Check out this podcast: Emotional Health – Dr Brian Birkett (Springboard Consulting) – 27 Apr 2017
Earlier this month I had the privilege to be interviewed by 20Twenty on Vision Christian Radio with Neil Johnson, it was a great experience sharing about the importance of emotional health amongst Christians and some of the works that we do here in Springboard. Here’s the audio recording and transcribe of the interview:
Neil: We know that when we feel good, when we’re confident, when we’re aware of our circumstances, we’re able to cope with life’s challenges and recover from setbacks more easily. So let’s spend some time talking about emotional health. If your emotional health is not as good as you think it should be, there are some things you may be able to do to adjust things and in accordance with what it is to be a follower of Christ. Well our guest is Dr. Brian Birkett who’s had a vast academic and pastoral ministry to the body of Christ in Australia and all around the world, until recently he was dean of faculty and head of ministry at Harvest Bible College in Victoria. He has a new venture underway called Springboard Consulting which empowers people for purpose. Among other things, he’s also a partner relations manager for Asian Outreach but he teaches on issues to do with emotional health around the world and Brian Birkett is joining us. Hello Brian, welcome to 2020.
Brian: Good day Neil, just a real pleasure and privilege to join you and your listeners.
Neil: Brian, you literally do teach these types of things about emotional health around the world. In fact you’re about to head off internationally and seminars to do in the US.
Brian: Yes, across in the US I’ll be speaking in an Asian church on this topic and then I’ll be linking with World Specialist on emotional health name Pete Scazzero who has written a book about Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and a number of other books but his website would give you those details and it gives real principles for how to go about being a follower of Christ and also emotionally healthy.
Neil: Well Brian let’s start with emotional health because is that the same as mental health or is it a subset of mental health? How do you describe what emotional health is?
Brian: I’d see emotional health as separate to mental health. Mental health and emotional health both flow out of one another. I’d see emotional health as intrinsic for our well being, if we think of ourselves as followers of Christ to be spiritually mature we need to be emotionally healthy because it’s very hard to have quiet times to be able to worship God, to really listen to him and commune with him and even serve him if we’re breaking up on the inside and we’ve got unresolved conflict or unforgiveness or different pain or brokenness. For things that have been done to us or things that we may have done so yeah emotional health is separate to mental health, they’re very much implied.
Neil: Sometimes things can appear to be good on the surface, sometimes we’re good at putting a mask on and we’re smiling and things look good but somehow rather just below the surface there are things that are simmering and even things disintegrating in our lives. Is this part of what tends to happen if you start to discover that your emotional health is not as quite as good as you would like it to be?
Brian: Yeah, looks really good point Neil let’s say that’s in a sense that’s emotional unhealthiness isn’t it? It’s like a couple of quick examples would be it’s like that beach ball that you’ve got in the swimming pool and you’re trying to push the beach ball down and you’re trying to hold it down. We all know what happens to the beach ball it bounces harder out of the surface and pops at any directions in ways that we don’t necessarily want to. So that’s like emotional unhealthiness, blowing out like the second example I’d use is like a volcano. We don’t know when the volcano is going to erupt but we hear some simmerings and we see some symptoms so it is emotional unhealthiness and the third one would be, it’s like an iceberg. Underneath that we might know 10% or 20%, maybe 30% if we’re very self aware but there is a lot under the surface in each one of us that can blow and can recourse challenges.
Neil: Okay when it comes to emotional health Brian and mix in there the person who has Christian faith, how different is it for someone who has this relationship with Christ, to being able to govern this sort of emotional health. As suppose to perhaps someone who doesn’t have Christ, doesn’t have the boundaries, doesn’t have the undergirding of what faith brings into our life. Is there a difference between how Christians are emotionally and those who are not? And I know that’s general question but is there a broad brush stroke that you can make?
