One of my favorite books is The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero. The premise of the book is simple. Emotional health and spiritual health are intimately connected. You can’t have one without the other. In order to be spiritually healthy, you have to work through your emotional issues and tend to your emotional needs.
So often this connection is missing in the church. The examples are plentiful. Religious leaders have extramarital affairs. Church members eschew vulnerability and pretend they have it all together. Pastors get burnt out due to poor boundaries and an inability to set limits. Churches don’t handle financial matters with openness and integrity. And so on.
These emotional struggles have painful consequences. Church leaders ruin their witness due to failures in integrity. Vulnerable church members are on the receiving end of painful abuse. Individuals leave the church and don’t come back because of bad experiences. Christians get labeled as hypocrites because their self-proclaimed “spiritual health” isn’t grounded on a foundation of emotional health. People outside the church don’t give Jesus a chance, because what happens inside the church can look so ugly.
We can’t go on living as if our emotional and spiritual lives can be separated into distinct categories that don’t overlap. It just doesn’t work that way. Our lives are too integrated. Emotional struggles permeate through every part of our being. As a church, we need to acknowledge this intersection and begin to prioritize meeting the emotional needs of our leaders and congregants. The future of the church depends on it.