Sagemont Church of Houston, Texas reaches out beyond its walls in its efforts to help pastors and their wives deal with stress. Sagemont is a Southern Baptist Convention church with approximately 14,000 members, which, according to their web site, provides a large variety of ministries and opportunities for those who attend (www.sagemontchurch.org).
The Counseling Ministry of Sagemont Church reaches out to pastors and their families through its "Stress in the Ministry" conferences, which are "designed to equip ministers to deal with distress in their personal or ministry life and to restore those who have fallen or feel like (or already have left) leaving the ministry." The conferences are open to ministers, "immediate family of a ministerial staff member," and full-time evangelists or church workers.
The material sent to prospective conference attendees includes the following:
A big incentive to participate is the fact that these conferences are free! Sagemont Church is so concerned about the well-being of pastors that they provide these conferences at no cost to those applicants who are accepted. Not only that. The whole trip, including air fare for pastors and their wives, hotel accommodations, and the full week-long conference are all free! How much suffering would a pastor have to be going through to accept a free vacation like this?
The director of the Counseling Ministry at Sagemont Church is E. Dixon Murrah, who is described in the brochure as a:
The brochure also states that:
The woman who does the test interpretation for the conferences is Sheryl Rooks, who is "currently completing her studies in a counseling degree program."
E. Dixon Murrah says that the conferences have hosted 600 pastors during the thirteen yeas of its existence. Consider the generosity of Sagemont Church and its confidence in these conferences having an impact on thousands of people. Add up the sizes of the congregations those pastors lead and the impact of these psychological conferences is vast.
The following are testimonials from pastors who attended the conferences:
So with all these testimonials, what could be wrong with these conferences? The Bible, prayer and fellowship with other pastors should certainly be sufficient to encourage pastors in their work. However, these conferences blend in psychological gleanings from psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies. When this kind of psychology is integrated, Scripture is interpreted and applied according to those psychological theories and therapies. Joining the Bible to psychology ("science falsely so-called" and made up of human opinions and vain philosophies) results in deceptive subterfuge, especially when lots of Scripture is quoted while really teaching the wisdom of men.
These conferences are led by psychologically trained individuals who use psychological content and psychological methodology, including psychological testing and interpretation. The format is somewhat like the encounter movement of the Sixties, only in a disguised form with a euphemistic title. One of the many psychological distortions in these conferences is that one is not able to have a proper understanding of God without really knowing one’s earthly father.
One of the psychological tests used in the conferences is the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis (TJTA). One of the most important information sources about tests is the Mental Measurements Yearbook (MMY). The Tenth Mental Measurements Yearbook says, "This reviewer’s major reservation concerning the TJTA is the question of its validity [integrity]." The reviewer says that "the main objective evidence for validity presented in the [TJTA] manual" is "certainly not sufficient to demonstrate test validity."
Christian ministries are embracing psychology without proof or justification for using psychological counseling theories or methods. While testimonies may abound, there is no substantive support for the efficacy of professional psychological counseling or psychologically tainted group sessions. The claims of psychologically trained and experienced experts as having greater understanding, insight, or interpersonal skills are not validated by research. Professional training and State licensing do not guarantee that the holder of these will do any better on the average than a nonprofessional people helper.
Dr. Robyn Dawes, a widely recognized researcher, discusses the results of research on the licensing of mental health professionals in his book House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth. Dawes says:
Dawes additionally speaks of two other conditions:
Dawes makes it clear that such evidence does not exist. In fact, Dawes explodes the myths surrounding state licensing of professional psychologists and other mental health workers in his chapter on "Licensing."
Dr. Joseph Durlak evaluated research projects in which the psychotherapeutic effectiveness of paraprofessionals was compared with that of mental health professionals, such as experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. The training of the paraprofessionals ranged from none to fifteen hours. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to think of those individuals as nonprofessionals or amateurs. Durlak says, "Overall, outcome results in comparative studies have favored paraprofessionals." He reports that in 40 of the 42 studies the "paraprofessionals" were better than the professionals at treating patients.
Considering the huge number of persons seeing mental health specialists, researcher Dr. Jerome Frank reveals the shocking fact of "the inability of scientific research to demonstrate conclusively that professional psychotherapists produce results sufficiently better than those of nonprofessionals."
Dr. Hans Strupp at Vanderbilt University conducted a study of trained and untrained therapists, in which he compared the mental-emotional improvement of two groups of male college students. Two groups of "therapists" were set up to provide two groups of students with "therapy." The two student groups were equated on the basis of mental-emotional distress as much as possible. The first group of therapists consisted of five psychiatrists and psychologists. "The five professional therapists participating in the study were selected on the basis of their reputation in the professional and academic community for clinical expertise. Their average length of experience was 23 years."
The second group of "therapists" consisted of seven college professors from a variety of fields, but without therapeutic training. Each untrained "therapist" used his own personal manner of care, and each trained therapist used his own brand of therapy. The students seen by the professors showed as much improvement as those seen by the highly experienced and specially trained therapists.
Dr. Allen Bergin and Dr. Michael Lambert report on a "nationwide interview survey conducted for the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health." The survey shows that "of those persons who actively sought help for personal problems, the vast majority contacted persons other than mental-health professionals, and that generally they were more satisfied with the help received than were those who chose psychiatrists and psychologists." It is sad that Christians would turn to mental-health professionals when the academic research would dictate a need to turn away from such pseudo experts.
By integrating psychology into Christian ministry many Christian pastors, leaders, and workers have compromised the Word of God, the power of the cross, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Psychotherapy is the counterfeit currency of the world and a substitute for the healing balm of Gilead. How long shall Christians have one foot in the wilderness of the counterfeit cure of minds and one in the promised land of the biblical cure of souls?
We have found that the Southern Baptist Convention is filled with psychoheresy in their mission agency, seminaries, and churches. It is not surprising to us that Sagemont would promote what we call psychoheresy in a pastors’ conference on "Stress in the Ministry."
PAL V10N3 (May-June 2002)
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