Mike Cope's blog

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ten years ago (January 1996) a woman at Peter Scazzero's church told him she was leaving. The conversation, as he remembers it, went like this: "'Pete . . . I'm leaving the church,' she summarized very calmly. 'I no longer respect your leadership.' "I was visibly shaken and didn't know what to say or do. I felt shamed, alone, and angry. "But she calmly continued, 'It's not that simple. You don't have the guts to lead--to confront the people who need to be confronted. You don't lead. You're too afraid that people will leave the church. You're too afraid of what they'll think about you.' "I was outraged. "'I'm getting to it!' I yelled defensively. 'I'm working on it.' (For the last two years, I really had been trying, but somehow still wasn't up to it.) "'Good for you, but I can't wait any more,' she replied. Ouch. That conversation would hurt from anyone when you've poured your heart and soul into building a church, right? But get this: the woman who wanted to leave because she didn't respect his leadership was his wife of nine years. Scazzero's book The Emotionally Healthy Church may not have been the best book I read in 2005, but it feels like the most important to my life. He knew that despite all the flurry of religious activity in his life, despite the growth of his church, and despite his ongoing spiritual checkups, he was suffering from lack of joy. But what seemed like a crisis -- his wife's desire to leave the church -- was the beginning of healing for him, for it forced Scazzero to look at the root issues and to see the link between emotional issues and discipleship. He describes it as exploring the part of the iceberg that is below the surface. Here is a bit of what he found in his inner journey. "Something is desperately wrong with most churches today. We have many people who are passionate for God and his work, yet who are unconnected to their own emotions or those around them. The combination is deadly, both for the church and the leader's personal life." "It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. For some reason, however, the vast majority of Christians today live as if the two concepts have no intersection. Our standards of what it means to be 'spiritual' totally bypass many glaring inconsistencies. We have learned to accept that: -You can be a dynamic, gifted speaker for God in public and be an unloving spouse and parent at home. -You can function as a church board member or pastor and be unteachable, insecure, and defensive. -You can memorize entire books of the New Testament and still be unaware of your depression and anger, even displacing it on other people. -You can fast and pray a half-day a week for years as a spiritual discipline and constantly be critical of others, justifying it as discernment. -You can lead hundreds of people in a Christian ministry while driven by a deep personal need to compensate for a nagging sense of failure. -You can pray for deliverance from the demonic realm when in reality you are simply avoiding conflict, repeating an unhealthy pattern of behavior traced back to the home in which you grew up. -You can be outwardly cooperative at church but unconsciously try to undercut or defeat your supervisor by coming habitually late, constantly forgetting meetings, withdrawing and become apathetic, or ignoring the real issue behind why you are hurt and angry." We've all been able to see this incongruency with others, haven't we? One of the most angry people I've ever met in my life is especially angry when he talks about the immature anger of others. One of the most toxic persons I've ever known is a therapist who probably has helped people in her office but leaves bodies along the road in her out-of-the-office life. But what this book does is help you (me!) look inward, rather than just nod in recognition of others. Scazzero focuses on these principles of emotionally healthy leaders and churches: (1) look beneath the iceberg; (2) break the power of the past; (3) live in brokenness and vulnerability; (4) receive the gift of limits; (5) embrace grieving and loss; and (6) make incarnation your model for loving well. Only the books with the greatest insight and impact get read a second time. But I'm already starting back through this one as we head into 2006.


  • Wow, that was a good post. You have a way of helping us look within. Thanks.

    I will get this book and look at it. It reminds me of a book that I read last year that impacted my life. We used it in our elder development class and found that the class enjoyed it. "Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership" by McIntosh and Rima.

    Ron Clark

    By Blogger KMiV, at 12/29/2005 09:33:00 AM  

  • Bill Hybels always says, "the best gift you can give your church is a healthy you."

    A lot of what you are talking about is simple self leadership. The problem is that it is not all that simple.

    Thanks Mike.

    I love you!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 12/29/2005 09:48:00 AM  

  • I picked this book up at Baker Books in their used book section a while back - I hadn't heard of it - but it looked interesting. It's in the "to read" pile. I think I may move it up to the top of the mound.

    As always I enjoy hearing about the books you're reading.

    Happy New Year (almost)

    By Blogger reJoyce, at 12/29/2005 10:21:00 AM  

  • Unfortunately I think most of us read/hear this kind of thing and think "So-and-so really needs to hear this!" I need to learn to stop focusing so much on changing OTHERS, and figure out how to be my most authentic self.

    By Blogger Jana, at 12/29/2005 12:33:00 PM  

  • This has been a extremely important book for me this year as well. I've worked through it privately. We've gone through it as a staff, and we're going to work through it as a leadership team.

    For me there is no harder or more frightening journey that I have to make than the inward one.

    By Blogger Wade, at 12/29/2005 02:36:00 PM  

  • Who's gonna pay my Amazon bill?
    Thanks for the head's up and yes, I am ordering it. TODAY!

    By Blogger David U, at 12/29/2005 02:40:00 PM  

  • My question too, David U! :O)

    By Blogger Kathy, at 12/29/2005 03:22:00 PM  

  • Good, good, good. Gonna go chew on that for a while.

    By Blogger James, at 12/29/2005 05:50:00 PM  

  • Wade - I thought of you and scores of other young ministers whom I've had a chance to provide some mentoring through the years. I wish I'd thought through all this then. From now on, I intend in my own life and with others to help explore this inward, deeper journey--not just rooting out sin (as vital as that is) but examining the beneath-the-surface workings of our emotions.

    By Blogger Mike, at 12/29/2005 07:48:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger L, at 12/29/2005 11:16:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the recommendation Mike - I put this book back in my Amazon shopping cart knowing ful well I need it. But, I think my shopping cart is the emotional wreck - books constantly shuttled in and out - am I alone in this odd behavior? :-/ And I so desperately want to make the jabbing question/comment about what percentage of church leadership would actually read this book if given to them - but I won't.

    By Blogger KentF, at 12/30/2005 06:08:00 AM  

  • Suggested reading for today: www.brenhughes.blogspot.com. December 30 post. I don't know Bren, but I found a good bit over overlap in our stories, even though he's nearly two decades younger and even though I did decide to go into preaching.

    By Blogger Mike, at 12/30/2005 07:39:00 AM  

  • Mike- thanks for the review. I am definitely going to read this soon. The quotes you put on your BLOG from this book struck a huge chord within me. Not only to the way the church sends mixed messages: "Jesus loves you, but I will treat you worse than the world." but to the temptation for my personal life not to match up with my public, "Christian Leader" life. Have a Great New Year...

    By Blogger Lovell's Lookout, at 1/03/2006 07:24:00 AM  

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