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Pastors and Mental Illness

This week another mega church’s pastor (Pastor Ron Carpenter of Redemption World Outreach Center) gave a heart wrenching confession that a member of his family suffers from Mental Illness. There will always be critics who that think the pastor should not air his dirty laundry. Others think it is a cop out by the pastor to overlook sinful behavior.  On the other side of the coin, there are those that will continue to pray for all pastors and support them with God’s love. Regardless of your view of Pastors, there are three facts we must always keep.

  1. They are human and have emotions, feeling, struggles, and pain.
  2. Their families are not exempt from pain, mental illness, or sin.
  3.  It is not my job, as a parishioner, to place any pastor on a pedestal or to tear him down. 

I have been active as an alcohol and drug counselor, pastoral counselor, and have worked in a mental health hospital for over 20 years. I have learned that mental illness and addiction is not about my opinion of who should or shouldn’t have it. 

God is not interested in our condemnation of a pastor for going public that his wife or child suffers from mental illness. God is interested in how we support and encouragement each and every individual going through a crisis. Finding out that a family member has been diagnosis with a mental illness is a crisis, it is no different than being told a family member has a chronic disease, like cancer, heart failure, or any number of physical conditions. God wants us to support them in whatever way we can.

 These same individuals, that condemn Pastor Ron Carpenter and Pastor Rick Warren, are the same individuals that will complain when they hear the pastor is out sick with gall bladder or heart attack and were not told.

As a pastor, counselor, parent, husband, and friend, this is my view of what should be happening in the church:

  1. The pastor should be allowed to be human and to share their own personal prayer needs and their family’s with the parishioners.
  2. We all should be willing to listen and encourage our pastor, just as we expect him to do so for us.
  3. We all should be praying for our pastor daily and not just in a time of crisis.
  4. None of us should criticize what we don’t understand. We would never complain when a pastor shares that his wife is undergoing heart surgery or treatment for breast cancer. Why would we criticize when a pastor announces that his wife is being treated for depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia?  We all need to understand that people who have mental illness need the same support as someone with a physical illness. 

It is time for the church start acting like the carrying compassionate individuals we claim to be. I personally applaud Pastor Carpenter and thank him for his willingness to share his own personal growth and the growth of the church, worldwide.

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