328 – Recovery From Spiritual Abuse

This Week on Soul Talks

Some of us may have been impacted by spiritual abuse or church hurt. Many of us have hit a wall spiritually and experienced prolonged desert seasons. This doesn’t have to be the ending of our story—there is hope for healing, restoration, and freedom as we discover the hidden treasure of the Kingdom of the Heavens!

Join us for this episode of Soul Talks where Bill and Kristi interview pastor Brian Steele unpacking his experiences in an abusive cult, and his journey with Jesus that ultimately led to true freedom, sabbath rest, and overflowing delight. Your heart will be encouraged to learn how you too can experience these gracious gifts from the Lord, regardless of the past seasons you’ve walked through.  

 

Resources for this episode: 

Recovery From Spiritual Abuse Transcript

Bill & Kristi Gaultiere

Bill

Hey friends, welcome to Soul Talks. This is Bill and Kristi Gaultiere and we’re interviewing our good friend, Brian Steele. 

He is a Community Life pastor at Christ the King Community Church, and he’s the author of The Kingdom Field Guide

We have gotten to know Brian and his lovely wife, Katie, in our Soul Shepherding Institute. We’ve been hanging out on retreat together and in our Spiritual Direction Certificate program. 

It has been fun to get to know the two of you better, and your ministry, and your work.

Brian

So glad to be with you, Bill and Kristi. Soul Shepherding for Katie and I has been huge. 

We’ll talk a little bit more about that later in the podcast, but it’s been a huge gift for us. We are just glad to be with you guys.

Bill

Yeah. Your book, The Kingdom Field Guide is very fun. I was able to endorse that as I had an early read on your book. 

Tell us about when you, “Stubbed your toe on treasure.” 

Of course, this is coming from the Matthew 13:44 miniature parable.  

You’ve got a unique way of describing that and it fits in with your own personal journey. 

Brian

Yeah, I see my story in three different parts. 

One part is involved in really abusive church leadership and a bad church experience. 

Then there was this part that felt like wandering the desert, just very lost. 

I came to this point where I was just thinking, “There has to be more to faith than some kind of religious slavery or a wandering.”

It’s sort of tracking the Israel story of being in Egypt and then being in the desert. 

I really was asking, “What’s the promised land experience of faith?”

 “Isn’t faith supposed to be good?”

“Isn’t there supposed to be something that has to do with flourishing and thriving in your relationship with Jesus?”

It wasn’t until I was reading the parable of the hidden treasure that it stopped me dead in my tracks.

Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man that finds hidden treasure and then buries it, goes and sells everything, and buys the field” (Matthew 13:44).

That really stopped me dead in my tracks.

Because, number one, I had no idea what the kingdom of God actually is. 

That was so confusing. It wasn’t part of any of my background. 

Then number two, it was kind of like I was approaching Jesus as if he was a used car salesman.

“Is this deal really true?” 

I’m looking at the window sticker and it’s saying that his kingdom is going to cost me everything, but is it worth it? 

And what exactly is that kingdom that makes it worth it? 

So those two questions, “What’s the kingdom?” and, “Why is it worth everything?” put me on an eight year journey of reading the parable of the hidden treasure and meditating on it. 

The Kingdom Field Guide came out of that journey.

Bill

Let’s just make sure everybody hears this. So, eight years on one verse in the Bible.

Brian

Yes, and I still feel like I’m barely scratching the surface. 

I’ve found that the whole story of scripture gets packed into that tiny little parable and it’s like a clown car. 

The story of scripture spills out of it. 

I still feel like I’m just at the tip of the iceberg, but I think that’s how good God’s kingdom really is. 

Bill

Yeah.

Brian

It’s what the journey is about. Discovering how good it is.

The Kingdom is Real

Kristi

So good, Brian.

For our listeners here, you’ve read Journey of the Soul. You’ve heard Bill talk about it. 

You’re talking about a wall experience here that you ran into.

Brian

Absolutely

Kristi

Hitting the wall–and thank you for doing the work of persevering, leaning in, really seeking, and examining, and working out your faith with fear and trembling in scripture—versus this to do

Then going into that inner journey work where you really began to dig deep.

To find out, “What is it that I really treasure?”  

“What does my life say the treasure is?”

 “What kingdom am I living in?”

 You did the work there of recognizing, “What would it look like for me to step into Jesus and his kingdom?” 

“To respond to his message that the kingdom of God is really available to me?”  

