T.P.M. is not the “Troubled People’s Ministry”
Emotionally Troubled? Not Me!
- TPM has been mistakenly viewed as a specialized ministry for helping people who are struggling with emotional pain when in fact it is not.
- TPM is not about managing emotional pain or even making the bad feelings go away. In TPM pain is viewed as an important and needed part of the ministry process.
- All emotion is flowing from what we believe and provides us opportunity to work with God as He seeks to grant us His truth and freedom.
- Painful emotion never feels good, but it serves a good purpose when embraced and acknowledged.
- No one or thing outside of ourselves ever makes us feel anything that we feel. We all feel whatever we believe. It is that simple. No excuses.
Since the inception of Transformation Prayer Ministry (TPM) in the mid nineties, literally thousands of churches around the world have embraced TPM as a way of helping people in their church community. The reported outcome has been overwhelmingly good for those who have found freedom.
However, up until recently, many churches still view TPM as a “recovery ministry” option placed along side of other ministries being offered to their membership. For the most part, TPM has been viewed as a specialized ministry for helping people who are struggling with emotional pain. In this context the letters T.P.M. might better be understood as the “Troubled People’s Ministry” designed specifically for those amongst us who are emotionally hurting — the walking wounded!
When TPM is understood within this recovery model, emotional pain is seen as a weakness, problem or a spiritual issue to be overcome. Unfortunately, holding this perspective limits the benefit of TPM to only a very small portion of the church community. Most of the members of any given church would not see them selves as emotionally troubled or in need of TPM. Most members would probably consider themselves as managing their emotional pain in a “good and healthy manner.” The problem here is, TPM is not about managing emotional pain or even making the bad feelings go away. In TPM pain is viewed as an important and needed part of the ministry process.
When TPM is viewed as a pain managing ministry, the purpose of this ministry is not understood. When managing our pain in a “good and healthy manner” is viewed as success, we inadvertently miss the daily opportunities that have been afforded us to have our mind’s renewed. Even the little irritations, stresses, and emotional flareups we all experience daily, are caused by what we believe. All emotion is flowing from what we believe and provides us opportunity to work with God as He seeks to grant us His truth and freedom. Painful emotion never feels good, but it serves a good purpose when embraced and acknowledged.
Each of these moments are opportunities for faith refinement and mind renewal. Managing our stress, anxiety, fears, and other lie-based emotions in a “good and healthy” manner, will only keep us in bondage to the lies that are causing us to feel what we feel. I am afraid that our “good and healthy” manner for managing what we feel, typically consists of such things as, distracting ourselves through some form of self-pleasuring, making excuses (having a bad day), or “spiritualizing” our situation as suffering for Jesus or being oppressed by the devil.
The truth is, we all feel whatever we believe. It is that simple. No excuses. No one or thing outside of ourselves ever makes us feel anything that we feel. Until we can come to grips with this reality, we are destined to play the victim role and never find the freedom that the Lord has for us.
Joining the “Leper camp”
- As long as the church understands TPM to be a means of pain management for the troubled people in the community, and emotional pain viewed as a problem or a weakness that needs to be overcome, the majority of people in the church will never consider TPM.
- Looking for ways to distract ourselves from our emotional pain and through suppressing what we feel forfeits the opportunities that God has provided to grant us His truth.
- Denial of our lie-based emotional condition is fortified with a church belief system that rewards performance and spiritual suppression and rejects perceived weakness and emotional pain.
For many churches T.P.M. is the Trouble People’s Ministry like unto a spiritual “leper camp” to which the weak, needy and spiritually frail are assigned. It is a place designed for troubled people who are not performing as well as the rest of the group. This view assumes that the rest of the church membership — those who appear to manage their emotional pain (spiritual performers) or those who believe they do not have any “significant” emotional pain (suppressors) — need not consider TPM. Since most of the church membership does not view themselves as having this “leprosy”, TPM is not likely to be given much attention.
Somehow we have failed to recognize that even a small amount of leprosy is still leprosy. The minor irritations, feelings of stress, fear, anxiety or worry are explained away with just “having a bad day.” The fact is, lie-based painful emotion is still rooted in lies, whether it is incapacitating or managed well.
All people are infected with lie-based thinking (“leprosy”). Some are more successful at keeping it hidden from others (and even themselves). Among those members who realize they are infected, it is only a brave few who are ready and willing to submit themselves to the possible humiliation of exposing their condition.
Churches with the Troubled People’s Ministry recovery programs quickly discover that it is hard to get people to join the leper’s camp. In order to become a member requires that you have to “get naked” in front of the “performers” and “suppressors.” It is an uncomfortable thing to expose your disease to others who say they are doing well.
