Friday, July 30, 2010

A Hidden Healing, Part Two

This is from my weekly newsletter "Gracelets". Enjoy!

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In Part One, I introduced the story of one of the most remarkable healings I have ever witnessed - even though I was not aware of it at the time it was taking place. The entire story can be found in my book, How Healed Do You Want to Be?

On the day this hidden healing took place, I was in charge of hosting a conference of Christian singles at our church. During the opening worship time, I had asked all of the conference participants to join me on the large step area in front of the platform on which the worship band was playing so that we could make up an ad hoc worship choir singing directly to the Lord as our only "audience".

After hearing one young woman's outstanding voice nearby me on the steps, I arranged to have her join the band and sing into the microphone. Tapping her on the shoulder, I made the invitation while the band played on. Confused at first, she eventually understood that she was being invited to join in and she did. It was beautiful.

After the morning session, she came to me and expressed deep appreciation for what I had asked her to do. At first, I did not understand that something powerful had taken place for her. As her eyes filled with tears, she told me the "story behind the story".

What I learned continues here:

"A few years ago," she said, "I was a worship leader in my church back home. At the time I was married and had a family. But I made a huge mistake. I had an affair with a married man who led worship at another church." She paused to regain her composure. "Once everything came to light, it broke up both of our families. Of course, we were each asked to step down from our roles by the leaders of our churches. From there things just got worse."

She paused again, then continued:

"I felt like my whole world was falling apart," she told me. "We soon broke off our relationship for good, and I tried to go back and make things right with God and with the people I had hurt. But it's been really hard. I haven't been able to forgive myself for what I did with all the blessings and gifts God has given me. I have pretty much
hated myself ever since."

As I listened, my heart went out to her. I wanted to respond but before I could she said something I will never forget:

"When you tapped me on the shoulder this morning, my first thought was that someone had told you about me and that you were going to ask me to sit down..."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Is that what she thought of me? Is that what she thought of herself -- a candidate for public shaming?

"Before today, I had concluded that God never wanted to hear my voice in church again," she sobbed. "But when you got my attention this morning, you didn't ask me to sit down. You told me my voice was beautiful and that I should go up and sing with the band into the microphone. You'll never know what you did for me today. God
used you to let me know I am truly forgiven. Now I know I can be restored. I will never be able to thank you enough"...

I am humbled when I recall how God used me (without my knowing it) to accomplish a "hidden healing". I wonder how many hidden healings you have been a part of?

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Perhaps you need a safe place where you can invite God's healing life and light to transform you and turn your heartaches into hope? If I can help you as a counselor, don't hesitate to contact me by phone or email.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Hidden Healing, part one

A "Hidden Healing" Part One

By William T "Bill" Faris, MPC"
Reprinted from my “Gracelets” Newsletter

One of the most unforgettable healing experiences I ever witnessed happened without my knowing it - until it was revealed to me in a surprising interaction after the fact. I describe this healing event as a "hidden healing" in my book, How Healed Do You Want to Be?

On the day this hidden healing took place, I was in charge of hosting a conference of Christian singles at our church. About 100 of us
had come together to begin the first morning of the conference with a time of praise and worship. As the music swelled, I was soon
caught up in the atmosphere of music, devotion and celebration. There was liberty and joy in that room and, before long, it seemed
as if the line between heaven and earth had somehow blurred.

Suddenly, I was struck with an inspiration to try something I had never tried before. Between songs, I went to the microphone and
asked everyone in the room to please come to the front platform and stand on the steps that led up to the area where the band was
playing their instruments. In only a moment, we had moved from our seats "in the audience" to joining the band as a sort of ad hoc one hundred voice worship choir. We resumed with hearty praise as we sang to the Lord -- our "audience of One". It was awesome!

It wasn't long before I noticed a particularly wonderful female voice coming from somewhere nearby me. It was beautiful, strong
and striking indeed. "That voice needs to be on a microphone", I said to myself as I slipped over to quickly consult with the worship
leader. He pointed to the open mic and I returned to where I had been standing while the band continued playing and the voices
joined together on another song. I gently tapped the young woman with the outstanding voice on the shoulder and she turned to see
that it was me who wanted her attention. .

