Another Pastoral Suicide – Please Pray for Christian Leaders

wilsonfamilytribute-800x495Sometimes we think pastors are the people with all the answers. After all, they stand up at the front of the church and tell the rest of us how to live our lives – don’t they?

But pastors can struggle with life, just like anyone else. They know that Jesus helps them in those struggles, and they feel a divine calling to help others to reach out for the love and grace of Jesus – but that doesn’t make them unbreakable.

Pastors come face to face with pain and grief in its rawest forms. Last night I visited a wonderful Christian lady who, earlier that afternoon, lost her husband of many years to cancer. Then I immediately drove on to visit another woman of faith who, only the day before, learned that her brother had been murdered. We talked and prayed – and as I returned home afterwards I carried a heaviness in my spirit. What I was feeling, of course, was nothing like the grief those two women are carrying – but I felt it nevertheless.

Then, early this morning, I logged onto the BBC website to check the headlines and read about the suicide of a young pastor on the staff of Harvest Christian Fellowship in California. BBC Report

Jarrid Wilson was open about his struggles with mental well being and suicidal thoughts, and had recently officiated at the funeral of a another Christian who had taken their own life.

A few days ago, on this blog, I wrote about how suicide is increasing among pastors, particularly in the United States. The pressure to be successful, growing a congregation and running it like a well-oiled machine, can be overwhelming. The Christian culture holds up successful megachurch pastors as role models – sometimes with the subtle implication that if you don’t reach those dizzy heights of success then you must be doing something wrong.

I remember attending a pastor’s conference a few years ago at a large church. The conference speakers told us how big their congregations were, how wonderful their children’s facilities were – even how savvy and efficient their social media teams were. This was all intended to ‘encourage’ us. As we drove home, I turned to my wife Janice and said, “After listening to all that, I don’t feel encouraged at all. I feel more rubbish as a pastor than I ever have in my life! I feel like no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to match up to everything they were boasting about today.”

Thankfully I’ve learned to look for my worth and validation in what God thinks of me, not what other Christians think of me, or even what I sometimes think of myself. I learned long ago that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

In the Irish context, most pastors are also bivocational, working in other jobs to pay the bills and provide for their families. At the end of a day’s work, they concentrate on fulfilling what they believe to be God’s calling on their lives to minister to others. Others are full-time but live from week to week, hoping that there won’t be any unexpected bills next week that will necessitate them forgoing their salary again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those preachers who continually harps on about how hard a pastor’s life is. I would rather be doing what I’m doing than anything else in the world. But my heart goes out to those Christian leaders who are working hard to care for others when they barely feel like they are managing to care for themselves.

So please, remember to pray for pastors and other Christian leaders today.

Even talking about these issues can be distressing.  If you are currently struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, trying to support a loved one who is in crisis or if you are mourning the loss of someone close, please consider talking to a friend or family member, a trusted person in your church community or find help from helplines, counselling services or the emergency services (see below). 

Get Immediate Help

  • Phone or go to your GP
  • Go to the emergency department of the nearest hospital

Or call 112 or 999 (in Ireland)

Helplines

The Samaritans

www.samaritans.ie
Tel: 116 123

Text: 087 2 60 90 90

Email: jo@samaritans.ie

Pieta House (Suicide & Self-harm)

National Suicide Helpline (Pieta House) 1800 247 247

www.pieta.ie
Tel: 01 623 5606

Christian Counselling

The Irish Association of Christian Counsellors was established in 1999 to promote and encourage Christian counselling in Ireland.

On their website (www.iacc.ie) you can find a list of accredited Christian counsellors and counselling services.

One thought on “Another Pastoral Suicide – Please Pray for Christian Leaders

  1. I have sailed, and continue to sail close to this line myself, I thank God for the understanding and acceptance of spiritual abuse that exists in the UK and The Anglican Communion specifically.

    30 years of service in the Christian Community in Ireland ended in total burnout for me.

    What followed was even more horrendous, if that were possible.

    Judgement, lies, gossip, unspecified legal threats, shunning, mockery, character assassination…total isolation.

    EA UK rejects the term “Spiritual Abuse” – EAI is silent…?

    But, Spiritual abuse IS real…it IS cruel…it is what I now know to be spiritual murder…I am a spiritual ghost…clinging to life.

    I strongly suspect that there are many more spiritual ghosts in the Irish Church, broken, spiritually abused ex-people, ex-members, ex-pastors…each and all with a faith, a lifetimes service…without anywhere to stay…and without anywhere to go…to tell their stories, to share their experiences of falling from the face of the christian earth, (and almost, the actual earth…), of staring through the vacuum of its eyes, the eyes of the church, of the churches discomfort of engagement with an “ex…” a discomfort which betrays the crushing reality of your uselessness…your countertestimony…your contagion.

    Praise dies first, then communion, grace morphs to anger, mirrors bear no familiarity, until finally they reflect a Phantom…somebody that you used to know stares back, silent, a ghost of a man, a ghost of a christian, a ghost of utility…

    I’ll finish this familiar and no doubt deeply uncomfortable introspective stream of inebriated ghostly consciousness with this…

    I would very much doubt that the vain boastings and pornographic perfections of megachurch ministries and leaders bring pastors like Jarid to suicide…far more likely to be the ornery ordinances of silent excommunication at best, or verbalised disgust “in Jesus name” at worst…that takes….a Christian…into Christs Arms…violently, abruptly and…the reason that prevented and prevents me…casts a wife, sons, grandchild…even further into what can be, (and has been in my experience), a spiritually abusive and abstract abyss that contributed to the departure in the first place.

    Spiritual abuse exists in Ireland EAI, do not follow the EA UK’s defensive posture.

    I came across “Escaping The Maze of Spiritual Abuse” while on Holiday in Oxford this year, and through this incredibly insightful and gracious book found the practical help I desperately needed after four and a half years of trying and failing to find help in the community I loved and served, but found only fear, fear of the countertestimony and denial of culpability.

    There is no place in the Irish Church for people like me.

    Thank God for the understanding and acceptance of spiritual abuse that exists in the UK and The Anglican Communion, through whom I have found real support understanding and acceptance.

    To any Christian that reads the post and my response and is struggling with or has experienced the feelings I’ve described – read this book – you’re not alone.

    In Christ and in love and in hope.

    Frank

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