Brian

Right.That it’s actually real. 

So that’s a big part of the premise of the book, that God’s kingdom is what I call really real.

It’s more real than anything else because it’s eternal. 

When everything else passes away, God’s kingdom is going to remain, and that kingdom is open and available right now. 

I believe that when his kingdom comes, there’s goodness in your life, there’s beauty, there’s thriving, and there’s flourishing. 

That’s a mark of enjoying what he offers us under his rule and reign.

Two Kingdoms

Kristi

Well, yes. Yes to all of that. 

Yet some people might be saying, “Well, wait a second. I don’t know about this. I’ve experienced spiritual abuse in the church too. It doesn’t look anything like what you just said the kingdom of God is.”

Brian

Yeah. And I think what gets really confusing is we’re in this in–between stage in history where there are two kingdoms that are operating at the same time, not just in the world. 

There is a kingdom of darkness in the world, but also inside of the church—there’s two kingdoms that are operating.  

Then what’s even more difficult—inside my own heart, in my own life—there’s two kingdoms that are operating. 

There’s the remnants of the kingdom of darkness that are still present. 

I can live into that if I choose, or there’s the new kingdom of Christ that’s also available. 

So it’s confusing on a lot of fronts and we’re constantly faced both with the remnants of darkness, and the new creation under Christ’s kingdom. 

We have to struggle through it. It’s definitely a struggle.

Bill

There is a war going on and we’re in the middle of that.

So you’ve experienced that personally, Brian, just in your own recovery from wounds and spiritual abuse and so forth. 

Share with our listeners your story and how the Lord has met you in that.

Introduced to a Cult

Brian

Yeah. Well, I grew up in a Christian Church.  

But in the eighth grade I washed my hands of it and then really wandered very far. I got involved in drugs and in a party scene.

I was very interested in the dark occultic side of the spiritual realm. 

That led me to a very dark, dangerous place. 

At one point I was just absolutely desperate and I cried out, “Lord, save me!” 

I was going to school at UC Santa Barbara. I was a sophomore.

The very next day after I prayed, “Lord, save me!” there were some people that were preaching open air on campus and sharing the gospel. 

I was like, “Wow! The Lord just answered my prayer!”  

They invited me to a Bible study, and I joined that. I committed my life to Christ, and I changed my whole life around.

I changed my friend group, and I left behind the party scene and those dark things that I was curious about. 

Eventually, I moved in with the people in this church, but it turned out that this church was a cult. 

They were Christian, they were Bible based, but were really abusive in their use of authority. 

They were very controlling and manipulative. I didn’t really know, because I was in a desperate spot, and I was desperate for life change. 

So when they initially offered friendship and warmth and a path of discipleship, I thought, “This is God answering my prayer.”

I was involved in the group for three years.  

The process of being under that kind of control and authority that’s abusive, is one of becoming less and less of a person, and more and more of a cog.

My personality was slowly changing. 

In churches that are unhealthy, you are a square peg being driven into a round hole.

I was becoming less and less Brian, and just a cookie cutter of this image that this group was trying to create and form. 

I was involved in that for three years. 

Meanwhile, my parents were very worried and very concerned because they saw this radical change in my life. 

They ended up having to hire somebody to deprogram me in order to get me out of the group.

Manipulation and Control

Bill

So, explain that deprogramming. 

You’re embedded in this community and in your experience of things, you’ve left the party scene and an empty life.

You’ve come into a community. 

You’ve prayed to receive Christ. 

It was a real prayer. God came into your life. 

You’re born again. 

So you’re having experiences of forgiveness and joy.

Initially, you’re feeling accepted by people and there’s a lot of good feelings there.  

But you’re not realizing how much you’re being controlled. How much you’re actually losing yourself in this cult.

Brian

Right, yeah.

Bill

Because it’s happening so slowly, and because of this big transition in your life—that for the most part was such a wonderful transition—how do you separate out the cult part from the Christ center there? 

It’s very confusing, except maybe you weren’t confused at the time as much as you were looking back on it, because you didn’t realize that you were trapped. 

You thought this was wonderful. 

You thought this was a community. 

You thought this was new life in Christ. “We’re serving God and we’re sharing the gospel with people.”

You had a lot of positive feelings that were stronger than the feelings of being controlled and mistreated, at least at first, it seems.

Brian

Yeah. Initially, it’s all of the positive, “Wow. This is great. God has answered my prayer.”

