Recently Dan Crain had the privilege of speaking at Desire Street’s “Thriving Leaders Series” on a topic called the “Underbelly of Service: Why the false self plagues so many ministries.”

You can watch the presentation here:

This is a blog series based on the content he presented at this workshop. We hope you find it beneficial as you learn to serve those on the margins well! You can reach Dan at or on Facebook at Dan Crain – Facebook.


“The Underbelly of Service”


There’s an underbelly of Christian ministry and service that we need to talk about. This underbelly is that sometimes we are doing things for the wrong motives. We are helping people, running organizations, ministries, or churches because we are hiding something. If we’re honest with ourselves we are doing this work because there’s something lacking in our family of origin and it manifest itself in the way we love our neighbors. We may be hiding the fact that we don’t think we are loved, good enough, or worthy unless we do something.


It’s an epidemic. Many of us are living disingenuous lives that are rooted in the false self.

This is why Pete and Geri Scazzero started an organization called, Emotionally Health Spirituality.

This has been a struggle of mine ever since I have been in ministry. For the past few years I can now name what I was struggling with; codependent relationships in ministry. For me I needed people to change or a ministry to be successful because if they didn’t or if my ministry wasn’t successful then I am a failure. It’s all rooted in my own selfishness, family of origin and sinful family patterns.

A few years ago I made a terrible mistake with a young man from our neighborhood that I loved dearly. In a rash moment I made a decision that left me paying a lot of money for something I clearly could have prevented if I had been thinking clearly. After it happened I began to reflect on why I did this and realized that I wanted to be the hero in this young man’s life. I wanted him to look at me as a father figure that was rescuing him. If you want to know the full story you can watch it here or I can share it in person over coffee.

Dr. James Richards writes in “Escape from Codependent Christianity”; “My needs do not have to move me to greed. There is nothing wrong with having a need. The problem emerges, however, when I depend on someone else to meet that need for me. I can never look outside myself to discover what should be found in my own heart. The codependent has developed a pattern of looking to others to meet the needs that can only be met in his own heart. Because certain needs cannot be met by others, the codependent is blinded through desperation. He begins the cycle of pain.”


A question that a good friend of mine, Andrej asked a few years ago when talking about Christian ministry is,


“What am I getting out of this? Am I getting a sense of being a hero, to be in control or seeking power?”


Those in leadership all struggle with it, in different capacities of course. Some of us are hugely codependent and crumble when someone speaks negatively about us. Some of us are narcissistic and thing that the ministry world revolves around us.


This is why a lot of people burn out in Christian ministry is because we have never gone backwards to go forwards. We have never visited our family of origin and wrestle with how the past continues to play out in the present and affects so much of our lives.


I have seen it with my, in my own heart, but also in the most successful men. Lawyers, engineers, director of operations in large companies and pastors. They hide and they do things because they are living out of the false self. They are doing it to prove something to themselves and to others that has hidden sin in their family of origin.

A good friend that has been very successful in life and manages hundreds of people said recently, “IQ will get you the job, but EQ (emotional intelligence) will help you keep the job.” I couldn’t agree with him more. If we don’t understand the false self that we all have we will all make decisions and live out of fear and this will plague every aspect of our lives.


So what do we do? We name it. We stop wearing masks. We begin to allow other people to help us and speak into our lives. We begin to slow our lives down to be with Christ.


This is a blog series committed to equipping the church to take the inward journey in order to truly learn what Jesus means to love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.


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