I had known stress during a career in education and as a church pastor but never so much as in the last 5 years when I even suffered mental health problems including suicidal thoughts. The Lord had led me into some freedom through my own prayer, reading, and input from church pastors, but I always felt there were deeper issues that had never been dealt with. A work colleague recommended Restoring the Foundations ministry as he had found the experience life-changing. I am an experienced Christian leader who knew of such ‘courses’ but was sceptical about how beneficial such a ministry might be. How wrong I was!
God told me to go for it!
As I prayed, I felt the Lord say that He was providing this opportunity, and if I was ever going to break free of debilitating stress and be more fruitful for His kingdom, then I needed to engage with RTF. In response to God’s prompting, I gave myself to being totally honest, vulnerable, and set time aside to receive a ‘Thorough’ format RTF over five, 3-hour sessions. And it really needed this time for Jesus to sort me out!
The detailed documentation and prayer involved in completing the initial ‘My Story’ questionnaire proved hugely valuable to the RTF ministers in addressing key areas of my life. The form left no stone unturned and required real transparency about private and sensitive aspects of my life and history. I discovered that the level of disclosure was directly proportionate to the depth of healing which the Holy Spirit could accomplish. Although the words and phrases used to describe inner issues or past hurts did not always translate well for me, or did not quite fit my ‘theology’, I chose to go with the process, and not to be hindered by expressions that differed from my own.
This tentative humility resulted in genuine spiritual insights that I otherwise would have missed. The process of personal confession and renunciation sometimes felt strange, but the results were very releasing, with some prayer prompting an unexpected emotional response. Allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in these areas and allowing him to heal, or correct, was essential. But the leadership of my sensitive, but clear and decisive RTF ministers – who never over-stepped my consensual submission to each process – was so valuable and precious. A brother and sister in Christ, leading me closer to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
I listened to the recommended teaching talks by Betsy & Chester Kylstra and was blessed by a depth of understanding and knowledge forged in profound experiences with God in ministry. I could easily have missed these ‘nuggets’ if I had not humbly accepted what Father-God wanted to minister, I would have missed what he had planned for me, his beloved child! I needed to suspend analysis, and humbly accept what God wanted to bring, as a child before his heavenly Father (Matthew 18:2-5). This, I think, is a particular problem for experienced Christian leaders.
The power of the lies
Experiences in childhood and teenage years shape life for all of us and the Holy Spirit revealed how adult Steve was responding in ways consistent with thinking that had been formed by traumatic experiences in younger years. This thinking was exposed and addressed with sensitivity. As a child, I had made decisions, and adopted unhelpful beliefs in early years, which were still influencing my thinking and behaviours. One of these was, ‘I am more likely to stay safe and get problems sorted if I always address them by myself’. In practice, this was clearly a lie, and had led me into huge pressure and stress. And another childhood lie – adopted when I was bullied that, ‘I must do all I can to have everybody like me’ – an impossible expectation – was piling on even more stress! Satan is the ‘father of lies’ and his lies had been stressing me out for years!
I have been a Christian since childhood, served as a youth leader, preacher, teacher and a pastor. I’ve taught biblical truth and understood that truth to some level, but this process of sanctification has set me free from a variety of hindrances and has enabled me to leave unhelpful stress behind. My debilitating biological responses have gone, and I am now free to discern how to respond to challenging situations. This is just so exciting!
My testimony is written with gratitude to RTF and my ministers. I want to encourage other Christian leaders to engage with this ministry process for their own good, and the good of their ministries. RTF really is Good News for God’s children!
Steve, an experienced church pastor and school leader from Southern England