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Evangelism from a Bowen Theory perspective. Or Murray Bowen meets Jesus.

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Presentation on theme: "Evangelism from a Bowen Theory perspective. Or Murray Bowen meets Jesus."— Presentation transcript:

1 Evangelism from a Bowen Theory perspective. Or Murray Bowen meets Jesus

2 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Luke 8:39

3 Share with those around you “How much God has done for you” this past week.

4 THESIS :  That if the Church is to take seriously its task of Evangelism, then it needs to take into account not just the biblical, ethical and theological context, but also the context of human relationships in which it takes place. This means that Evangelism must be rooted not just in sound theology, but also in a credible understanding of human functioning.

5 What is Evangelism in the context of these assumptions? Given this particular definition of Evangelism, what then is needed in the training process to implement it?

6 THEOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS  Theology needs to be relational rather than propositional –The power of relationships  God  The Gospel  Church –As Institution and as –The Kingdom of God  The Mission


8 THE EIGHT CONCEPTS OF BOWEN THEORY  Differentiation of self  Nuclear Family Emotional Process  Family Projection Process  Triangles  Multigenerational Transmission Process  Emotional Cut-Off  Sibling Position  Societal Emotional Process

9 THE THREE SYSTEMS: a) Feeling System b) Emotional System c) Thinking or Intellectual System

10 THE EMOTIONAL SYSTEM  Defined broadly, the concept postulated the existence of a naturally occurring system in all forms of life that enables an organism to receive information (from within itself and from the environment), to integrate that information, and to respond on the basis of it. The emotional system includes mechanisms such as those involved in finding and obtaining food, reproducing, fleeing enemies, rearing young, and other aspects of social relationships. Kerr p27

11 THE FEELING SYSTEM  The feeling system is undeniable quite influential in human activity. In fact, feelings probably have a greater influence on the social process than thinking. People can be aware of feelings by virtue of feeling them. This contrasts with emotions, which are not felt. … Feelings appear to be an intellectual or cognitive awareness of the more superficial aspects of the emotional system. Kerr p31

12 THE INTELLECTUAL SYSTEM  The Intellectual system refers to that part of man’s nervous system most recently acquired in evolution, the part generally referred to as man’s “thinking brain.” This system includes the human’s capacity to know and to understand. It is that part of man that makes him a unique form of life. Man is unique in that his capacity to know, to understand, and to communicate complex ideas far exceeds that of any other animal. Kerr p31

13  Is Evangelism essentially a process that relates to the Emotional System, the Feeling System, or the Thinking System? Or does it involve all three systems?  If it involves all three systems, how does one differentiate which aspects of evangelism belongs to which System?  Is the goal of Evangelism to appeal to either the Thinking, or the Emotional or the Feeling Systems in the one being evangelized? Or to all three systems in the other?

14 TOGETHERNESS - INDIVIDUALITY  Individuality is a biologically rooted life force (more basic than being just a function of the brain) that propels an organism to follow its own directives, to be an independent and distinct entity.  Togetherness is a biologically rooted life force (more basic than being just a function of the brain) that propels an organism to follow the directives of others, to be a dependent, connected, and indistinct entity. Kerr p64

15  The togetherness forces are derived from the universal need for “love,” approval, emotional closeness, and agreement. Bowen p.277

16  The individuality force is derived from the drive to be a productive, autonomous individual, as defined by self rather than the dictates of the group. Bowen p.277

17  There is never a threat of too much individuality. Bowen p.279

18 QUESTIONS FOR EVANGELISM  Can Evangelism at times be a process that pushes for togetherness at the expense of individuality?  Do evangelism programmes imply a togetherness of thinking and acting with little tolerance for self definition?  What is the goal of evangelism?

19  Do evangelism programmes push for togetherness as sameness in thinking, feeling, beliefs and behaviour etc.?  How does Jesus function in relationship? Does the relationship with Jesus enhance individuality? Togetherness? Or both?  Does salvation enhance or restrict individuality?

20 Two Key Variables:  Differentiation of Self  Anxiety


22  Since the response to the perception of a threat is anxiety, the more easily people are threatened, the more anxiety they experience. Since anxiety undermines a feeling of emotional well-being, people automatically act in ways designed to reduce anxiety. Kerr p74


24  The greater the emotional interdependence of a relationship, therefore, the more easily people are threatened, the more anxiety they experience, and the more energy is invested in actions aimed at reducing that anxiety. The more actions people feel compelled to take to reduce anxiety and to avoid triggering anxiety, the less the flexibility of a relationship. Kerr p74

25 Anxiety is an organism’s response to a threat real or imagined. ANXIETY DEFINED

26 Questions  How does the Church’s anxiety about itself affect its outreach?  How does anxiety affect the Church’s perception of those outside of the church?

