Starting in the Spirit but Finishing in the Flesh | World Challenge

Starting in the Spirit but Finishing in the Flesh

We need God our entire lives the same way a very small child needs a loving caregiver. Trying to live as if we can take care of ourselves will only hurt us in the end. God wants us to rely on him for his transformative power in our lives. This week, Pastor and Counselor Doug Welbourn joins Gary Wilkerson to share how dependency on God has enormous benefits for our spiritual and emotional health.

We need God our entire lives the same way a very small child needs a loving caregiver. Trying to live as if we can take care of ourselves will only hurt us in the end. God wants us to rely on him for his transformative power in our lives. This week, Pastor and Counselor Doug Welbourn joins Gary Wilkerson to share how dependency on God has enormous benefits for our spiritual and emotional health.

Gary: Hi, Gary Wilkerson here on the Gary Wilkerson podcast.  I'm excited about today's podcast, I think we're going to see and hear some amazing things. 

We're going to be talking with Doug Welbourn today about developing the inner strength to carry out the kind of ministry that God's called you to and soul care, some really good issues.

Doug was a pastor for many, many years in New Jersey, and now works partly with World Challenge doing pastors conferences all over the world and leading very life changing ministry there and also then personal counseling ministry with other pastors as well. Doug, welcome, glad you're here and looking forward to talking to you about some deep issues, some things that are really deep in the heart.

Doug: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Gary: You were my pastor for a good number of years when we lived in New Jersey. My wife and I, and four kids there, you're amazing pastor and now moved on to something else. Let's work backwards, what are you doing right now?

Doug: I was a pastor for a very long time, and over 30 years actually. I came from a pastor's family, so it was kind of a natural transition for me. I kind of knew what to expect and slid into it pretty easily. I pastored all different sizes, from like, 60 to 1,200. I found out over time that my gift was in regard to pastoring, revitalizing churches that were hurting. For some reason, the inside is always been very important to me, as opposed to creating an outer appearance of health. I've always wanted to pursue true inner health. I found myself in the later years moving, I actually worked for our denomination for a while, and then a company that did this. It was their purpose to go to churches that were struggling.

Usually, as you go on, you try to go to larger and larger churches but for me, I would go to struggling churches with the express purpose of intentionally dealing with systemic dysfunction in those churches and working with the leadership to get to a place where they were willing to deal with those hard issues. It could be very, very difficult but saw some wonderful change in those churches. Sometimes, people would leave or people would be hurt by that and I'm sorry for that but that's what it took because sometimes those people were-- They weren't well really in some emotional ways and they weren’t willing to look at it.

Gary: You see, I think you and I experienced some of the similar things when we do pastors’ conferences or ministering to churches and people within the church as well as that. There's this perception that because you're a Christian, some kind of salvation experience happened to you that you're definitely going to be healthy now, and your family's going to be tight knit and all together and you’re not going to have any emotional or relational problems. Your experience would say otherwise?

Doug: Yes, a big otherwise.

Gary: Okay, not just otherwise, a big otherwise.

Doug: There's still not a lot of people addressing this. There are people now, Pete Scazzero is a guy who's really making an impact on that particular issue of just because you’ve become a Christian means you're emotionally healthy and--

Gary: I think you recommend that book. I read it Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

Doug: I would recommend that. Then there are some others that are beginning to get into this kind of stuff so I'm thankful for that.

Gary: Do you think the expectation of somebody who becomes a Christian and then the expectation of people who are already Christians are that becoming a Christian or living Christian life is supposed to kind of almost automatically take care of all of your emotional relational difficulties. You're going to be sort of like, “Now I'm not going to be lonely or now I'm not going to be depressed, or now I'm not going to be suicidal or now I'm not going to be addicted.” Do you feel like there's an expectation for a decision for Christ to solve all your problems?

Doug: I think there is a lot of that. I think that teaching is found in a lot of churches, not all churches. I think some teachers teach that the more Bible you know intellectually will produce that. I also think unfortunately, the way we're moving in our society, there is more and more apathy, which would say-- I hate to say this but, "I don't really care. I don't want to go to hell so I'm going to accept Jesus as my Savior,” but they don't think very much about their Christianity enough to really analyze those questions. I think that's a growing blight.

I would say five years ago, how you described it would describe the majority of Christians. I have become a Christian so now the Bible says, “I'm a new creature so I'm a new creature. I'm not going to get depressed.” Someone says, “You have a problem, you should probably go and get some help.” They’ll say, “I'm a Christian, why would I do that?” There's still a lot of that I think.

Gary: Is it a false expectation? We don't want to belittle the power of the experience of coming to Christ. He washes our sins away, he gives us a new heart, begins the process of renewing our mind and yet the expectation is sort of like, “Okay, now your marriage is supposed to be instantaneously healed. If you have kids who are prodigal sons, they're going to come home.” That's not the reality, right? Would you say it's--

Doug: I think you're right and we don't belittle it and probably some stuff is happening because God is in you. God works in ways we don't understand. You do become a Christian, some people have more of a transformation right away than others. We've all met certain people that have been instantly maybe released from addiction or something, that's not the norm. Most Christians still have to go through rehab and the normal process but that is, there may be some fruit. I don't like to limit God and say, “There's nothing happening,” but I agree with you that that attitude that says, “I'm a Christian now and so I'm transformed,” is a fallacy and a dangerous fallacy.

Gary: You have somebody that's kind of where you come along in a sense, whether it be a pastor who's saying, “I know, I shouldn't be depressed or I know I shouldn't feel like giving up or I know, I shouldn't be caught in this habitual pattern of sin whether it be a pastor or a member of a congregation, a Christian.” That's where you come in and start ministering to them and what do you start doing to help them through some of that stuff? I know that's a really broad question but—

Doug: Well, I think you can break that up. Sometimes people don't want to hear it because they haven't had many problems and that has worked for them. Some people, you might call them legalist or moralists, they try to live a good life and that's worked for them. Eventually, it won't but for now, they don't want to hear any other mumbo jumbo about a deeper life or anything like that. Then, there are those who they’ve become a Christian and one of three things happen.

They say it doesn't work so they get mad or they run or they just sit in the back of the church disillusioned. They don't quit, because they do believe they're a Christian but they're disillusioned. They have to get desperate enough to say, "There's got to be more than this," or they just put everybody in a bucket, and then they can be in a church and you can have a pastor that comes in and starts talking about a new message.

What will happen is, if a message has been preached like we've been talking about, you're a Christian now and so you need to be doing this, and this, and this because you have the power of God in you. If you bring in another pastor who begins preaching, which we're probably going to talk about this other message, it will create… It's what the Bible calls a new wineskin. The new wineskin will explode because… or the old wine skin will explode because you're going to pour that new wine in there and you're going to have conflict and stuff like that.

Gary: I want to get to what you're talking about the message. Before we do, you mentioned about somebody getting to the place of-- You've got these people that have a laissez-faire attitude about their faith. They're like, "Well, I'm saved, I’m a sit at the back of the church," with an attitude or maybe angry and repressing it. For the one that you mentioned that becomes aware of their inner turmoil, the pain, and the suffering and they're desperate for help.

They come to you because you deal a lot with Christian leaders, but broaden out to anybody whether you're Christian leader or not, they're desperate, they finally want help. They say like, "Here's the presenting problem. What do you do as a counselor leader to try to help walk them through that?

Doug: Okay. Without getting into detail about a lot of techniques, I'll go right to the message, that I'm trying to help them understand. Pastors are complicit, but sometimes it's because they don't know themselves. The reason that people are having problems is they don't apply what happens at their second birth when they're born-again, saved, any terminology you want to use, they don't apply that to after they're born again when in reality, it's not that complicated.

