How My Worldview Influences My Heart

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A worldview is a philosophical term that refers to how we view reality and the purpose of life. Author and editor James W. Sire provided a helpful definition:

A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.[i]

In other words, a worldview isn’t necessarily built on truth. It can also be informed by lies and distortions. Distortions left unchecked do not resolve themselves over time; they must be identified and addressed. I know this from personal experience.

Burnout and Unresolved Baggage

In 2014, I reached a state of burnout that affected my leadership and ministry effectiveness as a senior pastor, and the staff of pastors I served with and the board of elders decided it was time for me to leave. After serving faithfully with them for over ten years—I had done nothing immoral to disqualify myself from ministry—I was shocked by their lack of support and unwillingness to help me work things out. After less than three months of meetings, all but one elder (who resigned in protest) called for my resignation. I refused to resign, partly because I was not willing to let the congregation believe my resignation was a mutual decision between myself and the elders. I was also unwilling to imply that God was calling me out of the church into another ministry. In response, the elders immediately terminated my employment.

I was devastated and deeply hurt. I felt betrayed by men who I thought were my friends. I was under the illusion that we were a family, committed to working things out in an amicable way. As I walked out of the church building the night I was terminated, I asked: “God, why is this happening? What am I going to do now? How am I going to tell my wife when I get home?” I was filled with confusion and had never felt more rejected, abandoned, and hurt.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but how I processed that traumatic situation was greatly influenced by unresolved emotional pain and former distortions I still had from past experiences. The torrent of unresolved pain made the fresh pain a hundred times worse.

In the days that followed, it felt like I was unraveling emotionally, and I knew I needed more help than my family and friends could give. So, I sought out professional help from Dr. Bill Gaultiere, a psychologist and pastor who specializes in helping local church leaders.[ii]

Early on in my therapy, Dr. Gaultiere asked me how I was feeling. My response was pretty raw: “I feel betrayed and victimized. The picture I have in my head is that I’m riding in the car with my friends, and suddenly, one turns on me with a gun and shoots me in the head, another opens the door and pushes me out into the street, and they all drive off, leaving me alone in the gutter to die.” I was angry, but underneath it all was an overwhelming feeling of failure: I failed God, my family, the congregation I loved, my staff, and the elders I served with. I was stuck in an abyss of shame and consumed with the terror of an uncertain future, perhaps long-term unemployment and financial disaster. I was catastrophizing everything. It felt like my life was over and my job prospects bleak: Getting fired as a senior pastor doesn’t look good on a résumé. Most search committees prefer a candidate with less baggage than I had, and I can’t blame them. After twenty-five years as a local church pastor, I had become another casualty of a local church-ministry conflict. I was grieving the death of a dream.

These raw feelings were given extra weight by lies and distortions that went back to many of my early childhood experiences, such as my parents’ divorce, which had promoted feelings of being unloved, unimportant, and abandoned. The incessant bullying and rejection by my peers I had experienced throughout elementary school was informing how I processed the experience of being terminated. These unresolved feelings and resurrected distorted thoughts were triggered by being fired. I felt I was unworthy of love and that I didn’t really matter. During those early months of therapy, it became clear that I had a lot of baggage to unpack.

Healing Humility

Early one morning a few months after my termination, I was sitting alone on the beach, near my house. It was still dark, and I was crying out to the Lord, feeling desperate about my situation and wondering what in the world I was going to do now. While sitting there, feeling like I was drowning in fear and sadness, God spoke to me. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I knew it was God because I would never make up what I heard in my head: “Ken, I want you to initiate a reconciliation process with the elders.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “What? Are you kidding me, God? Are you serious? The elders hurt me. They need to apologize to me. They need to go on a forgiveness tour for me and for everyone else they nuked by their decision.”

Have you ever been there with God? Have you ever experienced something so painful, so grave that it caused you to lash out at the one who knows your situation and loves you the most? If you have, you know exactly what I’m talking about, for we have wrestled with God.

The longer I sat there on the beach and thought about what God was inviting me to do, the more I knew that he was right. I’ll admit that I didn’t do it with the best attitude, but I took out my cell phone and composed a text to each elder personally, asking if he would meet me for coffee. I made it clear that my only intention to meet was to apologize for my part in the process that lead to my termination. The texts were a simple act of humble obedience that brought about results that only God could do.

Over the next several months, I met with each elder and offered a heartfelt apology. One thing I discovered is that there is no downside to humility.[iii] I could have easily stayed stuck in victim mode, allowing anger and bitterness to reside in my heart, but by God’s grace, that’s not what I did. Instead, I let God’s desire for unity flow through me.

Reconciling with fellow believers who have hurt you doesn’t make what they did okay, nor does it mean you have to vacation together or be golf buddies. But we must love one another as Christ has loved us: When we hurt each other or hold a grievance of any kind, we must apologize and do everything we can to right the wrong. This isn’t only for the sake of unity but also for our own spiritual/emotional well-being.

A few months after my meetings with each elder, the board invited me to join them for a reconciliation service at the church. During the packed service, the cochairman made a public apology to me, my family, and the congregation. The apology was heartfelt and greatly appreciated. I preached my last sermon on the same topic I chose for my first sermon to the congregation ten years earlier: grace. And during the message, I offered my own heartfelt apology to the board and congregation as well. The service ended with Communion and a lot of tears.

Not long after the service, the cochairman, myself, and Dr. Bill Gaultiere sat down together and told the story, on camera, about the painful process that led up to my termination and the things we learned along the way about the nature of forgiveness and the importance of a better process when staffing changes need to happen in a church. The video was posted on Facebook and has brought healing and hope to many pastors, elder boards, and congregations who have endured similar difficulties.[iv]

The story of my ministry burnout is an example of how unresolved emotional pain resulting from past experiences can be triggered by a current event and create a blast radius that hurts many people and presents a poor testimony to a watching world. The feelings of rejection, abandonment, fear, and shame that I experienced during my early childhood and teenage years informed a worldview with lies and distorted thoughts that I projected onto my termination experience, making it much more painful—for everyone involved—than it needed to be. Today, research supports the fact that many of the difficult situations we find ourselves in are caused by or made far worse by unresolved emotional pain that distorts our thinking, creates distress, and leads to destructive behavior.[v]


[i] James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 10.

[ii] You can find out more information about Bill Gaultiere’s ministry with his wife, Kristi Gaultiere, at: www.soulshepherding.org.

[iii] The apostle Peter writes: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

[iv] You can watch the reconciliation service at: https://www.soulshepherding.org/videos/reconciling-pastor-elder-board/.

[v] See, for example, Karl Lehman, Outsmarting Yourself: Catching Your Past Invading the Present and What to Do about It, 2nd ed.(Libertyville, IL: This Joy Books, 2014), 97–102. Dr. Karl Lehman, a Christian psychiatrist who works with Jim Wilder, has an excellent discussion about how past unresolved emotions get triggered and brought into the present.

Ken Baugh
Ken Baugh

was a successful pastor before a crippling experience of burnout disrupted his career and set him on a journey to better understand the dynamics of spiritual health. With a DMin from Talbot Theological Seminary, Ken is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Discipleship Training.

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