Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the horrific tragedy of 9/11/2001. In the wake of this tragedy, I am still saddened by a number of things. I am saddened:
1. By the tremendous loss of life.
2. That we were caught asleep at the switch.
3. That we did not know how to handle grief.
4. That we still do not know how to handle grief.
5. By the impact upon our way of life.
(But, I am more greatly saddened that:)
6. That we did not seem to heed the wake up call that God allowed to be sounded.
There doesn’t seem to be any discernable, spiritual difference in our nation since 9/11/2001. This saddens me and alerts me to the fact that more wake up calls may be on the horizon. The answer to this tragedy is
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT), “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”
To commemorate this infamous day, we want to begin tonights service with one minute of silence in remembrance of the victims and their families, after which Praise Team will come and lead us in worship.
God is doing something very exciting in my life. He is beginning to take me to a new level in my teaching ministry. In my earlier years, I studied and taught many things, generally guided by the Lord, but not understanding exactly the big picture of what God wanted to develop. Well, becoming 50 has been a very exciting and rewarding milestone in my life. It seems that God is summarizing and bringing into focus the systems, motifs, patterns, principles, etc., that He wants me to identify, collate, systematize, and teach.
Since 1982, when a S.E.E. brought my current thrust into clear view, God’s revelation and my teaching have revolved around relationships.
(I believe I need to rehearse that story with you.)
Let me do that by reading to you an article which I have submitted to be published in a new book on a Biblical perspective of grief recovery entitled: “From Head To Heart.”
From Head To Heart!
The Grief Recovery Story of Pastor Joey Johnson
And The House of the Lord
The House of the Lord Church is a growing and dynamic trans-denominational, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, BiblecostalÔ, assembly that averages about 1,700 in average attendance on a Sunday morning, between two worship services, in a building that seats 2,000. But there are many stories inside of the main story of how this church grew from 4 original members to where it is today, over the past 30 years. One of those stories has to do with Grief Recovery.
The Grief Recovery story of The House of Lord revolves around some very serious pain that was experienced by it’s organizer and senior pastor, Bishop-Elect Joey Johnson. Let me share this story with you in my own words.
It was sometime after we moved into our first new building, which was completed in November of 1982. The church was thriving and we were averaging about 500 in average attendance that things were going great.
During this season of ministry, we had a very committed group of leaders that met every Friday with me for teaching, training, and accountability. One fateful Friday night, I was doing some leadership training, and I was using some material that I had gleened from management specialist, Olan Hendrix. This material listed the characteristics of what Hendrix called a “Strong Natural Leader” (SNL). Some of the characteristics were positive and some were negative. The characteristics were given to help SNL’s identify certain things about themselves and grow. Two of those characteristics still stand out in my mind: “1) A SNL is a prima donna and likes to be in the limelight; 2) A SNL is building an organization that will not succeed after he’s gone; 3) A SNL teaches people what is important to him, without considering the needs of others.” Those might not be completely accurate, but that is the way that I remember them.
Well, as I began to teach and review that material and make applications to myself and others, in a very open manner—as I had done from the beginning—I ask the question which catapulted me from one path of life to another path of life. The question was, “Are there any questions, comments, or observations?”
I was expecting the usually astute observations concerning the subject matter that we always entertained, but this evening was different. One brother raised his hand and said, “I see you like that.” In my calm and accepting manner. I said, “Thank you very much. Would anyone else like to share?” Another brother raised his hand and said, “I see you like that also!” I graciously thanked him for sharing and seeing that it was almost time to dismiss anyway, I dismissed the group and went to my office.
I had been pastoring eight years at that time, which gave me the ability to hide my emotions and complete the class, but back in my office I was literally devestated! I had just experienced the most painful significant emotional event in my ministry, if not in my life. I could not understand what had happened. I had been teaching a group of leaders…a group of leaders that were supposed to be following me…a group of leaders that I had given my time, talents, treasure, and life for…and they were attacking me! At least, that is what it felt like. Why would people that I love and people who love me attack me? And worst of all, I couldn’t understand how they could see in me those negative characteristics of the SNL.
What had actually happened is that someone had been honest enough to share their true view of me, but this time it didn’t match up with the view that I had of myself. In addition, this was the first time in my life, at 30 years old, that I had actually experienced pain or loss deep enough to make me stop and take a look at it. No one had ever died in my immediate family. I had grown up in a fairly stable home. I had been successful in school and in most things that I had tried. I had never been able to see any battle with depression or down feelings in my life. But, all of a sudden, I was faced with a major pain and loss. I felt exposed! I felt embarrassed! I felt betrayed! I felt stupid! I felt depressed! I felt a whole new array of negative feelings.
