Legal Issues in Biblical Counseling: Direction and Help for Churches and Counselors

T. Dale Johnson Jr. and Edward Charles Wilde
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Is the church vulnerable to the pressures of governmental regulations regarding moral issues in counseling? How should biblical counselors navigate their responsibilities before God and government requirements? And what exactly are those requirements? In Legal Issues in Biblical Counseling, pastors and biblical counselors who are seeking to faithfully lead, mentor, and guide their flocks in a rapidly changing cultural landscape will find clear direction and guidance from a team of Christian lawyers. 

T. Dale Johnson Jr. and Edward Wilde, along with a host ofexperienced lawyers and biblical counselors,set out to encourage the church to engage responsibly in the ministry of biblical counseling while seeking to comply with governmental regulations. They explain the importance of involving legal counsel in creating ministry documents, setting up liability insurance, and counseling those involved in the legal system.  

Learn how to communicate about your counseling ministry with clarity, protect yourself and your counselees from litigation, and what to do in the face of a potential lawsuit. You will also find encouragement to press on in ministry with full trust in the Lord, knowing that he will care for his church and that the gospel will continue to move forward.


T. Dale Johnson Jr., MDiv, PhD,is the Executive Director of The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Director of Counseling Programs and Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously served as an associate pastor and continues to seek the strengthening of the church by training pastors and members to minister in their local churches. He is the author of The Church as a Culture of Care. Dale and his wife, Summer, live in Kansas City, Missouri, with their six precious children.  

Edward Charles Wilde, Esq., BA, JD, is an associated attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. He has written for the Daily Journal, the Whittier Law Review, the UCLA Entertainment Law Review, the Intellectual Property Law Review, and the Online Journalism Review. He also holds an MABC from The Master’s University, where he has been an adjunct professor since 2002. As a professor, he has taught a number of classes concerning business law, psychology, and Christian ministry. He is a contributing author of Men Counseling Men and is a content editor and contributor to the Journal of Biblical Soul Care. He and his wife, Kelley, live in Los Angeles and have five children, one of whom is with the Lord. 

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“This book raises questions your church needs to engage. The authors help churches understand both the biblical necessity and the current legal context of doing problem-centered discipleship, aka. biblical counseling. Whether or not you come to all the same conclusions, every church in the US needs to grapple with the legal issues addressed in this collection of thorough and highly practical essays!"
Alasdair Groves, Executive Director, CCEF; coauthor of Untangling Emotions

“Any church that is serious about the compassionate work of Biblical Counseling will eventually encounter the secular legal court system. The relationship between the counseling ministry of the church and the jurisdictional authority of state is complex and rapidly changing. As society changes, so does its laws. Legal Issues in Biblical Counseling will provide insightful and practical recommendations to help your church maintain a wise and low legal profile while actively pursuing its counseling ministry. I highly recommend it!” 
John D. Street, Chair of the Graduate Department of Biblical Counseling, The Master’s University and Seminary

“More and more, churches and counselors need trusted guides and wisdom for navigating the complex world of religious freedom and the church. I am thankful for the work of T. Dale Johnson Jr., Edward Charles Wilde, and the team they’ve assembled to write Legal Issues in Biblical Counseling to provide direction and help that evangelicals can trust.”
Jason G. Duesing, Provost and Professor of Historical Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“A wonderful combination of biblical wisdom and legal experience, this book is a must-read for anyone hoping to start a biblical counseling ministry or those of us already engaged in such work. The team of writers has served the church well by discussing practical challenges and questions with a focus on real solutions that give hope and confidence to those seeking to provide biblical counseling services to their church and greater community.”
Steve Viars, Senior Pastor, Faith Church, Lafayette, IN

“Wow! A primer for the church on civil law pertaining to pastoral care and biblical counseling. The writers blend biblical truth, legal expertise, and case wisdom to help us ‘honor the God-ordained authority of government while . . . remaining faithful to our call’ to minister. They provide invaluable analysis and keen counsel for numerous common counseling scenarios.”
Robert D. Jones, Biblical counseling professor, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of Pursuing Peace and The Gospel for Disordered Lives 

“Dale Johnson is one of the most trusted voices in the biblical counseling movement, and his Legal Issues in Biblical Counseling is another helpful resource for ministers and churches alike. I highly recommend it.”
Jason K. Allen, President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College