But then, the way groups like this work, we’ll say any abusive organization or system—even domestic violence relationships—work in the same way. 

They all use fear and guilt and shame on the one hand as punishments. 

So, I’m afraid to leave the group because—for example in our group—there was somebody who ended up leaving the group and died in a plane crash a week later. 

The message was, “See, look what happens when you leave.” 

There’s a fear that’s keeping me paralyzed and keeping me in place. 

But then there’s also a constant demand to do more, go to more meetings, do more open air preaching, and go knock on more doors. 

That demand, in my mind I believe, “God is telling me to do this.”

And if God’s telling me to do something, then when I fall short, I’m not disobeying the group leaders, I’m disobeying God. 

That creates a sense of overwhelming guilt and shame. 

When you’re living in guilt and shame and fear, you can be very easily controlled. 

On the other hand, you think, “I’m in a group that’s special! There’s nobody else like us on the face of the earth.”

“We have the unique revelation of Jesus and everybody else is compromised or deceived by Satan.” 

So there’s this sense of privilege, and I’m an insider, and that is also a drug that’s addictive. 

That whole combination leads to control that’s very difficult to break.

Bill

Yeah. You were a young man at the time, so you weren’t realizing what was happening.

Brian

Right. Yeah. I thought I was following Jesus. In a sense, in many ways, I really was.  

In some ways, I really was developing spiritual disciplines, growing in a prayer life, and engaging in scripture. 

That’s what makes it very confusing and difficult.  You could say, “Well, this must be of God, because look at the fruit.”

Bill

Right. That’s what we tend to do when we’re in a situation—not only of abuse, but even more commonly of dysfunction—that will sort of justify what is unloving or unhealthy based on fruit that we’re seeing that seems to be so good. 

But yet in the Christian life, the ends don’t justify the means. 

Brian

That’s right. 

Bill

Where there is good fruit—if the means are not respectful and kind, and the process is not honoring to Jesus—then there’s a rotten apple here.

Brian

That’s right.

Kristi

It sounds like the form of religion that was very legalistic and had an earning mentality to it.

Brian

Yes

Kristi

You needed to earn favor or bonus points with God by doing these disciplines or these forms of service.

Loss of Connection

Brian

Yeah. One of the other dynamics is you get cut off from all your outside friends and families. 

They would say things like, “Well, your parents and your other friends, they’re deceived.” 

“You need to stop communication with them, sever those relationships.” 

Now my full source of social approval and love is coming from the group. Then that gets turned up and down based on my performance.

So if I miss a meeting, for example, we had, I don’t know—something like a dozen meetings a week— 

Bill
Wow.  A dozen meetings a week.  

Brian
Oh yeah.  It’s hyper busy, hyper spiritual. 

If you miss a meeting, the social control, or the social approval and love gets turned down. 

It’s very obvious, there’s shunning that happens. 

Because I have no other outside source of approval or love, because I’ve isolated myself and I’m fully immersed in the group, then that little turning down of the temperature—sometimes it’s an eyebrow, right? A raised eyebrow—If I don’t have approval from the group leaders, I don’t have approval from God in my mind. 

So in addition to having so much commitment, you’re physically tired. 

You are in a place of emotional and psychological vulnerability, and it’s a form of religious slavery. 

People often just literally break down and walk away because they physically can’t take the demands. 

Then they think that they’re leaving God himself when they walk away.

Kristi

Yeah, that’s part of the redemption story in your life is that you didn’t do that. You didn’t turn your back on God. 

You did the work of still seeking God and his truth, and finding Jesus the treasure. 

So, talk to us more about how God led you in this redemptive part.

Breaking Free

Brian

I was being sent from Santa Barbara to a college campus in Bellingham, Washington, to Western Washington University. 

The plan was for the cult to send me to recruit college students off of that campus. 

So I was now going to go help plant another branch of this cult. 

My parents knew that something was up. They were so worried about me. They knew that I was in a group that was wrong and bad. 

They staged what’s known as an involuntary intervention, which is very controversial and I’m not advocating one way or the other for that. 

But I was basically kidnapped and they hired a deprogrammer, somebody who’s an expert in cults. And he goes around the world and he gets people out of groups. 

I was held for a week with bodyguards in order to convince me that I was in a group that was bad.

It took about a week for me to be able to start critically thinking again. 

Part of the result of the group dynamic is that I stopped being able to think for myself.  

