My church does traditional doctrinal education well. I think we can improve our emotional intelligence to become more welcoming. Any advice?
Your question is a good one. Christian Reformed churches have a long history of teaching theology quite well. However, our strength can become a weakness. Underneath our robust theological vision we hide our brokenness from others. But we can work to build a transparent community of healing. We must regain the healing ministry of the church.
When broken people come to churches, they are looking for people who have walked in their shoes. They are seeking a community that becomes a safe place. They want to hear a gospel that repairs lives and imparts grace. However, our churches display little of our brokenness. We work hard to hide our problems. Christian counselor Larry Crabb writes, “We moderns tend to think of our spiritual journey as a God-directed adventure until something goes seriously wrong or until certain problems persist past the time we give God to take them away. … We focus more on using God to improve our lives than worshiping him in any and every circumstance” (The Safest Place on Earth, p. 17). In other words, we need healing just as much as the people from our neighborhoods and locations who come seeking healing.
In his book “Churches That Heal,” pastor Doug Murren suggests some ways to restore this vital ministry of in-reach and outreach, including an audit of your church’s environment. Does everyone resist deep conversation about pain and sorrow? Is the prayer ministry shallow? Murren said churches must have a desire to change the culture from superficial sharing to admitting life hurts. People need churches to absorb their pain.
Crabb says the healing ministry is essential for outreach. “In a spiritual community, people reach deep places in each other’s hearts that are not often or easily reached,” he writes. “They discover places beneath the awkwardness of wanting to embrace, cry, and share opinions. ... Spiritual togetherness creates a movement. Together in Christ encourages movement toward Christ” (Crabb, p. 196).