All I Need to Know about Church Leadership I Learned from My Massage Therapist – Part II

Many times in church leadership I have run into a problem where the symptom is different than the cause.  Someone is upset, frustrated, or concerned about an issue but the way it comes out or is expressed (the symptom) is very different from the true reason (the cause).  Another word for this is passive aggressiveness.  It is an art form in some people but a royal pain to people in leadership as they try to root out the cause while having to deal with the symptoms. 
Massage Therapy has a couple of terms for this as well, trigger points and pain referrals.  By definition, active trigger points are tender to touch and have a signature referral pain pattern.  This referral pattern explains why the pain is often in a location removed from the trigger point.  Where it hurts is not always where the problem is. Each muscle has its own pattern of pain referral.  Knowing these patterns is essential to troubleshooting soft tissue pain.  Referral pattern knowledge also helps distinguish between the cause and the symptom. 
For example, I suffer from seated chair victim.  Since I end up sitting at a desk for hours at a time my hamstrings shorten.  They become shortened because my legs are bent, which is the natural position they are in when you sit with your feet on the floor in a chair.  After a while those muscles are naturally shortened, or tightened, because of this position.  What happens is these tightened muscles then add pressure or pain to my lower back.  The cause is my shortened hamstrings and the symptoms is lower back pain.  Do you know of anyone who suffers from lower back pain and sits in front a computer screen for hours a day?  To learn more on Seated Chair Victim clickhere.
A keen and knowledgeable Massage Therapist will work the cause of the problem not only the symptom.  When my massage therapist works on my hamstrings it hurts and it is not a relaxing massage BUT my lower back pain diminishes.  If she only worked on my lower back, the pain would return soon enough.  Knowing the trigger point and its pain referrals allows massage therapists to diagnose the cause of the soft tissue pain to gain a longer and more permanent solution for the client.
There are books and books about trigger points and pain referrals because they do have a set pattern.  The key to those in church leadership positions is to learn the trigger points and pain referrals of their congregations.  Although there is no book on this subject specific to your congregation, there usually are patterns that evolve which can be diagnosed over time.
For example, Mrs. Betsy doesn’t show up for worship any more.  She attends her Sunday School class but then goes home instead of to worship.  She doesn’t attend any of the meetings of the committee she serves on either.  It seems, to the pastor, that she has given up on her church except for her Sunday School class.  She assumes the cause is because of something she said or did.  Her lack of attendance and participation are her pain referrals or symptoms.  As the pastor sits down with Mrs. Betsy and gets her to open up about why she has pulled away, the pastor learns that she is truly upset.  With more digging the cause is revealed.  It seems that in a grocery store months ago, another church member was very rude to her.  Something happened and an argument broke out.  This fellow lay person sits in her section at worship and sits on the same committee as she does. 
Finally the true caused is understood and discovered.  Now the pastor can spend time dealing with the cause of the problem, mending the relationship, and working through this conflict.  Whether that will heal that relationship or not may still be up in the air but at least the cause was addressed and not only the symptoms.  Plus the pastor learns it is not about her, which relieves some pressure and worry in her own soul. 
It is hard work, pain staking work at times, to get to the root cause of an issue.  It is especially difficult if people do not want to tell you the true cause of their frustrations.  Once those causes are flushed out good Church Leaders will recognize the referral patterns and start to think ahead.  They will recognize situations or decisions that may cause these trigger points to flare and work hard to lessen the blow.  The important thing is not to get so caught in the web of symptoms that the cause is forgotten or ignored.  If the cause is ignored the problem will not go away.  Just as a good Massage Therapist, a pastor has to work the cause to build a healthy and vibrant Body of Christ.
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All I Need to Know about Church Leadership I Learned from My Massage Therapist – Part I

