Silent Killer: Depression in the Pulpit

Many people or congregations are under the impression that their pastors are superheros of some sort. They expect them to be there when they call, counsel them one on one at a moment’s notice (usually after church, after they’ve ministered and are just as tired as you are) and encourage them through whatever they might be going through at the time. It’s important that saints realize that this is an unrealistic standard for a mere human. Pastors promote Jesus and all His wonder, they can’t perform like him though (only through Him).

Think about it this way, how would you feel if your boss called you during any of the 24 hours in the day to work on work? It doesn’t matter that you’re not in the office right now, you don’t know how to perform the task or are on vacation with your family. You’re the “go-to” and the “go-to” has to provide an outcome. That’s how many pastors feel. They’re pulled more ways than they can stretch and even after they’ve done all they can do, some are still left feeling like they could have done more. This leads to feelings of inadequacy, which could led to depression and suicide almost always begins with depression.

Research has shown the depression among pastors is rising although still considered somewhat of a rarity among the culture. 18% to 25% of all ministers are depressed at any one time. “The likelihood is that one out of every four pastors is depressed,” said Matthew Stanford, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. It’s also been proven that many people decline seeking treatment for depression and that number is even lower for ministers because they are ashamed to be dealing with issues such as depression. Did you know that Georgia has “clergy care” to provide support and help for ministers going through things like this?

After reading the information above, you might be asking yourself “how can a pastor be depressed”? They’re the ones that know how to pray. They’re the ones that help show us the way. Out of all of us, they’re the ones that shouldn’t be dealing with the same issues as everyone else. This is true to an extent. Pastors should be more spiritually mature than their flock and have the tools to help guide them through the trials of life, but that doesn’t make them exempt from having to deal with their own issues. Sometimes tools get worn out and we either have to replace them or enhance them. So what types of things could make a pastor struggle with depression? I’m glad you asked.

According to the Gospel Coalition, Pastor Paul Tripp, gives an account of four areas that pastors struggle with depression in.

1. “Unrealistic expectations” -expecting your pastor to be there for every member at all times WITH an answer to your problem.

2.”Family Tensions”- despite what people think, not all PK kids are looking for an out to go wild and crazy (don’t give into what they show you on LifeTime’s “Preacher’s Daughters”) but that doesn’t mean that they and their pastor parent(s) have perfect relationships. They argue, get occasional attitudes and have bad days just like every other family. Another key point to ponder is the fact that pastors have to balance their church and family life. Many times, one suffers because of the other.

3.”Fear of Man”-  many pastors struggle with people pleasing and what will happen if they don’t. “What will people think about me if I preach this’? “What will they say about my church if I don’t do this?”

4. “Kingdom Confusion”- this one may be the most important of all. As reported by The Gospel Coalition

The reality is that the God who the pastor serves has no allegiance whatsoever to the pastor’s little kingdom of self. In fact, I am persuaded that much of the ministry opposition that we attribute to the enemy is actually God getting in the way of the little kingdom intentions of the pastor. It is God, in grace, rescuing the pastor from himself.

If you’re a pastor who’s in it for the wrong reasons, I’m sure  things would start to get a bit depressing when nothing goes your way!

So how can pastors get the help they need? Re-fuel and replenish with a fellow minister on a regular basis. Get an accountability partner! Pastors if you’re reading this, find someone that can pour into you like you pour into the people of God. The two of you feed off each other, when you’re weak, he/she will lift you up and vice versa. This can be in the form of a spouse , pastor friend or mentor. Also, if you are genuinely diagnosed with depression, therapy and medication have “90 percent successful treatment rate” and last but not least, seek Him. Don’t run away from the source when He has everything you need. The last thing God wants anyone to do is give up on their calling. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed and feeling contrary to what you believe to be true, seek His face. Run to the one from which all help cometh from.

Dr. O

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