Mental Illness and the Church: Where do We Go From Here? (by Joel Rainey)

Joel Rainey is the Director of Missions at Mid-Maryland Baptist Association, an adjunct professor at Capital Bible Seminary and blogs at Themelios (Twitter – @joelrainey). This post was originally published at his site.

 

On Monday night, my wife and I watched the heartbreaking interview with Rick and Kay Warren in which, for the first time, they shared with the public their experiences surrounding the April suicide of their 27 year old son Matthew.  Due to the circumstances surrounding Matthew’s death, the interview spanned a number of issues: including  parenting, gun control, and the struggle of faith that occurs in even the most committed during such gut-wrenching times. But the primary focus of the interview centered on the state of mental health care in our country, and the role the church should play in that discussion.

I watched, first of all, as a father of three.  There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for my children.  I can’t imagine the helpless feeling of knowing your son or daughter suffers from an ailment, and that in spite of the best doctors, you are still unable to prevent them from doing something like this to themselves.  My heart broke for the Warren’s when I first heard of their son’s death back in April.  Last night, this father’s heart broke all over again.

But I also watched this as a pastor, and I did so with one question in my mind:  “Why would anyone suffering from mental illness turn to the church for help?”  I want the church to be the first stop for people in need.  Unfortunately, I was unable to answer my own question.

As it turns out, my reservations have some statistical warrant.  Just this week, Lifeway Research released its latest poll on mental illness and the church.  You can find the bulk of that research here, but what haunts me about the results is this:  48% of evangelicals believe that Bible study and prayer ALONE can cure mental illness.  Essentially, that means that half of regular, church-going, evangelical Christians see mental illness as solely a “spiritual” issue.  By contrast, only 21% of those polled who attend church said they believed they would feel welcome in their church if they had a mental illness.  Additionally, 45% of the unchurched don’t think people with mental illnesses are fully welcome in the body of Christ.

I believe that prayer works, and I believe that God still heals!  I have no doubt that the people of God, praying in faith, could certainly see someone fully restored to health.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes–cancerous tumors that no longer appeared on the CT scan after God’s people have prayed, for example. At the same time, I don’t know of any church who would discourage their people from visiting the doctor, or getting needed medical treatment.  Yet in too many churches, when it comes to mental health that same common sense approach goes out the window.

In my experience, this is primarily due to the misconception by many pastors that to accept the validity of mental health care is to deny the sufficiency of Scripture.  The problem with that assumption is that to deny our parishioners access to care that can potentially save their lives and help their families is to ignore one very important principle that those fully sufficient Scriptures teach.

Scripture teaches that God reveals Himself to us in two primary ways.  General Revelation is the process whereby God reveals truth through the created order (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20-21) and also through the human consciousness (Romans 2:14-15).  Special Revelation is the description given to specific ways in which God reveals truth throughout redemptive history, first through miraculous phenomena such as burning bushes, still, small voices, and messages in tongues, and ultimately in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2), who in turn is revealed in the written Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16).

So, while God reveals Himself in these two primary ways, human beings also explore truth in two primary ways.  Where special revelation is concerned, disciplines like Biblical studies, Biblical and Systematic Theology, and Hermaneutics are employed.  Where general revelation is concerned, we explore the created order through the earth, life and physical sciences, and we explore the inward human psyche through anthropology, sociology, education science, and psychology.

In short, through the behavioral sciences, God has provided us an avenue by which we can learn things about the human mind that will allow us to help.  Sure, some who handed these sciences down to us in history didn’t always have the purest motives, and still others were openly hostile to Christian faith.  But we also can’t dismiss that they stumbled onto some very legitimate findings that can be of help where mental health is concerned.  Some veins of historical science haven’t exactly been friendly to Christians either, but I’m not about to reject the very scientific method that gave my children a vaccine for chicken pox.  Truth was discovered, albeit through some rather crooked vessels.

With all this in view, here is why it is dangerous for pastors to reject the help that can be offered by the mental health field.  First, by appealing to the sufficiency of Scripture, we are rejecting what those Scriptures tell us about the validity of discovering truth via general revelation.  To put it bluntly, we are ignoring Scripture in an attempt to defend it, and that never ends well.

Second, we treat people with legitimate illnesses as though their problems are solely spiritual.  Admittedly there are times when this is the case.  Over the past 20 years, I’ve met with more than a few who claimed to “need counseling,” when what they really needed was repentance.  But often, working together with mental health professionals will help us help our people with the scientific advances God has given us.  My friend Ed Stetzer said it well earlier this week: Let’s treat character issues like character issues, but let’s treat illnesses like an illness.

