Baylight Counseling is Turning Three!

"Christian Counseling must be missionary by its very nature, or it denies its raison d’ĂȘtre." Dr. Sam Williams, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

In May of 2013, a months long discussion about the need for truly Gospel-centered biblical counseling within the local church community in Tampa Bay gave way to a vision for what became Baylight Counseling, Inc. 

Three years later, having started with nothing more than a vision for a hope-giving ministry that would be accessible to all, we're celebrating and giving thanks to God for all that He has done.

Not by our might or by our strength, but by God's Spirit moving in hearts through the power of the Gospel, couples, families, and individuals have been redeemed and restored from various stages of despair and hopelessness.

In these cases, the fruit of our labor, we rejoice, give thanks, and pray that God would continue to send the rain (Zech. 10:1).

Accesible, Affordable, Christ-Centered Care

Many of you who watched from the start are aware that the mission of Baylight Counseling has always been to provide a place for clinically-informed, biblical soul care for couples, individuals, and families facing a life-dominating circumstance. 

Further, we desired that Baylight be established as a donor supported non-profit organization so that our counseling fees, currently set at $65.00 per session, would remain lower than market averages (commonly $75.00-$90.00). 

In recent weeks, we've heard from counselees whose insurance copays were higher than our fee, and still others whose insurance plans provided no mental health benefits whatsoever. In another case, one counselee had been paying $175.00 per session for secular mental health care.

With suicide rates in the U.S. increasing 24% over 15 years, a growing heroin epidemic in our communities, and pornography addiction destroying lives and families, the Christian community, entrusted with the life transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ, must "seek the welfare of the city" (Jer. 29:7).

We believe that counseling is not only a great need in the church, but that it also presents the body of Christ with a tremendous opportunity to speak the Gospel into the lives of hurting people outside its walls.

The Next Three Years

With the help and support of our ministry partners, our mission and effectiveness will continue to grow and expand. To this day, we regularly provide pro bono counseling to those in need and have never turned anyone away for an inability to pay. 

In the near future, we hope to be involved in the equipping of local church members for the work of biblical shepherding (Gal. 6:2). We exist to serve the church, not replace it!

In the meantime, everyone who comes to Baylight for help will not only hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they will be led in an ongoing conversation about how that same Gospel message applies to their circumstances and offers real hope for lasting change.

But, we cannot serve others in this way absent the very deliberate and intentional support of ministry partners just like you. 

Prayer support coupled with financial giving serve as catalysts for our work. Both are essential and we're asking you to get involved with Baylight Counseling today. Your support has a ripple effect that makes its way all the way to the counseling table where our work happens.

Friends, we have a tremendous need at this time to raise our monthly giving amount (not connected to counseling fees or periodic one-time gifts) by an average of no less than $1,000.00 per month. That's just 50 ministry partners at $20.00 per month!

We say no less than because not only are these ministry funds needed for counseling services and other administrative concerns (eg. liability insurance, computer equipment, training, etc.), but as a non-profit organization, the IRS requires that we raise a significant amount of donor support (approx. 1/3 of total income). 

If we fail to do this, we risk losing our non-profit status. This would have a negative economic impact on the future of Baylight Counseling.

How You Can Help

If you or someone you know has been effected by mental and emotional health issues, or if perhaps you or someone you know has been helped by this ministry, would you prayerfully consider becoming a monthly supporter of our work?

No gift is too small and many hands make light work. Monthly gifts in the $20.00, $50.00, $75.00, and $100.00 range are not uncommon for ministries of our size. We're asking for your help in this way today.

Joining us is in the work of soul care is easy. All you have to do is click on this link, and follow the giving instructions. Some partners give by check and others prefer online giving for convenience (via PayPal). 

Either way, your dollars will be tax-deductible, but more importantly, they will have direct, local impact in the lives of real people, marriages, and families!

We Exist to Serve

We understand that you may have questions after having read this post. If you'd like to learn more about us or if you have other thoughts, comments, or questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. It would be our pleasure to speak with you by phone, or perhaps to schedule an office visit.

