In 2018, Lifeway Research, a faith-based organization posted results of their research on mental health and the church. Their findings included 13 interesting data points shared below:
I found these statistics to be very interesting. I don’t intend to make any statements on what they mean, I know you can draw your own conclusions. However, I will say that the fields of psychology, mental health care, and their respective relationship to the church have had a tenuous history, there is no question about it.
I’d like to change that.
I don’t intend to rehearse the hurts and mull over the common grievances the church has had towards behavioral healthcare, other than to say the tension is still there. It seems like unnecessary tension though. No one faults a diabetic Christian for seeking medical care to offset the complications of diabetes, but when it comes to depression or grief, it’s another story.
There is a wide spectrum of mental health disorders, which you can read about in the DSM 5 by clicking here.
Paradoxically, the mental health care profession has often had a negative view of religion, especially Evangelical Christianity. Well earned in some cases.
As a pastor, I’ve provided a wide range of pastoral care to individuals and couples who sought my prayerful assistance. I learned early on in pastoral care ministry to immediately recognize when a persons presenting problem exceeded my training, skill-set, and scope of practice. I have also had to trust the Spirit’s leading to determine what was in the best interest of the counselee. I can pray with people, I can offer biblical counsel, and a variety of other spiritual disciplines (tools) to help them find peace in their life or circumstances. I can not treat people with severe persistent mental health disorders, especially where high-risk, or self-injurious behavior are involved.
Let’s get real. Over the past few years, I’ve been diagnosed with ADD, Depression, Complicated Grief, Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Attacks. As a result, I have sought the help of mental health professionals, pastoral care, and other wellness professionals. I have found much judgement in the Body of Christ for seeking help to address these diagnoses relative to the trauma I’ve experienced over the last ten years, leading up to the tragic passing of my late wife.
When life comes crashing down around you, sometimes lobbing a headache prayer or throwing scripture like a hand grenade does little to help the bereaved, it only does more damage. Do you smell what I am stepping in?
I’m not saying pastoral care is of no value, afterall, I’ve been on the front lines for as long as I’ve been a believer. We used to say the role of pastoral care was to “comfort the disturbed, and to disturb the comfortable.” I have experienced too much personal and professional pain to embrace such a reckless attitude towards pastoral care or sozo ministry.
What I am saying is this, we need to have better conversations about mental health as Christains than we’ve had in the past. People need to find tools to help them cope with and overcome their suffering (where possible).
That does not mean I will stop laying hands on the sick (Mark 16:17-18), or anointing the sick with oil (James 5: 14-15), nor will I stop visiting the widows, the orphans, or those in prison (James 1:27). I will continue to pray for others (Matthew 5:44), and pastor those that God entrusts me with to see them come to full maturity in their faith as beloved sons and daughters of God (Ephesains 4:1-16).
What I am trying to say is that when the wounded healer is in need of more healing, they have evey right to seek it, wherever God leads them.
I love this quote by Fr. Henri Nouwen from The Inner Voice of Love: A Jounrey Through Anguish to Freedom.
The main question is “Do you own your pain?” As long as you do not own your pain—that is, integrate your pain into your way of being in the world—the danger exists that you will use the other to seek healing for yourself. When you speak to others about your pain without fully owning it, you expect something from them that they cannot give. As a result, you will feel frustrated, and those you wanted to help will feel confused, disappointed, or even further burdened.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
I’ve often said that our wounds can become weapons if we don’t fully embrace our own pain and express it as a part of the healing ministry God calls us to. We need to own our own pain, as Nouwen says. We have to trust that the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, our Counselor can lead us to the healing we need, which doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re spared from suffering, it just means we see a future purpose embedded in the present pain. If we deny our own suffering, we can inadvertently due harm to those who God sends to us for pastoral care. That goes for anyone in the healing or helping profession or ministry.
Jesus said, “But when the Father sends the Spirit of Holiness, the One like me who sets you free, he will teach you all things in my name. And he will inspire you to remember every word that I’ve told you.” John 14:26 TPT
What is it that you think God wants to teach us?
As I go through therapy and pastoral care with trusted professionals, I am learning to own my own pain, and to not deny its existence or minimize its impact upon my mental and spiritual health. It takes courage to ask for help, which is how we become wise stewards of the manifold grace of God.
If you need help, I encourage you to reach out for help. Just remember, Facebook isn't always a safe place to do that. I’ve learned that the hard way.
In conclusion, if you need help, I’d be happy to help you find a professional in your area who can help you.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Jeremy Evans, A Dusty Disciple
*Please forgive my brevity, I am blogging from my iPhone.
Source: “13 stats on Mental Health and the Church,” Lifeway Research, 01-May-2018. [Online]. Available: https://lifewayresearch.com/2018/05/01/13-stats-on-mental-health-and-the-church/. [Accessed: 19-Nov-2021]