I’m no longer able to make decisions for myself. I’ve become a robot in a sense. 

It took about a week in order to understand that the group I was in was really destructive. 

After that, I got sent to a rehab center in Ohio called Wellspring for cult victims. 

I am so fortunate that I was able to immediately get that kind of help. 

It was a group of professionally trained psychologists, psychiatrists, and pastors that understood the dynamics—it’s not just about the spiritual aspect, but what’s happening underneath. 

Let’s dig below the surface psychologically about how that happened to me.

Then there’s just so much baggage to unpack. 

But being able to understand that was a huge gift because most people walk away and they never understand what happened to them. 

Bill

Even if they do get out of the cult, they don’t really heal very well, because they don’t do that work of understanding—the therapy work that you did, the prayer work, and all that deprogramming.

Kristi

The inner journey work, we call it—to really dig deep and look at some of the unconscious things or some of the past things from our lives that are operating unconsciously to make us vulnerable.

Bill

True to the inner journey, your story is illustrating that you really needed a major break from that cult. 

The implication of your story is that you couldn’t have gotten free, at least at that time as a college student, by just continuing in the cult but then now and again having a conversation with a Christian pastor or leader who was wise and discipling you.

You were just so brainwashed, so programmed into the mentality of that cult and so focused on what seemed to be good about that, that you didn’t even know what was happening to you.

Dynamics of Abusive Control

Brian

That’s right. And it’s extremely difficult to leave on your own. 

Robert Lifton was a psychologist who studied thought reform in reeducation camps in communist China in the 1950s.  

He identified these eight criteria of what he called thought reform. 

What we would call brainwashing or thought control, it turns out those eight criteria are the same dynamics in a domestic violent, abusive marriage. 

One spouse will use those same dynamics that cults use to control a spouse. 

We’ll look at a domestic violent marriage and say, “Why doesn’t he just leave? Why doesn’t she just leave?” 

Well, there’s a whole host of dynamics that keep a person stuck and then it scales upward. 

Actually, it can be used nationally. 

We go, “How could somebody ever think that it’s a good idea to drive a plane into the twin towers?” 

Well, it’s not just that they had a great idea, but they were under a system of control and manipulation that works on national levels. 

Sometimes that works on organizational levels inside and outside of the church. It’s extremely powerful. 

It’s not simple, and getting out isn’t as easy as just choosing to leave.

Kristi

That’s right. 

Your story is so important for people that have had the experience that you have, and for people who know people— loved ones—who are in experiences like this. 

Brian, thank you.

Desert Season

Brian

You’re welcome. 

After I left the cult, I just wanted to research as much as I could about cults. 

Really, I spent about 10 years of digging into learning as much as I could. Eventually I became a resource to other people. 

I taught classes at churches and schools on how to avoid some of these situations. 

But at the same time, there was a lot of pain around faith for me.

I entered into what I consider a desert time in my life around faith.  

I was going to church on Sundays, but the spiritual disciplines were very difficult for me because there were these remnants of the old practices, which still had pain attached to them. 

And so that wilderness, I think, lasted almost twenty years.  

Twenty years of kind of wandering, of dryness, and of distance from God. 

I felt very disintegrated as a person.  My work life was disintegrated from my church life which was disintegrated from my home life.

In 2008, I got divorced. I think that, in part, was part of a consequence from some of that disintegration.

In 2009, I felt like the Lord grabbed me by the lapels and brought me really close and said, “Brian, I just want you to be really close to me.” 

It was so kind and firm.

Bill

Kind and firm.

Brian
Kind and firm.

Bill

Something so tender and precious, and yet it was arresting to you.

Entering the Promised Land

Brian

This was a father who loves his son so much. He was inviting me to stop the wandering. 

It was at that time in 2009, I started practicing daily spiritual disciplines again. 

What I had found was that the pain of the old practices had receded, and I found life. 

I found a new joy and it felt like I had kind of left a wilderness experience. 

The promised land, you know—if Israel’s story was slavery, then wandering in the wilderness—the promised land was this place of flourishing. 

It’s a garden. It was overflowing milk and honey, it was a place of goodness.

That goodness was intended to spill over to all the rest of the world. 

I began to experience some of the goodness of a life with Jesus. 

It was shortly after that when I discovered that the life of faith doesn’t just have to be drudgery or wandering, but it can actually be thrilling, deeply enjoyable, deeply beautiful, and also fun and laughter filled. 

That was so much the kindness of the Lord that brought me to that place.