Third, the rejection of mental health care sets up a polarization between two disciplines that should be helping each other.  The lack of trust between clergy and mental health professionals is both obvious and palpable in too many areas of our culture, and both sides need to rid themselves of the false assumptions they have about the other, and talk openly with each other.

I’ll be the first to agree that we are an over-medicated society.  We pop a pill for just about anything these days–when we get too fat, when we are working too hard, or when we need more vitamins.  It is true that sometimes the answer isn’t becoming dependent on a synthetic substance, but instead repenting from gluttony, getting some sleep, or eating some healthy vegetables.  But the answer to a society that over-medicates isn’t no medication.  Its appropriate medication.  Only when pastors and mental health professionals work together can we help to strike that balance.  Many of those mental health professionals can be found in our churches each and every Sunday.  Let’s seek to understand each other within the church–the very context in which God intends that trust grow between brothers and sisters.  Let’s equip those saints to fulfill a calling that is ever more crucial in our day, and let’s cooperate with them in a way that integrates our respective disciplines for the glory of God.

As a pastor, I want to see less Matthew Warren stories.  If the church doesn’t play a role in mental health, we will see more suicides, not less. The spiritual dimension that churches bring to the healing process is absolutely and critically essential.  But if the church wants to play a role, we have to be more approachable than recent research would indicate we are perceived to be.

We don’t stigmatize people with heart conditions or diabetes.  We pray for them, and we urge them to get the medical attention that we all know they need.  Those who suffer from mental illness should be treated in exactly the same way, and mental health professionals who love Jesus can help us take a badly needed and new approach to these precious image bearers of God.

Together, we can create the kind of church environment that causes the mentally ill to see open arms everywhere they see a church.  Let’s work toward that day!

Comments

  1. Louis says

    I did not see the interview with the Warrens. I agree with this post, and am glad that you wrote it. I was also glad to see the SBC pass a resolution on this issue at last year’s convention meeting.

    I also believe that it would be helpful for us to have better understanding of the doctrine of the “Sufficiency of Scripture.”

    Finally, one reason mental illness is such a difficult topic for many is that there is still so much that is unknown about mental illness and treatment. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, blood tests etc. can pinpoint many physical ailments about which there is no debate. Mental illness is more subtle. And when you add to that some of the historical animosity and disagreements between the mental health sciences and Christians, it is understandable that some Christians have been slow to interact with the mental health profession.

    But it is good to see progress on that front. I hope that this will help many people.

    • says

      I am fifty eight years old and I was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1984. My pastor at that time said that it was, “a landmark ordination for our church.” Less than a year later I had severe depression and did not know how to fight it. When I was agitated and depressed, I used to read certain passages of the Psalms every day, and hoped they would deliver me. My depression got worse. I knew that I had access to the throne of God through Jesus Christ and I took advantage of it. I asked that the depression would be taken away. By this time I could not sleep or eat and had no libido (these three occurring together are often a sign that a person has biological depression). I turned to evangelical writings of the day for help. They attributed depression to sin and also a flawed character. I was ashamed!

      I felt abandoned by God and by His church. I believe the devil was using this “apparent desertion” by God and man to try to get me to commit suicide. I kept fighting this atrocious act and had some relief from medication. My wife Robyn and I believed that God had called me to be a pastor. I tried to follow through with this high calling. I was asked to preach at what we hoped would be our first church. Just before the weekend we had been scheduled to candidate at our first church, I told Robyn, “I can’t do it, I cannot go.”

      I was suffering from a depression that refused to yield to the mediocre treatment, which I was getting at that time. Later when I had partial relief from my depression. I called the chairmen of the pastoral church committee, the same church which I had sought to be a pastor and told him what was wrong with me. I said to him, “I would like to preach in your church and I know that you are still seeking a pastor.” He said, “Rev. Do you have a case of the nerves?” I told him it was depression. The church was done with me.

      My suffering continued for many years, finally I convinced a psychiatrist to try me on a new antidepressant. After two weeks I was better. After about a year, I decided to go off my medications with my psychiatrist’s blessing. Within a week, I was horribly depressed. I was very suicidal and had to be watched by family members.

      I went on the same medication that had worked, this time it did not work. I descended into the black hole of depression. Finally while in great suffering; I decided to get ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). Back then, you had to be an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital for getting treatments. I was in there for a month and the ECT worked.

