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Privately Reforming from Inside
"Ministry of Healing Document" (Part 1 of 2)
January 23, 1995 Letter to Joseph Tkach, Sr.
(Please note that for the purpose of sharing this document publicly major portions of this subsection have been blocked out to protect the confidentiality of those involved.)
I believe we desperately need a ministry of healing for our members. It is great that we are removing the burdens we have placed upon them and are concentrating on the grace and love of the new covenant instead of the rules and regulations of the old covenant. It is praiseworthy that we are no longer imposing upon them the Sabbath, Holy Days, three tithes and unclean meats. But, teaching right doctrine and taking away burdens is only the beginning. Stopping the abuse is the vital first step, but we must deal with the hurt we have caused. Specialized counsel and ministry are vital for spiritual and emotional healing. We can't simply say, "we were wrong, and now you need to change." We need to take members by the hand, as it were, and walk with them in love and compassion as they deal with the trauma of change this organization is experiencing. This necessitates a non-judgmental approach that accepts members where they are at, not where we would have them be.
Grief and Loss
Kubler-Ross' Stages of Dying: 1. Denial, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression and 5. Acceptance. First, it is worth considering that giving up long-held beliefs is similar to losing a loved one. Many members are grieving. 25 years ago Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a monumental work about the stages a person goes through when faced with death and dying (1969). In it she outlined five predominant themes that accompany grief and loss: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Psychologists today suggest that it is not necessary to go through the stages in the exact order described (Corr, C.A., 1993).
Nonetheless, it is my belief based upon my counseling education, personal trial of faith and pastoral experience that the vast majority of the members of the Worldwide Church of God have been in the denial stage of grief and loss for some time. <<However, significant numbers seem to be moving into the anger and protesting stage that inevitably follows.>> Many are coming to see and experience the truth of the gospel. With that understanding comes an automatic parallel awareness of the spiritual abuse that has been perpetrated upon them. How we respond as a ministry is critical if we as a body are going to move on toward emotional and spiritual healing and truly repent to become a healthy Christian church.
Anger and Hurt Feelings
Our historical approach toward anger has been, for the most part, that the person is in a bad attitude and should shut up. If members are not allowed to feel their frustration, hurt, and, yes, even anger, they will not move on toward emotional and spiritual healing. Inevitably, their feelings will be suppressed down eventually resulting in bitterness. It is not healthy to circumvent the natural process of grief and loss.
God's grace comes through honesty. Our Father did not sweep our sins under the rug, but sent his Son to die for them. One therapist compares the emotional and spiritual hurt or guilt we possess to a big ball of grief and pain a person has inside. To pick the ball up and handle it hurts because there is metal and glass in it that cuts and tears. But the only way to take this ball of resentment and place it in the grace of the cross is to do just that, to first pick it up and hold it and look at it, to openly and honestly acknowledge it. Forgiveness cannot be attained any other way. Suppressing our feelings of anger, hurt or frustration leads to bitterness. It is true that we should not sacrifice love in our honesty, but Christians often forsake honesty in the name of love. They suppress their feelings of anger and hurt. This is emotional suicide. A ministry of healing can lead people gently through the process.
Ministry of Healing
Joe Tkach, Jr. has explained that we are going through a period of grief and loss. In fact, we are moving from a cult approach to that of a Christian church, as hard as that may be to acknowledge. Our members are losing their former self-image, identity, security, and roots. It takes time to get over a death. The process includes denial, anger, and depression. It takes a specialized sensitivity and ministry. We need to meet members at the point of their need with the healing ointment of the gospel. Additionally, with love and care, we need to address the psychological hold Herbert W. Armstrong continues to hold on our membership.
Below is a possible outline for a healing ministry:
1. Ministerial awareness of the rationale for a ministry of healing. 14 Case Studies of Worldwide Church of God Members Hurt by Legalism.
2. Ministerial preparation. Out of the Cults and Into the Church to understand the dynamics of the trauma of loss and grief experienced by our membership.
3. Smaller bible study groups. Healing for Damaged Emotions to sensitively address results of legalism: perfectionism, depression, low-self esteem and guilt.
4. Sermon series. Search for Significance to address the personal application of grace in the life of the Christian with special attention to honesty in the process of forgiveness and the role of guilt in legalism.
5. Sermon series. Healing Spiritual Abuse to address honestly and openly the past abuses of legalism and to demonstrate our commitment to meet members at the point of their need and make amends.
6. Larger bible study series. Galatians IVP New Testament Commentary giving the biblical foundation for the new covenant grace of God and showing the damage legalism does to the gospel.
7. Ministerial application of a sensitive, ministry of healing approach. 6 Summary Points for a Ministry of Healing.
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1. Case Studies: Members Hurt by Legalism -- Demonstrate the rationale for a ministry that meets members at the point of their need with the healing of the gospel message.
I have talked to a number of ministers who reason that all churches have problems and ours are no worse. This is denial. It is true that no church is perfect. In fact, no family is perfect either. Every family has problems and difficulties. Yet, some families are abusive, sexually, physically or emotionally. The honest and bitter truth is that our family has not preached the gospel of faith in Jesus. We have oppressed and hurt people through our cultic legalism. Thankfully, we have grace and love through the gospel. Healing is needed, and Jesus will provide that healing to all of us as we look to him for it.
