Over the next weeks, I will be blogging the first chapters of a book I’m writing on a ‘New Exodus Model of Soul Care’. That language will make more sense over time. The Introduction (below) explains a bit of the context. I’m excited to do this in blog form before seeing it in print. I’m excited for several reasons. First, this material has been helpful to students over the past years as I’ve taught at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. I’ve been blessed by the give and take of the classroom experience, as I was not as confident in the early development of the model as I am now. Students have provided helpful critique along the way, and colleagues have offered biblical-theological insight. I’m grateful to all of them. And I’m excited to share the fruit of those interactions.
Second, I’m now in San Francisco, working with City Church and the newly developing San Francisco Theological Center, and excited to share these ideas in a new context. This model is one attempt (notice it’s “A” model, not “The” model) at appropriating a narrative and missional biblical hermeneutic to soul care and counseling. That’s (admittedly) an ambitious agenda, but I’m working in the context of a team here at City Church that is both theologically and pastorally astute. In other words, I think putting these ideas out there in the context of this particular community can only help clarify and connect certain things. A printed book feels like a finished product, but this blog represents something unfinished, and very much open to discussion.
Finally, I’m excited because San Francisco is both a beautiful and broken city, with men and women desperately searching for a way out of Egypt but hitting dead end after dead end. I do believe that this New Exodus model can be an invitation, of sorts, to a local therapeutic community as well as a struggling people to see if their experience of life fits the biblical story. In other words, I invite both struggling Christians and skeptics of Christianity to try it on for size. See if this narrative connects to yours. Don’t receive it as ‘the way,’ but as a proposal. And tell me if you’re seeing big gaps or experiencing incongruence. Does it help make sense of life? Or (God forbid!), is it making things worse?
I’ll welcome the interactions that this material produces. Thanks, in advance. Now, let’s begin the journey.
For the past six years, I’ve taught a class called Psychology in Relation to Theology. When I first started teaching, I’d offer student glances into the psychology of Scripture. We’d look at Solomon’s addictive journey through Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah’s acrostic pattern of grief in Lamentations, or John’s “apocalyptic therapy” which consoled fearful late-first century Christians with the larger Story God was writing, and the bigger battles He was engaged in. However, the brief excursions in different parts of Scripture felt like sketches in a Saturday Night Live episode. There was a common Actor, but a lack of a larger narrative. Something needed to change.
My dissatisfaction with the course only intensified year after year. Students provided great feedback and enjoyed our week-to-week excursions. However, as counseling students entered the campus clinic to do their internships, I’d often hear a common refrain – “I am still not sure how to bring Scripture into the counseling room.” Clearly, something more was needed.
But my restlessness extended beyond the classroom. Both as a pastor and as a seminary professor, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with pastors, speak at churches, lead retreats, and teach on a variety of subjects. On almost every occasion, I’ve been asked, “What is your model of counseling and soul care?” They’d reference the major models or big name authors. Many pastors mentioned their familiarity with Biblical Counseling, Larry Crabb, Neil Anderson, John Eldredge, or Cloud and Townsend. But I’d often hear dissatisfaction in comments like, “That approach is too moralistic,” or “He’s too secular in his approach,” or “They don’t take Scripture seriously enough.” Inevitably, they’d ask the dreaded question: “What model do you teach?” Their questions led me to dig deeper, asking hard questions of each model. What I offer in the following posts is one humble attempt at an answer.
A New Exodus Model of Soul Care is an invitation into God’s grand story of redemption as it is told (and re-told) through the lens of the Exodus narrative. As you read, you’ll notice a range of influences. You’ll see my appreciation for the newer and more progressive Biblical counselors, my inclination toward a relational model of counseling, and my passion for the mystics. You’ll notice that I’ve been influenced by narrative theology and missional hermeneutics. You’ll see nuances of Crabb and Allender, Shults and Sandage (big props for their paradigm-shifting book ‘Transforming Spirituality’, Henri Nouwen, and Tom Wright (who hasn’t been influenced by the Bishop)? And you’ll wonder how these divergent strains can come together. Sometimes, I wonder myself. My rock bottom hope is not that I get it right, but that I tell a story that is large enough for you to find yourself in, and perhaps compelling enough to invite change. With Sam, Frodo’s devoted companion in The Lord of the Rings, perhaps you’ll say, “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?”
Next Post – Chapter 1