      Please don’t try to convince me that mental illnesses are not biological. I have been stable now for almost thirteen years. I take four medications for my illness. They do not cure me but they take the symptoms away. They are not tranquilizers or methamphetamines.

      And Oh! I forgot to tell you my older sister Cyndi, a Mother of three children killed herself about seven years ago. Mental Illness runs in the family, it is a genetic thing. She had a serious mental illness and she stopped taking her medications. She had on a t-shirt, the night of her death. It said on it, “Forgiven.” She hid her pain from me and I missed some of the signs. She could have gotten help but she refused to do so. I realize now, that suffering is not wasted when you suffer for Christ. Robyn I have been telling our story everywhere and thank God that he has used us to be Wounded Healers.

      Robyn and Steve Bloem

  2. John Fariss says

    Louis is exactly right, as is Dr. Rainey. Mental illness is seen in too many churches as either a pariah or a purely spiritual problem, and is not understood either as an illness or as something which, at times anyway, is a chemical imbalance that can be restored through medication. My wife has suffered at times with both clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I have made it a point to be completely honest with the churches I served about this. Our experience has been generally positive, but there are always members who neither have nor desire a better understanding of mental issues, and see it is a faith deficiency unworthy of anyone who claims the name “Christian.”

    I had never connected this with the sufficiency of Scripture, but can see where that might enter in. Interesting: if take to its logical conclusion, this means all we need to do is to pray or lay hands on burnt-out engines, flat tires, or brain tumors to cure them. And yet, any scholarly or responsible understanding of Scripture places certain restrictions upon it, such as that it is restricted to those issues the Scriptures address, matters the Scripture affirm, or something of the sort.

    John

  3. Andy Miller says

    Dr. Rainey,

    Most of us who use a biblical counseling model (nouthetic or others) would say we ought to listen to the data found by secular counseling. But this is far different from conceding the understanding of the human psyche to those with a distinctly different worldview than biblical Christianity. Yes, we should affirm that all people live in God’s world and can discover truths contained in his general revelation. But Scripture is our only truly authoritative source by which we know the fundamental questions of counseling: who is God?, who is man?, what is true happiness?, why do we suffer?, what is the goal of our existence?, etc. It seems from what you’re arguing, you would have pastors give over many of the more difficult problems almost exclusively to those with radically different answers to these questions.

    I’m with you on the fact that our churches need to be more open to helping the mentally ill. Amen! I’m with you on the fact that we need to listen even to the secular findings of the world because “all truth is God’s truth.” But I’m cautious about adopting a view which relegates the care of mental illness to the what sinful man can discover through natural revelation.

    Am I misunderstanding your view? If so, please correct me. I think this is a very important topic for pastors to be discussing. It’s around us every day. We all have much to learn.

    • Dave Miller says

      Andy, Joel can speak for himself, but I will take a crack at this. It is more of an art than a science to determine when to refer to a professional.

      I fully agree that we have given over too much ground to psychology and psychiatry, which are often built not only on non-biblical premises, but often anti-biblical. A lot of problems are spiritual and need to be dealt with biblically – repentance, forgivness (given and received) and obedience.

      However, churches and pastors need to realize that there is such a thing as mental illness – which requires medication.

      People are often messed up because of sin and bad choices. But sometimes people are messed up and depressed because something is wrong in their brain chemicals (or whatever) and those need a medical approach.

      In my experience:

      When someone is delusional or seriously paranoid, that may be mental illness. Get that person to a pro.

      Manic depression/bi-polar is a medical condition.

      Continual and repetitive depression can have both spiritual or medical causes, or a combination of the two. Encourage such a person to seek medical help as well as spiritual counsel.

      Cheering for the Braves, Crimson Tide or any team from Boston in any sport is a moral issue. No medicine will help.

      This is not an either/or. Sometimes, there are spiritual issues that need to be addressed. Sometimes the problems are medical. Most of the time, there is some kind of combination.

      But the consequences of NOT encouraging mentally ill people to get medical help are too horrific to think about. Err on the side of encouraging someone to combine spiritual counsel with medical attention.

      • Dave Miller says

        Oh, and if someone says anything that even hints at being self-destructive, take it seriously. Better to OVER-react 99 times than UNDER-react once.