I believe we must first address the denial that can prevent us from facing these issues squarely. The following 14 case studies are all true examples though I have changed the names to protect anonymity. Please do not look at these as exceptions. These examples are more extreme, but they are definitely not isolated exceptions. I believe nearly every member of the Worldwide Church of God has a story they could tell if we would only listen. The following, then, is the rationale for a ministry of healing
Case Study #1. ************ ************ ************** ******** years ago he turned down a $65,000 a year job because he was told he must not work on the Sabbath to be a real Christian. Recently, he ************ barely skirted bankruptcy. He wants to know why? He's angry. ***** is like thousands of others who have been underemployed or lost jobs because of our Sabbath restrictions. We must meet them at the point of their need so they may work through the difficulty of realizing their loss and attaining forgiveness. I believe telling a person their sacrifice was noticed by God and that "all things work together for good" circumvents healing. The truth is that the church was wrong in placing this burden upon the member, regardless of the outcome. We need to make amends.
Case Study #2. ********* ************* ************** was counseled ******* ******* ********** she should not have surgery for her cancer *********, this after the change in doctrine on faith and healing. The doctors advised her ******** ******** *********** could result in successful healing. *** followed the advice our ministry gave her. She is dead. *** **** is like thousands of others to whom we in the ministry gave unethical, unbiblical advice. A ministry of healing needs to be extended to those family members who remain.
Case Study #3. ******* grew up in the Worldwide Church of God and has battled homosexual inclinations as long as he can remember. He knew not to share his problem with the ministry or his family because of the legalistic atmosphere. He found not help and encouragement but condemnation and humiliation from ministers who belittled and ridiculed homosexuals from the pulpit. When he became an adult he searched the Bible, prayed and fasted for answers, but on his own he could not find them. ********* ************* ********* ************* ******* ***** ******* ******* ********. He has rejected God and the church and is a member of the homosexual community that accepts him. ******* is like thousands of others who feared bringing their sin to the knowledge of the ministry. They wanted help but were afraid they would be condemned and put out of the church. ******* is gone now. But we need to provide a healing ministry to hurting souls like him that remain in our fellowship.
Case Study #4. ******** ****** ******* whose wife died of cancer when they did not seek medical help. Some relatives hated and blamed ******* ******** ****** ***** ****** ******** He is like many others who have hurt their families by adhering to our doctrinal positions. He is in denial, and, like so many others, is trying to cope with the knowledge that these sacrifices were not necessary. A healing ministry would take such individuals by the hand and walks with them through the pain continually pointing them to Christ.
Case Study #5. **** was repeatedly sexually abused throughout *** childhood and adolescence. ** never told anyone during all these past ** years, ********** ********* ******* ****** *** ********** ****** ******** ******** **** *******. ** bore that tremendous burden ******. ** was in a church that has not been a place of comfort, prayer, support or confessing that it was meant to be. ** did not have access to a meaningful and spiritual ministry that would have been helpful. Rather, ** was part of an abusive system where the unwritten rules were "don't talk, don't feel, don't trust." The fellowship ** had was superficial and "spiritual" only when it pertained to the Sabbath, unclean meats or prophecy. ** is angry and does not want to attend this church any longer, but ** does want healing. If ****** is going to continue to attend, we had better provide a reason for *** to do so.
Case Study #6. ***** ** *** ******* ***** ******* was severely impacted when ** **** ******** killed in a ***** *** accident. ************ ******** ********* ******** ** ************ ********** ************** ********* asked the ministry if ** could seek professional help. ** was told no. **************** ********* ********** ****** ******* *******. Again the answer was no. Later ************ attempted suicide. Neither ******* attend any longer. They have given up on organized religion.
Case Study #7. ************* ********* ******** ********* *** ****** ******* *********. ******* ******** ******** *********** ********* ********* ******* *********** ****** ******* ****** ******* *******. Yet, he received so much criticism from insecure ministers that he nearly moved out of the state. One minister told him he must take down his diplomas because they were vanity. He has carried resentment against those who hurt him. He has spiritual gifts that the ministry told him not to use because they felt threatened by him. Someone needs to tell him we are sorry for the pain we have caused. We need to go to such people and allow them to talk about their hurt. Only in this way can they move on to forgiveness.
Case Study #8. ****** is an employee in Pasadena attending the PM congregation. She is so sick and tired of hearing about all this "Jesus stuff" that she and some of her friends are planning to walk out when the sermon approaches the topic of the gospel. On the one hand she has said that we are not preaching the "core of Christianity, the law." On the other, she is confused and thinks she may give up on the Bible altogether. She is angry and confused. She is in the process of giving up on God and Christianity.
Case Study #9. ******* has been in the church ******* years and was once told by a minister ****** **** ************* *********** ************ *********. In the past five years, however, he has become totally disillusioned by his inability to understand the changes. He feels this disorientation lies at the core of his clinical depression, *************** ***********, *************** ***** and ongoing difficulties. He has been broken by legalism. He does not attend. He is confused. He is giving up on God and Christianity. He needs to be told that he is loved and accepted for who he is, not for his ability to understand these new concepts. He needs to be presented with the gospel message.
Case Study #10. ***** ********* ******** ****** once received two hams for Christmas as a gift from his landlord. When he returned home to find the gifts, he charged over to the man's house. ******* was holding a ham in each arm so he kicked the door with his foot. The man came to the door asking how he could help. "We don't eat ham and don't want these gifts." "Well," the man responded, "I've got some turkeys?" "We don't want your hams or your turkeys! We don't keep Christmas either." ******* was acting in a manner consistent with the self-righteous teaching of a church that in practice denied Jesus Christ. ******* has been hard on himself and those around him for many years. He needs to be encouraged in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Case Study #11. ***** **** ******** ******** grew up along with her parents in the Worldwide Church of God. ** *********** ********** **** repeatedly sexually abused by *** father. The pastor in the area ******** ***************** ************** ***** ****** ************ be careful about talking to young ***** in the area because they might divulge that they were being sexually abused. ****** no longer attends. ** *********** *** have given up on God and Christianity.
Case Study #12. ***************************** while growing up in the Worldwide Church of God. *** continues ******************* at this time but is adamant that *** not accept Christmas gifts from relatives. *** has not been healed by the gospel, but *** takes comfort and security from the legalistic framework that we provided. **** no longer attends.
