Podcast episode 24
ACBC Counseling Fees
Our Master has commanded us to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16) and to “warn those that are unruly” (1 Thess. 5:14) as part of our Christian duty. Yet rather than speaking truth and wisdom to others freely, as they received it from God, some sell their biblical counsel as though it had originated from themselves. By God’s grace, this is not the practice of a majority of biblical counselors, but it is unfortunately widespread, even among highly reputable biblical counseling organizations such as the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), as this episode will demonstrate.
One of the hallmarks of the biblical counseling movement is the firm conviction that Scripture is sufficient for all non-medical problems. If this is so, God’s Word should also be sufficient for answering the question as to whether counseling should be supported or sold. We believe that the Bible is crystal clear that Christian ministry should never be sold, but rather freely supported by the Body of Christ, and we want to encourage the biblical counseling movement to embrace this scriptural truth. As long as biblical counselors teach and function as though the Bible is insufficient to answer this question, they unintentionally undermine their foundational premise.
The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) is an esteemed organization, devoted to counseling according to God’s Word. I myself am an ACBC certified counselor, and greatly appreciate and admire the work they have done in equipping both pastors and laymen to rightly handle God’s Word in counseling. However, when it comes to Jesus’s teaching that the ministry of the gospel should be offered freely (Mat 10:8), this organization has opted to turn a blind eye. Rather than take the position of its founder Jay Adams, who clearly assumed that biblical counseling would be offered for free, ACBC leaves the door open for individual counselors to decide whether or not they will charge, and how much: “The Bible is clear that ministers of the gospel of Jesus are entitled to earn their living from the gospel…. Biblical counselors … must seek to love their counselees in discerning whether to charge fees and how much to charge.” Notice that they wrongly assume that earning a living “from the gospel” means charging people for speaking truth in love, putting a price tag on wisdom, and requiring people “obtain the gift of God with money” (Acts 8:20). Also, they imply that it can be loving to charge people for healing, for pointing them to Jesus, and for other spiritual gifts that are involved in biblical counseling. But it is never loving to disobey God by selling access to the ministry of his Word and Spirit. As we’ll see in the data presented below, this confusing stance regarding money and ministry has created a biblical counseling landscape in which everyone simply does what is right in their own eyes.