20 March 2014 by Adeline Lum CM –
The National Association of Christian Counselors Malaysia (NACC Malaysia) will be holding their first regional conference in Asia after three annual national conferences since year 2011, expecting attendees from many countries in Asia.
“When we first mooted the idea for Asia, we generated quite a lot of excitement and oneness in Spirit. It’s time (for us) to have such a get-together to network, dialogue, and work out issues,” said Dr Edmund Ng, President of NACC Malaysia.
This conference is much needed in Asia because we have a unique brand of culture. Hence, while most of the counseling theories and techniques are developed based on the middle-class westerners, we cannot directly import them, but we need to adapt them to apply to the Asian culture, mindset, and perception.
For example, people in the Western culture tend to be more independent or individualistic, whereby counselees prefer to make their own decisions or come up with their own solutions. Counselees in the Asian culture, on the other hand, prefer that counselors take a larger role in helping them decide, based on society norms.
Also, counselors in the western culture tend to have stricter boundaries for their job as professionals. In other words, a counselor and counselee only have a professional type of relationship, without any friendship persisting outside the counseling to maintain sound judgment. However, in the Asian culture, the boundaries are less strict and rigid; a counselor and counselee are expected to build a friendship that can exist beyond the office. Similarly, in the biblical context, Dr Edmund shared that Jesus Christ had dinner with his two disciples, after counseling them while they were on their way to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35) Given that scenario in the western culture, the subsequent dinner would not have happened.
So, what is the defining characteristic of Christian counseling compared to the counseling in the world? Dr Edmund shared that as Christian counselors, the Bible is their final authority because it is God’s Word and it covers all aspects of life. However, the Bible does not cover every situation comprehensively but it only gives us the principles. Psychology (i.e. human behavioral patterns) then gives us the knowledge to fill in the contextual gaps of the Bible. Hence, by integrating theology and psychology, one can counsel more effectively because he or she can understand the counselee better.
“Because when we pray for the person, maybe we can help the person to come out of the situation. But if they don’t change, they keep coming back to you for prayer. In counseling, we help them to change, so that if they can manage, they’ll try to manage… it could be the same problem, just a different kind of circumstances or situation,” said Dr Edmund in pragmatism.
Compared to Christian counseling, Dr Edmund shared that counseling in the world is very humanistic in essence. In other words, it goes on a basis of what is best and functional for the counselees. Hence, if a counselee is pregnant before marriage and is unable to afford the child’s living expense, her decision to abort the child is valid from a humanistic standpoint because this decision can improve the quality of her life. But from a biblical standpoint however, abortion is not an option because every child is a child of God.
Another defining difference of Christian counseling is the dependence on the Holy Spirit who is a present and silent listener, shared Dr Edmund. They need to consult the Holy Spirit before determining a direction to take; sometimes, pulling out from their spiritual resources including the Word of God, the power of deliverance, and also the power of inner healing. Dr Edmund shared that sometimes, peoples’ problems can be spiritual. While psychology pertains to the realm of the soul made up of the mind, will, and emotions, the Holy Spirit administers to the realm of the spirit.
“We think it’s God’s strategy and timing for Asia, that there’s an emerging significance for Christian counseling in the areas of ministry and missions. So, the Christians as a whole must be able to grasp it,” said Dr Edmund.
Counseling is much needed in Asia, although the churches and the people in Asia are not familiar with the idea of counseling yet. Dr Edmund shared how Lausanne movement—a global movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization—believed that care in counseling is a new frontier for the mission. So far, churches and ministries have concentrated their efforts on fulfilling physical needs, but they missed meeting peoples’ emotional needs. Like the Lausanne movement, Dr Edmund believed that Christian counseling opens doors for missionaries to evangelize. This marks the first significance of NACC in having the first Asia Conference.
The second vision in having the conference is to contextualize theories from the West to apply in Asia. And lastly, Dr Edmund hopes that through the coming NACC conference, churches are more open and accepting to Christian counselors to partner with them in doing the Kingdom work.
Would you like to join the first regional conference in Asia held by NACC? Register here. It will be held in the Grace Community Centre, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia on 30-31 May, 2014 (Friday-Saturday). The early bird registration ends on 15 April.
Note: Launched by NECF in year 2011, NACC has a vision to provide awareness of counseling to the body of Christ in Malaysia and beyond; and at the same time, equip Christians with Christian counseling knowledge and skills. Recently, they have started providing basic counseling skills courses with a certificate. For more info on NACC, visit bit.ly/1iw7bvP
All pictures were referenced from the official website of NACC Malaysia except from the last picture. Last picture is acquired from http://www.multicare.org/files/library/fbccb03b6c147d45_l.jpg