We all counsel one another on a regular basis. At least in many respects, while we live with friends and family, we come alongside each other in times of celebration as well as in times of need. Paul Tautges has written a book, entitled Counseling One Another, that looks at what he calls “A theology of interpersonal discipleship”. On page 20, Tautges gives a rather lengthy definition of counseling (which I will not post here) that he aims to develop. On one hand, it’s a compelling portrait of robust friendship and gospel kinship. On another hand, it’s confusing, particularly in relationship to counseling as many people understand the word. And this is my experience with the book. It’s clearly helpful in many respects and sometimes confusing. Let me explain.
One of the most compelling chapters is “The Compassion of Brotherly Love,” (ch. 5) and in it the author lists three presuppositions related to Christian counseling: 1) it’s a spiritual relationship, 2) it addresses a spiritual problem, and 3) it has a spiritual goal. This is helpful and in relation to friendship, it’s categorically helpful from one angle. What is confusing is that the tone addresses some issues in a way that treats the majority of counselee problems as wayward behavior. And on pg. 104-105 and following, the discussion lands on punishment and discipline moreso than may be needed. I can’t imagine either punishment or discipline coming up in a conversation with my daughter who struggles with her body image because of comments from friends at school or as my friend deals with angry family members.
As confusing as some elements are, I found chapter 8 to be a refreshing exploration of community and one that “stimulates faith.” Think about that last phrase. Friendships that stimulate faith, in a very real sense, provide counseling to us. In quoting Tim Lane and Paul Tripp, the author notes that “Many helpers fail to move struggling people into the rich context of redemptive relationships,” (170). And it’s in this area where the book is most helpful. In fact, the focus may not be counseling per se, but the impact of redemptive community on the modern counseling movement.
At times Tautges tries to do a bit too much. There is a defense of the place of the Bible and there’s a critique of the psychology, complete with a swipe at Christian colleges as well as individual counselors all integrated with proof texts and compelling research. If you’re interested in exploring in a deeper way the link between preaching and counseling and the importance of community in the life of discipleship, then this is a solid read. And for some this will be an acquired taste, because frankly, there a very few counseling illustrations, which may be confusing. If you’ve seen Jerry Bridges’ book on community, this is more at home next to that on the shelf than in the counseling section of your bookstore. And that may not be a bad thing.
(note: I received a copy of this book as part of Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review. All ideas are my own).