Post Traumatic Church Disorder

"The more I believe in Jesus, and want to live in the Way of Jesus Christ...the less fit I am for being a part of the church as I know it (as it's been designed and practiced during the 20th Century)."
-Sincere committed Christ-follower

Post-Traumatic Church Disorder (PTCD)

(Disclaimer: Read with tongue-in-cheek)

PTCD is a condition wherein the symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder combine with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, resulting in the following:

-Repeated exposure to unproductive committee meetings resulting in persistent nervous twitch anytime the word “committee” is heard
-Fixation on a singular question, “Is this what Jesus had in mind?”, followed by feelings of discouragement and despair
-Growing fear that the numerous bureaucratic barriers to initiating new and innovative missional ministry through one’s church may eventually crush one’s spirit
-Recurrent distressing dreams wherein your see yourself becoming a compliant, polite, domesticated church-person rather than engaged with the wild undomesticated presentation of Jesus in the gospels
-Social isolation in your neighborhood due to over-involvement at the church campus
-Mild paranoia about forgetting the intricacies of church culture and the language of church-speak, leading to the decline of respect in one’s congregation
-Delusional thinking manifesting itself in the belief that if one does just one more small group study, then readiness to really start living one’s faith will follow
-Wondering if one is losing touch with reality due to the impression that everyone else in church is able to avoid the deeper questions of existence while reciting empty platitudes

If three of more of these symptoms persist most every day more than one month, then a diagnosis may be made.

We were sitting at table together, talking about our faith journeys. She’s an insider; having been a part of the Christian movement since her birth. She’s a seminary graduate with plenty of resilience when it comes to understanding that we are flawed human beings, who bring our humanity to church with us. Nevertheless, she’s on the verge of becoming one of the “Dones;” insiders who can’t find God in the hyper-activity and misdirection of church anymore. She’s not at risk of becoming a “None” (spiritual but not religious), because she is a committed follower of Jesus Christ. I’m afraid she may be suffering from Posttraumatic Church Disorder (PTCD).

I posted her statement on social media, with immediate and robust commenting following. Clergy, church staff, church members…so many are suffering from PTCD. Their souls are so fatigued and traumatized from serving on so many committees, enduring endless discussions which don’t result in action, and running the organization. If they are asked by one more Nominating Committee to serve a three year term, they might snap and go postal.
It seems that there are congregations who are especially adept at encouraging PTCD in their members. Their proclivity for this evolves from the questions they ask. Congregations with a higher incidence of PTCD among their membership frequently ask the following questions while ignoring more significant and life-giving questions:

-How can we get people to choose church over their other activities?
-How can we increase our financial income and/or reduce expenses?
-How can we motivate our members to staff our committees?
-How can we provide more attractive programming for children and youth so we can get them involved?

These may be important questions; just not the most important questions. Focusing on these, as if they are the ultimate questions of our faith, drains the life-force from members.

Listening to this particular Christ-follower describe her faith journey was disturbing, while also so encouraging. She described the teachings of Jesus Christ as found in the gospels. She described how our world desperately needs the way of life described by Jesus. She actually sees this way of life as this planet’s best hope for survival; even containing the core values for a sustainable and healthy global society. She sees the Church as a major instrument of God for transforming the world. Wow.

As I listened, certainly my slight case of PTCD was triggered. At the same time, I heard in her story the seeds of another condition. I’m not sure if this one is a disorder, condition, or just a joyous way to live. She described a yearning, a hunger for a robust Christian community gathered around the risen Christ. She says she needs partners in her faith journey, other disciples who will support, encourage, and challenge her. She described the need for others who will pick her up and brush her off when she falls down. She actually wants others to push her when she grows apathetic and lazy about living in the Way of Jesus.

I think she may have an emerging case of Faith Community Invigoration Syndrome (FCIS), Early Onset. When she described this hope, this dream for this robust faith community, her affect brightened, her energy rose, and her voice strengthened. Obviously, this emerging dream is good for her spiritual and emotional well-being. Yes, I think this patient might make it. She’s moving from PTCD toward FCIS. Since it’s in the Early Onset stage, it’s too soon to tell if this new syndrome will blossom into a full-blown condition. But if God is really likes how she describes God to be, then my clinical judgment is that this new diagnosis of FCIS will be confirmed in short order. And thanks be to God.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA
Helen