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From NANC to ACBC

On Tuesday, October 8th at our annual meeting The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) voted to change our name.  The proposal passed with an astounding 91% and our organization is now called the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

A number of significant biblical counseling organizations are in existence today, but historically only two trace back to the founding of the movement and the pioneering work of Jay Adams.  The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) was created to be the training arm of the movement, and the association formerly known as NANC was created to be the certifying arm of the movement.  Over the years this second organization has certified thousands of people in every state in the union and in dozens of countries.

After nearly forty years our association of counselors changed its name for one very significant reason.  At ACBC we have a missional passion to spread the truth of the sufficiency of Scripture and the sufficiency of Christ to hurting and troubled people all across the globe.  We want to begin to communicate to hundreds of new constituencies and thousands of new people the riches of God’s power to bring change in the most profound difficulties of life.

Using the term “biblical” instead of “nouthetic” makes it more obvious to more people that we are an organization committed to the inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient Word of God to inform the counseling task.  Placing the word “certification” in our title makes it obvious that our organization exists to verify and endorse people who have demonstrated competency in biblical counseling practice.  Finally, removing the word “national” from our name demonstrates that we are an increasingly international association of biblical counselors.

In the weeks before our annual meeting some wondered if the proposal for a new name signaled a weakening commitment to our historic belief in the sufficiency of the Bible.  During my comments at the conference when I was formally installed as Executive Director I repeated the question many have posed when they asked, “Where are we going as an organization?”  I stated that I have two answers to that question.  One answer concerns our convictions and the other concerns our mission.

With regard to our convictions we are not going anywhere.  At ACBC we are just as committed to the authority of Christ and his Word as we were when we called ourselves NANC.  We maintain this commitment because we believe the Bible when it says, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Pet 1:24-25).  We are convinced that the quickest way to be an irrelevant organization that withers and fades is by moving away from the timelessly enduring Word of God.  We are immovable in our convictions as an organization.

With regard to our mission, however, we are going everywhere.  We are excited as an organization to share this vision with those who have not heard of us, and those who have dismissed us in the past.  Our steadfast commitment to our convictions inspires in us a strong desire to communicate them to new constituencies.  We are committed to filling the earth with the truth that Christ, and Christ alone, is the sufficient solution to the counseling problems people have.

Our new name represents our desire to stand on our historic commitments all while communicating in new ways to new people.

We live in a secular and therapeutic world that desperately needs the work of ACBC.  The problems of people are increasingly defined in secular categories and treated with atheistic therapies and superficial medical interventions.  We face a crucial need to recover a biblical vision of the power of Christ to restore troubled people weighed down with spiritual issues that require counseling.  As we seek this restoration it will not be enough to talk about biblical counseling, or to discuss biblical things.  The church of Jesus Christ is in dire need of people who have developed excellence in how to counsel.  The mission of our organization, now known as ACBC, is well into our fourth decade of certifying men and women who have demonstrated excellence in biblical counseling.  At our annual meeting this crucial role was reaffirmed, along with a commitment to spread this vision in new and dramatic ways.

I pray that you share this commitment of the vast majority of our membership, and that you are excited to stand with us as we enter a new phase of effectiveness in biblical counseling.

Endorsement from David Powlison

“Why a name change from NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) to the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC)? I was not part of the process, but I have thought about the pros and cons of our name for the past 30 years. Take my comments as a personal opinion about the change, not an explanation of the change.

First, all people who take Scripture seriously should agree that God calls his people to the clear-minded, tenderhearted, personalized ministry of noutheteo: “to place in the mind” relevant words of truth, wisdom, grace, conviction, hope, and guidance. Wise love for others is rich in timely nouthesis, as well as rich in the other timely things that wisdom does and says (and doesn’t do and doesn’t say). At our best, when we wisely help to cure the souls of God’s beloved children, we are truly nouthetic.

But the negative connotations to “nouthetic counseling” have had a way of too often drowning out the intended denotation. This is a historical reality. It has nothing to do with what the Scripture intends when calling us to the ministry of noutheteo. I see three ways that negative connotations have arisen.

First, sometimes caricatures are attached to us by those who are ignorant or malicious. What they say we are is simply not true. The sneer creates an insignificant kind of negative connotation.

