A little over a week ago, an email arrived from NANC stating that they intend to change their name. NANC is short for the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, and if you are not familiar with them, I suggest you fix that immediately (if not sooner). I was first introduced to nouthetic counseling while in seminary. Having graduated from a secular, government university with a major in pscyhology, I was totally unprepared for the nouthetic model. It contradicted everything I was taught in college, and at first it offended me, primarily because it contradicted everything I learned in college. Why did I even waste time at that place and pursuing that degree? But, over time, it became clearer to me and became an integral part of who I am and how I think today. Much of my present theological convictions can be traced back to classrooms at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC where I was privileged to learn under men who taught from a nouthetic perspective.
Presently, I am not a member of NANC. I am in the very early stages of pursuing certification with them. I do not personally know anyone at the leadership level for the organization, and no one has specifically sought my input on the name change (not that they would have any reason to). But, I am very much interested in what this organization is doing, and how they are doing it. Truthfully, they could re-name themselves the Royal Order of Spotted Eels, and if they were still equipping and training people the way they currently are, I’d still be all in with them and for them. I’m not picking a fight, or starting a campaign, or questioning anyone’s wisdom. I just disagree.
The newly proposed name is The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. If you would like to know more about NANC’s decision about this new name, be sure to watch the explanation here. As a name, I think it is fine, though I do have concerns about how they will avoid confusion with the Association of Biblical Counselors who also have a certifying process. I’m also minimally concerned that in an effort to promote the name, someone will cheesily rip off the band AC/DC’s design. Thus, my reservations about the name itself are few.
The rationale for the name change was given in three segments. One of the reasons is what is prompting this post. The other two reasons I do not have any real issues with. The first is that by God’s grace, it is no longer an national organization, but an international one. There is great rejoicing from NANC and from me that in 14 other countries there are NANC certified biblical counselors. The second is that NANC has positioned itself as primarily a certifying organization, and wanted a name to reflect that mission. I’m not so sure that the current name is a big obstacle in their efforts to certify individuals, and I don’t think most people would feel misled if they discovered that NANC was primarily a certifying organization. But, I’m not on the inside, and I don’t answer the phones.
That leaves one more reason, and this is the one that received most of my attention. The first reason in the explanation of the proposed name change is that “the word nouthetic is a perfectly good Greek word, which most people simply do not understand. Most of us in NANC spend more time explaining the meaning of a Greek word than we intend to when we mention the name of our organization. Once people understand the meaning of the term it does not help us that much. The term means “to confront or admonish,” and this only describes a narrow slice of the kind of counseling endorsed by NANC. ”
I come at this statement with three counter statements:
1. I think it does help NANC and those who would identify themselves as nouthetic counselors. Why? Because from the outset of introducing someone to nouthetic counseling, you are introducing yourself as a teacher. One who is going to take the time to explain things. Somebody who has a desire to impart wisdom and knowledge, somebody who is willing to take on the role of a type of discipler. The explanation of the word nouthetic I have found to be more helpful than a burden.
2. Even if you call yourself a biblical counselor, even if you eliminate the word nouthetic, you still have a lot of explaining to do. You have to make distinctions between secular counseling, Christian counseling, and biblical counseling. The average church attender can likely grasp the differences (in theory and definition) between secular counseling and Christian counseling. Can they do the same between Christian counseling and biblical counseling? My experience has revealed the answer to that question as no. Whether I use the word nouthetic or biblical, I still have to explain why and how that is different from going to a counselor who is a Christian.
3. Agreed, that confronting and admonishing is just one part of the style of nouthetic counseling. But it seems it is an important part. Generally, people seek counsel because they are facing some issue. What brought them to counseling was that they were confronted by someone or something – as a nouthetic counselor, we are in a position to help them confront their confrontation. Those who counsel solely by admonishing and not with a spirit of love, genuine care, listening ears and thoughtful investment are themselves in need of admonishment. No need to change the name because of a few outliers.
Again, if the proposed name change is adopted, I will still support it, still will seek my certification through it, and still promote it. Does NANC need a name change? Yes, but just one word needs to be changed – national. The rest of it can remain the same.