Re-Centering Mission in the Heart of Jesus
The Passional Church Collective is a cooperative community of Christians seeking to put God's love at the center of our faith. We seek to embody the Great Commandment to “love God and neighbor” (Matt 22:35-40) as a way of localizing the Great Commission “as you go make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28: 18-20) in the spaces and rhythms where people do life.
We are pastors and laity, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers (Eph 4: 11-12). Our collective represents pastors of traditional churches, conventional church planters, and cultivators of Fresh Expressions. But we are committed to a true “priesthood of all believers,” meaning, we believe every Jesus follower is ordained in the waters of our baptism to be in ministry (1 Peter 2:9). We reject a clergy caste system in which laity are second-class citizens of the kingdom.
Our focus is to discern the work of the Holy Spirit in our communities on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, and join into the Spirit’s activity as we go along. Our approach is distinct in that we are not trying “to make things happen” but rather join into what the Holy Spirit is already doing in people and places where we serve.
We lament the harm the church has caused, and we seek to create communities that are an embodiment of Jesus’ love for all the world.
We acknowledge that much of this harm boils down to an abuse of power. “Hurt people hurt people” and unhealthy leaders, even when well intentioned, can cause great harm.
Extended exposure to chronic or extreme mental or physical stress ultimately becomes trauma. We are living through a series of unfolding crises that are causing individual and collective harm on a massive scale. These overlapping crises include: a global pandemic, systemic racism, climate change, political extremism, rising mental illness, an overdose epidemic, the proliferation of mass shootings, and the disintegration of genuine Christianity. We could add more to this list.
Unresolved trauma is carried in our bodies, communities, and societal systems. If it goes unresolved it spills out in patterns of harm and is passed on intergenerationally.
In 2021, various people helping professionals began to use the language of “the epidemic of loneliness.” Contrary to popular belief, Covid did not create this phenomenon, rather it accelerated a storm that had been brewing for at least decades. Some of the most popular search topics in 2022 were “sadness, relationships, and loneliness.” Recently the three major internet searches were: “loss, anxiety, and prayers.”
As a collective we are committed to help individuals, communities, and the world heal from compassion fatigue.
Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk psychiatrist, researcher, educator, and author of The New York Times best seller The Body Keeps the Score, writes, “Traumatized human beings recover in the context of relationships.”
While spiritual formation is often thought of in an individualistic way in the West, this is a journey in which it’s best to have company. Or as the often-quoted African proverb states,
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This is grounded in the African anthropological framework of ubuntu: a person is a person through other persons. Ubuntu highlights the interdependency of humanity. All individuals are woven together in a single interconnected organism. We are harmed in community, a bundle of relationships, and we can only be truly healed in community.
As Fred Rogers was fond of saying, there are a lot of people who “loved us into being.” We often think of healing as an individual enterprise. We go to the specialist, therapist, or spiritual director, who helps us form a healthy sense of self. But we cannot fully have a healthy sense of self that is not integrated in community. That kind of healing is illusory at worst, fleeting at best.
Regarding healing in the context of relationships, families, loved ones, AA meetings, veterans organizations, religious communities, or professional therapists, Dr. Kolk shows, “The role of those relationships is to provide physical and emotional safety, including safety from feeling shamed, admonished, or judged, and to bolster the courage to tolerate, face and process the reality of what has happened.”
As a collective we want to provide a community of support for healthy spiritual leaders. We think of ourselves as a group of anam cara on a journey of growing in love with God and neighbor. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul, and cara is the word for friend. A soul friend is a safe person who acts as a teacher, companion, sponsor, or spiritual guide. The origin of a soul friend is grounded in the idea of confession. This is a confidant to whom you confess and reveal the hidden intimacies of your life.
No one makes it through life unwounded. Every single one of us has been harmed, emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually. Some experience horrific levels of abuse that are completely debilitating. While there are varying degrees of trauma, every person has in some way been traumatized.
