Last time I wrote about practical ways in which churches can work to address the concrete needs of those affected by mental illness and emotional distress in their congregations. That frankly is something that is not too difficult or controversial. The more difficult task for clergy is how to address mental health during the service. Here as well I think a holistic approach is best and necessary. Every aspect of the service, from choice of music to sermon, can and should speak to these issues. Continue reading
Previously I wrote concerning the importance of faith communities as well as professional support in addressing mental health in our congregations. I advocated using a holistic approach, addressing the spiritual, emotional, physical and social aspects of the whole person. Today I am going to look at practical ways that churches can do that. Continue reading
Mental health is a major concern in the United States, and Christian books concerning depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are common bestsellers. Yet the majority of pastors rarely or never discuss it on Sunday mornings.
A 2018 study by Lifeway research brought the issue of how mental health is addressed in churches to light. The study found that although 66% of pastors rarely discussed mental health issues from the pulpit, over half have counseled someone with an acute mental illness, and ¾ of those surveyed knew someone personally who suffered from clinical depression. The study found that almost a quarter of pastors surveyed struggled with mental illness themselves. If this is the case, why aren’t pastors speaking about this more often? Continue reading
I have a game at home called “We Didn’t Playtest This At All”. It’s a really fun game (to some at least) based on unique cards that people play during the game that change the rules of the game as it’s played. For example, one card simply says “You Win” and when you play that card, you win (but only if you’re a girl in one case). Unless someone has the card that allows them to make someone lose whenever that person just won (but they also lose). My favorite card though is called “Politics”. When you play that card you are told to say “everything is ruined!”, then all players turn in all their cards and pick new ones. Because, as we know, politics ruins everything. Continue reading
The relationship between body, mind and soul is one of the most complicated and least understood in the modern world. One reason is that while the three certainly seem distinguishable (at least to those who believe we have a soul) the boundaries are extremely hazy. Is depression a result of a chemical imbalance, a poor self-image, or guilt from personal sin? How you answer this question will be a reflection of not simply your faith but your worldview as well (and the answer is most probably “yes” to all three). Continue reading
Recently John Piper, through his Desiring God twitter account, sent out the following message: “Stop seeking mental health in the mirror of self-analysis, and start drinking in the remedies of God in nature.” The result was a backlash from many concerned with this apparent disregard for the nature of mental illness. A friend of mine told me afterward that he had recently lost a friend to suicide and that this sentiment was not helpful in the least.
Piper later walked back on his statement a bit, adding the context of the statement for clarification, noting that “mental health” meant something different 40 years ago.
To be quite honest, the suggestions included in the text (“10 Resolutions for Mental Health”) were quite interesting and would be beneficial for anyone. I recommend you read them. However couching this advice for “mental health”, knowing that true mental health is not just an intellectual endeavor but involves the interplay of biology and psychology as well, is still irresponsible.
Many shared their own stories of the battle between faith and true mental illness.
That’s weird, because I live with sometimes-crippling depression, which, at times, leaves me wishing for death, and I rarely stare into a mirror. Yet somehow all the strength and beauty of God hasn’t changed my brain chemistry.
— Jason Chesnut-no-t-in-the-middle (@crazypastor) February 6, 2018
Christianity today still has much to learn about mental illness. Following is a post I originally wrote in 2015 which speaks to this further. Continue reading
Funerals are something that Chaplains are well acquainted with. I’ve attended and presided over more than I can count over the past ten years. These can be challenging for Chaplains as more often than not, we know very little about the person we are eulogizing. Many times we may know little more than a person’s religious background and the stories told about them by friends and family.
Chaplains are also occasionally called on to perform services for those who never believed, at least as far as we know. I’ve done a few of these services myself, and they can be challenging. Ministers who believe in the final, eternal punishment of the unrepentant sinner can feel torn when asked to perform a funeral for someone whose faith may be unknown, unclear, or even blatantly unbelieving. Typically at the funeral of a believer we comfort those who mourn with the assurance of heaven and salvation. How do we comfort those for whom that assurance is not so sure? Continue reading
I want to first state that this is not going to be a bashing of traditional, orthodox Christian theology. Orthodoxy certainly has its place, and has earned it over thousands of years. Lately it’s come under quite a bit of fire in spots, especially regarding such things as its view of homosexuality, penal substitutionary atonement, the doctrine of hell and so on. This is not about the merits or problems with conservative theology against progressive theology. Neither is this about defending “health-and-wealth” theology, which is an entirely different subject altogether I think. What I do want to do is give a (qualified) defense of what many call “feel good” theology, “me-ology” or “watered down” theology, which for the sake of discussion is teaching or theology that tends to favor the emotional over the intellectual, and minimize talk of God’s judgment (sin, hell and so on) in favor of God’s love (grace, forgiveness). It’s one of the most derided forms of faith, and often for good reason. However I am going to say that in some circumstances it’s not a bad thing. Continue reading
Something a little different if you don’t mind…
In June 2017, my family will have an opportunity to go on an international mission trip to Nicaragua. The trip is being coordinated through our church, New Community Church, in partnership with Agros International. This trip is the seventh team from our church to go into Nicaragua to build relationships that both support and encourage the people there who are working hard to move out of extreme poverty using loans provided by Agros International. Continue reading
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming
***update 9/29/16: The New York Times recently published a very good article that explores this topic more in depth and personally, and I highly recommend reading it (link in the text). I still beat it by a few days though!***
This election year has been a tumultuous one for too many reasons to mention. It has definitely been the most polarizing of any in recent memory. It’s impact will be felt long past the tenure of whichever candidate wins in November in our country as a whole, but specifically among those who call themselves Evangelical Christians.
Previously, at least in conservative Evangelical circles, the choice for president was fairly clear and rote: you could only vote Republican. The Democratic party was basically equated with everything that Evangelicalism was not. It was pro-choice, supported by the ACLU, sought to keep the bible, prayer and creationism out of our schools, pushed agendas such as gay rights and “big government”, and was generally seen as the party of left-leaning atheists, elites, and mainline pseudo-Christians. Republicans were the voice of “real” Christians at the political level. It valued proper moral and ethical behavior grounded by Judeo-Christian fundamentals not only in our country but in its leadership.
2016 is changing all that. Drastically. Continue reading