Posted on : Sunday August 15, 2010

Dear Counselor,

My husband and I have been in ministry for five years. While we have had many blessed days in ministry, more recently as we have tried to make some changes, the church just seems toxic and I worry about its impact on our family. How can we learn to survive in such an environment?
“Learning to Survive”

Dear “Learning to Survive,”
I began to address your issue last month by taking introducing an approach from a workshop I did with ministers’ spouses entitled, “Building an Immune System to the M1N1STR1 Virus.” Using the metaphor of a virus we found that a virus in ministry is any source of stress, conflict, negativity or irritation. Viruses are always present. Viruses only reproduce and take over when there is a “host” cell. With an immune system, viruses are hardly noticed. Prayer is a way of building an immune system and we looked broadly at various ways of praying.

More specifically, there are ways of praying that move one from a “quiet time” to a “quiet life” because we are changed so deeply in the process and because we begin to approximate Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). Some early Christians developed a school of inward prayer (hesychia) which meant to be still and to concentrate. Others followed a four-fold approach to reading the scriptures – Reading, Reflecting, Responding, and Resting – in which the final stage was simply to be still and silent in the face of the scripture. In such silence, things change.

Out of the silence there often emerges a phrase from scripture or an image of God with which one can journey throughout the day. John Cassian (fourth century), for example, took as his single focus a verse from scripture to which he would come back to in prayer over and over again during the day and in the face of any difficulty. His verse was from Ps. 69:2 (translated from the Greek version of the Psalms where the numbering is slightly different): “Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue.”

With such a focus of the mind that originates in a stillness before God one becomes watchful, sober, and awake (I Thess.5:6-8; I Peter 5:8) in all circumstances. It is the best immune system one can have.

—Tom Rodgerson
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