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12 Foundational Tenets to EHS

Posted on June 29th, 2009

These are my further reflections , and changes, on  the theological underpinnings and foundations for what it means to integrate emotionally healthy spirituality into our lives and the people we serve. It is much more than simply doing the small group material, Daily Offices, or the church-wide initiative. That is simply a beginning. A larger, more expansive training along the lines of the twelve points listed below. Over the next few weeks, I will blog on each and their implications for us. 1. Theology– We must root our lives and churches in the living Jesus who is God Almighty as revealed in Scripture by the Holy Spirit.  We are first and foremost about practices biblically rooted. We take seriously the model of the early church fathers (e.g. Ignatius of Antioch, Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, Basil, Gregory the Great, Augustine, Iraneus and others) who were leaders of local churches or bishops, theologians who studied Scripture seriously as they engaged culture, and monastics who prayed their theology. They didn’t simply, for example, articulate our present understanding of the Trinity intellectually. They sought to live in communion with the Trinity. We are not CEO’s, psychologists, social workers or orators. Rather we seek to be men and women who lead our churches from deep, experiential knowledge of God’s Word. 2. A Humble Spirit to Learn from the Whole Church – We affirm our evangelical roots and, at the same time, learn from the larger, global church. We are part of a church family that goes back to Pentecost and the early church, anchoring ourselves in the Nicene Creed of 325 AD that reminds us, that we are part of “one, holy, catholic (i.e. universal) and apostolic church.” God calls us to advance His kingdom and be generous towards those streams in the church that are different from ours –- Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, or Pentecostal. 3. A Sense of Global Church History– EHS requires a basic understanding of church history. This includes the early heresies out of which our faith was forged (e.g. gnosticism, the nature of Christ, Trinitarian theology), splits through church history (East and West in 1054 AD, the Reformation, Anglican, Protestantism), and the many hard lessons learned through the hard lessons of history. 4. Contemplative, Monastic Spirituality – The worldliness that dominates the church today parallels that of the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th century. Following the example of Moses, Elijah, John the Baptism and Jesus, the desert fathers fled to the desert to seek God, we too must find our deserts in the midst of our activity for Christ. We can learn a great deal from the contemplative, monastic tradition as we seek to remain rooted as we engage the world with the gospel. In our day, we need to develop rhythms and a deep spirituality from which we can hear God clearly and identify the idols both around and in us. 5. Integrity in Our Leadership – Church transformation and growth begins with the integrity of ourselves as pastors and leaders. As goes the leader, so goes the church. We must help one another, and our churches to be truth tellers – to ourselves and others.  It means a refusal to lie, exaggerate or use the ministry to bolster a false sense of self.  We must also call one another to summon the courage to actually lead our churches to maturity and fruitfulness regardless of the personal cost to us. � 6. Emotionally Healthy Practices  –  Leading a healthy community requires mastering new practices out of which people can now relate, in Christ, in a way different than their family of origin.  Clean fighting, clarifying expectations, learning to speak clearly, directly, honestly and respectfully, listening fully like Christ,  exploring our icebergs, for example, are new skills we bring to our boards, staff teams, small groups and communities. 7. The Marriage Covenant– Focusing on marriage as central to our spiritual formation is rarely talked about at seminaries or pastoral leadership conferences. This tragedy is unbiblical (1 Tim. 3:6-7) and an “elephant in the room” of our churches.  If we as leaders cannot work out the power of the gospel in our own homes first, we will not be able to bring that power to our churches. For leaders who are married, this is our first priority after Christ. We receive this limit as God’s gift to us who are married. For this reason, a strong marriage and family ministry is a natural outgrowth for emotionally healthy churches. 8. Sexuality – Discipleship in our sexuality is central to our following of Christ.  Sexuality is no longer a side issue. Learning to commune and connect with our spouses, distinguishing sensuality and sexuality, and understanding sexuality as a pointer to our marriage with Christ that will culminate in union and oneness, are all examples of the kind of gifts we now bring into our homes and churches. 9. Calling, Life and Work –A biblical theology eliminates the sacred/secular divide in our lives. Every Christian is called (not simply pastors and missionaries). That calling extends to every part of our lives, be it home, work, church, neighborhood, or our prayer life.  Part of emotionally healthy spirituality leads to equipping our people in a theology of work. We equip and commission our people to create and shape for Christ in their workplace, push back the chaotic forces of the evil one, and build community in those places. 10. Preaching and Teaching – The most important element for pastors/leaders to become better preachers is to continue working on our own spiritual formation. Our preaching now flows out of a contemplative life. We pray deeply over the Word we teach, now taking the time to allow truth to gestate and be birthed through us. This is a new way of leading the church, requiring study, time, reflection and, most importantly, a life of communion with God. 11. Bringing Christ to Culture (Contextualization) — We are deeply committed to lead people to a deep, personal relationship with Jesus. Our challenge today is to adapt our structures and ways of doing church to best communicate Him in our rapidly changing culture. In a world of twitter, blogs and YouTube, along with increased globalization, what will it mean for us to preach Jesus effectively in our generation? How can we be rooted in our rich, ancient past, while at the same time, break new ground in contextualizing the gospel in our cultures? 12. Bridging Racial, Cultural, Economic and Gender Barriers – A critical issue for the church in the 21st century is the development of leadership and churches that can bridge racial, cultural and economic barriers. The principles around emotional health, over the last 13 years, were developed around this commitment and vision. We seek to apply the power of the gospel, as seen in the book of Acts and Ephesians, to break down the dividing walls that continue to keep the 21st century church segregated by race, culture and class. What do you think is missing? What might you delete? What are the challenges you see with this list?

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