Bill

Yeah. You came alive in God’s love in a whole new way.

The experience of feeling accepted and being in this increasing warm hearted intimacy with God changed your heart. 

It changed your wanter. 

So now you wanted to do spiritual disciplines and you had a way of doing them that was relationally—other than legalistic and performance based, and trying to please a cult leader or somebody else.

Freedom in Christ 

Brian

That’s right. So that was my early forties. 

It was maybe the first time in my life, I really enjoyed being Brian.

Bill

Wow.

Brian

I discovered that I liked me, that I enjoyed being in my own skin, and really got thankful for who God made me to be. 

I felt like Brian for the first time in my life.

Bill

The Psalmist says, “The Lord brought me out into a spacious place” Psalm 18:19.  He says it with a great smile, great joy.

That’s the kind of thing that the man who found treasure in the field in Matthew 13:44 felt—just overcome with joy. 

To discover the reality of God’s rule that was kind. 

He wasn’t just in a physical field.  He was in a spiritual field.

Brian  

Yeah. And I think Bill, that spacious place, that’s really key if we’re going, “What’s the difference between a healthy church, or a healthy spirituality and an unhealthy spirituality?”  

In the unhealthy spirituality, you’re cramped and confined and small.

The life that Christ has for us is wide and expansive—lots of room to roam and explore and discover and delight. 

Including with who I am as a person—I got to find out that I love how the Lord made me. 

I got to just discover how far I can go with how he made me, and how much joy there can be in that.

Kristi

You’re articulating here, a real freedom in this life in Christ. Freedom of life and his kingdom and the joy of that. 

You are living now in the model of journey, this soul spirit-led ministry where you’re overflowing all that God has done and given. 

You’re a wounded healer here with your story.   

Using your very wounds to be able to be a place of ministry to others here now as an author and as a community adult pastor at Christ the King Church.

Bill

I’m also so thankful for that journey. I’m very thankful for my cult experience. 

I’m very thankful for the wilderness. 

I’m thankful for where the Lord has brought me. I’m so grateful. 

That would be my encouragement for people, even after my divorce—it was one of the most difficult periods of my life, a period of great darkness. 

The image I had was of being in this darkness, and yet there is a light that’s very far off and that’s the place God is bringing me to—where I am grateful for my life, I am brought through the difficult time, and I love my life.  

I love the experience of being a Jesus follower. 

I knew God was going to bring me to that place. 

I didn’t know how long it was going to be. I didn’t know if it would be decades or years, but I just knew eventually he’s going to bring me to that place of thriving. 

That’s my encouragement for people.  

Bill

For you who are listening, a great takeaway from Brian’s story here is just to keep putting one foot in front of the other when you’re in a difficult situation.

Your story is a cult experience.  You who are listening might be in a dysfunctional family. There might be stress in your job or your ministry role, or many different challenges that we have. 

But what your story illustrates is if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, that’s when we stub our foot on treasure.

Brian

It’s good.

Bill

Here’s the kingdom of God!

Brian

Yeah, that’s it, I like that.

Bill

Here’s the joy of life.  

I found it and God was there all along, but I wasn’t able to feel it, or to experience it, or to really relish it.

Brian

Yeah. So two years ago, Katie and I started with Soul Shepherding, and attended our first retreat for the Institute. 

I was on a sabbatical.  

What was interesting about that sabbatical is that I was at the healthiest place I’ve ever been in my life in many ways.

Physically, socially, spiritually and relationally I felt like I was healthier than I’ve ever been. 

And yet that place of health allowed me to do some very deep work that needed to be done. 

The Soul Shepherding retreat was so important to peeling back one layer of the onion that I couldn’t have peeled back when I was unhealthy. 

Both Katie and I are doing this work together and are so thankful.

I feel like in the last two years, if there’s a growth chart—you know, the kid puts his back up against the wall and the parent comes and puts the tick mark—I think I’ve grown more in the last two years than I have in my whole life.

Bill

That’s so fun. I love those growth spurts.

Brian

It’s been so great. 

What’s challenging is I feel like—I’m picturing the middle school kid that grew three inches over the summer—I feel a little bit of clumsiness that comes from that growth. 

It’s like, “Wow, I can live in a different way. I can take strides in a way that I haven’t before, but I’m trying to acclimate and now be comfortable in these new shoes that are all of a sudden three sizes bigger.”