Case Study #13. ***** verbalized his view of the church in the following way. He explained to me that the members of the Worldwide Church of God have been like the children of Israel standing in the courtyard of the temple with the ministers standing between them and God, who is in the Holy Place. ***** sees the ministry as having been the veil that separates a person from a relationship with God. He did not make this analogy with a bitter attitude but simply as his observation. While this is a difficult statement for me as a minister to receive, it is one worth our consideration, especially since Jesus' death caused the veil to be rent from top to bottom.
Case Study #14. **** is nearly ** and has been a member since he was a child. He is angry at the way he was treated growing up in the church. A deacon once slapped him on the head because his hair was not parted "correctly." He resents the Nazi concentration camp films shown at the Festival of Tabernacles as recently as the 1980s. He doesn't know why he kept coming considering the fear tactics and control that were used. He is like many who realize the spiritual abuse that has been perpetrated upon them.
Again, I do not believe that these few examples give even an inkling of the extent to which we have abused our members through legalism and cultic psychological control. I firmly believe that nearly every single member has a story to tell. The couple who is divorcing whose child died years ago when they did not seek medical attention. The 50 year old single who never married because he did not find a suitable mate in the church. And, most of all, the many, many people who realize they were not fed with real spiritual food, the gospel of Jesus. We cannot honestly say that we always taught the gospel, for the gospel is not Jesus plus Judaism and legalism. That is in fact bondage and Galatianism.
I believe these examples point out the need for a ministry of healing. As destructive as legalism has been, so much more powerful is the gospel to heal hurts and change lives. Rather than laying blame or feeling guilty, we need to honestly acknowledge what has occurred and move toward making amends and applying the healing of the gospel.
2. Out of the Cults and Into the Church (1994), Janis Hutchison -- Provide the ministry with an awareness of the trauma of grief and loss not only faced by individual members but by the Worldwide Church of God as a whole.
Janis Hutchinson spent over 30 years as a Mormon but left to join the Christian church. Her book is not about individual cults or their beliefs, but about the significant problems experienced by ex-cultists during their first three years outside the cult. There are many significant difficulties that linger on as people make that transition. I believe that we as an entire body are making this same transition en masse from cult to church, again, as difficult as that may be to accept. It is not a single individual making the move, but, rather, our ministry must deal with hundreds of members facing many of these same difficulties at varying levels. I believe this is a necessary starting point albeit a difficult one.
Chapter 1. Understanding the trauma. It can take three to seven years for an individual to go through the painful transition and trauma involved in coming out of a cult. Again, we have an entire organization going through this process at the same time at varying levels.
Chapter 2. Culture shock. The cultic organization had an entire culture about it, so that when a person leaves that environment it is akin to moving to a foreign country. "We were in a cult that programmed us to believe God literally dictates every standard and taboo. Now we are in a church that claims God doesn't do that-it is left up to the individual" (p. 37).
Chapter 3. Understanding cult losses. There are significant losses experienced when one leaves a cult. But, at least in that situation, no matter how difficult the process may be, the individual proceeds because of his own choice. We are taking an entire membership through the process whether they like it or not. It is traumatic.
"Ex-Mormons suddenly see their dream of becoming a god or goddess over future worlds destroyed. `If they're not going to be a god, what are they going to be?' An ex-Mormon must be something! To lose a goal like that makes life seem purposeless. (p. 64). `Maybe it was hard on us because it was such a long drop from godhood. After all, what kind of image could Christianity possibly offer in place of that? When you've already been to the top of the ladder, then what? Where to from there?'" (p. 68).
"After being firmly convinced that their cult had special favor with God, each agreed it was hard to admit they had been wrong-it was embarrassing to have been so sure. `We did so much boasting!' they said, recalling their enthusiastic witnessing" (p. 65).
"Leaving a cult means losing the following:
1. Extra-biblical revelation [Mystery of the Ages, US & BC, 18 truths restored to the church through HWA], 2. Leader's supernatural contact with God, 3. Divinely called leader, 4. Friends and community ties, 5. Believing one is right, 6. Belonging to the "only true church", 7. Absolute answers, 8. Sacred myths [Petra place of safety], 9. Elite status, 10. Respect
11. Being called to positions by revelation, 12. Goals, 13. Self-esteem" (pp. 55-69).
On a certain level our members are losing the same 13 "benefits" of a cultic organization and have been in the process of losing them for the past seven years. "It is almost impossible to comprehend the tremendous loss suffered by ex-cultists who have left behind them a package-deal life, full of love, support and absolute answers-all structured around a purpose and goals. In its place sits a gaping void" (p. 69).
Chapter 4. Counseling with compassion. Stages of grief. Leaving a cult is similar to grieving a loss. It requires compassion, sensitivity and patience to allow the person to experience what they are experiencing. Any attempt to shortcut the process or take away the pain will lead in internalization and suppression of feelings and later emotional problems. Rather, we must put our arms around the person who is hurting and be there for them through the process. Hutchison utilizes the stages of grief in Loss and Grief by George Engel and Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to conceptualize this trauma which is so often characterized by anxiety, helplessness and anger.
Chapter 5. Loss of Roots, Story and Identity
Chapter 6. Principals of Mass Movements.
Chapter 7. Ritual. "I think the concept of progressive knowledge could be listed as one of my more serious losses. When I first entered a Christian church and discovered there were no levels for spiritual advancement, I felt my growth was stunted-I had reverted to a kindergarten level. I wanted to gain higher knowledge, learn godly secrets! I was lost without that incentive!... I guess I'm just a gnostic at heart" (p. 142).
