"I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is of no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through the dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over the pre-war wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same about religion."
~ C.S. Lewis
|MINISTRY TO THE DEPRESSED|
| by Christopher C. Thompson,
Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church, Columbus, Ohio
Over the past year I've done a ton of speaking, preaching, teaching, and writing about grief, suffering, and hardship. I did not choose this; it chose me. I had a member commit suicide in September of 2010. Then, in January of 2011 my father committed suicide. One year later, I travelled back to visit the family and celebrate survival and recovery, only to find that my dad's brother had committed suicide. So in January of 2012, they held the funeral; almost exactly a year to the day of my father's funeral. I started speaking out about suicide and depression, and every time I did I'd get people coming to me to tell me their stories. More and more people would
People are hurting, broken, wounded, and grappling for some semblance of help and hope. It can truly be overwhelming. Shepherding is difficult enough when the sheep are healthy, it's nearly impossible when the sheep aren't well. It's terribly difficult to lead the flock to green pastures when many of them are crippled by depression and despair. Thus, I have learned, It's very important that the minister does not become consumed with sickness and despondency.
I'll assume that as a minister, you sincerely care for those who hurt, and that you seek God in prayer for their prosperity. Yet, here are three simple keys to effective ministry to the depressed.
- Provide specific life-work assignments.
- Urge them to seek professional help.
- Do not enable.
Now that you have the general idea of the keys, let's go back and take a bit of a closer look at each of them. 1. Provide specific life-work assignments.
Depressed people are blinded by circumstance and drained dry of energy. They need encouragement and direction. Litter your counsel with bible promises and encouragement, but be specific and intentional about coaching them towards specific projects and goals. Pain, loss, grief, and suffering is transition time, and transition time is the perfect time to start a ministry, write a book, go back to school, and just do something new and different. Without specific goals and objectives things continue to fester and spoil. They have to get up, get out, and do something.2. Urge them to seek professional help.
Often times the depression and hardship is so severe that not even the most charismatic character can encourage them. They need an environment and professional that is trained to deal with these types of issues...and you are NOT it. Look warning signs (i.e. suicide-speak, excessive drinking/drug use, etc.) that they need professional therapeutic care and do not hesitate to refer them. You are not God. Don't try to play hero with people's fragile lives.3. Do not enable.
I recently heard an SDA chaplain say that God is extremely co-dependent. I wondered what made him say that. I'll ask him later. However, If it just so happened that God ever actually did become co-dependent...I'm sure it's because He can handle it. We can't. We cannot enable others because of our own insecurities and weakness. If a person refuses to pursue their goals, and they refuse to seek out help, then I for sure cannot help them. I must move on to those sheep who relish the leading of the shepherd.
There it is. Do this, and you will pour new life into the broken bodies of many ailing souls. There is no shortage of depressed people, but there is also no shortage of divine grace and power that can lift the weakest believer out of the doldrums of depression, despondency, and despair. For that's what he does. "He heals the brokenhearted and he binds up their wounds" (Ps. 147:3).Discuss this topic with Christopher on the Best Practices Facebook page.
Christopher blogs at 4G: Gifted and Growing by God's Grace
| by Loren Seibold
Her name was Debbie. I told her (as the caller from Adventist Information Ministry had said I should) that I was a representative of It Is Written ministry, and reminded her that she'd asked to be contacted about the Bible studies she'd taken. "I love studying the Bible," she said. "I understand you accepted the seventh-day Sabbath," I said. "The what?" "The seventh-day Sabbath." "I've think I've heard of that," she said. "Who are you again?" "I'm from It Is Written," I said. "I go to the Bethesda Temple," she said. "But I like Bible studies." She led me to the bedroom of her tiny apartment, where the walls were papered with certificates. "These are from the Mormons," she said. "And this from the Jews. And this one from..." and the list went on.
She did love studying the Bible. She'd gone through the lessons and filled in the blanks and agreed to everything. She loved the Lord. But the finer points of doctrine, what distinguished us from others, were lost on her. She was a lonely old woman who found comfort in Scripture and was delighted that someone had offered her a visitor.
I eventually dropped the effort to get her to concentrate on my agenda. It would have been unkind to persist. I listened to her tell about her health problems, her failing eyesight, her children, her faith, her church and I prayed with her.
Some thoughts and questions:
- We desperately want our churches to grow. So we're always looking for those people for whom our message is as clear and self-evident as it seems to us. Media-generated interests are one way that it would seem we should find them. Yet I can count on one hand the number of baptisms that originated from the interest referrals from Voice of Prophecy or It is Written and the rest. I'm not sure why.
- Through my entire life and ministry, evangelism has always been presented as a process of selling the points of doctrine. But what do we do for people for whom that simply isn't important?
- Fellowship should be the compliment to doctrine - should do what doctrine cannot for people like Debbie. Yet our congregants themselves often seem to feel that Seventh-day Adventism is mostly about a message, and that warm and consistent Christian fellowship is less important than truths to be assented to and standards to hold. Think of the discussions in the average Sabbath School class. Think of the number of congregations that aren't peaceful, happy places to be, but hold together on the strength of shared truths.
- I think I could get Debbie to church - she'd be happy for a ride anywhere - and perhaps I could even convince her to be baptized, though I wonder how much she'd understand. Should I?
The story isn't finished, though my last contact with Debbie was to drop by a large-print Bible - for her to read when she attends Bethesda Temple.
