As we progress in the Christian life, we find that it is a never-ending process. We go back, breaking some destructive power of the past. Then later, on a deeper level, God has us return to the same issue on a more profound level. I have experienced four conversions so far, and I suspect more conversions will follow for me in the years to come.
Conversion 1: From Agnosticism to Zealous Christian Leader
My first conversion happened when I became a Christian at the age of nineteen. It was the culmination of a two-year period of soul searching in which I wondered, “Isn’t there more to life than this?” I began a spiritual journey that eventually led me to become a pastor.
Conversion 2: From Emotional Blindness to Emotional Health
Seventeen years later, my second conversion came as a result of the pain, depression, and betrayal that accompanied a split in my church. This was preceded by two years of inner work in which I learned that emotional health and spiritual maturity cannot be separated, that maturity is about love and character, not gifts or knowledge. This launched me on a new journey of emotional health. I blossomed spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Geri and I began to teach on the principles of emotional health and God transformed countless lives and marriages.
Conversion 3: From Busy Activity to Slowed-Down Spirituality
Despite our journey into emotional health, my life still remained scattered, fragmented, and uncentered. I recognized that I was still too active and that my first work was to seek him above all else, not be a pastor/leader (cf. Ps. 27:4). The relationship of activity and contemplation in my life experienced a seismic shift. I learned about the necessity of silence and solitude for my spiritual formation, and about how much more I needed to slow down to be with God. I stopped waiting on the Lord for a growing church and started to simply wait on the Lord for him alone.
Conversion 4: From Skimming to Integrity in Leadership
Over the years, pastors of large churches asked me, “How do you apply emotional health to leading a complex organization with hiring and firing, boards, and people to manage?” I responded, “I have no idea. I haven’t gotten to that one yet!”
For almost twenty years I, along with our board, attempted to find ways to integrate emotional health and contemplative spiritual practices into the running of the church. Our church had grown large, but we repeatedly hit a wall. Because I had too many things to do (e.g., sermons, board meetings, administration, crises), I rushed through areas of my leadership. I sometimes avoided meetings I knew would be hard. I skimmed on “truth” when it was uncomfortable. I avoided discussions about people’s performance when it was poor. I preferred not to ask difficult questions or speak up when something was clearly wrong. I didn’t give myself the time I needed before meetings to be clear on goals and agenda, to be thoughtful and prayerful.
Finally, a number of events converged to prepare me for this fourth conversion of leadership/personal integrity. I finally admitted the truth: the greatest deterrent to New Life Fellowship Church becoming what God meant her to be was not any other person or factor, but me.
My avoidance of taking the necessary time to plan well or follow through on project details was about my character, not my gift mix. The issues of learning the skills of being a differentiated leader were not hard to learn. It was more about overcoming my fears. I learned that being misunderstood, losing friendships, and having a few people leave the church is less important than losing my integrity. I learned to seek the truth regardless of where it led. The result was a church, a leadership, and a Pete Scazzero set free in ways unimaginable to me only a few years ago.
—Pete Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church
How to Use This Book
This new edition shares powerful insights on how contemplative spirituality can help you and your church slow down—an integral key to spiritual and emotional health. The Emotionally Healthy Church, Expanded Edition includes story after story of people at New Life whose lives have been changed by the concepts in this book. Open these pages and find out how your church can turn a new corner on the road to spiritual maturity.