Brian: Very much the first thing I’d say we’re all human beings so we all suffer from whether it be greed, for lust or we can suffer from heartache or relational breakdown, we can suffer from challenges even addictive behaviors, even life threatening illnesses. We all go through all the whole range of emotions personally whether a person of faith or a person that hasn’t yet found Christ, so we all go through that but I believe the person who has found Christ who’ve found the hope of Christ has something incredible and someone incredible that we can tap into and draw from and find us help in our journey. I was just talking with a fellow today as I was coming back from being with my daughter and as we were chatting he talked about his previous drug addiction, he’s now got some alcohol addiction but I was able because he’s a believer to talk to with him about the fact that God promises he loves him, he’ll never leave him and he won’t forsake him and he looked at me with almost like a small sunshine of hope on his face. To know that God really does care for him and is their with him because he’s a believer who’s struggling with an addiction. I think that makes it transformative difference but I don’t want to cookie cutter, I don’t want to brush over it because we still go through the heartache, we still go through the challenges and we still have to really deal with some of the emotional brokenness in each one of us.
Neil: I mentioned that when you are going through all sorts of trials, challenges maybe you’ll lose a job, you’ve got relationship issues at hand in your marriage or in your family, those sorts of things put a strain on emotional health. Is there an easy way to make a sort of assessment, I’m in need now or all things are going okay now. Is there a self assessment technique that you have?
Brian: Absolutely! I do. Firstly, I’d reflect on it like the flashing mud on the dashboard issue or running out of oil or running out of petrol or a light mud flash. You better do something or the engine might freeze or you might conk out. I like to use Galatians 5:22-23, I say to myself, how am I going out of 1-10 or from poor to very good, however you want to measure it in the way that I’m loving other people. Am I struggling with that? Am I finding other people tired? How am I going with my joy? Joy is not just happiness in a situation but joy is actually inner hope and inner strength that comes. Am I at peace? Am I unsettled? Am I troubled? Am I feeling confused or do I have some inner peace and I go right through those 9 fruits of the spirit and quite regularly I’ll ask the Lord how am I doing with you and how am I doing in myself. I’d say in the sense God has given us a way we can test ourselves, how we’re going emotionally and if you jump on the springboardconsulting.com.au website, I have a test right at the front of the website, front page. Most was written mostly for pastors because that’s our primary focus. Anyone can answer that and it’s a 20 question test that seeks to help, to look at how a person’s really going.
Neil: Interestingly, pastors might be pretty good at hiding some of these sort of thing but pastors are under much more pressure than a lot of people who are sitting in church on Sunday might appreciate. What is it that puts pastors under that sort of pressure that they are under.
Brian: I was talking to the Bible college principal yesterday and as we were chatting, we’re reflecting upon the fact that within churches what we do is we set the pastor up above the people. It’s kind of just what we do as human beings whether in Australia or wherever and in Australia it’s even worse because we’d like to cut down on ____ so we set these pastor up as the leader, as the ____, as the chiefest. My friend in ___ who would say and we want them to be perfect, we want them to be pure, we want them to have it all together and we’re looking to them for spiritual nourishment, encouragement and leadership and guidance and counsel and all those things. A number of those things are very reasonable for us to be looking from pastors for but we also need to recognise that pastors are simply human beings that are on the journey just like we are. We need to see them as men and women that are on that journey of becoming more like Christ, just like everyone else. Unfortunately, our system of church and I’m not banging the church I love the church deeply but our system of church sets pastors up to fail. The second thing I think it does to pastors is it doesn’t necessarily give pastors support and people around them that they can trust and journey with. After all is I found during my ministry within large local church, almost a dozen pastors came to me personally at different times and said “Look I’m struggling with something I need to just talk with someone, I need to deeply find, I need to deal with some stuff.” And it helped me to see that truly pastors can be like that loneliness or a long distance runner by themselves and we need to get behind them, pray for them, strengthen them. My question to our listeners would be, how’s your pastor doing? and how can you support your pastor?
Neil: We’re talking emotional health, Dr. Brian Birkett is our guest and we’ll continue our conversation in just a short while.
