Friday, May 28, 2010


"Shame is a kind of soul murder. Once shame is internalized, it is characterized by a kind of psychic numbness which becomes the foundation for a kind of death in life. Forged in the matrix of our source (family) relationships, shame conditions every other relationship in our lives. Shame is total non-acceptance. Shame is a being wound--in other words, it has to do with who we are at the deepest level--and differs greatly from the feeling of guilt. Guilt says I've done something wrong; shame says there is something wrong with me. Guilt says I've made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake. Guilt says what I did was not good; shame says I am not good" (Don Williams, page 35-36, Jesus and Addiction).

"Our response to shame is to try to cover up, for fear of exposure. We fear facing the results of abandonment: depression, aching loneliness, and the loss of our true self. In place of God's image in us, we create the false self, a Hollywood movie set behind which we hide. This screen is made from our own fears and fantasies. The scripts are written by other people. If we are honest, it often seems that we are acting in someone else's movie. We have become people pleasers, trapped by performing in order to gain acceptance" (Don Williams, p36, Jesus and Addiction).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Addicted to People?

I want to share some more today from "Jesus and Addiction". Don Williams is putting his finger on something that clearly needs attention in the church and yet I'm not so sure that the church is ready to hear it.

In defining addiction Williams writes, "Addictions begin because we want to experience pleasure and avoid pain. To do this, we attach ourselves to other people, behaviors, and things that make us feel good. Repetitive behavior reinforces such attachments." "We are set up to become addicted; we are creatures who naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain. We are inherently fearful, needing to have our moods altered and welcoming outside control". People will naturally take the path that appears to be least painful and most pleasurable. We will attempt to be at peace with everyone (pleasure) and to avoid conflict (pain) at all costs. This appears spiritual and even Christ-like on the surface until you realize that this mode of operation puts people in charge and reduces Jesus to secondary consideration. You can't obey Jesus if you are obeying people. You can't serve two masters.

Williams makes the application, "How then, does this concept of addiction apply to ministers? Their fear of failure and subsequent abandonment and job loss results in their need to 'people please.' To them their questions easily become, 'What does my church want? How can I make the congregation happy? How can I keep people coming?' The question should rather be, 'What does God say my church needs?' The shift may be subtle, but it's clear. Rather than being God focused, leadership easily becomes human focused and self focused". We stop doing what God wants in order to do what the people (or the board) wants. Pastors become employees of the church rather than servants of the Most High God.

He continues, "In many churches functional authority has passed from Jesus to the people. When pastors continually ask what the official board wants or what the people want, they admit that control from the outside rather than the Spirit's direction on the inside is the ideal state of affairs. Rather than acting, the codependent leaders spends his or her time reacting". Thus we have broken churches who do not and cannot experience the power of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Addiction in the Church

"96% of us come from unhealthy (dysfunctional) families. Most of us employed in the helping professions (counselors, pastors, doctors, psychologists, and social workers) are untreated codependents in addictive relationships. Over 75 million of us are touched directly by the abuse of alcoholism alone. 82% of all nurses are the oldest child of an alcoholic parent."  I didn't even know what "codependent" was a year ago and now I find myself agreeing with the writer in concluding that most (if not all) ministers struggle with it.  It's the need to be needed.  I saw it clearly in my life when I stepped away from my ministry for a period of three months.  It was desperately traumatic for me to live without my church.

"The ultimate insight and insult to our egos has been given by psychiatrist Gerald May as he concludes, 'I am not being flippant when I say that all of us suffer from addiction. Nor am I reducing the meaning of addiction. I mean in all truth that the psychological, neurological, and spiritual dynamics of full-fledged addiction are actively at work within every human being . . . . We are all addicts in every sense of the word.'"  Take a minute and try to get your mind around it.  The person who sacrifices with abandon to make a church program successful is likely doing the "right" thing for all of the wrong reasons.  They likely just need to be needed.  They are codependent.  They are addicted (not to Jesus) but to the church.  And that my friend is idolatry and is something that we should not encourage. 

"Pastors, as well as laypeople, are in crisis. They suffer from a range of addictions, including alcohol, prescription drugs, food, pornography, sex, and the very congregations they serve. This pastoral sickness is the Church's family secret, which we refuse to discuss. When congregations deny this problem, they expose their own sickness."  What exactly does a "healthy" pastor look like?  I'm not sure that I have ever met one.  For years, I was applauded and awarded for my zeal in the ministry.  My churches grew and I had a place at the table.  The problem was that I worked hard (not to honor Christ) but rather because I needed the affirmation from my peers.  I prostituted my soul in order to get a mention in the program or to get one more "certificate of appreciation" for the wall.