Chapter 8. Deadly Doctrines Tough to Divorce. "When a former cultist enters a Christian church, he or she is still deeply affected by the principles contained in cult myths and continues to cling to them. When he or she is told too soon and without sensitivity that cult myths are fabrications or of the devil, it is that same as saying the inner securities and faith they engender are also false. It is a severe shock to the whole psyche. All guidelines, standards, and ethics then come into question. Securities begin to tumble; assurances are swept away. One's whole world comes crashing down amid anguished and conflicting emotions. It is one of the worst devastations that can be suffered, and it is totally incomprehensible to someone who has not experienced it" (p. 153). It is at this point that we must gently and with assurance point members to the healing salvation of Jesus Christ who wants to be our security and Savior from devastation.
Chapter 9. Exit from the Cult and Contact with a Pastor. "From the perspective of those working with cult members, they are problematic, complex, unmanageable, resistant, perplexing, incorrigible, and exhausting" (p. 171). I believe we will find that a ministry of healing in the Worldwide Church of God is equally difficult.
Chapter 10. The Precarious Transition Period. This is a time of critical analysis and many special needs. It also compares to the stage that many of our members are in now. "Looking back over thirty years of Mormonism, I finally had to accept the stark truth that I did not have the intelligence to discern right from wrong. This raised some probing and painful questions: Could I ever trust myself again to make a correct choice? How did I know I was right about Christianity? Would I be fooled in this conversion like I was in the Mormon Church? How does one gauge truth?" (p. 189). Rather than explain away these hard questions, we must answer honestly and openly. The truth is that we often don't know the answers to many of these questions. If members are to experience healing, they must honestly work through these issues. Only then do they find themselves in a situation where Jesus Christ is the only answer.
Another interesting point from the book is how a cult often offers more than most Christian churches in regard to self-improvement and personal development. "[It is difficult for ex-cultists when they enter the Christian church because of its emphasis on preaching the gospel and its neglect of overall personal growth and development.] Melanie recalled the Pursuit of Excellence program, where girls under 18 were challenged with incentive awards. Judy remembered the womens' Personal Progress Program with nine areas for achievement: ... Spirituality, Service... Recreation... Cultural... Education..." (p. 193). I am mindful of our Personal Development Training program in Y.O.U. but lack of an emphasis on evangelizing our youth. I am also mindful of our emphasis on Christianity being some kind of personal improvement program. Many sermonettes and sermons have been based on Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, again a work by a Utah Mormon. The healing people need is not in personal development, but, rather, in the power of the gospel.
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3. Healing for Damaged Emotions (1981), David Seamands -- Provide members with preparatory material on emotional and spiritual healing.
David Seamand's is only one of many excellent books on the topic of grace. However, I believe Healing for Damaged Emotions is extremely meaningful for us because of its combination of a solid theological foundation along with a professional counseling and psychology focus addressing specifically the wounds of legalism. David Seamands writes about "anger, guilt, depression, inferiority, and perfectionism-that constant and all pervading feeling that we are never `good enough.' Then he takes us to the heart of lingering emotional pain and shows how we can find permanent freedom" (p. 5). Thus, he addresses many of the problems that have resulted from our old covenant approach.
His entire book centers on the following: "Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive and live out God's unconditional grace and forgiveness, and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness and grace to other people" (p. 29). With our old covenant, legalistic background, this book is tailored just for us.
He addresses the perfectionism, low self-esteem, depression and superficiality that we have ingrained in our members through legalism. He lovingly presents the way that the gospel heals the hurts we have received and the process by which grace changes our lives. Certainly, salvation brings healing to our members. But the gospel will not bring instantaneous emotional healing; a healing ministry over the course of time is necessary. "Isn't it true that by their fruits you shall know them? (Matt. 7:16) Yes, but it is also true that by their roots you shall understand, and not judge them" (p. 13). This is vital in working with the people that we have abused. (I realize some of this material is difficult, but we must be honest to move toward healing and forgiveness.)
Chapter 1. Damaged Emotions. Seamands is an excellent work to bring healing to members but also vitally important in giving a loving and compassionate framework for ministers to work with people who have damaged emotions. He discourages simplistic pat-answers. "`Read your Bible. Pray. Have more faith. If you were spiritually OK, you wouldn't have this hang-up. You would never get depressed. You would never have any sexual compulsions or problems.' However, people who say such things are being very cruel. They are only piling more weights on a person who is in pain and unsuccessfully struggling with an emotionally-rooted problem. He already feels guilty about it; when people make him feel worse for even having the problem, they double the weight of his guilt and despair" (p. 14). I still see leading ministers in the Worldwide Church of God driving sincere hurting members deeper into despair and disillusionment.
Chapter 2. Guilt, Grace, and Debt-Collecting. "The unforgiven and unforgiving person is plagued with guilt and resentment. He lives in a prison house where he finds himself tortured by all manner of emotional inner conflicts" (p. 27). Even many of us in the ministry labor under such guilt.
Chapter 3. The Wounded Healer. "You never need to feel, There's something wrong with me because I'm having this depression. I'm not spiritual. These are cruelties we Christians [and ministers] often inflict on one another, and they are not biblical. We are not coming into the presence of a neurotic parent who has to hear only good things from his children. We're not coming into the presence of a father who says, `Shhh, don't feel that way; that's wrong. Don't cry. If you keep crying, I'll really give you something to cry about.' We are coming into the presence of a heavenly Father who understands our feelings and infirmities and invites us to share them with Him" (p. 40).
Chapter 4. Satan's Deadliest Weapon. "If you have low self-esteem, you ask another human being to do for you what no other person can do-to make you feel adequate and able-when you are already convinced that you are inadequate and unable" (p. 54). We have placed heavy demands on ourselves God does not place upon us, resulting in low self-esteem.
