There are several related articles on this page.

1 The Circulatory System by John M. Crowe

2. Godliness and Cleanliness for Healthy Church Bodies by John M. Crowe 

3. Christian Discipleship and Martial Arts by John M. Crowe


4. The Axis of Christian Ministry  by John M. Crowe 

5. The Wounds of Jesus and Our Wounds  by John M. Crowe 

6. Timing Chains and Hearts: How Is Yours? by John M. Crowe

7. Brother Martin or Pastor Superstar? by John M. Crowe


8. Jesus & Clergy Health  by John M. Crowe 

9. Self-Denial and Self-Care  by John M. Crowe

10. Soul Care and The Caregiver's Soul by John M. Crowe


11. Motivation, Meaning, and Ministry by John M. Crowe

12. Various Books on Boundaries

13. Further Reading About Boundaries

14. Mental Illness and Boundaries

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

The circulatory system energizes and defends the various subsystems of the human body. The red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients. The white blood cells to fight disease or infection.

Apart from the circulatory system, the human body cannot live. The skin, bones, muscles, internal organs and the nervous system all depend upon the blood cells of the circulatory system. In the same way, the soundness of individual Christians is crucial to the sound health of the whole church body. Church health not only involves the corporate life of the church but also the individual members of the body of Christ. As it concerns overall church health, biblical teaching concerning the church touches the spiritual, moral, relational, behavioral, emotional, and physical fitness of each Christian

A Healthy Church Circulation System involves the maturity of both clergy and laity in holy wholeness in our Savior, Lord, Sanctifier, and Healer Jesus Christ.

Godliness for Healthy Churches

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

I. The Wesleyan Concern for Cleanliness and Sanctification.

For century after century the idea prevailed among Christians that filthiness was akin to holiness. This only helped the spread of diseases like the "Black Plague."  John Wesley and the early Methodists not only called people to justification or forgiveness by the free grace of God, but also to Sanctification or perfection in love by God's amazing grace as well. On one occasion Mr. Wesley said "Cleanliness is next to godliness."  His concern for personal hygiene rose out of his understanding that the application of sanctifying grace was for the cleaning up of the whole person. It also came from his concern for people's mental and physical health also coming from his understanding of sanctification, pastoral care, and Christian discipleship.

  A. Both Justification Based and Sanctification Directed

The whole early Methodist mission sought to first bring people to faith in Christ and then to Christ-like character.

Wesley, as a modified Anglican, drew his understanding of sanctification from catholic Christianity, especially the Early Church Fathers. Wesley, thus, defined sanctification primarily as a relationship of pure love to Christ. In particular, the church season of Lent provides the opportunity to examine the growth and the need for growth of our relationship with Jesus as a congregation. However, anytime is a good opportunity to seek the Holy Spirit's light via God's written Word on the state of our spiritual hygiene in Jesus.

It is very important to remain focused on the ethic of loving God with all the heart. Otherwise, we may fall into a legalistic, moralistic view of sanctification where do’s and don’ts alone define a life of holy love. At the heart of the call to the spiritual hygiene of our whole life in Christ and the whole life of Christ's church, are healthy relationships of holy love. Therefore, true spiritual hygiene does not truly exist where authentic Christian love is not present. Even if it shines brightly with an outward appearance of holiness, it is but a form of genuine religion without the empowering of God's love to perfecting people in a healthy love for God, themselves, one another, and others.

A legalistic tone concerning holiness unto the Lord is more akin to the judicial views of John Calvin and the Reformed tradition. It is also reminiscent of Ephesian church in Revelation 2.

The season of Lent is a time of self-examination and repentance. Given the influence of American individualism upon churches, we tend to only think of individual introspection and penitence. Thus, we may wrongly conclude that good spiritual hygiene is only personal but not corporate and social. From our United Methodist perspective of the Gospel, Christ’s holy Church is not only justification-based but also sanctification-directed. Such sanctified living in the Spirit leads us from private piety and holiness to our relationships with others as well as our roles in society.

II. The New Testament’s Penetrating Perspective.

The book of Revelation portrays Jesus Christ standing amidst the churches with fiery eyes examining their faith according to the measure of their love for God and others. Jesus said that by our love, people would know that we are his disciples. 

The church at Ephesus had become a moralistic, over-functioning, doctrinaire church minus its first passionate love for Christ. As Jesus said, “Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love” (Rev. 2:3). George Beasley-Murray views this exhortation as focusing on the decrease of the love of the church for others. As he states in his commentary,

where love for God wanes, love for man diminishes, and where love for man is soared, love for God degenerates into religious formalism. . . . The Ephesian believers were not wholly without love. It was their early love which had failed, and the early love must be recovered. (75)

Several NT verses speak of the importance of brotherly love within the church. In particular, the NT speaks of faith as demonstrated by loving truthfully in our attitudes, actions, and speech. If a church does not have loving relationships within itself, strangers and those in need are in trouble.

If the relationships within a congregation are angry, tense, irritable, out of biblical balance and otherwise not loving, then strangers, those in need, leaders of the church and others mentioned in Hebrews chapter 13 are in trouble. They will not find the holy Christ-like love that the whole NT calls us to demonstrate. 

Biblically speaking, the fiery eyes of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ scan the churches of the world, our country, our state, our conference, our district, our county, and our community. Jesus wonders if he will find faith on earth upon his return. He knows the love of many will grow cold because of sin hardened, embittered, unforgiving, hearts.

Jesus is looking for faith filled churches whose love for God and others is not lukewarm. Jesus is looking for faithful churches who have not left their first love for God, each other, the stranger and those in need. He tells churches with only a lukewarm love that he feels like throwing up and calls them to repent. He warns those who have left their first love like the church at Ephesus that unless they repent, he will take their lamp stand for God is a consuming fire. 

The good news is that as the Ephesian church heard Jesus’ words calling them to repent, churches are returning to their first love Jesus Christ. Other congregations have acquired the fire of God’s love afresh so that they are no longer lukewarm in their love for God, each other, and others.

As he did in the book of Revelation, Jesus is encouraging the faithful to keep on for their labor of love in the Lord is not in vain. May the cry of our hearts be “Lord, I want to be a Christian, Lord I want to be more loving in my heart.” May God’s love divine descend upon our hearts and set our hearts aflame a new with love for God, for each other, for strangers and for those in need. May we together serve God acceptably by holy, Christ-like, loving attitudes, actions, and words for our God is a consuming fire!

A good question to ask during Lent or anytime for that matter is “How does Jesus see _____UMC?” A good way to prayerfully discern the answers is by reading the NT Epistles (see some examples below the end of this article.). 

As you read, look for the examples of holy love for God and others the Apostles compliment. Also, look for the examples of its lack that the Apostles call for. Then ask the Holy Spirit to show you what is true of your church? Such spiritual discernment is God’s calling upon you to intercede for your church in prayer, never to fault finding. Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you see where such a lack of holy love might be true of you.

  A. A Great Tragedy of Love.

If someone asked you to tell them the greatest tragedy of the American Church within our lifetime, what would you name? Was it the scandals of the TV evangelists several years ago? Is it the increased interest in non-Christian religions like the New Age movement, Islam, and Buddhism? Is it the decrease of biblical values and morality among church people? No, as Robert Moeller wrote in 1994 in his book, Love In Action,

The well-publicized televangelist scandals of the late eighties did minimal harm to the reputation of the church in our culture—that is, in comparison to the true scandal of our time. The true scandal is the way Christians mistreat one another, fighting and conducting uncivil wars against one another in churches across our nation. (41)

Even the recent scandal in the Roman Catholic Church does overshadow this reality.

Space does not allow for the startling statistics concerning unloving relationships within so many churches in America. The findings of a study by the Board of Higher Education of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod People give us a representative view of the American church scene. Their report includes the following statements.

People, both laity and clergy, are verbally and emotionally beating on each other;

Outward oriented clergy are consistently mismatched with inward oriented churches;

Failing to send only the most mature pastor and strong pastoral family in hopes of bringing peace into a fighting congregation;

The extremely low level of trust held by pastors concerning denominational means of assistance;

A large number of pastors are in the advanced stages of professional and personal burnout;

Pastors’ wives and children stand in greater need of support than pastors;

Grossly unreasonable expectations too often lead pastors to neglect their own health and family;

Allowing churches with a long history of chewing up one pastor and family after another continue without any substantial intervention;

A few congregations who are held hostage by an EGO-centered minority who Edge God Out; 

and the need for pastors to address what drives them in ministry and live balanced lives. (Klaas and Klaas)

Some may vainly hope that only the Lutherans are experiencing such church health problems. H.B. London and Neil Wiseman’s book, Pastors at Risk, wakes us up from such a dream with the following statistics about pastors as a whole in America.

Consider the following sobering survey results of the personal and professional lives of the clergy:

80% believe that pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively.

33% say that being in the ministry is a hazard to their family.

70% say they have a lower self-esteem than when they started in the ministry.

70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month. (22)

Sometimes the unloving relationship styles of either church members and/or pastors as well as their families arise from either family-of-origin issues and/or personality disorders hiding behind various religious masks and a shallow spirituality.

This description helps us understand why people are writing so many books about church health. They also make clear the reason for the recent works about spiritual abuse, sick churches, unhealthy conflict, exit interviews, and the de-churched. To see more statistics and my references, read “A Sick Body”.

  B. Christ’s Calling of Holy Love for Members, Officers, and Clergy.

A holy lifestyle without love is like a sounding brass or a tinkling bell. A loving lifestyle without holiness lacks biblical boundaries. Neither by themselves have the moral authority to speak the truth in love. In Jesus Christ, we see the prefect expression of God’s holy love. 

As responsible recipients of God’s grace, the diversity of the Church calls Christians to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace through Christian love. Our guidelines for living a life of holy love are found in both our General Rules and in our Social Principles.

A concern for holiness of heart and life of people within the Church is very often reflected in the qualifications of Christian character, and competency to serve for church officers (Book of Discipline 95, 144), and in the installation vows for church officers (UMBW 600). In the United Methodist Church, the “Installation of Church Officers” calls officers to sustain or enable a congregation as a people of love (UMBW 600). Those who are immature in Christian character are not competent for such a task.

Christ’s Holy Church’s concern for holiness of heart and life within the body of Christ is also reflected in the standards for persons qualifying for ordination, and in their ordination service. For example, since the days of early Methodism, candidates for full connection or ordination in an Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and related denominations are asked questions like the following from John Wesley:

1. Have you faith in Christ?

2. Are you going on to perfection?

3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?. Are you earnestly seeking after it? (Book of Discipline 214)

Therefore, United Methodist pastors are expected to completely dedicate themselves to the highest ideals of the Christian life.

To this end, they agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in all personal relationships, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and in the knowledge and love of God. (Book of Discipline 184)

In the United Methodist Church, the “Order for the Celebration of an Appointment” focuses on the pastor’s commitment toward sustaining or equipping a congregation as a people of love (UMBW 595).

