You Never Know Who Might be Listening

Recently, I had the opportunity to teach on a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, psychoses, anger, suicide assessment, addictions and personality disorders. Sometimes, because I think about these issues quite a bit, I approach them in a detached way. As I plough through my material, I can forget that the people I am teaching and equipping might be strugglers as well as helpers. Imagine that--people in training may be in the process of seeing God’s redeeming work of change in their own lives.

Let me share two examples with you:

Addictions

While teaching a seminary class on addictions, I mentioned the difference between substance addictions and lifestyle addictions. When most people hear the word “addiction” they immediately think alcohol, marijuana, or pain killers; the usual suspects. Yet, some people fail to see that issues like gambling, shopping, spending time on the internet, and pornography qualify as addictions, also. If you look at how either of these types of addictions affect the brain, you will notice clear similarities. Habituation and tolerance both arise as you indulge in the behavior. The person will experience similar withdrawal symptoms, too.

During the break, I was organizing my notes and a young woman approached me. I assumed she had a technical question about the syllabus or some assignment, but that was not why she wanted to talk. She discreetly and helpfully shared about her husband’s addiction to pornography and how it had impacted their marriage. While she was realistic, she was hopeful because of what God had been doing in their relationship. I was heartened and thankful that she was willing to share that with me. It changed the rest of my teaching on addiction that afternoon.

Suicide Assessment

Another startling example happened when I was teaching on suicide and suicide assessment. Once again, I found myself working through the details of suicide statistics. 41,000 people will commit suicide in the United States this year. Most of them will be men even though women will try more often. Men are more “successful” because they use more violent means.

After teaching on helpful ways to assess whether someone is seriously committed to harming themselves, I casually opened it up for some Q & A. A few technical questions were asked, and then another young woman shared her story. She said that one year ago, she had her suicide all planned out. She had written a note, had the means to kill herself and was going to follow through as soon as she returned home from a Christian camp! She then said that God had worked powerfully over the week and she had become a Christian. She returned home a radically different person. I was humbled by her confession. There she was, sitting in the front row, taking notes for about 45 minutes, and then she shared her story.

Once again, I was awakened to the fact that real sufferers are always in my audience. The impact was almost like a reset button for me. When I am teaching, I am more than a “talking head” disseminating information. Rather, I am a servant speaking words of life to people who need grace. You really never know who is listening.

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

What Does it Take to Survive and Thrive in Ministry?

5 Essential Ingredients: What Are They?

The old joke goes something like this, "For six days a pastor is hard to find and the seventh, hard to understand." While that may be funny on the surface, it belies a deep misunderstanding of what pastors do from day to day and week to week. It also reveals a significant lack of understanding of the life, pressures and expectations of someone in ministry.

Recently, I  re-read a helpful book on pastoral ministry entitled, Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told us About Surviving and Thriving. (Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie, IVP Books, 2013)

Here is how the book came to be:

This book, based on seven years of research, seeks to answer these questions. Our research focused on gathering pastors and their spouses into peer cohorts, which met repeatedly in multi day retreats called Pastors Summits where we facilitated heartfelt discussions about the challenges of vocational ministry. This book presents the summary and analysis of those discussions in light of our literature research and experiences.

Based upon the discussions, the book identifies 5 areas that are critical for surviving and thriving in Christian ministry. Those five areas are:

  • Spiritual Formation: personal growth in grace and maturity.
  • Self Care: the pursuit of physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Emotional and Cultural Intelligence: Emotional intelligence of oneself as well as others.
  • Marriage and Family: spiritual and relational health with their spouse, children and extended family.
  • Leadership and Management: sharing congregational leadership, building congregational community, effective administration, conflict utilization and responsible self-management.'

