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A Conversation with a Psychologist Turned Pastor on Soul Health

We often overlook the necessity of spiritual, emotional, and relational health

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Paul Marc Goulet is the Senior Pastor of International Church of Las Vegas, a multi-campus church with thousands of members who worship together on a weekly basis. Having trained in Psychology and Pastoral Counseling, he also founded Top Leader VT, a unique Christian leadership organization.

One of your passions is growing healthy believers. What does health mean to you?

We need to realize, something like 99% of people that walk through the doors in our church are broken. They’re the children of divorce, the children of alcoholism, the children of abuse. One out of four girls in America is sexually abused by the age of 16.

If you look at it statistically, everyone that comes into your church is broken, no matter what their degrees, their money, or their titles – they’re all broken people. So that’s why healing is such a passion of mine.

David wrote in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a steadfast spirit in me.” He understood something that we also find in the New Testament, and it’s that we’re tripartite beings – body, soul and spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote, “May your whole body, soul and spirit be preserved as one until the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).”

“If that’s the focus then the root cause will creep up somewhere else.

We have a body. We have a spirit, with a small “s”, which is how we can be born again of the Spirit so our spirit can be born again. And we have a soul, which is our mind and emotions.

We focused on all three areas when I ran counseling centers. I was trained by Dr. Dobbins in the model of “Total health,” – body, soul, spirit, relationships, and everything else. That’s still our model today.

What does a healthy believer look like? How do you actually get people to health on the ground level?

When I’m dealing with the hurting multitudes, my first goal is to get them spiritually healthy, and for them to have a good healthy relationship with God the Father.

To get there, we focus on our God concepts. How do we see God? Paul said this in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know him, and the power of the resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.” So Paul is an apostle, and yet he wanted to know God more intimately. Most people really don’t know God.

The Apostle Paul also exhorted us to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). Reconciliation is the process of bringing peace to two parties, so we really focus on health with God. We need to have a good God concept. We can’t see God as being the same as our earthly fathers or mothers – we need to see God for who He really is.

“Healthy trees grow. Healthy churches grow. Healthy businesses grow.

Number two, I want them to clean out their hearts, their vats, their minds, to be healed. They need to transform their thinking.

Everything you and I experience is not filtered through the facts of our life. Rather, we filter it through our interpretation of the facts. And that interpretation is our vat, our mind and emotions. The Bible refers to this as the heart system, or the mind.

So what we really try to accomplish when it comes to soul health is cleaning out our vat. We work through identifying lies that we believe from our past, mindsets that tell people they are unlovable, because their father beat them or they were sexually abused. We help people reinterpret bad events.

The third thing, of course, is we want them to be physically healthy. And so I’m big on nutrition. I’m big on caring for my body. We teach this in our church. We have health classes, kickboxing classes, and nutrition classes.

The fourth one, of course, is relationships. We’ve really focused on healthy relationships. This requires forgiveness and forgiving others. You can’t overstate the importance of forgiveness for health.

Why do you think a lot of believers aren’t healthy?

I’ll give you the quick answer – it’s because their leaders aren’t healthy.

I don’t know about you, but when I went to Bible College nobody trained me to deal with my own emotions. Nobody talked about my sexuality, my thought life, my temptations, or my past hurts from before I got saved.

The focus was more on behavior. Cut your hair. Get the right Bible. Go to Bible study. That was the solution.

When I said, “Well guys, I wanted to kill myself. I was struggling with drugs and alcohol and depression.” I was told, “Stop doing that.” The focus was just on extinguishing the behavior, but if that’s the focus then the root cause will creep up somewhere else.

I don’t fault any of our leaders or pastors. I had tremendous pastors – I love them with all my heart. But they had zero clue on how to be emotionally healed. Their solution was just “Take two Scriptures and call me in the morning.”

So, the good thing is I had training by I think one of the greatest Christian psychologists to be alive, Dr. Dobbins. I then studied with people like Dr. James Dobson and Norman Wright. I went through two years of group therapy.

This has all helped me survive my marriage. It’s helped me survive ministry. It’s helped me survive Las Vegas, helped me survive three kids and 12 grandkids. It helped me survive death threats and troubles galore.

What I want to do is equip leaders to become healthy, because the best way to grow a church or business is to be healthy. Healthy trees grow. Healthy churches grow. Healthy businesses grow.

