Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review – Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ by Robert W. Kellemen

What a wonderfully practical yet theologically rich and gospel centered training manual for the pastor or layperson offering the comfort of Christ to suffering people.  “Gospel Conversations” is the second book in the Equipping Biblical Counselors Series designed to provide local churches with comprehensive relational training. It is best used in a group setting, but has been written to accommodate individual study.

A core thread in this book is the belief that all Christians are called to some level of caring that involves daily encouraging one to love and good deeds, and directing suffering and tempted sinners back to Christ and his gospel of grace. Toward that end “Gospel Conversations provides an intensive, relational, hands-on equipping manual. Through it you will develop twenty-one biblical counseling relational skills so you can care like Christ (p15)”.  

At the outset, I found the model for these competencies difficult to grasp. There are two guideposts (Soul Care for Suffering and Sanctification, and Biblical Spiritual Direction for Sin and Sanctification) and four compass points (Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling and Guiding). Kellemen does take some time, rather successfully, to flesh out these concepts. In the process he makes some distinctions which, as a novice, I find difficult to grasp.  For example, the common approach in biblical counseling is to consider the counselee’s story as Sufferer, Sinner and Saint. Kellemen prefers to expand the approach to include the privileges and responsibilities, so the approach becomes a consideration of saints, sons, sanctification, suffering and sin. This does turn out to be helpful, but I wondered how necessary this refinement is, given the complete treatment and explanation he gives to the twenty-one competencies.

 Each chapter has questions to help the participant mature as a Biblical Counselor as well as exercises in counseling others. Each chapter very helpfully has a tweet-size summary. I found the competencies very well illustrated and explained and profited a great deal from the model used in this book.

I would recommend for the inexperienced counselor or layperson, that he read Michael Emlet’s “Crosstalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet” before “Gospel Conversations”.  Kellemen’s approach and terminology will then make much more sense and be easier to grasp. Since I haven’t read the first book in this series, it may very well be it also would provide this foundation.

I received this book from Zondervan through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

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