Chapter 5 and 6. Healing Our Low Self-Esteem. These chapters encourage us to correct our faulty theology and take our self-estimate from God.
Chapter 7. Symptoms of Perfectionism. Jesus said that his yoke was easy and his burden was light and that we should go to him for that rest. Rather, some have already been saying that the new covenant changes Mr. Tkach is instituting make things more binding. Is it possible to bind people more than we already have? Can we make it any harder? Christ said he would give us a Sabbath, a rest. But because of our theology we tend toward perfectionism, even now as we emphasize the new covenant. "The Good News of grace had broken into the lives of the Galatians, freeing them from that kind of spiritual yoke. The Good News is that the way to God is not the path of perfect performance. No matter how much you try, you can never win God's favor. Why? Because His favor, His being pleased with you, is a love-gift of His grace through Jesus Christ" (pp. 81-82). But the legalist presents a God who is never satisfied. The result as Seamands writes is either a "breakaway," people who give up on God and Christianity, or a "breakdown," those who simply psychologically break under the load. I have seen examples of both. They are sad, but even there we can meet such people with love and tenderness. There is hope.
Chapter 8. The Process of Healing Perfectionism. "The perfectionist almost has to feel guilty, if for nothing else, not feeling guilty about something!" (p. 90). Seamands addresses the root causes of perfectionism: unpleasable parents and unpredictable home situations. Many of our members would benefit looking at the way in which their view of God was formed in large part by the way in which their parents dealt with them. The answer to this emotional bondage is in the justification of God.
Chapter 9. Super You or Real You? We deny our feelings because we are afraid they are not Christian, and thus, we suppress emotional hurts and pains resulting in bitterness. "However, there are no such things as bad feelings and good feelings. Feelings are just feelings" (p. 105). We are often under the delusions that we can never have conflicts with other Christians, we must always be happy, and we cannot be real.
Chapter 10 & 11. Myths and Truths about and Dealing with Depression
Chapter 12. Healed Helpers. Seamands writes about the concept of "recycling grace" (p. 134). We in the ministry must go through this painful process of grief and coming to trust completely in Christ for our significance just like others. When we have done so, we can be more compassionate to others going through that same process.
Healing for Damaged Emotions has a leader's guide with 13 sessions. It is an extremely popular Christian work, and I believe this would form the basis of a very helpful sermon series or bible study series. Some excellent preparatory sermons for a healing ministry could be given from a companion book by Seamands, Healing Grace: Freedom from the Performance Trap (1988). I do not believe it necessary to "reinvent the wheel," as it were, when there are a number of classic Christian works already available.
"Ministry of Healing Document" (Part 2 of 2)
4. Search for Significance (1985), Robert McGee -- Guide members in personally applying the gospel of God's grace in their lives and addressing the false belief that our significance is in our performance.
Robert McGee's book Search for Significance is the basis of a Christian mental health treatment center, Rapha. I have had the opportunity to work a few hours each week with the local Rapha treatment center that is part of Charter Lakeside Behavioral Health here in Memphis. It is an extremely popular book commonly used for small group studies in the evangelical community. His approach is to examine four main false beliefs that we as Christians hold that diminish our ability to experience the love, joy, peace and freedom our salvation was meant to bring. The false beliefs center around placing our self-worth and significance as persons not in the redemption of Christ but in our ability to perform or gain the approval of other people.
Chapters 1-5. Our Search for Significance. These chapters address the process of hope and healing and the difference between God's saving solution and satan's snares.
I realize some ministers may shudder at the psychological approach of Minirth and Meier and others believing it compromises the biblical message. However, I believe McGee has a solidly-based biblical understanding.
"Some Christian counselors observe the pain caused by low self-esteem and try to inflate a person's ego so that he will feel better about himself. Often, this is simply `positive mental attitude' material in Christian lingo. Some abhor the shallowness of this `let's all feel good about ourselves' approach, but their response takes them to the other extreme. They camp on Christ's teaching that we should hate our lives in order to be His disciples, excluding the abundant and clear teaching of Christ's love, forgiveness, and acceptance. This harsh, out-of-balance approach may be stimulating to someone who is very secure in Christ, but it is devastating to most of us. A healthy, positive self-esteem is not attained by `feel good' superficiality. On the other hand, a Christ-centered view of ourselves is not detrimental to true discipleship; it is the result of understanding and applying the truths of the Scriptures. A proper view of God and of ourselves enables us to love, obey and honor Christ with all our hearts. Paul wrote, For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment... (Rom. 12:3). This sound judgment is not based on either pop psychology or spiritual masochism. It is based squarely on God's truth" (p. 10).
The truth of Scripture is that my worth does not come from my ability to perform or gain the approval of other people. Instead it comes from Christ.
Chapter 6. The Performance Trap. This chapter addresses the first false belief. It also presents six reasons we ought to obey Christ, none of which are so that he will accept us.
False Belief #1. I must meet certain standards in order to feel good about myself. God's truth. Justification.
Chapter 7. Approval Addict. Neither does our significance come from other people. This amounts to idolatry and is very harmful to our emotional and spiritual well-being. God's truth is that we have been reconciled through Christ.
False Belief #2. I must have the approval of certain others in order to feel good about myself. God's truth. Reconciliation.
Chapter 8. The Blame Game. When we do not receive God's grace, but use guilt and punishment to control our own and others' behavior, the inevitable result is despair and discouragement. God's answer is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was punished for my sins.
False Belief #3. Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished. God's truth. Propitiation.
Chapter 9. Shame. Shame is especially destructive and is an impediment to true spiritual growth. These four false beliefs are satan's tools to trap us in a cycle of despair and sin.
False Belief #4. I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless. God's truth. Regeneration.