Lastly, to the many of you who helped make our first three years of counseling ministry possible, we say thank you!

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you." Phil. 1:3

Counseling is a Theological Discipline

"Teach what accords with sound doctrine." Titus 2:1

In recent days, a popular Christian pastor published video on social media of a controversial sermon he preached in his large Southern Baptist church (I don't publish his name here because his personality isn't the subject of this post).

The sermon raised eyebrows because of a critically important theological point that he made by way of metaphor. A metaphor which was woefully inadequate at best, and blasphemous at worst: God broke the law for love.

After watching the video, I commented publicly (and harshly, I will admit) on my own social media channels concerning the troubling implications of what this pastor preached with passion and authority to literally thousands of people--even people I know, care for, and counsel. I will not address here the specific difficulties of what was said because others have already done so here and here.

While I received positive feedback on my short reply, it has come to mind that some may not have understood why issues like this (matters that accord with sound doctrine) are of any particular concern to me as a biblical counselor

Someone who watched the video and/or read my comments may have wondered, "He's a counselor, not a theologian. Shouldn't he (or any biblical counselor) concern themselves only with issues pertaining to depression, anxiety, OCD, and the like?"

This isn't an inconsequential matter. The question, if anyone asked, is legitimate, and so I think it's one that deserves at least some attention. 

The benefit I hope for in writing this post is the clarification of why theological issues are of central concern to the biblical counselor and why any such counselor would comment on related matters.

It is my contention that the biblical counselor's role begins in Scripture and therefore requires that he or she take seriously their own responsibility of  "rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). To borrow from John Piper, I could say, "Brothers, we are theologians."

Theology Matters

In his latest book, "A Theology of Biblical Counseling," Dr. Heath Lambert, Executive Director at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and associate professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the point which is the title of this post: Counseling is a theological discipline (p.11).

Lambert devotes the entirety of the book's first chapter to a discussion about why and how this proposition is true. In fact, he wrote that, "You are simply not ready to think about counseling--let alone practice it--until you have thought long and hard about theology" (emphasis mine; p.32). 

With the apparent support of Lambert and other leaders in the greater biblical counseling movement, it may be rightly said that because counseling is theological, its success or failure, as judged by Scripture, rests upon the presence of sound doctrine which is the foundation, instrument, and fuel for Christian faith (justification) and change (sanctification).

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself prayed to the Father, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (emphasis mine; John 17:17).

A Troubling Trend

It has been my experience that the findings of the recent report on the state of theology in the American church, as issued by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research is unfortunately quite accurate. 

It is not uncommon for professing believers to come into counseling without even the ability to accurately and with confidence state what they believe and why they believe it. Other times, there is a clear influence of prosperity or other types of shallow or false gospel teaching.

There are of course many reasons for this sad state of affairs, but for the biblical counselor, it means that often times counseling issues can not only be tied to theological concerns (i.e. sin issues), but progress is then hampered by a lack of theological familiarity on the part of the counselee. 

In these cases, the initial thrust of counseling may very well begin with a lengthy discussion and introduction to the basics of the Christian message (i.e. justification by faith alone).  

While any good biblical counselor welcomes these opportunities to help form a person's faith (or lead them to the Lord, even), it is a discipleship issue for the church at large and underscores the importance of theology to the counseling task.

Lingering Effects

The church at large, I believe, is still hampered by that former doctrinal commitment of the postmodern movement which declared, contra the explicit teaching and nature of Scripture, that doctrine doesn't matter. 

In the judgment of many, what matters is niceness and sincerity, yet we know that hell will be teeming with the souls of those who rejected sound doctrine, that is, truth, and yet were some of the nicest folks anyone could meet on this side of glory.

The biblical counselor cares deeply about theology because they are disturbed by the words of Christ, "I never knew you; depart from me" (Matt. 7:23).

In this we see why theology is of great concern to the biblical counselor. Their task is not to merely help the counselee relieve troubling symptoms or behaviors (even though we pray for that). Their mission is to avail themselves of God as instruments in the Redeemer's hands for the sake of Gospel-driven, Christ-saturated life transformation.

