After The Message: Mental Illness

Waiting and Lonely

Thank you. You have no idea how long I’ve waited to hear those words in church.

I’ve struggled with depression for years. It sucks. But today I’m leaving with hope.

I’ve been coming to church all my life and today is the first time I’ve ever heard anything remotely helpful in my family’s struggle with mental illness.

I feel like you gave me a foothold to hold on. God is not helpless in my ruins.

What a huge help today has been.

My email has been full. My phone has buzzed with text messages. I’ve gotten numerous calls as well as quit a few hugs with looks that have communicated much more than words. Typically by Tuesday I am well into my next message, the past Sunday’s teaching fading far back in the background.

That didn’t happen this week. And for good reason. It’s apparent that mental illness has effected us all at some level.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. A recent survey by LifeWay showed that 75% of pastors have never taught on the topic of mental illness. It’s not a topic I’ve taught on either since being in student ministry.

But the statistics are too staggering for us to remain silent about it. The number 1 prescribed medication in America are anti-depressants, 1 in 5 people either are or will be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness.

Many people have asked me – what now? Are we going to start a ministry to the mental ill, the families of the mentally ill? Will this be a new mission focus for us?

Obviously a great place to start is what I talked about on Sunday. Be a safe place for people to be broken, embrace the messy, remove the judgement and stigma by saying things like ‘I don’t know, I don’t understand, but I love you anyway.’ Be Hope Brokers, not therapists.

These are all simple but important steps that each of us can make to create a culture where those with mental illness can reconnect with the church.

But what about beyond that? What does an intentional ministry for those wrestling with mental illness look like?

I don’t know.

It is clear there is a huge need in our community – beyond our church walls – for a place to redemptively deal with mental illness. The families that live with mental illness every day have a deep need to worship and serve, to connect with the larger Body of Christ. The problem beyond the stigma and judgement is the reality that so few people have the training to deal with such illnesses. Being ‘well-meaning’ has done plenty of damage and hurt when it comes to mental illness.

Join me in praying about this. Luke 10 tells us that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. I feel exactly this way. There are so many people that God is already working in. They have a need they can’t fulfill, they have a hunger they can’t satisfy. They have wound that won’t heal. Jesus is calling for workers to engage the harvest.

But there are few.

Jesus tells us in Luke 10 – pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers.

So let’s start there.

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