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Performance pressure and dysfunction in mission work

Dealing with roots of dysfunction in ministry

This message is about Dealing with roots of dysfunction in ministry and it is aimed at anybody who is  interested in a more authentic and powerful relationship with God, whatever your place in life. It is based on the first session of a seminar we are doing for a group of ex-pat workers where we go into the areas of inner healing and deliverance and so this message is especially addressing some of the challenges of people who are in so-called full-time ministry.

Audio may take a moment to start, depending on your internet connection. 

Summary:

Let’s overcome this idea that we need to be super christians, without any problems. Let’s not just keep running and working for God and sweeping things under the carpet because of our church tradition or because of fear and let us let the Lord minister to us personally in the way that he wants to do.

Podcast notes – script

I am going to give some introductory thoughts and share some negative and some positive examples that will really highlight the importance of inner healing especially for people who are full-time workers.

Background

I am an MK, my parents were workers in Africa. My sister was a worker in Argentina for ten years and my wife and I have worked with some leaders in different countries in Africa and Asia. So we have seen a lot of great things and some not so great things happening in the church and in the mission field and what I am going to share in this session is intended to equip and help you. And I would ask that even if you feel that none of this is for you, please stay engaged and open minded as it may be that these insights equip you to help someone else or avoid problems in your own life in future. So please stay open.

So as I explained, I have seen a lot and been honoured to have some people confided in us, and we have seen that there is a desperate need for all Christians and especially those in so-called full-time ministry to have safe relationships where they can be vulnerable and honest.

The gap – call to walk in the light versus the reality of shame

In the secular West there is now a shameless culture where people make TV shows of baring their most embarrassing problems in public. In the East this is completely inconceivable because of the shame culture. And in the church, where there is a performance culture, the shame culture is strengthened.

We all need to be able to be real with one another no matter what our position or role is in the Body of Christ.

James 5:16 (ESV) 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

That means that there is a prayer of a righteous person that is more powerful than our own private prayers: when we are caught in something, we are not that righteous person, that is the brother who has overcome in that area. So instead of trying to work through everything on our own, we it is better confess our sins to one another:

1 John 1 says:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In verse 7 it says “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,”

So walking in the light from the context means being vulnerable and authentic and owning our sins and problems so that we can be forgiven and have authentic fellowship with one another.

This is wonderful in theory but like so many things in the Bible we don’t see so many people living it out too effectively. And when new Christians don’t know or understand and so don’t apply the word that is one thing, but if people who are meant to be leaders don’t do that either, then we have a real problem.

And when it comes to this topic of being vulnerable and bringing things out in a safe context so that we can get healed, full-time workers are in a much more difficult position.

One problem: sponsors and heros

And one of the reasons that I felt I should talk about is a particular dynamic, that arises between the senders and the sent: Namely the idealisation of the super-christian worker vs the ordinary christian.

It is like a deal: someone gives you money to go spread the gospel so that they don’t have to.

Result: performance pressure – you can’t let anyone down

They see you are someone with a super connection to God, a boldness, a willingness to leave everything and they admire you and want to support you because they could never do that.

So you don’t want to let anyone down. So you need to always keep up appearances. So when you are in the foreign culture you are busy working and need to continuously show strength and when you are on home leave, you need to impress everyone who is supporting you. So this dynamic makes it very hard if you are struggling, and not doing so well. Who do you turn to? Who can you be vulnerable with? So you bottle it all up inside and you perform as a pro. Keep working don’t stop.

The variety of bad fruits

When people find themselves trapped in full-time work, but with unresolved issues from their past and no one that they feel they can be honest with, the performance pressure results in some common deceptions: Testimonies get exaggerated, numbers inflated, problems are hidden and challenges are glorified. Ie. People discover that the more they dramatise the challenges and the enemy the more generous the sponsors become.

So you see there are many pitfalls which I am sure you are all aware of, and I am not suggesting that any of these apply here. But I am just sharing what we have seen within the church, so you can see all the problems that can arise when when authenticity is not laid as a strong foundation in our lives and when we don’t have an intimate experience of the Father’s love.

I know people who have never worked through issues of anger or rejection from their childhood. Some faith traditions really don’t help in this because they don’t balance Paul’s clear declaration that in Christ we are new creations, with the Lord’s declaration that he came to heal the broken hearted.

God can be using you with great impact, but you are like Moses before his in the rock encounter, full of power but not sure if God really approved of him. Wouldn’t it be so much better to see God using us and also know that he loves us, that he is really with us.

Let us not let our doctrine be a barrier to receiving ministry. And let us also not give room to fear.

I know a man whose messages touch hundreds of thousands each year, yet he says ‘I just keep going because the empty house is to painful. His wife had left him. So instead of doing that he just presses on forwards towards the goal – quoting Paul and not looking back.

But Jesus said he came to heal the broken hearted and that includes us – we might be like Peter – he was a worker but he denied Christ, he messed up in a big way and so at the earliest opportunity, Jesus took time to address the problem, and heal Peter’s broken heart. That is one of the clearest pictures of healing of the memories that we find in scripture.