Jesus calls all of us as members, officers, and clergy to live and minister together in the holy love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. During the season of Lent and other times as well, may each church sing “Take Time to Be Holy” as a congregational prayer. May what we sing with our lips, we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts, we may practice in our lives. (UMH 69).

Works Cited

Beasley-Murray, George R. The Book of Revelation. New Century Bible. Greenwood, SC: Attic P, 1974.

Klaas, Alan C., and Cheryl D. Klaas. Clergy Shortage Study. Conducted in November of 1999 by Mission Growth Studies for the Board of Higher Education of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. 20 Jul.2000

London, H.B., Jr., and Neil B. Wiseman. Pastors At Risk. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1993.    

Moeller, Robert. Love in Action: Healing Conflict in Your Church. Sisters, OR: Questar Publishers, 1994.

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 1996. Ed. Harriett Jane Olson. Nashville: The UM Publishing House, 1996. 

The Holy Bible: The New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.

The United Methodist Book of Worship. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992.

The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.

A list of the Epistles of the NT and their focus upon the congregation not included in this article.

Sixteen of the 22 NT Epistles address the congregation first before dealing with individuals. For example:

Romans God’s free grace is not a license for sinning more that grace may abound more, but the key to living a transformed life

I Corinthians exhorts several symptoms of divisions and spiritual Immaturity

II Corinthians calls for congregational forgiveness of a repentant brother in Christ and upholds Paul’s apostleship

Galatians rebukes legalism also known as loveless holiness.

Ephesians focuses on the unity of the Church between Jews and Gentiles in Christ and the church’s high calling.

Philippians rebukes pride by focusing on Jesus’ humility.

Colossians emphasizes Christ as the head of the church and warns against trusting in worldly wisdom.

I Thessalonians exhorts a very young church to personal & social holiness, brotherly love, and being industrious in light of Jesus’ promised Second Coming.

II Thessalonians comforts those alarmed by misinterpreting parts of the first letter and rebukes those who are lazy, busybodies or stubbornly disobedient.

Hebrews calls Jewish Christians back to the central focus of Jesus Christ instead of Judaism or attaching too much importance to ceremonial observations.

James calls for good works, particularly taming the tongue and not showing favoritism to the rich and not mere profession of Christian faith.

I Peter encourages Christians throughout Asia Minor to victory over suffering as exemplified in Jesus’ life.

II Peter warns against false teachings and rebukes scoffers of Jesus’ promised Second Coming.

I John calls for holy living, love among Christians; warns against false teaching and assures them of eternal life.

Jude warns the church against immoral teachers and alarming heresies that endangered the faith of believers.

Although I & II Timothy, Titus as well as II & III John are written to individuals, the emphasis is on some aspect of congregational leadership and life that involves the character of the leader.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus called 5 of the 7 churches to repentance? Read chapter 3:19-22


This Article appeared in Sharing The Practice: The International Quarterly Journal of the Academy of Parish Clergy. Volume XXIV No. 4 2001 pages 11-19.

Used with permission

Christian Discipleship and Martial Arts

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

 As a Christian and as a martial artist, I see many parallels between Christian Discipleship and the martial arts.

A Gift and New Identity

All beginners in martial arts receive a white belt. Like salvation, it is a gift. Like baptism, it identifies you as a martial artist. You become a Christian by receiving the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Your Christian baptism is the first outward  sign of Christian discipleship that gives outward expression to the inward work of salvation by God’s abundant free grace.

A Journey toward maturity

In a martial art such as Tae Kwon Do, the journey to the first degree black belt is very much like maturing as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The early belts in any martial art system is like someone who is in the elementary level of Christian discipleship feeds on milk. As one grows through the remaining intermediate and advanced belts, he/she matures in both personal character and ability as a martial artist. Similarly, as a disciple of Jesus Christ moves the spiritual milk of God's Word to the meat. Thus, they mature into Christian adulthood through practicing what they've been taught. As adult Christians, not only do they know what is good and what is evil more clearly, they are also able to teach others.

Character Development

People learn much more than punching, kicking and self-defense in martial arts. Character development is also important. As in martial arts, the pastor and other instructors work on character development as well as through both small groups and one-on-one instruction. As in a TKD Do Jang, the pastor is the chief instructor in the church. The chief instructor of a church works through other mature Christians to train others. This is very similar to a chief TKD instructor delegating some training to other black belts.

The well-being of a healthy TKD Do Jang depends on developing and selecting healthy leaders to help train others. The same is true of developing a healthy congregation of Christian disciples. Instead of wallowing in self-pity over not having a good leadership pool, the most pro-active step is to disciple those who are open to grow into further maturity as whole persons.

Unhealthy Discipleship

Unfortunately, some martial arts Do Jang’s are only concerned about earning money, numbers and prestige. Their academy’s give out belts like diploma mills. Very little skill is learned and even less character is developed. Much of what is learned needs to be unlearned later on.

Likewise, unhealthy churches function as cookie cutter disciple mills. Some of these unhealthy churches function solely from a secular business model by crunching numbers about attendance, giving units, numerical growth, programs, and their worldly approach to selecting leaders. Other unhealthy churches weigh people down with legalism. Some offer an unhealthy religious outlook that only tells men to be nice and women to be great servants. Number crunching leads to people crushing. The lagoons of legalism leads people into depression or into wild rebellion. Good boy--good girl religion has the form of godliness but lacks the power. No wonder men are bored and women are exhausted in such churches. In every one of these unhealthy churches, the genuine biblical formation of the congregation's spirituality, attitudes, behavior, thinking, and relationships is ignored for the sake of keeping the machine running.

People who come from such unhealthy churches have much to unlearn like those whose early martial arts experience was in an unhealthy Do Jang. . Although by this time some should already be teaching others, they like the readers of Hebrews must be taught the basics of Christian faith and living all over again.

Sometimes, a martial artist is entirely focused on gaining his or her next belt. However good this goal might be and talented he or she may be, the main thing is character development. A martial artist whose personal character is not maturing will bring disrespect to the TKD Do Jang regardless of belt rank or ability. Likewise, if people only participate in the required training only for the sake of gaining a church office, ministry position, or even joining a local church, they will lack the necessary Christian character. In the end, they will bring disrespect to the church.

Healthy Discipleship

To progress in any martial art involves more than merely attending class. The martial arts student grows in self-discipline as they exercise and practice at home. Therefore, the purpose of attending class is for more than practice. Class attendance is for instruction of new lessons and corrections related to previous lessons. Attendance is important, but by itself will not make one a complete martial artist.

The Sabum Nim's (instructor's) purpose is not to do for the student what they can do for themselves. As a black belt in a martial art, theSabum Nim is worthy to be treated with respect. Their purpose is to guide, encourage and support the budding martial arts student along the path from childhood to adulthood in Tae Kwon Do. Along the way, the student in turn also helps those in the earlier belts with their progress. Given the wide range of ages and levels of ability that the instructor must address, it is best to not make their task anymore challenging by being disrespectful. It is disrespectful to expect to mature as a martial artist by only attending class.

To progress as a disciple of Jesus Christ involves more than only attending Sunday school and worship. Attendance is important (Acts 2:42-48; Hebrews 10:25), but it alone will not make one a mature Christian disciple. The disciple grows in spiritual self-discipline as they practice and exercise their Christian faith at home, school, work and play (John 8:31-32; James 1:22). Therefore, the purpose of attending church related classes and worship involves far more than the practices of praying, singing, fellowshipping, and reading or hearing the Bible. Active attendance of the various ministries of the church primarily focuses upon instruction and equipping of new lessons and corrections related to previous ones (II Timothy 3:16-17).

The pastor's purpose (like the TKD Sabum Nim) is not to do for church members what they can do for themselves as a Christian disciples. As a spiritual leader, the pastor is worthy to be treated with respect (Ephesians 4:9-11; I Timothy 5:17-19; I Thessalonians 5:12-13). Their purpose is to guide, encourage, support, instruct and equip the budding disciple along the path of spiritual maturity from childhood to adulthood in the ministry of all Christians (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Along the way, the disciple in turn also helps younger disciples with their spiritual progress (II Timothy 2:2). Given the wide range of people and levels of spiritual maturity that the pastor must address, it is best not to add many more challenges to their task by being disrespectful (Hebrews 13:17). It is disrespectful to expect Worship and Sunday school attendance alone to make you a mature Christian disciple. One of the greatest problem in churches today is the lack of sincere honor for God, for each other and for God's ministers.

It is also disrespectful for a black belt to think they have no more to learn. Similarly, any clergy person who graduated from seminary and is ordained demonstrates disrespect for Jesus and for Christ's church by not continuing to mature in character and skill. The same can be said for laity who serve as local church, district or conference officers. Although both clergy and laity may become spiritual black belts in Jesus, the master quest calls them to God's highest and best through his amazing grace in further obedience to His Word by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

The Axis of Christian Ministry

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

 I. A Spiritual System

The church is the body of Christ. As a spiritual system made up of Christ’s disciples, the church consists of several interrelated subsystems (See I Cor. 12-14 and Ephesians). For our purposes, they are analogous to the major subsystems of human anatomy. Within the circulatory subsystem, Christ calls each disciple to continue growing and mentoring of one another in holy wholeness. Inside the nervous system, Jesus calls pastor’s to equip others for ministry and laity to be equipped for ministry through first encouraging a healthy leadership team. Amidst the muscles, skin and internal organs, the Holy Spirit calls us to forming group harmony through loving relationships full of both grace and truth. Congregational spirituality, like our human skin both connects us up with our head Jesus Christ and to holds the whole body together. The ascended Jesus gave equipping gifts of ministry to the church to prepare every Christian for service to a hurting world. I call this the body in action.

In the months ahead, I will continue sharing biblical and practical insights concerning some aspect of the church as a spiritual system in Christ.

II. Character Counts

For example, the Apostle Paul included various admonitions about Timothy’s own well-being as a leader of the Ephesian Church (1 Tim. 4:12-16; 6:11-16, 20; and 2 Tim. 1:6; 2:3-7, 22-26; 3:14-15; 4:2, 5). Also, the pastoral epistles express great concern for those selected to church leadership in light of our personal character, relationships at home, reputation outside of the church, and the spouse’s character. His concern for integrity, character and relationships is expressed to everyone in the congregations Paul wrote to as well. Such biblical concern for the individual living their Christian life by God’s grace in every arena of life addresses the circulatory system of the local church.

III. The Priority of Personal Wholeness in Jesus

Christian ministry rotates on the axis of personal wholeness for both clergy and laity. This calls for us to grow first in our own personal well-being as persons, spouses, and families. We can gain much by asking God to show us what needs to change in us first?

 A. Number One Priority-God

Our first priority calls us to keep maturing in our intimacy with God through a growing devotional life. Another part of a growing spiritual life also includes faithful physical exercise, sound nutrition, adequate sleep, and intellectual development. This priority helps keep us and our families focused on the Lord of the Church instead of on problems or popularity.

