Another Pastor Ended His Life: A Reflection on Pastoring

A long-term member of our church approached me just before service this week with a serious look on his face. Every pastor has had that moment. Service is about to begin, what is this about? He has never done this before, so I honestly didn’t have a sense of what was on his mind.

 

He proceeded to ask if I knew a particular pastor in Denver – there was a connection between us and some mutual friends. I didn’t, but he pastored a good church. He then told me that years ago the pastor had been in an accident, and ever since had battled depression. I got a sinking feeling about what he was going to tell me.

 

Sure enough, the pastor committed suicide last week. It is the second incident like this I have heard of in the last 3 weeks.

 

What came next was one of those moments that pastors have too few of. He then told me, “It seems to me that most pastors go along doing a really good job, but only hear the criticism and negative things.” I told him that this is often the case. He continued, “I just want to tell you that I think you are doing a great job.”

 

First of all, people should know how special a moment like that can be for a pastor. I have a very kind and supportive congregation and I am on great terms with this church member, but his simple affirmation, prompted by a shock he received, was incredible.

 

Many pastors don’t have regular affirmation or the support of friends in their churches, and the pressures of contemporary ministry can be overwhelming. Criticism, especially criticism over time, can play into a pastor’s natural fears and insecurities and can lead to devastating consequences. Suicide among pastors is a real thing – maybe a bigger deal than you may know.

 

If you are a pastor: There are no trite answers to depression, deep anxiety, or suicidality. I know that the church world often expects pastors to respond well to trite answers, but they simply may not understand the kinds of things we juggle on a week-to-week basis. But, please, make sure you are making connections with good, mature Christian friends. Make sure you find places to ground your self-worth outside of the walls of the church or the performance of last Sunday morning. Please make sure your home life has your attention and your prayer. And please be bold enough to seek the help of professionals as often as is right and wise for you to do so.

 

If you are a church goer: The job of being a pastor is not what it once was. Very few individuals who graduate seminary or Bible College to be pastors are still pastors even 10 years later. If you can imagine the expectations of CEO leadership, Super Bowl coaching, professional therapist, and mystic monk wrapped into one, that’s a bit what a pastor feels is expected of them on a regular basis. If you attend church expecting to fulfill your role as the church (Ephesians 4:11-16; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31), your pastor(s) may actually be energized over time. Please pray for them and their family. Please avoid the childish and petty criticisms that Christians are infamous for. Please know that your health and growth is the greatest gift you can give your pastor and your church.

22 thoughts on “Another Pastor Ended His Life: A Reflection on Pastoring

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  1. I miss your messages since I moved away. I always felt motivated and Blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of your congregation ….Thank you for making a difference in My life and know you are appreciated by myself and those of your Church family who are so happy to call you Friend. God Bless. Continue the Lord’s work. Connie Ping

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  2. Very often, Pastors in these situations have had no time to “get away for a while” in order to take care of themselves. It turns out that a growing area of ministry is in ministering to ministers.

    A friend of mine runs just such a ministry, called Shepherd’s Refuge. (http://shepherdsrefuge.org/) There are many others that are similar around the country, and I thought you may wish to make your readers aware of these.

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  3. I think the Christian members of a church should stand behind their Preacher, as long as he is preaching what God has laid on his heart to preach to the congregation and he is fully serving God the way a preacher should. What I mean by that is, some people preach, but they get up at the pulpit and read from a typed up brochure, which was planned out by them, others actually preach what God lays on their heart to preach, because God knows there is someone in the congregation that needs to hear that message. People, let your preacher know just how much you appreciate him, tell him you loved the service, let him know that you love him and appreciate all the work he’s doing in the name of the Lord. Lend an ear when he needs one, but keep what you discuss to yourself. Lift your preacher up in prayer always. ❤️

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    1. Thank you Teresa for your positive comment! I am a pastor in Uganda (Africa) and over there years I have had so many challenges in ministry but I do thank God for His Grace.
      I always ask people to pray for me and the ministry in Uganda and if you find time please pray for me and the ministry in Uganda.
      God bless you.

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  4. I know we expect so much from our Pastor and we expect you to be on call 24 hours at day. I know I hold you to the highest respect and I also know you are human just like me. I pray that you continue in your position because I would really miss you! Your Friend, Kay

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  5. “the expectations of CEO leadership, Super Bowl coaching, professional therapist, and mystic monk wrapped into one, that’s a bit what a pastor feels is expected of them on a regular basis.” – none of those are scriptural. The role of “pastor” has deformed into some kind of monster. Everyone is to blame for it.

