Over the past couple of days I’ve shared a couple of posts drawing on observations that psychologists make about trauma and suggesting some lessons for church leaders. Some of us might be a little bit nervous of seeing articles that appear to draw primarily from secular thinking. I mean, there’s huge scepticism about the ability of psychologists to say anything about personal mental health among conservative evangelicals without us starting to listen to their advice when it comes to the whole church.
So, I wanted to just say a little bit about that here. Why do I pick up on terms and ideas predominantly used in secular contexts? Well, there are two reasons for this. The first is to do with two terms “Common Grace” and “General Revelation.”
Common Grace means that whilst God specifically shows love to his people through the grace of salvation (special grace), he chooses to continue to show forbearance to those who do not know him (see e.g. Acts 14:17). This enables them to enjoy the good things of the world around, even though they do not know or worship the creator who gives them and even though they deserve immediate judgement. One reason for this is so that God’s people may themselves live at peace in the world, enjoy the good things God provides and enable us to fulfil our mission of making disciples.
General Revelation means that everything that we see and observe in the world around us is revealing something about God, his character and his purposes (Acts 14:16-17). We need the special revelation of Scripture to properly understand this but we cannot avoid God’s revelation even in creation around us (Romans 1:20)
The world around us have access to both of these things. It’s what enables Governments to make laws, doctors to perform surgery, engineers to design complex machinery and teachers to instruct classes. This means that even when people are not reading the Bible, they still have not come up with any new ideas by themselves. We all find ourselves thinking God’s thoughts after him. It means that there is truth to learn from others. We sometimes refer to these things as “common sense” but sense isn’t always common. We may do better to refer to the output of common grace and general revelation as “general wisdom.”
The second reason is this. Quite often, when people in the world around us stumble upon truth, they are in fact catching hold of something that Christians should know from the Bible. However, for whatever reason, we’ve missed it or forgotten about it. When something we observe from secular reasoning seems to stand out and make sense, it should encourage us to start digging back into the Bible and see what it says.
So, when I wrote about the way that the church can experience trauma, I was reflecting on something that had jumped out from reading some secular stuff about how our bodies themselves remember and keep the score. I know that this is true from observation and experience but I also get that when I go back and read a lot of the Psalms. Then, I remember that 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the church as a body and the way in which all of its members are interconnected. Finally, I remember how much emphasis Scripture places on the responsibility of leaders to act like good shepherds, providing and protecting, about the command to love one another and about how elders should be given to hospitality.
All of those points from Scripture come together as I realise afresh the importance of leaders recognising the impact that past events may have had on a church and the importance of leaders giving themselves first to love the church.