   B. Second Priority-Spouse & Family 

Our second priority includes growing more intimate with our spouses and families. A healthy marriage is a priceless asset to all Christians, but particularly to both clergy and local church leaders. Some husbands and wives find it helpful to take a break from everything including children by getting away on a regular basis. It is wise to plan times with your spouse when your own emotional tank is not on empty. Congregations who see the clergy and lay leadership loving their spouses feel more secure or less anxious than those who don’t.

 C. Third Priority-Friends

Our third priority includes growing more intimate with our friends. Some clergy and laity are so busy working for the Lord they not only forget the Lord of the work, and neglect their families, they also lack a balanced social life. Having at least one Pauline-type friend who challenges our growth, some Barnabus type friends who encourage us, and several Timothy-type relationships with people who need our encouragement and mentoring forms a healthy dynamic. We dare not neglect our humanness as persons. If we do we will reduce our lasting effectiveness.

Dr. Dale Galloway shared the following in his lecture on "An Action Plan for Sharing Ministry together with lay people" at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Quotes to Ponder

Hurts in the ministry call for tougher skin. People are really not doing this to us, but they are taking their own stuff all out on us. We have to see beyond this and pay attention to our own inner spirit and such times. You can't afford self-pity in the ministry. Like a cut that needs to be kept clean from infection to heal, our emotional hurts and ministry must be kept clean to heal. As long as you blame others or have resentment, ill feelings, self-pity, you will not be healed. Take responsibility for your attitudes and actions. Stop rehearsing the hurt -- face it and let go of it. Everyone with a very deep level of ministry to people has gone through much pain.

Overcome negative happenings in ministry by taking positive actions. No emotional health or relationship can exist without forgiveness. Dealing with hurts in ministry will either break you or make you.

Do not write or call people when you are upset with them or when your emotional tank is low.

What renews your emotional tank? When your emotions are down, you are more susceptible to temptations. People get into trouble when their adrenaline is down. Stop looking for ways to get an emotional fix.”

 D. Need for Balance

Overall, pastors, church leaders, church members and our families can harness the fire of the Holy Spirit in our ministry by seeking balance in our life, relationships and ministry. Furthermore, personal, family, and social wholeness definitely influence the impact of other aspects of our life and ministry together within the church as well.

Works Cited

Galloway, Dale. “An Action Plan for Sharing Ministry Together with Lay People.” Lecture to DM  816. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 15 Jan. 1998. 

The Holy Bible: The New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978. 

The Wounds of Jesus and Our Wounds

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

 In my final Doctor of Ministry class, I presented the final devotional of the week. I raised two questions. What does the Bible tell us was the same about Jesus’ body after his resurrection? How do the Scriptures portray what was no longer the same about Jesus body?

Jesus’ resurrection body bore the scars of his crucifixion. However, while the scares remained their ability to function was changed. With his resurrection body, Jesus had full use of his hands, feet, and side. Those wounded places were now transformed into something whole and more powerfully effective. Thus, where you are hurt, our resurrected Jesus can bring you healing. While such healing will not remove the scars, it will transform where you are hurt into a new way of functioning in his resurrection power.

Sometimes we experience the pain of ministry and/or the pain of life in a parsonage almost as intense as the Passion of Christ. As a result, some find themselves carrying the secret burden of depression. Others struggle with depression not only in their ministry but also in their marriage to the point of about being ready to quit.

Several burn out having giving of themselves greatly while never feeling loved or valued on any basis but performance. They feel the emptiness of never knowing the love of their family where to survive they were never able to be themselves.

A few see suffering for Jesus to mean creating their own suffering by crucifying themselves in the work of ministry focused totally on the needs of others, but never taking care of themselves for they are neither able to set or live within healthy boundaries. Because of never coming apart for the proper care of ministry, their life and their ministry comes apart. 

An unknown number grew up in families where the rules where “don’t trust, don’t feel, don’t talk.” They often live in a constant stake of high anxiety that either leads them to be very controlling or very familiar with being controlled. Due to never being allowed to feel and thus never learning how to handle their emotions whatever they have not worked through will be acted out in some harmful way either to their life and ministry or both. Because they never could talk openly about issues at home, they continue to talk indirectly as adults and sometimes function in passive-aggressive ways in times of very high anxiety.

Jesus Christ’s resurrection victory over sin, the domain of darkness, death, the devil and the grave offers us the transformation of our pain. His compassionate and strong grace to help us rise above the unhealthy ways of existing with our pain. While the scars will still remain, those hurt parts of our lives can be raised to new level of functioning by God’s amazing free grace. As a result new power and effectiveness in both living and ministry will come into our lives. Our risen Lord and Savior offers to us life and life more abundantly. Then more of Jesus’ abundant love and grace can both flow into us and through us to others. 

Timing Chains and Hearts: How Is Yours?

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.


When I drove our boys to Fayetteville, North Carolina for a youth event called Pilgrimage, my car broke down. Upon the mechanic’s examination, we learned the timing chain broke. He was not sure, it would nor how it would run if I wanted him to fix it.

When I picked the repaired car up on Friday, I talked with the mechanic about various problems the car went through earlier. He said it was possible that a weakening timing chain would lead to the EGR Valve code calling for its replacement; the alternator going out; the motor mounts being replaced; too many service codes at one time to know what the real problem was; and the deterioration of the car’s internal computer. I don’t think the fuel pump breaking down could be tied back to the downfall of the timing chain.

Truly, this small but very important part of a car’s engine is its heart. For a good while, I had been so busy dealing with symptoms that I did not even wonder if there was a deeper problem. I was considering putting a new computer in the car at some point thinking that would get to the heart of the multiple engine codes. Well, I now know even that would have only been treating another symptom.

Our hearts are very similar to an engine’s timing chain. We can lose our perspective in treating symptoms instead of seeing how our heart is doing. As we begin a new year, we probably desire God’s grace to help in some area(s) of our life. Are we asking for the correction of a symptom? Have we asked God to show us the condition of our hearts?

The Early Church Father, Irenaeus, said that “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” The Son of God was not incarnate to demonstrate who God is, to die on the cross and to raise from the dead to make bad people good and good people better. No, he came to wake up the dead! Jesus’ mission was to give us a new heart! Christ offers us a new life now! 

Since the Glory of God and our being fully alive in Jesus are bound together, do you see why the enemy of our souls terrorizes our hearts so fiercely! Despite what some may preach, teach or write neither the Christian life nor full time Christian ministry is The Wizard of Oz, Mayberry RFD, Seinfeld’s world nor Survivor. It is much more like The Lord of the Rings.

We live on a battlefield of the longest lasting world war in history. (For a vivid presentation of how the early church struggled with this, check out the VHS or DVD version of The Apocalypse with Richard Harris.) The focus of this world war is for people’s hearts. The enemy of our souls does not want your heart to be fully alive in Christ for Satan abhors God’s glory and fears what you could be or once were with a vital heart.

Jesus said for every one of us to guard our hearts. Biblically speaking, you are not your mind. You have a mind that processes information. Nor are you your emotions for they are the voice of the real you, your heart. Your heart, the real you, lives very much in touch with the horrors and awesome realities of birth, life and death.

People who live only out of their minds put forth a false self and come across to others as detached and unavailable. As someone once said “those who cease to feel, cease to learn because the numb become dumb. “You are never a great man when you have more mind than heart.” Beauchene

Others who live out of their emotions often experience their minds filling them with condemnation over the past or anxious worry about the future. Neither Star Trek’s “Mr. Spock,” the television detective “Monk,” Martin Luther before his conversion, nor John Wesley before his heart warming experience were fully alive in their hearts.

Prayerfully consider the condition of your timing chain, your heart, with these modified questions from John Eldredge’s A Guidebook for Waking the Dead.

      1. Are you living only to be efficient?

      2. Are you mainly concerned about productivity?

      3. Is your primary motivation personal safety?

      4. Do you lust for others will notice and remember you for your busyness?

     5. Are you consumed with niceness so everyone will love you?

     6. Is most of your Christian activity done under pressure?

     7. Has your life become exclusively routine, mundane… living in a malaise or fog bank?

     8. Is your work or calling mostly a drudgery?

     9. Do you have little passion for beauty and adventure?

    10. Do you rarely laugh deeply or weap?

    11. Have you become preoccupied with you,   your needs, desires, wounds.

    12. Men has boredom led you to have socially accepted or hidden compulsive addictions, behaviors, etc?

    13. Women have you lost yourself in business and thus have socially accepted or hidden compulsive addictions, excessive behaviors in shopping or in volunteering, memberships in clubs, etc?

Do you remember the theme song, The Eye of the Tiger, from Rocky III? One line in this song stands out the most and fits the theme of the movie “traded his passion for glory.” Rocky worried about loosing all of the things his career had brought to him. Thus, he lost heart as a boxer. His wife, Adrian, confronts him on the beach about his lack of heart and why? She answers his emotional reasoning about the future with “So, we will still have each other.” Sometimes I think Jesus is saying the same thing to individual clergy, laity, congregations, districts, conferences, and other Christian organizations. Have you traded in your passion and true glory in Christ and brought disrespect to the Glory of God by contentment with the world’s glory?

As a new pastor in the early 1980’s, I remember a brother sharing a very telling story. He told of hearing about an older but not yet retired preacher speaking about his call to ministry. He said that when the man spoke of his calling and early ministry, he became quit alive. Hardly any trace of such heartiness, however, was present in the man’s ministry now. The man concluded saying, “I don’t want to become a crusty, hardened, embittered preacher like him. I’m at the point in my life and ministry where I see what it takes to be a good pastor and what it takes to climb the latter. I must chose which way to go.” What have you chosen and where has that choice led you?

Some of us knew Wade Goldston, others have heard of him and yet others never have. Either way, what is important about Rev. Goldston was his genuine enthusiasm for Christ, for the Church, for ministry and for life. Years after his retirement, people much younger than him would comment about his enthusiasm. They were amazed! Are those who are younger than us saying the same thing. 

Prayerfully reflect upon two closing poems.


I wrote this poem during my senior year at Asbury Theological Seminary in 1982.

Many are full of joy and live with expectancy,

Some come to hide or to find a new identity.

Some come for knowledge, and others come to grow,

Some are here for one purpose, and others just don't know

Some have just been born again and have some sense of calling.

Many are interested in just content, and others in the grading.

And of the graduating masses that reach this noble plane,

only a handful will bring glory and honor to Jesus’ Name.

Will people find us one day as those in the retired connection as inspiring examples of hearts fully alive?


Written on the 30th anniversary of my ordination

Many enter with zeal like a firebrand.

The question is how will they end?

Some will drop out, and

Others will burn out.

A few might die,

While others seem to fly

The question remains, how will they end?

Will faith and love glow like when they began?

Cold ordinands or still fire brands?

Will they over the decades continue to burn?

Will Jesus find faith and love alive upon his return?

Again, the question, how will they end?

