It’s inevitable. If you’re in ministry long at all, you will absolutely find yourself ministering to people who struggle with mental health issues. And rather than there being clear boundaries between the mental and spiritual parts of us, we are, instead, whole beings.
We think thoughts. We feel emotions. We make decisions. And our bodies and our brains are made of matter and exist in a real, physical dimension. And it all relates. It all overlaps.
The other day, I sent an email to my list promoting the upcoming Church Mental Health Summit, which features speakers that I personally know and respect. I’m recommending every church leader get a ticket. It’s free and it’s online (there is a paid option to watch sessions beyond the day of the summit).
I received a reply to my email that essentially said, The only true “mental health” is a right relationship with God. Every time I write about depression, anxiety, or mental illness of any kind, some people will inevitably respond with a pseudo-spiritual, condescending attitude that suggests all of our mental health issues would disappear if we simply had more faith, prayed harder, or chose to be happy.
Unfortunately, this approach completely ignores reality. It also ignores the stories in which Jesus approached mentally ill people with a great deal of compassion, involving himself in their mental mess to offer his love.
I believe we’ve seen a lot of progress in the last couple of decades when it comes to how the church approaches mental health. But we also have a long way to go. I long to see the church keep getting better in this area and wanted to offer some suggestions for pastors and church leaders about how we can intentionally grow in this area.
Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash.