Today's piece is written by Rev. Dr. Peter J. Bellini, Assistant Professor of Evangelization in the Heisel Chair and President's Associate for Global Partnerships at United Theological Seminary. It is the third in a three-part series.
In the first part of this series, I provided an overview of the global scope of depression and other mental disorders. In the second part, I shared examples of how The United Methodist Church is responding to this problem. In my conclusion to this brief discussion on global mental health and the church, I share 10 insights on healing that can be contexualized and implemented in most settings as more United Methodists seek to minister with those impacted by mental disorders:
1. RESURRECTION - Build your healing ministry on a robust and comprehensive theology of the resurrection. The resurrection is the origin, source, power, authority, and goal of our healing. Thus, God works from and to resurrection. Resurrection is the foundational evidence of the Kingdom of God, and the restoration of all things in heaven and earth, here and now. Restoration includes our health and wholeness. God desires to restore all things to their original purpose including our bodies and our minds. Healing is God’s gift to us both now and for the future. Our healing, and the healing of all things, begins now and culminates with the resurrection and redemption of our bodies, as well as a new heaven and a new earth (the new creation). All healing is a foreshadowing of this ultimate healing and prefigures it.
2. GOD HEALS - Since the resurrection is the complete picture of our healing, our faith and expectations should be based on the power of the resurrection and in the God of the resurrection. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Although repentance, faith, wisdom and proper medical treatment are essential to the process of healing, we rely ultimately on God who raises us from the dead. It does no service to the ministry of healing or the integrity of persons to judge, stigmatize, condemn or blame persons for sin or a lack of faith when we do not see or receive our expectation or our version of healing.
3. EDUCATION - Educate the community of faith concerning divine healing. Prepare the community by utilizing the teaching ministry. Instruct on healing from the pulpit, Sunday School, small groups, seminars, webinars, health fairs and by other means. People are able to process change and adopt new practices more easily once they are informed about the subject. Education clarifies and diminishes the strangeness and unfamiliarity of a complex subject such as healing or mental health. Work to create a culture of nurturing and healing.
4. COMMON LANGUAGE – Since healing, health, and wholeness can be complex, seek to communicate and operate out of a common language. For example, if you are to officiate a healing service, do it in the liturgical language with which your congregation or participants are familiar. For United Methodists, which is my tradition, I use the healing service in the UM Book of Worship. People are more apt to participate and receive in an ecclesial culture that is familiar, especially something as sensitive and complex as healing.
5. TRAIN & CERTIFY - Train, certify and install (publicly in a service) workers for a healing ministry. For example, if your local church has persons gifted to pray for the sick in the church, the community, or throughout the world, set them apart for proper training, and then recognize and commit their gifts and leadership in a public service. Those asked to pray for healing should feel equipped and confident for the task, and the people should feel confident to receive ministry from such persons. The community of faith needs to affirm and confirm such a ministry and its workers.
6. COMPREHENSIVE - A healing ministry should be comprehensive, encompassing physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, relational and other types of healing. Local churches and ministries should partner with other persons and institutions that are better trained at ministering healing in a certain area. Partnering with nurses, therapists, nutritionists, clinics, or 12 step groups adds to the bandwidth and effectiveness of the healing ministry. A good holistic health network, in-house training, and a thorough referral system are essential to an effective healing ministry.
7. INTEGRATIVE APPROACH - A healing ministry is most effective when it takes on an integrative approach. Theology and science, at their best, should work hand in hand. Do not be afraid to take an approach that identifies multiple causes and solutions to problems. For example, counseling, medications, intercessory prayer, laying on of hands and anointing with oil can work together effectively to combat mental health issues. Not every problem is an ‘either/or’ issue of faith or science.
8. NETWORK OF MINISTRIES- Contrary to popular opinion or even stereotype, there are many types of healing ministries that one can have in and from the local church: healing services, an altar team, a visitation team, 12 step groups, health fairs, an in-church clinic, a medical missions team, deliverance and exorcism ministries (Yes, I said that), a Zumba class, a weight training room or gym, Stephen ministries or similar grief recovery ministries, various support groups like NAMI, nutrition classes, suicide awareness seminars, classes for Christian forms of yoga and or intentional deep breathing (may not be acceptable to all local churches), confessional and accountability groups (i.e. Wesleyan band meetings), Theophostic, Sozo, and other types of more “charismatic” inner healing prayer ministries, healing prayer teams, food pantries, free community meals, cooking classes, along with a host of other courses, events, ministries and teams. Think of creating an environment or culture of wholeness that nurtures and fosters health rather than merely relying on crisis intervention that addresses the problem after it occurs. Think of creating a healthy environment that fosters wholeness as a lifestyle: prevention as well as intervention.
9. EXPECTATION - Expect healing to come at any time, any place or in any way. If you are a leader, teach the people under your care likewise. Many are disappointed because they do not receive the healing they wanted or in the way or time they wanted it. Resurrection comes in many ways and at different times, and at all times death and resurrection become the greatest healing. Teach people to look for and expect resurrection every day and in every way. Give God the space and time to work God’s will and expect miracles.
10. OUR PART- Educate people to be responsible in terms of doing their part in the process. In Philippians, Paul instructs us that it is God who works within us the desire and the will to carry out his purposes. Healing is in God’s hands, but some things God has providentially given to our care and responsibility. Through prevenient grace, God chooses to use the practice of medicine, proper diet, sleep, exercise, wisdom, repentance, faith and other means of grace to work healing. Teach responsibility and education for our health.