Though it is more complicated but it's the same message after as it is when you become a Christian. When you become a Christian, what happens? You become aware that I cannot deal with the sin. I don't have the ability. I'm a sinner. Whatever it might be, I might be a horrible sinner, I might be a rapist, or whatever or I might just be a person that's very angry, or I lie or whatever.

I come to Jesus, and I say, "I see clearly that I'm not right, and I can't fix it so will you forgive my sins and receive me? I receive you. Will you receive me into your family, and make me one of your children so I become a Christian?" It’s a wonderful thing, and that never goes away but then that's it. What needs to happen is that exact same thing called sanctification if you want a theological word needs to continue, and for some reason, which I won't take the time to get into right now but several reasons, people can seem to have a very, very difficult time most Christians, almost all Christians, applying that basic principle of Christianity going forward, they instead revert back to trying to be good.

They know they weren't good enough at salvation, but they try to be good enough afterwards. It's illogical, really. Ultimately, my goal is to convince them that just as they couldn't become a Christian, they needed Jesus to forgive their sins. They need just as much, that's the key, you can't do this halfway or partway. They need Jesus just as much to live their lives, overcoming sin and becoming a person that is like Jesus, which we're told is a goal or one of the major goals by Jesus in us, now He's in us, okay?

When we were saved, He came inside of us. That's the great miracle. That's a wonderful miracle. His power, His life. That's what the Bible, that's how it's referred to His power. It's a lot. It's His very life, the life that promoted Him from death to life, resurrection life.

Gary: You were saying earlier in the conversation, I was listening to you talk about the Greek word there was interesting about life, right? He said it was it's not bios.

Doug: Yes, it's interesting because in the Greek, there's different words. Several different words, but two main words for life one is bios. That's our regular physical life, you get biology. We live our regular lives and we try to live a Christian life with bios. That will not work. It didn't work before you were a Christian and it doesn't work. We can try to be good which is moralism. It's like every other religion. The problem is, a lot of Christians live like other religions. I'm not saying that they're not Christians, or they are in other religions, but their core belief, unfortunately, becomes the same and that is, to please God enough to be accepted.

Well, they're already accepted. They'll never stop being accepted. They have to stop trying to be accepted. They're still trying to do that with bios, be good, be good. That's called moralism or behaviorism or if you want to get into a biblical discussion, it would be legalism. Zoe is this exciting idea of, it's literally the life of God. This gets me very excited every time I talk about it, because this is what's been given to us.

Everything that's in God is in us. I'm going to have to take a sidebar in order to help with that, because the question immediately comes to most people, well, if I have the life of God and then why aren't I acting like God. The reason for that is that God, Jesus says that we need to identify with God, we need to walk the walk he walked. Jesus walked the walk the Father did.

He went to the cross, even though he never sinned. He says, "You need to walk the life I walk even though you're without sin now too in order to be like me." In fact, He said you need to pick up your cross every day and follow me. What's the cross? If it's not Jesus hanging on it, what is this thing? The cross is a path that if you're going to change, if this life of God that you have is this great gift, the zoe, this is going to begin to come out, you have to walk the cross.

The cross is Jesus through the Holy Spirit and I'm going to give you the short term but he is going to lead you, everything has a purpose, that's what we forget. He's going to lead you in your life and some things will be good. He’ll lead people in your life that will teach you things quickly, and then they might disappear or He might lead a teacher into your life. It can be anything. He's so creative and smart. He's so big, He's beyond anything we can dream of, okay?

You just got to keep reminding yourself that God is like-- He's so big that if you saw Him, your head would blow off. He's massive, so He can do anything and he takes pleasure in our lives and moving things around. Part of it though, is the cross that's an instrument of pain so He's going to bring some pain into your life. No one wants that, I don't want it, I've had it. I hate it. You hate it, I hate it but if you'll walk with Him, the purpose is to draw you to Him during those times and if you'll do that, rather than run away, get mad at Him.