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  6. When I was a child,I had a pastor…… I loved him.. My family loved him…. He would come visit my invalid grandmother when he was being mistreated by the church members….. I was too young to understand… I understand,now… I see it….. I do not understand it,yet….. I am not a child any more…..I say a prayer for unhappy,mistreated pastors everyday……

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  7. This is so sad! Please accept my sincerest condolences and prayers for your pastor, his loving friends and family and the entire church community.

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  8. This is a serious matter for Church, suicide it’s a problem that required our attention and action. We usually tend to avoid topics like this, but it is necessary to reflect and take action when it’s time. Bkessings from Nicaragua.

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  9. You;re not my pastor but consider you mine just the same, keep up the good work Trevor and I am so sorry to hear of this Pastor ending his life. Know a few who either has tried or actually got it done A very sad thing for family and friends.Love you Trevor.

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  10. When it comes to Pastoring many can not do half of what they do. People seem to always have something negative to say no matter how well they do… Leaning to their own understanding (not Gods). I continue to pray for Pastors every where… Especially my own…. God Bless

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  11. What a sad story! As a former pastor myself, I have seen this firsthand…and felt it. Depression often sets in after, well, any number of things. For him, it was an accident. For me, it was botched heart surgery in 2006. I almost died. 3 surgeries rather than one within 30 hours. Fluid gain of 65 lbs. Swollen like a water balloon with belts around it. Unbelievable pain. But, I survived and live today, almost 12 years later. Depression? I’d never been depressed in my entire life…until after that. Then, to top that all off, I faced the fact that I’d been severely verbally abused by my Mother most of my life. You heard right. It didn’t stop after adulthood. In fact, she abused my wife and tried it with our oldest son. Fortunately, that went nowhere due to distance. I have fought the dark hallways of depression for years. I don’t take medicine. I’m one of the blessed ones who can deal with it without meds.
    Thoughts of suicide? yes. Absolutely. But, no more. During the three years I dealt with my abuse, 2010-2013, I was at the bottom. But, God brought me through.
    There is no question that, had I not focused my ministry calling on Christian Radio (I’d been pastor AND Radio guy simultaneously and saw years before that I was indeed called to radio rather than the pastorate) that had I still been a pastor during those days, I’d never have made it. The constant criticisms. The constant “glass house” living where everyone examines everything about you. It’s as though you feel that someone in the church knows when you go to the bathroom. No privacy. No family life. A friend once told me, “being a pastor is the absolute loneliest job on planet earth. I would do what Spurgeon did and tell his preacher boys on their first day of school ‘if you can do anything else, there is the door.’”
    I find that most of the counseling I do nowadays is with pastors. It is a unique ministry, as I rub shoulders with all of them. From Catholic to Baptist, from Methodist to Pentecostal, I work with them all. All races, all churches and all people. And, I have found that they all have the same basic problems. I’ve already mentioned some of them.
    Great article brother. Keep the information out there! Dispel the darkness….turn on THE light.

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  12. Thank you for your article. Depression certainly seems to be claiming many ministers, but there is a two-sided defence that may be helpful, firstly the pastor must be willing to delegate, the apostles in Acts quickly discovered that what the congregation expected of them was interfering with the ministry they were called to, thus they chose deacons. Secondly, the congregation needs to stop putting the pastor on a pedestal where it’s easy to fall, and instead, lift him in prayer that he might be strengthened and encouraged.

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  13. So I have a question. When I was in a psych unit because I attempted suicide, my pastor visited me. He told me if I committed suicide it was a sin and I would spend eternity in hell. So what about these ministers? Do the same rules apply?

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  14. This was my daughter’s pastor. Pastor B was amazing, always full of joy and giving spirit. It was always a blessing to attend church with my daughter when I visited.
    This is a hard time right now for the family, the church, and all the children that looked to him. Going through the stages of grief – I wish I was there with her, but the church is going through this together. Pastor B left a strong legacy and I know that my daughter will do her part to continue to walk in faith.

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  15. Thank you for writing this article. My husband grew up as a preacher’s kid and is now a preacher for over 25 years. We as a couple have experienced the blessings and the horrors of church members can inflict in the leading Family. Maybe the next time some “saint” to say or do something to the Pastor, they will remember that they are not GODS but men with weakness.

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