And what happens that morning is that Jesus takes Peter back to the day of his calling by repeating the miracle with supernatural catch of fish – that reminds Peter of the Lord’s purpose and takes his attention of his failure. Then at Breakfast the Lord takes him back in his memories to the denial scene by asking him three times do you love me, which corresponded with the three times that he was asked if he knew Jesus. So Jesus triggered the memory and then spoke into it fresh meaning and new life.

This is inner healing or healing of the memories in a nutshell.

And I have seen God really heal me and other in this way.

I remember vividly being at a (Lakeland) revival that was being broadcast all over the world.  Amazing miracles were happening, in this intense presence of God. One night the main preacher presented his wife on stage, saying that they had come through a marriage crisis, with God’s help alone: he said that people tried to counsel them and do inner healing, but he had chosen to find healing in intimacy with God alone and that was enough. 3 weeks later he left his wife to marry his nanny. It was a global scandal because the meetings had been daily on God TV and people like us had flown in from all over the world to see and receive from the Lord.

Choosing to keep the benefit – a testimony

What happened threw many people, but we chose to focus on what we had received from God there and not let offence have any room in our hearts. And one of the things that I received there was inner healing from an incident that happened when I was around 7 years old.

I was sent to boarding school in Kenya when I was six and there was an incident one night where two older boys almost sexually abused me. And that humiliation was deep inside of me and would manifest as anger and when my wife was trying to confront me about things which were not right in my life, I would use that experience as an excuse – as a killer argument.

So during the Lakeland Revival Patricia King ministered one night and said God is going to heal people of sexual abuse tonight but we will do that after the God-TV show goes off-air. So the whole meeting I was on tenterhooks, knowing this is my night. And when the time came, she asked people to stand! And my brother was right and my wife left and 5’000 people in the tent. Why do I have to stand? But I overcame the shame and stood up and began to cry and God healed me of that pain. And I told my brother what had happened and he prayed for me and the words he used changed my perspective. It was significant because in a way I felt my older brother should have protected me better when I went to boarding school at such a young age.

Since then, I can share that story as a testimony and there is no pain attached or anger there anymore. I am free and healed from that incident. And believe I had prayed alone about it many times, but there is a power in bringing things into the light with the brothers and sisters.

Value of authenticity

So we need to foster authenticity and confess our sins and our hurts to one to another and not try and deal with everything on our own.

James 5:16 (ESV) 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

And neither should we misunderstand or misapply 2 Cor 5:17 and say – I am in Christ, hence I am a new creation – so I don’t need to look at anything from my past.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Church history, and our own experience shows that it is worth letting the Body of Christ help us.

Example of process of healing of the memories

When my wife and I were in Delhi speaking at a Bible school, there was a first year student who was very discouraged and about to quit. He had epilepsy and I had prayed for healing on my previous visit 3 months earlier, but there was no healing so he asked for prayer again. This time we said, wait until the meeting is over and let’s go below the surface to get to the root of this.

So it seemed that the topic was related to sexual abuse as well. Something had happened to him when he was about 13, which he did not feel comfortable talking about, but since then he had no tears and he had the epilepsy.

Now when it comes to inner healing, especially in the area of sexual abuse we do not want to probe or dig. We have to avoid leading questions. The goal, as a minister, is to simply help the person come to a place where the Lord himself can minister to them supernaturally.

In this case, we had to help this young man overcome some religious barriers. We asked Jesus to take him back in his memories to a place he wanted to heal and see what Jesus would say to him.

So what we do is simply ask the Holy Spirit to take the person to the place in their past that he wants to bring healing.

And after a while, he was able to see  he could see this painful memory and I said what is Jesus saying and he said “I hear: rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice”. But I said that is the voice of your Bible class teacher not the Lord. So I asked him to listen again. Ignore what you think the Bible says and what you think Jesus will say – listen to his voice yourself, see what he wants to do. Maybe he will say or do something that really surprises you.

So after a while he told us that he had a picture where the Lord took him swimming in a beautiful clean pool and they dived down deep underwater to the bottom, and the Lord collected some pearls that he gave to him.

As he was coming up out of the lake he saw a big black rock that was steadily shrinking. We agreed that this could his heart of stone that was being replaced by a soft heart. At that moment he began to cry – he had not been able to cry for more than five years because of what happened to him. But now the Lord removed his hardened heart and gave him a soft heart and renewed his calling which was symbolised by the pearls. So he was full of joy. And the cool thing. As far as I know he never had epilepsy ever again and was able to continue with his studies and go on to serve the Lord.

So we need to be aware that as pro-Christians, or people who are expected to know the word very well, our tendency can be to have a relationship with the written Word rather than with the living Word, Jesus himself.

Tools for open hearts

So we can lead people into encounters which result in inner healing and physical healing. And there are some simple keys of how we can do that which we are going to share with you in these sessions. But don’t just approach these tools as further tools for your ministry to others. Let the Lord minister to you first. Because, we want to be like Jesus right? And he was the Word become flesh. So everything that becomes flesh – which is manifested in our own lives is infinitely more powerful than any tools or techniques that we might try and learn.

And the truth is we all have challenges and we all get hurt:

  • Moses – inferiority
  • Elijah depression
  • David had a lust problem
  • Elisha had a problem with his hair loss
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