Dr. Greg Gifford, assistant professor of biblical counseling at The Master’s University, has been traveling to Georgia over the past few months, where Todd Friel and his team hosts the Christian radio show “Wretched.”
Over the past year, Friel’s team and Gifford have been hard at work developing a video series about biblical counseling called “Transformed.” In this series, Gifford counsels a series of Christians struggling with sin and hardship.
The Mane interviewed Gifford to expand upon the details of working with Friel’s team and on the production and details regarding the production of “Transformed.”
Cole: What exactly is the project you’re working on with Todd Friel and his team?
Gifford: I’m working on a biblical counseling TV series, which is exposing to the world and a general Christian audience to the sufficiency of Scripture, the authority of Scripture and the practicality of Scripture.
Cole: Are you optimistic about the project?
Gifford: I am optimistic. It’s not as easy for me to conceptualize. All I know is that I’ll show up and film all day, but I don’t always get to see the produced episode. The snippets that I have seen are around five or 10 minutes of recordings. I like the way those have turned out, but I’d love to see how the whole series comes together. I’m not skeptical, I’m excited — I’m just uncertain. There hasn’t been anything like this, it’s very pioneer-esque, and it’s hard for me to conceptualize.
Cole: What is the process? Have you filmed everything already or do you have to go back?
Gifford: I’ve gone out there twice now and I’ll go out there a third and final time next week. When I go out, I basically spend the whole day meeting with folks and I’ll council, I’ll do an introductory overview of what they’ve said about themselves and some counseling strategies. Then I’ll begin to do a debrief at the end and I’ll share, “okay here’s what we learned, here’s what we saw.” So all of that is condensed down to a morning and then an afternoon. Typically one morning for one person and one afternoon for the next person.
Cole: So you’re counseling with individuals that are brought in?
Gifford: Yes, and they know that it’s all public. But, it’s actually their problem and it’s something that they’re wrestling with currently. They’re looking to get help and they’re also looking to help others by being transparent about what they’re going through.
Cole: How did this first get started?
Gifford: Good question. Todd Friel asked me a year ago, in December, if I would be interested in being the host of this. We had done some work together on “Road Trip to Truth,” and he knew I was involved in biblical counseling. So he floated the idea and it started to come to fruition in the spring. Then we filmed the pilot in July of this past year.
Cole: Do you know him personally or is it just business?
Gifford: I know him personally now, but at the time I knew him through just that one episode I did for “Road Trip to Truth.” We weren’t homies; we didn’t play golf together.
Cole: What is it like working with Todd Friel and his team?
Gifford: Todd’s the man. He’s a visionary. He’s very much a mover and shaker, a hard worker. It’s really cool to see how he’s been creative with Christian media. He has podcasts, radio shows, video snippets and he’s teaching sound doctrine in unique ways. And I think it’s amazing because what you’re seeing is the dynamic of how the message of the Bible is being delivered is changing and Todd is at the tip of that spear. He’s distributing sound doctrine through YouTube. It’s fascinating.
Cole: What were some of the difficulties you had working with the team or production?
Gifford: I don’t understand what they want. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m thinking of training videos and they’re like, “No this isn’t a training video, this is an exposure of what biblical counseling is.” So I’m like, “Okay.” That was difficult for me, so it took me having to see it to be able to work with them. Outside of that, there haven’t been a lot of difficulties. Once I could understand what we were doing, we all got into this rhythm and this synchronization, where it’s been quite pleasant and very easy to do.
Cole: Were there any other groups working on this project?
Gifford: “Wretched,” and the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, which is ACBC. So, that is an organization that Master’s also partners with and I’m certified by them as a biblical counselor. They have their executive director, whose name is Dale Johnson, he is the one who’s going to do a lot of the B-roll footage and somewhat narrate what I’m doing throughout the episodes. So he’s kind of teaching as I’m doing.
Cole: What was your favorite part about working on this project?
Gifford: I love getting the exposure of God’s Word to the everyday Christian. That excites me, because a lot of Christians don’t see God’s Word as being relevant, they don’t see doctrine as being important. So for them to get to see that God’s Word speaks into my life; it’s real, it’s authoritative, it’s helpful. 2 Timothy 3:17 says that it “equips me for all that I need for life.” So when we see that equipping taking place, it really does excite people about their Bibles. So I think that’s the most enjoyable thing for me.
