In Teaching to Observe, Jay Adams helps counselors to see teaching as an essential and indispensable aspect of counseling. The counselor is not a professional “listener,” who merely draws out solutions to the counselee’s problem from the counselee himself. Rather, the counselor is one who seeks to impart genuine spiritual knowledge to the counselee with the aim to enabling the counselee to believe and obey the knowledge he has received.
This teaching, however, must be Biblical. This means the counselor must use the Bible according to its intended purpose, taking each passage in its context, explaining it thoroughly, and applying it to the counselee’s situation appropriately. This will also mean the counselor must seek to become equipped to teach the whole Bible, not just selected portions with which he is familiar. Although this kind of teaching will grow in fullness and depth, Biblical teaching in counseling will be clear, direct, and to the point. Finally, and most importantly, Biblical teaching in counseling will always have, as its primary and pervasive aim, the glory of God. Adams succinct and helpful definition of Christian teaching is, “the vital communication of God’s truth, in God’s way, for God’s purposes” (68).
Despite its confusing title (the phrase, “Teaching to Observe” is taken from Christ’s ‘Great Commission’ in Matthew 28:20: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” It is not a guide to instructing others how to improve their observation skills!), this book was both clear and helpful. I was challenged in three specific ways.
One, to seek to be a well-equipped teacher in counseling other believers. I was challenged to be diligent in constantly studying the Scriptures so that I might be able to more effectively apply the Scriptures in counseling situations that arise. I do not want to ever be satisfied with my knowledge, but always longing to grow in my knowledge and grasp of the Bible so that I might use it well in my life and in the lives of others.
Secondly, I was greatly helped by Adam’s clarifying definition of Christian teaching and his discussion of what makes teaching distinctively Biblical. These principles will keep me on task and focused in my labor as a counselor. It is amazing how short, clear definitions like these can clarify one’s responsibilities as a counselor. I was especially helped by the “God-centeredness” of Adam’s definition: all counseling is done for the glory of God and according to God’s Word.
Finally, I was greatly challenged by Adams discussion on fruitful listening. The only way to grow in grace and knowledge in my own soul is to “take care how I listen,” and rid my heart and life of those hindrances that keep me from truly learning: sin, worldly pleasures and worries, fear and the like. Not only must I be aware of what makes for true learning in the lives of my counselees, I must, first and foremost, make sure that I am listening well to Christ’s commands and instructions. Otherwise, my counseling will be hypocrisy, and will, sooner or later, be revealed as such.
On the whole, Adams Teaching to Observe is clear, easy to read, and at only 131 pages, serves as an accessible introduction to the goals and methods of Biblical counseling.