I’ve just returned from the Catalyst West conference and this blog is the result. I traveled to the conference with the Leadership Team from my church, and we were asked two heavy questions by Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Church.
- Who are you?
- What breaks your heart?
And the implied third question:
- What in the world are you going to do about it?
As I discussed my answer to this question with my team, I noticed that my answer changed, morphed, grew and sometimes faded. So I realize I need a platform to refine and shape my answer more clearly. After all, how can I do something about a problem I’ve not defined well?
As I stated on the About Me page, I’m the Care Pastor of my local church, but I’m also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. What breaks my heart is how many Christians don’t get counseling and don’t see the value of counseling. And when they do go to counseling, it’s often terrible counseling — a whole lot of “Christian” with not a whole lot of “counseling”, either because the counselor is poorly lay trained or poorly professionally trained.
Here’s the problem as I see it, and I’ll dive into these deeper in future posts. Pastors preach about the power of our Living God to live within us and change our lives. This is right and true that they would do so. And our God does live within us and He does change lives. But the “how” is often vague. So then Christians who love Jesus leave church on Sunday privately feeling like maybe something is wrong with them, maybe they are not plugged into God’s power appropriately. Maybe there’s something wrong with their internal USB connector, the signal is not quite getting through. But to ask for help or go to counseling would be an open admission that they don’t know how to make these changes. Or worse, maybe they will even be judged as being “works” based because they are trying to figure out how to change instead of just “letting” God change them.
So what are we left with? We are left with a church where pastors and their church attendees alike have to pretend for all they’re worth that everything is ok. That they’re getting victory when maybe they’re not. We know we’re broken, and we even say we’re broken. But to go to counseling would be an open admission that we are broken. And no one wants that!
Then, if a Christian finally gets up the courage to go to counseling, they often see their pastor for counseling or a lay “counselor” or mentor at their church. There’s a place for this, and I have a couple of really good examples of where this has worked. But discernment is required to figure out if those are good choices, and a desperate Christian trying to keep their broken-ness on as much of a lowdown as possible probably isn’t asking all the right questions. And even when a licensed counselor gets the case, most Christians won’t go to anyone but a Christian counselor – again, without asking themselves why they are making this distinction or if this person is the right fit for them, regardless of labels.
I’ve got a pretty big field to tackle here, with my broken hearted issue. I want counseling to be a first resort, not a last. I want Christian broken-ness to come out of the closet, to see daylight and seek real healing. And I want it to be done in the most professional and skilled way possible.
*Read my comment(s). My dear friend has agreed to give her non-therapist view of my crazy ideas to get the conversation started. Jump in!*