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Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Taking on Self-Care. . . . .
OK Farmstrongers-- you are going to have to print this one off and wrestle with it a bit. it's probably not even ready for public consumption. but that's what blogs are for. . . . right? anyhow-- i'm just going to trot out 14 point argument (i.e. 14 stations of the cross) that i have been working on for the last year or so.

So if you want to forgo this one and opt for a softer and gentler idea you might check out the fantastic Wendell Berry quote on prayer I posted on the Asbury Seminary blog a few minutes ago.

Christian Formation: Moving from the paradigm of self-care
to beholding Christ in the Other.
The Stations of the Cross

1. Ministers tend to burn out.

2. The diagnosis for burnout is often that they have failed to take proper “care” of “self.”

3. Strategies and patterns of “self-care” are often prescribed as a remedy for burnout. This is often done under the guise of “formation.”

4. A life of ministry becomes compartmentalized or bifurcated between self-care and other-care.

5. Having good “boundaries” becomes one of the marks of excellent ministry.

a. Poor boundaries are the bad fruit of a broken understanding of “self.” (i.e. one cannot distinguish their responsibility “for” others from their responsibility “to” others. The dysfunctional self often vascillates between being enmeshed with others or withdrawn from them.
b. Ultimately this diagnosis of “poor boundaries” is the condition or symptom and not the cause of the real problem.
c. The real problem is a self-oriented paradigm of life.
d. The prescription of “healthy boundaries” in effect treats the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem.

6. Boundaries are articulated primarily by the budgeting of one’s time on a daily, weekly, monthly an annual basis.

7. This approaches makes time a commodity which is in scarce supply.

8. In this model the primary mark of excellent ministry is to skillfully manage time

9. But isn't the primary mark of excellent ministry to be formed in the image of Christ for the sake of others.

10. The authenticating mark of formation in the image of Christ is or equals to live for the sake of others. It is the learning of a pattern of life/ministry that simultaneously revolves around Christ and others.

a. Formation is not a two-step process consisting of #1. Being formed in the image of Christ and #2. Living for the sake of others.
b. This model has the unintended effect of creating two major compartments; one primarily oriented around Christ and one oriented around others.
c. The irony of this model is that compartment #1, orientation around Christ, becomes an unwitting orientation around the self. It is a model of self-referential formation. And Ultimately compartment #2 becomes an unwitting orientation around the self. The goal, remember, is to forget one’self or to “die” to one’self rather than to “take care” of one’s self.
d. Formation is a seamless way of practicing life/ministry that is decisively “others” oriented. The way of being formed in the image of Christ is through a life lived for others. This is demonstrated or evidenced through the practice of a “self-less” life.
e. Only One truly and fully demonstrates this life: Jesus Christ.
f. Christian formation is to be formed in his image. . . . to “have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus. . . . ” (see Philippians 2:1-11)

11. The question we seem to be asking is the wrong question: How can the practices of formation aid/enable/empower the practice of ministry? This makes formation an instrumental and utilitarian reality rather than an ultimate one.

12. The real question seems to be: How can the practice of ministry become truly formative?

13. Through the collapse the categories of formation and ministry/mission which leads to the dissolution of the dichotomy between the self and others.

a. This is to live a truly “worship-full” a seamless pattern of beholding Christ in every minute and in every person.

14. This is occasioned by the decisive death to self—to be “crucified with Christ so that I no longer live but Christ lives in me. . . .” (a practiced or actualized baptism)

15. Pastoral Imagination is the fruit of model—the resurrection of “seeing,” the practiced ability of beholding, giving to, receiving from and blessing Christ in the other. This is the place where formation and ministry embrace in union where “to live is Christ.”

what say you?????
posted by John David Walt | at 9/12/2006 11:28:00 PM



Blogger DGH said...

What if self care REQUIRED community? What if we wewre created to be in community and the only form of healthy sefl-care included receiving and giving care from and to others? (and God)....

