dr. Tim Seal (Academic Dean), Dr. Matt Akers (Dean, DMin Program), and Dr. Jere Phillips were gracious hosts and are enthusiastic supporters of nouthetic counseling.

MABTS is in the early stages of launching new degree programs in nouthetic counseling which will include PhD, DMin, and MA degrees. They are committed to the sufficiency of the Scriptures, sound theology, careful exegesis, and solid academics. You will not find stuffy academia here, however. These folk have a heart for evangelism and engaging preaching. Practical theology is no afterthought.

The Institute for Nouthetic Studies is excited about the opportunity we have been given to help establish and develop this new emphasis at MABTS. If you are seeking a place to pursue further training in biblical counseling or pastoral ministry we urge you to check out MABTS.

Plan now to come to Memphis for MABTS’ first conference on biblical counseling April 7 – 9, 2014. Lord willing, Dr. Adams will be traveling to Memphis to speak at the conference as will Lou Priolo, Martha Peace, and myself. We will publish complete information including the conference schedule shortly.

NANC/ACBC Update

Several weeks ago I published two blog posts about NANC and I would like to give an update on the conference and our hopes for NANC/ACBC going forward. First, however, I have to attend to some important business with you—I need to ask for forgiveness from my readers.

As I reported my concerns about NANC I raised the issue of the NANC board’s non-compliance with the organization’s constitution. While my facts were correct I did not have one important piece of information. The NANC board had sought forgiveness for this. While I was the one who confronted them about this in a letter no one had communicated this to me personally and I had been functioning under the assumption that nothing had been done. Now to be clear, this was not an offense against me personally so there was no need for the board to communicate with me personally. Had I known this, however, I would not have raised it again and I am culpable for publishing without having all the facts at hand. I have communicated with the board and have asked for their forgiveness.

Now about the conference, I came home encouraged about the direction of NANC/ACBC. At a pre-conference meeting of Fellows Heath Lambert, the new Executive Director, laid out some of his plans for the future. I was pleased to hear him address a number of things that had been a concern to us including raising the bar for certification in the area of training, a continuing education requirement of certified members, and a formal procedure for dealing with members who stray from what they professed when they joined. I have also been assured privately that several of our other concerns will be handled in the days to come.

The conference itself was a refreshing change. I was not able to attend all of the plenary sessions but the ones I did attend were most helpful. It was especially encouraging to hear Heath Lambert simply open the Scriptures and show us how a passage in James applies to the work of the counselor. His workshop dealing with the integrationist point of view was also helpful. It allayed some of my concerns that rose from his book The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (see my review here).

There remains much to be done. I will be praying for Heath and the NANC/ACBC board. After this coming year it will be much clearer what is to become of NANC/ACBC with Heath at the helm and we will be able to take a measure of where NANC/ACBC has moved under his watch. My concerns about inclusiveness and relationships with other organizations that do not share our commitments remain. Let’s compare notes next October and evaluate.

 

Homiletics Friday!

Preaching_TheoMattersWhile Jay Adams is best known for his work in the area of biblical counseling you should know that his training and passion has been primarily for the study and teaching of homiletics. He was serving as a homiletics professor when he was first assigned the task of teaching counseling. It was that assignment that drove him to the Scriptures to learn what they had to say about counseling. Later, Dr. Adams established and taught a D. Min. program in homiletics at Westminster Seminary in California.

We have in our archives a treasure trove of articles Jay has penned over years that deal with every aspect of preaching. Beginning next week we will be posting one of those articles every Friday for the foreseeable future. These articles will then be archived in a special section on our website.

Pastors, here is a great way to sharpen your skills as a preacher and minister of the Word. Be sure to check in each Friday and let Dr. Adams help you with all aspects of your preaching ministry. We will be looking forward to hearing from you how Jay has been able to help you sharpen your skills.

NANC Certification

Among the communications I received this past week were some I had not been acute enough to anticipate. I realize now, however, they were a natural result of my blogs last week. Each of these communications involved unique circumstances but they had in common the fact that they were from those who were either in the midst of the certification process with NANC or anticipated beginning soon.

The common question was, “What do I do now?” Each was excited about nouthetic counseling and were grateful to Dr. Adams for “turning on the lights” for them with his books. They just did not want to invest the time and money in a certification process that was not going to lead to certification as a nouthetic counselor.

