The Soul of Shame

According to Andy Crouch, shame is becoming a dominant force in the West. We see it in online bullying and takedowns, social relationships, books by Brené Brown, and in our own lives. If this is true, Crouch writes, "effective evangelism and discipleship in the next generation will require learning from cultures where shame, far more than guilt, is the human problem the gospel must address." In other words, we need a theology of shame.

I was fascinated to come across The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, written by psychiatrist Curt Thompson. Thompson argues that shame is ubiquitous, and that evil leverages shame to corrupt our relationships with God and others, disrupt our vocational callings, and bend us toward sin. "Shame is a primary means to prevent us from using the gifts we have been given." The Soul of Shame aims to help us recognize shame and its effects in our lives, and to turn toward healing through being known. This is possible, Thompson writes, because God pursues us and delights in knowing us, even the parts of us of which we're most ashamed. The gospel can free us to be known, to come out of hiding, and to create churches and communities that fight shame.

I'm intrigued by the way that Thompson integrates neurosciences and theology. I'm completely unqualified to evaluate his neuroscience, although what he writes seems credible to me. I'm a little more familiar with theology, and found Thompson's work here very helpful. This is not simply a self-help book. It's an intellectually challenging, theologically robust examination of shame with a practical purpose: to help us overcome shame, be known, and flourish in our vocations. He also helps us reflect on how we can cultivate churches that expose shame and make room for healing and creativity.

The greatest antidote to shame is the gospel. This doesn't mean that we will be free from shame; it "likes to do its work and, when exposed, retreat into the shadows, only then to reemerge no less potently than before." But we can learn to recognize the false stories that shame tells, and start to tell ourselves the story of the gospel instead:

The gospel tells a very different story: We are God’s sons and daughters in whom he is very pleased. He is delighted to be in our presence. And it is love’s business to draw us together as a people in an integrated whole of differentiated, linked parts who are capable of amazing creativity. No one is left behind or left out. But we are not blind to the fact that we have different work to do, with some being more visible than others.

Thompson concludes by asking some great questions. How would it look if we lived this way? What story will our souls and communities tell? Because shame is so prevalent in society and in our souls, it's important that we stop believing shame's story, and ask God to "enable us to retell our stories as part of the great Story he longs for all of us to join."

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Managing Life Through Prayer

Sometimes a single line in a book is transformative.

"I’m actually managing my life through my daily prayer time," writes Paul Miller in his excellent book A Praying Life:  Connecting With God In A Distracting World. I've thought of prayer in a number of ways before, but never as the way in which I'm managing my life. Here's the sentence in its context:

PRAYER IS WHERE I do my best work as a husband, dad, worker, and friend. I’m aware of the weeds of unbelief in me and the struggles in others’ lives. The Holy Spirit puts his finger on issues that only he can solve.

I’m actually managing my life through my daily prayer time. I’m shaping my heart, my work, my family—in fact, everything that is dear to me—through prayer in fellowship with my heavenly Father. I’m doing that because I don’t have control over my heart and life or the hearts and lives of those around me. But God does.

Since reading this, I've begun to think of prayer as the best way to deal with pretty much any challenge I'm facing. It means that I'm praying about more things than before. It doesn't mean that prayer is all that I do; there's obviously still a role for action. But I'm taking that action more prayerfully, and there are times when there is no clear path to solving a problem except through prayer. No problem, though. When you manage your life through prayer, then prayer isn't the last resort. It's the first.

I'm grateful for A Praying Life. The whole book is excellent. But this one sentence alone is worth the price of the book for me. It's changing the way that I look at prayer, and the way that I live my life.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

A Simple Way to Spend 45 Minutes a Day with the Lord

here’s an easy way to spend 45 minutes a day with the Lord:

5 minutes – Scripture memorization
20 minutes – Read or listen to 3 chapters of the Bible
5 minutes – Write things you’re thankful for
15 minutes – Pray

How a 29-Year-Old G. K. Chesterton Flipped 4 Arguments Against Christianity Upside-Down

Watch how Chesterton flipped four common arguments against Christianity upside down.

Lies That Pastors Believe

We all have a tendency to believe things about ourselves that are not true. Sometimes they are lies that feed the monster of pride (my tendency) and other times they're lies that cause us to doubt our security in the hands of grace.

Pastor, Mind Your RBM or Risk Burnout

What’s RBM? Rest. Boundaries. Margin.

Four Questions to Spot the Difference Between Healthy Tension and Unhealthy Conflict

Leaders must recognize the difference between healthy tension and unhealthy conflict. The former is a great tool; the latter a great threat.

Why Your Church Should Support Fewer Missionaries

A generous investment of time, energy, and finances will help your missionaries feel connected and increase your church’s grasp of — and meaningful investment in — the Great Commission.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Samson Society

When I first heard about Samson and the Pirate Monks through Tim Challies, I didn't pay much attention. When I finally read the book, though, I wondered why I'd waited so long. It's the story of Nate Larkin, a pastor who got enmeshed in sexual sin, but it's more than that. It's a call to authentic Christian brotherhood, and creating space for men to be honest and to apply the gospel to their struggles.

As the book recommends, we started a Samson Society. It's "a fellowship of Christian men who are serious about authenticity, community, humility, and recovery. We meet every Wednesday morning from 7 to 8. There's a format that we follow, although not rigidly, and each week we cover a topic that applies to men and speak about how we're doing in that area.

I'm cynical about new initiatives and programs, and wondered how long something like this would work. I've been surprised at how well it works because it's not a program, and because it's just structured enough to allow us to get real about our lives. I've been part of many men's groups, but I've never experienced anything like this.

Once a week, I know I'll be in a room with other men. I know a topic will come up, but I don't know what topic it will be. I will be presented with an opportunity to speak honestly about how I'm doing in that area, although there's no pressure to say anything if I don't want to. And I'll have the opportunity to talk about any other issue that I'm facing in my life. I'll also have the opportunity to connect with someone else during the week with whom I can also share.

It doesn't sound like much, but it is. Men need this, and as a pastor, I haven't always known how to provide it.

If you haven't read Samson and the Pirate Monks, it's worth reading. SamsonSociety.com also has some helpful resources on how to run a meeting. If you're a man, you need something like this, and the men around you need it too.

Ministry Pain

It's a fascinating thought: pain sets the threshold for our leadership. "The amount of pain we’re willing to endure sets the limit of our effectiveness," writes Samuel Chand in his book Leadership Pain. "If we avoid it or numb it, we’ll risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, feel nothing, and accomplish nothing." Our leadership is limited by our unwillingness to suffer. "You and your organization will grow only to— and not a step beyond—your pain threshold," he writes.

I've often believed that leadership is a matter of technique. While we can learn effective leadership skills, it's possible that the issue isn't really about skill. The issue is that we don't want to pay the price.

When I read 2 Timothy 2, I encounter someone who's okay with pain. "Share in suffering," Paul writes. Imitate soldiers, athletes, and farmers, who all happen to understand hardship. Paul has credibility when he talks about suffering, because he's writing from prison. "I endure everything for the sake of the elect," he writes, "that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." He tells us to think about what he writes, and that God will give us understanding about these things.

In other words, think about the fact that signing up for ministry is signing up for pain.

The limiting factor in our ministries may not be skill. The limiting factor may be our unwillingness to endure pain for what matters most. Want to see God work through your life? Raise the threshold of your willingness to suffer.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.