Date of Award
Major Applied Project
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
W. Mart Thompson
Scripture References in this Resource
John 15; John 9; Luke 13; Psalm 107; Luke 9; Matthew 4; Matthew 9; 1 Corinthians 1
A medical leave of absence due to a kidney transplant resulted in feelings of guilt and failure for a pastor when he was unable to fulfill his desired ministry tasks. These feelings of guilt and failure were speculated to be unwarranted.
To determine if these feelings were unwarranted, this paper researched sickness as presented in the Bible. Biblical research found illness to be a personal reminder of a global fall, found a link between forgiveness of sin and healing of sickness, and examined illness in the context of the Kingdom of God. Historical examination found that illness within the context of the biblical theme of the Kingdom of God helps the modern ill person to understand the illness not as only failing biology, but also illness is set also in the spiritual plane. Theologically, the paper found that during sickness an understanding of theology of the cross is helpful to understand suffering while ill. Theology of glory, and its humanistic tendencies, ultimately prove to be little comfort. The literature review noted a correlation between symptoms of pastoral burnout and illness in a pastor. The researched methodologies for helping pastors in stages of burnout were found to be also helpful to sick pastors on medical leave.
The research project was to qualitatively interview, with a trained interviewer, ten leaders of the congregation asking about their lived experience during the pastor’s kidney transplant. These interviews were contrasted against a similar interview from the perspective of the pastor. A Harrison Assessment added insight into the pastor’s normal mindset.
The findings of this study were that the pastor’s feeling of failure and guilt were unwarranted, as the congregation viewed the illness as a time to exhibit Kingdom of God behaviors. Recommendations are given to other pastors and congregations going through similar illnesses requiring a medical leave of absence.
Flatau, Aaron G., "Medical Leave and Unrealistic Ministry Expectations a Study at Zion Lutheran Church" (2023). Doctor of Ministry Major Applied Project. 229.
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