For over 35 years Dr. Dick Hardel has been working to help Christian congregations become wellsprings serving the communities and the creation so that we have healthy families to pass on faith in Jesus Christ.
One of the foundational principles of faith formation from the The Youth & Family Institute, where Dick served as Executive Director, is that faith is formed by the Holy Spirit through personal, trusted relationships, often, but not always, in our own homes.
People who are not well cannot praise God with their whole lives. Praising God with heart, soul, mind, and strength takes breath. People who are not well are people who are out of breath—the breath of God. A congregation-based wellness ministry is to bring a breath of fresh air—the Holy Breath of God in Christ Jesus—so that they can live wholly holy lives.
A congregation-based wellness ministry centers Christ in all six of the concentric circles of relationship: child and youth, family, congregation, community, culture, and creation and in all eight areas of wellness.
In chapter six of the Book of Ephesians we are reminded that God wants quality life for people. Wellness is not just eating or not eating certain foods, being a particular weight, or having a proper level of cholesterol. “That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” involves relationships of parents with their children, how we treat other people, how we image God to all of creation and steward creation, how we deal with emotions and relationships, how we live our faith within our occupation, and how we pass on faith.
Wellness is not the lack of illness, but rather a Christ-centered balance in eight areas of healthy life: Emotional, Social, Spiritual, Intellectual, Vocational/Occupational, Financial, Environmental, and Physical. Illness ministries focus on cure. Wellness focuses on healing and wholeness. One can live well in Christ with a chronic disease.
Biblical scholars have taught us that the healing ministries of Jesus fill one-third of the Gospels. Healing is the very essence of the gospel. The literal meaning of one of the New Testament Greek words for salvation means “safety, soundness, wholeness.” Jesus came to restore all of creation to wholeness. All of Scripture can be described as the history of salvation, God acting to restore a broken creation to the wholeness, which God intended for it from the beginning.
As recorded in the Gospel of John, Jesus prayed that, through God’s plan of salvation, human beings be restored to wholeness and unity just as the relationship and unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
To effectively pass on faith from generation to generation, Christian congregations need to be engaged in bringing the healing and restoration of wholeness of the gospel of Jesus Christ within all the concentric circles of relationships. We are called by God to live well in Christ.
Eight Areas of Wellness (used with the Gingerbread Person Design)
Nothing beats a great idea! How does one expand the use of both sides of the brain and keep the mind active? This might include “book and discussion clubs,” Bible study and theology discussions, writing and reading blogs, wondering and asking questions, problem solving, inventing, experiencing new ways of learning and teaching, learning new technology, and keeping one’s mind open. Music and the arts can help us expand our Intellectual Wellness. Learning how to see God’s glory in creation expands our sense of God’s presence, using all of our senses. It is also important to let one’s mind rest.
Wellness in not simply about how we care for ourselves, but it also includes how we care for the earth. The earth is God’s jewel in the creation of the universe. We are to be responsible and accountable as stewards of God’s creation. As we should not put anything toxic into our physical bodies, so also we should not put anything toxic into the rivers, lakes, oceans, the ground, or atmosphere that would hinder or destroy quality of life. How we manage and care for the wild life and birds of the air and not let urban sprawl destroy eco-systems is about wellness. It is also about teaching our children to care for all creation and experience and respect nature.
This wellness area is within the outside circle of the concentric circles of living well in Christ in the model below.
In the creation accounts in Genesis human beings were created to be relational—in relationship with God, with each other and community, and in relationship with the earth and the animals. We are to be diligent in building strong and healthy relationships within our families, our neighbors, our community and our country. Sin has changed the beauty of the relationships for which God has created us. So we try to eradicate those actions that divide relationships: hunger, joblessness, poverty, war, greed, prejudice, hate, anger, violence, stress, broken families and all types of abuses. We work to improve the quality and longevity of lives of people. Thus through God’s grace we practice forgiving and learning to live as forgiven people of God.
Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They are simply yours or someone else’s. But feeling the full range of emotions and knowing how to express them in a healthy and appropriate manner is very important to one’s well-being. One must both recognize one’s own feelings and honor the feelings of others. St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians that anger is a feeling, not a sin in itself. But we should know how to express it in a manner that does not lead us into sin. We should also learn listening and communications skills to reduce the stress in relationships. When we line up the positive emotions of faith, hope, love, laughter, creativity, play, will to live, God empowers us to live a life overflowing.
