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Thinking About...Stress Volume 4, Issue 1- April 2013

The teaching faculty of the School of Ministry, Theology, and Culture at Tabor Adelaide is committed to serving the church by thinking about the gospel. We believe that individuals and the church can be transformed by the renewing of our/their minds. Too often college lecturers are characterized as “living in an ivory tower” and “being too theoretical.” This stereotype doesn’t apply at Tabor; we are part of the church, and we want to see it grow in faithfulness to Jesus. This is why we have committed ourselves to producing this themed magazine for free distribution to the churches of South Australia. There are three issues of Thinking About... each year; we trust you find them helpful.


elcome to the first edition of “Thinking About...” for 2013.We hope you enjoy it. You may have noticed that the gap between issues has been a little longer than usual. There is a good, albeit ironic, reason for this.


he topic of stress was originally floated in a School faculty meeting in the second half of 2012, and we had planned to produce our first issue in early February. The last six months, however, have been an incredibly busy period in the life of the college. Virtually every staff member has been involved in a thorough process of reaccreditation, which is required for Tabor to continue to deliver our high quality, government accredited awards. Hence, I delayed publication of this edition as the staff were already highly stressed by the rest of the work they were required to complete. (The need to write an article on stress at a time when everyone was experiencing this became something of a running joke!)


o in the reflections that follow I am sure you will find a balance of theological and biblical reflections worked through the grist of personal experience. And if you’re feeling like us, I hope you will benefit from some of our insights.


s always, if you have got any comments, please feel free to e-mail us. We can be reached via Samantha Docherty, the Ministry, Theology and Culture School Administrator ( We’d love to hear from you! Dr Aaron Chalmers Creative Commons License Please reuse any of the material in the journal. We only require that you clearly identify the source by author’s names Tabor Adelaide, School of Ministry,Theology and Culture 2013. Licensed under the creative commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Australian License.


Previous editions available: 1.1 Kingdom of God; 1.2 Discernment; 1.3 Lament; 2.1 Giving; 2.2 Vocation; 2.3 The Mind; 3.1 Play; 3.2 Technology 3.3 Spiritual Warefare

Leaving Nothing of Yourself for Yourself I Matthew Gray is Lecturer in Church History. He is enrolled in the PhD history program at Adelaide University. In 2nd semester, Matt will teach and Exploring the Christian Faith and Reformation Church History.


n 1145, Bernardo da Pisa was elected Pope Eugenius III. He got the job because nobody else wanted it. Europe was in turmoil, the Church in a shambles, and frequent assassinations in Rome meant most popes barely set foot there. Soon, Eugenius was embroiled in peace negotiations between endlessly feuding Italian nobles. Undeniably time-poor, Eugenius was pretty stressed.


or help, Eugenius turned to his mentor, Bernard of Clairvaux – not a bad choice, considering Bernard is one of the greatest Christian thinkers in history. Bernard wrote a book in response, On Consideration. It has since been considered essential reading for most popes taking the job seriously, and is widely considered a classic on leading in times of stress.


ernard’s fundamental point in the book is that, despite all the pulls upon

our time, we have to leave space for consideration, to stop and consider carefully where God wants us to go: “Consideration purifies the very fountain, that is the mind, from which it springs. Then it governs the emotions, directs our actions, corrects excesses, softens the manners, adorns

Stress Management S Dr David WescombeDowns (PhD, Curtin University) is director of the postgraduate program in the School of Education. In 2nd semester he will be teaching, Leadership in Education, Critical Reflection and Transformation, and Applied Educational Psychology.


hile the pulls upon our time are important, we still need to leave them, to think. If we don’t, our heart becomes hardened: “It forgets the past, neglects the present, does not look on to the future. It is a heart emptied of all the past except the wrongs it has suffered, which lets slip all the present, which has no forecast of the future, no preparation to meet it... See where these accursed occupations can drag you at their heels, if, as you have begun, you continue to give yourself wholly to them, and leave nothing of yourself for yourself. You are wasting time... For the fruit of these things, what is it but spiders’ webs?”


t first, this is profoundly counter-intuitive, and only seems to be a recipe for more stress, not less. But Bernard’s words still ring in our ears: are you wasting your time?


