The Institute for Reformed Biblical Counseling

I’ve known Dr. Jeff Doll, Counseling pastor at Cornerstone URC, and Director of the Institute for Reformed Biblical Counseling (IRBC) for a number of years. We’ve both taught in one another’s counseling classes and I’ve used Jeff’s teaching materials at the Seminary. I am a huge admirer of his passion for training Christians to do more counseling in the local church, while also recognizing limitations and the need for professional help at times. (And for the purposes of full disclosure, my son and his lovely daughter recently got engaged, although neither of us can claim any credit for that!)

Anyway, I’m writing about Jeff because I want to bring to your attention the wonderful work he is doing at IRBC in promoting and educating Christians in a holistic view of Biblical counseling based on a strong biblical, confessional, Reformed perspective. He’s recently published part of his curriculum and it’s available here. This book presents the seven biblical principles of IRBC’s view of biblical counseling, the seven dominant domains of human problems, and seven steps of counseling.

It’s all good, but Jeff’s unique contribution is his work on the seven dominant domains of origin for human problems, which he divides into two main categories:

Internal Dominant Domains

  • Spiritual domain
  • Mental domain
  • Emotional domain
  • Social domain
  • Bodily domain

External Domains

  • Environmental domain
  • Production (or vocational) domain

I think you can immediately see that this is a serious attempt to expand the concept of biblical counseling in a way that is sensitive to all the mixture of influences and factors that come into play in so many human problems.

There’s much else that I could commend in Jeff’s approach, but would encourage you to get the book and study it yourself.

Four Old Testament Perspectives on Poverty

If you’re looking for a daily devotional that will get you into the text of Scripture, that’s not too long but not too shallow, I’d highly recommend R C Sproul’s Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentaries. I’ve been going through his volume on Mark’s Gospel and loving it. I learn something new just about every day. Here’s an example of the little bite-size packages of theology you’ll find in every chapter (the sub-headings are mine).

“If we look at the words for “poverty” or “the poor” in the Old Testament, we see that there are four distinct types of people who are poor.

Poor because of Sin
It is true that the first category is those who are poor because they are lazy. They are poor because they will not work and are irresponsible. The Old Testament looks on these people with disfavor and judgment. Likewise, in the New Testament, it is these of whom Paul speaks when he writes, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).

Poor because of Disaster
In the second category are those who are poor because of calamity, illness, natural disasters that ruined their crops, and other events beyond their control. These people receive the compassion of God, and in His law He declares that those who are better off should make provision for these who are poor through no fault of their own.

Poor because of Oppression
In the third category are those people who are poor as a direct result of the exploitation of the rich and the powerful. In the Old Testament, the rich and powerful were usually not merchants but rulers and other government officials, such as the pharaoh in Egypt or King Ahab in Israel. These poor people have God as their defender, for He refuses to tolerate the exploitation of the weak by the strong. The exodus of Israel from Egypt was an example of God coming to the aid of those who were exploited as slaves. As believers, we, too, must be defenders of those who face exploitation. James tells us, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (1:27).

Poor for the sake of the Kingdom
In the fourth category are those who are poor for righteousness’ sake; that is, they willingly embrace poverty that they might devote themselves to spiritual things and not be distracted by the pursuit of wealth.”

Mark by R. C. Sproul (Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (pp. 258-259). Reformation Trust Publishing.

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Deep Work for Pastors: 6 Keys for Better Sermon Preparation
“Recently, I enjoyed reading Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. It is one in a long line of new books detailing our challenged attention spans, social media’s deleterious effects on our ability to concentrate, and how the modern man bounces from one distraction to the next. Newport laments these challenges and offers helpful suggestions for correction. As I read his book, my mind continually raced to sermon preparation, and how pastors can strengthen their study time. Consider these six keys.”

When the Bible Becomes an App
“More than 90 percent of regular Bible readers prefer print to digital. That percentage holds true even though more than 90 percent of Bible readers also indicate that they engage with the Bible on digital platforms and through an app. So, the trends show exponential growth in digital Bible engagement alongside a strong preference for a print Bible reading experience. (In case you’re wondering how those statistics hold up generationally, consider the fact that three out of four millennials say they prefer a print Bible.)”

What I’ve Learned About Leviticus After Studying it for Over a Decade
Studying Leviticus “changed my life in ways far different from those just named. In my experience, at least four profound things happen when this book begins to seep into your soul.”

