For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses (misplaces) his own soul? – Jesus
Christian leaders are in trouble. And when the leaders are in trouble the church is in trouble. Our culture, both inside and outside the church is grinding down Christian leaders.
According to Thabiti Anyabwile one of the pastors of Anacostia River Church in Southeast DC, in an article he wrote for the website 9Marks back in 2014:
50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.
In my view, if the church is going to thrive in our post-Christian age then soul care is going to be essential for the ongoing vitality of the leaders of our churches.
My specific denomination has put a great deal of emphasis on the Great Commission found in Matthew 28: 19-20,
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.
Historically, we have been all about the Word of God, evangelism, and missions. And the Great Commission has driven all of that. And, by no means, would I want to dismiss that axiom. It is our calling card as a denomination.
And yet what do we do with the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22:37-40?
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
If the statistics cited above are true, we are not doing a very good job at this commandment. Especially if our neighbor is a minister of the Gospel.
I believe Soul Care could be part of the solution.
While I completed my two-year certification program called The Soul Care Institute at Potter’s Inn, I was introduced to the following soul care model and I owe my avocational ministry called The Sacred Journey to these concepts. This is my personal spin on these ideas.
This discipline is about basic doctrine, theology, and practices of the faith. In many cases, this is an information transfer from a person who is a veteran in the ways of the faith and Bible to a novice. However, would it surprise you to know that I have encountered several ministers who believe in their head that they are saved by grace through faith, but spend almost all of their life feeling like they need to earn their standing with God? Would it surprise you to know that many pastors don’t know how to pray, read their bibles for soul nourishment, tithe, and even to share their faith in a relational way? I see it a lot.
:: Life Coaching
This discipline is primarily around life management skills. Things like conflict management, interpersonal communication skills, and goal setting. It might include analytic decision-making skills and assertiveness training. Certainly important tools for your toolbox.
Often a presenting issue disrupts the functional life of a person causing stress and they want relief. Here is where family of origin issues may need to be processed. Is the person increasingly becoming self-aware? How does emotional intelligence come to bear in life? In counseling is where addictions are addressed, obsessions uncovered, and personal identity struggles explored. And many other areas of felt needs would be properly analyzed and solutions pursued.
:: Spiritual Direction
This discipline is a bit of a misnomer. Because in spiritual direction there is very little, if any, actual directing. Spiritual direction is more about being a witness to what God is doing in the soul of another person. It’s about asking probing questions. It’s about sensing and discerning what is being triggered in the soul. It’s about being present to someone as they pursue an intimate relationship with the Almighty. It’s about prayer and discernment. This is a vital and missing piece of the journey of most of the ministers with whom I work.
Soul Care is Different
Soul Care is the confluence of all of those disciplines. It is a hybrid of all four. It is not one thing. There is an amazing amount of overlap because it is not just the compassion of Spiritual Direction, it also might be the doctrinal or heteropraxy correction of discipleship. It sometimes is the thinking through a father-wound that goes back decades. It might be coaching through how to resolve a conflict with a church or family member. It might be an extended prayer for healing from past church-wounds or toxic relationships.
Soul Care is a holistic approach to being an empathetic witness to what God is doing in the deep places—down where the knobs are—of a person’s heart.
Our ministry at Sacred Journey is about helping the helpers. It’s about shepherding the shepherds. It’s about praying with and for those that pray. It’s about reminding ministers who have spiritual attention deficit disorder that they are beloved of God and are saved and kept by grace. It’s about sharing our stories of how we found the abundant life Jesus promised.
It’s about showing the way to an unhurried and reflective life.
A life of flourishing.
A life of shalom.
A life others would want to live.