My wife, Alycia, is a very talented and gifted Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist (check out her Facebook page).  She knows the muscles of a human body more than anyone I know.  Just as a brief testimony, during our recent move I did something to my back.  I literally could not stand up straight and almost couldn’t walk.  An hour later I got off her table and felt much better.  The pain had subsided and I could move again.  Is she a miracle worker?  That day I would have said YES! 
I recently was on her table again getting some work done on my shoulders and neck when I realized the link between Massage Therapy and Church Leadership.  These series of posts will demonstrate some links between the two professions and what we, as Church Leaders, can learn from Massage Therapy.
Quick stop on my soapbox: The profession of License Massage and Bodywork Therapists (LMBTs) gets linked to the sex trade very easily because of the ‘massage parlors’ around the world that offer ‘happy endings’.  My wife is not a sex worker, nor are the vast majority of LMBTs.  But a few rotten apples always ruin the reputation of every apple.  She takes her profession, her calling, very seriously and handles her business with the utmost professionalism.  Please leave all gutter thoughts in the gutter.  We can be grown ups and move beyond the thought that whenever a human being touches another human being it always leads to sex.  These posts have nothing to do with any of that and the mere mention is truly offensive.  This profession has worked very hard to move beyond that notion, let’s help them continue to move forward.
With that said, my first post on “All I Need to Know about Church Leadership I Learned from My Massage Therapist” has to do with letting go.  As Alycia worked my neck muscles, trying to loosen up the knots, she kept giving me instructions to ‘let go’.  As she held my head in her hand and manipulated it side to side to access the right muscles I kept trying to control it without realizing it.  The best way for her to tilt my head in the right angle would be to simple relax all the muscles in my neck and let her do the work.  By ‘letting go’, I enabled her to do the work she needed to do. 
Many of us in the ministry have a problem with control.  We like it and we don’t want to give it up.  This fact can have implications in either direction.  It is a good thing because we can help steer a church or committee in the direction we see fit.  It can be bad because we take away the power from the laity to do the work they need to do, not to mention taking power away from God.  The art of Church Leadership is found in knowing when to lead from the front and when to lead from behind.  When do we allow others to do the work and when do we step forward?  How we answer that question tells us a lot about our leadership skills and mindset.  But to walk that line and know when to do one verse the other is tough.  Then there are the other times where we need to get out of the way all together.
“Let Go!”  As my wife’s voice echoed in my ears as she stretched my head towards my shoulders I was reminded that I am not the savior to my church.  My congregation already has a savior.  My leadership, my vision, my pride, my desires are not the things to be concerned with.  Let go.  God has placed a calling upon this congregation and that is what I need to be searching for, that is what I need the people of my congregation searching for.  We need to remove the I, me, my, we, our, out of the conversation and listen to God instead.  We need to let go.  I need to let go.
When we let go and enable ourselves to be pushed, stretched, and manipulated by the hands of God we open ourselves up to true discipleship, transformation, and sanctification.  Even the smallest notion that we can do it on our own removes our full faith in God.  We need to let go more as Church Leaders.  We need to let go the ideas we hold dear in our minds because we want to build ourselves up, seek credit and accolades, or look good to our bosses.  We need to let go and rest our hearts, our ideas, our trust in the hands of God.  Let God lead us to where we need to be and stop attempting to tell God how it should be done.
We can see the process of letting go and then attempting to take control back in the people of Israel.  They would follow God and then slip away, be called back and then slip away.  Letting go of our power and relying on God is a process.  Letting go is a journey towards holiness and to be made Christ-like.  May you be able to let go in your ministry and in your walk with God.

Mark 1:40-45 – Pain Referrals

I have the great joy and honor of being married to a massage therapist. My wife is called, yes I feel by God, to be in this field and does it on an extremely professional level. She is great in diagnosing a person’s issues and setting a course of treatment. Her knowledge astounds me and she truly is a healer.

My mind goes to her as I read this week’s lectionary text. Verse 41, “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” The word used here is haptomai which translate as touch and caresses. Jesus reaches out and through the power of touch heals a man with a debilitating and social scaring disease, leprosy. Before this man could be healed though, he had to be willing to open himself up to Christ. He placed himself in a vulnerable situation in order to receive great mercy and healing. “If you choose, you can make me clean.” He exposed himself to God and God had mercy.

Pain referrals are vital to massage therapy. It has been extremely educational for me to sit back and listen to my wife explain why I have the pain I have in my lower back. I am a person who suffers from Seated Chair Victim. Because of my long hours in front of a computer my hamstrings have shorten. When I stand up those shorten muscles pulls on my lower back. My lower back starts to hurt because those muscles are not the proper length. Through massage therapy those muscles can be lengthened back out and kept that way through daily stretching. The massage work to make this happen though is called neuromuscular massage therapy and is nothing like the spa treatment you can receive at a resort. This is work and it is painful at times as that muscle is lengthened.

What I have learned most of all is that where we feel pain is not necessarily where the problem is. My lower back hurts but that is caused by my hamstring pulling on it, not the muscles in my lower back. This is called a pain referral. To ease someone’s pain you need to find the source of the pain and it may not be in a place you think it is. One other example; if you have a ‘crick in your neck’ the knot in your muscle that may be causing this pain may actually be located in your upper back, not in your neck. As you can tell this gets complicated quick and that is why you need a properly trained massage therapist working on you to heal these issues.

When the leper is exposing himself to Jesus he is opening himself up to be healed. Jesus can sense that the disease maybe the place of the pain but not being welcomed into the community of faith is the true source of his pain. Jesus uses haptomai to get to the source of his pain and tells him to tell the priest that he is ready to be ritually clean once again.

To be truly healed by Christ we need to be willing to be open and honest about the source of our pain. You may be dealing with pain in your marriage but is that because of a lack of trust or inability to forgive? If you are having a painful time at your job is it because you’re not being paid enough or is it really that you are truly unhappy with who you have become? We need to learn where our pain referrals are so that we can honestly seek healing from the one that will show us great mercy.