Why is Jim Berg Running an Abuse and Addiction Counseling Program?

Back in 2010, Jim Berg teamed up with Greenville-area BJU feeder church Faith Baptist of Taylors to found Freedom That Lasts, a “ministry” marketing itself to other churches as “the biblical path to freedom from addiction.” The system works like a fast-food franchise: a church can become chartered with Freedom That Lasts for an annual fee (“through a private link provided by headquarters”), and, after the church’s application is reviewed and approved by FTL, receives training and promotional materials for the program. For suffering addicts, what does Freedom That Lasts look like? Mostly, a heavy dose of Berg-flavored Nouthetic counseling: videos, workshops and studies organized around a series of books and DVDs produced by Berg and JourneyForth, a BJU entity.

Berg makes lofty claims about helping addicts.

Noticeably absent from FTL’s materials is any reference to licensed, qualified counselors or mental health experts. Neither BJU, Faith Baptist Church or Jim Berg have any use for medical or psychological solutions to problems they consider spiritual in nature; in fact, the FTL Charter Document specifically precludes chartered churches from seeking professional assistance in any situation under its purview:

The Freedom That Lasts program may not be blended in any way with the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, pop psychology—Christian or secular—or other secular or faith-based programs.

And what issues does Freedom That Lasts claim to provide assistance with? Well:

That’s a wide range of challenging issues (along with a few non-issues), and there’s nothing on FTL’s website to suggest that its staff is qualified to deal with any them–unless you consider affiliation with Bob Jones University to be a qualification, in which case FTL is stacked. Like so many fundamentalist “ministries,” Freedom That Lasts is in lock-step with BJU. FTL lists only three staff members: its Founder, FBC Taylors head pastor John Monroe, Director Larry Pierson, and Executive Director Jim Berg. All three are BJU grads with endless connections to the University. Freedom That Lasts distributes Berg’s package of books, videos and studies guides through BJU Press, and its Statement of Faith is nearly identical to BJU’s Creed. And on and on.

Here’s Pierson on FTL’s mission (comments disabled on the YouTube video, naturally):

Freedom That Lasts’ system is simple: individual churches are sold Berg’s series of books and DVDs and are instructed to use them, along with Bible study, to help troubled people in their communities. But how can untrained laypeople hope to grapple with issues like alcohol addiction, self-mutilation and suicidal tendencies especially when the program they use forbids them from seeking proper counseling and assistance?

Here’s Berg on FTL (again, no comments allowed):

We called Faith Baptist in Taylors in an attempt to get details on the Freedom That Lasts program and specifically to ask the hard questions about how an unlicensed, layman-staffed program can really treat life-threatening mental health issues. So far, we’ve met with stalling; the leadership of FTL is proving difficult to get ahold of. We’ll update this post if and when we’re successful in getting answers directly from the leadership of Faith Baptist.

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15 thoughts on “Why is Jim Berg Running an Abuse and Addiction Counseling Program?

  1. Toni

    I’d like to know what you think makes “professional” licensed counselors “qualified.” All counseling is religious in the sense that it theological, being based on someone’s beliefs about the nature of God, man (one’s view of man is determined by his view of God), etc. A state(government) license to counsel is given to someone who has studied in the state education system and has been indoctrinated in the state “religion.” What makes you think the state is right about everything they teach? Since when does the state (government) have the right to regulate religion by licensing counselors? Counseling is rightly under the jurisdiction of the church, never the state.

    1. Toni

      By the way, I am not from Bob Jones University.
      Also, I am a firm believer in making sure that counselors are competent. However, it is the church, not the state, that should educate and license counselors.

      1. Lawrence Burr

        Counselors from the seminary I attended, Michigan Theological Seminary (now Moody theological Seminary) get licensed by the State of Michigan. They receive a Biblical education. They were in my introductory theology and Biblical studies classes. Just because someone is licensed by the state doesn’t make them godless or of a state religion. Any more than a marriage license from the state makes you marriage godless.
        Contrary to the Tea Party Christians the government is God ordained and has a part in a Christians life.

    2. turkbenistan

      What utter blarney, Toni. Counseling is not an excercise in Theology of Philosophy. You think the way my sisters think. The result? One has a son that became alcoholic, the other has three sons that have been in and out of jail, produced children out of wedlock, and are addicted to drugs. The problem? They couldn’t be perfect, so they gave up, assuming they were spiritual failures, defectives. Thank God I got away from your kind of thinking…thank God. Jim Berg has a heavy price to pay for yoking so many people with guilt.

    3. Josh M.

      Toni,

      The fact that you cannot distinguish between a qualified licensed professional and someone who simply buys Jim Berg’s materials is a perfect example of why people like you and Berg don’t know the first thing about treating mental disorders. Although the qualifications vary by state, to become a licensed clinical psychologist, applicants must generally have a doctorate in psychology, pass an exam, and in some cases are required to complete an internship as well. In contrast, It isn’t a stretch to assume that those who are using Berg’s program probably do not have the technical knowledge of psychology to pass a psychology 101 class.

      Also, clinical psychology is very self critiquing, and there are hundreds of studies which you can find which scrutinize the effectiveness of various treatments such as psychotherapy and medication. Qualified psychologists will be the first to admit that the treatments they have access to in some cases may not be effective, and often must work with patients in a tedious trial-and-error process to find the treatment, medication, or combination of both which is most effective for that individual. In contrast, Berg’s program insists that only his treatments should be used, and if you asked Faith Baptist or Jim Berg if they commissioned even a single study by an independent organization to review the effectiveness of their program and you’ll probably get a deer-in-the-headlights look from them.

