Leadership Archive, 2022
5/4 On Counseling, Coaching, & Conversational Skills:
Christians are gradually realizing the significant limits to what famed revivalist Charles Finney introduced as "altar calls". In today's Christianity, altar calls have taken on new dimensions beyond the public calling of sinners to repentance (Finney's sole emphasis). Altar calls have become a time geared more towards individual Christians, i.e. praying for them, giving brief counsel, sharing Spirit-prompted messages, and other activities depending on the church or movement.
More and more Christians, however, are realizing the limits to what is now often called "altar ministry". After going forward dozens, even hundreds, of times to be ministered to individually, many Christians are realizing they are still not free or making satisfactory progress in life. Some have become cynical and stopped going forward or stopped going to meetings altogether. More mindful Christians and leaders have stepped back into reflective prayer, seeking to perceive what might be a missing variable or genuine weakness in today's altar ministry apparatus (and transformation mechanisms in general). Some leaders are (finally) realizing there is a need for depth counseling in many situations, or at the very least, more skilled and productive conversations about those situations, that are beyond the spiritual and practical scope of altar calls. Without at least some counseling competence in your ministerial operation, one aspect of the sevenfold Spirit of God is blocked or amputated altogether (Isa 11:2, Rev 1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6).
The rest of this mini-article describes a few counseling/coaching/conversational skills I have found so very critical across a variety of situations over the last twenty-seven years of ministry. You do not have to be an official leader or Christian psychologist to develop these. Anyone can become more skilled and productive in one-on-one interface.
The ability to recognize and stop red herrings.
One of the greatest counseling mistakes I made as a young counselor was this: taking what people said at face value and ministering to them according to what they said. What an error this was. Today, I watch leaders and ministering Christians make this same mistake copiously. In one-on-one moments, what people say is not always exigent or a root cause or even genuine. To be an immediate vehicle of the Wonderful Counselor, you have to sniff out intentional or unintentional red herrings...diversions, evasions, side issues, and symptoms-vs-roots.
Do not be so gullible conversationally. Not all tearful prayer is genuine (Hos 7:14). Not all confessions have the same priority. Not all issues have the same priority. You must be a loving bloodhound in the conversational matrix.
The ability to uncover defining secrets.
Hiding sin, vulnerability, deep gloom, crucial events, dark spots, and otherwise important information electrifies the power of demonic negativity in a person's life. Yet, curiously, many Christians persistently hide what I call defining secrets.
To be powerful in one-on-one moments you will need dexterity at probing for defining secrets. The air may get thicker and uncomfortable. You may encounter vicious, or creatively suave, defense mechanisms. But, if you do not at least try to go for the transformational jugular, you will not see the dramatic changes you dream of seeing. How can I say it another way? Many leaders or ministering Christians are simply fake nice. They rush to comfort and hug and oooo and ahhh and lay hands and speak destiny blah blah blah...when they should slow down and probe for what is not being said.
The ability to pinpoint the most exigent need or action-plan.
Sometimes the person is not offering a red herring or hiding defining secrets, they genuinely are not aware of their most exigent need or action-plan. It is the skilled questioner and listener, under a manifestation of the Spirit of counsel, that must find this collaboratively with the counselee. This particular ability is not a how-to formula, but an intuitive art, an art centered on clever questions, perceptual listening skills, getting past the fog, and finding the exigent zone. Regarding perceptual listening, resist the impulse to talk too quick and talk too much. This is a significant weakness in most people, especially those in people-helping work. Crucify headstrong pride, the need to assert yourself, a lack of basic patience, and loving to hear yourself talk.
The ability to not back down when they break down.
This may not seem like a quote-unquote skill, but oh it is. Have you ever brought someone to (or been with someone in) a moment of truth, a real transformational moment, and you backed down? Instead of calmly-assertively following through with the moment, you felt bad for them and rushed in to comfort and rescue? Genuine transformation depends on you not backing down when a person is in the scorching hot crucible of change. Join them in whatever way is reasonable, love them in whatever way fits the situation, pray with them if they allow it and it is appropriate, but keep respectfully pushing them through the eye of the needle.
This is quite a talent to develop with the Holy Spirit, because, on one hand, we are to have heart and empathy (Ro 12:15), but on the other hand, we cannot contradict and fight the Lord when He is bringing rebuke, discipline, and consequences to a person who really needs it (Heb 12:5-13, 1Co 11:29-32). Agree with the Lord's breaking, flow with what He is doing, and respectfully push them through the eye of the needle.
The ability to use anointed scriptures for any and every situation.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, 2Timothy 3:16 says. Knowing the entire Scripture at a broad expertise level equips the ministering Christian for any and every situation, verse 17 says. The idea here is that we fill our inner person with a very wide and very deep understanding of the entire Word. Then, from this macro, comprehensive understanding, the Spirit illuminates the specific situational passage for the moment.