I have really be thinking baout this as of late with Th3 Waters. We have a Pastoral Core Team and it is the team that forms the discusson (or version of sermon) and it is the team that prayerfuly considers the direction and themes of each seris....not the typical Sr. pastor does it all in most small churches in the world) approach. And even thought there is a leader of te team...I am finding that my self care is increased because of the others caring for me and vis versa.

So should "self-care" be redifined?

please understand I am talking outloud here. Thanks for alowing me to brainstorm.

12:38 AM EDT  
Blogger mattmaher said...

i'm still trying to die to self; my self care gets in the way of it ;)

4:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Amie Lou said...

This is good. Such a blessing to be invited to see the unpolished product :) I think this is a very good use of a blog...

As for the content - couple thoughts - we are all just throwing bits out there, right?

First, the dichotomy of "self" and "other" care lends itself to guilt as we feel we are doing more of one than the other. Guilt then leads to more burn out or a radical pendulum swing to self and self care (or both.) If I understood you correctly, this is part of what you tackled with "station" # 3.

Next, I'm currently re-reading Dallas Willard's Spirit of The Disciplines. For those of you unfamiliar, Willard's overarching premise is that we should strive to live like Christ at all times, instead of focusing on "when it counts." Willard suggests this is the foundation for the disciplines and the outlook of the Christian life.

Which brings me to yet another periphery issue: The most basic foundation of a minister should be his own personal walk with Christ. We all know this but I can only imagine (in my life atleast) that a lot of the stumbling block is a try at "catch up." In my favorite puritan work, The Reformed Pastor (don't worry - not that kind of reformed) Richard Baxter deals with the need for a minister to be a Christian first, "It is the common danger and calamity of the Church, to have unregenerate and inexperienced pastors, and to have so many men become preachers before they are Christians; who are sanctified by dedication to the altar as priests of God, before they are sanctified by hearty dedication as disciples of Christ."

And lastly, this season in my walk is absolutely about dissolving categories and throwing out expectations. I'm so glad you decided to finally post this "work in progress"


9:35 AM EDT  
Anonymous JP said...

From the "self care" lectures, books, etc I've been exposed to, they all seem to have the point of: care for yourself so you can do More ministry. Why do we continue to think that the Living God Needs us? Or that if we don't do it (whatever it is), then somehow people won't be cared for, reached, etc. God doesn't need us. God wants us, and that's a big difference.
It's sad that the "superstar" churches are held up before us as the example we are to aspire to and emulate and copy.
Isn't each individual church supposed to be the Body that God put together in that particular place to do/be the specific ministry God has for it?
Are we really supposed to "be everything for everybody"-multi-program ministry? Wouldn't we encompass what JD is talking about if we did only those ministries we Can do....do a few things well, instead of a lot of things mediocrily(yeah, I just made that word up!)?
JD, I've got to chew on this some more.

9:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Good stuff JD will comment soon. But it's safe enough to say I think you are on to something big. We tend to so compartmentalize our lives that caring for the self is something we can't do in the midst of living the kingdom in the way of Jesus. I like you don't think the two are at odds with each other.

Thanks for the inspiration.


10:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Marcus G said...

Mmm. Fantastic blog, JD.

My problem is, I want to agree, but fear that (as you hint) the truth is so complicated here that my agreeing and disagreeing are moulding into one!

After all, it is Jesus who basically gives us the two beat rhythm that you don't like when he says, "The greatest command is to love God, and the second is like it - love your neighbour as yourself."

Yet when he spells that out (in the parable of the Good Samaritan, or in Matthew 25) he brings these things back together by saying that the clearest example he can give of someone loving God is not the lone worshipper lost in love and wonder, nor even the gathered congregation, inspired and inspiring, but one Christian caring for another human being simply because we are made in His image, and that caring, giving love is truly love for God worked out.

I love it when Jesus confuses me.