I pointed to the open mic and urged her to please sing into it. She looked a bit stunned at first. When I assured her that I was truly
urging her to go up and sing into the mic she made her way there and joined in with the band. As I expected, her rich voice added
even more to the beauty and power of that morning's experience.

After the morning session concluded, I was surprised to see the young lady singer making a bee line for me. "You'll never know
what this morning meant to me", she said. "Great", I replied in my best pastoral tone. "I'm glad to hear it.".

She looked at me again as tears filled up her eyes. "No, you don't understand.... A few years ago I was a worship leader in my church
back home. At the time I was married and had a family. But I made a huge mistake. I had an affair with a married man who led worship
at another church." She paused to regain her composure...

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Spiritual Abuse (if the church hurt you, let it heal you - part three of three)

Spiritual abuse is a real phenomenon. According to authors David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen:

"It's possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn't 'behave' spiritually the way you want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person's standing as a Christian - to gratify you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another - that is spiritual abuse".
(From the book: The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse).

Of course, spiritual abuse is easier to detect in kooky religious cults than it is in more mainstream churches. But that doesn't mean that this kind of abuse does not take place in a wide variety of faith communities. And, when you think about the intensity, vulnerability and transcendent nature of shared faith, it is not hard to understand how there could also be a potentially abusive "flip side" to the benefits of deep faith-oriented relationships.

What to Look For

There comes a time when those who are seeking freedom from the effects of spiritual abuse should find a healthy connection to a life-giving body of believers. There are a number of factors that distinguish healthy spiritual environments from unhealthy or abusive ones.

Three such factors are an accountable leadership, a commitment to scriptural orthodoxy and an atmosphere of grace and truth. No one particular size, style, "brand" or modality of church has the corner on these qualities. Therefore, a prospective new member of a church -especially someone who is recovering from a spiritually abusive situation -should be sure to personally interview church leaders and members about their faith community.

Accountable leaders understand themselves to be part of a larger leadership community and are accountable for their moral, spiritual and personal behavior not only in theory but in practice. When asked: "to whom, besides the Lord, are you accountable?" these leaders are able to name names. Those who are vague in their sense of accountability should be avoided. Those who revel in their "special calling" so that they are virtually entitled to a lack of personal accountability should be doubly avoided.

Scriptural orthodoxy
may seem like an obvious requirement but some churches or groups only appear to hold orthodox interpretations of Scripture when, in actuality, they emphasize pet beliefs or practices that depart from "the faith once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude, v.3). A quick review of a church's published Statement of Faith is probably not enough to tell you what you need to know about what a particular church "majors" and "minors" in. But if you observe how that church uses its time, talent and treasure you will see what is truly important to that particular community.

Finally, an atmosphere of grace and truth describes the overall environment of a particular body of believers. Where there is a commitment to truth; moral and personal standards remain high. Trust is earned, not demanded and the church's sense of mission reflects the priorities of Jesus. Grace, properly understood, is not another name for "sloppy agape". Rather it is seen as both God's provision of mercy for our shortcomings and His endowment of divine energy that transforms us more and more into the image of Christ.

Over the course of my ministry and personal spiritual development I have witnessed spiritual abuse AND recovery from spiritual abuse. If you, or someone you know, needs to speak confidentially with a counseling professional about these issues, feel free to contact me at

Monday, July 5, 2010

If the Church Hurt You, Let the Church Heal You (Part Two)
By William T "Bill" Faris, MPC"

NOTE: I'm reprinting this from my weekly "Gracelets" email newsletter. If you do not yet receive Gracelets and would like to, simply email me at:
In the meantime, enjoy! ---
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I recently met up with old friends who shared with me their disappointments and hurts regarding their various church experiences. They confessed that they were now "mad at God". One of them told me that they had no immediate plans to seek further church involvement.

Only Option?

