Counseling and Mental Illness in the Church

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 worshippers 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 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 more harshly than others as well. 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 almost 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 foolish 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.

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12 thoughts on “Counseling and Mental Illness in the Church”

  1. Well said. Being a health care professional, I have always had that mindset, but people in the church are in denial. If we don’t “come to grips” that mental illness is not a spiritual battle, we will lose hold, and consequently, the war in some people’s lives. I have heard leaders misguide people that need a mental evaluation, into thinking that they just need deliverance. This has proven to be more damaging! God has given us all things pertaineth to life and godliness, that does include licensed therapist.

    1. Sharron I so agree with you and have seen it from many facets over and over again. We have to be better equipped to handle such issues. It would be good for all ministries to have an on staff therapist/counselor if possible. I am hopeful we’ll get there as a whole much sooner than later. Thanks for your input!!

  2. I MUST READ THIS AGAIN the reality of it all As an intercessor my heart is heavy at this point, open our blinded eyes so that may see, unstop our deaf ears so that we may hear what the spirit of the Lord is saying unto the church

    1. Yes Alma, it is very real but often undetected. I pray that we as Christians will be more sensitive and equipped to nurture those who have experienced devastating trauma (from kids to adults). Thanks for reading and for your prayers.

  3. Thanks for Sharing Stephanie! As a Licensed Professional Therapist and Provisionally Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist, I was recently approached by my Pastor to start a Mental Health Counseling Center through the Church. Although, I have not yet made up my mind about accepting this responsibility, I do feel that it is very much needed. I am grateful to have such an insightful Pastor who realizes that there are some who truly need deliverance and there are some who truly need the help of Mental Health Professionals. It is my true and deepest belief that it takes both; you cannot treat one without the other! I will continue to Pray and Seek guidance regarding my decision to accept this responsibility. Reading your blog really got me thinking!

    1. Hi Tiffany!! I really appreciate your field of work. It is so needed on many levels. I’m considering going back to school to get my Master’s in Psychology just so I can be more helpful with such issues. I’m happy to know you’re considering heading up a mental health counseling center at your church. Blessings to you my friend and it’s always good hearing from ya!

  4. It is good to know that everything which exists has come into existence by God allowing it to be, for the benefit of each and every one of us. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:3 Knowledge was made by God and given to us by God for us to profit from it; as long as whatsoever we are doing pertains to godliness and not evil. Therefore, it is wise enough to allow God to address to the needs of the church where there is need to professional mental health counseling. The church should open up on this because some issues do not require deliverance but rather counseling.
    It is by understanding this that we wisely choose to do that which is right, to the benefit of the body of Christ, as led by the holy spirit. May God grant us wisdom to serve him well while we live.

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