A recent suicide by a US pastor whose ongoing struggles with his mental health were part of his public ministry has produced a lot of commentary on the subject of ministry, chronic depression, and how sufferers can live with both.
Connor Gwin writes from the perspective of his own life dealing with both of these areas, and how the church can stray into two unhelpful directions, both of which marginalise a situation that is anything but marginal.
Often, the Church floats between two extremes when it comes to mental health. On one side you have the folks that believe that mental health is a purely spiritual matter; that depression is a sign of spiritual weakness and the solution is prayer. On the other side, you have people that believe that mental illness is a purely physical issue caused by improper brain function and cured through therapy and medicine.
What both sides share is a firm commitment to silence. If your mental illness is a spiritual problem, you will (most likely) not discuss it in church. If your mental illness is only a physical problem, you will talk with your therapist but not your faith community.
What we are left with is a church that never speaks of mental illness. The problem is that mental illness affects everyone in our churches, including our pastors.
The deeper question Gwin wants to interact with is whether there is a place in pastoral ministry for those who suffer.
The mental health of the pastor can make or break a church when the pastor is the focus of the church, not Christ. Too often pastors are seen as “professional Christians” or moral exemplars that set the bar for the congregation.
Of course, there is some truth to this. A pastor should be a Christian on the path, but the thing about being on the Christian path is that you will stumble. You will fall into sin. You will miss the mark. You will be selfish and make bad choices. You will not have it all together. This is all true of pastors as well.
Should people with mental illness be disqualified from ministry? Perhaps some should, but this question raises the deeper question:
Who is qualified for ministry?
If scripture is our guide, we see that God has a special way of using the most broken for His purposes.
Read the rest of the post at Mockingbird.