Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Emotionally Healthy Church

We did a series called "The Big Lie" in September/October that intended to look at a few different aspects of what it really means to be healthy.  Emotional Health is one of those aspects that we must take seriously.  And one of the books I read that helped me to look at emotional health in a fresh way was The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero.  I wanted to share a few highlights from that book from the leader's perspective.

1) Leaders set the tone on emotional health.  If the senior pastor of the church is guarded emotionally, the church's culture will reflect that.  Scazzero points out:  "I saw Jesus able to express his emotion with unashamed, unembarrassed freedom: He shed tears...grieved...was angry, filled with joy...felt compassion, sorry, showed astonishment and wonder and felt distress...  Jesus was anything but an emotionally frozen Messiah." (p.33)

2) We spend too little time helping people become emotionally healthy, which inherently requires teaching how to resolve conflict in a healthy way.  Scazzero talks about how his church equipped people to be good Bible study facilitators, small group leaders and even prayers, but how they "failed to equip people in foundational emotionally healthy skills such as speaking clearly, directly, honestly and respectfully; listening without making assumptions; and resolving conflicts maturely."

"With one breath, God made us human.  Yet, somehow, today we slice out the emotional portion of who we are, deeming it suspect, irrelevant, or of secondary importance.  Contemporary discipleship models often esteem the spiritual more than the physical, emotional, social and intellectual components of who we are.  Nowhere, however, does a good biblical theology support such a division" (p.51)

One of my favorite quotes is this:  "Conflict spreads like a cancer when untreated." (p. 46)

3) "It is not possible for a Christian to be spirutally mature while remaining emotionally immature. For some reason, however, the vast majority of Christians today live as if the two concepts have no intersection."

4) There is a VERY compelling evaluation of emotional maturity in Chapter 4 that took me some time to take (maybe half an hour), but was extremely revealing.

5)  The core of the book is in the 7 Principles of an Emotionally Healthy Church

  1. Look beneath the Surface.  Blaise Pascal said, "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."  This principle is about going beneath the 'show' part of who we are and to the stuff no one sees.  Scazzero writes, "The gospel says you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, yet you are more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope because Jesus lived and died in your place." (p.83)
  2. Break the Power of the Past.  "In emotionally healthy churches, people understand how their past affects their present ability to love Christ and others."  He says, "I often hear, 'Pete, perhaps my family was not perfect, but it sure was a lot more together than most others.' That is not the issue.  Every family has been damaged."
  3. Live in Brokenness and Vulnerability.  "...leadership in the kingdom of leading out of failure and pain, questions and struggles..."
  4. Receive the Gift of Limits. "Emotionally healthy people understand the limits God has given them.  They joyfully receive the one, two, seven or ten talents God has so graciously distributed. As a result, they are not frenzied and covetous, trying to live a life God never intended. They are marked by contentment and joy."
  5. Embrace Grieving and Loss.  "In emotionally healthy churches, people...understnad waht a critical component of discipleship grieving our losses is."  (This is one of the best chapters in the book)
  6. Make Incarnation your Model for Loving Well. "The essence of a genuine spiritual life is to love - God, ourselves and other people."  Scazzero takes us through some very practical steps of loving well, including good listening practices here.
  7. Slow Down to Lead with Integrity.  This is the area I scored the worst in on my emotional maturity test.  I don't slow down very well.  I suspect I'm in good company, but that's only a small consolation.  I appreciated how Scazzero offered some practical ways to apply this principal.
This book is worthwhile for any church leader.  It will help give you a different perspective on your own emotional health and on the church where you lead.

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