Professor Jeffrey Kottler, in his book On Being a Therapist, says, “Various studies of therapy dropouts estimate that roughly one-third of clients don’t return after their initial interview, and close to half don’t come back after the first two sessions.”1 Kottler also says, “A therapist with a large turnover might require more than four hundred new referrals every year just to survive.”2 If truth be known, the same could be said about paid-for biblical counseling. For those who make a living at either psychological or biblical counseling, a prime motivating factor for the counselor is to keep each counselee in counseling as long as possible. While there is no scientific support for this idea, the justification involves the rationalization that the longer the counselee is in counseling, the greater good the counselor can do.
Underneath that rationalization is the reality of the revolving door of counselees, quickly and continually going out in large numbers and a need to have an equal number of counselees coming in. After all, the rent and utilities have to be paid and a sufficient income maintained. By our estimates, to make a decent living, a counselor would need to have at least 21 paying counselees per week. However, after the first counseling session, an average of 7 do not return, and after the second counseling session, the average increases to 10 non-returning counselees. Paid counselors not only have to “hold their breath” about the possibility of each new counselee not returning, but must be constantly on the prowl for new customers, as well as work on keeping old ones.
As pristine pure as the pay-as-you-go biblical counselors may think they are, the reality of the situation has to be that they, too, are caught in the revolving door phenomenon and need to pay the bills and the salaries. This hovering specter will no doubt affect the counseling process. We have demonstrated elsewhere clearly and concisely from Scripture that charging for biblical counseling has no examples, nor any support from the Bible, except for a few verses twisted out of context to cash in on a new meaning never before seen in the commentaries.3 If one goes back a mere 50 years in the church, the biblical counseling movement did not exist and therefore no such Scripture twisting for pay was necessary.
Because the various biblical counseling organizations have joined together for mutual endorsements and conferences, to make an issue of charging would affect the camaraderie among them. Any organization or leader of the biblical counseling movement sounding an alarm would disrupt the unity which they have established for mutual benefit. The issue of charging has become an untouchable subject in the biblical counseling movement to the detriment of those in need of personal care.
The various biblical counseling organizations, schools, and seminaries are also holding hands on the subject of charging fees for biblical counseling. Not one leader in this movement of which we are aware has publicly condemned this unbiblical practice and named individuals and organizations that are guilty. There is much handholding among the leaders of the biblical counseling movement with respect to not exposing this spiritually fraudulent, unbiblical practice, even among those leaders who privately disagree with the practice of charging! We have cried out against this practice for all the years that we have been writing and speaking on this subject and even challenged the leaders of the movement and the biblical counseling organizations to do likewise. But so far we cannot identify one leader of the movement or one biblical counseling organization that will do it.
If charging for biblical counseling is in opposition to what the Bible teaches, then it is sinful. Who among the biblical counseling movement leaders who privately oppose charging will say that it is sinful and identify by name those who charge and are therefore sinning? We have been asking that question for years and so far not one BCM leader or president of any Bible college or seminary has cried out in opposition to this practice. Thus, these men who claim the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture and who are not willing to speak out against this grossly unbiblical practice are guilty of collaboration by default.
The $75 to $135 per hour prices charged by biblical counselors are often paid by those who cannot truly afford it. In addition to being unbiblical, these fees have been a strain on the living expenses of many who seek help. Biblical counseling is, in most situations, not covered by insurance policies. In those cases the fees are an out-of-pocket expense. As we have indicated, it is not a small expense, and those who cannot afford it must dig deep in order to pay those fees. Often sacrifices must be made by those who can least afford it.
Everyone who charges and who supports the practice, directly or even by default, must share the blame, and this includes both individuals and organizations. Think of those who are in need of personal ministry and are referred out to a pay-as-you-go counselor or, as in many cases, to a pay-before-you-go counselor. In most cases, these Johnny-come-lately counselors do not realize that their charge for counseling is a recent phenomenon in the church and is actually a spin-off of the psychological counseling movement, which only began after World War II.
There is a huge difference between a church or fellowship paying someone, such as a pastor or custodian, and a biblical counselor charging someone for services rendered. Can you imagine a pastor, elder, deacon, or church worker of any kind charging for ministries in the church? There is a vast number of church volunteers from leaders to functionaries of various kinds. If such individuals cashed in on the service-for-pay counselor mentality there would be “burglar” alarms going off throughout the church! Why, oh why, are there no alarms going off throughout the church over this crass cash-and-carry counseling mentality? We challenge our readers to find one well-known evangelical Christian leader who has publicly condemned the practice and publicly named individuals and organizations that are fleecing the flock.
Where is the outrage against such an unbiblical practice as charging for personal ministry? We would hope that those in influential positions regarding the training of biblical counselors would see the unbiblical nature of this practice of charging money for personal ministry and would speak out against it. Where are the Bible colleges and seminaries across America that discourage charging for personal ministry? Where is a Bible college or seminary in America that will publicly name names of those individuals and organizations that practice or support such charging and then clearly and publicly speak out against such a gross, unbiblical practice?
