What makes a healthy church? Author, speaker, and pastor Peter Scazzero states, “the overall health of any church or ministry depends primarily on the emotional and spiritual health of its leadership.” Peter shares in his book The Emotionally Healthy Church, his personal journey of discovering that emotional and spiritual health go hand in hand. As a pastor for years, he believed that leading a church was about having the right education, tools, and leadership skills, that being “godly” or “spiritual” was enough. However, when his marriage began to unravel, and the church he was pastoring experienced a painful split, he realized that even the right spiritual tools become of little use if your ability to relate to others is hindered by your own unresolved emotional issues.
How many of us can bring to mind someone we know who is “godly” on the outside, but is emotionally lacking maturity, is angry, defensive or toxic in their relationships? How can this be? If God in us has truly transformed us, aren’t we a new creation, shouldn’t our ability to do relationships well be changed for the better?
Peter writes, “Too many people in our churches are fixated at a stage of spiritual immaturity that current models of discipleship have not addressed. Many are supposedly ‘spiritually mature’ but remain infants, children, or teenagers emotionally. They demonstrate little ability to process anger, sadness, or hurt. They whine, complain, distance themselves, blame, and use sarcasm – like little children when they don’t get their way. Highly defensive to criticism or differences of opinion, they expect to be taken care of and often treat people as objects to meet their needs. Why? The answer is what this book is about.”
Churches have a lot to offer in the ways of spiritual formation, but too often what gets overlooked is the powerful and necessary link between spiritual maturity and emotional health. The best kind of discipleship a church can provide includes both.
Peter provides a list of six principles to get us started on a path toward emotional health. They are:
- Look beneath the surface
- Break the power of the past
- Live in brokenness and vulnerability
- Receive the gift of limits
- Embrace grieving and loss
- Make incarnation your model for loving well
The circumstances which led Peter to take an honest look at himself and unearth his own emotional issues not only changed his life and his close relationships, but the ripple effect extended to change his church from the inside out for the better. Healthy churches are authentic and know how to build healthy relationships. It begins with healthy leadership, extends to the body, and impacts the community. It begins with us.