Gospel Wheel Evaluation: Spoke Generosity

The Gospel Wheel is a discipleship tool developed by The Summit Church to help believers identify how balanced their Christian growth is and how rooted their efforts to spiritually mature are.

The Wheel

Click here for the spoke generosity.

This evaluation examines six areas:

  1. The core beliefs of gospel generosity
  2. The character necessary for generosity
  3. The preparation for consistent generosity
  4. The intentionality of wise generosity
  5. The involvement that should accompany generosity
  6. The effect generosity should have on the giver

The six evaluations below (each 30 questions and self-scoring) are meant to be tools you can use to assess your Christian walk and understanding in each of the six key areas identified by The Gospel Wheel.

When using The Gospel Wheel as a discipleship tool, it is recommended that you seek to grow in the areas that are currently weakest rather than “maxing out” in your areas of strength. Each spoke should be developed in proportion to the other spokes in order for growth in one area not to compromise growth in other areas.

Comparing Pastoral Ethics and Counseling Ethics

EthicsPastors (i.e., those whose primary responsibilities are preaching and teaching for the purpose of evangelizing the lost and equipping church members for ministry) and counselors (i.e., those who primarily meet with individuals or groups for the purpose of overcoming a particular struggle or life transition) often approach their respective ministry ethics quite differently.

These differences account for many of the tensions that have historically existed between pastors and counselors. In this post I will examine one facet that accounts for these differences by examining the leading question and principle that drives the ethical decision making of each. Admittedly, reducing the ethical decision making of either to a single criterion is reductionist, but I do so to illustrate the primary point and trust the reader not to over-extend the point.

I will develop the counselor side of the discussion more since it is less familiar to the average church.

Pastor’s Leading Ethical Question:How could I love people (plural) well without making the gospel known in every way possible? Said differently, how could anything that makes Christ more known be unwise or unethical?

Pastor’s Lead Principle: Make Christ known.

The pastoral ethic might be summarized in the phrase, “Every Christian this side of heaven owes a clear presentation of the gospel to every unbeliever this side of Hell.” The pastor is beholden to and burdened for the entire world.

Decision making is made based upon what advances God’s kingdom. It is expected that everyone make sacrifices for this cause and it is the pastor’s role, as God’s herald, to call people to these sacrifices. This involves…

  • Discipleship of believers… through calls to faith, obedience, and sacrifice.
  • Purity of the church… through church discipline and upholding the moral teaching of Scripture.
  • Evangelism of unbelievers… through calling attention to their lost state as a means of helping see their need for the gospel.

Counselor’s Leading Ethical Question: How do I care well for the person (singular) in front of me and rightly steward the information he/she has entrusted to me?

Counselor’s Lead Principle: Do no harm.

The counselor is beholden to the individual or couple for whom he/she serves in the role of counselor. Using the word “counseling” to describe a relationship entails at least two things: (a) the person seeking counsel is disclosing his/her life story in an artificially accelerated manner, and (b) the person seeking counsel will give additional weight to the guidance of the counselor because of the experience or education or the counselor.

Decision making is made based upon what is in the best interest of the counselee (unless the safety of others is involved). The counselor is cautious to not allow his/her voice to supersede the counselee’s voice in decision making; sustainable change requires the counselee to remain in the lead decision making role, but the roles of counseling can fight against this. Therefore, the counselor is perpetually vigilant for when he/she may have undue influence in the counseling relationship.

This means the Christian counselor comes to points above differently than the teaching/equipping pastor.

  • Discipleship of believers… assessing an individual’s readiness to act on calls to faith, obedience, and sacrifice based upon their current emotional, relational, and spiritual health.

o    There can be tension between a pastor’s broad-based call to “step out in faith and trust God” and a counselor’s assessment of factors in an individual’s life that would make this good step, unwise in the moment (i.e., going on a mission trip in an impoverished area while experiencing PTSD or volunteering in an area of needed ministry when one’s marriage is already strained).

o    Having an individual publicly share their story of significant life change in a public forum before that change has been assimilated because it is edifying for the church body. For this subject I have created a resource to help churches and ministries avoid this frequent dilemma.