How to Love Visiting Church Members in the Hospital
“Hospital visitation is a unique opportunity wherein pastors can demonstrate Christian love and speaks gospel words into the minds and hearts of those who, due to the circumstances, may be unusually attentive. Chances are they’ll remember your hospital visit for the rest of their life, even though they may not remember last Sunday’s sermon. So brother-pastors, my prayer is that by the grace of God you too may come to the point where you can honestly say, “I love visiting my church members in the hospital.”"

465 Biblical Counseling Resources: The Annual Guide to Biblical Counseling Resources
hanks to Bob Kellemen for doing this work and making this available.

2018 Fall Resource Guide
Links to more helpful resources, this time divided into age categories: High School Students, College Students, Seminary Students, Small Group Leaders.

Pastoring Amid Depression
“After several months of depression, the cloud lifted for me. I experienced healing. Can I tell you something marvelous? The joy I experience now with friends, my spouse, my kids, my church, is somehow deeper. I’m a better pastor, I think. Folks here and there who also have experienced depression or melancholy have expressed they feel like I’m a safe person to talk to. That’s a gift. Can you believe it? The Lord somehow restored all that the locust had eaten and more. Praise the Lord! I would not have chosen to experience the darkness, but the darkness was transformed into a grace and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.”

Is he able…He is able
“A series of verses in the Bible that have one thing in common—that little phrase “He is able”. They breathe hope, strength and assurance. They are promises made to those who are looking, or need encouragement to look to Jesus Christ for rescue, and to those of us who have put our trust in Jesus, but need fresh hope, strength and assurance.”

Kindle Books

If you ever wanted to get started on Jonathan Edwards, these books are excellent introductions to his work. They are all available in Kindle format for $2.51 each. See all five here.

Jonathan Edwards on True Christianity

Jonathan Edwards Lover of God

Jonathan Edwards on Beauty

Expedition 27: A Church on a Mountain

Here’s the video for Expedition 27 in Exploring the Bible. If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos are posted, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

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How Your Church Can Respond to the Loneliness Epidemic
“Western community is in sharp decline, and radical individualism has become the functional status for even the most devoted churchgoers. This radical individualism has engendered unprecedented social isolation and yielded a depth of loneliness unique to 21st-century American culture.”

How to Stop Saying “Um,” “Ah,” and “You Know”
“Used sparingly and effectively, filler words can make you more relatable to your audience, give you time to catch your breath, and emphasize key points. That’s why Google built fillers into the latest version of its AI assistant, Duplex. But when they become crutch words, used out of nervousness or lack of preparation, they hurt your credibility. As you prepare for your next presentation, identify the words you lean on most, and train yourself to avoid them. Then, next time you’re in front of an audience, use silence to gather your thoughts, rather than filling the air with sound.”

10 Ways to Comfort a Grieving Person
“Over the years since I experienced the death of my daughter, Hope, and my son, Gabriel, I’ve interacted with grieving people, especially through the Respite Retreats my husband and I host for couples who have lost children—and have identified a number of key ways to minister to grieving people:”

A tale of two confessions
“In the past month, two prominent pastors have had their private sins publicly exposed: Bill Hybels and Art Azurdia—one nationally known and whose fall was front page news, the other known only inside of evangelical circles and his fall reported largely on social media. Both demonstrated conduct contrary to the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3, conduct that disqualifies them from being elders. Both committed adultery, and the fall of both men will obviously bring shame on the name of Christ. But there is one huge contrast between these two situations—namely, how their respective churches responded. ”

For the Long Days
“My personal struggle with faith and pain is embedded with my depressive disorder, but the way scripture speaks to my issue speaks to issues we all struggle with. What do we do when the days seem long and the nights feel like they will never end? When life is painful, death has taken those we love, and we are grieved to our bones, what does that say about God’s love toward us? Or, better yet, is this the way it is because I lack enough faith? By God’s grace scripture has swooned my heart and helped me grieve faithfully”

Living Under Authority
Here’s a good article if you find yourself bristling against authority in your life.

Book Review: Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism | ERLC
“I found Uniquely Human by Dr. Barry Prizant to be the rare book about autism that helped lift the weight of my anxiety, counterbalancing fear with the forces of understanding, insight, and encouragement—all powerful and underrated forces, might I add.”

The Minister’s Soul is the Soul of his Ministry

I want to highly recommend Brian Croft and Jim Savastio’s new book, The Pastor’s Soul: The Call and Care of an Undershepherd. Here’s the foreword that I wrote for the book.