Spiritual Wellness is about learning and practicing spiritual disciplines daily. St. Paul encourages us as disciples of Jesus Christ to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-20). He warns that we are not battling flesh and blood, but
principalities and powers that cause us to let our faith slip-slide away or to lose it from a sudden event. God has given us the Word and the means of grace to keep us strong in the faith no matter what surrounds us or doesn’t surround us. We are to practice the faith. We can learn and practice by studying God’s Word and sharing it with others. At FaithWellMT I suggest four key faith-building practices: Caring Conversations; Devotions with family; Service that flows from your faith to others, Rituals & Traditions that connect to God. Again, in Ephesians 6, St. Paul stresses the importance of prayer in the practice of faith.
Recent research has shown that as we moved into the 21st Century cultural changes within society and the job markets have made it very difficult to do financial planning for the future. So much has changed. It is not a matter of good and bad, old verses new. It is simply changes to which people need to adjust. Cost of education have risen greatly, health care is more expensive. Owning a house is more difficult financially. In fact, far too few individuals and families even know how to plan for their futures. This puts tremendous stress on those individuals and families. Many “wealth managers” don’t even discuss faith and values with their clients and help them align it with their planning. It seems easier to spend money now than to save for the future. How is Christ centered in our financial wellness?
Wellness is a matter of faithful, financial stewardship.
Where is Christ when we focus on our physical shape? In Colossians we learn that “the Father, who has shaped you to share the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1: 11,12). Despite the affects of sin in our lives, we are the miracle of the sixth day of creation. Do the choice we make to care for ourselves reflect that?
Often people take better care of their automobiles and other transportation vehicles than they do their own bodies. We often let the world squeeze us into its own mold and stress and fear and other negative emotions drive us to believe we do not have time to take care of ourselves. We even believe that it is more important to care for others than for ourselves, which can become work righteousness. The negative choices we make lead to the destruction of quality and longevity of life. Often clergy do this and think that it is in the name of Jesus to sacrifice one’s health and family. The business world sometimes even applauds such a negative lifestyle. We are to treat our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Where is Christ in our occupation? Occupational wellness aligns the work we do and the environment of where we work with our faith, our passions, and our core values. No matter what our occupation, we are called to live well in Christ and to be an example for others of a disciple of Jesus. Do we thank God every day for the opportunity to go to our workplace and join others in service to others by what we do? Do we share joy and laughter with our co-worker? Does the environment of our workplace align with our faith, passion, and values? Does the mission statement of our workplace align with our faith, passions, and core values? Do the gifts that God has given us help us develop and sustain caring relationships with others, respect for one another, and trust in one another? Even in working diligently in our occupation we are called to serve the Lord with gladness.
Six Concentric Circles of Discipleship and Living Well in Christ
Making Our Burdens an Altar
During our return flight from Eastern Europe to the USA with some Christ clowns from my clown troupe, The Life In Christ Circus, I was wrestling with how we could use our clown ministry skills to help people with the disease of depression. From my research as well as my experiences in clown ministry, I learned that people, who are not well cannot laugh. Laughter takes breath. Depression is one of those diseases that robs people of their breath.
This DVD contains two clown routines, both designed to help people struggling with depression. “Making Our Burdens An Altar” uses an interpretive dancer, who represents the Holy Spirit, who assists four clowns, who are each trapped in a type of depression. For healing to take place, each clown must own must own hers or his dis-ease. This is a necessary step of healing. Then the Holy Spirit (Breath of God) leads the clowns to make their burdens an altar. The first sign of healing is a sigh. In the sigh the clowns discover that they are not abandon and not alone. They are covered with the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is a breath of fresh air.
The second video clip “The Cross and Our Burdens” encourages all of us to leave our burdens at the cross of Jesus. There are times when we simply keep carrying our burdens even though Christ died for us. There are other times when we even pick up the burdens of others. It is our Lord Jesus Christ who picks us up and gives and frees us to celebrate God’s love with others.
These two clown routines on healing and wellness were created for people struggling with depression of any type to watch over and over. The Holy Spirit brings a breath of fresh air!