The New Form of Christian Counseling and Small Groups

You may not know it yet, but there’s a new form of Christian counseling and way of doing small groups. It’s advocated for by a bunch of really important people in the church, and it goes a little something like this….

1) We should all be dedicated, open, honest, and authentic with each other. We should have each others’ trust. (true)

2) Since we have each other’s trust, it’s my job to call you out when you are in sin, because I care enough about you to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself or others. (also true)

3) I am allowed to call you out on your behavior whenever I want and however I want. (false)

When we do this….when we call each other out, we end up sounding like a bunch of pomp-ass, crass, insensitive morons. Just because someone confesses that they are having trouble believing Jesus loves them, doesn’t give us the right to declare: “Well, that’s unbelief. Really, it’s what it is!”

If someone confesses to having an issue of lust, we don’t have the right to diagnose their sin. “That’s foolish behavior. You need to put a boundary on that thing.”

WE DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT!

We have a right to correct each other. We don’t have a right to think that we got this “sin” thing down and know exactly how it works. And we certainly don’t have the right to pretend like we know how to get people “on track.”

See the problem is that if we read something really helpful at diagnosing the sin attitudes behind behaviors, we often don’t go after the sin. We go after the person. We label them. If they’re in a liberal church, they might just look at you funny. But if they are in a hard core, bible believing church, they’re going to take that shame, heap it on themselves, say some words about the gospel, and unknowingly take one BIG step away from real relationship with Jesus.

So what do we have the right to do? Well, Galatians 6 tells us.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

If you think you’ve got it together, if you think that you can diagnose someone else…just stop.  You have the right to encourage you brother or sister to get up, and remember that they are still a child of God. You have the right to restore the person to equal standing in the church. You have the right to watch over your own heart and ask God that you don’t make the same mistake.

If you’re willing to do that, then you’re willing to do some real kingdom work. If not, sit down, shut up, and quit hurting your brothers and sisters. (this is an example, of course, of what NOT being gentle looks like. See how I did that? 😉

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When a Church Lets You Down

I think we’ve all heard it before. We ask our friends to come to church with us, or we simply talk about church, and the criticism follows…

“Why would I go to church? It’s just a bureaucracy. They just want your money. etc. etc. etc.”

Because we’ve all had to stand up for church at some point, it makes it even harder when our church — or our pastor — messes up BIG TIME. We have a hard enough time when some pastor somewhere makes a mistake, and we have to answer for it. But it almost knocks the wind out of us when someone who we trusted or esteemed shames your church and the role of a spiritual leader.

I’ve been a part of good churches. And I’ve been a part of bad churches. I’ve been a part of good churches that go bad. Needless to say, I’ve been through the disappointment enough times now to know how to walk through it without it breaking me or my faith. And so, if you’re a part of a situation like this, then I’d like to encourage you. Not with a list of “should-do’s,” but a list of “give yourself some permission to….”  It doesn’t take away the pain/hurt/disappointment, but it’s the best encouragement I can offer if you’re in this situation.

Step One: Grieve

That’s right. Grieve. Go ahead and cry. Or grab your heart. Or be angry. Just allow yourself the space and time to feel the weight of what has happened. Don’t give in to the temptation to make a massive change RIGHT NOW. Don’t give in to the temptation to diminish pain. Your relationship with that person or that church is never going to be the same. It’s okay to grieve the loss. Give yourself some time and space to grieve. And know that you absolutely DON’T HAVE TO HAVE AN ANSWER FOR ANYONE RIGHT NOW.

Just give yourself the space to just be honest with your God about how you feel. He will bless your honesty. He can take your words he can take your emotions. He knows where you’re at. you don’t need to “say it right” as you’re grieving with Him. You don’t even need to pray it right. you can just grieve.

Step Two: Get Healing

Before you take action — before you try to fix things — before you try to defend or rebuild — GET HEALING. You got hurt. If you don’t deal with that hurt, it’s going to turn into bitterness. And when we get hurt by church, we often feel a little betrayal by God, too. So if you don’t get some healing, you’re going to find yourself not being able to pray, as well.

It’s so important to seek out a Jesus loving friend, another pastor, or a counselor that can help you start to process through all that hurt and disappointment and who will pray for you to be healed. Part of healing may also mean that you go to another church for a time. Don’t feel ashamed or disloyal if you have to do that. Better to be getting healing than to be sitting in a pew bitter as hell and totally checking out.

