A common term used among more serious Christians is “religion verses relationship”. I recently heard a radio host describe the perfect analogy for the term. She compared it to wearing requisite regal attire (religion) to wearing jeans and a sweatshirt (relationship with Christ.) The former mode of dress is based on rules; the latter is relaxed, easy and comfortable.
Relationship with Christ is far from organized religion, though it can be found in and out of churches. True worshipers worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). There’s the rule-based, legalistic church where pursuing a relationship with Christ is secondary to rules and regulations. Then there’s the heartfelt church that nurtures its congregation by urging them to pursue a personal relationship with Christ– in jeans and a tee, if you will. Forego your finery and step into the cozy, safe place of Christ.
This is not to say that we have the freedom to break God’s rules and standards; rather, we obey His rules out of love for Him and not out of church leaders inducing rule-based fear in its church members. That would be more Pharisee-like– the Pharisees replaced a deep devotion to the Lord with man-made traditions and impossible standards.
The type of Christian therapy I provide is based on relationship– counselling people within the context of their relationship with Christ. I focus on facilitating their growth in Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, coaching them on how to trust and rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word first before all other modes of treatment. Treatment options and interventions are examined within the scope of scripture. I do not teach clients how to do church. I teach them how to seek Christ first. (Matthew 6)
When seeking a Christian therapist, make sure they are training in the Word of God continuously and integrating the Word with counseling theories. Ask them if they have a personal relationship with Christ and what that looks like. Do they seek Him routinely when alone in quiet or only in the confines of church groups? Fellowship in church is vital but it should never take the place of 1:1 meditation with the Lord and the Holy Spirit. That is where true spiritual growth takes place– in your individual prayer room.
Non-Christian therapy is often wrought with detached approaches. One would naturally assume that while focusing on the steps of different theoretical practices– whether it’s Gestalt, Satir or what have you–the therapist would stray from tracking the client’s feelings and thoughts without maintaining the ability to remain in tuned to the client’s full self. That would logically produce half-hearted strategies and interpretations and interfere with true, active listening.
I prefer emptying myself and allowing the Holy Spirit to make the interpretations and grant me wisdom to proceed compassionately and tenderly, addressing the client’s deepest needs, spoken and unspoken. (James 1:5) “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all the things I said to you.” (John 14:26) These words of Christ actually describe what takes place in the heart and spirit of a therapist seeking Christ.
The word of God remains in the heart of the believing therapist and the Holy Spirit calls it to remembrance when he/she needs to deliver a particular message to an individual. This verse– John 14:26– is actually the very scripture I rely on when counseling individuals. It’s simple yet supernatural, which makes it hard for the natural man to comprehend. “But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Why did I choose to practice Christian therapy? Quite frankly, because I believe full healing takes place in the person of Christ. Only one being can prevent relapse or lessen the strain of a repeat episode. Only one can transform and renew the mind (Romans 12:1), heart and spirit to endure this life’s trials and go from “Strength to strength.” (Psalms 84).
The Word of God also acts as the best Cognitive Behavioral Therapy possible because it literally transforms the negative thought processes and renews the mind when one routinely reads His Word with a genuine seeking.
Make sure to look for these priorities and a genuine pursuit of Christ in a Christian therapist. Make sure he/sure has an active, dependent and naturally flowing relationship with Christ. Don’t settle for a facsimile. There are far too many “wolves in sheep’s clothing” out there. Your relationship with Christ is your most important relationship, so it’s vital that your therapist has a true and mature one as well.
- The Bible (try a variety of translations to get a fuller and broader meaning, or the Parallel Bible)
- The Best of A.W. Tozer
- The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
- Relying on the Holy Spirit by Charles F. Stanley
- Listening to God by Charles F. Stanley