“The minister’s soul is the soul of his ministry.” I can’t remember where I first heard this saying, but I’ve never been able to forget it. And, having read this book, I never want to forget it. In these pages, Jim Savastio and Brian Croft establish the foundation of all faithful and fruitful ministry – the pastor’s soul. But, although their main target is the epidemic of ministerial hyper-activity and the accompanying burnout, backsliding, and brokenness, they carefully avoid over-reacting and running to the opposite extremes of monkish withdrawal or lazy self-indulgence. Instead, you have a book that skillfully walks a balanced biblical path in both content and style.

Self and Others
It balances self and others. Yes, the pastor is all about serving others, about sacrificing for the sake of others, about spending and being spent for others, and about pouring out to fill others. But, as many pastors have discovered to their cost and pain, servants are finite, sacrifices eventually turn to ashes, non-stop spending leads to bankruptcy, and pouring out without ever filling up ends in drought. This book reminds us that caring for self is not selfish but necessary if we are to sustain a life of caring service to others. It’s not a warrant for sloth or selfishness, but rather a call to self-care that will lead to better other-care.

Soul and Body
It balances the soul and the body. While the spiritual life of the pastor is their primary concern, Brian and Jim do not fall into the trap of gnostic dualism—belittling the body and focusing exclusively on the soul. Yes, the soul is prioritized, and spiritual life is at the core, but the authors recognize not only that our souls impact our bodies, but our bodies also influence our souls. You’ll therefore find not only wise shepherding of our souls, but also a concern for how we sleep, eat, exercise, and so on.

God and People
It balances relationship with God and relationship with others. This book encouraged me to go deeper, longer, and wider with God. I came away from it with a hunger and thirst for renewed friendship with my heavenly Father, my Savior, and my Sanctifier. But I was also motivated to pursue deeper, wider, and longer friendships with others. As the authors emphasize, this begins with a pastor’s wife and children, but they also prove the necessity of more godly male friends in the pastor’s life.

Instruction and Illustration
It balances biblical instruction and personal illustration. The foundation of this book is biblical exegesis as it tours numerous key verses to mine them for all that God has to say to pastors about their own soul care. But it also incorporates numerous personal examples of how Jim and Brian have experienced the truth of this teaching in their long pastoral ministries. Their transparency and vulnerability about their failures and successes bathe the book in authenticity. Pastors will clearly sense that the authors have been in the trenches of everyday ordinary pastoral ministry and bear many genuine scars as well as carry a few medals for valor. You’ll find reality, but not a reality show.

Principles and Application
It balances big-picture principles with detailed practical application. A few big truths will emerge throughout this book, important theological principles that stand out demanding attention and meditation. But how do we connect them with our lives? How do we bring them down from their lofty theological heights and into contact with Sunday through Saturday ministry? That’s where this book excels. It takes deep doctrine into the details of daily pastoral life. Theory becomes intensely and intimately practical.

Challenge and Do-ability
It balances challenge with do-ability. Some pastoral ministry books aim so high that their impossible standards paralyze and depress us. Others set such a low bar that the ministry is diminished and the dignity of the pastoral calling is tarnished. This book lifts the bar high but not out of sight. It promotes a high view of gospel labor and demands high standards, but not in a discouraging way that ends up limiting gospel ministry to supermen. At times, you will exclaim, “Who is sufficient for these things?” But you will quickly respond, “My sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5).

Repentance and Hope
It balances Gospel repentance with Gospel hope. No pastor will read this book without repenting. Tears of contrition will stain the pages (or ruin your Kindle!). But it doesn’t end there. Brian and Jim apply healing Gospel balm to the deepest wounds of conviction. And it doesn’t end there either. They go on to entice and encourage us with the prospect of a much healthier and happier ministry ahead. Yes, it can be different. The past does not have to be repeated. There’s a different and better way of being faithful in this calling. It doesn’t have to be all about grit and grind until early retirement or even earlier death.

Yes, you will see blue lights and hear wailing sirens if your busyness and stress have made the presence of God in your life a distant memory. But you will also sense the prospect and possibility of a much better kind of ministry life—one that doesn’t hollow out your heart, run down your body, or jeopardize your most important relationships. This is a hopeful and hope-filled book that can change the trajectory and tone of your entire ministry.

Thank you, Jim and Brian, for writing such a biblical and balanced book. My earnest prayer and fervent hope is that God will use it to rescue many pastors from the wrecker’s yard and prevent multiple others from ending up there. May God bless your labors so that pastors everywhere will experience that a revived soul is the key to a revived ministry.

The Pastor’s Soul by Brian Croft and Jim Savastio is the third in a trilogy of pastoral theology books. The other two are The Pastor’s Family and The Pastor’s Ministry.