In the Emotionally Healthy Church, pastor and author Peter Scazzerro makes a startling observation, “The sad truth is that too little difference exists, in terms of emotional and relational maturity, between God’s people inside the church and those outside who claim no relationship with Jesus Christ.”
At Christian Counseling Associates, we clearly believe that more than any hospital or clinic, the church, is the place of healing, growth, and rich relationship. Through the power of Jesus Christ, lives are profoundly transformed. God chooses to involve His church in redeeming and restoring those who will follow Him. What an awesome gift! God invites us to be part of His plan and be involved in the life of a local church.
Unfortunately, when we are emotionally impaired, our role in God’s plan for the church can be affected. Emotional brokenness can unfortunately lead to hindering the mission and growth or our church family. When the church is influenced by people who are emotionally impaired, it fails to be set apart from the dysfunction and brokenness that plagues the world.
We see the evidence of this impact in local community churches. While some churches are experiencing dramatic life and expansive growth, others are in decline and closing their doors. From pastor or church leader to just being an occasional visitor, we all have a significant influence in the growth or decline of the church in which we are involved.
Reflection: How healthy is your involvement with your church family?
Here are some indicators of emotional problems that can hinder your spiritual maturity and negatively impact your church family. Take an honest look here, and rate yourself on a scale of 0 (not a problem) to 10 (significant problem) on the following factors.
- Isolation – I am disconnected from my church family.
- Critical Spirit – I am constantly criticizing others (family, children, friends)
- Control Issues – It is difficult to tolerate other points of view.
- Addiction – I am significantly influenced by my appetite for alcohol, drugs, pornography, food, etc.
- Mood Imbalance – I am constantly stirred up, preoccupied, or disturbed by my own emotions.
- Oversensitive – I constantly feel under pressure from others, hurt, or attacked. It is difficult to be in the presence of others without being hurt or wanting to avoid them.
- Overprotective – I am threatened in the presence of others. Therefore, I don’t allow myself to be transparent or open with those in my church.
- Anger – I am hanging on to past hurts and resentments to the point where I am becoming or have become bitter.
- Busyness – I have become overinvolved in my work, and have become distant from my spouse, family, church or friends.
- Marital Discord – I have neglected my commitment to my spouse due to (insert reason here).
- Boundary Issues – I am building inappropriate attractions to others in my life that violate my marital commitment or my preparation to make this type of commitment in the future.
Emotional maturity is a vital part of Christian discipleship. Unfortunately, we often try to separate emotional and spiritual maturity. Many people in the church will fall into the dysfunctional trap admiring evidence of spiritual traits such as the ability to preach, make eloquent prayers or big financial contributions, or memorize and recite knowledge of scripture. However, traits that point to emotional maturity are often largely ignored.
According to Scazzero, a church becomes dysfunctional when it separates emotional maturity from spiritual maturity. This week, reflect and pray about your level of emotional maturity. Read Matthew 6: 5 – 15. In this verse, Jesus encourages us to take an honest look at ourselves at the heart level before we pray to Him. This is a great discipline to build emotional maturity. Finally, consider the resource, The Emotionally Healthy Church, by Peter Scazzero as a companion to this article series.
May God bless you this weekend,
Richard Hoffman Ph.D.
Christian Counseling Associates of Western PA