But - and this too I think is important - I cannot think of too many times where Jesus gets his motley crew of disciples to focus on how to preserve their ministries. Perhaps Matthew 11, "Come unto me you who are weray..."; perhaps not.

His model, I am afraid, as a practitioner and as a trainer, is to choose burn out. Crucifixion is the way, as you rightly say. Do not preserve your life - that way you lose it. Lose it for me - and you gain everything. Because the two beat rhthym he advocates above all is simply this: crucifixion and resurrection. The former brings the latter. We want it easy - stage two only, please. But Jesus has other plans.

In my life, burn out happens. In my ministry, the Lord speaks to me most clearly at these times, these times are so precious I cannot speak of it, and the blessing that follows always redeems the pain. I do not say, "seek the pain"; but I do say, "do not fear it!" as in Christ we do not fear death itself. He loves the poor in Spirit and those who mourn; he promises we will be comforted and the Kingdom will come for us.

4:02 PM EDT  
Blogger George said...

This will take sometime to work through. It is timely for me because I recently presented a men's class on the subject "Finding Time for God". When preparing, the first thing that occurred me was how arrogant and audacious it is to consider relegating God to a segment of my life. (Sounds like boundaries).

A concept that I believe factors into the discussion is zero-sum thinking. Time management demands are driven by an assumption that we are in a zero-sum game. I did not find any religious writings on zero-sum thinking but are some interesting insights on the secular side. (Keep in mind I'm not a scholar so when I say I couldn't find something it in no way implies any kind of exhaustive research.)One writer describes zero-sum thinking as "World's Worst Disease". One question that came to me was: "Why would a Christian think he/she is playing a zero-sum game?"

There are so many paths in this maze that I'm having trouble sorting them out. I intend to comment again.

Incidentally, at the end of the "Finding Time for God" class I suggested the title should be "Finding God in Our Time".

Thanks for the challenge,

10:49 PM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

pain on the brain--- more to come. this could be the new best conversation ever on farmstrong. jd

7:35 AM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

ok, here goes, jd. let me start with what i think is quite brilliant; numbers 10 (subset letters only)-14 that deal with breaking down the false barrier of formation and ministry. i am in the midst of changing my title from discipleship pastor to spiritual formation pastor because there is a perception in the evangelical christian world that discipleship equals head knowledge, the "classic" formation process of learning how to understand god and therefore how to serve him. my new title hopefully encompasses ministry and mission and prayer and "the blend of christ-activities" that are included in living like christ.

now, counter-thoughts. first, don't have 15 numbers in a 14 station model (just teasing there). seriously, i think we need to be careful with the statements in 9 and 10. if we jump to a purpose of our christ-likeness - "for others" - i believe we run a great risk of not approaching others through Christ. we could begin to see ourselves as christlike and then take our christlikeness to others directly.

I just have this pic of jesus in my mind in community with the father, loving him and obeying him in the yes's and the no's of his ministry. same with paul, hearing the spirit say "go here, don't go there." i think the primary mark of christlikeness is constantly hearing from the father through the spirit and in the power of jesus obeying. when we do that we die to self and are used AS GOD WANTS TO USE US to minister to others. this will never lead to burnout no matter how much ministry is done because the father knows us and will only call us to that which he empowers and we can do through him.

sorry so long, let me know what you think.

8:44 AM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

your own quote from your comment on the last post: "this also says something about the notion of doing ministry from a context of deep friendship and not so much as a lone ranger. jesus did nothing by himself-- nothing. the fruit of the kingdom sprang forth from his relationship-- i argue a friendship-- with his Abba."

that's exactly what i'm talking about in the comment above. nice summary!

8:52 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

Thanks friends for this conversation.

Marcus-- thanks for pushing on me a bit. I think i would challenge you when you say jesus says choose burnout--- i would say it like this-- jesus says choose abandonment. The key is to abandon the entire paradigm of self-hood. Abandon self = find Life. It is to enter the country of "I was hungry and you fed me." Getting back to Jesus final jeopard with Peter--- The dialogue is quite simple-- with him and with us: "Do you love me? Feed my sheep."

