When you hear the word counseling, what first comes to your mind? Most likely for many, when they hear such a term their mind races to a formal type of counseling in an office. While there is no problem with that, it is a narrow view. Counseling is not only formal but manifests itself in informal ways. They come through gospel conversations. Caring like Christ is not just for the certified biblical counselors. Caring like Christ is a call all Christians must answer. It is more than simply comforting with your presence but it is not less than that. It is more than speaking words of counsel; it is being there for another person. This is all brought to the view in Gospel Conversations by Dr. Bob Kellemen. In the second work of Equipping Biblical Counseling series, Christians are equipped by means of a robust biblical framework with a relational mindset.
In Gospel Conversations, Dr. Kellemen gives a balanced and biblical approach to counseling. In chapters 1 and 2, he lays out the Bible’s equal couplets: “truth/love, Scripture/soul, Bible/relationship, true/grace” (Kellemen 33). He shows how the Bible not only provides the Christian with the ‘what’ of counsel but the ‘how’ of counseling too. The book is robust as it is wholistic in its purpose and it addresses both suffering and sin in a broken world. Counseling that is robust must include sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. Kellemen is vivid, not vague, in his writings so the reader is not left to wonder what it would look like in real life. It is other-centered and the emphasis on the local church is to be commended. Counseling is best done in the context of Christian community.
The community aspect of Gospel Conversations brings us to the second characteristic of the book. The priority of being before doing is an exhortation for the Christian to not only be counseling but to be modeling what they say. Kellemen’s description of trialogue, between the counselor, counselee, and the Divine counselor through the Spirit and Word, helps Christians form gospel conversations. Kellemen’s elaboration on gospel conversations as “the whole Bible story impacting the whole person’s whole story” (Kellemen 51) clarifies what he means by the term. “Jesus with skin on” reminds the Christian their counsel and walk must be Christlike. The most powerful term Kellemen uses is the picture of “climbing in the casket”. Such a picture vividly portrays the relational necessity of biblical counseling.
If there is any glaring weakness in Gospel Conversations is the context in which you read it. If you plan to read this book alone, you will not grasp all the purpose of this book serves. It is made for a small group context ideally and the “Maturing as a Biblical Counselor” sections throughout contribute to that. Still, you can read it on your own but you will not get as much out of it. In addition to that, in order to get the most out of Gospel Conversations, it is best to first read Gospel-Centered Counseling. Reading just one or the other will benefit you as much unless you read them both.
All in all, Gospel Conversations by Bob Kellemen is a robust and relational work. The balanced and biblical approach to biblical counseling will equip any Christian to encourage, exhort, and edify their friends and family to live out the will of God by the Word of God.
I received this book for free from Zondervan via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.