Well, that was the beginning of a whole new life journey for me. I vowed that day or soon after, “No one will ever again share anything with me about myself that I am completely aware of.” This led to a course of action that I am still following today, but from a completely different motive. That course of action was, “I am going to find out everything that I can about myself, so that no one will ever again surprise me with information about myself that I am unaware of!”
So, right away, I began to pursue the goal of knowing myself. I was aware of at least a few things. I was aware of the fact that I was unaware of a whole side of myself. I became aware of the fact that I was much more preoccupied with myself than I was understanding other people. I became aware of the fact that I was intellectually astute, but emotionally blind. My head was full, but my heart was well-protected and broken.
This goal that I made became the catapult that catapulted me into a number of new areas of learning. I began to get more into counseling, co-dependency, pop-psychology, and—interestingly enough—grief. I picked up some material by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, a pioneer in the area of grief. Her studies and observations orginally had to do with the experiences of those who were dying, but there was some speculation about their families and what they were experiencing. Well, I began to read everything that I could get my hands on concerning grief. I began to see that everybody has pain and loss that they are grieving or refusing to grieve properly.
My search went on for about 20 years. I read some great books on grief, but none of them seemed to include any specific steps or how-to’s with respect to working through or recovering from grief.
Then one day in 2001, one of my members walked to me, handed me The Grief Recovery Handbook, and commented something to the effect of, “I think you might be interested in this book. It contains some how how-to’s with respect to grief and I have been doing some grief groups.
I read the book and found it fascinating and just as he had suggested. This book had some great information in it, but it also had some how-to’s with respect to recovering from grief. I began to take my congregation through the book. I went to Grief £ RecoveryÒ certification, and the rest is history.
I have since had my whole staff certified. I have done three consecutive Grief £ RecoveryÒ groups. We have had some of the other cerified grief specialists run groups. I did a Sunday morning sermon series on the Biblical basis of The Grief £ RecoveryÒ Program, and we have a Grief £ RecoveryÒ group in session each quarter of the year, at the church.
The Grief £ RecoveryÒ Program has changed my life. I have done Grief £ RecoveryÒ work on over 30 people and I continue to work with any new losses that occur.
About now, you are so how did this effect the church? Well, we went from a heady, intellectual group that was interested only in knowledge to a group that was more concerning about the heart. My miracle goal for the church is “To change the world’s concept of Christianity from reason-centered to relationship-centered!” At this point in our history, I would say that 20 to 30 percent of the morning worship attendance have been through The Grief £ RecoveryÒ Program. We are becoming a church that cares about people’s hurts, losses, and the changes in their normal patterns of behavior—without losing our Biblical focus. I believe we have become a much more compassionate church. We no longer try to impress you with what’s in our head, but we try to love you with what’s in our hearts.
Just before this crisis of suffering and belief, I heard Larry Crabb say, “The most important thing in the universe is relationships.” Doctors Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy said in their excellent book, Attachments, “Relationships Are Everything,” which I have adopted.
Subsequently, I developed “The Doctrine of Relationships.” It is particularly interesting to me that Christianity is a “way of life” that is based upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and we have every other theological doctrine that you can think of, i.e. the doctrine of soteriology, the doctrine of eschatology, the doctrine of pneumatology, etc., etc., etc., but no doctrine of relationships, which I call the doctrine of “koinoniology.” This doctrine really needs to be published and disseminated.
One of my latest developments is my BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), which I am working through with the Elders—so that it may be affirmed and adopted, or reworked and represented to the church.
I am no longer motivated by the somewhat negative goal captured in the words “No one will ever again share anything with me about myself that I am completely aware of.” It served its purpose, but now I am motivated by much more spiritual and positive goals.
BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
To change the world’s concept of Christianity from reason-centered to relationship centered!
It is represented by the following icon.
Moving from two brains shaking hands or meeting under the written Word of God to two hearts shaking hands or meeting under the reality of the Word of God, as it is experienced through the power of the Holy Spirit or:
Well, I could go on and on, but let it suffice to say that God is a Relationship and everything in life and in the New Apostolic Reformation Church revolves around biblical relationships. Yet, I have learned that you can’t have mutual, covenant relationships with emotionally sick people—i.e. yourself and/or others, and neither can you have a mutual, covenant relationship with Jehovah God, when you are sick. The operative word is “mutual.” Biblical covenant relationships are often, even typically, oneway, from the higher, more privileged, or more mature person to the lesser person. This is the case with God’s hesed, i.e. His steadfast, covenant, loyal love and relationship to us. But, there can be no mutual, covenant relationships when one of the parties is sick.
