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Spiritual Abuse: More than meat and wool

A difficult subject in the church today is the one of Spiritual abuse. I believe this falls into one of two categories: Intended abuse and unintended abuse. Intended abuse comes within the territory of cults and mega or television ministries where the leader is pragmatically sucking the sheep dry for his/her popular gain. Unintended abuse is much more common and is bred out of poor training and discipleship, business model leadership, misdirection (not focus on shepherding and flourishing but ‘stuff of earth’), and spiritual immaturity.
People get used, abandoned, thumped with rules and commands, ignored, and devalued.
The Great shepherd knew His sheep. He provides, PROTECTS, and desires for them to flourish. They are not just a supply of meat and wool.
To read more read this article:

Defining Spiritual Abuse


Mark Goins

Irrelevant Self


“I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.”  Henri Nouwen

My heart grieves for Mark Driscoll. If you know anything about the enneagram, I am fairly confident Mr. Driscoll is an 8.  Eights are powerful, leaders, visionaries, and its my way or the highway. They deny their vulnerability and need to dominate others. They need to admit weakness. (Summary of Alice Fryling’s thoughts  in Conversations magazine)

My frustration with Mark Driscoll’s situation is that he publicly has admitted to his sins and invited accountability.  Was it all perfect?  No, of course not, ministry is messy inside and out. Driscoll recently resigned his post as Lead pastor and shared that he and his family have had to move multiple times and his children had rocks thrown at them.  Like many of you, I am sure you can share stories where you have had to deal with an 8. I understand what it means to be verbally abused, intimidated, tossed aside and had your expectations squelched and diminished.  You can understand the desire for justice and to be avenged. Many pastors and former staff have aired their complaints publicly and privately. But Mr. Driscoll seemed to have tried to be repentant and to make adjustments.  It appears as if he was trying to represent his true self and not his false self.  This is difficult for a person who used today’s technology to its fullness in order to sow his message and now is being judged by the same consumers who drank deep of his videos, books, and tweets. (He reportedly had almost half a million on twitter)

As each of us follows the way of Jesus, we are reminded life’s twists and turns can be a great leveler.  Whatever your enneagram number, status of life, area of ministry and service we need to remember to be honest with our ‘true self’ to try to adjust our life to what Nouwen encourages us to live a life that is irrelevant.  Perhaps the tension with Mark Driscoll is that he had become too relevant to himself and his ministry.  Mr. Nouwen lived out his words as he gave up notable positions and went to live with disabled adults.  

I am reminded of the words of another 8 who wore camel hair and ate crunchy locusts and said of his messianic cousin, ‘I must decrease that you (Christ) may increase.”   May we all seek to be more of an ‘irrelevant self’. 

Mr. Driscoll I hope you find the Lord of the Wilderness and rest in Him!


mark goins





Resurrection is approaching!


Resurrection Sunday is quickly coming upon us.  Are you preparing?  Jehovah created rhythms for the Jewish people to celebrate and to remember.  The betrayal, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are tied into this rhythm.  We are to be reflective.

Spiritual direction is the process where a trained listener helps clarify one’s thoughtful expression of a life in God.

I’m listening…

Mark Goins




“I just ate the whole thing!”

Consuming desire!  Sitting in a teacher meeting yesterday and discussing the idea of graduating students that have been nurtured in an environment that emphasizes academics as the supreme benchmark.  I was pleased that most the groups repelled this idea for a student that is more ‘well rounded’.  Spiritual formation should be considered in the same light.  It is to be a hunger to grow into a whole person, including but not exclusive, in creativity, rationality, morality, language, emotions, Biblical community, and our relationship with the culture.

The question for each of us who desire to walk as adherents of Jesus, are we intentional in our desire for wholeness in our formation in Christ-likeness?  Do we want the whole thing or just a part?




“Are you listening?” cries the father character in Distracted, a play I saw last weekend in New York. “Name one friend of ours who really listens,” he demands of his wife. ~ by Maggie Jackson. Maggie writes often about the topic of attention and our distractions.