It’s been really interesting that the growth has brought a kind of clumsiness that I now have to live into and become accustomed to. I’m super thankful for it.  

Sabbath Rest and Delight

Bill

You’re growing into your new identity.

A big part of this transition for you, this healing, this redemption in your story, is Sabbath rest. 

I’d like you to make a few comments about that before we conclude here because Sabbath is the rhythm of rest, and rhythm of life is a big part of your story. 

It’s not a coincidence that you’d really deepened in that practice through going on a sabbatical.

In Soul Shepherding, when we coach pastors, missionaries, and other leaders and servants on sabbatical, we tell them, “Really simply, a sabbatical is just stringing together Sabbath days.  Days in which you don’t work.”

“You’re not productive. You’re not filling it up with projects.” 

“You’re resting in God. You’re worshiping God.” 

“You’re in a relational mode, maybe in places of beauty, hopefully reading some scripture, having some soul talks, and hopefully working with a spiritual director or a coach,” to do some of that inner journey work that you’re modeling for us.

It was on your sabbatical experience that you were doing this deeper work. 

Tell us more about what the Sabbath rest has meant for you and your journey.

Brian

Yeah. Well, I’ve been practicing a weekly Sabbath day for about 12 years. 

I think that discipline has influenced me more than any other spiritual discipline. 

I almost hesitate to say that because I think it actually has been more impactful even than scripture engagement and prayer.

For me, since I’m a pastor and usually working weekends, my Sabbath day is Friday. 

Thursday night begins with a setting down of all the projects that are unfinished—of turning over to the Lord the relationships that aren’t yet healed or that need restoration, those parts of me that are still broken and in process. 

All of my unfinished work, I hand it to the Lord and entrust it to him. 

Because Jesus holds all things together by the word of his power, he can capably hold all of those things.

That allows me to have a full 24 hour day of delight.

Bill
Delight

Brian

Sabbath for me is delight, savoring, and enjoying.  Eating really good food, doing things that are fun, and sleeping in late if I want to. 

Katie and I love being in the mountains, so going for a hike.

Once a week, the image that we have is that our Sabbath day is the garden as in Genesis.

It’s a meeting place of heaven and earth, and we tend and keep that garden. 

We cultivate that one day. 

In the garden, you’ll remember there were the four rivers that overflowed from Eden that brought goodness and blessing to the rest of the world. 

My Sabbath day, the goodness and blessing of that day, overflows to the rest of my week.

Bill

The Sabbath is called the first day, rather than the seventh day, which is the Jewish mindset. 

But the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s day, resurrection day, is the first day because we’re resting in God, and we’re worshiping God.

Then our work, our ministry, all that we do, flows out of that. That’s what you’re illustrating.

Brian

That’s right. 

Kristi

I’m guessing that you’re experiencing there, as you enter into that rest, more ability to be present to Christ and his kingdom than the other days of the week.

Bill

Probably more ability to be present to Katie, your kids, your friends, and stuff like that. 

We normally do our Soul Talks podcast first thing Monday morning so we’re still in Sabbath mode and hopefully Bill’s relational centers are still on and the “productive Bill” hasn’t started to take over.

Brian

Yeah, it’s true. Even in creation, in Genesis 1, Adam was created and his first day—he was created on the sixth day— his first day was a rest day.

Bill

Yeah.

Brian

His first full day of creation was a day of enjoyment with the Lord on the seventh day.

Bill

That’s a great way to answer that question when people say, “Where do you see in the Bible, that Sabbath is the first day?”

 That’s one of the places.

Brian

That’s right. 

For me, it’s such a gift because I think also Sabbath is enjoying the goodness and beauty of the age to come. 

We’re ripping it from the future and enjoying it in the present. 

That’s what Sabbath is. It’s enjoying what we’re hoping to get eventually for eternity, but we get to enjoy some of that eternity right now every week. 

Wow. What a gift.

Bill

Yeah. I wish you who are listening could see Brian’s face right now. He’s beaming with joy. 

That delight of the Sabbath day is in your soul and body right now. 

Brian

When I went on my sabbatical, that was a two month period, and on day one I was already able to rest. 

The first day.

Our whole theme for those two months was delight because I had developed a discipline of delight in the 12 years leading up to that.  

When I got two months off, it was very easy to step into that.

Ministry Begins with Rest

Bill

Yeah. You were further ahead than most pastors I work with. 

