Balancing grace and growth in the ministry of the church

I came across an interesting discussion on LinkedIn regarding the state of the American church, namely that the “seeker” model has failed to create real disciples and failed to make an impact in our culture. “Felt needs” (always a poorly defined term) have replaced authentic discipleship, and the church and culture are sick because of it.

There is a pretty fair divide between those who see the role of pastor or church (not “the body of Christ” Church, but local body “church”) as to evangelize and bring people into the body of Christ (the Church), and those who see the main role of the pastor/church as teacher or pedagogue.

The first will use any means necessary to get people through the doors because it sees salvation as the end result. People come to church, hear the gospel, and get saved. If it takes a light show and Starbucks in the lobby to get them in, so be it. I worked at one of these churches for a time and saw the good and bad of it. They were great at getting people in the door, but it didn’t know what to do with them afterward. Growth was secondary. It was part of the program, but was not a primary driver. The church grew and became very influential, and still is. But the leadership had difficulty seeing themselves as something other than a youth group for adults (thankfully I can say that has changed). Continue reading

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Problems in Caregiving Relationships: Neglect of God

We’ve seen how neglect can happen in caregiving relationships between the Chaplain and the person being cared for. For example the caregiver can neglect the other in the relationship by taking away their power and authority regarding healing, and the caregiver may neglect their own needs as well. These problems often show themselves in co-dependency, overcompensating and undercompensating, burnout and meaninglessness.

Now to the third member of the therapeutic relationship, God. It’s interesting to note that we tend to relate to God similarly to how we relate to others, yet God does not relate to us in the way others do. Perhaps this is why our relationship to God can be so puzzling and frustrating at times! Continue reading

Problems in Caregiving Relationships: Neglect of the Other

Last time I wrote about how caregivers, including Chaplains, can neglect themselves in caregiving relationships. This happens when Chaplains, clergy and others who are providing care to another don’t recognize or reject their own power and authority, and also when caregivers don’t recognize their own needs and therefore neglect themselves. Continue reading

Problems in Caregiving Relationships: Neglect of the Caregiver or Chaplain

***update 9/15/17: I received a link to an excellent, comprehensive article by Rachelle Slotman on identifying and coping with burnout. The link is here and I have also posted the full article here. Thanks to John Hawthorne for the link!***

 

I wrote previously about what I call the Therapeutic Triad, describing how any counseling or caregiving relationship includes three elements: myself, the other and God.

What I’ve experienced in my years of counseling and chaplaincy is that often the relationships between these three can be problematic and can malfunction. Where ideally the relationships between the three elements should flow freely in both directions, it seems that problems arise when these relationships only flow in one direction or when one of the three elements is neglected. This neglect can impact the counselor’s effectiveness and also create stress, tension and helplessness in both the counselor and the counselee. Continue reading

A Brief Theology of Care in Practice: The Therapeutic Triad

Counseling and care have typically been seen as a dyad consisting of the counselor and the counselee. However this limits the scope of the relationship as it often fails to recognize the presence of a third other, which is God. Counseling done within the context of chaplaincy, as well as any other form of Christian or spiritual counseling, whether professional or not, is better thought of as occurring within a triad, recognizing the presence not only of myself and the other, but also of God. Continue reading

Peter Rollins on Seminary Dropout

I just wanted to give a shoutout to one of my favorite podcasts, Seminary Dropout. The host, Shane Blackshear, interviews some real movers and shakers in the Christian literary and cultural worlds, as well as people you probably never heard of. I’ve been listening for years, and Shane is one of the best interviewers I’ve heard.

Peter Rollins, author of “The Divine Magician”

He recently interviewed author Peter Rollins and I thought it was so good I wanted to highlight and link to it. You can go to the show’s episode page here, subscribe in iTunes or your podgrabber of choice, or click the link below to listen right away. You can even enter contests for books here and there. And he’s not famous, so he will actually interact with you if you hit him up on Twitter!

listen to the episode

So Many Straws: Reflections on Self Care, and the Lack Thereof

“You’d better be careful, Sam. You’re going to burn out like this.”

These were words from my CPE supervisor several years ago. At the time I was a bit taken aback. After all my schedule certainly seemed manageable, and I felt I was doing OK at work and at home. Sure I had my struggles, but found a way to pick up and keep going every time. This March I realized he was right. Continue reading

The Caregiver’s Dilemma

A week or so ago I sat down to plan some things out. I find that I don’t tend to be a planner unless I feel the need to have something concretely in front of me to refer back to. This was less of a planning than a brainstorming session, really. Brainstorming to develop the plan. The plan was how to fix myself. The brainstorming was to figure out how.

Caregivers rarely take the time to consider their own needs. They are constantly putting others’ needs before their own, in some cases to their own detriment. Sometimes it’s saintly, and sometimes it’s sick. After talking with a few people I found that I was teetering toward the sick end of the spectrum myself. Continue reading

The Dying Art of Pastoral Care

I may have said this before, but I think pastoral care is a dying art.

The evidence for this is overwhelming, at least from my vantage point. Seminaries demand multiple years of attention to developing skill and knowledge in exegesis, languages, hermeneutics, and preaching, but I doubt if most require more than a semester devoted to pastoral care issues such as counseling and crisis management. I’m thankful that at Yale Divinity School I was able to focus my attention on this area, and that it offered several different courses on pastoral care and counseling to different groups. I had a great deal of freedom to do this in that I was not tied to denominational requirements. I didn’t take any languages because I never saw myself as an exegete to that degree. However most of the other students there were following programs to meet their respective denominations’ requirements. In some cases this required a semester of pastoral care or CPE, but I don’t know if that was across the board.

When did ministry become an academic exercise, focused primarily on sermon writing and exegesis? When did ministry become a business for that matter? When did pastoral care become something that only happens in a couple marriage counseling sessions or when talking with a family about what songs or scriptures they want at their dad’s funeral? When did pastoral care get assigned to lay volunteer prayer and care groups, who may get little if any training or support beyond a space and time to meet at the church? When did clergy become too busy managing the church to provide care to the people in that church? Continue reading

Thoughts on calling, obedience and “Radical” by David Platt

I’ve been reading Radical by David Platt with some guys in my church small group. I’m about half way through it, and while there are good points to be made I have some major issues with others. Not to go too far into it, but I think he has a gift for overstatement.

Anyway, one point he makes is that all Christians are called to global evangelism. He equates calling with command in this case:

We take Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations, and we say , “That means other people.” But we look at  Jesus’ command in Matthew in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and we say, “Now that means me.” (p73)

It is true that we often pick-and-choose what we find most appealing in Jesus’ teaching and apply what we like the most to us while putting aside what we don’t. However this argument made me think about the notion of “calling” in general. Continue reading