It's not that I don't understand my friend's inclination to back away from the church altogether. There are a host of people who have made the choice to stay away from the church rather that to risk further personal, emotional or spiritual injury. But is a church boycott the only option? I think not. In fact, I believe it is important for those who have experienced hurt in the church to find their healing there. The best case scenario for my friends would be for them to find a healthy, life-giving and wholesome connection to the Body of Christ.

If you, or someone you know, has experienced deep hurt in the church, I would like to offer a couple of pointers to help the restoration and recovery process move through the pain to a stronger, healthier, more fruitful place.

* Look at your own contribution to the hurt you have experienced

It is likely that you made at least some contribution to the wounding you have experienced. Personal immaturity, carryover from family issues, personal agendas for recognition, leftover pain from previous church hurts, idealistic expectations, unscriptural notions of church life and other factors may have set you up for the hurt you have known. Debriefing your church hurts with a trusted friend or counselor can help you to uncover some of these "setups". You probably won't see them on your own.

There was a time in my life when my own craving for affirmation and recognition made me blind to the serious brokenness of the leader I was following at the time (he was our church's founding pastor). When his downfall came, I was shocked and scandalized. Looking back, I can see that there were plenty of signs that he was nurturing unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. I had ignored them, however, for my own reasons. While his contribution to my pain was plain enough, I have to also admit that I had set myself up to be hurt. Recognizing our "setups" can help us grow from the painful experiences we undergo.

* Separate church hurt from God hurt.

"If you've been burned, here's what I've learned - the Lord's not the One to blame". These lyrics from CCM pioneer Keith Green point out the fact that we can sometimes confuse the church with the kingdom of God or even God Himself. However, the church is NOT the kingdom and the kingdom is NOT the church. And neither God's kingdom nor His church are Him. Separating these entities is more important than we might think.

God is the Master of the Universe and the Savior of our souls. He is the Perfect Lord of Life and the Head of the Church which stands apart from Him as His bride. Although blessed beyond measure with God's gifts, His graces, and His promises, the church is nevertheless a human institution. It does not exist as the Kingdom of God, but as the stewards of His kingdom. Therefore there will always be failures, shortcomings and even outright abuses within the context of church life (the New Testament epistles are filled with examples and warnings). This is because of the human factor.

I have often said that the greatest people I have every known, the ones who mean the most to me and who inspire me most are Christians. But it is also true that the people who have most hurt, disappointed and offended me are also Christians - church people! This is a sometimes confusing paradox.

I have most profoundly experienced the reality of God's kingdom - His rule, His reign and His manifested presence in His people - in the context of the church. But I have also experienced some of my deepest heartaches in the context of the church as well. It helps to be honest about these things!

It also helps to note that the sense of God's power and presence in a given church or church system is not necessarily God's wholesale endorsement of that church, leader, or church system. Nor can the power and presence of God be assumed to be a divine endorsement of the various methods, doctrines or church organization as such. Recognizing these things can help us avoid our tendency to confuse "church hurt" with "God hurt". .

* Keep it real.

Some of our church hurts are fueled by the more unfortunate aspects of the typical church subculture. For example, a church's efforts to be highly attractive to newcomers can sometimes result in a tendency to emphasize "window dressing" while avoiding or sugarcoating the nitty-gritty issues or needs that lie unaddressed behind the scenes.

A "powerhouse" church culture may wind up ignoring or devaluing some of the more mundane factors which will ultimately determine the emotional and spiritual health of both leaders and congregation. "Touchy-feely" churches, legalistic churches, personality-driven churches and other types of faith communities have their down sides. One way to minimize the downsides of each system is to strive to "keep it real" as believers.

I admire author Larry Crabbe's vision for the church as a "real" environment where tough issues can be worked out in an engaging atmosphere of grace and truth. He writes that
"a central task of community is to create a place that is safe enough for the walls to be torn down, safe enough for each of us to own and reveal our brokenness. Only then can the power of connecting do it job. Only then can community be used of God to restore our souls." (Larry Crabbe, The Safest Place on Earth).

Bottom line: The more that a church can be both Spirit-filled and "real", the less it is likely to have painful booby-traps.
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One more installment in this series will be posted soon.