Will they have fought the good fight of faith to the end?

Will they still love Jesus like when they were born again?

How, my question is, how will they end?

Additional Reading

The Dark Side of The Intimate Pastorate by Thomas F. Fischer

Works Cited

Eldredge, John. A Guidebook for Waking the Dead. Thomas Nelson, 2003

Brother Martin or Pastor Superstar?

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

 According to a consultant for Lutheran churches in North Carolina, they are seeing conflict increasing in churches and with that greater pressure on pastors. With that is the increase in the desire that congregations have to survive and progress. They see the "right pastor" as the key element in this. Does this sound like many non Lutheran churches? Sad to say it does. In our day of technological perfection, modern churches and denominations look for clergy who have it all together (as if they ever existed).

When we ask for a definition of the “right pastor”, we often hear a cartoon version of Super Man. Thus the desire for Pastor Superstar leads many denominational leaders and local church leaders to expect “Pastor Clark Kent” to become their hero. However, Superman was Clark Kent who had his weaknesses. The man was vulnerable to kryptonite.

The stated or unstated desire for Pastor Superstar helps create anxiety driven clergy who are driven by the demands of others. Occasionally, but very rarely, you might hear slip in an unguarded moment. Once, I heard such a Superstar Parson say rather flippantly and sarcastically, “and they think I’m a caring person”?

These co-dependent souls seek to meet their personal needs: attention, love, significance, control, status, and security by trying to fit into the image of a Superstar Pastor. They will over function as much as they needed to create and maintain an image as the omni competent, never tiring, ever present, ever ready to preach or teach without preparation, expert money raiser, resident church growth consultant, whose counseling ability far exceeds that of Dr. Phil as the church’s super pastor. They are often heard talking Super Pastor talk by saying they’d rather burn out than rust out for God.

Most often, the superstar parson appears to demonstrate a superior gift of faith by how they trust God to preserve their health, marriage and family. The spouse and children hardly see “Pastor Superstar” for they usually come home just for a few hours of sleep, even less time for their spouse and basically no time for their children. Sad to say but while “Pastor Superstar” knows many so well, they too often only know about their children by what their spouse tells them right before going to sleep.

However, wherever the spouse and children of Parson Superstar went, read in the newspaper, or saw on TV, they experienced a constant reminder of how much he or she was loved by so many while doing great things for God and helping so many in Christ’s name. While their beloved “Pastor Superstar” appears to be attaining sainthood among those who really don’t know him or her very well, the parson’s family will never forget how this person really is when at home. They know all to well that “Parson Superstar” has clay feet and what their own kryptonite is.

It may seem almost impossible to be the tenth pastor after Rev. Dr. Superstar. However, the stories one might expect are not always what one hears. With confused faces, people will speak of all “Pastor Superstar” did to help their church progress beyond just surviving. However, as they tell you what happened either then or since then to the parson’s marriage, family and sometimes even to their beloved former pastor, they can hardly stop the crying.

Brother Martin, unlike Pastor Superstar is almost post-modern although he lived in much earlier times. This author of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and the leader of the Reformation saw no reason to hide his battle with depression. He felt no burden of shame this problem nor was he hindered by any stigma to keep him from sharing about it with others. He would include his battles with depression in some of his sermons, teachings and writings as a way of offering pastoral care to others as an authentic wounded healer. He also used this problem when instructing other pastors concerning their ministry of pastoral care.

Postmodern local church leaders and others in religious leadership seek and support spiritually authentic clergy like Brother Martin. They don’t expect their clergy to act as if their lives do not include our common human experience of both pain and joy, tragedy and victory.

Examples of Brother Martin type pastors include  Jim Cymballa, Doug Murren, Rick Warren, and the pastor who wrote Escape from Church Inc. plus lesser known people.

Within one congregation of any denomination some people might really want a “Pastor Superstar. Others may strongly desire a Brother Martin. Such church’s experience conflict because their identity is conflicted. One group is looking for a multi-gifted, omni-competent pastor. The other group is looking for authentic spiritual leadership of the church as the multi-gifted body of Christ.

In a traditional denomination, it is possible to find individual churches either hoping for either Brother Martin or Pastor Superstar. They often experience conflict around mismatches between church and pastor. Some of this conflict though has more to do with kind of a midlife identity crisis that older church groups seem to be going through right now. Thus, their conflict issues are more intense.

Post-modern churches are often outside of mainline denominations and sometimes part of an emerging church organization. They very rarely want a Pastor Superstar. They know all too well that all that glittered in the old days of church growth was not gold in God’s eyes. Very often, these churches are those who value the importance of church health the most and for the sake of having healthy ministries for a hurting world. These churches very seldom need to read an article or hear a church consultant tell them that their pastor’s health is quite often a reflection of the congregation’s health. All in all these churches and emerging church organizations tend to experience conflict issues that are more typical of groups with a clear identity.

All of these dynamics create a very challenging and often quite confusion church environment for both clergy and laity. They also help us understand why different kinds of conflict arise here and there. 

Jesus and Clergy Health

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

 How healthy are clergy in North America? How can a church flourish if a pastor is stressed, depressed and unhealthy? Can the health problems of clergy be eliminated simply through a greater devotion to God?

Clergy in the 1950’s lived longer than people in any profession. My generation of clergy have highest level of work related stress and almost the very the lowest resources to cope with the stress. We also die of heart disease at a higher rate than almost any profession


No longer are clergy health concerns only the focus of helpful para-church organizations. Some denominations have launched efforts to improve clergy health. The Southern Baptists estimate one third of their staff and clergy suffer from depression. Many clergy carry a secrete burden of depression. In fact, clergy now suffer depression more than others.

The health issues of the North American clergy present a mammoth challenge. The heart of this issue for the church is theological with two distinct but related parts.

First, our view the incarnation is incomplete. Jesus is God come in the flesh, Emmanuel. Our Lord and Savior did not appear to have a body. He had one. He did not appear to eat, drink, sleep, walk, wash feet, die on the cross and rise again with a resurrection body which could be touched. For real? Yeah, Jesus did all this in a real body!

Thus, our bodies matter to God. Our relationship with God calls for the participation of our entire self. Also, we look forward to the resurrection of the body.

Second, our view of Jesus’ earthly ministry is shaped more by our compulsive culture than from Biblical Christianity. Currently, our attempt to imitate Christ in ministry creates a super-star vision. Jesus’ earthly ministry calls the whole church back into a balance of being and then doing. First, Jesus called people to himself. Then, he sent them out in ministry. Later, when his followers needed a break Jesus led them to do so. The disciples even found Jesus going off by himself taking a spiritual time out in prayer. And Jesus taught us to ask our Father to give us this day our daily bread.

We must return to believing in Jesus’ incarnation in a way that it impacts our view and practice of Christian self-care. We must come to see proper self-care as not time away from ministry but time investing in taking care of ministry.

We must also return to an honest vision of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We must in order to avoid trying to perform in ministry like a super-star or trying to find a clergy who can. Unless we come apart for times of emotional, physical, and intellectual refreshing, we will come a P a r t in ministry.

Years ago, a parishioner chided me for taking a day off. My reply was quick, simple and I hope free of a sarcastic tone. “Well, mam, since God rested on the 7th day after creating everything in six, I suppose I can take a rest too.”

The work of the Episcopal Diocese of California Clergy Wellness Commission is impressive. The ECLA developed some great ideas also. However, until we address the basic theological issues of this spiritual need, the pragmatic programs for improved clergy health will eventually fail.

How do we move from abstract orthodox Christian truth to its impacting your life and my life in practical ways? Moving in the direction of this article involves more than directions or steps. Questions are needed to lead you and me to reflect personally on the impact of Jesus' incarnation and earthly ministry. Such a focus on being before doing must be in place for a better treatment of one's health as well as a healthier practice of ministry (clergy or lay).

I totally agree with a weight loss statement that I read recently, "guilt and shame are not good enough motives to change what is needed is a whole new outlook." (this is a very loose quotation.) I believe the same applies to clergy health. Sad to say, but much like the approaches of the weight loss industry, churches and Christian writers have sought to motivate us with shame about our poor health and heap guilt upon us for not changing or trying hard enough.

What is needed is a combination of orthodox truth and God's grace to address who we are first. To me, legalism tries to change being by telling people to do more of this or less of that. The gospel changes people at the being level via grace and truth. As people grow in their knowledge and experience of God's grace, they live more out of being a more fruitful life of doing than legalism could ever bring.

In order to avoid directions or steps, I’ve devised some questions for reflection and application. I would advise requesting the input of a trusted friend or meeting with a therapist and even consider seeing a mature spiritual mentor.

         Prayerfully and honestly answer the following health inventory based upon the preceding material.


1.) Does the incarnation of Jesus Christ lead me to value my body?

2.) Do I feel that my attitudes about Jesus’ value of my body influence my care of myself in life and ministry?

3.) Jesus’ earthly life and ministry involved both private time to refresh himself as well as public ministry. Does His balanced model inspire me to do likewise in my life and ministry?

4.) Do I experience the love of God shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit as an empowerment to not only love and forgive others, but also myself as well?

5.) Does both Jesus’ incarnation as well as the balance of his life and ministry helps me understand the vital part that my bodily-emotional self plays in a vital spirituality?

6.) At one time, did I labor under a religious burden telling me I had to take or at least try to take better care of myself?

7.) Did that religious burden often result in guilt, anxiety, and shame in my life?

8.) Does my relationship with Christ create in me a ‘want to attitude” in taking care of my health?

9.) Have I practiced a form of spirituality that twisted the basic issues of self-denial into a denial of my unique self as created by God?

10.) Does my practice of spirituality lead me to believe that I must give up myself in order to be loved by God, by others and to be viewed as a success in ministry?

11.) Do my behaviors concerning my own health care reflect an unscriptural belief that my bodily self is in itself sinful, despicable, or unworthy?

12.) I find myself agreeing with the fourth century church father, John Chrysostom? He said, “We do not wish to cast aside the body, but corruption; not flesh, . . . What is foreign to us is not the body but corruptibility.”

13.) Do I understand Paul’s statements about the deeds of the flesh to be sinful aspects of my personhood and not my body?

14.) What does Jesus’ experience and expression of a wide range of emotions in the Gospels and the first three chapters of Revelation say to me?

15.) Are my emotions naughty monkeys for repression via religious rules, practices and structures?

16.) Are my emotions a valid part of myself that I need to respect, listen to, learn from, and then bring to our gracious savior and Lord Jesus? 

17.) Do I feel comfortable taking my unheard feelings to Jesus for validation that he has dear them? I feel comfortable taking those feelings in need of healing, transformation, nurturing, or empowering to Christ’s compassion and sanctification?

18.) Does the manner in which Jesus bore many human wounds in the Gospels leads me away from taking a victim’s stance in the face of my own human wounds?

19.) Does Jesus’ incarnation in the flesh, life & ministry in the flesh, death on the cross in the flesh, and bodily resurrection tell that I am my body? 

