The Depleted Self – how narcissism is linked to bureaucracy

I am currently continuing my reading on the writings of former Professor of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary Donald Capps.  I hope to write a more detailed review of the book ‘The Depleted Self – sin in a narcissistic age’, but want to write something here that struck me about his one of his comments on psychotherapeutic literature relating to narcissism.  

71evB0k1zILFirstly, narcissism is far more than mere obsessional “self-love”, following Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection, leading to his own suicide.  Capps very helpfully takes the reader through a maze of discovery drawing on contemporary theories, and critiques the Church for failing to distinguish between the old cultural value of guilt and the contemporary ones of shame, a cause itself of anxiety.  Theologians and Churches have rather denounced “narcissistic behaviour” and being locked into a “guilt” framework have thus focused on moralistic remedies that address superficial behaviours, and not underlying ontological causes and conditions.

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Three Pastoral Models of Pastoral Care (3/3)

Donald Capps very helpfully outlines models and schemata for effective pastoral action, that I think are very helpful for getting pastor’s to think about the what and why of what they do in a community over which they exercise pastoral oversight.  This post is the third of three that will develop this scheme to show how pastoral care is multi-layered and complex, requiring self-understanding, and avoiding the over-simplification of a one-dimensional approach that can be seen in self-promoting and self-serving distortions of ministry.

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In Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (a book I discovered by reading Anthony Thiselton’s A Lifetime in the Church and University), Capps first provides six Diagnostic Types for pastoral care approaches (pg. 61-65) and then, what concerned the first two posts, he locates them on three axes, with each axis viewed as a model of theological diagnosis (pg. 65-66).  He uses the content analysis of published sermons in six well known preachers, showing that each preacher had a characteristic approach that was common to most if not all the their published sermons.

Now following on from the Contextual, Experiential and Revisionist models of the previous post, Capps now draws these threads together (pg. 72-78) in three characteristic models or modes of pastoral ministry (See Figure A below – A Conceptual Schema for Interpreting Pastoral Actions), that he draws from the work of Alastair Campbell in his Rediscovering Pastoral Care:

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He Ran With The Horses

With the deepest gratitude to a man of God who showed the world what being a pastor was meant to look like.  Eugene Peterson died on Monday 22nd October, and after running with the horses all his life, he has now stopped for his eternal reward and rest.  It is deeply symbolic for me too, that this post should come in between three posts on Pastoral Ministry that I am writing.  I had wanted to keep them together in the post-chain of posts, but a dedication to Eugene Peterson is perfectly fitting.

horsesHis book, Run with the Horses, is for me, one of the most important books that I try to read once a year.  It is a superb commentary on the life of the great prophet Jeremiah, and shows forth the real elements of a life lived in service to God and pastoral ministry to the people.  The phrase, run with the horses, is taken from Jeremiah 12, and is God’s challenge and slight warning to him, after he had complained about how tough ministry had become for him.  I use this phrase and unpack it when teaching other students in ministry, since I can’t find a better picture than this.

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Three Diagnostic Models of Pastoral Care (2/3)

Donald Capps very helpfully outlines models and schemata for effective pastoral action, that I think are very helpful for getting pastor’s to think about the what and why of what they do in a community over which they exercise pastoral oversight.  This post is the second of three that will develop this scheme to show how pastoral care is multi-layered and complex, requiring self-understanding, and avoiding the over-simplification of a one-dimensional approach that can be seen in self-promoting and self-serving distortions of ministry.

download (2)

In Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (a book I discovered by reading Anthony Thiselton’s A Lifetime in the Church and University), Capps first provides six Diagnostic Types for pastoral care approaches (pg. 61-65) and then, what concerns this post, he locates them on three axes, with each axis viewed as a model of theological diagnosis (pg. 65-66).  He uses the content analysis of published sermons in six well known preachers, showing that each preacher had a characteristic approach that was common to most if not all the their published sermons:

Continue reading

Six Diagnostic Types of Pastoral Care (1/3)

Donald Capps very helpfully outlines models and schemata for effective pastoral action, that I think are very helpful for getting pastor’s to think about the what and why of what they do in a community over which they exercise pastoral oversight.  This post is the first of three that will develop this scheme to show how pastoral care is multi-layered and complex, requiring self-understanding, and avoiding the over-simplification of a one-dimensional approach that can be seen in self-promoting and self-serving distortions of ministry.

download (2)

In Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (a book I discovered by reading Anthony Thiselton’s A Lifetime in the Church and University), Capps first provides six Diagnostic Types for pastoral care approaches (pg. 61-65), using the content analysis of published sermons in six well known preachers, showing that each preacher had a characteristic approach that was common to most if not all the their published sermons:

 

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The Way of Mercy and Reinstatement

20180514_144311.jpg“The Church is not interested in spiritual mediocrity.  It’s calling people to sainthood, to be a saint means to be heroically virtuous.  The family is a school of virtue, a school of sanctity, it’s meant to make us saints.  We’re not interested in a dumbed down or a dialled down ideal. … And as anyone in the pastoral life know, people struggle to attain this level.

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Saints and Fatheads:  The Genius of the Church

Saints and Fatheads: The Genius of the Church

In a fictional letter to a young Pastor, Ian Stackhouse (a non-fictional minister in Guildford, age unknown/irrelevant 😉 contributing to the Baptist Journal Ministry Today UK, February 2018 Edition, writes:

“Dear Timothy,

As always, I feel very honoured that you should write to me so candidly about the things you are dealing with, but I am a bit worried, I must admit, by your growing criticisms of the congregation.  You may not like me saying this, but I put it down to these conferences your denomination insists on sending you to.  Conferences about growing your church are all very well, but if you are not careful you will end up despising the congregation you are serving.  The truth is, Timothy, we all feel disappointed from time to time by the place we have been assigned to, and it is very tempting to fantasise about being somewhere else that is more congenial to our personality, more alive in the Spirit, and – let’s face it – bigger.  But the tragedy of it is that all the while we are ministering to the people who are not there, planning for the people who we have yet to engage with, we are missing out on the wonders of the people who are there, the treasures that are sitting right under our noses had we but the generosity to notice . . . . .

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Possible Pastoral Responses…hee hee

Possible Pastoral Responses…hee hee

A humously perceptive post from Stephen Cherry here. The book that has been linked in at the end if this post is also a very good resource.

We all get it.  Some of us look for it. Some of us long for it. Many of us hate it. None of us know what to say when we hear it: ‘This is your busy time, vicar.’

So – what should we say? Here are eight ideas to try.

  • Do you think I would be talking to you if I was busy’. Pro: Cathartic – could be a bit of stress-buster. Con: tbh it is a bit rude.
  • Inane laughter or wan smile.  Pro: easier than thinking of something to say. Con: Reinforces dozy vicar stereotype.
  • ‘Well there is rather a lot to do actually, but how are you?’ Pro: First bit is true. Con. Second bit now sounds disingenuous.
  • ‘No I don’t do busy. But I do have quite a full life at the moment’. Pro:   Honest and puzzling. Con: Just a tad too pompous.
  • Burst into tears. Pro: Cathartic and turns the pastoral tables.  Con: Risky –  they might not care.
  • ‘What do you think I do the rest of the year! I’ll tell you about busy’. Pro: Might make them think about the rest of the year. Con: No it won’t.
  • ‘Hey, the schools are closed, and no one is having meetings. I am doing the pastoral thing – and that’s why I’m talking to you just now so let’s move on to something worth talking about. How’s that knee of yours.’ Pro: It started well. Con: It ended badly.
  • ‘Nope, I’m not busy… ‘ and let them pick up the thread.  Pro: Countercultural and prophetic. Con: Suggests you really have no higher purpose than listening and stuff (Hang on, is this a con?)

