Have you ever been bullied by a group? Or felt ganged up on? Maybe it wasn’t intended by them, but you felt abused?

I have. So have some of the pastors and influencers we help. So has Jesus…

Lord Jesus, I see you on your cross journey. A whole gang of soldiers is gathered around you. They abuse you. They strip you. They insult you. They laugh at you.

You had done no wrong. You had loved them. Yet they were so cruel to you. Yet you forgave them and continued to love them! (Matthew 27:27-31, Luke 23:34-35)

How can we thank you? Our precious and perfect Lord and Savior, you sacrificed your life to forgive us of our sins and reconcile us to God. And you’ve showed us when we’re mistreated we can stand with you, secure and strong in the Father’s world, and share your love with our enemies. Help us by your grace. Amen. (Luke 6:27-28)

This was my meditation this morning on the 10th Station of the Cross in the Unforsaken journey with Jesus.

It evoked a painful memory.

I was a 23-year old graduate psychology student at a Christian university, eager to learn how to minister to people as a Christ-following psychologist. I was in a class that was team taught by three Ph.D. Psychologists and they were discouraging us from sharing Bible references or prayers with therapy clients.

I asked, “But aren’t there situations that it would be helpful for us to offer a Christian client a Scripture or prayer?”

It was as if I was Luther nailing the 95 Theses on the door! They reacted like I’d scorned their precious dogma and apostatized from their religious fraternity that was their family and life. I found myself in an inquisition.

The professor-doctors judging me were each in their late 30’s or early 40’s and used their PhD’s to rip me to shreds. They exposed my “naiveté”, “presumption”, and “fundamentalism”.

Verbally and emotionally I was ganged up on and bullied.

I’m sure they didn’t see it that way. Their intentions were to protect the integrity of what they were teaching us: “We’re training you to be a psychotherapist, not a Bible counselor. It’s Christian to offer the best clinical care.” Their PhD’s and their power to give me a degree or not made it hurt more.

No one spoke on my behalf — I was burned at the stake alone. My fellow students told me later they felt sorry for me, but were too petrified to speak.

I wasn’t strong enough to stand in the Father’s world, secure and confident, and love my enemies. I was embarrassed. I lost my sense of calling from God.

At the end of the semester I left that school. Later I found another graduate program in psychology. But first I took my wounds to a Christian psychologist who gave me great “clinical care” that included Scripture and prayer.

Little did I know that this experience would prepare me to care for pastors who feel beat up.

A Pastor’s Meltdown

This was the case with my friend Ken Baugh, a longtime mega church pastor. In his last church, Coast Hills Church in Laguna Niguel, CA, stress overload led to a meltdown, bitter conflict with elders and leaders, the loss of his pastorate, and most people in the church being confused and hurt.

It felt like an inquisition and a coup in which he got burned at the stake. But he wasn’t alone — I went into the elder meetings with him and got burned at a stake too.

Those were the emotions we had, but they were not the intentions of the church leaders. Of course, there are two sides to these stories.

Tragically, Pastor Stress Statistics show that most pastors and elders eventually get burned in a church conflict and that in turn damages many more people in the church family.

Hurt people hurt people.

Bill is a psychologist and ordained pastor, specializing in ministry to pastors.  He was personally mentored for many years by Dallas Willard and Ray Ortlund Sr. 

As a Spiritual Formation Pastor, he’s served in a mega-church and a church plant. He’s also trained over 1,000 lay counselors and taught courses in Christian psychology and spirituality at the graduate school level.  He and Kristi train pastors and other men and women in ministry in their Soul Shepherding Institute and Spiritual Direction certificate program.

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