"The most unrecognized addiction is workaholism. Christians justify this disease by attributing it to their religious calling and the demands for succcess that they believe those callings bring."  Ahhh....yes.  Sacrifice!  The joke is that once you have given all, sacrificed your health, your family, and your youth, the church will say, "What a great pastor! . . . . We loved our pastor! . . . . Let's get another one!"

"If most pastors and church leaders are workaholics, virtually all congregates are codependent. We help leaders to base their whole identities on the Church. As a result, we become enmeshed in a damaging cycle that makes us all Church addicts. The idea that pastors and lay leaders are addicted to the Church as a drunk is addicted to cheap wine is unthinkable. Nevertheless, for many leaders, the people of the parish serve as their drug. Ministers use congregations to alter their moods, determine their well-being (or lack of it), and fulfill their messianic fantasies.

"We meet our own addictive needs by meeting the needs of others. As a result, we serve the Church for ourselves. This is the hidden sickness of codependency."

--Don Williams, "Jesus and Addiction", Recovery Publications, 1993.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jesus and Addiction

I've just begun reading a new book I've recently purchased entitled, "Jesus and Addiction".  It's subtitled, "A Prescription to Transform the Dysfunctional Church and Recover Authentic Christianity".  The author is Don Williams, pastor of Vinyard Christian Fellowship of the Coast in LaJolla, California.  A statement on the back cover hooked me, "Willams concludes with a bold, clear-cut model of what a Church in recovery, a Church that could be ours, can look like".  I'm intrigued.  I am attempting to pastor a "recovery church".  Williams seems to infer that what we really need is a "church in recovery".  hmmm......

Here are a few quotes from the introduction...see if you can relate:

"No wonder I have been vulnerable to burnout and workaholism.  My heart has cried out, 'If  I perform for you, if I gain your approval, then I will fill the emptiness inside and be able to love myself.'  But, humanly, my efforts are never enough.  Only giving myself up to God's love is enough.  But I've tried everything else rather than make this ultimate surrender" (p5).  Bingo!  This guy has lived my life and thought my thoughts!

"My dad's absence, my mom's denial of negative thoughts and emotions, and my search for complete value through meeting the needs of others created a sense of being lost to my own needs and emotions.  This all resulted in an inner loneliness--what addiction expert John Bradshaw calls 'the hole in the soul.'  This was a perfect setup that led me to become a servant of the Church and, conversely, to be abused by the Church I served.  I became addicted to its life and ministry" (p5-6).  Addicted to the church!  Exactly!  That's the reason why I felt such loss when I was separated from my church for some three months.  I went through withdrawal because I was addicted to the church.  I needed to be needed!

Listen to this next statement, "Through the wrenching experience of a church split, the groundwork had been laid for me to admit my inadequacies and let people into my life in a new way.  As I tried painfully to acknowledge my needs to others, I received love and care in return.  With this experience came a new realization:  I must be worth something because these people genuinely want to serve me and invest in my life.  They see something in me that is worthwhile, even when I don't.  Rather than running from my needs, they respond to my needs" (p7).  This has been my experience as well.  I am learning to experience the love and acceptance of God through my church.  Before, I always thought that I had to have some level of performance in order to be accepted.  I am now experiencing love and acceptance through my church because these people love me for who I am--not who they want me to be.

Good stuff, Pastor Don Williams.  I can't wait to read the rest of the book.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Are you carrying your own bags?

"Gail and I enter a hotel carrying our suitbags and our attache cases. We're worn out, my back is sore, and I'm getting tired of traveling. A uniformed attendant comes alonside. 'Let me take those things for you,' he says. 'No,' I answer. 'We can handle them by ourselves.' As much as I'd like to give them to the young man, we do not have any cash in our pockets (only credit cards), and I'm ashamed to admit the real reason. 'You sure? I'd like to help,' he says. 'I'm sure. Thank you,' I say back.

We reach the hotel desk, register, and turn toward our rooms. 'Let the bellman bring your bags up in a little while,' The desk clerk says. 'No thanks,' I respond, again ashamed to admit that I'm short on tipping change. 'Please let him do it,' she says. 'All the gratuities are added to your bill anyway. You don't have to tip him.' Has she read my mind? Have I carried these bags for fifty yards when someone was there, already paid in effect, to handle them for me? I have the brain of a bird.

Carrying bags when someone is there, paid to carry them for me, is almost as incomprehensible as carrying baggage from the past, be it unresolved relationships, unaddressed guilt, or untreated pain, when Someone has already paid to lift it off me. And that's exactly what happened at the Cross. As the hymn writer put it so well:  'Jesus paid it all.'"

