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Monday, April 18, 2011

Pentecostal Minister Offers Sound Advice to Mormon Bishops (and All of Us)

Yesterday I had an uplifting conversation with a Pentecostal pastor who is assisting with congregations on the West Coast. He was extremely considerate and accepting, and never once tried to tell me that I wasn't Christian. Just kind and loving. In our conversation, we discussed some of the challenges of being a minister (he knew I had been an LDS bishop) and the difficulty of counseling people through all the challenges of life, especially when we face complex problems with inadequate training and experience. He offered some advice that I think would be great for LDS bishops and anyone offering spiritual counsel to others.

He said that when someone schedules time to come in and talk with him about their problems, he asks them to schedule an equal amount of time for personal prayer before coming in to talk. If it's a 45-minute appointment, they will be asked to spend 45 minutes with the Lord seeking His guidance on the challenges they face. Then when they come in to talk, he asks if they kept their commitment and then asks what they learned and felt in this process. In many cases, they will recognize that they already have their answer and can move on.

We teach people all the time to pray for help, but sometimes it may just seem like empty words. If we can get people to actually get on their knees and take their issues to the Lord in earnest prayer, not just for 5 minutes, but long enough to really counsel with the Lord, we might be able to let the people really grow in their journey with God.

How refreshing to find a man who teaches his people the power of prayer and personal revelation. That's advice for all of us.

19 comments:

Mormon Women: Who We Are said...

I really like this thought. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Consider that the person being counseled has a problem with prayer. Sounds like a 45 minute prayer commitment may be a set up for failure. Also, Jesus never required quid pro quo forhis time and ministry.

When he healed Malceas ear I did not hear him bargain for a return favor of equal time and effort.

Dallas, Dad, Big D & I said...

That's awesome, I wish I would have thought about that more when I was the Bishop. Thanks -- I think I'll pass it along to our current Bishop.

SeƱor Dangriga said...

I always get funny looks in Elders' Quorum when I mention that traditional Christians do too believe in personal revelation. If they didn't expect a personal answer, why do they pray? It's a matter of semantics, we Mormons use 'revelation' and 'inspiration' interchangably; others have distinct meanings for both words.

Anonymous said...

It's a matter of semantics, we Mormons use 'revelation' and 'inspiration' interchangably; others have distinct meanings for both words.

Ditto for the word "truth." Mormons (and many other Christians, Jews, Muslims) use "spiritual truth" and "empirical truth" interchangably, while others of us insist on distinguishing between them. Much of the heated debate on the "Religion Is Like Science" thread was basically just about semantics.

FWIW, Jeff, in the course of my teaching job I've counseled gay kids who were devastated by what their religion told them about themselves. Many had repeatedly tried prayer and found it a blind alley, or worse, an affirmation of their religion's essential hatred of gay people, made all the more hateful by the way their church presents it as "love."

I've never felt comfortable using my institutional authority and powers of persuasion to suggest these kids give up religion completely, but I have often convinced them of the idiocy of their churches' literalist reading of texts that are clearly mythic and local, not historical and universal (including the OT, NT, and, at times, the BOM). And sometimes this approach (opening a way out of theological conservatism and into a more sensible and benign theological liberalism) has worked.

Papa D said...

Anon, then make it equal time for personal contemplation and thoughtful consideration. The general principle is the same, regardless of the exact practice:

Before you go to someone and ask them to solve (or help you solve) a problem, make sure you've spent at least the amount of time you will spend with them trying to figure it out without their help or advice.

That's wise counsel, even for atheists and those who struggle with prayer.

Sure, Jesus required quid pro quo - but his was in expectations AFTER the healing. (I healed you; now do (whatever).") Also, we have almost nothing describing how he "counseled" - which is what this post discusses. Otoh, we have ample evidence that Jesus prayed regularly before lots of things he did - which, essentially, is the advice from this minister.

Neal Rappleye said...

To Anonymous (the first one):

So what if Jesus never required people to pray before they came to him for things - why does that matter? Just because Jesus never did it doesn't mean that it is not a good idea.

I find such instruction reflects humility on the part of the minister. He realizes that he is not a perfect instrument in God's hands, so he encourages people to take their issues straight to God before taking them to him. How could that be a bad thing?

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

That is an excellent idea. I wish I had thought to do that during my tenure.

The next step would be to have them text you after their 45 minute prayer preparation and let you know if they still need to meet at all.

If we all spent 45 minutes a day in prayer and reflection, the Bishops of the church wouldn't be nearly as busy.

GDMNW said...

I'd say that in general terms encouraging people to dedicate some of their own time to solving their problems and worries is a great idea.