20.) Does the great commandment to love the Lord our God with all my heart, with all of my mind, with all my soul and all my strength lead me to nurture in a healthy manner all of these aspects of my total personality?

21.) Does Jesus’ command to not worry about tomorrow lead me to live authentically in the present or to promote some false self covering my anxiety about the future?

22.) Does Jesus’ forgiveness of my past and present sins lead me to live fully in the present or behind some mask covering how I’m beating myself up with guilt over my past?

23.) Does Jesus’ example of placing his trust fully in God, but not in people focus my trust and place realistic boundaries upon my expectations of others?

24.) How does Jesus living for the praise of God influence whose praise I live for?

25.) How does Jesus’ earthly ministry grounded in serving God and overflowing into ministry to others influence my own practice of ministry?

After completing this inventory, a feeling of being overwhelmed might come over you as it did the disciples when they locked themselves in a room for fear of the Jews. How does the resurrected Jesus respond to them and their condition Does he walk away because they are hiding? Does he tentatively stand at the door and knock? Does he force his way in by crashing through the door? No! Jesus enters the room with power and with grace saying to their fearful hearts “peace be with you.” Likewise, Jesus stands with you without reproach. His amazing free grace our risen and ascended savior offers you his compassion, wholeness, and empowering by the Holy Spirit. His grace is greater than any lack of health in your life. His grace is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you can ever think or dream of. Jesus comes to you in such a gentle and powerful offer of his gracious presence. Thus, be gentle with your own growth process as you rightly handle the stewardship of your health by God’s grace. 

Self-Denial and Self-Care

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.

 Those influenced by a legalistic a.k.a. “religious” version of self-denial too easily come to see themselves as just means to an end, merely instruments of God’s will on earth. People who teach this and those who become religious addicts change self-denial into denying the very self God created them as.

Instead of growing in a healthy manner, they come to deny who they are in terms of their abilities, giftedness, needs, hurts, etc. As I heard many times in the 1970’s, I would also say today, Jesus does not make people into freaks. His grace and salvation makes humans with all of our freakiness into people who become more fully human.

Do you perceive God primarily views you as an instrument for his work in the world? If so, then you may either lack motivation for self-care or it may just become another duty. You are more than an instrument for God’s work on earth. You are a human being made in the image of God, a little lower than the angles for a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Your life and identity is much more than your work or role, yes even in the church.

When God made our first parents, he called us his creation good. As a Christian, your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and something good created by God. How you use your mind does matter to God and to your own health. Jesus calls you to watch over your heart so that you remain fully live.

Neither Jesus nor Judaism taught a demoting attitude toward our bodies. A fourth century ascetic Church Father, John Chrysostom, saying “We do not wish to cast aside the body, but corruption; not flesh. . . . What is foreign to us is not the body but corruptibility.”

Sometimes the intellectualization of our own humanness or some wound in our heart keeps us from celebrating our own bodies. Often these struggles with our own bodies are wrapped up with our views concerning emotions, rest, playfulness and even humor as Christians.

Will you care for your mind, your soul, your heart as one greatly loved and deeply valued by God? Ever think of demonstrating your love for God by showing your body some love by reasonable cardio exercise, flexibility routines,etc? I recently heard a Christian martial artist from Korea say ‘stretching daily is one way to show your body you love yourself.

One of the early church fathers, said the glory of God is man (men and women) fully alive. Does your spouse, children, very close friends and colleagues in ministry think that you need to get a life? If you are not sure, then ask them. Are you fully alive? If not, when will you begin getting your life back?

I knew a young couple with young children who got their life back. First, they no longer said yes to every request. Second, that boundary provided the some needed time for good self-care. When they made these decisions, I could feel new energy in their home, see new vitality in their eye, and hear renewed joy in their voices. What about you?

Some teachings about denying oneself comes from Quietism whose goal is self-annihilation and absorption of the soul into the divine. In its essential features Quietism is a characteristic of the religions of India, Greek Stoicism, and Gnosticism. They teach that all spiritual knowledge must lead to such dying to self or it is false knowledge. They believe that their conversations, even in the most intimate of relationships, must always be spiritual and serious. Such erroneous teaching is heresy. 

Soul Care and the Caregiver's Soul

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.


I. The Caregiver’s Soul.

The health of the spiritual care giver's soul produces either a toxic or healthy atmosphere in our relationships. It is reflected by what is truly in our heart of hearts around which our lives orbit. When the care giver's soul is the healthiest, people often are set free to rise above the internal influence of their past; sore beyond the externals which have been seeking to steal-kill-and destroy their soul and its surrounding relationships.

The best preparation for life giving soul care is for the person to first gain a healthy realism about their growing edges which may in fact include a soul with an unhealthy personality.

People with very unhealthy souls wear many religious masks to cover their personality disorders in churches (Oates; Pate). Thus, every apparent golden achievement is not always the work of the Holy Spirit through people. Sometimes, it is religious persons in one group of disorders taking advantage of persons with other problems as illustrated in the books listed below by Oates, Pate, and Weiser.

The healthiness of the soul of those who offer soul care to others and seek to equip congregations as caring congregations is very important. Clergy with unhealed souls very often cease living out of grace and in exchange to live focused on survival and defending themselves.

II. Consider these questions prayerfully.

A. How do others experience your soul?

B. Are others uplifted by your vital spiritual life in Christ or pulled down by the F.O.G (Fear. Obligation. Guilt) coming forth from your soul?

C. Are you a wounded healer or a harmful helper?

D. Do you have a narcissistic personality disorder?

The notorious former televangelist Jim Bakker is an excellent example of a compulsive, narcissistic church leader. His creation of PTL was an expression of the dark side of Bakker's leadership and not the Holy Spirit's leadership. While we might want to cast stones at him and other high profile church leaders, the same types of failures are found in churches all over America on a smaller scale.

Narcissistic clergy lead churches, districts, conferences, jurisdictions, and denominations into projects far too idealistic and costly for others primarily to make them feel better about themselves. However, once the "high" of the new project launch is over, they provide very little long range over-sight and maintenance.

E. Do you have a borderline personality disorder?

Clergy leaders who are high functioning people with borderline personality disorder appear to be increasing in the ranks of religious leadership along with accounts of abuse. Until about 10 years ago, this was not a concern. This phenomenon may be due to the need for clergy in declining denominations and the related felt need to "go soft" on ordination candidates as well as an increase in the number of persons with this disorder in society. Too often unhealthy situations are only made worse when clergy with this disorder are found to have abused usually dependent/depressed females and a few males. Many times the lives of those who live on the border reflect the chaos of Samson in the Bible.

F. Are you co-dependent?

This one disorder has most likely crippled the health of more congregations, districts, conferences, jurisdictions and denominations than any other disorder of the soul, i.e. personality. The clergy person with undiagnosed and untreated co-dependency often have severe boundary issues and great social drama in a church they are pastor of.

Co-dependent clergy destroy themselves in the vain attempt to keep everyone happy and meet everyone else's needs while ignoring both their own personal and family needs.

They offer re-active leadership instead of pro-active leadership. Their reaction to the pain and problems of others is focused far more getting or maintaining the people's love for them instead of a genuine expression of love for those persons.

They are stuffed full of anger and frustration as they are too tolerant of others inappropriate behavior in the church, too willing to overextend themselves, and too eager to avoid confrontation at any cost. In the end, no one is pleased and the co-dependent person does not see how other clergy and/or church members have pulled their strings out of their own unhealthy narcissistic, borderline or codependent soul.

III. Grace to Face Our Dark Side.

God's grace can lead us to face our dark side as clergy. His amazing grace can also lead us to overcome so that our Achilles' heel does not lead to the experience of stealing, killing and destroying. Such grace comes to us through a proper diagnosis, helpful medicines, qualified therapy, spiritual guidance, and a caring Christian community offering Jesus' healing to all.

For more about facing our dark side see The Dark Side of The Intimate Pastorate by Thomas F. Fischer

The following books by Arterburn, Harris, Headley, McIntosh, Rassieur, Rediger, Weiser, Wuellner specifically address the path to wholeness.

Whether you are staying in the current church you pastor or are moving it is good to do some soul searching from time to time.

Here are some important questions for clergy and their spouses.

First, why did you go into the ordained ministry?

Second, what was your unique role in your family while you grew up?

Third, while thinking of your role  at home as a child and as a teenager, how has this impacted your ministry and your family relationships?

Fourth, while thinking of your role at home as a child and as a teenager, how has this impacted your relationship with your spouse, children and congregation? 

For Further Reading:

Arterburn, Stephen & Jack Felton. Toxic Faith: Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction. Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1991.

Crabb, Larry. Connecting: Healing for Ourselves and Our Relationships A Radical New Vision. Nashville: Word, 1997.

Harris, John C. Stress, Power and Ministry. Alban Institute 1977.

Headley, A.J. Achieving Balance in Ministry. Kansas City, MO: Beacon P, 1999.

McIntosh, Gary L., and Samuel D. Rima. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997.

Murren, Doug. Churches That Heal: Becoming a Church That Mends Broken Hearts and Restores Shattered Lives. West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing, 1999.

Oates, Wayne E. Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in Religious Behavior. Louisville: Westminster, 1987.

Pate, C. Marvin, and Sheryl L. Pate. Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in the Church. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000.

Rassieur, Charles L. Stress Management For Ministers: Practical Help For Clergy Who Deny Themselves The Care They Give To Others. Philadelphia, PA Westminster Press, 1982.

Rediger, G. Lloyd. Fit to Be a Pastor : A Call to Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Fitness. Louisville: Westminster, 2000.

Thompson, David L., with Gina Thompson Eickhoff. Holiness for Hurting People. Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1998.

Weiser, Conrad W. Healers: Harmed &Harmful. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994.

Wuellner, Flora Slosson. Feed My Shepherds: Spiritual Healing and Renewal for Those in Christian Leadership. Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1998.


Older books on this subject.

Oates, Wayne E. The Minister's Own Mental Health. Great Neck, NY: Channel Press, 1961.

Oates, Wayne E. When Religion Gets Sick. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press,

Walker, Daniel D. The Human Problems of the Minister. NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1960.

Other Thoughts…

I rejoiced the day I saw Friedman's book listed in the revised candidacy guidebook for United Methodist possible ordinans. He explains very well how clergy operate out of three families-family of origin, current family and the church family.

Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. New York: Guildford, 1985.

Dr. David Ludwig's presentation "Spirituality and Mental Health" at the Greensboro Spiritual Conference for Faith-Based Communities on May 13, 2004 inspired some of this presentation.

Motivation, Meaning, and Ministry

John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.


I. Motivation.

Volumes abound concerning ministry techniques, practices, and styles. In the past century and a half, seminaries (both evangelical and liberal) developed more as academies. This took place as experienced pastors were replaced by professors in the seminaries.

