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Biblical Crisis Counseling: Not If, But When

Book Review

John Babler teaches how to walk a counselee through trials by trusting God’s hope and healing, while emphasizing the importance of glorifying God.

May 25, 2021

Early in Biblical Crisis Counseling: Not If, But When, Dr. John Babler makes a candid admission that lets the reader know he’s “real” and which endears him to each of us as “qualified” to be both a biblical counselor and seminary professor, as well as an excellent husband and father. Here’s an exemplary excerpt, “Some of the biggest challenges for me have been when life and death crises have occurred and there was nothing I could do to protect my children or grandchildren” (page 3). 

While the book isn’t either lengthy or difficult to read, it is filled with practical, useful information and personal illustrations from the author’s life experiences in many roles. He talks about childhood family crises, those as a parent, grandparent, firefighter and, of course his vast experiences as a “crisis” biblical counselor. 

The author provides a great service in distinguishing the difference(s) between “biblical” counseling and all other types, including Christian, and even those claiming to be biblical. He writes, “I have had the opportunity to read and reflect on many recent attempts to define biblical counseling by those who consider themselves to be biblical counselors. To my surprise, many of these definitions missed key foundational elements. None of them mention sin or repentance, only one refers to a conviction regarding the sufficiency of Scripture, and they are all broad enough to allow many who hold contradicting philosophies to adopt the title of biblical counselor” (page 11). 

One of many things the reader should appreciate about this book is that it isn’t another self-help dissertation. For anyone who desires to give biblical counsel (which should include each Christian), the author addresses root causes for the “issues” everyone experiences at times, therefore helping us understand why people conduct themselves as they do. Chapter 5, Job, Joseph and Jonah: Three Men in Crisis, illustrates significant heart-level truths revealed in the experiences of each of these men. While not giving details here, the summary to this chapter is a very good one: “In each of these situations, God used crisis to reveal the hearts of men. One repented, one consistently obeyed, and one, though used by God, showed no evidence of repentance despite outward compliance. Using these truths from Scripture will help us as biblical counselors to understand people in crisis. While the outward circumstances will differ, the human heart is unchanging, and men today will respond even as these men did. Our job as biblical counselors is to reflect these truths, for we are compelled to speak God’s Word and call upon Him to use His truth to transform lives” (pages 43-44). 

Chapter 6 is especially helpful, beginning with Dr. Babler sharing how he and several others, “out of the tragedy at the Wedgwood Baptist Church shooting…worked together to develop the Biblical Crisis Intervention (BCI) model” (page 45). In a creative and practical way, this chapter starts with a visual illustration of an umbrella which contains (around the handle) the four foundations of the BCI model: Biblical, Relational, Wholistic, and Practical. It then shows (in the four sections of the canopy) the elements the biblical crisis counselor uses to minister: compassion, listening, serving and ministering Scripture. Especially convincing to the reader is the fact that this chapter is filled with Scripture (texts and references) which illustrate both the “foundations” and the “elements” of the Biblical Crisis Intervention model. This chapter both establishes and illustrates the practicality of “biblical crisis counseling.” 

Appropriately, the book concludes with chapter 8, titled Disaster Relief and the Church. It begins (page 78) by reminding us that, “Crises and disasters have many faces. Hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes and tornadoes all may have disastrous effects on communities, cities and entire nations.” It then continues by stating that the Biblical Crisis Intervention model is one that can be practically applied in any and every disaster situation. The author details “Practical Warnings,” instructions regarding “Operating an Emergency Shelter at Your Church” and then “Suggestions for Specific Disasters.” He goes into great detail to give an immense amount of practical information about almost every conceivable aspect of ministering to those overtaken by the previously illustrated crises and yet does so in a concise, practical, and interesting way.  

I highly recommend Biblical Crisis CounselingNot If, But When as potentially the best manual one could obtain to be thoroughly educated and (hopefully) biblically and spiritually motivated to minister God’s Word to those in need, whether in an extreme crisis or a more moderate “normal life” circumstance. 

Helpful Quotes 

  1. “Most people have experienced some type of personal crisis and certainly are at least aware through the media of the devastation of large-scale disaster…. It is the focus of this book to challenge Christians to consider that crises provide opportunities. The first and most obvious of which is to glorify and honor God” (page 13). 
  2. “Crisis ministry requires an investment into the lives of others. We must be willing to sacrifice time,  money, energy, comfort, and belongings. When people around us panic, we must remain calm and trust the sovereignty of God. We must gently lead those in crisis toward Christ and help them to see God’s hand at work in their circumstances. There is never a time when we can simply ignore the situation, look the other way and ‘pass by on the other side’” (page 33).