“As a shepherd and one who counsels, I find this information very helpful and needed for churches. This book will help pastors and biblical counselors keep up with important legal matters in order to be ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ in providing biblical counseling.”
Nicolas Ellen, Senior Pastor of Community of Faith Bible Church; president of Expository Counseling Training Center; codirector of the MABC, Central Baptist Theological Seminary; senior professor of Biblical Counseling, College of Biblical Studies

“As a church administrator and biblical counselor, I have to be on top of the legal matters in order to help the church function efficiently and effectively in the area of biblical counseling. I find this book very useful in helping to understand and navigate the various issues one has to encounter in reference to legal matters in biblical counseling.”
Venessa Ellen, President, Real Life Women's Ministry; church administrator, Community of Faith Bible Church; vice president, Expository Counseling Training Center

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3 Reviews

  • 5
    Clarity and peace spoken in to a topic full of assumptions and confusion

    Posted by Courtney Sercey on 11 16 2022

    As a certified biblical counselor and church staff member in an increasingly secular city, this book provided the exact clear information needed to biblically shape and shift how we approach care. With over a decade of experience in care ministry, the assumptions and confusion constantly shift between the church and state licensed therapy, creating unnecessary discord. This book will give you the exact information you need to move forward with confidence while honoring the systems in place. If you're needing something to help bridge the gap in your church care ministry, look no further. This book is a gift.

  • 5
    An Important Resource for Counselors

    Posted by Julie Ganschow on 10 24 2022

    "While I got bogged down in places with the unfamiliar legalese, I found this book exceptionally well written and crafted for the director of a biblical counseling ministry and church leaders. I highly recommend this book as it is Scriptural and practical. It provides the necessary tools to help those in ministry to understand the importance of protecting themselves from litigation." Find the rest of Julie's review at!

  • 5
    Sound advice and necessary to navigate the complex world of business law.

    Posted by James Schroeder on 09 28 2022

    Legal Issues in Biblical Counseling aims to encourage the church to wisely engage in ministry while complying with civil authorities in a God honoring way. The book is edited by T. Dale Johnson Jr. and Edward Wilde with contributions from biblical counselors and lawyers. It covers important topics that are similar to what is taught in a business law class but specific to Biblical Counseling. The book is written towards church leaders and unlicensed biblical counselors “who are fearless in their desire to honor God at all costs but who also wish to avoid any unnecessary confrontations with civil authorities.” “We are in danger of acquiescing to cultural tides. We are in danger of abdicating our responsibility. We are in danger of abandoning Scripture. We are in danger of relinquishing the God-ordained authority given to the church. Our pragmatic and politically correct conscience is, to varying degrees, eroding the foundations of our faith while preferring a form of godliness without substance.” The book begins with an basic understand of what biblical counseling is and why the state has an interest in governing counseling. It provides necessary distinctions between biblical counseling and licensed counseling or therapy. While there are some legal protections that come from state licensure, it presents serious complications in providing counsel that is biblically faithful. The book goes on to explain various ways to legally structure and protect your ministry. In the litigious age that we live in, it is important to be wise and prudent in order to protect your ministry. This needs to be balanced with the call to minister to individuals in difficult situations; we need not be ruled by fear. “When biblical counselors counsel, we are not necessarily seeking the immediate happiness (as subjectively defined) of anyone. Therapy is designed to help someone feel better on their own terms. There is a proposition underlying much of therapy which holds that the disquiet one feels when experiencing a conflict between conscience and desire must be resolved not by giving way to conscience but by ignoring conscience. The world of therapy is not one of conviction, repentance, and grace, which impels us to live in accordance with the instruction of God. Rather, it is one of medication to alleviate anxiety, to ignore guilt as a neurosis, and to become ‘authentic.'” T. Dale Johnson Jr., MDiv, PhD, is the Executive Director of The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Director of Counseling Programs and Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Church as a Culture of Care. Edward Charles Wilde, Esq., BA, JD, is an associated attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. He has written for the Daily Journal, the Whittier Law Review, the UCLA Entertainment Law Review, the Intellectual Property Law Review, and the Online Journalism Review. He also holds an MABC from The Master’s University, where he has been an adjunct professor since 2002. I recommend this book for all biblical counselors and churches that are interested in starting a biblical counseling ministry. It provides helpful categories and questions to think through and discuss with a lawyer about your specific ministry. It also provides helpful language to include in your founding documents and consent forms. I found the book very helpful, but at the same time has the same issue that all books on law have, the answers and advice is always highly nuanced and situational which requires a local lawyer to help navigate. While it is a book written to address legal issues, it ultimately refers you to a local lawyer to discuss specifics. This is sound advice and necessary to navigate the complex world of business law.

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