Chapter 10-13. Obstacles to Growth and the Healing of the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 14. Guilt vs. conviction. I would suggest sermon series on the personal application of the new covenant grace of God in our lives based upon the material from this book. A particularly important sermon could be based upon the chapter: Guilt vs. Conviction. Many of our members and ministers have labored under guilt. At one ministerial conference the ladies came to the conclusion you should only feel guilt when you are sinning. The truth of the matter is that I am not under condemnation at all (Romans 8:1), and Jesus has taken all guilt upon himself. There need not be any more atonement made than what has already been given. Guilt is a destructive tool of satan, not of God. The Holy Spirit convicts us but he does not use guilt, though it has been a favorite of the old covenant, legalistic approach.
There is also a workbook, leaders' guides, and youth versions for this popular work which is biblically sound but clinically professional.
* * *
5. Healing Spiritual Abuse (1993), Ken Blue -- Address with the congregation the abuses of our past legalistic approach and the need for a servant leadership ministry.
Ken Blue addresses the effects of legalism on an individual and a congregation. His goal is to bring forgiveness to the individual who has been involved in an abusive situation, but this does, of necessity, involve a heightening of the awareness of what was suffered. This also for a time intensifies the pain, but is crucial for true inner healing. It comes back to the analogy of taking the ball of hurt and pain from inside and holding it and acknowledging it and then taking it to the forgiveness of the cross. Again, the rate at which a person travels through this is individualized. And, we should not fear encouraging a member to talk about his or her hurt and pain. They already feel it. God already knows it. It is usually because of our own personal discomfort that we avoid such discussion.
Healing Spiritual Abuse is an exposition and application of Matthew 23 addressing the legalism and spiritual "lording-it-over" of modern day religious pharisees. He emphasizes the importance of servant leadership and respect for the individual believer's Christian freedom and ability to choose.
I believe we should encourage members to read this book. I believe we in the ministry should give sermons on it. Just reading the book might be a difficult, soul-searching exercise for many of us, but I believe it is one that would demonstrate our commitment to the brethren to change and become a healthy church. I believe this book would be extremely helpful in our approaching the kind of praying, confessing, comforting, worshipping church that we simply have not been.
It seems to be based on the earlier work The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, and is an excellent tool, albeit somewhat difficult to read at times given the nature of the material. It can hit close to home even though the Worldwide Church of God is not mentioned by name.
Chapter 1. An Invitation to Freedom. "Spiritual abuse happens when a leader with spiritual authority uses that authority to coerce, control or exploit a follower, thus causing spiritual wounds... it is rarely perpetrated with intent to maim... [we] are curiously naive about the effects of [such] exploitation" (pp. 12-13). Few of us intend to abuse, but I would submit that all of us have done just that though to varying degrees given the legalistic approach we have taken. And, subtle, guilt-inducing statements from a person with spiritual authority are just as harmful as outright condemnations. This book can show us how we can avoid abusing others spiritually, even if we don't think we are doing so now.
Chapter 2. The Seat of Moses-The Power to Abuse. "Martha was terrified of me. When I realized this, I asked her why she was afraid. Her reply came in a low, almost menacing voice, `Because you are a minister'" (p. 14). Even if you are not an abuser yourself, we must realize the extent to which ministers and parents and spouses before us have utilized God and the Bible to threaten and control our members. And, yet, all of us have been ministers in a rigidly hierarchical system that took away much of the personal sense of autonomy of members.
Chapter 3 & 4. Sniffing Out the Yeast of the Pharisees/Heavy Loads. "The yeast of the Pharisees is their `Perfectionistic theology'-that is, the idea that performing religious duties gains us a higher standing with God and secures his blessings... [such an approach] is an expression of leaders' compulsion to seek security and predictability [by enforcing] a exhaustive list of dos and don'ts" (p. 44). It is much like the Jewish Christians who were deceiving the Galatians. "These so-called Judaizers did not deny salvation through faith in Christ. They simply added to it a few Jewish disciplines, supposedly to help the Gentile believers go on to maturity (Gal. 3:3). They said, in effect, `Jesus gets us started in the Christian life, but we become mature through our own religious performance'" (p. 45).
"Religious manipulation that produces guilt starts out holding the carrot of approval in front of us, but always ends up beating us with the rod of condemnation" (p. 58).
Chapter 5 & 6. They Do It for Show/Majoring on Minors and Missing the Point. "There is one variety of abusive leader who is so preoccupied with keeping up appearances as to utterly deny human weakness and the depth of human fallenness. This is typically a very `positive' person-always smiles, always up. This pastor's sermons are full of easy answers and glib advice; his or her own dark temptations, marriage problems, failures as a parent are never disclosed. The only personal struggle that is confessed is expressed in the past tense, so that we may see how victory has been gained" (p. 71). This environment teaches members they cannot confess their sins. It encourages a "don't talk, don't trust, don't feel" church body. Denial becomes an art form and because real spiritual issues of the heart are not being addressed, members turn to physical, external issues in which they can take security, Sabbath observance, Holy Days, tithing, unclean meats, etc.
"Real people and their real needs are always the major concern for Jesus" (p. 91). It would be easy for us as a church to put the burden once again on the members and tell them they just need to forgive the church and move on. "If you were a real Christian, you would just forgive me." Blue writes, "I say, `Yes, of course, I want to forgive you and I will forgive you, but we first have to talk about it. You must see what you are doing to me, and you must stop it" (p. 101).
Chapter 7. Who Gets Hooked and Why. Sincere people who want to obey God in the fullest way possible are susceptible to those who would bind on them burdens they themselves are not willing to bear. In a sense we have all been duped. Rather than laying blame and feeling guilt, why not be about ministering to people and helping them with their hurts.