tress may arrive in either of two forms: positive or negative. The symptoms are usually very similar in both cases, eg. increased heart rate, mental tension, acute cause focus, memory evaporation or inability to reliably recall/retrieve, stifled creativity, inhibited learning, inability to relax, disturbed sleep patterns, avoidance of complex task engagement, increased activity tempo or induced fidgeting.

ur cemeteries are full of those who overworked and lived constantly under the influence of stress, mostly avoidable. Key factors are known to include: 1. High-pressure work without breaks 2. Working without enough holidays or breaks 3. Maintaining long hours that inhibit normal recovery and rest patterns 4. Relocating where we live 5. Bereavement of a person close in mind and heart 6. Relationship breaches common theme is constant energy output with insufficient ‘time to stop and smell the roses’. Work to live, not live to work; prayer, reflection and meditation; regular physical exercise and maintaining a healthy diet are some known helpful strategies: especially prayer.


orking at a feverish pace without adequate breaks may actually be addictive due to the epinephrine/adrenaline ‘high’ brought about by a seductive tsunami of stress hormones, epinephrine/ adrenaline, norepinephrine/noradrenaline and cortisol. Unfortunately, however, it causes us to develop a ‘jammed gearbox’ so that we cannot seem to alter our life pace and we push ourselves harder as the demand increases. We become stuck in overdrive and unable to turn off our engine!

and regulates the life, and, lastly, bestows the knowledge of things divine and human alike. It is consideration that brings order out of disorder, puts in the links, pulls things together, investigates mysteries, traces the truth, weighs probabilities, and exposes shams and counterfeits.”



Professional Enrichment Seminars for 2013 Enrich your Ministry with World-Class Scholars Dr Robert Gallagher Wednesday, June12th Robert L. Gallagher (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is department chair, director of the Master of Arts program in intercultural studies, and associate professor of intercultural studies at Wheaton College Graduate School in Chicago where he has taught since 1998. Join us as he presents two exciting seminars at Tabor Adelaide.

Reading and Preaching the Book of Acts: 9.30am-3.30pm: Cost $60, including lunch Luke’s account of the life of the early church in the Book of Acts was written to give us certainty of what we have been taught. His narrative shows prophecies fulfilled, promises kept, and assurance of what is to come. In this one day workshop we’ll explore together the depths of the Book of Acts with the aim of helping us become better preachers and teachers of this foundational Church text. What is a workshop on biblical exposition? The workshop aims to recover the centrality of God’s Word, preached expositionally to the benefit of the life and health of the church in our generation. In order for this kind of preaching to take place, the Bible must be properly understood and rightly handled. And so, this workshop consists of a day covering Principles of Exposition on how to better handle biblical texts, and Small Group Participation when you will share and receive feedback on passages you are exploring.

Missionary Methods: St Paul’s, St Roland’s,or Ours? 7.30pm-9.00pm-FREE PUBLIC LECTURE Dr Gallagher will examine various perspectives of Paul’s missionary methods as recorded in the book of Acts and his epistles, as well as comparing and contrasting the findings with Roland Allen’s claims in his influential book, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? This assessment clarifies implications for contemporary mission praxis, and conversely, suggests that an awareness of key missiological issues should aid in enhancing biblical studies.

Rev Dr David Wilkinson Thursday and Friday, July 25th & 26th, 9.30am-3.30pm: $100 or $60 per day


Responding to the New Atheism-A Two Day Pastors Conference From Dawkins to Hitchens, the new atheists present both a challenge and opportunity for the Christian faith. David Wilkinson will review. the main attacks, develop how Christian apologetics can not only respond but regain the initiative, and suggest practical ideas for pastors to enable and equip local churches. David is the Principal of St Johns College, Durham University. Before joining Durham he completed a PhD in theoretical astrophysics and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He then trained for the Methodist ministry, studying theology at Cambridge (his PhD is in systematic theology), before pastoring a church in Liverpool. He has had a long interest in the dialogue of science and religion, especially as it impacts the physical sciences, and his current work involves the relationship of Christian theology to contemporary culture and its implications for preaching, missiology and apologetics. He has written a number of books, including God, Time and Stephen Hawking (Monarch, 2001) and Christian Eschatology and the Physical Universe (T&T Clark 2010), The Power of the Force: The Spirituality of the Star Wars Films (Lion, 2000), and Creation in The Bible Speaks Today Bible Themes Series (IVP, 2002).