And that life-transformation comes uniquely through the written word of God which leads all who believe into a saving relationship with the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Join the Conversation

1. If counseling is a theological task, what are the implications for the church (i.e. who should be involved in counseling)?

2. What effects of the well-documented theological downgrade in the church have you witnessed in counseling?

3. How can the biblical counseling movement promote theological wellness in the church?

Legalism, License, and the Narrow Gospel Road

Unless you're a Navy Seal or a Tough Mudder contestant, you probably have no reason to be running in ditches. They're dirty, full of snakes, ridden with mosquitos, and they invite all comers to turn an ankle or tear an ACL.

Why on earth would anyone run in a ditch? 

While we may find acceptable answers to this question hard to come by, the truth is, many professing Christians find themselves running in spiritual ditches that are infested with potentially disastrous spiritual hazards.

Running to Win the Race

Along the narrow road with Jesus, there are two ditches that the Christian must take care to not fall into: legalism and license (Matthew 7:13-14).

The New Testament in several passages uses the metaphor of "running" or "running a race" as it moves to help the reader visualize what it means to "walk as Jesus walked" (1 John 2:6). The Bible sometimes uses the idea of "walking" as a word-picture for how we actually live the Christian life.

One passage where the idea of "running" is used is 1 Corinthians 9:24, where Paul wrote, "Don't you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize" [emphasis mine].

Paul was not, of course, advocating a works-based righteousness by instructing his audience to "run." He wasn't speaking to non-Christians, but to believers at the church in Corinth. His category was not justification but sanctification

What's interesting about Paul's command is not only that he instructs Christians to run, but that he suggests that there's a proper way to do it. Or, for the purposes of this post, there's a proper place to run and at least two places (ditches) to avoid.

Sticking with Paul's "running" metaphor, think of a jogger who is running along a paved road. There may be a few bumps along the way, perhaps even a pothole or two to avoid. These hazards may or may not exist along any given stretch of road, and yet most would still agree that the jogger is safe (or safest) to run in this environment.

Metaphorically, the paved road is like that spiritual place along which believers seek to "run" with Paul (2 Timothy 4:7). It's paved not with blacktop, but with a saving faith that has learned and is continuing to learn to trust and rest completely and utterly in the finished work of Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. 

This is the doctrine of "justification by faith alone" (sola fide; Romans 1:17; Ephesians 2:8-9).

How important is this doctrine to the Christian life? Well, according to Martin Luther, it is the "hinge upon which religion turns." R.C. Sproul shares more in this video.

Stay Out of the Ditch

What then of the two ditches that we call "legalism" and "license"? The Bible addresses these issues at various points because those who are given over to them are at great risk of having their professions of faith proven false by Christ himself on that last day (Matthew 7:23). 

Both of these spiritual errors are dangerous precisely because they are opposed to the Gospel.

In the first, "legalism" (or what we might also call self-righteousness), we find a heart that is trusting not in the completed work of Christ on the cross but in the keeping of God's law. It's an erroneous type of faith that is infected by the belief that at some level or in some way salvation is connected to human merit, that is, that it can be earned.

To run in the ditch of legalism is to run in direct opposition to the teaching of Scripture. In Galatians 2:16, for example, Paul wrote that, "No one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ."

Secondarily, there's the ditch that we call "license" or "licentiousness." This is where the heart is tempted to believe that since God promises to extend (and has extended) grace, mercy, and forgiveness to his people, that more of his grace can be experienced as the lusts of the heart and pleasures of sin are indulged.

At the bottom of this ditch is what theologians call "antinomianism." This is the theological error of seeing God's moral law (i.e. the Ten Commandments) as irrelevant or non-binding for New Testament believers.

The Puritans, to include Anthony Burgess (d. 1644), " ... condemned those who asserted they were above the law or that the law written in the heart by regeneration 'renders the written law needless'" (A Puritan Theology).

If that sounds bad, it's because it is. Paul addressed this issue not once, but twice in Romans 6:1-2 and again in Romans 6:15-16. 