What do you do in such situations? Discuss this topic on our Best Practices Facebook page.
|SHOULD YOU DO A FEASIBILITY STUDY?|
Feasibility studies are a necessary step in conducting a capital campaign, whether it be a church building, renovation, acquisition of equipment or any campaign that has a significant goal and is a one-time effort, even if conducted in stages. However, feasibility studies are expensive. So are there times when a church could forego such a study and use some intelligent reasoning and information that is available to make a decision about a campaign and its success.
Not conducting a feasibility study should be a very careful decision. Basically, a feasibility study answers the questions, "Can we do this?" It is a study to determine if a proposed process, campaign, action is possible to accomplish. Feasibility studies objectively and rationally uncover the strengths and weaknesses of a proposed campaign, opportunities and threats as presented by the environment, the resources required to carry through, and ultimately the prospects for success. Most importantly, a feasibility study will help determine whether a fundraising goal can be achieved, and who might be donors.
Before you decide whether or not you should do a feasibility study, answer these questions for yourself:
Is the goal small enough that perhaps funding sources are evident?
Can you, objectively, identify donors and funding sources and create your own giving plan (and a gift range chart-get more information from PSI)? Be sure you move beyond optimistic and wishful thinking.
Can you convene an objective group which can evaluate potential donors at all levels? Read More
|WANTED! MORE FEMALE PASTORS|
| By G. Alexander Bryant
The North American Division (NAD) has voted to focus on six areas of emphasis over the next quinquinnium, which we refer to as "Building Blocks." These building blocks are foundational for the continual growth of the North American Division. The six focus areas are designed to connect many areas of ministry, which exists as a part of the NAD mission. These six areas are: (1) Adventist Learning Community, (2) Transformational Evangelism, (3) Media, (4) Emerging Immigrant Population, (5) Retention of Young Adults, and (6) Women in Ministry.
The focus of this article is on the "Women in Ministry" Building Block. This Building Block is not designed to deal with the ordination of women, which is being addressed in another venue through a study group/committee. The "Women in Ministry" building block is a human resource emphasis, which focuses on the recruitment of more women in pastoral leadership, and it will move forward independent of the findings and conclusion of the ordination issue. Presently, there is a lack of women in pastoral work within the North American Division, and we need them to help finish the work of God in this territory. Read More
|Watch Ralph Ringer,
coordinator for Jewish evangelism for the NAD as he takes a moment to share some of the resources for NY13 on the video.
A 3ABN broadcast on Thursday, January 24 at 8:00 pm CT will feature Ralph Ringer, Alex Schlussler and Jeff Zaremsky, and Alexander Bolotnikov as they talk about Jewish Outreach opportunities. Download a bulletin insert
from Jewish Outreach and share it with your congregation.
READING FOR PASTORS
|I've had it used on me, and I'll bet you have, too: "God told me." Carey Nieuwhof says it's the ultimate Christian trump card. Quote: "Most of the time when leaders trot out 'God told me', they're actually seeking to add divine weight to something that truthfully, is either their opinion or their (maybe sincere) attempt to apply what they've learned to the situation they're facing."|
Yoga classes in CA public schools have upset Christian parents, who see it as a religion, not physical education. (Mark Driscoll says yoga is "demonic". What do you think?)
Johnnie Moore says Jesus was a dirty God. Quote: "But, actually, the Jesus of the Bible was more human than most people are conditioned to think. I call this the dirty side of Jesus. He was grittier, and a lot more like us than maybe we believe, and that's one of the reasons why so many thousands of people followed him so quickly."
Church and state:
Roe v. Wade at 40
Can Christians wear a cross at work?
Christians under fire in the new Egypt
Most evangelical leaders favor gun control
From Ed Stetzer at Lifeway: Fewer Americans consider homosexuality a sin. Quote: "The president's evolution on homosexuality probably impacted the evolution of cultural values - there is a real and substantive shift, surprisingly large for a one-year timeframe."
A "must read" story by Ed Moore: How the pastor doomed his ministry by missing Applesauce Day.
TO THE POINT: GRIEF
"I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil."
- J.R.R. Tolkien
"When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time-the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes-when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she's gone, forever-there comes another day, and another specifically missing part."
- John Irving
"You will lose someone you can't live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly-that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp."
- Anne Lamott
"Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them."
- Leo Tolstoy
Where grief is fresh, any attempt to divert it only irritates.
- Samuel Johnson
Grief is the agony of an instant. The indulgence of grief the blunder of a life.
- Benjamin Disraeli
Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.
- C.S. Lewis
Sorrow makes us all children again - destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you're going through hell, keep going.
~ Winston Churchill
Come, ye disconsolate, where'er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
IDEAS, EVENTS, RESOURCES, ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Theology of Ordination study committee met this week. Keep an eye on the website for news and reports. (Here is a list of the members of the committee.)
Religious Liberty Week, January 20-26, ends with Liberty Offering Sabbath, January 26. The theme for the 2013 Liberty Magazine Campaign is "Unashamed of the Gospel." Get campaign resources here.
Christian Home and Marriage Week, February 3-9, includes Christian Marriage Sabbath on February 9. For suggestions and resources go to NAD Family Ministries Department.
The One project, February 11,12 is sold out. But the Hope Channel will be streaming it live. To participate virtually register for the gathering and then watch via www.hopetv.org/the1project.
Health Ministries Sabbath is February 16. A webinar was held on January 15 to give suggestions for Health Ministries Sabbath, and resources were outlined. (You can still access the recorded webinar.) Other Health Ministries Sabbath resources here.
The 6th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition (ICVN) will be held at Loma Linda University again this year, February 24-26.
Previous resource links:
|Best Practices for Adventist Ministry is published by NAD Ministerial. Publisher: Ivan Williams; Managing Editor: Dave Gemmell. Copyright 2012 North American Division Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists. v(301) 680-6418