  • Purity of the church… helping a counselee navigate the tensions when his/her current moral values or lifestyle may not be in keeping with his/her Christian beliefs without communicating that the counselee must follow God in a way that diminishes the counselee’s voice in the matter.

o    A counselor will be more neutral with a counselee than a pastor is with a parishioner because pastoral relationship is authoritative while a counseling relationship is advisory. Even when the pastor and counselor share the same values, the tone of the interaction will be different. This is based upon at least one key distinction between pastoral and counseling relationships.

      • Note: I believe it is this distinction, which is often misunderstood by both sides, that leads to much of the friction that exists (when it is present) between pastors and counselors.
      • Pastoral relationships exist in covenant community governed by biblical standards and overseen by the elders of the church. Pastors have a delegated authority to which their parishioners have agreed to adhere to in order to remain a member in good standing with that particular church.
      • Counseling is a voluntary relationship that exists for the duration of time for which the counselee deems the benefits of counseling as being greater than the time investment. Counselors have no authority over a counselee and their influence is had purely through the voluntary cooperation of the counselee.

o    A counselor will also be assessing a church’s readiness to handle the subject at hand. Is the counselee’s church prepared to care for someone who experiences unwanted same sex attraction? Would the church prematurely confront an abusive spouse in a way that might endanger the abused counselee who reaches out for help?

  • Evangelism of unbelievers… through helping the counselee see the emptiness of their pursuits (if their struggle is sin-based) or their need for more than temporal comfort (if their struggle is suffering-based) and bringing the counselee to the kind of questions that beg for a gospel answer.

o    An individual in a pastoral role will be more assertive in initiating a gospel question than an individual in a counselor role. The pastor either works from the biblical text (when preaching and teaching) or the biblically desired outcome (when discipling in a more personal context). The time requirements of shepherding an entire church require this. The counselor works from the questions of the counselee and limits his/her counseling caseload in order to ensure this can happen.

o    Personal Note: In a counseling context, even when a gospel conversation seems ripe, I prefer to direct the counselee to a Christian in their sphere of natural relationships for the final stages of placing their faith in Christ. Discipleship happens in relationship. If the formality of my role as counselor does not allow me to fill that role as friend, then this person is better served to share that moment with someone who can be in that relational-discipling role.

Hopefully you can see that the leading ethical questions and principles of the pastor and counselor are good. Both have their place. People need both in their lives; pastoring more frequently than counseling.

There is a tension that exists in this post, which I do not believe can be neatly resolved. Pastors serve as counselors and counselors should live on mission. On the counseling side, good intake forms that provide informed consent about the nature of counseling and how information will be handled can alleviate much of this tension. On the pasturing side, a greater appreciation for the “do no harm” ethic can create a better working relationship with counselors.

Another hope from reading this post is that there can be a better appreciation between pastors and counselors for why they make the decisions and set the limits they do.

  • Counselors will view pastors less as wreckless ideologues who are only concerned with growing the church.
  • Pastors will view Christian counselors less as faithless obstructionists who are unwilling to fully cooperate with the needs of the church.

If this can happen, then both callings benefit.

  • Christian counselors will seek to build more informed consent measures to allow themselves to cooperate with churches and be more overtly Christian in the content of their counseling.
  • Pastors will have a greater appreciation for the responsibilities that come with being entrusted with privileged information and how individual factors may impact the response to calls for faith, obedience, and sacrifice.

Tweets of the Week 6.22.16

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Gospel Wheel Evaluation: Spoke Community

The Gospel Wheel is a discipleship tool developed by The Summit Church to help believers identify how balanced their Christian growth is and how rooted their efforts to spiritually mature are.

The Wheel

Click here for the spoke community.

This evaluation examines four areas:

  1. The beliefs that under gird biblical community
  2. The practices that cultivate biblical community
  3. The actions of doing biblical community
  4. The experiences of receiving biblical community

The six evaluations below (each 30 questions and self-scoring) are meant to be tools you can use to assess your Christian walk and understanding in each of the six key areas identified by The Gospel Wheel.

When using The Gospel Wheel as a discipleship tool, it is recommended that you seek to grow in the areas that are currently weakest rather than “maxing out” in your areas of strength. Each spoke should be developed in proportion to the other spokes in order for growth in one area not to compromise growth in other areas.