Cole: What kind of topics did you tackle and what problems did the people you counseled have?
Gifford: One was Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, another was extreme fears. Another was depression, another was a view of beauty and the self, substance abuse. There was one gentleman with purity issues, another one with assurance issues. A lot of it is very common things that people experience, which I found to be helpful because it’s like the viewers are going to be able to look at that and resonate or learn something.
Cole: How did you usually counsel these people?
Gifford: I tried to take them to a text and ground them in a text of Scripture. I think it’s helpful for them to see what the Bible is saying, and if I’m providing any principles, it’s from that particular passage.
Cole: Did you provide methods for them to use to help them get through their problems or was it more instilling the theology from the text you provided?
Gifford: Yeah good question. It’s both. It’s methods that are built upon the Bible and theology. So I gave them homework. Everybody got homework at the end, and the homework was a way of applying what we learned in the Scripture and theology. And that’s what biblical counselors do, we give homework. So we’re hearers of the Word and doers, not just hearers.
Cole: Could you give me an example, like for instance with substance abuse?
Gifford: So for substance abuse, we talked about Romans 6 and being free from the power of sin; we don’t have to give in to sin. So for instance, one of the things I might do is have them study the passage, Romans 6:19, “Don’t present yourself as a slave to unrighteousness, but present yourself as a member of righteousness.” “So know, present yourself to God. What are things that you can practically do to present yourself to God this week and to not give in to a temptation to substance abuse.”
There were others where I said, “Hey you need to do some journaling,” there were those that I gave worksheets to about faith, those that had to write out new definitions of beauty and seek to commit those to memory and all of them are intended to work to the next session.
So when I meet with them in the next session, then ideally I would be able to pick up with our homework and then keep teaching through with, “How do we engage with the right standards of beauty with God, of how do we engage our fears, how do we walk by faith,” all those things. Substance abuse is obviously a big one, a longer one, but it’s still the same principles of starting by saying, “I can resist temptation because God’s spirit indwells me and I don’t have to give into sinful decisions.”
Cole: Is there anything that you’d like to know and say about the project?
Gifford: It’s going to be available in March and it will be distributed between various platforms, so you have social media platforms. But the Christian television networks that currently broadcast Wretched Radio will broadcast the season. So it means that it’s not like a Master’s niche of people or reformed individuals only, this is going to be distributed on Christian television, so Daystar is going to push this out.
Why does that matter? Because it’s going to bring broad exposure to the Scripture and to the school. Because I’m like, “Hey I’m a faculty member at The Master’s University,” that’s how I’m presented and how I represent myself in those videos. So I think it’ll be a really cool thing to help show that the Bible is relevant and then, “If you want to get trained in the Bible, then come to Master’s.”
So if people are interested, spring and then all those various means, including you could buy the DVD series if you really wanted to. It’ll be packaged in such a way where you buy a season of it, it’s called “Transformed.”
Cole: Hypothetically, if this was released when you were a student, do you think it would have been helpful to you?
Gifford: I think from a student perspective, they’re going to believe a lot of these things already. So it would be helpful if you’re not a Bible major or taking any theology classes. This would be a hook, because oftentimes we don’t see the Bible as having to do with my fears. For instance it’s like, “Yeah that’s distant Christianity.” But when you see all of sudden that the Bible talks a lot about fear, and that has a lot to do with my life, it’s like, “Whammo bammo, that’s sweet, now I’m really interested in the Bible.” So if you don’t have some of that connection to biblical training, I think it can be very transformative.
Cole: Do you think this series will be able to help Christians who are struggling?
Gifford: Absolutely, because a lot of people have no idea what biblical counseling is. So when they see it, I think it will be very helpful for them to de-stigmatize some of what they perceived it to be or thought of it. So it’s going to be very helpful, because they’ll say, “Oh wow, there’s no water boarding process, there’s not a dimly lit room with a leather couch and people are laying down looking at weird pictures.” No it’s not that, it’s that we’re going through God’s Word and we’re applying it acutely to individuals lives.