So the question for me isn't how do i fill up so i can be poured out. That is in actuality-- functional transcendence. I think the real kingdom treasure is in finding the place of transcendent functionalism. the real question for us is what would it mean if our biographical description read: TO LIVE IS CHRIST. the best term i can find for this reality is ABIDING. We find this term "meinete" in John 15 prominently. yet the first time we see it is early in John at The Baptism of Jesus. The Spirit descended like a dove and abided with him. To be baptized in Christ is to be those in-with and through whom the Spirit abides. This is the massive catastrophic conversion from self-actualization to baptismal actualization--- where, in fact, I NO LONGER LIVE BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME.

Summarizing-- functional transcendence asks how does God help the self to help others. Functional transcendence asks how can the self be abandoned to the Other for the sake of others. It's one seamless ever flowing river-like movement of Love. matt maher says it clearly--- self care is at odds with death to self.

consider this one-- "Brother and Sisters, no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another God abides with us and his love is made perfect in us." (1 john 4 or 5ish).

as long as we are in the kingdom of self we are managing everything-- from behavior to time to ministry to everything else. it's a "mastery" paradigm, when the kingdom is a "mastered" paradigm. it's the difference between control and abandonment. (i like abandonment better than surrender as the former connotes willfullness while the latter denotes a gun pointing at you.) this is why i increasingly think the entire idea of self care is about managing the self in the name of Jesus. it's the wrong conversation. what happens more often than not is garden variety self-protection, which clearly is foreign to the way of the cross. it is the movement to maximize the utility of scarce resources--- the world economy.

so d.g. in response to your question-- self care shouldn't be redefined in my judgment-- it should be jettisoned for another conversation entirely. yes ames-- it's about dissolving the categories else destin ourselves for jp's word fugutive-- mediocrily.

now to George-- thanks so much for commenting here. i think you are really onto it in your distinction about the difference between "finding time for God" and "finding God in our time." in my judgment you have hit the nail on the proverbial head with this distinction. i intend to blog a post in the next day or so picking this idea up and running with it a bit.

9:43 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

ELI-- I THINK WE ARE ON THE SAME PAGE HERE. see if my fleshing out comment helps to clarify the issues. thx jd

9:46 AM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

yes, jd, we are on the same page. i think i have an illustration that i use with small group and ministry leaders. i take a big bucket to represent "the world" or "others" and i have a small pitcher to represent an individual. i have a hose with flowing water to represent god. i say that the thing most of us do is go to the source, fill up, then dump it all out. then back to the source, fill up and dump out. self care is an effort to put boundaries on how full and how empty we get. more trips back and forth, never filling all the way up or never emptying all the way out. then i say that the way it should be done is this: and i hold the hose over the pitcher until it fills up and runs over into the bucket. what do you think?

10:46 AM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

btw, i started reading steve seamands new book while laying on the beach; it's entitled Ministry in the Image of God. Have you read it? He's talking a lot about the same kind of things.

4:02 PM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

the beach. . . . . . . . ????? as he decries self care-- he sits on the beach. . . . . . very nice. just kidding. love the waterhose pitcher and bucket idea. that works.

8:25 AM EDT  
Blogger emily said...

so i opted for the "softer, gentler" idea from wendall berry on your other post, since he's one of my favorite writers and i was curious what quote you posted...and if it wasn't one of my favorite quotes from my most favorite of books!

so i haven't read all the rest of what is written here, nor do i really feel qualified to enter the conversation, but i think i am finding that when i'm sincerely and honestly concerned with the sake of the other for the sake of the other, i forget my self but find it satisfied...

i would also like to believe that taking care of others is a kind of circular thing; in other words if i'm focusing on caring for someone else there's some other 3rd person who should be looking out for me (we'd make a trinity)...and it seems that people often are forgetting anyone should be looking out for the needs of our pastors.

6:34 PM EDT  

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