As I entered into ministry, I started to notice a disturbing trend. Many of the people who participated in our groups, or came for counselling, had some type of church background. (Probably two-thirds of the people who accessed our ministry fall into this category). In fact, many of these individuals had, at one point in their lives, been regular church attendees and participants. Yet their Christian foundations had not prevented them from becoming emotionally broken.
When I honestly reflected on my own life, it became apparent that “the church”– meaning pastors and lay leaders in my local church–was ill-equipped to help me address issues in my own life. Because I was “functional” and not involved with drug or alcohol addictions, I think we all (myself included) thought I was fine. At those moments when the truth about my depression, insecurity or fear became apparent and I looked for help, I was encouraged to pray and read my Bible more. Good things, but, sad to say, they never seemed to get to the root problem. I’ve seen this pattern repeated over and over again in the lives of many Christians. I recall one couple who, upon seeking help, were given a list of scriptures to read and instructed to spend more time praying together. Since this couple was highly functional, the pastor had no idea that the husband was an alcoholic. Through my own experience, and by seeing countless similar encounters, I came to the conclusion that the church is often in denial about the emotional health of its members, or can’t even identify those who are ill.
I believe that facing the truth about emotional health in the body of Christ is essential. In his book, The Emotionally Healthy Church, author Peter Scazzero states, “It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” What I had come to realize in my own life many years ago, and seen repeated in the lives of others, was that their spiritual maturity was hampered by their lack of emotional maturity.