It is crucial to realize not every Bible verse is relevant at a given moment. There are specific verses the Spirit anoints with lightning relevance for a given situation. Paul says exactly this in Ephesians 6:17, telling us to take "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God". Paul is not referring here to a general expertise in Scripture (Greek logos or gnosis), but a situationally-relevant word (Greek rhema). He is referring to a situational dagger used in close combat (Greek machaira), specific verses the Spirit singles out and anoints in the situation.
In counseling/coaching/conversation, we cannot only sniff out red herrings, uncover defining secrets, find the exigent, and not back down at sensitive moments. We must eventually and finally use the dagger of the Spirit, the rhema-scripture(s) He is anointing for that moment.
11/24 /21 On Psychological Sickness in Pentecostal-Charismatic Leadership:
The growing crisis surfacing in the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, projected to reach some type of critical mass in 7-10 years, is that of hidden psychological sickness among its leadership. While the movement has restored precious blessings and needed dimensions to the global ekklesia--a fuller worship experience, a redeployment of all the spiritual gifts, a celebration of women in ministry, a revival of supernatural Christianity, and others--it has also brought new problems and crises into the ekklesia. One of those crises is unaddressed mental illness within its leadership, hiding under the cover of revelations, visions, dreams, "feeling in the Spirit", manifestations, and sociopathic leadership structures.
JDM believes, unapologetically, that God speaks today in a variety of ways. We absolutely reject cessationism. We absolutely reject the idea that God took a power nap after the New Testament was written and compiled. The crisis is not whether God still speaks today or whether God still acts miraculously today. Of course He does.
Rather, the crisis is that an astonishing lack of wisdom has created a shelter for psychological sickness in Pentecostal-Charismatic leadership, a shelter that takes the form of spiritual language and themes. For example, what is often imagination and hallucination is called a vision. What is often a dream rising from the subconscious, and its unresolved wishes, hopes, concerns, fears, and traumas, is called a prophetic dream (see Ecclesiastes 5:3 and Isaiah 29:7,8 for two great scriptures on self-dreams). What is often natural intuition (which is often wrong) or simply strong emotion (which is often wrong) is called feeling in the Spirit. What is often a psychotic break, a fit of mania, or unhealed trauma expressing itself psychosomatically is called a divine manifestation. What is often raw control and congregational stranglehold is called spiritual authority and "touch not mine anointed" (read The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen). What is often malignant narcissism, and varying levels of sociopathy or psychopathy, is called being "a king and priest upon the earth".
Once again, I reiterate, the referred-to spiritual concepts and practices have New Testament support. Does God occasionally speak in a vision or dream? Of course. Do our spiritual senses sometimes present themselves as an impression or hunch or felt disposition? Sometimes, yes. Does God occasionally manifest in great power upon our being, leading to intense emotional or physical reactions? Sometimes, yes. The issue, then, is not in these and other concepts and practices the New Testament strongly supports. Rather, the issue is in how they are being manipulated to hide, suppress, ignore, or fully deny serious mental conditions in leadership.
In many Pentecostal-Charismatic groups, the psychological sickness in leadership is so well-hidden from the people, so well-suppressed even from themselves, so well-ignored under the constant distraction of endless ministry, so well-denied to anyone with a suspicious or trained eye, that such leaders can go many years on end without getting the professional help they need. The most heartbreaking layer of this crisis, however, is the fate of the common people within such churches and ministries. They sense something is significantly unhealthy and broken with the leader(s), but they cannot pinpoint it for a variety of reasons. Without enough knowledge and maturity of their own, without enough spiritual skills and psychological skills and life skills to uncover what is actual reality, they are swept away in the zeitgeist these deeply unwell leaders cast upon them.
What does one do? As I have said for many years, born-again individuals in the Pentecostal-Charismatic zone have to do brutally honest soul-searching. Uncomfortably honest soul-searching. Ask yourself questions with God that you really do not want to ask. Why, really, are you involved with the groups you are involved with? Is it because God truly called you there (the typical knee-jerk answer)...or is it your own deeper issues attracting you to such groups? In those groups, are you finding cover and false shelter for areas deep inside where you need outside help and unusual growth? Are you following this or that leader because your own issues match that of your leader? Be honest. Your emotion and imagination are masquerading as revelation.
You cannot outrun the light and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. A disastrous crisis is looming and metastasizing in the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. The crisis is emanating from leaders who are significantly unwell psychologically, unwell enough to need professional help spiritually, practically, and possibly medically. Have the wisdom, self-awareness, and maturity to see this now and seek out healthier pastures with healthier shepherds.
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