New Foreword from the author
After several years of living out the principles of The Emotionally Healthy Church within the local church I pastor, I wrote them in the first edition of this book. My intention was to speak particularly to pastors, elders, deacons, and ministry and small group leaders. Little did I know that the book's message would spread beyond church leaders to countless others struggling with the integration of emotional health and biblical spirituality. Even more of a surprise was the centrality of this issue not only for the church in North America, but around the world.
During the seven years since the first edition, my understanding of the six principles that make up emotionally healthy churches has grown deeper, sharper, and broader. I have grown theologically as I have encountered new personal and leadership applications of the material. As a result, each chapter has been edited, expanded, and updated.
Moreover, this journey has led me to add a seventh, indispensable principle: lead with integrity. The pace of my life slowed down considerably when I began integrating emotional health with my discipleship. It takes time -- lots of it -- to feel, to grieve, to listen, to reflect, to be mindful of what is going on around and in us. This radically shifted my priorities at home and in my work. Emotional health also created a hunger within Geri and me for a deeper communion with God. This in turn led to an exploration of contemplative spiritual practices, culminating in a four-month sabbatical in 2003 - 2004. Our aim was to study the riches of the contemplative tradition and its applications for a missional church like ours. This immersion into such spiritual disciplines as silence and solitude transformed us, and eventually, our church. Insights from these experiences are sprinkled throughout the book.
While the contemplative tradition helped me considerably in my efforts to lead with integrity, I had yet to apply emotional health to my leadership. That turned out to be a challenging, complex task. I describe this unfolding in the new chapter 11, "Slow Down to Lead with Integrity."
One final note: Resist the temptation to breeze through these pages. This is not a book meant to be read quickly in one or two sittings. This is not simply the latest fascinating idea to incorporate in your God-talk with colleagues or parishioners. I invite you to wrestle deeply with these truths as you consider how they apply to both your inner life and leadership. You could spend a lifetime plumbing the depths of each -- from limits, to brokenness, to grieving, to learning to love well. Please read slowly, prayerfully, and thoughtfully. As you do, ask the question, "How is God coming to me through this?" Consider making personal applications in a journal or in the back of the book, noting the page number for future reference.
Be sure to grasp the central thesis: Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. When you understand this, you will walk through a door in your spiritual journey. Few ever return to a tip-of-the-iceberg discipleship that overemphasizes activity but does not deeply transform from the inside out. By God's grace, you will never be the same. And you will embark on an exciting journey toward a beautiful life that will touch everyone around you -- in your family, church, workplace, and neighborhood.