Monday, January 05, 2015

BookPastor >> "The Emotionally Healthy Church" (Peter Scazzero)

TITLE: The Emotionally Healthy Church, Expanded Edition: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives
AUTHOR: Peter Scazzero
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003, (226 pages).

This book is a needed emotional flu shot in preparation for any forms of ministry. Many well-intentioned individuals rush into ministry with big goals and impressive plans but inside them, their emotional tanks run dangerously low. What is needed is a good diagnosis, a healthy sense of mental awareness, and according to Scazzero, a "new paradigm of discipleship" via six principles.  In diagnosis, one needs to remember that emotional health is not any less important than spiritual health. Four levels of emotional maturity are described. The first is the "emotional infant" who need others to care for them, driven by need for instant gratification, and who are unaware of how others are hurt because of their behaviour. The second is "emotional children" who behaves well in good times, but throw tantrums in bad times. They are difficult to engage in good balanced discussions and tend to be one-sided. The third is "emotional adolescents" who know what are the right things to do but feels insecure when challenged. These people have trouble listening to others and tend to be defensive. The fourth level is the "emotional adult" who can love and respect others without becoming defensive, who knows themselves, and are ready to contribute to the general good of the community. This book is essentially about how one can move toward this fourth level.

Scazzero, founder of New Life Fellowship in Queens, NYC, proposes six principles on how to cultivate a healthy emotional church. This is simply because in the Church, far too much attention has been given to the spiritual and ignoring the importance of emotional which is a part of our whole being. For Jesus is both divine and human.

#1 - Look Beneath the Surface

Instead of rushing headlong to solve and work on things on the outside, it is critical to look what is happening on the inside. This is particular so for people who are efficient, fast, and busy.By jumping in without knowing what is going on inside, we can be so right outside but very wrong inside. Going beneath the surface essentially means self-awareness and what motivates us. It means asking ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. It means connecting our emotional health with gospel truth. It means becoming our true selves.

"Because of Christ's life, death, and resurrection for me, I can actually be free to be me. I can come out of hiding." (82)

"Knowing that I stand before God as his beloved has freed me to explore some of the disturbing and dark aspects of who I am." (83)

#2 - Break the Power of the Past
It is important to know how we can be caged in by the things of the past. One way to deal with it is to look at our own family history and make up. Understanding the way our family is will go a long way in appreciating who we are in the family tree. Scazzero helps us to identify the ways our families can shape us; the major influencers on us; how to be "reparented" in our church; leading the Church family like our own family; recognizing the number of people on our table. Three things are necessary:
  1. Learning to look within ourselves regarding our own motivations, purposes, plans, and family dynamics, and to be able to express it honestly, clearly, and respectfully to others.
  2. Creating a safe environment by setting appropriate boundaries and freedom for sharing
  3. Meeting people one on one to establish a relationship toward spiritual health and emotional growth.
Understand one's past. Be aware of our inner selves. Recognize that true transformation is only in Christ. Be willing to be "re-parented" by God through the Church community.

#3 - Live in Brokenness and Vulnerability

Related to honesty, Scazzero urges us to develop a theology of weakness so that we will not easily flee, take flight, or hide. He compares and contrasts two types of churches. The first is "proud and defensive" which tends to be defensive about flaws and weaknesses, easily offended, controlling, needing to always prove oneself is right, and a tendency to use people rather than to be used for people. The second is the "broken and vulnerable" that is transparent, unafraid to admit weakness, trusting, seeking to serve, and willing to concede if necessary. The transitioning to a model of weakness can be adopted by following the example of the delinquent prodigal son.

#4 - Receive the Gift of Limits

Scazzero shares the story of the "dilemma of the bridge" in which a stranger thrusts his own life into the hands of another person, and chooses to be reliant rather than to help himself. Using this story, we are reminded that sometimes we serve without really knowing our own limits. Every Church has her limits. Being human also means being limited emotionally, physically, and also relationally. Each person has limits that can be seasonal, personality driven, changing life situations, or various factors. Learn to say "no" when things exceed our own capacities. Indeed, knowing where our limits are helps us appreciate faith in God who would then take over.

"A critical issue for a church is to create and maintain a climate of love and respect for each person in the community. That requires intentionally teaching limits and boundaries as well as reparenting invasive people. I am referring to those who take up too much space at the expense of others, who don't allow others to express themselves, who manipulate and use people for their own purposes, or who damage the community by unbiblically approaching situations and people." (146)

#5 - Embrace Grieving and Loss

Scazzero believes that grieving develops maturity. Suffering helps our soul to grow. Pain and trial enable us to understand what it means to forgive. A key point he makes is that without learning to grieve, one would be ill equipped to deal with life. The Psalms is an amazing resource for us to learn to pay attention to. Many people in this world choose medication and drugs to numb themselves toward addiction. The Psalms teach us to understand life through "orientation, disorientation, and reorientation."

"Biblical grieving can feel as if it is only going to make things worse. Let me encourage you; it leads to life." (170)

#6 - Make Incarnation Your Model for Loving Well

Scazzero introduces "three dynamics of incarnation." The first is to enter another person's world by leaving our comfort zones. Meet people where they are, otherwise we may never get to know them at all. This means learning to listen and to be present; to practise discipleship by teaching people how to listen; do reflective listening; appropriate validation; and earnest exploring to draw people out. The second is to retain our sense of identity, what Scazzero says "holding on to yourself" so that even as we attempt to enter the world of another person, we do not lose ours. Scazzero adds that this dynamic  is the "most difficult, challenging principle to apply." The third dynamic is to learn to live between two worlds, heaven and earth. Like Jesus who does God's will and yet live in a limited human capacity, we need to learn to live and to accept a both/and more and more, and not to be locked into an either/or choice all the time.

Every chapter oozes with gems of wisdom and practical tips on how to live healthy emotional and spiritual lives. There are lots of examples and illustrations on how to relate to one another. The underlying theme is that being is more important than doing. Learning to respect the limits of self and at the same time, stretching ourselves when we are called to. I can sense that Scazzero himself had scars that he is recovering from, judging from the way he shares with conviction and with insight. There are exercises, inventory questions, discussion notes for readers to work together in a group setting. Great resource for building healthy churches!


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