Psychologizing Vs. Theologizing

It is awfully easy in the pastorate to slip into the role of armchair psychologist.

Which means this: when people make appointments to meet with me in my office to discuss a pressing life issue, I listen reflectively, probe background and even childhood issues, and try to read between the lines of the conversation to see if the “presenting” issue is the “real” issue in the person’s life or if something else is going on.

And in many instances, God brings hope and healing out of those conversations.

But because I have grown accustomed to that therapeutic model of ministry, I less frequently adopt the role for which I am actually trained: congregational theologian.

Which really isn’t as intimidating as it sounds.

Because it’s a matter of bringing the conversation/issue/dilemma back to what we all wrestle with at our core:  our connection to God. What we call at Good Shepherd a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

Moving the conversation Godward (is that even a word?) with some of the following:

What’s your understanding of how Scripture speaks into this?

Where is it that God is stretching you here?

What would surrender to Christ look like here?

Have you considered the role of the Holy Spirit in your healing?

Where is your story lining up with the biblical story?

Here’s the real reason I’m sharing this with you: whether it’s as a parent or spouse or friend, what kind of advice are you giving to those in your care?

Perhaps if we helped people grow and stretch in their theology then their psychology would be well on its way to healing itself.

Moms and dads: do your kids know more about Dr. Phil or Dr. Luke?

Are they bigger fans of Johnny Knoxville or John the beloved?

Are they spending time developing lightning fast thumbs through their mastery of video games or anchoring their lives on the ancient stories of creation, isolation, redemption, and summation that we find in Scripture?

Because I think what I’m discovering in pastoral ministry is what a lot of us need in our households: the kind of theological depth that answers many of our psychological needs.