- Where does mental health fit in the gospel mission?
Amazingly enough, there were characters in the Bible that had bouts of depression. Moses, Naomi, Hagar, David, Saul, Elijah, Hannah, Nehemiah, Solomon, Job, Judas, Paul, Jeremiah and John the Baptist. Being a believer and follower of Christ doesn’t exempt a person from experiencing the realities of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. However, what it does is give us hope that the Spirit of God that resides in us can and will see us through the process. The gospel mission doesn’t change at all. Actually it is the understanding of the gospel that is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), not only in the saving of our souls but also the saving of our minds!
- In the church, when is mental illness appropriate to talk about, and who are the right people to discuss this with?
Unfortunately mental illness and its subject are not always spoken of and/or met head on. The reality is that in many pews sits a man, woman or child that may struggle with such an issue. From the top (pastor) down (members), the conversation of mental illness should not be taken with a “grain of salt” but considered a significant and honest conversation. Whether it’s to discuss someone with a bipolar disorder that reacts to certain triggers or someone who struggles with depression to the point of suicidal tendencies, the mental health of a person should stand hand-in-hand with the spiritual side of a person.
- What resources do you offer for those struggling with mental illness?
Through the church we are associated with the Baptist Association that is connected with these kinds of resources. Whether to connect someone with professional counseling and/or to connect them with hospitalization, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the San Antonio Baptist Association has become our resource in assisting those that need it.
- Is the Church equipped to deal with those suffering from mental illness?
Yes and no. Yes in the fact that the pastor has a degree background in Christian counseling and is trained to assist in times of need. And yet “no” in the fact that not all staff and clergy have not taken any training and understanding of the subject in full depth.
- Does the church shy away from mental health? If so, why?
I believe at times it has shied away from the subject. I don’t necessarily think it’s because of the fear of the subject as much as it is the lack of knowledge if it. The reality is that every family has a member that struggles in some way with a mental health issue. Sweeping it under the rug only worsens the issue.
- How can mental illness be better approached in the church?
I don’t know if there is a specific “right way” of approach per se. However it again starts from the top, bringing awareness of the realities of the issues people of the church and/or their families go through. It’s also encouraging to know that even people in the Bible struggled with the same things and yet the Lord used them in great ways!
- Where does talking about mental health in the church start?
First amongst the pastoral staff and recognizing these realities; Second among the leadership in being aware of those who may have these issues; and finally to the church in sharing that mental illness and those who struggle with it is not to be seen as the “town lepers”.
- What advice would you offer to someone who has been hurt by the church regarding mental illness?
First, I would encourage him/her to recognize that their hurt was not from the CHURCH, but from a member that attends church. The true CHURCH has the attributes and character of Jesus that recognizes the needs of all men. The true CHURCH brings forth avenues of renewal and restoration. I would advise that he/she attends a church that will help guide, pray and walk side by side with them. At the same time encourage forgiveness of the much too common ignorance of those who do not understand this subject.
- Why should mental wellness be important to a Christian?
The apostle Paul encourages the “renewing of the mind”. Our mind is in need of health as we go through this life. When our mind thinks, our hearts react. This is why mental wellness is of the utmost importance. The devil will also play with the mind and make a person think deeper than what it is.
- Is the church proactive or even active enough in counseling relationships experiencing mental illness?
It will depend on the background of the church and the knowledge the pastor and the staff has on this issue. If there is no knowledge on the subject of mental illness, there will be no proactive approach. Unless there is better understanding by its pastor and core leadership, then there is a better possibility in meeting these needs.
- What is the future of the church concerning mental health?
Hopefully there will become a better grasp and education concerning mental health. If we are to be all things to all people, we cannot in any way disregard someone with mental health issues due to a lack of knowledge.
- Is there a place in the church mission for keeping our minds healthy and stable?
Yes. We have a “Mind, Body and Soul” component within the church that started a couple of years ago that allows for nutrition, workout, Bible study and mental focus.
- How can sharing your (or anyone’s for that matter) testimony and telling others you struggle with depression be a good thing?
The Bible tells us in James 5 that when we “confess one to another” we can be healed. Sharing is the process of healing. When I shared about my bouts of depression it brought freedom! Not only to me but also to those who were hesitant to speak up about their struggles. Sharing equals victory!
- What advice do you have for the church in regards to staying mentally well?
The main thing is to stay focused on the Lord and His power; to surround oneself with others that may walk with them through this journey; to think on things that are real and pure; and finally to develop a prayer life and study life that would allow them to stay mentally healthy in the Scriptures.