Chapter 8. Healed by Grace/Healthy Church Leadership and Discipline. Ken Blue's book is an excellent work that leads us to the servant leadership of Christ. I believe a healing ministry should address the congregational and ministerial hurts caused by legalism and the implications of grace.
* * *
6. Galatians: IVP New Testament Commentary (1994), G. Hansen -- Examine the biblical foundation of grace plus nothing and Paul's insistence on the true gospel being preached, not legalism.
The works I have mentioned so far were extremely healing in my own personal dealing with my past hurts and emotional repercussions of the legalism that has been my entire life. They brought me to an understanding of the gospel that reached through to my heart and brought great joy and peace in my walk with God. Yet, I still held to certain Jewish beliefs despite my understanding of freedom in Christ and salvation in Christ alone. But the work that drove the nail into my legalistic coffin was Hansen's IVP commentary on Galatians. When I saw in its original context what Paul was working so hard to combat in Galatia, I let go of the last vestiges of legalism and was left with Jesus Christ as my Lord.
I believe it is uncanny how much the book of Galatians relates to our current situation in the Worldwide Church of God. Jewish Christians perverted the gospel and went in to Galatian Christians imposing upon them various aspects of Jewish culture, Sabbath, holy days, circumcision, food laws, etc. in order for them to live up to a higher, nobler, more sacrificial brand of discipleship. Instead of supplementing their faith, they began to choke it out completely. Paul had strong words for them. They were making the cross of none effect. They were deserting the gospel.
It would seem to me that a thorough ministry of healing should include a series of sermons going slowly through the book of Galatians. This in itself will bring many people to a proper understanding of the new covenant grace of Christ. Encourage members to read the book through in a modern translation. It is very plain.
Additionally, however, I feel that members who are beginning to understand the gospel and that they do not need to keep all of these rules and regulations are now at a loss of exactly what they should do as they walk the Christian walk. We have not understood Christian freedom and walking according to the lead of the Holy Spirit in our lives. After we have first dealt with the hurts of legalism, I believe we then need to begin to teach people to be sensitive to God's lead in their lives through the Spirit. Paul addresses these themes at length. We have all but quenched this with our "go ask the minister" mentality.
This book is an excellent exposition of Paul's rebuke for the brethren deserting the gospel of Christ. It goes in detail through his explanation of the promise of the new covenant versus the law of the old covenant. Of particular note is the attention given to standing firm in our freedom and how we walk according to the Spirit using our freedom not to indulge our sinful nature but to serve one another in love.
7. Six Principles for a Ministry of Healing -- How to minister a grace-filled emotional and spiritual healing to members.
In summary, I would like to suggest a few points for a ministerial and administrative approach which I believe is scripturally mandated but also important from a psychological and counseling perspective to aid members in spiritual and emotional healing.
Point 1. Openness and honesty on the part of the church. While I understand headquarter's desire to release the new doctrines of the past seven years slowly, I believe we have reached the point where "the cat is out of the bag," as it were. We have said we are saved by grace, not law. We have said there are Christians in other churches. We have emphasized Christian freedom. We have said that the Sabbath and Holy Days are shadows that pointed to the reality, much in the same way as animal sacrifices. The January 5, 1995 Pastor General's Report seemed to burn all bridges in this regard. The old covenant Sabbath we have observed simply does not have any relevance in the new covenant. To continue to hold to these doctrines by repackaging them with new covenant advertising will not only be seen as inconsistent by those moving along in the healing process but will serve as a justification for many others to remain in denial. It will only hinder their healing.
Thus, I believe we in the ministry should now eliminate the old covenant "holy days," and references to observing the Sabbath. Rather, it would seem appropriate to just explain that most of our congregations will continue to meet for worship on Saturday as is our tradition. We do not believe Sabbath observance has been transferred to Sunday. Sabbath observance, as such, is simply not part of the new covenant. I believe we should eliminate phraseology that alludes to the "advantages of the Sabbath," "the highest level of piety in observing the Sabbath," "working toward devoting the whole day to God." The truth is that many have considered themselves Sabbatarians more than Christians. For us to continue to teach these practices will enable further denial on the part of those who are unwilling to move forward in the healing process.
Point 2. Non-judgmental, compassionate and patient approach toward the membership. While I believe the church leadership and ministry should teach the truth of the new covenant, not a repackaging of old covenant practices in new covenant advertising, I also firmly believe we should meet each member at the point of his or her individual need. We need to patiently and compassionately walk with each member as he or she deals with their losses. Some will cling to our old covenant teachings. We should meet them where there are at, not where we would like them to be. We should not judge them as proud or vain or sinful, but encourage them. However, I believe the patience should be with the members and not with our presentation as a church, gradually giving out more and more "new" doctrine. I do not believe such "patience" from headquarters and the ministry in our presentation of the gospel is therapeutic but rather promotes denial. The members should have as much time as they need to come to these understandings, and be allowed the freedom to never come to them at all. But I believe we as a church must clearly preach the gospel.
Point 3. Affirm and encourage the expression of hurt feelings of the membership. We need to avoid the tendency to minimize or explain away feelings of hurt and pain. It is a natural tendency and a Christian virtue to want to comfort a person who is grieving. However, it is also a proclivity to attempt to lessen the pain of grief by minimizing the extent of the hurts. One Worldwide Church of God member lost a 2 year old son and was told that she needed to be strong. She was not allowed to grieve. She was not allowed to cry. She was not encouraged to talk about what had happened. Such an approach lacks sensitivity and results in disaster. Several years of alcoholism resulted in this particular member's situation.
Encourage the member who is hurting to express the frustration. "I am angry that I gave up that $65,000 per year job and have been struggling financially for 15 years." It may be true that all things work together for good. However, it is a process of grief. Not encouraging them to talk about their feelings is no different than members who tell someone grieving a death not to cry because they will see the person again in the resurrection. This statement may be true, but it completely lacks in sensitivity and compassion. Further, it destroys the process of healing.
