Author discusses book outlining advice for Christian counseling

A new book on Christian counseling, “CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet,” is intended for pastors and lay leaders alike has been written with the intent of practically applying biblical precepts to everyday life. The author, Dr. Michael Emlet, has published five books on counseling and working with adults and teens on topics such as end-of-life care giving and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. For a link to an excerpt from the book, click here.

Q: CrossTalk focuses on the intersection between Scripture and real life. Why did you write it?

A: I wrote this book because I need it. As a biblical counselor who also trains other counselors, my daily challenge is to bring the good news of God’s redemption to my counselees’ lives—and to help others do the same. We need to keep asking how the Bible addresses the complexities of our personal lives (or another’s life), but there aren’t many places to turn for help. I need a resource to help me bridge the gap between then (when Scripture was written) and now (when I or others are struggling with life issues).

Q: So was CrossTalk written just for professional counselors?

A: No, this book is for all people actively engaged in personal ministry—counselor, pastor, discipler, spiritual mentor, small-group leader, campus ministry worker, youth leader, crisis pregnancy worker, or intentional friend. For those in “one on one” ministry, this book will help them meaningfully connect Scripture with a particular person’s life. But whatever the sphere of influence, CrossTalk helps readers grow in ministry wisdom and in the ability to apply the Bible meaningfully to their own lives.

Q: What do you mean by the phrase “Take two verses and call me in the morning”?

A: This is the approach we don’t want to take when using the Bible in ministry to others. Such an approach trivializes both Scripture and people. We need to guard against “cutting” a few familiar verses from the Bible and “pasting” them onto the complexities of people’s lives. Where in Scripture do you turn to address anorexia and bulimia? Or the challenge of infertility? What about a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder? If you think you know a passage that quickly captures any one of these issues fully, I would almost guarantee that your hearer will find it superficial or irrelevant. And if the Bible becomes functionally irrelevant to the hearer, he or she will turn elsewhere for guidance on thorny questions and issues. CrossTalk helps people avoid superficial biblical “prescriptions.” Instead, it helps anyone engaged in personal, one-anothering ministry to connect the realities of life with the rich details of God’s unfolding story of redemption.

Q: So how do you apply ancient Scripture to the full breadth of modern life issues?

A: Although the Bible does not give an exhaustive, step-by-step approach to modern problem unforeseen by the biblical writers, it does provide a comprehensive view of people and problems. It treats sin and suffering in such profound and multifaceted ways that no struggle, no matter how complex, stands outside the gospel light it sheds. It is wisdom that unravels the knots of 21st-century living.

Q: The first few chapters of CrossTalk focus on what the Bible is and is not. Why?

A: We need to understand that the Bible is not a list of do’s and don’ts, not a list of timeless principles for the problems of life, and not a casebook of characters to avoid or imitate, nor is it a system of doctrines. It is primarily the story of God, who pursues the restoration of his creation at the cost of his own life. I spend several chapters addressing this fundamental concept so that we can have richer ministry by applying Scriptures widely and deeply – and we can avoid slapping a “tried and true” verse onto a complex life situation.

Q: You state that reading and understanding the Bible is only half the equation. What’s the other half?

A: We also need to learn to “read” people wisely. We need to carefully listen for the patterns that emerge from the details of their lives. They will give clues about how to bring the life-giving gospel to them. Listening to how people make sense of the details of their lives gives a sense of the overarching story or stories that guide their daily existence. I advocate that we listen to their stories to understand their experiences as saints, sufferers, and sinners.

Q: So once we’ve become familiar with God’s Story and the individual’s story, what is the end goal?

A: The goal of reading Scripture and reading people together is to help others increasingly reflect the character and kingdom priorities of Jesus Christ. The goal of connecting Scripture with life is nothing less than changed lives, a changed community, and a changed world. CrossTalk is written by Michael R. Emlet, available Nov. 2009 from New Growth Press (www.NewGrowthPress.com)

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