The main idea promoted by Peter Scazzero throughout his book The Emotionally Healthy Church is that many Christians appear to have a hard time trying to relate to their religious beliefs on an emotional level: “We have many people who are passionate for God and his work, yet who remain disconnected from their own emotions or those around them”. According to the author, this situation is strongly inappropriate, because it often results in causing the concerned believers to drift further away from God – even if they do not realize this consciously.
One of the main driving factors behind it, Scazzero considers the fact that Christian ministers often fail at providing churchgoers with practically valuable advice, as to how these people should go about realizing their full potential as socially integrated individuals. The author implies that such a failure is predetermined by the fact that only a few Christian counselors have what it takes to be able to reach out to believers in the factual (psychoanalytical) and not merely formally religious sense of this word. After all, being faced with the realities of today’s quick-paced living, people do require to be provided with the psychoanalytically sound spiritual guidance more than ever: “Jesus’ followers… need to look beneath the surface of the iceberg in their lives, to break the power of how their past influences the present…”. Scazzero’s suggestion, in this respect, reflects his assumption that it is no longer sufficient, on the part of a minister, to tell parishioners ‘I will pray for you’ while hoping that this alone will address their emotional needs: “Today, I no longer simply pray and hope for the best… (we need) discipleship that goes beyond a skin-deep, superficial, quick fix”.
According to the author, the process of Christian counseling must be adjusted to be consistent with the deep-seated unconscious anxieties of the counseled. In its turn, this can be accomplished if ministers establish a long-lasting emotional relationship with the Church members – something that may only prove possible for as long as the former never cease to apply much effort into helping parishioners to attain a state of ‘emotional oneness’ between their religious beliefs, on one hand, and their social aspirations, on the other. The foremost key to success, in this respect, Scazzero considers the Christian ministers’ willingness to communicate with believers in a manner observant of the following seven principles: “Look beneath the surface”, “Break the power of the past”, “Live in brokenness and vulnerability”, “Receive the gift of limits”, “Embrace grieving and loss”, “Make incarnation your model for living well”, and “Slow down to lead with integrity”.
As the names of many of these principles imply, a minister’s task is to encourage churchgoers to indulge in the introspective self-assessment on a continual basis, as the pathway towards becoming ‘emotionally mature’. According to the author, to be an ‘emotionally mature’ Christian is to be capable of adjusting his or her behavior to be consistent with Biblical provisions, without growing too dependent on the Holy Book as the actual ‘manual’ for coping with the petty challenges of life. Another sign of ‘emotional maturity, on the part of a particular Christian believer, is his or her willingness (and ability) to exercise conscious control over the workings of its unconscious psyche – hence, the author’s allegory of an iceberg.  Thus, The Emotionally Healthy Church is best described as yet another book that promotes the idea that the revitalization of Christianity can be achieved by the mean of proving that this religion is more than capable of serving a number of different psychotherapeutic purposes.
Even though many suggestions contained in Scazzero’s book appear rather speculative, there can be only a few doubts as to these suggestions’ high utilitarian value. After all, they do aim at providing believers with the discursively sound reasons to continue attending Church, as the crucial precondition for these people’s spiritual growth. Therefore, it does make much sense to implement the suggested principles into the core of the ministerial paradigm. The recommendations as to how this can be done practically are as follows.
Ministers must apply a continual effort into finding out as much about parishioners, as possible – something required by the principle “Look beneath the surface”. The reason for this is apparent – by sticking to this particular advice, a minister will be able to attain a better understanding of each individual churchgoer as a psychologically ‘three-dimensional’ being. Consequently, this will empower him rather substantially, within the context of how he may go about addressing one of the main issues with today’s practicing Christians – the fact that many of them expect to receive some special favors from God, on the account of their presumably virtuous lifestyle. As a result, these people often become angry with God when experiencing hardships, as something that they think is being uncalled for. In this respect, the role of a minister is to explain to such Christians that God has nothing to do with what they are being put through and that their present problems directly derive from the choices that they have made in the past.
The above-mentioned recommendation relates to the “Break the power of the past” and “Live in brokenness and vulnerability” principles, described in Scazzero’s book, as well. Apparently, many Christians indeed experience a hard time while trying to diminish the effects of their painful memories from the past on their present – something that prevents them from being able to attain self-actualization, as loyal disciples of Christ. While tackling this particular issue, ministers/counselors must succeed in convincing the concerned individuals that it is specifically their current status of ‘newborns in Christ’ that they should focus on, as the only thing that defines these people’s future. And, to be able to continue enjoying such a status, parishioners need to be taught how to maintain a humble stance in life – just as it is being prescribed to them by Jesus. This, of course, presupposes the essentially rational (concerned with the appeal to logos) essence of the would-be required counseling, and also that its potential benefits can only be realized if applied to the ‘emotionally mature’ Christians.
Just as it is the case with children who rely on their parents while growing into adulthood, Christians must be guided along the way to becoming emotionally mature. In its turn, this suggests that ministers/counselors must adjust their counseling approaches to correlate with whatever appears to be the level of ‘emotional maturity, on the part of a particular member of the Church – this explains the rationale behind the recommended incorporation of the “Slow down to lead with integrity” principle, as an integral element of Christian counseling. Apparently, there is indeed a very little reason for Christian ministers to be preoccupied with trying to increase the ‘flock’ as something that has the value of a ‘thing in itself’ – especially if achieved at the expense of turning a blind eye on some of its members’ emotional needs.
Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.