Also, if a leper decides to publicly reveal his or her emotional pain, doing so causes the “performers” and “suppressors” to experience much discomfort. They do not like to see leprosy exposed because even the best performer or suppressor knows that he, too, is infected. When a performer or suppressor is exposed to another person’s pain, this triggers his own pain and creates discomfort. Should a “leper” bring out his pain in a public place –such as the weekly Bible study– the “performer” or “suppressor” will usually deal with it quickly and decisively by praying “at” the infected and encouraging them to go back to the leper’s camp.
From time-to-time a “performer or suppressor” will unintentionally expose his own hidden leprosy. When this occurs his condition is quickly explained away. He is given grace, since this is expected from those who are suffering for Jesus, under spiritual attack, or bearing up under the cross they carry. Their emotional “moments” will typically be graciously excused and may even be deemed to be spiritual. Performers and suppressors are often applauded and affirmed by the community as they “suffer for the cause” and even be rewarded with a “spiritual” medal of honor for their endurance and perseverance. In comparison, when a “leper” has an emotional meltdown it is because he is a “leper,” and this is what “lepers” do. There is something clearly wrong with this picture since we all have “leprosy”.
Emotional Pain: Not a Problem to Overcome
However, the goal of TPM is not to overcome “leprosy” or even to feel better. The goal of TPM is the refining of our faith, mind renewal and transformation. Feeling bad is a symptom of an impure faith and the need for mind renewal. When our faith is refined/purified, we will know the truth in our hearts and then will fell whatever the truth feels like. When we believe a lie, we will feel what we believe. It really is that simple.
As long as the church sees TPM as a means of pain management for the troubled people in the community, and emotional pain viewed as a problem or a weakness that needs to be overcome, the majority of people in the church will never consider TPM. Denial and suppression will be the solutions of choice and performance will continue to be applauded.
As people are able to perform well and keep a lid on their emotional pain –other than when they slip up and “suffer for Jesus”— there will be no perceived need for TPM. If embracing TPM means that a person might have to take off his clothes and expose his disease, he will probably remain covered. As long as TPM is presumed to be only for “needy” people, those who believe they are not “needy”- the successful pain managers – will never consider it. Unless this viewpoint changes, TPM will continue to be directed towards those who cannot get their “stuff” together. As long as emotional pain is viewed as a problem that needs resolution, feeling badly will be deemed as a sign of spiritual weakness.
This false belief, that performance-based spirituality —trying to act like Jesus— is spiritual, runs deep in the local church. The person who can keep his pain hidden and act like Jesus, is deemed mature. Denial of our condition is fortified with a church belief system that rewards performance and spiritual suppression and rejects perceived weakness and emotional pain. This lie is holding a large portion of Christ’s Body in bondage. If negative emotion is evidence of the lies we believe, but we refuse to admit feeling them, our lie-based thinking will remain intact.
As long as we believe that staying on top of what we feel and not being “controlled by our emotions” equals success, we are doomed to our own suppressing bondage. God desires to expose our false beliefs so that He may replace them with His truth. What we feel in any given moment is a manifestation of what we believe. It is not just the overwhelming pain that is considered here, even the slightest irritation we may feel is an exposure of belief. Any exposure of negative emotion can be a divine opportunity for mind-renewal and greater freedom. To suppress and deny our negative emotions is to keep the lies in place and to forfeit opportunities for gaining more truth and freedom.
TPM was never designed to be a “pain management” tool. Emotional pain was never viewed as the problem to be fixed, but rather as a necessary part of the ministry process. Emotional pain is the vehicle that helps us identify the true problem, our beliefs. TPM is about identifying the lies we all believe that are exposed by what we feel. Just because we are suppressing and controlling what we feel does not mean that we are free from lie-based thinking.
If the church would let go of the notion that TPM is a ministry only for troubled people, and discover that it is a means by which all believers may cooperate in God’s faith-refining work, then all could benefit. We are all infected with lie-based “leprosy”, so there is no need for a special camp. Having “leprosy” is not about how much you have or how bad it is, but only that you have it. All of us are infected with lie-based thinking. All of us are called to have our mind’s renewed.
We can encourage one another to address the painful emotions we all experience as an indication of the lies we believe and our need for mind-renewal. There is no “them and us” in the Body of Christ. We are all growing into the fullness of God as we submit to Him, who is at work in each of us refining our faith, renewing our minds and transforming us into the “… likeness of His son”. (Rom. 8:29)