  4. says

    This is a difficult issue. There should always be compassion in the church for those suffering any kind of aberrant thinking or behavior. As Louis mentioned, there are plenty of physical ailments that are diagnosed with great clarity. But wheres the test that shows bi-polar? Have you even seen the latest DSM? It’s laughable! So many things are relegated as disease that are not.
    Yet, sometimes in doing biblical counseling with someone there is obviously a deeper problem of comprehension or some kind of disconnect that makes bringing someone into conformity with the word of God, or bringing them to see they are refusing conformity to the will of God, that cries out for some kind of alternative. Enter medical and behavioral sciences.
    But, it’s hard to trust a lot of what goes under the guise of modern mental health practices. When PA’s or Nurse Practitioners can hand out Zoloft like Pez’s, its a bit of a concern.
    Lets not downplay the role of Biblical Counseling, I don’t mean “you just need to pray and read your Bible more.” I mean, someone trained in helping a person evaluate their behavior in the light of truth.
    But lets recognize that sometimes Mental Health professionals may be able to help. Maybe it will be short term help, or possibly in seriously affected people very long term help. In fact, some people may need to be kept in places where they cannot (easily) harm themselves or others.

  5. Bennett Willis says

    If half of us believe that it is just a matter of prayer and bible study, then the rest of the issues that are mentioned can be easily understood.

  6. says

    Hi folks, Thanks very much for the thoughtful and iron-sharpening comments. They give me hope for the future of dialogue in the SBC, and that’s saying something!

    I do feel the need to clarify a couple of things. First, I’m not suggesting at all that we “concede” to any clearly unBiblical principles. I am suggesting that we work together, starting with people in our churches who love Jesus and also happen to work in the mental health profession. Obviously, if a first premise of any discipline clearly counters a clear Biblical principle, the Scriptures win. At the same time, I question how many times the issue is truly that binary.

    For example, many of the personal Psalms of David were understood ia century ago n a light that many evangelical, inerrantist Old Testament scholars today would believe to be primitive, and our better hermaneutic of those passages today comes from an understanding of the “subconscious,” something we would have been unaware of from the standpoint of general revelation without the research of people like Sigmond Freud (who I think we can all agree was NOT a follower of Jesus!

    When Piaget spoke about “egocentricity” he was, whether he knew it or not, giving us great scientific insight into how depravity invades the developmental perceptions of children. That insight can give us knowledge that helps us counsel kids close to conversion, and their parents. Kohlberg’s research on moral development also can help us see with clearer eyes the “cul-de-sac” of sin that entire societies perpetually drive around in without Jesus, and family systems theory likewise gives us invaluable insight into how the Biblical concept of generational curses work, and how they can be broken.

    Those who study these disciplines who make up our churches don’t need to be held at arms length. They need to be equipped to serve within their professions and spheres of influence. At that point, we can begin to work these problems together.

    Second, seeing Scripture as our authoritative source is one thing, but too often I’m afraid we confuse inspiration with hermaneutic–ontology with epistemology when it comes to this issue. No one disagrees that we can misinterpret general revelation. All would agree I think that to varying degrees, Freud, Erikson, Piaget, Kohlberg, et al got it very, very wrong. But I’m always a bit nervous around folks who think, in the same breath, that Jay Adams couldn’t possibly have gotten anything wrong simply because he was holding a Bible. Its one thing to say that God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture is our supreme source of authority. Its quite another to think (consciously, or subconsciously, apologies for the unintended pun. :)) that we have such a perfect understanding of that supreme revelation that we can’t possibly misperceive what it teaches us just as badly as those who seek truth through general revelation. History has certainly proven otherwise.

    It is not my intention at all to downplay legitimate Biblically-saturated counseling, and I think I already stated in the post above that sometimes, it really is repentance rather than “therapy” that is needed. But Dave is right, pastors need to be humble enough to admit that, more times than we probably think, the behavioral sciences can be of invaluable assistance to us and our people. Conversely, we need to be discerning enough not to uncritically embrace any particular “school of thought” that causes us kto either automatically refer people out, or keep them close out of fear that they might be led down a false path. Dave said it best, that’s more of an art than a science.

  7. Louis says

    Andy Miller and Clark:

    Thanks for your comments. I do not disagree with your statements about what the Bible says about who God is, who man is, what is our purpose in life etc. There are areas where the biblical truths are denied by people in the mental health profession. I also do not disagree with the fact that the mental health profession, diagnosis and prognosis etc. is not always right.

    Being clear and remaining true to the Word are very important.

    I am sure if we were speaking together in person that we could communicate much better, but since we aren’t let me ask you about certain mental health matters.

