Thursday, October 26, 2006

Shame: Healing the Hurts of Your Past

In my last church I had a lot of time to counsel. I would sometimes see as many as four people a day and God used me in significant ways to help others find the freedom they were looking for. But as a lead pastor I don't have the same kind of time to spend with people one on one. That's disappointing to me because I like counseling.

But I now have a resource that can help a lot of people even though I may not be able to spend the same amount of time counseling. I just finished writing and recording "Healing the Hurts of Your Past" - a guide to overcoming the pain of shame. I've taught this for over eight years at Arbor Place Treatment Center as well as other churches. It's a thorough teaching bringing together the two worlds of psychology and theology to help people get to the root of their emotional pain. It shows you where the pain comes from, how it creates dysfunctional habits and then gives you a process for emotional healing to follow.

I've gotten excellent response to it, both from people in emotional pain as well as trained counselors. (You can read some recommendations on my website). I mention it to you here as something you might benefit from or might want to refer your friends to. To learn more about it and my other seminar on anger, you can go to my personal website at LifeChange Seminars. If you have a place to post a link to this site, I'd appreciate it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Confessions of a Pastor

I spoke yesterday in church about Jesus' words, "Blessed are those who Mourn". We learned that to mourn is to express on the outside what's going on inside of you. It speaks of being honest and authentic. It speaks of confessing your sins and your struggles. Jesus was laying out a foundational aspect to his kingdom community. They aren't Posers...people who are faking strength and confidence when inside they are dying. Kingdom people aren't afraid to expose their emptiness and in doing so qualify themselves to be filled by God. Having said that all yesterday, I read the following excerpt from a book this morning from a new book called "Confessions of a Pastor", by Craig Groeschel. It's a great example of mourning...

"One Sunday, after another week of performing my best for God, I stood to preach His life-changing Word. As I approached the pulpit, the truth hit me squarely between the eyes. I hadn’t prayed at all. Not that day. Not the day before. Not the day before that. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn’t prayed all week.

And I called myself a pastor. That’s when it dawned on me: I had become a full-time minister and a part-time follower of Christ. From the outside, I looked the part. “God bless you,” I’d say, followed by the promise, “I’ll be praying for you.”

But that was usually a lie.

Stepping onto the platform to preach that morning, I admitted to myself that I was not a pastor first, but a regular, scared, insecure, everyday guy whose life had been changed by Jesus. And if Jesus really loved me as I was (I knew He did), then why should I go on trying to be someone I wasn’t? I stumbled through that sermon, forcing the words to come out. The message was superficial, plastic, shallow…but somehow I got through it. I drove home that day ashamed of the role I’d played so skillfully, but feeling cautiously hopeful I might learn to be myself.

All week long I agonized. I prayed as I hadn’t prayed in months: God, what if I tell them who I really am? What if they know I’m terrified? What if they reject me? Talk bad about me? Fire me? I swallowed hard. Then I ventured a step further: Is this what You want me to do? I thought I sensed God’s assurance, but I wasn’t sure. Desperately I hoped it was Him leading me,
and not just my own whacked-out thoughts.

The next Sunday arrived, and I walked to the platform uncharacteristically unprepared—not one written note. The only preparation was in my heart. My throat dry, nervous beyond description, I stared at two hundred very committed churchgoers. They stared politely back.


Finally I spoke. “My relationship with God is not what it should be.” My voice quavered with each syllable. No one moved. I plunged ahead. “I’ve confessed to God, but now I’m going to confess to you: I’ve become a full-time minister but a part-time follower of Christ.”

You could have heard a communion wafer snap.

I continued speaking, opening my heart and inviting everyone inside. The message that Sunday was unembellished: no humor, no quotes, no poems. It was void of clever sayings or points starting with the same letter. But the message was true. I held nothing back. It was the biggest public risk I’d ever taken. It was also my first authentic sermon. I had preached many times before, but this was the first time the real me made a showing. In the middle of my talk, something started to happen,
something new…

God made Himself known.

The reality of His presence is hard to describe, but it’s even harder to miss. Some people cried quietly in their seats. Others sobbed openly—not so much for my sins, but for their own. Before I had finished my confession, many gathered at the altar to repent along with me.

As the tears and words flowed, God’s peace replaced my fear. His assurance pushed away my doubts. Christ’s power invaded my weakness. In that moment, Jesus became as real to me as He had ever been. The Savior was with me…and I believed He was pleased. “Well done,” I felt, more than heard.

That’s when it all changed. I became a full-time follower of Christ who happened to be a pastor. No more make-believe. No posing. And no playing games. From that moment on, I would be who I am.

Or nothing at all.

- - - - -

I appreciate Craig's honesty. I think every person, and pastor, can relate to his emptiness at times and phoniness. We try to "fake it until we make it" but we often never "make it"! To learn more about mourning as well as becoming a safe person for mourners, you can read my message here.