Neil: We’re talking emotional health and our special guest, Dr. Brian Birkett teaches emotional health all around the world. Brian as we talk about this issue of emotional health, we were talking about pastors how they’re under a real lot of pressure. A lot of your ministry is taken up with training pastors to be able to deal with these sorts of issues. Is it just individuals who can be emotionally unhealthy or can whole families or even whole churches be emotionally unhealthy too?
Brian: Not really true, I remember as I was ministering in one family, it’s family therapy really. The house can ____ in crises on a Sunday and I’d meet with this family, I made a condition that we’d meet the whole family if everyone was there. I met with the husband and wife and five children and as I met with them I gave the youngest the first opportunity to speak about how they felt in the situation all the way up to mom and dad. They each air their different concerns because of the dysfunction that was within the family so in that situation the family was really unhealthy and I thank the Lord we saw some breakthrough in that situation and some real intervention for ____. The children ended up marrying one of the daughters to another fellow from overseas and we had a lovely celebration but truly family struggle. Also churches, absolutely churches can be the most wonderful community of love and support, value and care, discipleship and equipping on the face of the earth but church is also can be one of the most harmful, damaging, as they say church _____ sometimes we can unfortunately in our churches be judgemental, be critical, just controlling of people and put expectations on people instead of nurturing and encouraging them.
Neil: You can’t ignore emotional health, if you’ve gone through this perhaps the self-test we were talking about. You realise that you’ve got a whole lot of emotionally unhealthy areas in your own life where you recognise things in your church. What are a few quick steps to regaining emotional health Brian?
Brian: What I like to say to my Malaysian friends, I don’t know Neil with you there, eat and talk and ______, is a Malaysian meal and it has this sauce and it has corns, it has noodles and sorts of wonderful ingredients that make it superbly tasty and you can add some chili and use some chopsticks and enjoy the meal. I’d say for emotional health is three key ingredients that will help a person to be emotionally healthy and I like to say that’s like an antidote for what the world, the dust of the world comes from. One mistake sometimes, others abuse and others harm and others terrible things that they do to us that come upon our lives. Those three ingredients, I found those three ingredients from interviewing other 1300 people from my doctorate study, my doctorate was on developing emotionally healthy disciples at City Life church which is a large church in Melbourne. Over 1300 people are interviewed, over 200 books, there are a hundred Bible verses and as I research I distilled it down to three things. The first thing is that for emotional health we need authenticity, which comes out of Matthew 22:35-40. We need to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The first is authenticity, the second key ingredient is transparency, so first one is being open and honest to God and ourselves. The second one is being open and honest to other trusted Christian friends, finding the right people not everyone but disclosing to people in our journey that are around us that can support us in our journey. The third one is a community of believers who love us for who we are and want to empower us to be all we can be. Which is really a church or a small group that can journey with us. I’d say those as great antidotes to help us to be emotionally healthy on the journey.
Neil: In your webinar Brian, can people listen to our conversation now, access your webinar online?
Brian: Yes, absolutely they can it’s through Kingdom Business Network, so kingdombusinessnetwork.com.au. A friend of mine has put that webinar on, so by all means they could access through Kingdom Business Network and then resources and blogs and various things are written. Our listeners can find those on springboardconsulting.com.au and also we have a Springboard Consulting Facebook page and so there is Facebook live where I speak about these sorts of topics. Example would be hungry for more? And so a Christian or pastor who’s really seeking more of God or are you drowning? And recognising that sometimes we all go through periods and experiences of drowning and so this ___ along with my colleague Andrew ___ who’s really written some helpful things for Pastors and believers.
Neil: Well we’ve been talking about emotional health, that website again is springboardconsulting.com.au by Rev. Brian Birkett, our guest. Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to us today on 2020.
Brian: Thanks for the privilege Neil and the Lord bless you and the listeners and may each of you have emotional health on the journey with Christ. Thanks Neil!