Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Small Sips Likely Needs Therapy

HOLY CRAP MAKE IT STOP. Harold Camping says May 21st was a practice run. The real deal is going to happen in October:
A California preacher who foretold of the world’s end only to see the appointed day pass with no extraordinarily cataclysmic event has revised his apocalyptic prophecy, saying he was off by five months and the Earth actually will be obliterated on Oct. 21.

Harold Camping, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before catastrophe struck the planet, apologized Monday evening for not having the dates “worked out as accurately as I could have.”


Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God’s judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there’s no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.

“We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven ... if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”
So. Camping's been wrong twice already. But this time for real, you guys.

Here are ten things completely off the top of my head that Christians could do instead of sitting around pretending they have some secret knowledge about the date of something that isn't even really in the Bible: volunteer at the homeless shelter, work at Habitat for Humanity, visit someone with depression, consider taking in a foster child, donate to one of the many places dealing with tornado damage, help a single mom pay for groceries, ask your pastor who in your church could use help with bills, mow a shut-in's lawn, sponsor a kid in Big Brothers Big Sisters, or buy school supplies for a low-income family. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE THINGS WOULD BE MORE WORTHWHILE AND MAKE MORE OF A DIFFERENCE THAN SPENDING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON BILLBOARDS ADVERTISING YOUR STUPID PREDICTIONS.

Get you some. Adam McHugh suggests that all pastors see therapists:
If there were an awards banquet for the Most Improved Pastor trophy, I would tell the crowd what I told my former colleague that day: "Thank you. I've been in a lot of therapy." And I would mean it.

After only the spiritual disciplines and my marriage, I would give the greatest credit for my personal and pastoral growth to the numerous therapy sessions I have received over the last seven years. Whenever I interact with young pastors or those aspiring to pastoral ministry, my first suggestion is to find a good therapist. The recently publicized statistics on pastoral burnout, depression, and job turnover have convinced me that the sooner pastors make themselves comfortable on the therapist's couch, the better it will be for them and for the churches they serve.

When I consider the effect of therapy on my life, the word "unraveling" comes to mind. I began therapy because my life was full of knots, which (although they held my life and self-understanding together) choked off my connection to my true self. When threads are tangled together, it's almost impossible to differentiate one from another. They overlap and interweave and you cannot see where one thread starts, where it stops, and what path it takes to get there. Our motivations get lost in our choices, our presents get confused with our pasts, and our conscious behaviors get entangled with our subconscious desires. It's all but impossible to identify these threads and how they interconnect when they're knotted together. Therapy has been a space for me to slowly pull apart those knots and to lay the threads down side by side. I can then identity and evaluate them with an expert who is trained in thread management.
I know several colleagues who see therapists. One once described her need for a monthly therapist visit as her chance to "emotionally vomit" all the stuff she's pent up in between sessions. There come difficult situations or people in ministry where such a purging is necessary.

But what McHugh is suggesting is more than just a chance to vent, as much as that alone might be helpful. Through the rest of his article, he describes processing pastoral scenarios and relationships, unraveling the knots to get to what's really happening. He spends quite a bit of time on the concept of transference, where unresolved issues from a relationship with a parent, for instance, now manifest in the pastor-parishioner relationship. I found that part especially helpful myself.

McHugh is ultimately pointing to therapy as a way for pastors to reflect on what they face using clinical language rather than theological language. For some, that may sound heady, but being able to process what is going on inside and around oneself with an expert in another field could be very beneficial. Coffeewife, now working on her third higher education degree related to medicine and psychology has provided some good insight for me several times.

The new frontier looks a lot like the old frontier. Internet Monk guest blogger Damaris Zehner has some suggestions for churches to be missional in their local context:
Where are the wealthy churches willing to back a small business operator in a rural area as their mission project? How about those city churches with lots of professionals – could someone help to get grants for rural development, not just to keep open a necessary local store but to employ local people in local businesses? Mission work is not just church planting. Yes, rural people need a good church, but nowadays even good churches are filled with retirees; younger people, if they work at all, work an hour away, late shifts and early shifts, and become disconnected from their community. Many young people don’t work; it’s cheaper to live on food stamps out here than in the cities, and frankly, people can do pretty much anything they want in their old trailers in the woods – meth labs are competing with farming in most Midwestern rural areas. So yes, if you want grittiness and drama on your mission field, you can find it here: drug problems, broken families, teen pregnancies, hopeless lives – there is work for missionaries in these little towns and scope for active churches to get involved.

I know that running a doctor’s office or grocery store in rural America isn’t typically considered missions by many Christians. But if caring for people’s daily needs is a means of mission work in Burkina Faso, why not here? Many of the needs are the same, and rural Americans, like Burkinabes, will respond to people who are humbly serving as the face and hands of Christ.
What follows is a vision of mission that is incarnational: making it a point to live in one place for perhaps one's entire life getting to know the locals and ministering to them not only out of one's business, but out of one's ever-evolving sense that this is my town and my people.

It's a vision that is so alien to many, and Damaris acknowledges that. Ours is becoming a culture that is ever mobile and that puts more value on big cosmopolitan areas rather than modest rural ones. I am not immune to that; I don't pretend to be otherwise. But Damaris' suggestion is the spirit of being missional in its deepest sense, and in areas that many would sooner like to forget or ignore.

It's strange to think, however, about a wealthy city church planting a business in a rural area. I understand that they are the ones with the money, and that this follows a traditional church-planting model. However, would it make any more sense for a church already in that area doing such a thing? I only raise the question because it seems to me that the church that is already there would have an established interest in that community. The wealthy city church, on the other hand, would need to cultivate that interest before it could even get started. I suppose that ultimately it could work either way.