The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC), now known as the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), has had a powerful influence in my life and ministry for over 35 years. As a young pastor, I looked forward each year to spending a few days with men who influenced the course of my ministry through their teaching and example. Bill Goode, Jay Adams, Tim Turner, George Scipione, Howard Eyrich, Wayne Mack, Lloyd Jonas, and Randy Patten were among the men who helped and encouraged me in ways they probably never knew. The friendships I formed with other pastors who were learning and growing with me remain a valued part of my life today.
Those who are regular readers of our little blog know that my enthusiasm for the organization began to wane about seven years ago, and will recall several blog posts from those days in which I expressed my disappointments. Last year, however, marked a turning point for me. I came away from the conference in Louisville with a renewed hope for the direction of ACBC. The leaders were beginning to address many of the concerns I had, and many loose procedures were being tightened up.
Last week I attended the annual ACBC conference in Jacksonville. In the same way I thought it was important to express my misgivings in the past, I think it is equally important that I now express my enthusiasm and gratefulness for the direction I now see ACBC headed. Let me note a few takeaways I had from the conference this year:
- Each plenary speaker was helpful and encouraging. I especially appreciated the keynote address by Heath Lambert. It was a clear and bold explanation of the need for a faithful, biblical, and uncompromising stand for the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. Well done Heath.
- Several initiatives were announced that addressed areas that have needed to be “beefed up.” Asking members to get more training in specific areas of counseling is a great step forward.
- First Baptist Jacksonville were great hosts. The music they led was wonderful.
- There was a great spirit of comradery among those who were present, much like the “old days” that I remember.
- I was struck, however, by these who were NOT there. There were no displays, and no representatives from organizations and schools that like to identify with Christian Counseling broadly. Now I doubt they were asked not to attend, but I want to think that those organizations that would be comfortable at an AACC conference, or who believe it necessary to “build bridges” to integrationists, concluded they would have little to gain by displaying at an ACBC conference. If our message at ACBC clearly communicates we are not of that ilk, it would speak well of us.
Now I would like to think that the powers that be at ACBC were so greatly influenced by my opinions and came to see the great wisdom of what I was saying that they embarked upon these corrections because of my vast influence. But I doubt anyone reading would conclude the same. Still, from my little corner of the biblical counseling world, I would encourage anyone contemplating pursuing certification to hesitate no longer. The certification process is a bit stiffer than in the past, but that is a good thing. I believe ACBC is an organization with which you can identify with confidence.
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.
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.
Please indulge me while I take over our blog today for a personal word. I am leaving this morning to make my way to Lafayette, Indiana to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors which begins next Monday. I will be arriving early so I can visit with my mother and sister who live several blocks from Faith Baptist Church where the conference is to be held.
The annual conference is always a highlight in my schedule each year. It is a joy to see many friends whom I only get to see occasionally, it is an encouragement to see many newly certified counselors receive their certificates, and it is always helpful to attend workshops to hear the fruit of what many good men in our association have been studying in recent days.
I want to appeal to our readers to be in prayer for the conference this year—especially the business meeting that will be held on Tuesday afternoon. Because some important issues will be raised this year the potential exists for divisiveness. Now, while division is not necessarily a bad thing, please pray that God would give wisdom and grace to those who will be speaking at that meeting and that all participants will be as anxious to listen as they are to speak.
Jay and I have not blogged about this before now and I will not go into detail here other than to report that we, and 25 other members, have put forward several amendments to the NANC bylaws in an attempt to clarify several issues for the board. Earlier this year a plurality—not a majority—of the NANC board made, what is in our view, several unwise decisions and did so in violation of the NANC bylaws. We are praying that the amendments that we have put forward will not only prevent these kinds of decisions in the future but will encourage the board in the good work God has entrusted to them. Please pray that God would give each NANC member great wisdom as we debate these issues.
There has been great recent interest in NANC (The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) for which I, being one of its founders, have been grateful. Like every organization not funded by any large gifts, but mainly by membership fees, it has only slowly gotten off the ground. But now, ever since the last few years with a zealous new director, it has been moving steadily. This year’s convention was no exception with upwards of 1300 attendees.
NANC is an organization that certifies counselors and training centers. Donn and I are both certified—Donn at the Fellow level, and I at the Academy level. Moreover, our training institute (INS) is certified by NANC. We mention such facts because from time to time people ask about them. Having been involved in the annual conference up until the middle of this past week, it hasn’t been possible to write much for this blog. But Donn is preparing something of a report of what happened, so I want to simply alert you to the fact in case you are interested. You will be hearing from him soon.
Just a brief note to thank all of those attendees at the NANC conference in Spartanburg who so kindly expressed their good wishes. I hope I can continue to serve the church for some time yet in the future through this blog as well as through the services that INS provides.
We have had to take a break from posting new material because of the NANC conference. We will have new posts up on Monday.
I apologize if you have surfed by expecting to read another thoughtful and pithy blog entry by Dr. Adams. Today I am claiming editorial privilege so I can urge you to attend next week’s NANC conference here in the upstate of South Carolina. You can get complete information about the conference at the NANC website by following this link.
I want to highlight two important sessions that will be held on Tuesday, October 6. At the 9:00 a.m. general session Dr. Adams will be honored for his lifetime of ministry and faithfulness. Jay is now 80 years old and is retiring from NANC’s board of directors. He anticipates that this will be the last conference he will be able to attend. Later, at the 1:15 p.m. hour Jay will be delivering a farewell address which he has entitled, appropriately, Competent to Counsel. This may well be your last opportunity to hear Dr. Adams teach unless you live here in South Carolina and are able to sit in on a class he teaches in his local church. Plan to join us. A large crowd in the middle of the afternoon would be a great encouragement to him.