Before Coming Out: A Gap in the Christian Conversation

This week the Washington Post ran a story about Christian Rock Star Trey Pearson coming out as gay. If you’ve not read the article, I would encourage you to do so before reading the rest of this post; especially the letter from Trey that concludes the article.

This post is about drawing attention to what Trey’s story reveals is missing in the ministry of most churches. If we don’t see what is missing, then we won’t fill the gap that needs to be filled.

As you read the article and ask yourself these two questions:

  • When should the most important conversations have occurred with Trey Pearson?
  • What was the effect of 20 years of silence upon how those conversations occurred when the silence was finally broken?

To help you identify the answer to these questions, consider the opening paragraph from a recent post.

Imagine you attended a church where your life struggle was never mentioned as an area to receive care, and, if it was mentioned, your struggle was the adversarial portion of a culture war commentary. How would your week-to-week experience of church be different? This is the experience of many people in our churches.

The saddest part of Trey Pearson’s letter to me was that it seems he struggled for 20 years in silence (assuming the now 35 year old’s experience of same sex attraction began in his teenage years). He grew up in a church that taught him to love Jesus, but where, at least to his perception, his struggle was not acceptable to talk about. His perceived options were “be silent” or “be gay.” From what we can tell, he tried the former for two decades and then chose the latter.

The epidemic of silence (with its accompanying isolation) is why I wrote Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. As a church we cannot banish those who experience same sex attraction (SSA) to silence for as long as they can stand it and then scold them for identifying as gay when they can take it anymore. When our unwritten policy regarding SSA is “don’t ask, don’t tell” that is inadvertently what we do.

I’ve been saddened by how some conservative Christians have responded to the Washington Post article (and other venues that carried it). Many, at least from my perspective, seem to miss the point of this post.

Many have responded by condemning Trey for breaking his marriage covenant. Others have tried to highlight how tragic it is that his daughters will have to endure this divorce. Is breaking the marriage covenant wrong? Yes. Is it a tragedy that Trey’s daughters now have to navigate life with divorced parents? Absolutely. Trey acknowledges as much.

We can make these points. We can make them while balancing truth and grace (which we should admit many who claim to speak for Christ do not). We can make them with eloquence and polemical sophistication. But making these points to a 35 year old adult who has lived and led in an evangelical church for 20 years but never experienced a Christian culture that says, “Some Christians will experience unwanted SSA. We love you and that is something we can talk about,” is too little too late.

When should conversations have started with Trey? When he first began to experience SSA. How does that happen? Should Trey have spoken up sooner? Sure. But when churches speak of homosexuality in almost exclusively political and polemical tones (to the exclusion of pastoral and personal tones), do we expect a teenager to have that much courage?

What would the fruit of these conversations be? The only honest answer is, “We don’t know.” Might Trey have still chosen to identify as gay? Maybe. However, might not carrying 20 years of shame have influenced his sense of attraction? Possibly. Would being known (not feeling fake, as carrying a unsharable secret makes us all feel) and loved by his family, friends, and church impact a sense of inauthenticity and emptiness? Undoubtedly. Would it have helped him make a more informed choice about marriage, career, or children? Probably.

Christians ought to be involved in political and polemical conversations about homosexuality (so long as we are informed and gracious), but if the number of political and polemical conversations outnumber our personal conversations, then we will have missed the most important junctures to enter these conversations with the friends, family, and church members around us.

If you want to be part of the church being filled with people who are willing and able to have meaningful conversations and provide authentic friendship for those who experience unwanted SSA, I would encourage you to read Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk.

Tweets of the Week 6.8.16

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Gospel Wheel Evaluation: Spoke Evangelism and Missions

The Gospel Wheel is a discipleship tool developed by The Summit Church to help believers identify how balanced their Christian growth is and how rooted their efforts to spiritually mature are.

The Wheel

Click here for the spoke evangelism and missions.

This evaluation examines six areas:

  1. Your personal experience with the gospel
  2. Your ability to articulate the gospel
  3. Your everyday awareness of evangelism
  4. Your social experience of evangelism
  5. Your burden for evangelism and missions
  6. Your participation in missions

The six evaluations below (each 30 questions and self-scoring) are meant to be tools you can use to assess your Christian walk and understanding in each of the six key areas identified by The Gospel Wheel.