27 Differentiation of Self  This difference between people in the proportion of life energy prone to be invested and bound in relationship is described by the concept of differentiation of self.

28  The “I position” defines principle and action in terms of, “This is what I think, or believe” and, “This is what I will do or will not do,” without impinging one’s own values or beliefs on others. It is the “responsible I” which assumes responsibility for one’s own happiness and comfort, and it avoids thinking that tends to blame and hole othrs responsible for one’ own unhappiness or failures. Bowen p495

29  The “responsible I” avoids the “irresponsible I” which makes demands on others with, “I want, or I deserve, or this is my right, or my privilege.” A reseasonably differentiated person capable of genuine concern for others without expecting something in return, but the togetherness forces treat differentiation as selfish and hostile. Bowen p495

30  Differentiation has two dimensions: –Focus on self –Undertaken in relationship especially with those who are emotionally significant to one.

31  The togetherness needs of a very poorly differentiated person, which are overriding in their influence, are felt as deep yearnings to be loved, accepted and guided through life. As differentiation increases, individuality is better developed, togetherness needs are less intense, and emotional reactiveness is better modulated.

32  Autonomy does not mean selfishly following one’s own directives it mean the ability to be self- determined. Self-determination could result in the choice to be guided by the best interests of the group.

33 QUESTIONS  How will you know if Evangelism is a process of self differentiation i.e. a process that arises out of a more thoughtful and calmer place in self or an emotional process that reflects the anxiety of the Church?  What is the relationship between autonomy and salvation?  Can evangelism be an invitation to fuse with the church? How can the church be more differentiated?

34  How can we know if the witness of the Christian is an expression of the solid self?  Can evangelism be understood as the Christian’s “I” statement?

35 Triangulation  The basic building block of any emotional system is the “triangle.” When emotional tension in a two-person system exceeds a certain level, it “triangles” a third person, permitting the tension to shift about within the triangle. … The emotional system is composed of a series of interlocking triangles. Bowen p.174

36  The theory considers the triangle – a three-person system – as the molecule of any emotional system, whether it exists in a family or in a social system. … The triangle is the smallest stable relationship system. A two-person system is an unstable system that immediately forms a series of interlocking triangles. The triangle has definite relationship patterns that predictable repeat in periods of stress and calm. Bowen p198-199

37 QUESTION  Can evangelism programmes be a triangling process in which Christians project their anxiety about their own future onto non-Christians?  What can the church expect from evangelism programmes when the driving force for its action is anxiety?

38 Emotional Cut-off  We have come to use the term emotional cut-off or simply cut-off to refer to emotional distancing, whether the cut-off is achieved by internal mechanisms or physical distance.... The person who runs away from home is an emotionally attached as the one who stays at home and uses internal mechanisms to control the attachment. Bowen p535

39  The one who runs away does have a different life course. He needs emotional closeness but is allergic to it. He runs away kidding himself that he is achieving “independence.” The more intense the cut- off with his parents the more he is vulnerable to repeating the same pattern in future relationships. Bowen p.535

40  The person who runs away from his family or origin is as emotionally dependent as the one who never leaves home. They both need emotional closeness but are allergic to it. Bowen p382

41  Is emotional cut-off from families a characteristic of people living on the West coast of the USA?  If those who cut-off from their families are allergic to too much togetherness, how can Christians witness to them without triggering their reactivity and distancing?  If they are distancing from their families how can the Church minister to them without pursuing them? QUESTIONS

42 Societal Emotional Process  The concept states that when a family is subjected to chronic, sustained anxiety, the family begins to lose contact with its intellectually determined principles, and to resort more and more to emotionally determined decisions to allay the anxiety of the moment. The results of the process are symptoms and eventually regression to a lower level of functioning. Bowen p.368

43  The societal concept postulates that the same process is evolving in society; that we are in a period of increasing chronic societal anxiety; that society responds to this with emotionally determined decisions to allay the anxiety of the moment; that this results in symptoms of dysfunction; that the efforts to relieve the symptoms result in more emotional band-aid legislation, which increases the problem; and that the cycle keeps repeating, just as the family goes through similar cycles to the states we call emotional illness. Bowen p.368

44  My own thinking tended to favor the hypothesis that societal anxiety was related to post-war recovery, and to the sweeping advances in technology, and the changes that went with that. Bowen p.271

45  My current postulation considers that chronic anxiety as the product of the population explosion, decreasing supplies of food and raw materials necessary to maintain man’s way of life on earth and the pollution of the environment which is slowly threatening the balance of life necessary for human survival. Bowen p.386

46  Finally I identified a link between the family and society that was sufficiently trustworthy for me to extend the basic theory about the family into the larger societal arena, the link had to do, first, with the delinquent teenage youngster, who is a responsibility for both the parents and society, and secondly, with the changes in the way the parents and the agents of society deal with the same problem. Bowen p.386

47 QUESTIONS  When Bowen wrote the paper on societal regression in 1974 he described the impact of anxiety on societal functioning, what are the symptoms of increasing anxiety in American society since 9/11?  Given the intensification of anxiety since 9/11, how has the Church’s witness been affected?

