I am so excited about the Gospel Coalition‘s new focus on series around important topics. The round table discussion videos are always amazing, but this addition to their repertoire just adds to their already remarkable site. If you’re not already subscribed to their blog you need to do so.
Recently they posted several articles about how to handle depression in the ministry.
The first in a series of five articles, titled “The Setup,” written by Paul Tripp explains four different factors that can discourage a pastor. Tripp definitely has a lot of experience in counseling pastors as the author of 11 books, professor of pastoral care at Redeemer Seminary, and founder of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, TX. His article accurately points out the most prominent issues that affect even the most stalwart of spiritual leaders.
“I am convinced that there are important changes needed in pastoral culture and that the number of pastors who find themselves in the range from discouraged to depressed give clear evidence of this.”
Garrett Higbee, the executive director of Harvest Bible Chapel’s Biblical Soul Care Ministries, provides us with the second article entitled, “Occupational Hazzards.” Here Higbee points out the susceptibility most pastors face that lend them to depressing outcomes. Higbee covers everything from sin to accountability partners as he offers helpful guidance to most pastors who struggle with transparency.
“…many ministry leaders struggle to be transparent for several reasons. It may seem odd or counterintuitive, but the average pastor usually does not have a “Proverbs 17:17 friend.” I have heard over and over, “Who could I tell?” “Who could I burden with this?” “Who can I trust?” “I fear I might lose my job.” Like David, pastors might utter in the privacy of their own thoughts, “no one cares for my soul“ (Ps. 142:4)”
With more resent events, such as John Piper’s sabbatical and C.J. Mahaney’s leave of absence, pastors are wondering when it’s appropriate to take a break from ministry. Knowing when to back down is not a black and white issue, but Steve Viars’ article offers helpful signs when it is good to take a break.
“Sometimes a pastor throws in the towel at the very moment God is preparing to stretch him and the church family and bring everyone involved to a deeper place of growth and blessing. Do not make life-altering decisions when you are depressed. Step aside from your ministry assignment for a short period of time. Process the experiences and emotions in a careful and biblical way. Then and only then will God’s will for your next steps become clearer.”
Jeremy Lelek offers a much needed response in his article on how a pastor can be transparent without disclosing defamatory information. There are a lot of people involved when a pastor suffers, and a lot of people will be affected by decisions made.
“Sharing your struggle with others can no doubt present significant challenges (on top of the depression you are already experiencing). In these moments, remember your call, even in weakness. You are an ambassador of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Even your encounter with emotional darkness may serve as an opportunity to bear witness to this sacred message.”
Bob Kellemen wraps up the series by pointing to Christ as the source for overcoming depression.
“Everyone’s battle with depression is different. Everyone’s journey through the valley of despair is a unique relational process. Let’s talk about what it might look like for you to face your depression face-to-face with Christ.”
I hope these can be an encouragement to you and perhaps to your pastor as well.