Point 4. Seek forgiveness for past offenses and submit to the congregation our desire to make changes and follow Christ in the future. We should openly acknowledge that we were wrong. We have abused the brethren spiritually by laying on them burdens we ourselves have not been willing to bear. A healing ministry requires that we express our regret, make amends and affirm our commitment to follow Christ's lead and be there to serve the members in their need (Matt. 20:28). Many members want to hear from the administration and the ministry that the Worldwide Church of God has been in error, that we have hurt the members, that we accept responsibility and that we are going to make amends. I do not believe this is too much to ask.
Point 5. Utilize respected leaders God has provided who understand the gospel. There are respected long-time ministers in the field who could be called upon to help the ministry in their healing as well. Craig Bacheller, David Stone, Earl Williams and others seem to utilize the approach I have articulated. I would suggest bringing them in to ministerial conferences and allowing them in small groups to lead discussions of the gospel in an honest, loving, non-threatening and non-judgmental way.
Point 6. Give control to Jesus Christ in faith. In the old legalistic approach I controlled others through guilt and a wrong use of authority. Under grace, I am learning to truly give the drivers' seat to God. It is a difficult process to let go, but I believe the rewards will be astounding. When there is an organization with business and economic considerations, it is even more difficult. Yet, we have asked members many, many times to pay their three tithes and seven offerings and look to God to provide. I am asking us to do the same.
Conclusion -- This is a possible outline for a ministry of healing. This is only an outline of possible ideas, and there are undoubtedly countless other approaches that would accomplish the same task.
I believe we need to begin to implement immediately an approach that addresses the hurts and pains that our members are experiencing. It is not enough to tell them our old doctrines were wrong. We need to meet them at the point of their need and give them the patient and sensitive specialized ministry of healing that comes only through the gospel of Christ. There are members still in denial. If we feed that denial by not being completely honest, more and more members will leave to go with the more conservative ministries of Gerald Flurry and Roderick Meredith. If we do not minister to the hurt we have caused, those coming to understand the gospel will leave also. Many are doing just that. However, the most important thing is not whether people stay in our fellowship, but that we be about our calling of ministering to the needs of those God has given us. If we do that, some will leave, but many, many will stay and more will come to fellowship with us because of the power of the gospel expounded to them. The church will grow and be healed. Christ will come in and abide; the Spirit will work wonders.
Mr. Tkach has mentioned the gift of healing. I believe the power of the gospel is manifold greater. I do not believe we yet grasp how healing the gospel is, nor does it seem we have yet comprehended the extent to which legalism chokes out and destroys love and faith in all our relationships. We thought we were supplementing our walk with God. The bitter truth is that we have taken many true Christians and bound them in legalism, all but snuffing out the joy of a walk with God. The issue is not one of responsibility or blame for what has been done; the issue is that abuse has occurred. Nobody else is going to help the members through this time. But, I believe we in the ministry are called to minister healing to those who are hurting. The answer for each of us is the healing of the gospel of Jesus. The answer to the hurts of each one of the case studies I mentioned is the healing, unconditional love of God shed abroad in their hearts through the Holy Spirit. What a joy to be called to be part of that process.
And, what a blessing that we as an organization have advanced to the point that such dialogue and free-flow of information as this is possible.
(Name Withheld), Associate Pastor
 From: J. M. Feazell at CPA 2/1/95 3:26PM (4052 bytes: 1 ln)
To: Joseph Tkach Jr. at CHAD, Ralph Orr at EDIT, (Name Withheld) at USFIELD
Subject: Re: response to (Name Withheld)
Hi (Name Withheld),
I think Ralph has made a good suggestion. What ministers could use immediately would be a set of sermon/Bible study outlines or guides that they could present to their congregations. I think that is what you have in mind as well, and the material you sent is already a rough version of that. If nothing else, it will introduce them to some books that will be a good starting point for making their own emotional journey.
Thanks very much for your help.
Subject: response to (Name Withheld)
Author: Ralph Orr at EDIT
Date: 1/25/97 11:47AM
What follows is a copy of my response to (Name Withheld) proposed article "Ministry of Healing."
Your article, "Ministry of Healing," was passed on to me for possible inclusion in "Reviews You Can Use." I want to say that I have come to share much of your perspective. While I have not done so, I am certain that I could reach back into my 19 years of field experience and list many legalistic abuses similar to those you have listed.
Not long ago, I had significant input into a position paper that may soon be distributed to the ministry. The paper deals with certain prophetic teachings. I and others felt that the Church should publicly apologize and ask the forgiveness of those that we have sinned against as a result of that former teaching. Unfortunately, some believed [presumably other administrators] that in our litigious society such a public confession would open the Church to serious lawsuits, which, because of our confession, we would lose. Therefore the confession and request for forgiveness has been removed from the paper.
I am not certain that the fear of lawsuits is justified. I believe that even if such were possible, we owe it to others to make amends. Confession and appeal for forgiveness would seem appropriate. But in the case of the above named position paper, it will not happen.
I think that many people would believe that the situations you describe in your paper are worse than any harm caused by the prophetic doctrine dealt with in the proposed position paper. That being the case, I cannot see how we can print your article in its present format.
I am also concerned that because you speak of the Church in transition from harmful cult to healing church (a position that does not offend me) that many who could benefit from what you say will discount your whole article.
May I be so bold as to suggest that you also appear to be grieving, and that your anger may have entered your prose?
Therefore, I suggest the following. Rewrite the article. Focus on the stages of grief. Show how they apply to the current situation and suggest ways the ministry can apply this understanding in their "ministries of healing." I believe you can accomplish much more with this approach.
Thanks for your work.
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