Meeting with a client this morning, they were bombarded with issues that dealt with authority, listening, de-valuing relationships, power and control.  Feelings associated with the realization that authority figures only view them as a tool.

I was struck by the distraction.  How the reality of these threats and conflicting messages provided a series of distractions which allowed them to not be able to use their energies and focus on doing good.

In reading this quote by Ms. Jackson I also wonder if the Host of Heaven would hear similar comments.  “Name one of your creation that really listens to you!”, says the cynical angel.

He is not silent; we are not listening~Out of the Grey




Labor Day is quickly approaching.  Most of us are looking forward to the time off and perhaps some down time with family and friends.  I always thought it funny that it is labor day but we take off work.  Sounds like a mom warning her family,”ok, everybody this Saturday is labor day we are going to clean the garage!”    I think in Europe it is probably ‘labor week’, they know how to take time off!

Western culture focuses so much on pragmatism, work =a good life.  We fall into what is called the Sacred and Secular split dividing the spiritual from the physical.  For many at the end of a work day breeds feelings of emptiness and discontent.  One’s life becomes myopic and usually focused on pleasing others.

What does it look like to tend our soul and spiritual conversations that transcend our work, family, and leisure?  How does one refocus and create a healthy life where work is re-framed in proper perspective?


Consider this…

mark goins





C.S Lewis was 16 and picked up “phantastes” in a small second hand bookstore at a train station.  Lewis said that MacDonald’s work ‘baptized’ his imagination.  Lewis went on to create many amazing stories that have inspired millions.

In spiritual direction part of the work to be done is not just about one’s relationship with Christ in the past or in the present but what will it look like…creating a ‘way’ of Jesus in one’s own life.  Asking the Father for glimpses of what a life in Him will look like…being formed into His character and patterns.  A spiritual director can be helpful to ask questions and give directions for your conversations with the Father and help to listen to His spirit for direction.

mark goins





Spiritual direction refers to the ministry of soul care in which a gifted and experienced Christian helps another person to grow in relationship with and obedience to God by following the example of Jesus Christ. The goals of spiritual direction are threefold: knowing, being, doing.~ james Wilhoit

Many focus on the doing but i find many find it challenging to understand being.  We are easily defined by our work or title, not by who we are.  Spiritual direction presses in beyond the veneer of the doing to explore the spiritual inner being (yes, you have one).

mark goins


Broken terrain…

“Cecelia Overhold forgave her husband Roy now and again as they traveled the broken terrain of their marriage” from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.

When you walk through difficult woods, recently plowed fields, or a broken sidewalk your attention goes to your footing.  If your journey is long through such difficult areas it can become cumbersome and frustrating.  We can be so consumed with care in which we walk that can be distracted by the beauty and peace around us.  While hiking in the Grand Canyon on ice is was often concerned about my next step, rightly so, but when walking in the canyon you literally miss the changing view of splendor.

I have met and walked with many people who are traveling the broken terrain of life and forget to look up and be reminded of the goodness of life, community, and beauty.

As a soulgardener, my hope and desire is to help others to pick their eyes up from their difficult journey and see the hope of walking with the One who gives peace and beauty to their life.

Mark Goins




“A lowly person is a teachable person, easily entreated and open to explanation. Many of our spirits are too arrogant: they can teach others but can never themselves  be taught. Many possess a stubborn spirit: they stick to their opinions even if they realize they are wrong.”  Watchman Nee

Reading through the Biblical book of Ezekiel is flat out depressing.  The stark stubbornness of God’s people is overwhelming.  I picture in my mind that little 4 year old standing with his arms crossed, lip sticking out, and eyes resolute, “NO!”.

It represents to me the challenges in helping people to grow in the grace of Christ.  Because the Western church focuses on salvation and not maturity it is as if the church stands with its arms crossed and says, “No!”.

Spiritual direction helps aid one who is teachable and hungry for a more authentic and sustainable faith. Spiritual conversation helps relax our willingness for God through His Spirit to form us and deepen us.

Do you have a stubborn spirit?  A legalistic spirit?  Enjoy His Grace!

Let’s talk!

mark goins


“What’s it like in your world?” Charlie Peacock



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