In Dialogue with Phil Ellis, Ph.D.

In Dialogue with Phil Ellis, Ph.D. June 20, 2019

When I was young it was common for people to commit and make a life decision, based primarily on a presentation of a Christian belief system.  Phil called it a conversion experience.  That belief decision would lead us into a community of believers where we could develop a sense of belonging.  Now it is the opposite.  Belonging is the priority.

I’ve had the privilege of a couple conversations with Phil Ellis, Ph.D.  He’s a Fully Licensed Psychologist, and interestingly, a Protestant who is also qualified as a Spiritual Director.

We met at Grand Traverse Pie Company on Park Street and Front Street.  Phil asked about my specialties.

JVI | tea at the mobile office | Traverse City | 06.06.19

In Dialogue with Phil Ellis, Ph.D.

He said that how I define myself will be what people think of when they’re referring clients to me.  During the course of our conversation, he asked about my writing, marriage and family therapy, ministry, and spaces for counseling that I’ll be utilizing.

He said it’s all about the writing so let’s talk about that first

I’m writing as an Evangelical Columnist for Patheos, and for the Pentecostal-Charismatic Curriculum Commission.  I’m a PCG representative on the commission, which meets twice per year. However, I’ve also done a lot of writing.  In about the last 18 months I’ve written 20 professional articles, which totaled over 60,000 words.

Phil asked if there’s a book in there.  I replied that I’ve talked to someone from a large house (publisher) about a book that would be at least 50,000 words. I’ve also talked to distance doctorate programs requiring coursework and dissertations of 80,000 words. The discipleship material is dated, so after is is published and runs its course, it is my material once again.  There may be a book or dissertation. The Lord seems to be showing me that I could complete such a project if He directs. I also publish previous discipleship materials and seminary research on the blog as a great outlet to get my writings out in front of fresh eyes.

He asked about the clients I can best serve at my new marriage and family practice

I see couples, families, adolescents, and young adults. As a Therapist, Pastor, Student Development Professional, and Teacher, I’ve logged many hours serving young adults as they navigate life. I’ve counseled children, in consultation with pediatricians. As a Pastor, I’ve overseen ministries for all ages, including aging cohorts. In addition to premarital counseling, I’m a Wedding Officiant.

He asked about my role as a Pastor

I’ve served as a Pastor and on Pastoral Staff. I have done a lot of preaching and speaking at conferences. I ministered at West Bay Covenant Church last Sunday.

I’ve launched a nonprofit for ministry, and marriage and family therapy. Phil asked if that’s where the funds go, and I said it is. The nonprofit serves as an umbrella for both the counseling and ministry.

He asked about my opportunity to counsel out of churches

I am counseling out of West Side Community Church on Monday’s. Phil asked if that’s Pastor John Clark’s church.  I replied that it is, and my liaison is Pastor Stephen Scott. We have a great conference room for counseling.

I’m also counseling out of West Bay Covenant Church on Thursdays. Pastor Kent Anderson ministers there, and we have a library to counsel in.

Phil used to do a lot of child counseling

When he got into private practice, he would only do child consultations through for the hospital. He used to counsel children at Pine Rest in Grand Rapids. Some of these foster care children only had doll houses and drawings.  You wouldn’t believe it’s this way in our society, but some of them had been living there for years

He’s said that he’s probably going to do less counseling

He used to have an office upstairs above Chase Bank.  Then he moved across the street, because he knew the owner, who gave him a good deal on the lease.  He will be lightening his load at that office this fall.

He’s kept that office, because he wants to have an office downtown. Early next year he may take a couple months to reevaluate.  He sees a lot of VIP’s and people who wouldn’t mind if he took a couple weeks off.

We talked about our common faith

Phil says they are going to be welcoming a new pastor at Faith Reformed Church soon. However, until they do, they are ministering on a series called All In. Phil is considering what he can do to be All In at this point in his career.

We talked about the joy of Bible reading.  He mentioned that he likes to recommend the Gospel to others.  They always seem to form opinions about Jesus, but have they read any of the Gospels? He recommends that if they need a place to start, then read just one Gospel.

Phil is also a Spiritual Director, and he enjoys that work

Phil became a Spiritual Director at the Dominican Center in Grand Rapids.  There is the psychological side, and then there’s the spiritual direction side. The two sides do not always meet, but when they do, he says it’s like the sweet spot. He wants to do more integration.

So we basically talked about catechesis

Phil says that one issue in the work of transformation is that people are sometimes able to think 5 years ahead with a business plan, but not able to think 5 years ahead with a life plan.  He tries to help people establish a plan for living (psychologically speaking), or a rule of life (in spiritual direction terms).

When I was young it was common for people to commit and make a life decision, based primarily on a presentation of a Christian belief system.  Phil called it a conversion experience.  That belief decision would lead us into a community of believers where we could develop a sense of belonging.  Now it is the opposite.  Belonging is the priority.

People are belonging to a community of faith first

Then they often discover that their beliefs are changing as part of a community, and that they’re becoming Christian.

Phil agreed and added that whether someone remembers their conversion experience or not as a child, they still must become a Christian. It’s a process of maturity. I said that I’m sure he knows (as a Spiritual Director) that for a couple generations after Christ, the church was still taking converts through 1 1/2 – 3 years of catechesis.  Only then could they be baptized.

Phil said he’s hesitant to mention Rob Bell, but he used to attend his church years ago.  Bell said:

“God is God. The rest is commentary.”

We chatted about James Hampton III’s thoughts on belonging to community before believing, stages of Christian maturity by James Fowler, and works on transformation by Gary Moon.  Their thoughts colored our dialogue.

Phil said that my specialties in ministry and marriage and family therapy are important around here, because this is a confusing town for young adults.

I already have his card, and he took about half a dozen of mine.  I am truly honored to have a little time to converse with Phil. We both look forward to more dialogues like this.


To find Phil Ellis, Ph.D. in Psychology Today CLICK HERE

Rev. Jared V. Ingle

Meet Jared

Therapist Locator Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)


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