If this is your situation I offer my advice with the understanding it is simply that—advice, an opinion which you should carefully weigh in light of your specific circumstances. My advice:  Stay the course. Continue working toward certification but do so wisely and invest your time in training that will have benefit for you whether you eventually decide to become certified with NANC or not.

This next year will tell us much about what NANC is to become. I said in an earlier blog that I believe its trajectory is irremediable—but I hope I am wrong. NANC will have a new Executive Director this year who tells me he understands there needs to be change. Let’s give him a chance to make those changes and reevaluate in one year.

Let me offer some specific advice about the certification process. The first phase is training. Do not settle for three weekends of classes or a one week conference. You would not go to a barber, let alone a counselor, who had only three weekends of training. If a new certifying organization for nouthetic counselors arises it will certainly require that you have better training than that. Of course the best place to get your training in nouthetic counseling (shameless plug alert) is through the Institute for Nouthetic Studies where you can study under Dr. Adams himself. There are other fine training options as well.

Second, spend the necessary time to do a good job on your exams. The NANC exams have been only slightly altered over the years and will be a good exercise for you. Be sure to help your grader in the way you lay out your answers on paper (so to speak). No typos, consistent margins and formatting, clear and complete answers, and proofread!

My most important advice, however, concerns the third phase—supervision. Because there are no guidelines for Fellows about how they conduct their supervision every Fellow largely does that which is right in his own eyes. Most will do a good and thorough job of leading you through this phase. Not all, however, are thoroughly nouthetic. Ask questions of your Fellow and be sure you partner with one who understands what Nouthetic counseling is and is committed to teaching it.

Earn Your PhD or DMin under Dr. Adams or Receive Credit toward a Masters in Nouthetic Counseling!

When Dr. Adams and I formed the Institute for Nouthetic Studies we decided early on that we would not participate in the games of academia. We could have offered “degrees” but they would have been unaccredited or we would have had to charge students up to four times the tuition to pay for accreditation. No, our educational niche’ would be students who simply want to learn to minister effectively the Word in the counseling room, usually in a local church context, without a need for an academic degree. I often tell students that studying under Dr. Adams would be a greater asset than most degrees anyway.

Still, seldom does a week go by when we are not asked to recommend a college, seminary, or university where an academic degree in biblical counseling can be earned. While we have been glad to recommend several over the years we have not been able to do so without at least some reservation. While there are many good men teaching in these academic programs around the country we know of no program that we can recommend without some kind of caveat. These reservations often include the participation of integrationists in some aspect of the program, a lack of academic rigor, or the omission of such key elements as hermeneutics, exegesis, or solid theology. In several cases our reservations include the exorbitant cost of the program.

We recognize, however, that there are good reasons for some to seek an accredited academic degree. Many churches these days require that their pastoral staff members have a minimum of a master’s degree, even if that degree is from an integrationist or secular school. For several years we have been praying for the opportunity to partner with a school that can offer a respected degree and this past year God has answered that prayer!

We are pleased to announce that the Institute for Nouthetic Studies is working with Mid-America Baptist Seminary to build a Ph.D. and a D. Min. program in Practical Theology with an Emphasis in Biblical Counseling. It is an informal relationship in which Dr. Adams and I will be teaching their inaugural seminars in counseling in January and June of 2014. As part of the curriculum students will be studying much of our curriculum online.

These seminars can also be included in their M.Div. program and there will be an M.A. program offered in the future. We don’t know how much Dr. Adams will be able to participate personally in this program after these initial seminars so this may well be a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from Dr. Adams himself!

Mid-America Baptist Seminary is an exciting place. During my visits there I found there to be a warm and fervent spirit on campus and a heart for the ministry of the Word. They have a beautiful campus that is located in suburban Memphis just across the street from the historic Bellevue Baptist Church just off I-40.

Be warned. These degree programs are rigorous and there are the usual prerequisites for admission. But if you want to pursue a fully accredited degree that will stretch and challenge you to think biblically in your counseling and your teaching, and if studying under the founder and leader of the biblical counseling movement is an exciting a prospect for you we urge you to check it out.

For complete information, please contact the Seminary directly. The Seminary will help you with the details of the program and provide information about admission. You must talk to them directly. The deadline for application is October 31, 2013.

Congratulations!

20130623_133222. . . to our students in British Columbia who worked diligently as a group to complete their course of study with the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and received their certificates. Your church or ministry can form a group to study with us as well. Any group with more than 5 students receives a 25% tuition discount. Contact us if you would like more information.