Healing may also mean that you stay in the church, but you’re a bit withdrawn as you sort things out. Don’t feel guilty if you want to stay. It’s enough to lose confidence in person you loved. It’s really hard to lose your closest community, too.

And yes, healing on rare (RARE, my friends, RARE) occasions may even mean that you don’t go to church for a SHORT time. 9I say short because if you don’t get back in church, a lot of times you never heal. You just get stuck by that disappointment.)

It may take one conversation. It may take a year. But don’t make yourself just get over it. Actually be healed. And in case you’re wondering, you’ll know when you’re healed because you won’t want revenge or an explanation from the one that hurt you. That, my friends, THAT. takes. time.

Step Three: Move Forward

If you have grieved, and if you have been healed, then give yourself permission to move forward. So many times, we keep ourselves locked in this place or replaying and repeating the past when it doesn’t even really bother us anymore. We feel the need to keep bringing it up because we feel guilty somehow that we didn’t do something to change the situation. At some point, we have to be willing to admit what role that we played, repent, admit what role others played, release them to God’s judgement — AND THEN MOVE ON! You don’t have to fix that person. You don’t have to fix that church. You don’t have to explain for the past.

If you want to, you can go somewhere else. If you want to stay, you can move forward rebuilding the church. And when others ask you why you stayed, you can say BECAUSE I WANTED TO DO.  That’s it.

The beauty of being a Christian is that our mistakes and our past don’t define us or our paths. The mistakes of others don’t define us or our churches or our beliefs, either. I am responsible for me and me only. You are responsible for you and you only. If you did the best you could to live a God honoring way, then be at peace. And if you didn’t do your best, repent, make amends, and be at peace knowing that God knows you and loves you, and really wants you and His people to move forward.

I pray that you will. That you’ll keep walking with Him. And that you’ll find other brothers and sisters to keep walking with as well.

Peace to you,

Pam

About Not Getting Weird

I have a family friend who sells a weight loss/sports performance product. She is incredible and inspiring. But I fear for her that she will become like so many who are “into” that product, and that the dogma of the company will overtake her. I already see her pursuing “health and wealth.” I know it’s a dead end street.

I have another friend who worked for a great nonprofit. They helped children, especially young women, to learn about science and pursue careers in science fields. But her two bosses, as dedicated paleontologists, were staunch atheists. I prayed the entire time she worked there, knowing that there was an atheistic mindset among the employees/ I hoped she wouldn’t be pulled into it. But I watched as she became engulfed in the world of Oprah-ism. You know — “We’re good people. We make a difference.” I don’t know if she’s ever fully recovered.

And then there’s my own faith. Ah, Christianity! If the media hasn’t proved that we have some mental health issues, cultist ideas, and behaviors, then I don’t know what will convince us. At this moment, I’m worried sick about some family members who worship their church more than the God they proclaim to believe in.

The truth is we can get really weird following “Jesus.” And then we can turn around and say some stupid statement like: well, the world is not supposed to love us….

The truth also is that when you’re weird, you can’t be relational.

The weirdness factor comes into play every day of every moment when we interact with other people. Sure, we can find people who buy into our ideas, but we usually end up only being able to be around others who think like us. That’s not being a relational person.

For this reason, for a little over five years now, I’ve been asking God to do something in my heart, mind, and body that may seem incredibly simple. But it’s been one of the most difficult things to implement.

I’ve been asking Him to make sure that I stay natural. 

When I look at Jesus, I see the most natural human being who ever lived. But that wasn’t always the case. I used to think that he was pretty volatile. And pretty stubborn. And sometimes a little weird. And because He was, that gave me a right to be the same way.

But then I read this statement one day. It laid out the argument that …

If God is all good and all loving all the time THEN it is impossible for Him to do or say anything that is unloving or unkind. SO, when we read His words and actions and we think, “that’s pretty harsh, etc,” we have to ask ourselves…. “How could this be said in a loving way?”

This practice, more than any other, has radically shaped my ideas about who God is, and who I’m supposed to be. And pretty amazingly, it’s kept me from swerving into the weird Christian lane more than any doctrinal guideline ever could.

I think it’s what God (through Paul) was talking about when he said, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

This is what according to Christ means: To be loving. To be kind. To be selfless. And to be natural. While still loving God enough to obey His commands.

That’ll keep me growing till the day I die.