The 12 Best Biblical Counseling Books of 2012

It’s that time of year—at the end of each year I list my top recommendations for the most important books related to biblical counseling. They may be books about biblical counselor or by biblical counselors, or they may be books that biblical counselors need to read.I list them in alphabetical order…

Building a Church Counseling Ministry without Killing the Pastor by Sue Nicewander, Day One Publications

If you’re a pastor, elder, church leader, or a biblical counselor who wants to develop a biblical counseling ministry that will serve your church, likeminded churches in your area, and people in your community, then this book is a great choice. It presents a wonderful vision for cooperation by local churches committed to biblical counseling. I’m biased, but I think this book and my work Equipping Counselors for Your Church form a great two-book series for anyone looking to establish a church-based biblical counseling ministry.

Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches edited by Stephen Greggo and Timothy Sizemore with Contributions by Thomas Plant, Mark McMinn, Diane Langberg, Gary Moon, and Stuart Scott, IVP Academics

Every biblical counselor should be aware of the various approaches to Christian/biblical counseling. This book builds on the framework of Eric Johnson’s Psychology & Christianity: Five Views. Johnson’s book focuses more on theory/theology of counseling, while Counseling and Christianity focuses more on methods. What would each approach look like in applied settings—in the counseling room? What do these models or approaches look like in practice? 

Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert, B&H Academics

Some have implied that biblical counseling may be helpful for “spiritual matters,” but not for difficult “psychological issues.” The modern biblical counseling movement has always emphasized that everything, at its core, is a “spiritual matter” because we are worshipping beings. Counseling the Hard Cases walks readers through both a robust theory/theology of numerous “hard cases” (what other approaches might consider “psychological matters” outside the realm of biblical soul care) and also provides a view into the counseling room to see how the biblical counselor relates God’s Word to the profound issues of life in a broken world.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul Tripp, Crossway

Having served as a pastor in three churches, and ministering to pastors now, I agree that pastoral ministry is a dangerous calling. Paul Tripp helps pastors and church leaders to confront the challenges of pastoral ministry with candor and wisdom. A “must read” for pastors and church leaders for the spiritual/emotional health of the pastor and the church family.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson, Crossway

For an in-depth summary of this valuable book, I’d encourage you to read Jonathan Holmes' review at the Biblical Counseling coalition. Many people write about discipleship, many about gospel-centered preaching, but not many about gospel-centered discipleship—until now. This is an important book with insights helpful for the biblical counselor.

The Gospel for Real Life Booklet Series by Numerous Authors, P & R Publishing

Rather than one book, this is a new booklet series by the Association of Biblical Counselors. It began in 2012 with the launch of six booklets on topics ranging from abuse, to anxiety, to borderline personality, to cutting, to God’s attributes, to vulnerability. Read an interview at the Biblical Counseling Coalition with series editor, Brad Hambrick, for a comprehensive introduction to this important new series.

Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols by Brad Bigney, P & R Publishing

Jim Newheiser says it well in his endorsement, “A much needed book that explains and exposes heart idolatry and clearly offers the gospel as the only cure.” For an in-depth introduction to the book, read the Biblical Counseling Coalition's author interview  with Brad Bigney.

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung, Crossway

Much has been written in recent years in Evangelical circles and in the biblical counseling world about the relationship between salvation and sanctification, between the gospel indicatives and the gospel imperatives. Kevin DeYoung has been at the forefront of this discussion with his very balanced, robust, practical, biblical approach. An important book for Christian living and biblical counseling.

Loving Well (Even If You Haven’t Been) by William P. Smith, New Growth Press

Matt Mitchell, in his Biblical Counseling Coalition review, has this to say about Loving Well. “Smith aims to help Christ-followers to grow as other-people-lovers. And he succeeds. If you read this book and do a fraction of what he teaches, you will grow in your ability to love others as Christ does.”

Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts by Robert Jones, Crossway

What do you get when you combine in one person a biblical counselor with Peacemaker Ministry training? You get Pursuing Peace. As David Powlison says, “Interpersonal conflict is a misery maker, stirring up chaos and the fog of war. Robert Jones carefully walks down the narrow road that makes peace and stirs up joy. His presentation is judicious, wide-ranging, balanced, biblical, and full of grace.”

Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection by Ed Welch, New Growth Press

For my comprehensive thoughts on this book, read my Biblical Counseling Coalition review. Welch’s message is simple but profound: the way out of shame is through trust in Jesus. Through Christ, the unclean become holy; the naked are clothed in royal garments; and the outcasts are accepted as children of the King.

Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views edited by James Beilby and Paul Eddy with contributions by Walter Wink, David Powlison, Gregory Boyd, and C. Peter Wagner, Baker Academic

Multiple-view books tend to cover the spectrum. That’s certainly true of this book. Powlison’s biblical counseling perspective is substantially different from each of the three other views. An important book for thinking through the relationship between biblical counseling, Christian growth, and spiritual warfare.

Join the Conversation

Which of these books would you most highly recommend? Why?

So many great books, what additional books published in 2012, important for the biblical counselor, would you add to this list?

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