Some schools of divinity focused almost exclusively on academics related to more current topics with some training in pastoral functions. Other seminaries aimed their student’s attention to practical pastoral practice and to classical Christian academic study. A rare handful not only did not divide the head and the hand, but also included training in the heart of ministry. Praise God, we do see more schools of divinity and seminaries including the spiritual life of the minister in their training.

Christian ministry is far more than well prepared hands and feet for the functions of ministry. It is far more than sharpened Christian minds able to address today’s world with God’s Word from our historic Christian faith. Christian ministry is first and foremost a spiritual journey. Christian ministry for both clergy and laity is a journey continually calling us to the Lord of the work. From a growing spirituality in Jesus, we are both called and empowered for the work of the Lord.

No one enters the Lord’s work with 100% pure motives. God uses our churches to work on us as well as through us. Each of us must sincerely ask God to show us our motives. What is driving the engine? Eventually whatever drives the engine of your heart will become obvious to all.

Churches without a passionate spirituality also have a weak prayer life. My friend and colleague Rev. Dr. Brewer wrote a very bleak description of such unhealthy congregations out of his own pastoral experience of building a new church in the Florida Conference.

When God’s healing is not a living reality through prayer, the church can become a back ward of chronically ill people waiting to die. This form of spiritual illness is subtle but deadly. People bring crippling fear and enormous control needs into the life of the church. In such a situation, the church may become more of a leper colony than a hospital. Without the power of God through prayer, ministry to the sick and dying may become little more than compassionate commiseration with their suffering. Instead of making the sick well, churches that do not pray condemn themselves to catching the illnesses they are commissioned to heal. (13)

Also, when the volume of activity becomes the measure of ministry, matters of interior transformation often go unnoticed and neglected. As Peterson states in his book, Working the Angels: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, “Busyness is an illness of the spirit, a rush from one thing to another because there is no ballast of vocational integrity and no confidence in the primacy of grace. (132-133)”

Being clear and biblical about what drives us and sets our sense of value places both clergy and laity in a better position to lead churches. This happens when pastors and leaders find their own sense of identity, significance, and security in who they are in Christ and not in what they do. Those who desire to lead a group or congregation to the next level must first ask what needs to change in them first. So they examine what drives or motivates them. They ask themselves why do they want to please God. Also, do they want to please God or do they want God to please them by doing it their way. Is their daily walk with God based on works or on grace?

These questions may appear enough to examine one’s motives. However, one more question remains. Is God’s love and approval of you enough? A young seminary professor went to teach in the very seminary where his well known father and uncle taught. At first, he felt intimidated around other faculty. He got into a comparison and competition mode with people other than himself. One day in prayer, he perceived God saying to himself, “Is my love and approval of you enough? Or must you constantly seek the love and approval of others?” How about you?

      A. Unhealthy Motives. (adapted from Steve Martyn's “What’s Driving the Engine?” Lecture)

1. Some people are Need Driven. They need to be needed. The heart of the co-dependent person is hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Often they feel a need to atone for either real of illusionary guilt. Their screaming need to calm their hearts is to be in the center with control, significance, status, and security. Sometimes such anxious motives express themselves in the direct domination of others. Other times, it is seen in getting everyone to love them.

Clergy are in a yes mode by training. This makes it difficult for pastors to set boundaries for the sake of themselves, their families, and their ministry. Current studies reveal two unexpected contrasts among clergy. Unlike the previous generation of pastors as a whole, current pastors generally speaking are more concerned with ministry within healthy boundaries instead of sacrificing everything on the altar of the church and ministry. Although it may not appear obvious, but ministry without boundaries is a form or laziness. Also, as a whole, female pastors are better at setting and living within boundaries for ministry than many male pastors are.

For too many pastors a down Sunday =s a depressed Monday. Or one critique and we lose our self-worth because the one negative =s the whole. Then one’s family becomes second and it comes to hate the hate the church.

I witnessed a pastor with such an unhealthy motive as a teenager. Our youth group leaders took us to events like a movie about an ex-gang leader named Nicky Cruz, a crusade by Mr. Cruz, and a Billy Graham crusade. God changed many of our lives through these experiences. Some were more radically transformed than others. Sad to say but not every parent rejoiced. Their children’s excitement about Jesus, prayer and God’s Word confronted their parent’s alcoholism, addiction to tranquilizers, affairs, and dead faith. Those who were elders and deacons in the church push pressure on the pastor to work in the best interest of this large, downtown, prestigious church. In turn, the pastor closed down the youth group and got rid of the youth minister. He so wanted to keep the prominent leaders happy and the ‘important’ people loving him that he ignored their sins. His unhealthy motivations shaped his sick understanding of ministry. This led him to practice ministry by spiritually and emotionally abusing some very young Christians and their adult youth group workers. Today, most of them are still active practicing Christians in other churches of different denominations.

Others and sometime we can see the symptoms of such need driven motives. It is seen in the following ways: we can’t delegate; we need to about everything in the church; we fish or bate others for compliments. It also manifests itself when we try to get everybody to love us; we are perfectionists; we participate in addictive behaviors (of all kinds); we either run from confrontation or are always confronting; and we chase after people who are mad. It is also seen in working excessive hours, making compulsive calls, giving exaggerated commitments, never saying no, and being offended when we don’t get credit.

In order for our motivations to be healthy, we need to know ourselves, understand our own screaming needs, and allow Jesus to transform us.

2. Some are FEAR DRIVEN. They constantly think of coming undone or flying apart. To them life is not good. They often believe that God is not going to be good to them.

The symptoms include: fear of failure, anxiety, procrastination, fear of success so you shoot yourself in the foot, no risk taking, paranoid—they are out to get me, not spontaneous, isolation from people (not solitude with God), verbal abuse, abuse of authority, insulate ourselves from the Holy Spirit, not trusting, competition, very critical of others,

Your trust in and commitment to God is the key to peace and joy over the long haul of ministry. You are not responsible for others actions and attitudes.  You are only responsible for your own actions and attitudes.  Never surrender to negative feelings, events or people or you will be defeated. As God’s free grace increases you from the fear of people, you can give people permission not to have to like you.

3. Some are DEMAND DRIVEN. They selfishly enter the pastorate as anxious people pleasers who are driven by the latest demand. Too many pastors are doing visitation that is more selfishly than spiritually beneficial. These pastors lust after people’s approval.

A friend and retired Presbyterian pastor recently told me a story. He shared his experience of following a demand driven pastor. He told me that every week, this man got his orders from certain people in the church. He stayed there a very long time. My friend went there, but he did not go to certain people for his weekly orders. In visiting a member who was sick, the church member asked David a question. He said, “Pastor who told you to visit me?” Stunned, David asked the reason for such a question. The man replied, “Because in this church you only minister as a certain group tells you to minister.” The man thanked him for coming, but warned him about possibly moving. Sure enough, the session brought up some trumped up or exaggerated complaints before the presbytery and my friend was gone.

4. Some are GRANDIOUS DRIVEN. Those who want to make a name or seek to establish their worth to the world, excel at the criteria of “success” that the institutional Church gives. People can be in either the ministry of the clergy or the laity and not be serving God.  Those caught up in this drive must learn the difference between being in control to being in charge as well between power and leadership as stated below,

Leadership is power governed by principle, directed toward raising people to their highest levels of personal motive and social morality. Power is different. Power manipulates people as they are: leadership, as they could be. Power manages; leadership engages. Power tends to corrupt; leadership to create. Great leadership require great followership. Leaders mobilize the best in their followers, who in turn demand more from their leaders. (James MacGregor Burns, New York Times, Quoted from NET RESULTS, December 1993.)

5. Some are CARREER DRIVEN. They are greedy for $, job security or advancement. Each opportunity for ministry is but a stepping stone for increasing the four ‘Ps’. —stepping stones on the four “Ps”. The four “Ps” include the size of the paycheck; the quality of the parsonage; the prestige of the pulpit; and the security of the pension.

Your wellbeing can’t be dependent on the institution that you serve. Neither your local church, the conference nor the denomination is your mother. Symptoms of dependency include: competition, comparison, insecurity, measurable performance =s self-worth. It is a myth to think that if I get to one level of church, salary, etc. that I will have it made. Biblical success is offering your best to God, and not being in competition with others. 

The person surrendered to God can be comfortable, and feel good about himself or herself, and can be themselves. The comparison game is sin. If you don't love yourself, your neighbor is in trouble. If the pastor does not love himself or herself, the congregation is in trouble. The worst thing of the world is to work with an insecure senior pastor. All pastors, and particularly senior pastors need to have a sense of peace and joy in Christ. Selfishness and self-love are opposites.

If you get caught in the doing mode, you fall into the comparison trap. In the doing mode, you will never find peace. Biblically speaking you more than your functional position as a pastor.  Where is your source of value and worth? Is your answer, “I am what I do” or is it “My value and worth comes from who I am in Christ.” Living from the foundation of God’s grace instead of our works is tough in our performance culture.

6. Some are DRIVEN BY EMOTIONAL ILLNESS OR PERSONALITY DISORDERS. Of the factors that damage our motives for ministry, personal developmental or personality damage is perhaps the most common, the most often ignored or more accurately denied. Such denial is found not only in seminaries, boards of ordination, but also in the selection of local church leaders. We must use the tools available to us to both discern and offer transforming help to such EGN persons. The lives of these extra grace needed people are out of order. They may hide behind various religious masks as Wayne Oates and Marvin Pate describe in their books on this subject. Churches and/or denominations who adopt a corporate model for growth and ministry tend to glorify some and exploit others with various disorders. Such problems do sometimes exist in either clergy or laity given how broken people are today.

Dr. Conrad Weiser is a practicing Christian psychologist and author of Healers: Harmed & Harmful. He wonders if the declining quality of those entering seminaries for full time ministry in mainline churches is also related to the decline in the status of pastors in society.

We continue as we have to see people entering full time ministry who are narcissists, depressed/dependents or compulsive persons. However, Conrad and others expects an increase in high functioning borderline personalities seeking to enter full time mainline ministry through seminary. This is an alarming comment in light of the irrational rage, seductiveness of people and total lack of empathy of untreated persons with this sickness. Does this provide you with any insights concerning the recent abuse problems within the Roman Catholic Church?

B. Healthy Motives.  (adapted from Steve Martyn's “What’s Driving the Engine?” Lecture)

Healthy motives for ministry develops purposeful, enthusiastic, inwardly directed, authentic persons who are not driven by some personal chaos. Such motives include a healthy fear of the Lord arising from a growing knowledge of Christ’s love, grace, and holiness.

Jesus’ earthly ministry displayed the motive of playing to the audience of God the Father. He spoke what the Father spoke. He did the Father’s deeds. He sought the Father’s praise instead of the praise of people. He trusted his life into the Father’s hands instead of other persons for Jesus knew the human condition. Thus, Jesus was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about anyone for he put his trust in the Father first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for any person. The ministry of the apostle Paul displayed many of the same motives for ministry. The whole Bible gives us examples and descriptions of persons as well as groups with healthy or unhealthy motives in serving God. 