      Unlike Jim Berg and those who peddle his materials, professional psychologists will be the first to admit the limitations of their treatments, and there is a wealth of peer-review studies which quantify not only the effectiveness, but the advantages and disadvantages to the treatments they use. The fact that Berg requires no meaningful qualifications for those who administer his program, insists that only his methods should be used to treat all the disorders his program encompasses, and lacks any kind of self-scrutiny or peer-review is why this nonsense is simply a bad idea.

    4. Matt

      To make statements such as this only proves that you are uneducated. One does need to meet certain criteria to become licensed but that does not by any means prove they are indoctrinated by secular practices. It shows that they care enough about the wellbeing of others to learn how to properly go about counseling in a way that aids to the persons healing.

  2. Dan

    Counseling is most certainly in the government’s purview – the government tells people if they can hang out a shingle that says “counselor” and licenses people who have appropriate training. I would hate to think what Berg and company could do to an anorexic or a severely depressed person. Sometimes, the problem is brain chemistry, not a lack of Jesus.

  3. Mike

    Why not match their results against those of “secular counselors” who are schooled in conventional psychology that teaches the answer comes from WITHIN you, rather than from God? Secular psychology is bunk! Only God’s power can give “freedom that lasts,” when someone learns he is a sinner by nature, in need of redemption, rather than a “good person.”

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  5. Don

    I have absolutely no use for Jim Berg. At the same time, I read of a study done by a state university where, as close as possible, counselees were matched with counselors. All counselors were professors at the college. Half the counselors were licensed professionals (psychologists & psychiatrists), while the other half were equally educated, but from entirely different disciplines. The results? The non-professional counselors had better results. Breaking down even further, the study found that those with the best results, regardless of education, were those who were the best listeners.

    Again, I have no use for Jim Berg or anything he has to say, but to deify someone with a license while vilifying anyone without one is insane. Wonder if there is a counselor out there to help some of you with that issue? 🙂

  6. granonine

    I am Christian who is also a state-licensed professional counselor working in a Bible-centered counseling office. There is nothing magic about a state license. In my state, you must have one in order to charge a fee for your services. I jumped through all the hoops I had to in order to do the work I love and be able to earn money doing so. I even learned some helpful things in my secular training. Believers can and should learn things from those who are not Christians. I go to a medical doctor who, as far as I know, is not a believer. I trust her completely to use her training and experience to treat me.

    I have been watching this situation with a strong sense of discomfort, knowing that Satan is well able to destroy what may be a God-anointed ministry. I am also aware of the controversy surrounding BJU, with issues of sexual abuse, cover-ups, and putting the blame on the victims. I don’t pretend to know the truth. I have to question Mr. Berg’s authority as a counselor when he seems to disrespect the entire profession. I do believe that the church can have a tremendous impact for good in the areas he “treats,” but not everyone with a heart to help others has the profound wisdom to do so with the kind of training he offers. By the same token, not everyone who claims to be a Christian counselor has been effective, either.

    There is a right way and a wrong way to use scripture in offering help to people. In my experience, it is more harmful than anyone can imagine to tell a deeply depressed person that he just needs to get right with God. To say so is to minimize the problem, to dismiss the pain he is already experiencing, to pile more guilt on his already bowed shoulders, and to tell him his depression isn’t real. It’s “just” a sin problem. Really? “Just” a sin problem? We need to think carefully about these issues. People’s lives are at stake.

    Professional counselors usually work with some sort of supervision. It can be peer supervision, or the supervision of a senior member of the practice. We are all accountable to each other. I’m wondering who, if anyone, holds Mr. Berg and the pastors he’s working with accountable? Who is supervising them? Who follows up on their counselees to make sure they are doing better than they were before they received counseling?

    There are lots of questions I’d like to ask. What I really hate to see, though, is another instance of believers “biting and devouring” other believers, giving the Name of Jesus Christ yet another black eye. What we should be doing is praying fervently that God will prevail in this situation and righteousness will be done.

  7. gathering41

    I am a believer who was healed by Christ, delivered from drugs, and an unhealthy lifestyle. When the Holy Spirit brought life to my spirit, i began to change. I began to love the person of Christ, and the Love of God was and continues to change me. I am glad there were no professionals when Christ walked the earth, because he simply transformed the lives of 12 ordinary men who through the power of God changed the world. I am sorry to read that many now hate the very one who offers life to all. I do not discount the need for professionals in the area of counseling and healing, i get that they are needed. I just know what happened to me was real, Christ changed me from a pit, and trust me when i tell you i was in a dark place. I didn’t see a professional anything, i just met God. I am so glad Jesus came to the earth, died and rose again so that we can be healed saved, delivered from this place where so much pain exists. Gods love is real. To know the reality of who God is , is to find healing. At least for me it is true. I regret all the suffering inflicted by religion, but after all they (the religious crowd) killed Jesus. Jim

  8. Raymond

    Wow. They stole this idea, even the terminology from a ministry called Reformers Unanimous. look up RU. Jim Berg was very aware of this ministry and the founder died in 2010 of a heart attack. Whats with Christian idea stealing, sermon stealing and not giving proper credit? RU is always asking for money and has the same leadership problems as BJU. Its an improper theology on leadership and people who think they are too spiritual to be challenged, questioned, or reproved. RU is a IBF ministry as well. Come on Jim..that’s sad buddy.

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