Second, and more serious, sometimes we have fulfilled the negative stereotypes. All counselors fail at times, and we fail in many different ways. But there is one typical pattern of failure I’ve witnessed too often in our circles. I think of it as “noutheticistic counseling” or “macho-noutheticism.” It represents a failure of humility, kindness, listening, and grace. If our typical failings recur too often, or if they are unchallenged and unaddressed from within our movement, then we would deserve the negative connotation. But I have witnessed this failure far less often in the past 15 years than I did in the previous 20 years. I think that the dominant strand within our DNA has consistently, clearly, and strongly sought to redress such failings. We have been growing corporately into greater wisdom. Failings that are being redressed are a relatively insignificant kind of negative connotation.

The third reason is the most significant. Jay Adams’s original theory and practice of nouthetic counseling had many notable strengthhs and several notable shortcomings. Candid, fair-minded discussion of our model and methods has been part of how our community has functioned over the past 40 years. But, during this process, the adjective “nouthetic” has remained attached to the distinctive emphases of the original version—maintaining the strengths but not addressing the imbalances. The connotations of the word are weighted toward emphasizing, for example, God’s commandments, confronting sins, making behavioral changes (e.g., Proverbs 10-31), a directive counseling style, and the dynamics of personal habit formation. Those are five ingredients of counseling that are faithful to Scripture—that do nouthesis well. But they must be balanced by complementary Scriptural ingredients in nouthesis—e.g., God’s promises, comforting sufferers, making changes in relationship with God (e.g., Psalms), an interactive counseling style, and the dynamics of growing personal insight. When our defining adjective fixedly connotes things that do not describe us well, then the adjective increasingly becomes an impediment rather than a help.

The new name is more general in one respect—”biblical” simply points to a core loyalty shared by Christian people. And “ACBC” does not roll off the tongue as easily as “NANC”! But the new name is more specific and more descriptive in one very important way. NANC has been a certifying organization. It has existed to set and to pursue a standard of excellence in the practice of biblical counseling, just as the mission statement asserts. Many counseling and educational ministries are now committed to wise nouthesis, and are committed to restoring counseling as a core ministry of the church of Jesus Christ. A counseling revolution has occurred in the past 45 years, and it is still going forward. But certification is a unique defining aspect of the ministry that I am glad to now know as the ACBC.”

David Powlison

Former NANC Board Member

Member of the NANC Academy

Senior Editor, Journal of Biblical Counseling

Faculty and Executive Director of CCEF

Endorsement from Robert Somerville

“Why change to Association of Certified Biblical Counselors?

What’s in a name or a name change? The answer—“Lots of things!”

Let’s consider the example of a woman who has proudly represented her father by bearing his name as she grew up. But as her life changes she gets married and she takes on her husband’s name. She does not reject her father but rather takes on a new name and a different role. In a sense that is what we are doing with our organization.

The name National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) has served us very well. The term Nouthetic was coined by our key founder, Dr. Jay Adams, in his ground-breaking books Competent to Counsel and The Christian Counselor’s Manual. Those books changed my perspective on ministry and pointed me to a truly Biblical pattern of counseling and shepherding. They emphasized the sufficiency of Scripture for every aspect of life and godliness. They emphasized counseling, as the Greek word noutheteo indicates, to place the Word of God into the mind of the counselee in a loving and compassionate way, the way Paul does with tears as recorded in Acts 20:31.

At that time none of us saw the great work of God that would take place through those books and the ones to follow by Dr. Adams and those who learned from him and others–books and teaching that have been used of God to spawn a truly Biblical Counseling Movement across many denominations and the church internationally.  We praise our Lord for all that He has done!

With the growth of our ministry spanning so many denominations and 18 countries we have come to the place of needing a name change that specifically addresses our place in the entire Biblical Counseling Movement. Because of God’s marvelous grace we are no longer merely a national organization. We have emphasized and worked in the battle to turn the church toward genuine Biblical counseling worldwide.

Now is the time to put our emphasis on certification and a continued standard of excellence in equipping the saints for the work of the ministry in counseling and I believe the name change emphasizes this.  We will continue to emphasize all of the aspects of genuine Biblical counseling in applying the sufficiency of the Word of God to every situation which we have been doing and will continue our stand against integrationist approaches. But we will do it under a name that allows us to be international in scope, which emphasizes our excellent certification standards and shows our participation in the genuinely Biblical Counseling Movement that we started.

I had the privilege of speaking at my first NANC Conference in 1978 and have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Trustees since 1986.  It has been a great privilege to supervise over 50 people through their NANC certification since becoming a Fellow in 1989.  I think that this name change is part of NANC’s opportunity for an ever-widening influence in the Biblical Counseling Movement and I believe we as members of this worthy organization should support this.”

All because of God’s amazing grace,

Bob Somerville

NANC Board Member

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Heath Lambert
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