II. Meaning.

Many are taking the path of least resistance. They seek to acquire the professional self-image of one who could satisfy the people instead of struggling with their call. Thus, pastors are abandoning their calling for a focus on how to keep the customers happy. No wonder clergy morale is low. Some pastors don’t know any other way to pastor nor do they see any other possible meaning for doing ministry. Seeking to please people and not God leads to bondage as stated below,

Pastors will regularly face the temptation to please people. You will often have to deal with displeased people because they hold unrealistic expectations about your role, or simply because they do not like the way you’re ministering. Yet living to please people makes you a slave to everyone, and makes it difficult to follow the direction of the Master lays out. Part of the price pastors pay will be dealing with unhappy people. (“The Price of Pastoral Leadership” by Rich Nathan. Leadership, Summer 1997 Vol. 18, No. 3)

Many mainline churches exist in an inflexible survival mode. Such systems are wide open for spiritual/emotional terrorist attacks by a clique in control or seeking to be in control. This group holds the rest of the congregation like a hostage until they get what they want. Such demanding persons count on others passively going along for the sake of being nice instead of applying biblical church discipline of such persons. No wonder laity morale is low. Some members and church officers don’t know any other way to function in a church.

A Story of real leadership

One day a man was confronted with evidence, concrete, hard, undeniable evidence of his misbehavior with some women in the church’s singles ministry and young girls in the church. What shocked them the most was not that this man denied anything. He did not deny a single thing that they had concrete evidence that he had done. What he did deny was that any of that was abuse. They told him, “There are all sorts of ways you can get help. We want to offer you all of these, but we can’t have this continue.” “Well, what if I just showed up again?” asked the guy. They replied, “We will have to make a very brief but honest report about your situation, our offer of help and your refusal of it. People will have to use this information to make the wisest decisions possible.”

The next Sunday, the guy is there. Somebody makes an announcement. Before the choir director could even get to the microphone, this fellow flies up, grabs the mike, and made his own announcement which is followed by four elders coming forward, apprehending him, and gently but firmly taking him out of the building, calling the police and having him restrained from their property.

The next week, the church phone rang off the hook. The basic summary of all the calls went something like this one, “We’ve been visiting your church for a while and wondered about joining here. After what we saw on Sunday, we think this is the church for us and we thank you for what you did. We’ve never felt so safe at a church. We’ve never been a part of a church where wrong doers are actually dealt with—a place where the young vulnerable are actually protected, where people whose lives are out of order are held accountable.”

Today, more than ever, we need a carefully thought out theology of ministry as clergy and laity. Either the path of least resistance or the path of faithfulness has pain. The first leads to burnout or anger and the other to redemptive pain.

Our motivation for ministry shapes our understanding of the meaning of ministry. Both our motivation and our view of ministry molds our practice of ministry. A congregation’s motivation and understanding of ministry is often a reflection of their pastoral leadership over the years. As Dr. Maxie Dunham is found of saying, “As the seminaries go, so go the pastors. As the pastors go, so go the local churches.

  A. Biblical Understanding of Ministry

1. It is rooted in Scripture. “What have you read in the last five years that made you think biblically about ministry?” (Oden,Pastoral Theology.)

2. A solid understanding of ministry must be informed by tradition.

However, paupers neglect tradition and Puppets are a slave to tradition Today’s traditionalists are like the Christian Jews of Acts 15.

3. A solid understanding of ministry is adapted to the context of ministry-incarnation of ministry is suited to one’s giftedness.

Authentic ministry begins with a person’s theology of ministry in light of their gifts and graces. We are called to come to Christ and abide in Christ before we are called to go for Christ. Out biggest temptation is wanting to do something for God each day before spending time with God. Oswald Chambers stresses the primacy of relationship over ministry. Our relationship with God is the main thing, not the work we do.

  B. Jesus’ Ministry as a Model for Understanding the "Meaning of Ministry”

We are not the principle actor in our ministry for we baptize too much self as being our ministry. Actually we participate in Jesus' ministry through us as clergy and laity. The key is not asking Jesus to bless our ministry, but finding out what Jesus is blessing and doing that ministry. Ministry does not belong to us or to the church, but to Jesus.


Pray less, “Lord help me in my ministry activities. ”Pray more “Lord help yourself to me so that I am not in your way or mess your thing up.”

Remember, you don't have to make it happen for the battle is the Lord's. Christ is to make it happen--not me.  Burnout in ministry comes from not seeing this.

This changes our approach to preparation from focus on self to God. When we prepare for or do ministry seeking to please someone other than God, we are seeking to meet some pride issue of self-acceptance.

The major movements in Jesus' life and ministry are to be in our ministry also.

          1. Incarnation. Advent. God affirms his creation and demonstrates his love for it.

          2. Crucifixion Lent. Word of Judgment on sin.

          3. Resurrection Easter and Pentecost. Word of recreation.

Much of our pastoral work is in the incarnational love and affirmation toward others and receiving their getting to know you.

We do II in actively calling their lives into question. Following II as we proclaim God's Word--some repent and III come into new life. Others will not repent in light of II and they will turn against us to crucify us. The cross tells me we hate God so much that we would kill him if we could.

We need a balance of I, II, and III instead of just a majority of only one. In all of these major movements of ministry, we surrender not only our gifts and selves to God, but also are pains and our struggles in Christ’s ministry.

Jesus spent most of His time with the three, the twelve, the seventy, and then the crowds. So should we.

The reality of the local church shocks us so that clergy and laity sometimes only want to maintain the status quo. When this happens, we replace passion for change to pursue a career, position, status, influence, and power. Such persons place their trust in an unwritten contract “If I do what the institutional church wants, I will be rewarded.”

Ministry not only means feeding sheep, but also taking up the cross. This can happen when you stand for the truth, the pain of growing pains or pastoring a church like Moses with a grumbling people. The cross of ministry sometimes involves $ sacrifices.

Our attitude toward the cross of ministry should be beyond the grin and bear it to glorify God. The place of suffering in service and passion in ministry needs to be taught more today. The cross of ministry may involve death to pride, material comfort, or popularity. I Thes. 5:24.

III. Ministry.

A. The Need for A Second Reformation

Transactional Leadership or the Standard Model of Ministry came to America with the cultural baggage of the Great Reformation in Europe. The American Church today is experiencing a Second Reformation. The first one raised up the biblical teaching about the priesthood or all believers. However, it did not thoroughly apply it concerning the ministry of all Christians.

Since the 1970’s various editions of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church have emphasized more and more the ministry of all Christians. Four years ago, I wrote a resolution to General Conference. It said that while I rejoiced in more clearly defining the ministry of all Christians, our current model of pastoral ministry was contrary. I asked them to review pastor’s various roles within three major categories: Leadership, Ministry, and Management. My resolution was sent to the Board of Elders and Local Pastors for further reflection in preparation for General Conference in 2004. I pray that they come up with a list that truly moves us away from the standard model of ministry to the second reformation which sets all Christians free for ministry.

B. The Standard Model of Ministry. (Adapted from a handout in Dr. Steve Martyn's "Spirituality of Leadership" course. )

This model tends to build program based churches. This standard working model of the last millennium placed the pastor in the middle of the wheel. This co-dependent hub model is an equation for death. Why? Because it leads people to believe the pastor is here to meet my needs. This attitude sets up a very selfish center of personal needs. This is a parent-child model with self at the center. Thus, the pastor has very little time given to study and preparation. Also, the dependency of co-dependency leads pastors to act and look like abused spouses who thinks if they do more they will not get abused again.

Too often in program based churches, the pastor leads as the unspiritual CEO who tries to control everything. Such congregations and their pastors too often operate from a Pelagian view of salvation. Such a view focuses far more on human free will than on God’s free grace in Christ. This leads many church to choose and execute the latest prepackaged church renewal, stewardship, evangelism, mission, or growth program without any prayer or biblical/theological discernment of themselves, and God’s will.

These types of churches tend to function solely from a secular business model by crunching numbers about attendance, giving units, numerical growth, and programs. Therefore, the doctrinal formation of the congregation’s spirituality, attitudes, behavior, thinking, and relationships is ignored for the sake of keeping the machine running. Number crunching leads to people crushing as Dwight Carlson points out in his book: “When we focus on these external things, all too often we neglect and inadvertently hurt the wounded among us” (117).

We inherited the program-based church model from the Reformation. It once fit the European cultures in which everyone lived in or near villages, in which people experienced the intimate and supportive life. This form, understandably featured "a church building, a pastor, at a flock gathered from the parish area."

The inherited program based design way of doing church no longer satisfies either the people inside the church nor the people outside the church. Only 1/8 of the people who do the work to make program based churches function. Some of those people work long and hard at tasks, routines, traditions, an endless programs; they believe they are doing the work of the Lord, so they do not understand when they "burn out." (Some other people within the 1/8 merely fill positions, and experience even less fulfillment). The other 7/8 merely attend worship, programs, and meetings (or they stay away). 

The program based design church assembles peoples in large groups-- which prohibits people from experiencing any deep community or sense of belonging. Such a church confines most of the church activities to the church building, rather than encouraging the church penetration into the community. The program based design does consume much time and energy, making it improbable that the pastoral staff or active members will befriend and win many "gold plated, certified, Hell raising unbelievers. 

Indeed, the typical program based design churches has virtually no contact with the unreached community. The program-based concept does not build people. It only bills programs. Its leaders assume that programs build people, but it doesn't achieve this goal. The program based church does one thing well. It produces wimpy, nominal, in active members! It's inactive typically number. 40 % to 50 % of the churches membership. Of those, half may attend monthly, the other half don't come at all.

Worst of all the program based church does not provide the all-important fellowship, which is needed to create the kind of community in which people experience intimacy, love, and being "members of one another, in which people "build up one another."

"There is literally no time or place in a program based church for people to become close to one another. The programs isolate members from each other. When they meet, it's in the neutral setting of the church building. Each encounter is carefully programmed: there's choir music to be rehearsed, a Bible lesson to be studied, a budget to be prepared. Bonding together in love and commitment isn't possible. There's no community in the PBD church structure. Those who create it must do so in spite of the organization's schedule, and are subject to criticism for not being cooperative with the church program." (p 51 Ralph Neighbor. Where Do We Go From Here?).

C. The Flowing Model of Ministry. (Adapted from a handout in Dr. Steve Martyn's "Spirituality of Leadership" course. )

In place of the hub model of standard, transactional leadership, we need the “flowing together in a common direction” model of transformational leadership. Thus, instead of doing a majority of the ministry, pastors and laity are discovering the NT call of equipping and being equipped for ministry. Such an approach calls for both healthy motivations and a NT understanding of the meaning of ministry. Pastors who equip people for ministry enjoy better pastor-parish relationships. Where ministry is shared, the church thrives. In these churches, the pastor not only delegates ministry responsibilities but also the authority to carry them out. They lead like John Ed at Fraser Memorial who said, “If the pastor knows everything going on in a church, there is not enough going on.”