At the very least they should come back with a more clear and defined idea of what it is that they want help with, or what their expectations are.

Anonymous said...

@ Papa D: Before you go to someone and ask them to solve (or help you solve) a problem, make sure you've spent at least the amount of time you will spend with them trying to figure it out without their help or advice.

I think it depends on the situation. In many situations, particularly those involving adults, I would agee with you and Jeff. But for teens and college students especially (some of whom show up in really bad emotional shape) I'd say that before they reflect they need some fresh cognitive tools to work with. They need help in understanding that there are other ways of seeing their problem. Often they simply need to know that there are people out there who know the Bible and yet are accepting of homosexuality. Without these new tools, instead of reflecting I suspect they'd just go on obsessing, which is not the same thing, and which they've usually done plenty of already. Once they know these things, their reflection will likely prove a lot more productive.

Bookslinger said...

Anon: A problem I have with your examples is that you appear to be trying to extrapolate from a specific example to the general, which is kind of backwards logic.

It appears you're trying to counter Jeff's whole point, instead of merely offering one exception to what appears to be the other minister's _general_ rule.

In other words, you're coming across as just trying to be another nattering negative to whatever Jeff says.

I don't know how ministers in other church's work, but my understanding of the Mormon paradigm (model) of interviewing with the Bishop, is that the appointments are made without a "pre-interview" on the phone.

Anonymous said...

This is really becoming a difficult post. Everybody in this world is in a different place spiritually and emotionally. Therefore a teacher, Rabbi, counselor, minister etc must approach the situation in a manner geared for success. Perhaps we should not be so quick to think that there is one answer or everybody.

Anonymous said...

@ Bookslinger: I wrote that "I think it depends on the situation. In many situations, particularly those involving adults, I would agee with you [PapaD] and Jeff." Do you really think that amounts to "just trying to be another nattering negative to whatever Jeff says"? Does that really amount to "trying to counter Jeff's whole point"? I think your characterization is inaccurate and unfair.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

As with all advice from me or anyone else, it's meant as something to consider, not an absolute rule to be implemented inflexibly. It's an idea that could be helpful, a concept rooted in healthy principles, but one that should be trumped by individual needs and the guidance of the Spirit. Sometimes the bishop must meet ASAP with a person who may be unwilling to pray or for whom urgent needs who not otherwise be met.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,
And don't forget those who are unable to pray due to deep trauma and church abandonment issues.

Cindy said...

"traditional Christians do too believe in personal revelation. If they didn't expect a personal answer, why do they pray? It's a matter of semantics, we Mormons use 'revelation' and 'inspiration' interchangeably; others have distinct meanings for both words."

Isn't the idea that it is best to get in touch with God about our problems? And doesn't that happen to us by having the Spirit with us, so that we are in line with God?

I like what Christ says about the way to get "in-Spired" (or to have the Spirit with us), "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said , out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But by this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive".

If we believe in Christ as our Savior, we can be honest about our problems and have God's guidance for them as well.

I think it is wonderful that bishops, pastors, all of us really, are suggesting this to our loved ones as the way to receive guidance from God.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cindy.
Bookslinger, I think that it is okay if Jeff is wrong on occasion. And it is okay if he is completely wrong as he is in this situation.

If I was asked by the Bishop to pray, commune with the Lord for 45 minutes I would possibly not get an answer. Then I would feel like a fool when asked to discuss my prayer with the Bishop. I may be tempted to lie and say I got an answer so I could be recognized as spiritual.

Also, I thought answers to prayer are private. Why would a Bishop be privy to your answers to prayer?

Rich said...

So, anon, are you saying that as a general rule, it's not a good idea for people to spend time trying to solve their owwn problems? Or are you saying that there are times when this is not a good practice? Because I think everone including you at one point has acknowledged that it is a good general rule practice that obviously needs individual considerations, exceptions to the general rule. Having trouble praying because you might not get an anser and then feel foolish because you didn't is just a silly approach. Your bishop/ect I'm sure would understand and have experience not having a prayer answered. I'm pretty sure I haven't had every single prayer answered. I bet Jeff doesn't think is is right all the time, but in this case it is true what he said, that this is sound advice and can be taylored to the individual. If you disagree with that you'll have to do a better job of explaining why because to this point I don't see that you really disagree.

Papa D said...

One more thing:

This is a minister who is giving the advice to people who are seeking him out for advice. Does anyone really have a problem with a minister asking people to pray about their concerns before seeking counseling from that minister?

It's like a financial planning asking someone to balance their checkbook and spend time thinking about what they want to do with their money before seeking financial advice. Does anyone really have a problem with that?