Professor Terry Fretheim Monday, September 30th, 9.30am-3.30pm: Cost $60, including lunch The Suffering of God When we encounter deep suffering in our lives, what difference does it make to know that God suffers with us? Because of us? For us? Who is this suffering God, and what issues does his suffering raise for us in life and pastoral ministry praxis? Join us for a fascinating exploration into the suffering of God that will bridge across the fields of Biblical Studies, Theology, Ministry and Formation. Dr Terry Fretheim serves as Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is passionate about “a God who weeps, who gets angry, who rejoices . . . a God who is in genuine interaction with the world.” A prolific writer and scholar, Terry particularly likes writing for pastors and laypeople. His long list of publications includes his seminal The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective, he has recently written God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation, and Hope in God in Times of Suffering (with Faith Fretheim). For enquiries or to book your seat, email Samantha Docherty at

An Old and a New Way to Deal with Worry T

Rev Dr Stephen Spence (PhD, NT, Fuller) is Deputy Principal (Academic) and lectures in the field of New Testament. In 2nd semester, he will teach Romans Exegesis and Pauline Theology. Stephen blogs at


he world of the Philippians was very different from ours. Infant mortality may have been as high as 30% and up to one in ten women died as a result of childbirth. Antibiotics were unknown and small scratches could lead to a terrible death through septicaemia. It was a world in which people felt that they had no control over what happened to them; they were at the mercy of fate and the gods.


onsequently, it was a very religious world. The Philippians looked to the gods to protect them from the dangers of daily living. They sacrificed. They carried amulets. They honoured the shrines that dotted each street. And, when they had a particular concern, they sought out the particular god responsible for that aspect of life. Health problems? Try an offering to Asclepius. Time to give birth? Give honour to Lucina. About to undertake a new business venture? Sacrifice to Aequitas. But make sure you get the sacrifice performed correctly and say the words of the prayers just right or else the gods will not be obliged to give you their protection.

Stress Time ! S


ut what happened to a Philippian or a Thessalonian who had “turned from idols to serve the living God”? How were they to cope with the many worries of everyday life now they had abandoned their reliance upon the local gods? ccording to Paul, there was to be a new way of dealing with worry. Instead of trying to control life’s stresses by making deals with the spiritual powers, they were to entrust themselves to the only true and living God. He would listen to them. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). No sacrifices needed. No carefully worded prayers needed. No magical charms needed. ur world is different from the world of the Philippians; we have antibiotics and seatbelts. But we are not so different from the Philippians when we begin to worry. We are tempted to try and manipulate God through sacrifices, carefully worded prayers, and vows or offerings. That’s pagan practice. Followers of Jesus don’t do that – they simply let their requests be known to God in the context of faithful thankfulness.




am has asked me to write this article about irstly, if I think ‘my day’ belongs to me and is about stress. Doesn’t she know how busy I am? Doesn’t my self-fulfilment, when it doesn’t go according to plan she know that for me it’s just one more demand, I get stressed. I might get angry (with myself or others) or one more deadline. OK, now I’m STRESSED! frustrated or I might become fearful (of failure perhaps?) emands and deadlines afflict us all and Anger corrodes and fear paralyses. But if it’s not about me, while they are only one cause of stress if I’m experiencing stress because I’ve volunteered to be part they’re a major one. Most of us are time poor and constantly trying to fit too much into our days. of an altogether grander and more wonderful thing than my small personal ambitions, then I get a different perspective. ‘Our days?’ How easily I wrote that, and how unquestioningly you read it. To speak like this is so much If I remember that my days are a God-given opportunity to Rev Dr Don Owers part of our culture, ‘Enjoy your weekend,’ we say, ‘How serve others and that those others are, like me, somewhat (D Min, Fuller was your Sunday?’ But in what sense are they ‘our days? frail and broken, I can be more forgiving of others (and of Seminary, California) heologically, each new day is a gift given to myself ) and I can be more understanding of the broken is the Principal at us by God, a gift to be valued and used as world in which we live - and of the frustrations and stress Tabor Adelaide. well as possible - even in difficult circumstances. involved in being a part, even a small part, of its redemption. ‘Our days’ are not ours to use as we would like. On the econdly, remembering it’s really about God’s mission contrary, each new day is an invitation to share in reminds me that I’m not alone. Prayer helps! Prayer some way in God’s mission to the world. And here’s another challenge to our unquestioned assumptions doesn’t usually (in my experience anyway) change the and one that is heretical according to modern, western situation itself – but it does change my perception of the culture – ‘our days’ are not about self-fulfilment! situation. Prayer - by which I mean seeking to hear God’s ow does all this help with stress about demands voice on the matter - lets me glimpse the situation from God’s and deadlines? In a couple of ways I think. perspective. It’s only a glimpse mind you, but it’s enough. It can and does bring the shalom of which God’s promise speaks.





