“I’m not doing well.” When was the last time that you heard a pastor say that? If you are a pastor, when was the last time that you said it?
For many, this phrase brings to our imaginations public resignations of celebrity pastors who have finally admitted defeat in a battle against some sort of cancerous sin.
However, I wonder whether pastors (and those they lead) could actually thrive in new and beautiful ways if we would simply start admitting that there are areas of our lives where we are less than well. The twelve step program starts with admitting there is a problem. This conviction is not just for those with addictions, it is for every one of us who has sinned. Pastors, that includes us.
Prior to attending a Flourish Academy, I knew that there was more to what I should be doing as a church leader besides just organizing a Sunday-centric show and providing religious goods and services upon demand. Through the academy and Geoff’s tutelage, I was able to put theological words to my convictions. Mantras such as “gospel is for all of life” and “whole life discipleship” became central phrases in how I was attempting to lead the church I served. I was excited and invigorated to inculcate my ministry with a more holistic gospel with newfound language and friendships to guide me along the way.
However, as I set out to do ministry that focused on “all of life,” one of my startling discoveries was that this ought to include all of MY LIFE too. Doctor, heal thyself! Pastor, heed the gospel you are preaching! I realized that my focus on leading a Sunday-centric church had led me to neglect areas of my life that were not immediately noticeable to those who just knew me on Sundays. Physically, I was growing unhealthy. I had difficulty emotionally dealing with stress. I was not growing as much as I would like in my relationships with my children. It is sobering to think of the example I was setting for congregants – be on fire for Jesus on Sundays but scrape the bottom of the barrel throughout the week.
In many conversations with current and former pastors, I found out that I was not alone. If we as pastors want to disciple whole-life Christians, we too need to have a holistic view of our own discipleship.
As pastors we can sometimes have difficulty talking about all of life. There are myriad reasons why this might be. Perhaps we’ve had traumatic experiences about sharing how we are “really doing” in an area of our lives and it was somehow weaponized against us. Perhaps we play the role of listener and caregiver to others so much that we have neglected our own wellbeing. Perhaps we have embraced shame in as a defining narrative of our lives. Perhaps we don’t fully believe that all areas of our lives actually matter.
Over the course of the next 2 months, myself and some of my friends who are pastors will be writing about ways that we are seeking growth in various aspects of our holistic wellbeing and how we are trying to lead in light of our personal journeys. I hope that these articles will be encouraging to you.
To finish this week’s thought, I will give a brief explanation of what we mean when we talk about “holistic wellbeing” from our Christian perspective. Both the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) and the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) suggest that our love for God should be inclusive of all areas of life (heart, soul, strength, mind, relationships, etc.). For my doctoral research, I wanted to draw from Biblical principles while translating it into the broader scientific community. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined “holistic wellbeing” as including five categories: Spiritual, Psychological, Physical, Social, and Economic. However, little work has been done to create a holistic assessment inclusive of all five categories.
So, when we talk about “holistic wellbeing” we are considering the WHO’s five categories with a gospel lens. I believe that the scriptural truths of how we are created in the image of God, yet marred by sin, offered redemption in Christ, and being restored by the Spirit gives us an advantage to be the leading edge in the world when it comes to perspectives on a holistic view of wellbeing.
More than just a broad goal of producing some sort of scientific knowledge though, our hope is to see pastors flourish as they serve their respective communities. And together, we can love our cities to life—full life.