Oftentimes when they get a sabbatical, they really haven’t learned very well how to experience Sabbath rest because the American culture, and even our church culture, is not very conducive to rest. 

The idea we teach is that ministry begins with rest. 

It seems like a foreign concept in the typical ways that we do church and spiritual growth, and the ways that we do our Christian work. 

Because you had years of practicing Sabbath, you actually brought that into your sabbatical. 

But for many people, when they go on sabbatical, that’s where they actually learn how to rest. 

Brian

Right

Bill

I had pastors tell me, “I thought I was keeping a Sabbath, but until I took a sabbatical and did it in the Soul Shepherding style of truly resting and having fun and being relational,” like you illustrated Brian, “I didn’t know that I really wasn’t very rested.” 

It just took that deep soul training day after day, stringing together these Sabbath days of not working, not doing projects, and not being productive.

Not running around on Instagram trying to get more likes, not keeping up with all my email, and not checking other churches or seeing how they’re doing and what I can do better. 

Not writing a book, and not doing a big yard project in my house. 

Just abiding in the Lord’s presence, taking walks, enjoying loved ones, and getting enough sleep.

All of these things that really make for the delight of Sabbath, because we’re experiencing and perpetuating that intimacy with God.

Experiencing Delight

Brian

I would even say, I think delight is key for the Sabbath because there’s some days, if I’m being really honest, on some Sabbaths, I’m doing more numbing than delighting.

There’s a difference between watching a movie and binging Netflix, which becomes more numbing. 

If you’re numbing, then you’re also numbing yourself to delight.

That’s sort of my indicator– if I’m practicing a Sabbath, am I actually enjoying delight? 

Am I experiencing delight? 

Or am I just numbing?

Bill

Yeah. Sometimes we’re checking out, and we’re escaping. 

Maybe if there’s something good in that, it’s that we’re not overworking, and we’re not getting overstressed. We’re sort of detoxing, in a way. 

But numbing out is not soul care. 

Brian

That’s right.

Bill

I love your word for delight. 

That is your needle in the compass that helps you gauge, “How well am I deepening into this Sabbath rest?”

Brian

Yeah, that’s right.

Bill

Well, what a delight this has been, Brian, for Kristi and I to have this time with you and to share you with our listeners and our Soul Shepherding community.

I want to let all of you who are listening know that Brian has prepared a free gift for you that we’ll have in the show notes. 

It’s a very attractive, short resource, just a few pages, Five Tools to Establish a “Kingdom-First Culture”

This comes from his book, The Kingdom Field Guide

All you have to do is click on the link in the show notes, and you can get that. 

That’s going to really help you with very practical steps, and really brings that Matthew 13:44 verse to life.  That’s what we all want to be.

We want to be like that man, or it could have been a woman, who found herself in a field and stubbed her toe on treasure. 

It’s like—wow—in all my joy of discovering this treasure of life with Jesus in the father’s world, I’m going to sell everything else. 

I just want to be in the Lord’s realm, serving him, and doing his will.

Kristi

Brian, at the end of our Soul Talk conversation, would you pray for our Soul Talk listeners?

Brian

Yeah

Kristi

Thank you

Brian

Friends who are listening, I just want to pray from a passage from Daniel 7

The kingdoms and the dominion, and all of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.

Lord, we recognize that what you have for us is everything. 

You intend to give us everything, with the crown of everything being Jesus himself—hat you gave your son.

That is what’s in that treasure hidden in the field, Father, you are giving us everything. 

That is a father’s heart who loves his kid. 

Lord, I thank you that when you say, “Would you sell everything for the treasure hidden in the field,” really what you’re saying is, “Son or daughter, if you give me everything that you have, I will give you everything that I have.”

Bill

Yes. Thank you, Lord

Brian

Lord Jesus, I know right now there are people for whom this just seems impossible because of church wounds. Because of deep, deep wounds. 

I’m asking right now for the person who is feeling the pain of those wounds or abuse, that you would speak into that person’s heart.

That you would say, “Take one step with me today.”

Jesus, I thank you that you are the good shepherd. 

Even in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death, you are with us.

You are restoring our soul. 

I pray, Lord, have mercy on us. We commit our lives to you and the lives of our listeners.  In Jesus name, amen.

Bill and Kristi

Amen

Brian

I’m so thankful for both of you, and I’m thankful for the ministry and the work you are doing.  I’m so grateful.

Bill

Thanks for being on Soul Talks. Say hi to Katie.

 

Share this!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print