Kyle J. Howard recently joined me for a live webinar discussing spiritual abuse and how to recover. We talked about everything from trauma to bitterness to whether or not Christians really must forgive their abuser no matter the context. It was an incredible conversation! I’ve selected some excerpts below for you to read (if you’re a skimmer like me). But feel free to listen to the complete audio above. It’s well worth your time!
In What Ways is Spiritual Abuse Overlooked in the Church?
Kyle: I think it’s a profoundly neglected area. And I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. One is that the very consumption of power is something that is often overlooked in churches…. I’ve gone through seminary up to an advanced M.Div and never heard once anything in any of my pastoral classes related to the power dynamics that come with the position of spiritual authority. It’s just a non-category.
So when we think about spiritual trauma or spiritual abuse, I think much of that hinges on the reality that many people in positions of authority, or who have power within the church, do not realize the impact. Or, if they do, other people—who should be assessing them—don’t realize that they are wielding power in a way that actually is harmful. more “Recovering from Spiritual Abuse: Webinar with Kyle J. Howard”
The following article was originally published over at Equip Your Community. Equip is a Christian non-profit which seeks to help church leaders better serve those who are sexual minorities. If you’d like to learn more about Equip, check out their website and subscribe to their newsletter!
Taking the Family of God Seriously
Celibate gay Christians are frustrated. And not for the reasons you might expect.
Consider how the average congregation revolves around marriage and family. Husband, wife, children — they all sit together as a “family unit.” Couples cluster up two-by-two. If a guy and a girl sit beside each other, it’s because they’re an “item.” Church leaders frequently teach that marriage is the most important earthly relationship, and people commonly say that after your relationship with God, spouse and family should always come first.
But in a world where marriage and family monopolize our love, Christians have little to offer people whose lives don’t fit the “marriage and family” model. When Christians invite believers — gay or straight — into a context where the most normative form of love happens to be the nuclear family, they reinforce the message that celibate people, and in particular gay celibate people, don’t deserve to have love. You might as well invite a child into an ice cream parlor but give him a bottle of water. No kid would be happy with that arrangement.
But that’s the arrangement that so many celibate gay Christians must navigate. And while a great number of straight Christians struggle with the challenges of long-term singleness, most of the straight Christians I know assume they will get married and aren’t interested in settling down into singleness or investing in that possibility.
As much as Christians love to celebrate it, the nuclear family should not be the only expression of love in the church. Nor should it be the most meaningful. Biblical community suffers when Christians prioritize the nuclear family above the people of God.
In fact, healthy Christian community calls believers out of their families and into a new one. A spiritual family whose love for each other surpasses the love between spouses, parents, children, and siblings. Continue Reading…
“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
– Phil. 1:21
The more I come to know Jesus Christ and the comfort of his saving love, the more acquainted I become with the sufferings of this world. The more I come to know the joy of his salvation, the more impatient I become with this life. The more I come to know the peace of his presence, the more restless I become to enter his rest, away from the constant struggle of living in a fallen world
Yet somehow the more I struggle with the pains of this world, the sweeter that final rest will become. With every burden I carry, the more aware I become of the strength of his arm that sustains me, bearing burdens that would otherwise crush me. With every fire that burns, the more aware I become of his enveloping peace that grants me safety in the hottest flame. With every storm that I face, the more aware I become of his mighty hand that stays the strongest wave and beckons me to walk on water.
Lord, what can I say but that it is a privilege to be burdened by the struggles of this life? What can I say but that it is an honor to be refined through the fires of this world? Apart from pain, I would not know you. Apart from hunger, I would not eat your bread. Apart from thirst, I would not drink your water. In my need you reveal yourself. In my weakness I am forced to seek your presence. In my darkest hour, your light becomes a beacon.
So I thank you for my need. It is in my need that you reveal your sufficiency.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Every once in awhile I take a step back and ask myself, “What the heck are you doing here?” What am I doing? I am working a thankless job in the middle of the worst part of a city that is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. The realization struck me halfway through my first day of teaching as I slowly inhaled and exhaled and scanned across the faces of 30 screaming kindergarteners. “I get nothing out of this deal.” That was the thought that slowly settled into the pit of my stomach. Nothing.
But it struck me then as it does now that people do things for all sorts of crazy reasons. Including myself. The words of Acts 20 strike me now as breathtakingly powerful. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Is it crazy to do something precisely because you get nothing out of it? Or maybe that’s the whole point. This world has nothing to offer. Then again, it’s always seemed to me that there is no such thing as getting nothing in return. There’s always something. It just depends on what you’re looking for. I am reminded of the promise in Luke 6:38:
” . . . give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Lord, help me to cling to the truths of these passages during a time in my life when it is so hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Help me to remember that the kingdom I serve is not of this world and that this world truly has nothing to offer me. Lord, as I walk through a season of my life where it feels like I am giving so much, help me to remember that you love a cheerful giver. Giving so often means so much more than money. It means time, energy, labor, tears. Lord, but you make all grace abound so that we might have all sufficiency in all things, at all times. You cause us to abound in every good work and enrich us to be generous in every way. Let me never forget that I serve a faithful God.
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work . . .
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 10-11
from September 8, 2012
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
“Have this mind in you which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The more I dwell upon these words the more startled I become by the entire passage. “He humbled himself.” The very king of the universe did not cling to his divine glory. And me? I cannot go a single day without clinging so desperately to my own earthly titles and vain recognition. Forgive me, Lord. Teach me to walk in your steps.
from July 7, 2012