When using The Gospel Wheel as a discipleship tool, it is recommended that you seek to grow in the areas that are currently weakest rather than “maxing out” in your areas of strength. Each spoke should be developed in proportion to the other spokes in order for growth in one area not to compromise growth in other areas.

A New Letter Writing Tradition for My Boys

With my boys at the ages of 11 and 9, I am realizing that the years of influence that I have with them in our home are coming to an end much sooner than I would like (sigh). This is not the introduction for a blog post of regret, but one of intentionality.

For several years I have made it a discipline to write my wife at least 3 letters per year. This is a time to regularly reflect over our marriage, my level of engagement, and how the hopes-dreams-fears of life have changed over the last few months.

Recently, wife said, “You should write the boys letters too.” She’s right. I guess I never realized they know how to read now. We have taken lots of trips together. If you look over the review of each trip, you will be able to tell I put thought into their spiritual and character development on each trip.

But I realized I was counting on their memories to carry the content of those conversations into the future. Let’s be honest, kids remember events (i.e., flying on an air plane, riding down a water fall, rock climbing, etc…) more than conversations. Letters help compensate for that memory difference.

So here’s the plan.

  • I went and purchased nice 3-ring binders and sleeves for a letter notebook. I want the letters to last and for the notebook to feel special. 20160527_151740
  • On special occasions (i.e., our annual man trip, birthdays, challenging life event, or accomplishment like graduation) I will give them a letter. I’m not entirely sure about the frequency, but I want it to be two to four letters per year; enough time passing between that there are new things to comment on but frequent enough that they can be a running life commentary.
  • Each time I give them a letter, at least until they move away (let’s not talk about that), I’ll read them the letter and allow it be part of a conversation; that way it doesn’t become impersonal.
  • I’ve outlined a few content areas that I plan to write on in each letter.
  • Opening paragraph – contextualizing the letter to recent events
  • Character paragraph – commenting on areas of character growth I’ve seen
  • Spiritual paragraph – commenting on areas of spiritual development I’ve seen
  • Achievement paragraph – commending significant achievements that have happened recently
  • Areas of growth paragraph – identifying an area of growth I believe it’s important for them to focus on and a passage of Scripture I believe would be good to study or memorize to facilitate this growth
  • Closing paragraph – telling them I love them and am proud of them in a way that’s tied to the rest of the letter
  • On the back of the letter, but no more than twice per year, I plan to print a “Tracing My Journey” chart I made which allows them to put their thoughts about life on paper. My hope for this is that they will be able to look back and see what was most important to them at different seasons of their life. It is an exercise in helping them live reflective, intentional lives.
  • I don’t expect them to fill out every blank every time. Some of these questions require advanced reflection; like putting new foods on the table several times before kids will try them, I want to put these questions in front of my boys several times before they engage them.

I expect that this tradition will morph and evolve with time. I share my thoughts about it at this incipient stage in order to encourage other parents to be intentional in how you communicate and preserve the important messages with your children.

At the very least, I pray this will be something my boys take off the shelf when they should be studying (whether it is in high school or college) and review some of the fun memories we’ve had together. If I give them a sanctifying distraction from studying (which they’ll distract themselves anyway) that traces their journey and key messages from Papa, then the time spent writing a few letters each year will be well worth it.

Tweets of the Week 6.1.16

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Gospel Wheel Evaluation: Spoke Bible Study and Prayer

The Gospel Wheel is a discipleship tool developed by The Summit Church to help believers identify how balanced their Christian growth is and how rooted their efforts to spiritually mature are.

The Wheel

Click here for the spoke Bible study and prayer.

This evaluation examines six areas:

  1. Your preparedness to understand the Bible
  2. Your practice of reading the Bible
  3. Your application when reading the Bible
  4. Your beliefs about prayer
  5. Your practice of prayer
  6. Your experience of prayer

The six evaluations below (each 30 questions and self-scoring) are meant to be tools you can use to assess your Christian walk and understanding in each of the six key areas identified by The Gospel Wheel.

When using The Gospel Wheel as a discipleship tool, it is recommended that you seek to grow in the areas that are currently weakest rather than “maxing out” in your areas of strength. Each spoke should be developed in proportion to the other spokes in order for growth in one area not to compromise growth in other areas.