Living with Limits T

he word “stress” is a modern invention, coined only in the twentieth century by Hans Selye – the doctor who spent 50 years studying its causes and consequences, writing 30 books and more than 1,500 articles on the subject.


ccording to Selye, stress is part of life. It is not realistic, nor is it desirable, to live “stress free.” This is because not all stress is bad. True, distress can lead to serious illness. But good stress, or eustress as Selye termed it, actually helps us function better.

David McGregor is Lecturer in Theology. He is enrolled in the PhD Theology program at Newcastle University.


In 2nd semester, David will teach Renewal Theology, Trinitarian Theology and Creative Living.

ifficulties are not the only cause of stress. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (assigning a numerical value out of 100 to a diversity of stressors) indicates that we may be distressed at the loss of our job (47 points), but we are also stressed when we take up a new job (36), or retire from work altogether (45). The death of a spouse, divorce, or separation are all very stressful (100, 73, 65), but so is getting married (50), having a new baby (39), making positive changes to personal habits (24), achieving something significant (28), or joining a new church (19).


or are we stressed simply because we are too busy, or have too much to do. “I don’t have enough time,” we often say. But the truth is that we have as much time as everyone else! It is not more time we need, but the ability to distinguish “the tyranny of the urgent from the important” and

concentrate on the latter, as a pamphlet I read years ago put it. Anyhow, inactivity can be just as much a stressor as too much activity. If you have ever had a stressful holiday, you will know what I mean.


ithout some stress we cannot live well, as long as it is not too much, or for too long. There is a threshold with an upper and lower limit. One of Karl Barth’s fundamental

insights is that “creaturely existence” is “freedom in limitation.” To live freely, Barth

urged, is to gladly accept the limitations set by God and to live with gratitude within them. Limitations actually enable freedom. Try taking a train off its tracks and see how far it will go!


ccepting limits means knowing who we are not! John the Baptist knew who he wasn’t – “Are you the Christ?” he was asked. “No” was his instant reply. There is only one Messiah and saviour. What a relief that we are not him! Knowing who we are (or better, whose we are) is the positive flip side of this. Our identity and security are founded on the love that God has for us. Believing this frees us from the distress of having to prove ourselves by our achievements. It also frees us to engage joyfully in “the active life of the children of God,” as Barth put it, fully aware that, with all its stresses, life is a gift given and sustained by the gracious God Himself.

Semester Two Introductory Subjects at Tabor Adelaide TM1101 Creative Living (Thursdays 10.00am-1.00pm or online)

TM1103 Christians in a Multicultural World (Wednesdays 6.00pm-9.00pm or online)

TM2116 Introduction to the New Testament ( Thursdays 2.00pm-5.00pm or online)

Semester two begins 18 July -15 November 2013 181 Goodwood Road, Millswood (T) 8373 8777 (W)


Is Stress an Emotion? I


ould it be that when we cover our deeper emotions with the word ‘stress’ we are betraying our unwillingness to admit to feelings we think are unacceptable?

s it just me, or do you also find people increasingly answering the question “How are you feeling?” with words like “busy” or “stressed”? When did busyness become a competition? And when did stress become an emotion?