Now there must be better answers than those…. If you are not too busy, please share.

For more on busyness and vicaring checkout my book  http://www.sacristy.co.uk/books/ministry-resources/beyond-busyness-time-wisdom-ministry

With thanks to ‘garybirchall1, @sadgrovem and @robertlawance for the tweets that inspired this blog. Glad you were not too busy to tweet today.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Only Human

Heard this on the radio this morning.  Loved it.  For obvious reasons.  Or not!

 

Lyrics

I’m only human
I’m only, I’m only
I’m only human, human

Maybe I’m foolish
Maybe I’m blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what’s behind
Got no way to prove it
So maybe I’m blind
But I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put your blame on me
Don’t put your blame on me

Take a look in the mirror
And what do you see
Do you see it clearer
Or are you deceived
In what you believe
‘Cause I’m only human after all
You’re only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put your blame on me

Some people got the real problems
Some people out of luck
Some people think I can solve them
Lord heavens above
I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me

Don’t ask my opinion
Don’t ask me to lie
Then beg for forgiveness
For making you cry
Making you cry
‘Cause I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put your blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me

Oh, some people got the real problems
Some people out of luck
Some people think I can solve them
Lord heavens above
I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me

I’m only human
I make mistakes
I’m only human
That’s all it takes
To put the blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me

I’m no prophet or Messiah
Should go looking somewhere higher
I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me

I’m only human
I do what I can
I’m just a man
I do what I can
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put your blame on me

Written by Rory Charles Graham, Jamie Hartman • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Lord, being a pastor is impossible!

Lord, being a pastor is impossible!

I am re-reading the brilliant book by Dave Hansen ‘The Art of Pastoring’ and the same day I came across this wonderful article by Mandy Smith re-printed below.hansen

There is a dynamic in being a pastor that is quite incredible.  We are neither managers nor mechanics; farmers nor chefs; social workers nor nurses.  And I am grateful for those who do these things.  Yet pastoring with integrity is most certainly not “running the church” (God forbid), but it is about being squeezed by Heaven’s Hands whilst living and loving in this pressurised mixed up world, often perfectly encapsulated by individual congregations around the world.  Too many people bemoan “the state of the church” myself included – but take one minute to think about it….how can it be anything but, this side of Glory?

bartonMy own church is no exception (and they are entirely innocent of anything this blog produces ;-), and whilst the list below is an accurate reflection of pastoral ministry, it ebbs and flows with varying degrees of weight and emphasis throughout the points on the list in a pastor’s ministry.

I am totally confident in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to break rocks to peices and re-make old, sin-tired hearts anew.  And that process by definition is hard, tough, gritty, life-changing and will divide people.  That is why P. T. Forsyth is right to say that the Gospel, when proclaimed faithfully, will both attract and repel its hearers.  The Gospel is a dividing thing, and so it should come as no surprise that churches are places, under Gospel proclamation, that wrestle, Jacob-like, with the Angel of the Lord, until a new person is formed.  The church is not a happy social club where we are meant to just “get on” and “be nice”, not a place where things should be smoothed over into a kind of bland conforming mediocrity, but a gathering of sinners learning what it means to be the New Humanity created in, through and by, the atoning and redemptive work of Christ.  The church should be a lot rougher, not smoother.  And that’s how grace works:  Grace doesn’t work or isn’t needed in a wonderful, open, tolerant, all-loving, all-embracing community (this is how some people wish the church was) – how can it?  To exercise grace, there must be un-grace and disgrace. To exercise patience, there must be impatience and all manner of urgencies.  To exercise true agape love, there must be self-love and no-love, etc, etc.

Sinful men and women all of us.  And some of us sinners go on under the call of God to be pastors.  And it is these pastors who face what I think are astonishing complexities in everyday life, simply because we are going about the business of the Kingdom of God – and that is terrifying in its own right.  Jesus builds his church, and this sometimes (often?) despite the church, despite me.

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