With that in mind, I have begun to direct my teaching, mentoring, discipling, counseling, preaching, etc., towards helping people become spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically healthy, from a biblical perspective. We have begun to use The Grief £ RecoveryÒ Action Program to facilitate the health of as many people as we can.
Although I have been studying Grief for 20 year and I have read more than 20 books and an unknown number of papers and articles, it was Art Lee who first gave me the book The Grief Recovery Handbook. That began the leg of the Grief £ RecoveryÒ Journey that we are on right now.
It has recently been brought to my attention through the book Attachments, given to me by Pastor Pam, that after people have grieved their losses and are able to come fully present into a relationship with themselves, others, and God, they still have relationship styles or attachment styles that were created by the injuries that precipitated the loss and grief, in the first place. These relationship styles are actually insecure attachment styles. Consequently, these wonderful people, who have done their grief work, still don’t don’t know how to create new, secure attachment styles that will move them towards experiencing healthy love and giving healthy love to themselves, others, and ultimately God.
This is somewhat akin to elephants in the circus. Beating elephants, embedding sharp metal bullhooks deep into their flesh until they cry out in pain, shocking them with electrical currents, and searing their skin with a blowtorch is barbaric and cruel but unfortunately routine in circuses.
Baby elephants are often chained to a stake in the ground. Try as they might, the baby elephants can’t pull that stake out of the ground. When they are adults, they don’t try anymore. Why? They have given up, because of their conditioning.
If elephants could do Grief £ RecoveryÒ, it would help them complete the pain of beatings and inhumane treatment, but it would not break their conditioning by the stake. They would need to develop a new attachment style or way of relating to the stake. They would need to learn that they are free and how to feel secure without the stake.
This is where the book Attachments comes in. This book is the basis to help people explore and identify their individual attachment styles and then work towards the individual attachment style that will allow them to attach to others who are healthy in a healthy manner.
What I am starting to see is a prototype of a believer who is relationally healthy and a pathway to help believers become relationally healthy. A relationally healthy believer is one who has grieved the losses of the past, identified his/her attachement style, done the work to develop a healthy attachment style, one that is reasonably positive about self and others, and comes fully present to each relationship with healthy, spiritual discernment and trust in God.
So, the pathway towards relational health would be something like
Salvation Þ The “Lukan” Filling Of The Holy Spirit Þ Learning to be filled with the Spirit from Paul’s Perspective Þ Grief £ RecoveryÒ Work Þ Attachment Work Þ A Fully Present Believer Þ A Fresh “Lukan” Filling Of The Holy Spirit Þ a spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically healthy believer Þ A Fresh “Lukan” Filling Of The Holy Spirit Þ Being continually filled with the Holy Spirit from Paul’s perspective Þ Glory to God through fruitfulness
Since this is my calling and my life’s work, I will continue to work towards helping people develop healthy, biblical relationships with themselves, others, and ultimately God through every means and venue at my disposal. But, we are also in the process of creating another entity: “Relationship-Centered Ministries.” “Relationship-Centered Ministries” is ‘a teaching, coaching (i.e. mentoring and discipling), and counseling’ fellowship that is devoted to helping people develop biblically-healthy relationships with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, one’s self, and others. This is a non-profit ministry under the umbrella of C.O.R.E., City of Refuge for Everyone, which is THOTL’s non-profit entity, which is being developed. You will hear more about this later.
For now, let it suffice to say that to become healthy we need to grieve the losses and injuries that have contributed to our current attachment styles and then make the choices necessary to identify our current attachment style and work to develop a new, secure attachment style.
We have already talked about grief, so it is time to talk about attachment theory and how to develop a secure attachment style. This will take courage, but courage grows through information. So, we shall present the information with the hope that we will develop enough Spirit-controlled courage to ingest the information, receive a revelation from God, and be empowered to make the choices to develop a biblical, secure attachment style.
I worked extremely hard this summer, so I can say that there are 22 messages that we will be working our way through, on Wednesday nights, except where we have some special events coming up, teaching the truths of the book Attachments, by Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy.
The book is so good that I will be teaching many things verbatim, so you will need the book, because I will not plagurize the book by reprinting it. I will only give you the areas we will be talking about and the pages we will be covering, although I will give you my own augmenting material.
This is a very important series of messages for me and I believe it will also be for you.
Homework: Attachments (pages 1-24).
(Now is the Day of Salvation! Come to Jesus, Now!)
Call to Discipleship
 Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 1.