Rev Melinda Cousins is Lecturer in Biblical Studies. She is enrolled in the PhD program at Charles Sturt University. In 2nd semester, Melinda is teaching Introduction to the NewTestament and Reading the Bible Faithfully.


Are there times when “I’m stressed,” actually means “I’m afraid if I don’t do everything people expect they won’t value me” or even “I’m angry that You don’t seem to be stepping in God?” If I’m honest, sometimes this is true for me.

tress is a symptom of pressure, but it is not itself an emotion. I wonder if using the word ‘stress’ to talk about how we feel is merely a sign of how language changes, or if it masks something more complex. Is ‘stress’ seen as a more ‘acceptable’ description rather than naming how we really feel?



n naming their emotions before God, the Psalmists are able to move to a place of confidence and praise even in the midst of stressful circumstances. By making themselves vulnerable and acknowledging their darkest feelings, they open themselves up to the Spirit’s ministry in the deepest places of their hearts.

lthough John Calvin said that “every emotion ever experienced” is found in the Psalms, you won’t find ‘stress’ on his list. Certainly the Psalmists experienced circumstances that produced stress. But they then take the next step: they name the range of feelings these stressful situations evoke. The Psalmists admit feeling anger, frustration, confusion, doubt, sorrow, loneliness, fear, hatred, even despair. They are unafraid to admit to the darkest human emotions before God and their communities.



alvin also described the Psalms as an “anatomy of the soul.” If we want to allow them to point out where our hearts are really at, and bring us emotionally naked before God, perhaps we need to own up to how the stresses in our lives are really making us feel as a first step.

2 Managing Cultural Stress in Multi-Ethinic Congregations

C David Turnbull is Lecturer in Intercultural Studies. He is enrolled in the PhD program at Flinders University. In 2nd semester, David is teaching Christians in a Multicultural World and Intercultural Life and Work.

ongregations are becoming more multi-ethnic in Australia, which is not surprising considering how immigration is contributing to numerical stability for Christianity in this country. This shift can enrich a community but it can also create many challenges and barriers to social cohesion. Facilitating an inclusive and welcoming environment is vital. God expects this of his people (as illustrated in Leviticus 19:34). This means accepting everybody for who they are, being aware of distinctive needs and issues and addressing them.

different ways of thinking, especially in regards to their faith and the Scriptures, and different learning styles. The consequences, if not dealt with, include conflict and broken relationships.


roviding empathetic support and understanding and creating ways to reduce cultural stress through community activities are integral to providing culturally competent care. The first step is to recognise how


we contribute to culture shock in others through being unknowingly insensitive and offensive, and the likely backlash that occurs in response. Certainly a cultural paradigm is needed and a desire to lift our eyes to see and seize the ministry opportunities.

ne significant need is helping people address cultural stress, which early on takes the form of culture shock. This often involves a feeling of disorientation and confusion that occurs when experiencing the unexpected or the different, when standard coping mechanism cues go missing. Contributing factors come when people are confronted by different behaviours,

Spiritual Endorphins I

n stressful times, spiritual practices can have an endorphin-like function. Physiologically, endorphins are chemicals released in our brain during times of pain or challenge. These neurotransmitters play a key role in reducing our perception of stress, even though its causes may not have changed, helping us cope better. Similarly, spiritual practices can help us deal with stress at the level of perception.

Bruce Hulme is Lcturer in Practical Theology. He is completing his MTh and has begun training as a spiritual director.


his is not to say praying, for instance, suddenly makes things seem better than what we thought they were, or magically changes the entire circumstance. Rather, through spiritual

Bruce is responsible for the Spiritual Formation and Supervised Field Education programs. In 2nd semester he will also teach Christian Spirituality.

practices the stressors themselves are placed into the broader and ultimate context of our security and significance being found in Jesus alone. We must never underestimate the courage and comfort such a change in perception can bring.


wo narratives which bracket Jesus’ ministry gift us with intimate and human glimpses into how his use of spiritual practices helped him handle stress—his temptation in the desert, and his prayer at Gethsemane.


oth see him greatly distressed and weakened as he wrestles with doubt, fear and temptation. Both see him employ spiritual practices (e.g. fasting, prayer, Scripture memory) to reach out beyond himself for what he most needs. Both see him receive those resources in being loved by the Father and abandoning himself to the divine purpose. He is given an altered perception through a realigned worldview, the comfort of angels, and the courage to face what lay ahead.


nlike Jesus, our burden does not come from saving the cosmos (although sometimes we seem to think we are!). Still, our stressors feel no less real to us than his did. While our difficult circumstances may not change, God can realign our perspective through the love and purpose we receive in spiritual practices, and so gift us with the comfort and courage we need to face whatever confronts us.