When I was in seminary in the early 1980’s, the “Intro to Pastoral Ministry” course emphasized avoiding leading churches with canned programs. We were encouraged to lead churches according to biblical principles as outlined in Alvin Lingrend’s classic, Foundations for Purposeful Church Administration.

D. The New Reformation in Practice.

Effective ministry in these post-modern times involves leaving our past European Cultural Roots of the First Reformation. It calls us to adopt the more biblical model of the Second Reformation which emerging already. The biblical ordering of a congregation’s life means majoring on bringing people to God more than on increasing attendance of programs. Thus, the major focus is on involving people in small groups instead of majoring on programs for people to attend.

Small groups address several needs. An important one is seeing the broken, bruised, inexperienced converts in church transformed into healthy, dedicated disciples. Then churches will have enough competent, qualified and willing leaders to begin and maintain needed ministries.

Contrary to the standard model for ministry, the flowing model the pastor time for to study and preparation. It emphasizes the pastor’s role more as a spiritual guide than as a C.E.O. Also, most of a pastor’s time can be spent according to one’s spiritual gifts and stewardship of time. Where a pastor is not gifted or the stewardship of time prohibits, others can be raised up with those spiritual gifts and available time. This is a new and shared responsibility for United Methodists between the Pastor Parish Relations Committee and the Leadership Development Committee.

This also means that pastors don’t need to spend their life feeling guilty about those 6 things they can’t do well. Only God can do all things well. God with the flow of your strengths.  Delegate for a flowing leadership instead of hub leadership. You will have enough time for both ministry and a balanced life when you prioritize what really counts in light of your own gifts and graces.

The flowing, transformational model moves pastor’s to a view of equipping and leading others with a focus on personal Christian discipleship. This model calls pastors to lead Pastor Parish Relations Committee’s in reviewing the meaning of ministry and evaluating ministry; leadership development committees in selecting, supporting and evaluating leaders; and Church Councils in planning ministry beyond just using Robert’s Rules of Order to a more biblical perspective. As this happens from church to church and from pastor to pastor, the unfinished work of the European Reformation will be completed.

For a detailed contrast of the standard model & the "flowing" model of pastoral leadership click here.

Works Cited


The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 1996. Ed. Harriett Jane Olson.  Nashville:  The UM Publishing House, 1996. 

Brewer, Guy. “The Effect of Metanoia, A Forty-Day Season of Prayer, on Heart Attitudes of Murray Hill UnitedMethodist Church.” Diss. Asbury Theological Seminary, 2000.

Carlson, Dwight L. Why Christians Shoot Their Wounded? Helping (Not  Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties. Downers Grove, IL:  Inter-Varsity,  1994. 

Lindgren, Alvin J., and Norman Shawchuck. Management for Your Church. Indianapolis:  Organization Resources P, 1984.

Martyn, Steve. “What’s Driving the Engine?” Lecture to DM 818. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 14 July 1998. 

Nathan , Rich. “The Price of Pastoral Leadership,” Leadership. Summer 1997 Vol. 18, No. 3

Neighbor, Ralph and Lorna Jenkins. Where Do We Go From Here : A Guidebook for the Cell Group Church. Torch Publications, Inc.; 1st edition, 1990.

Oden, Thomas C. Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry. San Francisco: Harper, 1983.

Peterson, Eugene H. Working the Angels: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

Weiser, Conrad. Healers: Harmed & Harmful. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

Various Books about Boundaries


Cloud, Henry. Changes That Heal: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990.

This book and its workbook will lead the reader through the dynamics of maturing in healthy togetherness with others and healthy separation from others.

Cloud, Henry. Changes That Heal Workbook: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.

Cloud, Henry, John Townsend. Boundaries In Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.

This book will give you specific guidance on what healthy boundaries in a marriage are and are not.

Cloud, Henry, John Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control on Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

This is a basic introductory book to the whole idea of boundaries. This book has since been updated to address issues of the 21st century.

Cloud, Henry, John Townsend. Boundaries Workbook: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

Elgin, Susan H. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. Dorset House Publishing Co Inc; Reprint edition, 1985.

Forward, Susan. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. NY: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1997.

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier. Love is a Choice. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Deborah Newman, Brian Newman. Love Is A Choice Workbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers 1991.

These two books address the co-dependency that many family members and friends of the mentally ill struggle with.

Further Reading About Boundaries


1. Achieving Balance in Ministry. by A.J. Headley 


2. Adult Children of Abusive Parents: A Healing Program for Those Who Have Been Physically, Sexually, or Emotionally Abused. by Seven Farmer, M.A., M.F.C.C. 


3.Bold Love. by Dr. Dan B. Allender & Dr. Tremper Longman, III 


Have you ever asked yourself and of the following questions? How do you know the difference between loving an evil person, a fool, and a normal sinner? What does it mean to "honor" a dishonorable parent? Why does anger usually outlive forgiveness? How to you love an abusive person without opening yourself up to more damage? Then read this book! 


4. Clergy Killers. by Lloyd G. Rediger.


5. Do I Have to Give Up Me To Be Loved By You? for couples who want their love to last. by Drs. Jordan & Margaret Paul. 


6. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. by Susan Forward, Ph. D. with Donna Frazier. 


7. False Assumptions: Relief From 12 "Christian" Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy. by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend 


8. Feed My Shepherds: Spiritual Healing and Renewal for Those in Christian Leadership. by Flora Slosson Wuellner 


Wuellner uses the stories surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection from the Gospels to address spiritual desolation, spiritual release or abuse, incarnational spirituality verses religion that denies our humanity, walking with Christ to deep wounded memories, depth renewal for spiritual exhaustion, spiritual protection in toxic relationships and Christian discipleship as a spiritual response to God's free grace vs a religious discipline. While she does not speak directly of boundaries, she does address healthy internal boundaries of the soul. 


9. Fit to Be a Pastor : A Call to Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Fitness. by Lloyd G. Rediger 


10. Hurt People Hurt People: Hope and Healing for Yourself & Your Relationships. by Sandra D. Wilson, PH.D. 


Sandra's appendix on "Shame Based vs Grace Based Churches" is worth the price of the whole book. (Those desiring even more help with this theme in the church must go to “Ministry Health” web site. My colleague, co-author and friend Rev. Tom Fischer has many excellent articles on the subject of boundaries and church life.) 


11. Imperfect Harmony. by Joshua Coleman 


“This book is about how to live a happy life regardless of the state of your marriage. Despite promises of therapists, clergy, and self-help authors, not every relationship can be made better.” This book has three stated aims: 1. To give people the tools to determine whether a marriage can be bettered; 2. To give people the tools to enjoy life if the marriage can’t be bettered: 3. To help people protect their children from whatever is unsatisfying or difficult in your life or marriage. Obviously, the tools referred to in the second and third aim of this book has to do with boundaries. 

12. Intimate & Unashamed. by Scott Farhart, M.D. 


This book addresses boundary issues concerning God's design for sexual fulfillment in marriage with creative and celebrative boldness as well as solid biblical truth. 


13. Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up In Order To Grow. by Judith Virost. 


14. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction. by Gary L. McIntosh, and Sammuel D. Rima. 


15. Romancing Your Husband. by Debra White Smith 


Written as one married woman to another her advice is balanced by her personal confession of breaking a very crucial boundary in marriage. This boundary broken by some wives, yes even Christian wives. It is the boundary of ceasing to be your husband's wife-lover to attempting to be his mother-lover. She confesses to have participated in the very thing she uncovers about female chauvinism even within churches. 


16. Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't. by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend 


17. Stress Power and Ministry. by John C. Harris 


18. Stop Walking on Eggshells. by Mason and Kreger 


(Although this book is focused on re-claiming your life in relationship with a specific mental illness, the concepts are rather universal.) 


19. Talk, Trust, and Feel: Keeping Codependency Out of Your Life. by Melody Beattie 


20. The Dilemma of Love: Healing Co-dependent Relationships at Different Stages of Life. by Susan Cooley Ricketson, Ph.D. 


21. The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When A Parent's Love Rules Your Life. by Dr. Patrica Love with Jo Robinson 


22. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. by Suzetter Haden Elgin 


23. The Other Side of Love: Handling Anger in a Godly Way. by Gary Chapman 


24. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen 


While the book does not speak directly of boundaries, they do address the need for healthy boundaries in church life. 


25. Toxic Faith: Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction. by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton 


If you exhausted or bored with religion your faith might be toxic in some way instead of healthy in relationship with God and people. See also Wayne Oates' book listed below about sick religion. 


26. Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage. by Susan Forward, Ph. D. with Donna Frazier. 


27. We Are Driven: The Compulsive Behaviors America Applauds. by Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth, and Dr. Paul Meier. 


28. When God's People Let You Down: How to Rise Above the Hurts That Often Occur Within the Church. by Jeff VanVonderen 


While he does not speak directly of boundaries, he does address the need for healthy boundaries in church life. 


29. When Religion Gets Sick. by Wayne Oates 


Oates covers some of the same ground as Toxic Faith. However, he goes beyond it in covering a pathology of religious leadership, religious factors in mental illness and answers a long list of questions related to "sick religion." He defines this problem as one that hinders the basic functions of life. Here again issues of grace and truth, love and boundaries, freedom and structure are addressed. 


30. Working the Angels: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. by Eugene H Peterson.

31. When He’s Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment by Kenneth M. Adams.


32. Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners by Kenneth M. Adams

Mental Illness and Boundaries


Kreger, Randi. The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder: New Tools and Techniques To Stop Walking on Eggshells.

Kreger, Randi, with James Paul Shirely. The Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook.

Kreger, Randi, and Kim A. Willams-Justensen. Love and Loathing: Protecting Your Mental Health and Legal Rights When Your Partner Has Borderline Personality Disorder.

Lawson, Christine Ann, Ph.D. and Jason Aronson. Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship.

This book together with Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook. makes an awesome pair.

I’ve used this book in counseling with adult children of a Mommy Dearest” type. It is not only descriptive of the four types of these mothers but also prescriptive in how to relate with each type within healthy boundaries. Some may find a surprising insight about fibromyalgia and other auto-immune deficiency diseases in this book.

Mason, Paul T., Randi Kreger, and Larry J. Siever. Stop Walking on Eggshells; Coping When Someone You Care about Has Borderline Personality Disorder.New Harbinger Pubs (July 1998).

Melville, Lynn. Breaking Free From Boomerang Love: Getting Unhooked From Borderline Personality Disorder Relationships

Roth, Kimberlee and Freda B. Friedman. Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self Esteem. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publishers, Inc., 2003

Tinman, Ozzie. One Way Ticket to Kansas: Caring about Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and Finding a Healthy You.

Forward, Susan. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You.NY: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1997.

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier. Love is a Choice. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Deborah Newman, Brian Newman. Love Is A Choice Workbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers 1991.

These two books address the co-dependency that many family members and friends of the mentally ill struggle with.