Recently I was shocked to hear the news of another young man, a pastor, who had taken his own life, leaving behind a beautiful wife and three gorgeous kids. It is heartbreaking to say the least.
This article could go in many different directions. But I’m choosing the direction that seems to me to be most obvious. The world needs a mystical teachings where the sick are welcome, and where even the senior leaders are allowed to be sick even in their appointed seasons of ministry.
Why? Because it happens.
The system of church must be able to cope with it, especially given that the church is a hospital for the sick.
What I talk about here is not physical disease, but the mental, emotional, spiritual maladies that so many of us have been dogged by. I have had three major bouts of depression, I have suffered panic attacks, and I have endured enough grief to understand and accept that suffering is endemic to life.
So why is there a perception that those with depression are not welcome in the church?
Why would there not be the appropriate support and counselling and programmes of training to help sick people? Well, sometimes there are resource constraints.
Part of the reason, perhaps, is that our modern world is so geared around slick and efficient operations, and pastoral leaders feel driven to replicate that in the church.
This perfectionism that can never be satisfied has become part of modern church culture.
So many young and not-so-young men and women in the church today are under enormous pressure to serve well enough to please the people they serve as well as the church boards they work for.
The church needs to be a place where we can be rewarded for our honesty regarding our weaknesses.
After all, it’s a biblical idea that we receive Christ’s strength when we admit our weakness. The trouble is we live in a day that has forgotten biblical tradition, and that has bought the lie that successful church must be competitive, and that successful ministry must be both effective and founded in excellence. Church is run like a business, competing for its members, with its sales and marketing strategies, instead of simply rooting itself in living out the gospel.
There are many reasons why churches may not embrace the concept of strength-in-weakness within their ministries. Many forces collide. Part of the issue is the intrusion of prosperity, name-it-claim-it, doctrine.
It seems to me that if we are to improve the acceptance of mental health issues like depression in our churches we need to embrace them across the board. What would Jesus have us do? Deny the reality? By no means!
I cannot think of a better way of doing this than one of the pastors or key leaders being completely transparent about a current struggle. Oh, I know that that used to be a no-no. As a pastor you would not share on anything unless you had overcome it. But pastors also need to lead the way in vulnerability which shows humility.
Pastors need to show courage, ironically in their weakness by being vulnerable, to encourage others in their weakness.