Managing Stress and Loving Thy Neighbour


Dr Aaron Chalmers (PhD, OT, Flinders University) is Head of the School of Ministry, Theology, and Culture and lectures in the field of Old Testament. In 2nd semester, Aaron will teach Introduction to Biblical Interpretation.

he Old Testament contains a number of examples of how individuals have coped during times of severe stress – after being issued with a death warrant by Jezebel, Elijah flees to a solitary place (1 Kings 19), when faced with an overwhelming workload, Moses is instructed to delegate some of his role to others (Exodus 18), the law calls for Sabbath observance – a day of rest not only for Israelites but also for their servants and animals (Deuteronomy 5)!

Constant interruptions and questions meant that I would go home from work feeling stressed because I hadn’t achieved what I had set out to. As a result, my role as a manager was suffering; my staff had become distractions from the “real work” that needed to be done. I could feel myself coming to resent them. A key realization for me during this period was that managing stress is an important way of keeping the second greatest commandment: to love our neighbor.


onstant stress can turn us inward, focusing our attention on what we think is overwhelming. And if our sole focus is on ourselves, there is no space for others. Perhaps, therefore, a primary reason to en-

strongly suspect, however, that most of us actually don’t need the Scriptures to tell us how to cope with stress – we already know we need some time alone, to delegate some of our work, or to take a break. The problem is that we are unwilling or (think that we are) unable to put these basic principles into practice. So what might motivate us?


ecently, Tabor Adelaide has been going through a period of reaccreditation. This has involved considerable, additional work for many of the staff, including myself. At the start of the year, however, I made a decision not to set too many goals for my 9-5 workday.


gage in self care is not because it benefits us (as important as this may be), but because it benefits, and is an expression of our love to, those around us.

Does All Stress Need To Be Negative?


ot all stress is negative. A tight schedule can result in working at our optimum by not getting fussed about unimportant details, but focusing on the most needful. Without some stress in our lives, we can be tempted to waste time, and end up feeling very dissatisfied, asking ourselves where the time has gone. Lesley Houston is the director of Tabor’s TESOL program Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She is enrolled in a PhD program at Flinders University. In 2nd semester, Lesley will be teaching Communication Skills.



nfortunately, stress also has a downside, at least for me. Although I do not always follow God’s promptings, these are the lessons God has whispered to me through the megaphone of stress. For me: •Stress is a consequence of never saying NO: I feel guilty saying no because [insert excuse here]. But Jesus left the demands of ministry and spent time with friends and alone. •Stress is worrying about things. But God says, “Do not worry about anything, but by prayer... let you requests be known to me. And my peace which passes understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus”

•Stress is feeling overwhelmed by something I do not think I can do. But God says, “But with me, everything is possible.” And “I do not give you more than you can bear.” •Stress is an intense desire to flee from an issue or problem. But God says, “Trust me with of all your heart and do not rely on your own instinct. In all your ways acknowledge me and I will make straight your paths.” •Stress is having a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me... pleading with God to take it away. And God says, “My grace is power is perfected in your weakness.”


do not have answers; I still worry, still get stressed about ‘stuff ’. But in the midst of it all, there is the whisper of God. Pray that I might listen and take heed.

Study Online at Tabor Adelaide

It is now possible to study online for accredited degrees in Theology, Ministry, or Intercultural Studies with Tabor Adelaide. To explore whether online study will work for you, contact Samantha,

Online is different from on-campus subjects: • schedule lectures to suit your timetable • accessible from anywhere in the world Online is just like on-campus subjects: • fully accredited • eligible for FEE-HELP Online subjects offer: • discussion with other students via forums • personal access to lecturers by email, phone, or skype • online library access

Thinking About Stress