Counseling and Mental Illness in the Church

In observance of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to re-post one of my previous blogs from a few years ago. I believe it’s still applicable for today:

I had the honor of attending one of the purest worship experiences I’ve ever known this past weekend. The event was called “The River of Passion” and was hosted by Stacey Joseph (in Charlotte, NC).  There were no spiritual cheerleaders, no pushing or prying the people, no stale spiritual aerobics or theatrics—only hundreds of worshipers gathered to jump into a flowing river of God’s presence. It was even more refreshing that I didn’t have to play which allowed me to be fully present in each moment. There are so many things I learned and wish I could share it all, but it is simply too much and not enough time to do so. However, I’d like to briefly write about one aspect that was shared over the weekend.

It had to do with emotional healing and mental illness within Christendom, more specifically in leadership. Leadership is not just pastors but anyone who serves in a leading office. I am not sure why people think once you become a Christian, you no longer have flaws or struggles. Consequently, Christians tend to be the most harshly judged group of people. Sadly to say, we also judge people more harshly than others. Being judged or being the judge has caused me to look at our “leadership expectation” differently.  Those in leadership are regular people with an anointing to do a certain task. I have come to learn that the anointing is ONLY for service. It does not teach you character and how to be a man or woman. A “do-right” mind has to be developed from the heart of every individual and there is nothing spiritual about that…it is only a decision. I have become weary of some who have made the decision to use pulpits/gifts to mask insecurities & open wounds that have not properly healed. Then there are those who serve that desire a brief sabbatical to heal and can’t for various reasons. We talked about going to therapy, counseling and/or taking prescribed medication if necessary. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it in my opinion. Sometimes it is not a demon that needs to be cast out or even that a person just needs “deliverance.” They could be dealing with emotional and mental illnesses caused by a series of traumatic experiences over time. With all due respect, I think Pastors/Shepherds should be the first to seek counseling if necessary…even if it means just being accountable or talking with other Pastors. That alone can be therapeutic. Every shepherd needs a safe haven to release and be rejuvenated–if not spiritual depletion, isolation and an unstable mind is inevitable.

Serving in ministry 25+ years has trained me to see and not see, hear and not hear, and speak only when spoken to. That has been my coping mechanism for things I have seen over the years. Early on I made the mistake of holding leadership to such high degree that I thought they were infallible or incapable of doing wrong. Looking at men will always leave us disappointed, because there is only one who is perfect, and that is the Father. I’m far from perfect so I should not expect others to be any different. Given time, the two sides of us will appear–whether it be Abram or Abraham, Jacob or Israel, Saul or Paul, Simon or Peter, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde! But for those of us in leadership, we must commit to maintaining who we profess to be. It is imperative for us to be consistent and reliable people when the anointing is on us for ministry but more importantly when the anointing has lifted. There are so many lives that depend on us, therefore we can not afford to make rash decisions based on our limited reason and ever-changing emotions. Every decision affects more than us. It affects our families, our staff and ultimately masses of people. The Lord’s work must never suffer loss or momentum because of selfishness, pride and arrogance. Be careful not to blame others for your own personal dissatisfaction. That is a clear sign of inward unresolved issues.

I pray that we would take a deep look at ourselves and make proper adjustments. If counseling/therapy is needed, do it at once lest we continue to stagnate others’ lives. It is FAR better to judge ourselves than to be judged by God. Yes, it is a wonderful thing to be called, chosen and even anointed, but we must walk worthy in doing all we can do to better ourselves so we can better those around us. This weekend was life changing. We were left with knowing what to do when we put the mic down, turn off the organ and hang up the preaching robes. May you prosper and be in good health even as your soul (mind, will & emotions) prospers.

May peace and prosperity be with you always.

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