    Do you believe biblical counseling is sufficient to treat schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, psychosis and other mental health conditions?

    Do you believe that Christians who suffer from these conditions are wrong to seek medical treatment, including the use of medications?

    What about Christians who suffer from severe anxiety or depression?

    If there are some mental illnesses that are bad enough to warrant medical treatment, including the prescription of medication, how do you distinguish between those that are bad enough to warrant medical treatment and those that are not.

    I don’t have any medical training or background, so I am left, as in most cases, to rely on experts who do.

    Do either of you have any medical training?

    I don’t know if you are pastors, but depending on your answers to the questions above, and if you are pastors or church workers, do you give advice about these conditions to others and whether they should seek medical treatment?

  8. Crystal says

    Thank you for writing this article. I appreciate what you shared. I grew up in a home with a mother who had paranoid schizophrenia. To many our family was “invisible.” To extended family my mother’s illness was the “elephant in the room” that no one wanted to speak of. Truly it is very sad because so much pain and destruction could of been lessened with someone who would of cared. What is the role of the church in families with mentally ill members? I ask the question for reflection.

    I became a Christian in my teen years and my way of coping with my mom’s illness was to say something like “I am a stronger Christian because of it.” It was the best I could do at the time- it made other Christians comfortable. But in honesty it did not make me stronger and I do not want to be stronger “on the back” of my mom’s struggle. I would much rather her to have had freedom from a devastating illness. I am confident my mom knew Christ. In a time when she was more stable I clearly shared with her and know she had a faith in Christ. She had faith in Him but also in her life she thought her parents were Nazis – that someone spoke to her out of the radio – she tried to knife my aunt – run over my brother – told us people were playing tape recorders outside our windows – she would repeatedly starve herself – and I could go on and on. Her faith in Christ did not stop the incessant delusions and hallucinations. Does that mean her faith was not real? No. I believe it was real. The medicines when she remained on them would help but having her remain on them was a constant struggle. Having her hospitalized was incredibly stressful and heartbreaking. Imagine being my brother, a 16 year old boy, watching your mother forcibly carried off in an ambulance telling you she would never forgive you. In the end, she believed she had no children – lived in an unsafe home – refused contact with anyone – starved herself – and nearly died alone. I was at her hospital bedside when she died. I held her in my arms after they removed life support and told her even though she was unconscious that everything would be okay. She passed then but she had been “dying” for years and I had been grieving for years.

    My mom would not have recovered with nouthetic counseling. When you live with someone who suffers in this way you know. We harm those who suffer with such illnesses – and those who love them – when we suggest such.

    I have thought of this issue often – the way the church views mental illness. I think as Christians we are afraid. We are afraid that when our “comfort” -telling a youth that she is a stronger christian because of her mom’s illness- does not truly soothe the pain that the hope we share is not real. We are afraid that when our “counseling” does not make them well that the hope we share is lacking. The truth is – the church does offer a real hope. But it is in being real about the pain of mental illness – it is in offering practical relief to a family that deals with a mentally ill family member day in and day out – it is in grieving with them – it is in being in the suffering with them – it is in trying even though it is not perfect to find the very best way to help them through all resources including medicines.

    Also, I think if we are honest we are hesitant to interact with the mentally ill because we are afraid that the person with mental illness could be us.

    I remember seeing a very powerful photograph of a room in an abandoned mental hospital. It showed a room with shelves lined with cans. The cans held remains of patients – patients who had no family, friends, no one – to even notice that they had died. How could the church love those who are mentally ill?

    • John Fariss says

      Crystal,

      Thank you for your very candid and courageous comments. Through the lens of my dear wife, I can somewhat identify with your situation, as it resonates with her family of origin. For the same reasons you list, I am suspicious of “nouthetic counseling,” although I will be interested to hear how Andy Miller responds. Praise God for your progress–and then reach around and give yourself a pat on the back for the work you have done. I see few people who recognize all the long and hard work that patients themselves go through in recovery, but from my wife, I know at least something of what it is.

      John Fariss

    • Ruth says

      Crystal I am moved to respond to your honesty and reflection of heart breaking experiences. You indeed have been tested to breaking point and have a voice that will be respected by many. I believe that in the same way you’ve expressed your mother’s faith didn’t stop incessant delusions and hallucinations my friend’s faith did not stop a progressive disease, MS.