Which is okay if you do for a season, this is a process but in time, as you walk with Him, you'll begin to see it's Him working in you. Say you get sick and it lasts for a while, you're saying, “I'm a younger person, what's going on, I'm mad at God.” If you wait on Him and move towards Him, and say, “I love you,” and say, “Show your love to me.” Over time, things begin to happen inside. It's a journey, as you do that journey, you'll be surprised God will begin to show Himself and you'll begin to know His love and you'll begin to love Him.

That's the journey of the cross, okay? There's a story in the Bible, where Jesus says, “There's a seed and in the seed, we all know is life.” You plant a seed and a flower will come up or a tree or whatever but a seed is very impressive, right? Nothing is more or less impressive than a seed, little brown or gray thing is like, “I got you a seed,” great, thanks. No one wants a seed. But you take that seed, you put it in the ground, Jesus says, And there's warmth and there's moisture and minerals, and the husk comes off.

Then, a life that is inside is spectacular and it explodes. He says that, “He will multiply.” That's what's happening with the cross, the more you grow, the more you walk and allow God to do what He's going to do, that husk breaks. More and more of that zoe life begins to grow and flow out of you. It’s not you doing it, it's Him doing it and you find yourself being kinder and more loving. You find yourself being a different person, it doesn't mean you don't fall back and do stupid stuff and be a jerk, because it takes time and He's gracious.

Gary: It's good, I like that. That's good encouragement, I think that does speak a lot to the question of the person who's struggling. Those are some really good Bible [crosstalk]

Doug: Translating it to a person that wouldn't be, I wouldn't do that. Five minutes I'd be working with them for a long time, dealing with their pain, which is real but ultimately, I would want them to see that Christ wants to live through them.

Key Questions from the Podcast

  • When I become a Christian will all my emotional and relational problems be fixed right away?
  • What can the Christian who finds themselves in inner turmoil and struggle do to find freedom?
  • What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?

Notable Quotes from the Podcast

The reason that people are having problems is they don't apply what happens at their second birth when they're born-again, saved, any terminology you want to use, they don't apply that to after they're born again. Sanctification, if you want a theological word, needs to continue, and for some reason…people can seem to have a very, very difficult time applying that basic principle of Christianity going forward, they instead revert back to trying to be good. They know they weren't good enough at salvation, but they try to be good enough afterwards. – Doug Welbourn

We can try to be good, which is moralism. It's like every other religion. The problem is, a lot of Christians live like other religions. I'm not saying that they're not Christians, or they are in other religions, but their core belief, unfortunately, becomes the same and that is, to please God enough to be accepted. Well, they're already accepted. They'll never stop being accepted. They have to stop trying to be accepted. – Doug Welbourn

The cross, that's an instrument of pain, so He's going to bring some pain into your life. No one wants that. I don't want it. I've had it. I hate it. You hate it. But if you'll walk with Him, the purpose is to draw you to Him during those times and if you'll do that, rather than run away, get mad at Him, which is okay if you do for a season, this is a process but in time, as you walk with Him, you'll begin to see it's Him working in you. – Doug Welbourn

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

About Doug Welbourn

Doug Welbourn has served in ministry for over 30 years. He has pastored in several states and in churches of all different sizes from 60 to 1100. Doug served in Abidjan West Africa as an International Pastor. Doug’s experience also includes working as a consultant for the western churches of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He specialized in the revitalization of unhealthy and dysfunctional churches. He has served on the Spiritual Care Team of Samaritans Purse where he traveled internationally to minister to the rescue and developmental workers across the globe. Doug has been a speaker at workshops and conferences here and abroad and writes for Christian publications. He has three grown children and three stupendous grand children. He loves to ride his bike, follow everything Boston sports and even dabbles in interior design.

About Gary Wilkerson

Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

Facebook | Twitter