No Sour Grapes, Just Reality

As I pondered these 5 areas, I reflected back on my time in seminary and my days in pastoral ministry. Unfortunately, I can't remember when any of these five areas were emphasized in my preparation for ministry, nor my ongoing equipping while in ministry! While much of what I studied in seminary was essential to my work, so much was never addressed. In addition, there was little or no vision for ongoing development and growth once I found myself in a pastoral role. This was virtually missing at the local, as well as the regional and national level in my denomination.

As I reflected back on my circle of friends who have spent many years in ministry, they confirm that these critical areas are where most of their challenges and heartache lie. It is almost always the areas that caused many to leave.

A Way Forward?

If these findings are accurate, what does this say about our seminary training and ongoing support that is provided for those serving in pastoral ministry? I think the conclusions are obvious. But will we take them seriously? We can't afford not to.

For information about an organization that addresses these very issues, follow this link to the Institute for Pastoral Care.

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Slander in the Camp

Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked person by being a malicious witness. Exodus 23:1
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up dissension among brothers and sisters. Proverbs 6:16-19

How many of you have witnessed the evils of slander? Sadly, it happens all the time in circles of people who name Jesus as their King and Redeemer. The more I speak with leaders and fellow Christians, the more I realize how prevalent this is.

Slander is a violation of the 9th commandment, "You shall not bear false witness." The usual suspect we think of when it involves violating the 9th commandment is gossip. While gossip is clearly evil, we often leave out slander. My guess is that we don't really think Christians will go there. Sadly, that is not the case.

Gossip and slander are different. The difference is that slander is much more intentional. Slander is out to ruin the person or drive their reputation into the ground. Listen to the way Paul situates slander in his catalogue of sins of speech in Ephesians 4:31-32. He clearly places slander in the anger family. Notice that it is driven by the opposite of forgiveness and reconciliation:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

In his commentary on Ephesians, John Stott defines the following words:

  • Bitterness (pikria): a sour spirit and sour speech.
  • Rage (thymos): a passionate rage.
  • Anger (orge): settled and sullen hostility.
  • Brawling (krauge): people who get excited, raise their voices in a quarrel, and start shouting, even screaming.
  • Slander (blasphemia): speaking evil of others, especially behind their backs, and so defaming and even destroying their reputation.
  • Malice (kakia): ill will, wishing and probably plotting evil against someone.

Another word for slander in Greek is diabolos. It is the word that is used for Satan and means the "accuser", the one who attacks the brethren. Slander is the passionate, determined goal of one person to destroy another. As you can see, it is driven by bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and every form of malice. It is diabolical. What are a few ways that we may attempt to slander someone for the purpose of harming their reputation?

  • Sensationalism--spinning what someone said to sound evil.
  • Betraying confidence--using constructive criticism shared in private and telling the person not present what was said with an evil spin. This is usually done so that they will join in the brawl against another person.
  • Putting words in a person's mouth that were never said. This is a more straightforward, outright lie.

Why is Paul writing this to Christians? Because Christians are as capable of this as any other person. As John Owen once said, "The seed of every known sin is in my heart." Putting it simply, we are all capable of doing this. Churches, businesses, ministries and relationships are ruined...not from without, but from within.

Below is a song called, "The Murder Weapon" by T-Bone Burnett. It is a song about the evils of the tongue. It is a reminder of the fall-out of evil speech. I've included the lyrics and the YouTube video.

We are all capable of gossip and slander. Only by God's grace can we avoid them.

It can kill from any distance but you never see it strike
There isn't any warning, no blinding flash of light
It hits you when your back's turned or when your eyes are closed
There isn't any shelter and it cannot be controlled
It can be as subtle as a whisper in the dark
Or as brutal and as cutting as the teeth of a shark

 
Chorus: The murder weapon
There is no good description for the way it makes you feel
It's as lethal as a stiletto and more easily concealed
It sometimes is strategic and sometimes not at all
But you get caught in the fallout, win, lose or draw
There is no escape except to go completely mad
If it doesn't kill you right at first it makes you wish it had

Chorus: The murder weapon

 

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.