They may be pleasant and intelligent people. Very often, they are Christian people. There are some people who have developed their thinking processes quite well. There are some who have the capacity to grasp intellectual complexities and make sense of them.
Yet, some of these same people never seem to grow up emotionally.
Yet, there are people whohave just never been able to progress or move ahead in terms of allowing the Gospel to make a difference in the way they handle their emotions.
Lifelong learners are willing to learn and grow. Learning, however, is not limited to mental, cognitive growth. A commitment to be a lifelong learner is not just a commitment to read more books.
No, we make the commitment to grow relationally and emotionally.
A few years ago, I read Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Church. A good book. This particular paragraph in the Introduction (p. 17) caught my attention:
The sad truth is that too little difference exists, in terms of emotional and relational maturity, between God’s people inside the church and those outside who claim no relationship to Jesus Christ. Even more alarming, when you go beyond the praise and worship of our large meetings and conventions and into the homes and small-group meetings of God’s people, you often find a valley littered by broken and failed relationships.
He argues in the book that emotional health and spiritual maturity is a large, unexplored area of discipleship. What we have done, however, is to give emotional issues to the therapist while the church takes care of the “spiritual” issues. These, as Scazzero argues, are actually linked and are a part of a fully biblical discipleship.
Recently, I read an interesting book entitled Church on the Couch: Does the Church Need Therapy? The author, Elaine Martens Hamilton (a therapist), speaks of what she sees in and hears from some Christian people who are not experiencing real internal change.
As a result marriages are falling apart at the same rate as for people who don’t attend church. Too many of our kids are angry and disconnected from their families. In growing numbers we are addicted to food, pornography, television and money. We’ve got to be honest with ourselves: an intellectual understanding of faith does not equal spiritual maturity. (p. 28)
Why is all of this important? The most important reason for addressing this part of our lives is faithfulness to Jesus in following him. He has called us to a life of surrender, dependency on him, and service.
It is also important because separating the emotional/relational self (or even the body) from the “spiritual” has created some troubling and even bizarre situations among Christians. Some of these (some of these are Scazzero’s and some are mine) include:
* The man who has taught for years in adult Bible classes and yet his adult children resent him and his wife smolders with anger over years of neglect.
* The woman who volunteers for most everything at church while neglecting her health thinking that she is doing what God wants.
* The church leader who can never say “I was wrong.”
* The high control kind of person who has a way of wearing people out as he persists in trying to get others to share his opinions.
* The ministry leader who sees any difference of opinion as a personal attack.
* The man or woman who continues pushing people away and at the same time can’t understand why he/she doesn’t have friends.
* A 70-year-old man who has been a Christian much of his life. He is combative and argumentative when he is displeased and does not get his way.
* A 30-year-old woman who regularly gets into “drama” with others at work. She has a long history of being a very difficult person to deal with.
* A young man in his late 20s who has the emotional maturity of a 15-year-old. His wife feels as if she must be wife and mother to him as well as managing the household. His irresponsible spending has put their family in financial jeopardy.
Following Jesus (or growing spiritually) means that my entire life comes under his Lordship. Now that might cause us to deal with something uncomfortable.
What seems to contribute to some leaders remaining stuck in immaturity?