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Feb
13

I Rarely Go to Church Anymore…

Carol’s own personal pain (see previous blog, Do You See Any Hope in the Church?) generated a penetrating question that required more than a trite response:

Bev, do you ever see the church becoming a place where people understand pain like this and express care to people in my situation? Frankly, I rarely go to church any more. The pain is too great.

I was stunned. Words directed to God poured from my heart on my drive home, summarized by, “God what can I do in my small corner of the world to change this tide?! Isn’t it your desire that people flock to the church when they are in emotional pain—not flee! Isn’t your heart’s intention that people in pain be met with compassion, understanding, and appropriate care—like Jesus gave? Essentially Jesus’ redemptive power? The power of the Gospel?

God’s response to my cries on her behalf set me on a surprise trajectory that in essence has determined my life’s path. Some of those discoveries are reflected in these blog posts. Others are given in Western Seminary’s classrooms, authored books and other venues.

What was Carol’s initial need?

Just as a paramedic first looks at the source of the bleeding, we need to focus first on the injury. A patient who is bleeding profusely cannot receive instruction on how the accident might have been prevented. What the patient needs at that point is emergency care from someone who understands what is needed to stop the bleeding and what are the “normal” symptoms of this specific injury. Once the initial source of bleeding is discovered and addressed, then more long-term and even preventative instruction can be received from the patient’s established health care provider.

Too often the body of Christ starts with preventative instruction, then long-term directives. The woman is told to memorize scripture or pray more. This is valuable and needful instruction, but it is not timely when the patient is bleeding emotionally, panic-stricken or confused. In essence women are often told, “Just get over it. Stop the tears and just move on! This isn’t that bad.”

My friend Carol needed someone to be present with her in her pain. She needed someone who could encourage her to cry, even when Carol was afraid she might not stop crying. She needed someone who understood that feelings of shock, disbelief, anger and bargaining are all part of the grief process. Carol needed someone safe encouraging her to express the feelings of betrayal and injustice.

It IS healthy to feel the pain. Crying is cathartic. It is an essential step toward healing.

Once the patient is given emotional CPR, she is watched carefully for stabilizing responses and treated accordingly. Our first concern in giving directive instructions should be her emotional state. Once she is in a safe place and stabilized emotionally, she may be able to think more clearly. Our continue prayers are essential. The truths of Scripture move us to reflect Christ well in every aspect of our interaction with her.

  • Effective pastoral care to women first focuses on the emotional pain and how she processes it.
  • Secondly, attention is given to the issues that cause women pain. A shepherd would know Carol needed to feel the pain before she was ready to think about the next step of her life. A shepherd responds with compassion. She will skillfully dispense pastoral care that is timely and appropriate.
  • Thirdly, effective pastoral care continues moving toward the goal of bringing this woman to a place of health. Obviously the power of the Gospel and the truth of Christ’s fully redeeming power will be part of this process. An effective shepherd understands this will take time and multiple resources. She coaches the woman toward making decisions that lead to health and maturity. A shepherd knows when to refer to professionals while offering the pastoral care needed on the journey to recovery.

(More on this in my next blog)

An effective shepherd of women will stop the bleeding before giving the vitamins.

Bev, do you ever see the church becoming a place where people understand pain like this and express care to people in my situation?

Yes, yes, yes, Carol. I DO see hope in the church! I too dream of the church becoming a place where people understand pain like yours and express care to people in your situation. Certainly a new focus, a new understanding of ministering to women is needed.

What could that look like?

(Taken from Shepherding a Woman’s Heart, B. Hislop, Moody Publishers)

About Bev Hislop

Dr. Bev Hislop is currently Professor of Pastoral Care at Western Seminary, developing and teaching pastoral care to women courses. She also served as the Executive Director of the Women’s Center for Ministry at Western. She authored Shepherding Women in Pain and Shepherding a Woman’s Heart, Moody Publishers. Bev has established and led ministries for women in churches and communities on the west and east coasts of the U.S. and overseas. She has a passion for more effective shepherding in church and parachurch environments.

Comments

  1. The point about caring for the emergency bleeding before finding the root of the problem is a great illustration, applicable for all — not just women. Well said!

  2. I agree with Mike, your wise counsel applies to both genders!

    I hunger to see a model of pastorally sensitive, biblically rooted healing ministry in the church. Not just in one-on-one counseling sessions, but in the larger gatherings. It needs to be clear to those of us who sit in pews – where do we go and what do we do when we’re falling apart? Is there a first step? Sadly, I’ve rarely seen this spelled out.

Trackbacks

  1. […] two previous blogs, (please see Do You See Any Hope in the Church? and I Rarely Go to Church Anymore) Carol’s penetrating question led me to re-think the effectiveness of our church […]