Southwestern Seminary offers certification in biblical counseling training every spring and fall, but this year, for the first time, a local church, under the lead of a Southwestern graduate, served as a “satellite location” for this program in order to train the congregation in biblical counseling. Dale Allen, who completed his master’s in biblical counseling in 2015, worked with Southwestern professors to provide the training at Great Commission Baptist Church in Fort Worth. On August 5, after several months of training seminars, 35 church members graduated the program and became certified biblical counselors.

“You have prepared yourself rigorously to do counseling in a day when the vast majority of people out there are looking for somebody to tell them how they can get their lives back on track,” said Southwestern President Paige Patterson in a pre-recorded congratulatory message. “I am so grateful to God that you have studied this, and I want to urge you to stay with it. Learn everything you possibly can. … God is going to use you in ways you could never even imagine to put families back together and to find a new life and do a thousand things that only a biblical counselor can do. May God bless you as you pursue the hearts of men and women everywhere.”

In an article about Southwestern’s fall 2015 graduation, Allen said Southwestern had prepared him to lead his church according to what the first-century church did. He continued, “I’m grateful for that—that I’m prepared and that I can actually say, ‘This is what God intended,’ and we can actually live this way.”

Alluding to these comments during the graduation ceremony, Aug. 5, Allen noted that they ultimately manifested in his bringing this biblical counseling training to Great Commission Baptist Church. “We can actually live the way Scripture says we can live,” Allen told the graduates. “Isn’t that wonderful? There’s no doubt about it. We can actually live that way. And you know what? Each one of you can help those who are going to sit down before you to live that way.”

When Allen presented the idea for this training to the church’s pastor, Douglas Brown, Brown received the idea enthusiastically and declared he would be among the first to sign up (indeed, he was one of the 35 graduates). The training began several months ago, with Southwestern professors assisting Allen in leading the various seminars. The program culminated with the graduation ceremony, which featured the conferring of the counseling certificates, a dinner for graduates and their friends and families, a Q&A with Professor of Counseling John Babler and Ph.D. graduate Cheryl Bell, and multiple congratulatory messages from Southwestern professors.

“A lot of times, people think, ‘Should we have a counseling center at our church?’” Babler said. “And I would argue that whether this church or any church ever has a counseling center, every church ought to be a center of counseling. And the counseling that it ought to be centered around is the counseling of God’s Word.

“You have the opportunity to be the first wave of making this church into a center of counseling. May God give you opportunities to do so. May you have the wisdom to recognize them and the boldness to take advantage of them.”

In a pre-recorded message, Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling T. Dale Johnson Jr. said, “I’m so excited about what we’re going to hear in the future from Great Commission Baptist Church and the way you guys learn to care for each other, counsel each other, and use this as a missional opportunity for your community. You’re going to be able to offer a lot of help and hope to people in the future, and we’re excited about what that means as the Gospel goes forward and people come to faith and find that there is real hope in the Scriptures.”

One of the graduates, Brenda Moore, shared with the group about the impact of the training on her life and ministry, and she specifically thanked Allen for his role in the program. “Dr. Allen, you have changed minds and lives these last few months by teaching us and training us and sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience,” she said.

“We thank you so much. And I thank God for you and all that you have done for this class. I am so glad to have been taught as a biblical counselor that we always have the Word of God to depend on for every aspect of counseling.”

To learn more about Southwestern’s certification program, visit swbts.edu/bccertification.