And, what about the individuals and churches that support these problem-centered, charging-for-ministry counselors and their organizations? Will they continue to be involved by supporting this filthy lucre process by failing to cry out against such an unbiblical activity? Are not those who cooperate with the counselors who charge enabling this filthy lucre practice to continue?
Shutting off the filthy lucre incentive would considerably disable the biblical counseling movement and those desiring to be trained to commercialize their training efforts. Shutting off the filthy lucre incentive could also reduce student enrollments at those Bible colleges and seminaries and thereby reduce their income. Is there a connection? We hope not. Moreover, shutting off the filthy lucre incentive would close the door to referrals to biblical counseling outside the church and open the door to believers ministering mutual care to one another in local churches, which is where it should be.
Separated-from-the-Church Biblical Counseling Centers (SBCC)
Prior to the rise of the biblical counseling movement, which followed on the heels of the psychological counseling movement, there were no separated-from-the-church biblical counseling centers. No one was sent away from a church for counseling because there was nowhere to send them. We trace the history of the cure of souls in Against “Biblical Counseling”: For the Bible and find at no time was there a referral away from the church to a separated-from-the-church center for Christian care.4 Such ministry was and is a clear responsibility of the local church.
Referring individuals away from the church to a separated-from-the-church center to accomplish what the Lord has empowered His people to do in the local fellowship is a travesty on the teachings of the Bible and a failure on the part of the local fellowship. Yet, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of these separated-from-the-church counseling centers across America. There is no possibility in such a community center (which charges a fee) for ministering to people in the same way as in a local body of believers. There is no ministry beyond the 50-minute hour, no 24/7 availability, no availability of the usual services a church can provide, and no possibility to involve others as in a church fellowship.
There are relationships and ministries that exist in a local church that are absent in a separated-from-the-church biblical counseling center (SBCC). When, for sixteen years, we headed a mutual care ministry to those suffering from personal and interpersonal problems, those of us who ministered did things that do not happen in SBCCs. We list only some of the many relational things that occurred that do not happen in SBCCs.
Being available 24/7 was possible because the ministry was shared rather than one person having a “case load.” Moreover, several different people may be involved in ministering to an individual in need.
Visiting a person at home, hospital, or work place would occur naturally as necessary because these are simply fellow believers experiencing problems of living. Neither a specified place nor restricted office hours interfered with ministry as in SBCCs.
Shared meals and coffee/tea/refreshment time were considered opportunities for fellowship and sharing both as fellow believers and as friends, whereas in SBCC settings, such activities would be discouraged and considered “unprofessional” or unnecessary.
Providing food, money, and such practical assistance as child or elder care, help with household chores, etc. are included in the benevolence activities of local churches. The person who ministers personally may be the one to perform these additional acts of love or they can be shared with other members of the Body of Christ. This does not happen in SBCCs.
Daily prayer for one another and opportunities to pray together personally or on the phone.
Expressions of love and care in the local fellowship, including hospitality, ongoing encouragement, sending cards for various occasions (from congratulations to condolences).
Relationships that continue on and develop further after the initial problems. The paid friendship in SBCC settings does not go beyond the counseling time, because continued friendship in SBCCs would be difficult because of time and distance and generally to the SBCCs “time is money” because bills and salaries must be paid.
The above are merely examples that biblically and practically distinguish the SBCC from the local church and put to shame those who offer their 50-minute relationship hours (usually with a fee) that pale in comparison to what happens in a truly biblical local church free of charge. These are all in addition to the vital worshipping and fellowshipping together, which would be absent from the SBCC.
The local church is the place for pastoral care and the mutual edification of all believers, under the authority of the foundation laid by Scripture and as given by Jesus Christ within the mutual ministry of the saints one to another, for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ through mutual encouragement, admonition, confession, repentance, forgiveness, restoration, consolation, and comfort.
“In cahoots” means “in partnership; in league.”5 The definition of “in partnership” is “being a partner with or in association with,” and “in league”29 is “working together, often secretly.”30 Call it what you will regarding charging for counseling and separated-from-the-church counseling centers: the silence is deafening! We are not saying that it is always an overt conspiracy, but rather an often covert (silent) concurrence. Nowhere can we find evidence of those in the biblical counseling movement raising a raucous over these grossly unbiblical practices by naming names. Even those who agree with us do not raise their voices in opposition to these unbiblical practices or publicly name those individuals and organizations that are guilty. So we conclude that they are in cahoots!
* Excerpted from Martin & Deidre Bobgan. Stop Counseling! Start Ministering! Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2011.
1 Jeffrey A. Kottler. On Being a Therapist, Fourth Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010, p. 126.
2 Ibid., p. 120.
3 Martin & Deidre Bobgan. Person to Person Ministry: Soul Care in the Body of Christ. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2009.
4 Martin & Deidre Bobgan. Against “Biblical Counseling”: For the Bible. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1994, pp. 23-55.
5 Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Gramercy Books, 1996, p. 293.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, November-December 2016, Vol. 24, No.6)