Another Pastor Commits Suicide

Yes, this is a long blog. 
No, there is no key verse for the day. 
Yes, you are going to pray. 

Another pastor has committed suicide. Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, is now grappling with grief after their lead pastor, Andrew Stoecklein, succumbed to self-inflicted injuries. He was 30.

This isn't the first time I have ever written about a pastor committing suicide, but I wish it would be the last.  Depression in the ministry is real.  As one pastor put it, "I have felt the cold winds of depression sweep over my soul."  I have, and many others have too.  

Whether you are in ministry or not, here are a few things you need to need to you.

You cannot preach yourself out of depression.  
You cannot just, "do it on your own."  Depression is the common cold of mental illness.  But if you have been depressed over a few weeks, then you need to assemble a team of people who will be dedicated to helping you out.  You will need professionals, family, and friends.  It's good to get another pastor who has, "been there and done that" too.  They make excellent tour guides through the dark places.

You cannot deny it.
If you are depressed, just admit it.  Depression is an admission of failure nor is it a badge of honor.  It is a lit stick of dynamite that if you don't do something about will blow up in your face.  But if you keep playing with fire, you're going to get burned.

You cannot deflect it.
Well if the board would do "this" or if my staff would do "that" I would feel better.  I will not deny the fact that circumstances and situations don't play into this.  But circumstances and situations will not get you out of it.  Think of depression as a one-way door.  You can get out, but not the way you came.

Hey, church!  What can you do?

Allow confession of life.
Create a safe zone where the pastor can expose their heart without fear of being attacked.  Years ago I was going through a rough time.  I shared with the people that I was indeed going through this and that I need their encouragement.  The next day I received a text from a family that said, "We will not be attending your church anymore.  We don't want to attend a church where the pastor is, 'broken'".  Ouch!  Pastors listen to you at your worst moments, listen to them in theirs.

Pray against and pray for.
1 Peter 5:8 Satan goes around like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour.  Believe me, he loves to pick his teeth with the bones of pastors.  Pray a hedge of protection around your pastor and their family every day.  Pray for their health, body, soul, and spirit.  Pray that will give them an abundance of joy and hope.  Pray that God will surround them with encouraging people who will enrich their lives.  Pray that you are one of those people.

Protect their margins.
You know what margins are.  The white space around the edges of a book.  I use the white space to write down personal notes and observations about what I am reading.  Everyone needs margins of time, space, money, and energy.  Managing margins takes discipline.  But a church must determine that they will not abuse it.  When it's their day off, unless it is a desperate emergency, don't call.  If they are on vacation, leave them alone.  The more you allow them to operate in their margins, they healthier they can be.  

Ok Pastor, what are you going to do? 

Admit it
Admit to yourself that you are depressed.  This is half the battle.

Get knowledge and wisdom
If this problem is outside your skill set, then up your IQ.  Then pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom you need to make the right decisions.

Don't quit
Depression wrongfully occupies your heart and will refuse to leave. You're going to have to serve depression an eviction notice and then get some help to throw it out.  Do not negotiate.  Do not try to cohabitate.

Be willing to walk away
Your life and the future of your family is more important than the ministry.  You are married to your spouse, not the church.  If your church refuses to be a part of the solution, then cut them loose.  
(A note to people in my church reading this.  No, I am not cutting you loose.) 

Value something greater than yourself.  
There will be times that you will want to quit and check out.  Dwell upon those who love you and need you the most.  You were placed on this earth for a purpose, God's purpose.  If hell wants a fight. Give them one.  Fight for the lives of your spouse, your children, your friends, and family.  You are not alone.

If you are not a pastor: 
PRAY:  Dear Jesus, protect my pastor, their family and the leadership of my church.  Help me to be an encourager, not only to my pastor but to everyone else.  While I may not understand what they are going through, make sure that I am not part of the problem.  Let me be part of the solution.  My pastor sometimes has to go into the gates of hell to be that person who leads others out.  Let me be privileged to be one of those who will be right behind them every step of the way.  AMEN 

If you are a pastor who is struggling with depression:
PRAY:  Dear Jesus, I admit that I am depressed.  I feel worthless.  But I admit that I need help and I don't know what to do.  Please send help.  Please give me wisdom.  Please encourage me.  I need You now more than ever. AMEN 

PRAY for Inland Hills Church in Chino, California.  Pray for the pastor's wife and three small young boys.  Please pray. 

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