--Gordon MacDonald, Rebuilding Your Broken World, p139.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bruce Cockburn - Pacing The Cage

Open Your Heart to Me...

"I try to live in such a way that no one will be hindered from finding the Lord by the way I act, and so no one can find fault with my ministry. In everything I do I try to show that I am a true minister of God. I patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. I have been emotionally beaten, been put in exile, faced angry committees, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. I have proved myself by my purity, my understanding, my patience, my kindness, my sincere love, and the power of the Holy Spirit. I have faithfully preached the truth. God's power has been working in me. I have righteousness as my weapon, both to attack and to defend myself. I serve God whether people honor me or despise me, whether they slander me or praise me. I am honest, but they call me a pretender. I am well known, but I am treated as unknown. I live close to death (career/ministry-wise), but here I am, still alive. I have been beaten (emotionally) within an inch of my life. My heart aches, but I always have joy. I am poor, but I give spiritual riches to others. I own nothing, and yet I have everything. Oh, dear friends! I have spoken honestly with you. My heart is open to you. If there is a problem between us, it is not because of a lack of love on my part, but because you have withheld your love from me. I am talking now as I would to my own children. Open your heart to me!" --2 Corinthians 6:3-13 (Dave's Application)

Monday, May 03, 2010

God Showed up at Grace River!

Dear Grace River,

I have been preaching since I was seventeen years old (that's almost 30 years) and I can count on one hand the number of times that I've seen the Spirit of God move like He did on Sunday morning. I don't remember ever seeing something quite this powerful in the nearly ten years that I have been in Windsor. Our desire to be used of God as a recovery church was affirmed on Sunday. In addition to the many who came for prayer, there were six or seven who admitted that Satan had been kicking their tail in regards to some type of addiction. I've never before heard during a Sunday morning worship service people give praise to God because of their freedom from meth addiction, alcoholism, etc. Oh, may God continue to show up as He did on Sunday! We all experienced the river of grace on Sunday morning. The worship was special. I felt an anointing and a freedom to preach on Sunday that lit me up. I had been experiencing a kind of sorrow and sadness for nearly three weeks. I knew that our service would be special when I awoke early on Sunday feeling great! There was absolutely no feelings--except those of joy and expectation. Praise God!

 In my quiet time this morning, God allowed me to read the words that have become so precious to me from 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. "Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, 'Be reconciled to God!' For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." Our task at Grace River is to reconcile the world to Christ--no longer counting people's sins against them! That happened on Sunday morning!

 Now let me ask you this question? Were there people that you know that would have benefitted from being at Grace River on Sunday morning? Yep, me too. This coming Sunday is Mother's Day. It is an God-given opportunity to invite everyone that we know to come and worship with us. Let them know that we will honoring our moms and that they should come in order to be honored (if they are a mom) or to honor their mother. What we experienced on Sunday, I believe with all of my heart, is just the beginning! I'll continue our series from Genesis on Sunday and so expect more to come. Keep praying and keep asking God to bring healing through our church.

 We have families now beginning to show up on Sunday morning who have found us through the youth ministry. Pray for Joey and Connie as they continue to lead our youth. For two weeks in a row now, they have had more than twenty on Wednesday night for youth group.

 I am equally thankful for the gift that God has given us in Jamie Paye. Jamie loves our children and is passionately loving and teaching them. Space has become an issue in that it is difficult to get 15+ kids into the small Sunday School room. We need more space! Keep praying for God's wisdom in regards to our next facility. He has a plan and He will share it with us as we continue to ask.

 Grace River has made the newspaper for the very first time in our history. Here is the link to an invitational article about the National Day of Prayer: DAYOFPRAYER  The National Day of Prayer in Windsor will be held at Grace River on Thursday from 7-9 and then again from 11-1. Skip Carlson who was recently spoke at the end of one of our services will be the guest speaker for the event.

 There were 100 of us present on Sunday morning and the offering totalled $1728 which puts us right on target for our May budget needs. God always provides! I will get some sermon notes up on my blog today in case you want to review the message from Sunday.

 Prayer Needs:
  • We were told Sunday afternoon that the keyboard that Tina has been borrowing will need to be returned ASAP. Replacement cost will be around $1000.
  • Norm Staley is recovering at home. He doesn't feel very good today but at least he is home.
  • We have four more Sunday's locked-in at our current location. Pray for God to provide. Our first lease offer wil be made on the daycare center this week. Pray for either finances to purchase the building ($450,000) or for an accceptabe lease arrangement.
  • We have several who are unemployed or underemployed within our church.
  • New sound system has been purchased and will be installed soon.
May God bless each of you this week! "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble" (Psalm 46:1)

 Pastor Dave