In our church, we spend a long time training our leaders to be healthy, because then they will spread health. They won’t spread COVID-19, they will spread health!

What are some of the fruits of having a healthy life? Do you have stories of how this has manifested?

I wrote a book called The Transformed Family, which is my most important book. It shows how God has used our family, and how He can use yours as well.

Paul with his wife Denise, children, and grandchildren in their home, Las Vegas, USA 2018

 

My eldest daughter is a therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family, and she started her own Counseling Center. She teaches at university and has four kids. Mary is my middle child – she’s a worship leader and realtor and also has four kids. My youngest is Samuel. He’s 31 years old and is pastoring one of our campuses – we’re training him to be my heir apparent. He really has a call on his life. All my kids love God, and now I’m grandpa to 12 grandkids. And this is possible for every Christian family, as we come to health.

Another example is from the nation of Rwanda. I went there back in 1996, shortly after the terrible genocide. Something like 8 bombs went off while I was in the country.

My goal was to help the leaders reinterpret what had happened to them. Once they had received healing, they were able to go back to their villages. We empowered them to go back and say, “This genocide didn’t come from God. We can’t change what happened but we can the story we tell ourselves.” It’s like what Joseph said to his brothers, “What you meant for harm, God turned for good” (Genesis 50:20).

These leaders went back and made a difference in their nation, and of course Rwanda went through and is continuing in remarkable transformation.

You have a leadership organization called Top Leader that is making a difference in the nations. What makes it unique among Christian leadership organizations.  

First, we have great partners. Without them, we could not have done this.

Second, our strategy was to do live trainings, specifically with leaders. We focused on France, and started by going there twice a year (we’ve since expanded to other places). We would spend two days with a small group of leaders – that means you get to pour your life into them. We didn’t want a crowd, we wanted leaders – that meant we needed to be in smaller groups. It was very strategic.

We then created Top Leader VT, a website where we can offer continuing education. So it’s not just twice a year, but is sustainable through online support.

Third, Top Leader adds the component of compassion. I firmly believe that Top Leader works because we give. We feed 15,000-25,000 people every month around the world. We have initiated compassion programs, reaching prostitutes, doing a lot of work with immigrants, and this bears fruit and lets people know we care

Finally, we know that Jesus said, “I’ll build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” If that’s what Jesus is building, then we want to be a church planting movement as well. In the last two years we planted 12 churches in France, and we are planning on planting another 12 this year. So we’re actually growing in speed.

My goal with Top Leader was to build relationships with leaders that is ongoing and to commit my life to them. Our commitment to relationship is more important than numbers and more important than dues. It’s literally our DNA.

Speaking at a Top Leader meeting in Paris, France, 2019

 

We do two big conferences in Vegas each year, and I usually have about 40 French leaders fly in. I’ll commit 2 or 3 days to them, and bring them to a cabin. We’ll spend three days walking, talking, praying, crying, training, laughing, and eating. Everything rises and falls on leaders.

Have you seen impact from Top Leader in nations outside of the United States and France?

Yes – I’ll give you an example. There was a man in India named Ivan. He didn’t have 50 people in his church, but yet we poured in money and time for 10 years. Now his church has 10,000 people, and he’s started hundreds of churches. He was just made general superintendent for his denomination in northern India, and has thousands and thousands of churches under him.

He only had 50 people when I met him, but I said, “Ivan, I’m going to give you everything I have. I’m going to transfer everything I can to you.” He was the “man of peace” – God gave me the strategy to find a man with an apostolic calling who was not yet walking in it. That was Ivan.

Paul ministering at a Top Leader conference in Madagascar, 2019

 

The same thing happened in Malaysia. There was a man that had 15 people in his church. Now, after we invested in him, he’s one of the top leaders of Malaysia. I could go on and on and on, about people that I simply walk alongside.

In Mexico, we partnered with a guy starting a prison ministry or reentry program. It’s become so successful. It’s been going national now. But once again, I poured eight and a half years into this guy, committed to building relationships. You build people in order to build big things.

I think the secret is I wasn’t trying to build my movement or Kingdom, I was trying to build God’s kingdom.

For more from Paul Marc Goulet, check out the links below:

Las Vegas, COVID-19, and the Church

The ICLV Story: Paul Goulet