All wounds are not created equal, but all people are equally wounded.
Every person, organization, or community possesses a wound, a weakness, or a wicked problem.
If people can go through a process of healing, they often discover that their greatest wounds and challenges can become their most powerful assets. This is true at both an individual and organizational level.
One of the spiritual writers in the Judeo-Christian tradition was experiencing an unresolved wound he called “a thorn in the flesh.” Paul the Apostle (5 AD – approximately 67 AD), one of the most influential figures in history, describes the ongoing struggle with this wound. In the midst of his battle, Paul believed he heard Jesus speak directly to him these words…
“my grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
We believe this is a universal truth with transformative potential for all people. Paul was a wounded person, but he found healing, and began to give that healing away to others. He went from being a “hurt person hurting people” to a “wounded healer healing people.” We live in a world obsessed with “Strength Finders” and “Gift Inventories.” We measure ourselves by our most exceptional traits, and we celebrate the heroes who use their superior strengths to attain epic levels of success. But what if we have that upside down?
If God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses, then our wounds become our superpowers.
We call this empowered weakness … the capacity to allow God’s power to made perfect in our weakness.
It requires us to have the humility to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that we all have significant wounds, challenges, and dark sides. These struggles are beyond human aid. We cannot “fix ourselves” this is the futility of “self-help” programs. These wounds require a relationship with a higher power in a community that can heal us and empower us for a new kind of life. We need a culture of honest, compassionate, and kind people who lead with integrity. We need an understanding of character that includes how it is formed in the crucible of struggle.
Empowered weakness can help us create communities that are accessible, safe, and real. Communities where people can become wounded healers.
People share healing when they invite others to touch their wounds.
We believe there is a framework and tools to help people make the journey from wounded harmers to wounded healers. There are no “quick fix formulas” or “seven easy steps to a better life” that can facilitate this kind of journey. And it is a journey—one that will never be completed in this life. Yet there are some spiritual principles, embodied by a host of diverse persons across the ages, that can be a guide on that journey.
One of them is Fred Rogers. In the ashes of 9/11, Mister Rogers said, “No matter what our particular job, especially in our world today, we all are called to be ‘tikkun olam,’ repairers of creation.’” “Tikkun olam” is a Hebrew concept that refers to actions taken to improve society, including caring for others. In a broken society we need people who can be “repairers of the breach.” We need wounded healers.
Is there a kind of spiritual formation that can help us become that? Henri Nouwen thought so. In his best-known work, The Wounded Healer he wrote, “For the minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his own time in his own heart and make that recognition the starting point of his service.” This is true of ministers, for sure. But it is also true of every single human being ever created no matter what our job or vocation is. It is partly our wounded condition that binds us together in a common humanity.
Healthy people are the single unit of a healthy society. While we usually define health as physical or medical, health includes every system of life. The Christian tradition uses the term salvation to describe this wholeness. The typical meaning of salvation may be too narrow. A wider definition draws from the Hebrew word shalom—well-being, universal flourishing. Salvation deals with the identity or destiny of a person, but it also is concerned with safety and food and economy and relationships.
This kind of soul formation moves people to reach out in love. It ultimately enables us to embody what Gandhi called Satyagraha, which can mean “soul force”, “truth force”, and “love force.” It enables us to respond to hate with love and accept hardships as the pathway to peace. Thus, it may lead us to take up justice-oriented actions like non-violent resistance, public witness, volunteering, or working to change harmful policies and legislation. Wounded healers give themselves to some wicked problem that plagues society.
Spiritual formation that can help people move along on the journey towards becoming wounded healers, can restore lives, communities, and even a nation. We employ a practical framework that leads us through four moves: loss, surrender, restoration, and flourishing.
Our collective is committed to becoming helpers, “repairers of the breach,” who create little pockets of healing, in ourselves, and in our communities, an embodiment of the compassion of Jesus.