48  Is God concerned about our relationship with nature?  Do we have to include a fourth dimension in the Great Commandment i.e. love nature?  How is the environmental crisis affecting the Church and its witness?



51 A Systems View of the Evangelism Process  Evangelism is relational. It concerns God’s relationship with humankind and nature and our relationship with God, others and nature. Evangelism therefore needs to be rooted in a relational theology and a broad relational understanding of life.  Evangelism is the work of the Holy Spirit.

52  Evangelism focuses on the relational processes of God’s activity and uses a number of scriptural images such as: Love, justification, healing, liberation, separation, peace, celebration, teaching, listening, breaking of bonds, conversion, caring, restoration, salvaging etc, Love, justification, healing, liberation, separation, peace, celebration, teaching, listening, breaking of bonds, conversion, caring, restoration, salvaging etc,

53  Evangelism is the witness to the presence of God in the world, and others, nature and self.  Evangelism is grounded in the Gospel of Jesus the Christ.  Evangelism is about the Kingdom of God.

54  Evangelism as a process of defining a self, focuses on self rather than on the other. It is the “I” statement of Christians. This is not a selfish focus but about personal responsibility for self in relationships.  Evangelism is about Christian self- definition, and not about defining or changing others. Changing others is the work of the Holy Spirit.

55  Evangelism relates to the “thoughtful” aspects of life rather than to the emotional.  Evangelism as a thoughtful process of self- definition is an essential and integral aspect of the Christian life. It is an expression of the “solid self.”

56  Evangelism is a thoughtful response of the Christian to the call in 1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.

57  Evangelism is always undertaken in the context of anxiety both in the “evangelist” and in the one to whom he or she relates.  Evangelism affirms that God is involved in the lives of all people – both believers and unbelievers.

58  Evangelism is not judgmental.  Evangelism is a process and not an event or a programme that one takes, studies or implements.  Evangelism honours the differences between people and does not seek togetherness as sameness.

59  Evangelism finds it source of strength in the Holy Spirit.  Evangelism is not to be equated with “church growth.” Evangelism may or may not lead to an increase in membership.

60 Assumptions Underlying A Systems Perspective of the Evangelism Process  That Christians are often not familiar, or comfortable with telling their own, or their family’s faith story.  That awareness of their own faith story as well as that of their family, is normative for evangelism. This is the only authentic story for each Christian.

61 Question  What process needs to be provided in order to assist Christians to define themselves?

62 Goals of the Evangelism Process  To provide Christians with the opportunity to reflect on the presence of God in their own and their family’s life.  To provide an opportunity for Christians to tell their own and their family’s faith story so that they can give “an account of the hope that is within them.”

63  To assist Christians in a process towards greater self-definition.  To provide Christians with the theological and theoretical resources that inform this process.  To offer opportunities for biblical reflection.

64 Evaluations The evaluations bore out the appropriateness of the process.

65 The following comments were made about the shift in Thinking as a result of the process :  Telling my own story strengthened my faith  A sense of gratitude for my family  Less anxious about evangelism and where I belong

66  I no longer focus on others  I tell my own story  “Evangelize Yourself”

67 Comments about Self:  Sense of joy in own uniqueness and what that brings to the Christian community  Deeper and broader sense of God’s presence  Can be my own person and be a Christian

68  More responsible for self  Always felt God’s presence but now see how God was present  More tolerant of other people at work even those who don’t believe since I know that God is at work. Can’t wait for an appropriate time to tell my story.

69 Comments about God:  By going back to the family tree I realized that God was working there already. God is so much bigger and more loving.  The visualization of the family in the family diagram aided in seeing God through he generations. Seeing was important.

70  The sense of evangelism as managing ourselves rather than others, understanding our own stories so that we can share them with others.  The restoration of relationships with God, self and others. Managing oneself etc Other Comments:

71  The idea of seeing the family tree as a process of God working in the family

72  The following quotation is attributed to Albert Einstein and is taken out of his context, theoretical physics: "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. " Like the military that is always prepared to fight the last war, most of us gear our lives to handle in the future the problems we have encountered in the past. Like the military the problems of the present tend to be linked to those past solutions and catch us unprepared. We then tend to employ measures we have used in the past and, in unstable and stressful conditions, those measures have a likelihood of making the current problems worse. Papero "Stress, Society, and the Individual"

73 THE BEGINNING OF THE END “Go in peace and witness to the hope that is within you.”

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