Should believers who have been saved by grace alone through faith alone to the glory of God alone continue to live in sin? Paul declares, "Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

Application to Counseling

These issues, while not observed as legitimate categories of counseling in secular settings, are of great importance to biblical counseling precisely because they speak to man's relationship to God and his hope in Christ.

Frequently (but not always), the difficulties that are presented in counseling are not medical, but spiritual and find their genesis in choices or actions that are in some way at odds with Scripture. Spiritual depression, anxieties, and relational difficulties often follow as the fruit of self-righteousness or licentious living.

Part of the biblical counselors task is to listen for evidence of these and other issues which may indicate an under-developed understanding of the Gospel at a minimum, if not an altogether unbelieving heart.

Speaking the truth in love then, the biblical counselor invites the counselee to see the truth of which ditch they've been running in (legalism or license in this case) and in turn calls them to run along the road of faith in Christ alone and to the obedience which follows as a fruit or consequence.

Join the Discussion

1. How have you been tempted to legalism or license?

2. How do you counsel others away from these ditches and toward the paved road of the Gospel?

For an excellent resource that further addresses these and other discipleship issues, see "The Gospel-Centered Life."


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Book Review: Jesus the Hero Family Devotional


“The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the puritans, but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. How can we hope to see the kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own children?” ~ Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

It may be that of all the spiritual disciplines that fell into decline throughout the decades of so-called “cultural Christianity” in the American church, that none has had such disastrous a consequence on culture in its absence than the demise of family worship.

In answer to this desperate situation among households across denominations, Dr.David Prince along with Jon Canler (General Editor) and his Ashland Avenue Baptist Church family, of which Dr. Prince is senior pastor, have provided the church at-large with a valuable resource that promises to re-introduce, re-engage, and re-ignite the practice of family worship with their publication of the book, “Jesus the Hero Family Devotional” (JTH).

JTH is a paperback volume published by Ashland Avenue Baptist Church and is available for purchase online at Amazon.com. While Dr. Prince is the primary author, one of the unique qualities of this family devotional is the contribution made by members of the Ashland church body. This means that the reader has the joint benefits of a devotional written and compiled by a teaching professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and material provided by lay authors who possess a variety of life and educational experiences. In this way, JTH is truly a devotional by the family and for the family.

The material design of JTH is intended to foster consistent family devotion throughout the week, with five concise units of study with two “off days” built in. The benefit of this is a clear commitment to family discipleship with a fair amount of grace for those unexpected intrusions to the family calendar. In addition, each unit of study is concise, and does not require large amounts of time to successfully complete. This is encouraging for larger families in which any twenty-minute exercise naturally turns into thirty or forty, and for those families who are just getting started. In short, JTH is a logistically accessible devotional for families of all sizes and backgrounds.

Saving the best for last, no review of JTH would be complete without a mention of the actual material. In the opening quote from the great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, he wrote of concerns for instruction, discipline, and the impartation of Gospel truth to the family and in particular, the children of any household. If these issues presented the church with a dilemma in Spurgeon’s day, how concerning must they be now?

The content of JTH may be the most exciting feature of the book. Dr. Prince wrote in his foreword, “Christ is the one in whom God will ultimately sum up the entire cosmos (Eph. 1:10) … The Jesus the Hero Family Devotional is an attempt to help followers of Christ in the task of summing up all things in Christ right now” (p.5). As the title makes explicit, JTH is a Christ-focused work that seeks to connect the biblical storyline in both Old and New Testaments to the reader’s life in such a way that application is true to Scripture with material suitable for all ages. In this way, the reader can be confident that what they are receiving is a biblically faithful aid along the road of family worship.

JTH is a book that any pastor, biblical counselor, or small group leader should be familiar with and prepared to recommend to any family under their care. There can be no doubt as to the spiritual growth that families stand to experience as they pursue Christ together. New families with little ones or teenagers ought not be discouraged as they implement this discipline for the first time, but should trust that as they gather in the living room or around the dining table, that God will honor their time in his word and Jesus the Hero will be among them.

A review copy of "Jesus the Hero Family Devotional" was provided to the reviewer (Joshua Waulk).