      I agree emphatically it is about being real concerning pain of mental illness and that it is the elephant in the room as domestic violence can be. We, the church do have to consider what support is being offered to individuals with mental health issues and their families whether it’s respite or as you say sharing grieving and suffering. We haven’t got all the answers however may require sensitivity and willingness to step outside our comfort zones. I am not decrying the power of prayer, however often it needs to be accompanied by willing hearts.

      Thank you for sharing your personal anecdote and God bless you

  9. says

    Crystal, Thank you for your boldness in sharing this very personal story. Your experiences are the very reason I wrote the post, so I’m honored that you think it was helpful. Blessings to you and your family.

  10. Louis says

    Crystal:

    Thanks for that comment.

    I agree with many of the general statements and aspirations of biblical counseling. But it is clear to me that the general statements and aspirations are often tested to the breaking point when lined up with real world examples, such as your mother or those are are institutionalized, or even less serious cases.

    I think it is easy to speak in platitudes, even true ones, but difficult to address real world situations in this area. When pressed for details, people who advocate for a “biblical counseling only approach” often don’t have much to offer.

    I wish you the best.

  11. William Thornton says

    Sorry to be late on this. Joel gives a sensible and balanced view but it is always troublesome to find predictable responses to seriour mental health issues.

    Commenters who are loath to give in to the comparison that some mental health issues are like broken bones, you are unlikely to pray your way out of them, may be commended for guarding the concept that God can do anything and that many problems are a result of sin, but their view will possibly cost lives as those who are suffering from serious mental health problems commit suicide while the pastor tries to counsel them out of it with Scripture. Better to err on the side of preserving lives, I’d say.

    I hate to see stories such as the pastor above whose discussions with a church were ended abruptly when he admitted mental health problems and recommend that pastors be prudent in sharing their health issues. Once you are known to have mental issues you are damaged goods. Johnny Hunt may get by with such an admission but not ordinary pastors. They’re toast.

    I would ask Joel Rainey how, as an associational missionary, he handles recommendations to churches of pastors to churches whom he knows has had mental health issues. How would he advise a prospective pastor to handle disclosure or non-disclosure.

    Question for all: If a church asks on a prospective pastor/staff questionnaire, “Do you now or have you ever been treated for mental health problems?” how should the pastor answer?

    • says

      I had a missionary friend who became quite manic and his mania was causing somewhat of an uproar among some of his supporting churches. My pastor contacted me and I went to speak with the missionary. He was angry with the pastor without good reason and he had delusions of grandeur. I was able to link him up to a very skilled Christian psychiatrist who prescribed a mood stabilizer for him and it was quite effective. This man was an effective church planter. I believe the mission made a mistake when they asked him to resign.
      My advice was to put him on a short medical leave, get him on right medications and let me monitor his thinking, behavior and mood over an agreed time. He was stable in about a months’ time. However, the mission followed through with a forced resignation, he lost all his support and is now back in the states. He continues to be an evangelist and church planter and has a sound mind.
      Our agency specializes in assessing pastors or missionaries who have mental illness. The answers are not easy but there are answers. We must have an open mind to the problem and think biblically. How about Nebuchadnezzar? He had a seven year God induced psychosis but God after the promised time gave him back his reason. What about Elijah, who was so depressed, he pleaded with God to take his life? But he actually never saw death. He was escorted to Heaven by a band of angels in chariots of fire. I am not saying that we should give pat answers. Our pastoral theology should not be a “one size fits all mentality” or a patent remedy. We should approach the problem with an eye to solving it. We need much prayer also.

  12. says

    As the director of a Christ-centered, professional counseling center in Maryland, I can attest to the fact that Joel leads responsibly and caringly in the area of mental health among local churches. He makes pastors and church members aware of Christ-centered, professional counseling resources and makes sure he knows the providers to whom he is referring. He, at times, finds ways to help individuals pay for counseling if there is a financial barrier to receiving help. I think this is a strong model for other ministry leaders to consider. I often tell pastors that we, as an agency, are looking to partner so that we can work in our area of giftedness and training and thus come alongside local pastors and free them to work in their areas of giftedness and training. We want to support and to partner and recognize that pastors are often the first people to know when someone is struggling with their mental health. They receive that first disclosure and are then tasked with guiding the person to find appropriate resources, help, and treatment. I celebrate this article and the discussion it has opened. I celebrate the recent articles from Baylor University and Lifeway Research on this topic. We as the church have to do more and speak out for those that are in so many ways “the least of these” among us. Mental illness does still have significant stigma in our society and the church has the opportunity to be a first responder in the lives of those affected.