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By Alex

2
Jun

Confronting The Invisible Impasses In Your Life

Written by Alexander W. G. Seidel

The pastor, a liberal by most standards, wondered why anyone would have the audacity vote for any evangelical conservative candidate. After all, old ways of far-right thinking, rigid and closed, would never lead to the kingdom of heaven. The new guy that visited his church this last Sunday played into all his long-held progressive beliefs.

As they spoke after the service, the pastor found the new visitor to be as conservative as they come. He asked how people tended to vote in the fellowship and whether they believed in social justice, a term the pastor learned was very suspicious to his new visitor. This mere layperson had such nerve asking these questions. He also had the nerve to be a Tea Party conservative that was bent on voting for Donald Trump. The pastor, an Obama supporter, bristled at this even as he maintained his feeble veneer of Christian hospitality and acceptance.

The new visitor was indeed suspicious of this congregation and its pastor. He was tired of tax-and-spend liberals and their do-gooder approach to saving the world. The longer he spoke with the pastor, the more he felt this place was heretical. How could they allow gays? How could they affirm what was clearly sin? How could they advocate for big government? In the end, the visitor, a pastor also and a proud neo-Calvinist, could not bring himself to find any good in this congregation. So he left with a contrived good-bye. Both pastors found themselves at an invisible impasse. Imagine if this interchange had actually occurred between a pastor and one seeking Jesus? Read more

4
May

The Idolatry of Hard Emotions

Written by Alexander W. G. Seidel

When we consider the things that can be idolized, we likely think of people or material things. A common view that I grew up with held that anyone or anything that becomes the usually unintentional object of our worship is an idol. Read more

27
Apr

Out Of The Vault And Into The Light

Written by Alexander W. G. Seidel

We spend a lot of time promoting our good, while doing our best to diminish and all but hide our bad. This serves a purpose. We all have a deep unspoken fear that we’ll be abandoned or rejected if we expose our dark parts to others. If they truly knew about all of our wrongs, they’d want no part of us. Thus, we spend a great deal of time without having resolved our bad with our good. This leads to entrenched barriers to intimacy and relationship, compromising our ability to lead. Read more

13
Apr

All Messed Up and Nowhere to Go

Written by Alexander W. G. Seidel

Ministry is a lonely pursuit. Or, at least that’s what some church leaders make it. The pressure to perform is far too common in church circles. The image of the noble pastor and his wife and family has placed crushing pressure on many leaders. At best, it leads to burn out. At worst, this careens into a moral tailspin. When the pristine image of a pastor goes, the pastor likewise has nowhere to go. How could it be possible to confess burnout or moral failing, when a pastor fears the fallout of his shattered image?
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6
Apr

In Search of Approval

By Alexander W. G. Seidel

In my many years as a church leader, planter, board member, or plain old attendee, it is remarkable how many of the leaders I’ve worked with struggle with an inordinate need for approval. I include myself in this struggle. I think we would all agree that it is nice to be liked, respected and affirmed for a job well done. But life becomes fraught with peril if we enter our vocation to fulfill a deep need for approval. This is especially problematic for those that choose the vocation of pastor.
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23
Mar

Have You Checked In With Your Self Lately?

Written by Alexander W. G. Seidel

When we hear the word self, it evokes discomfort. This happens for a variety of reasons. As Christians, many of us have not learned much about the self, or more specifically, our own self. We also fear discussion of the self because we have confused a strong sense of self with selfishness, or egotism. More generally, many of us have had varying traumas in our early development that have compromised of confused our sense of self. None of this bodes well for us as we seek to understand our own needs and express the resulting boundaries in our relationships.

As we consider the self, we must consider how it develops. We are born in the Imago Dei or the image of God. Aside from genetic factors and the foundational wirings that God has built into us, we largely develop the self in relation to our early caregivers — hopefully, our parents. Think of what a baby does when she is hungry, angry, tired or has a full diaper. She screams, at times inconsolably. In the baby’s own primitive and vulnerable way, she is asking for needs to be met. To the extent that her parents respond with loving and necessary care is the extent to which she begins to develop a healthy sense of herself.

This continues on in more sophisticated levels as the child ages. She learns that she can have distress, express her needs and then get them met. She can feel the discomfort of being in her crib alone and learn to live with the discomfort of her parents not being in the room and then experience them coming back to offer care and comfort. Also, she can learn to see smiles and feel attitudes and reflect them back and react. I am oversimplifying the wondrously complex dynamics that are at play here. All of these interactions are part of forming the self. Put a bit more simply, it is in relation to other selves that we will gain our own sense of self.

Problems arise in these early interactions of attachment. All parents struggle with selfishness, impatience, weariness and frustration even in the midst of the common parts of our lives. Some families experience separation through death or divorce, vastly affecting attachments. Yet others experience drug abuse. Others have parents that abuse their children, horrifically defining parts of the self for years to come.

What occurs when children, early in their development, have anxious, addicted or abusive “selves” to rely on as they strive to develop their own selves? On one level, these children learn how to relate in the maladaptive ways of their immediate caregivers. On another, since they have no strong “selves” to glean from and interact with for needs to be met, they turn inward. They have a framework upon which to build their character, but no character to complete their own entire picture of self. So then, they grasp for outward solutions to find their sense of self. For lack of effective attachment and healthy early care and interactions, they seek identity in externals: status; a compulsion to appear perfect in the eyes of others; grandiosity; strong defensiveness when criticized; and striking out at others that don’t tow their line of perfection, among other traits.

You may recognize these as traits of a narcissist. From the mild to the extreme, we’ve all had our self-identities compromised. In a sense, we are all, on some level, narcissists. Think of this as the nature of original sin. Mankind refused to interact in pure fellowship with God to have intimate needs for significance met. As a result, they sought the grandiose scheme of knowing what only God could know. Then they hid, blamed and defended their sin. We as a result, while having been created in the Imago Dei, have compromised ourselves by getting our needs for significance met in all manner of harmful ways. And some that appear to be good but that we misuse, like becoming pastors or missionaries.

How does this apply to church leaders or missionaries? To answer this, it might be fruitful to consider some basic questions:

Why did you choose ministry as a vocation?

What makes your heart leap in your ministry? Attention? Status? Power?

To what extent are you using your ministry involvement as an external means of garnering significance for yourself?

How is your family system with all its sin-tainted interaction informing your motivation for ministry?

Have you explored your past trauma or separation and the resulting shame, anger or guilt?

How are you hiding from these very messy emotions?

How are you using ministry to build yourself rather than honest with yourself?

Are you feeling defensive about the above question?

We pray that you would spend some quality time with these questions. We also pray that you are doing your ministry with authenticity and pure motivations, not as a means to hide and avoid the lack of a healthy self-identity resulting from the hard stories of your life. Please know that you have grace and God desires that you become your true self and thus more fully human. We’d love to support you on your journey , even if you’re in the midst of the muck of crisis. Drop us a line. We’ll love and listen.

11
Mar

That Thing You Hate Most About Yourself

Written by Alexander W. G. Seidel
We all have our liabilities. Some of us struggle with anger. Others, with self-criticism, my weakness of choice. And yet others, with chronic lust. We can all agree that we grapple with character flaws and weaknesses daily. If you find yourself resisting this idea, read on. Read more