Archives For mental health

THE BRIEFING | You’re not the only one to ask God for a good parking spot, according to a new report from LifeWay Research. In partnership with author Max Lucado, LifeWay asked 1,137 Americans about how often they pray and what for, and got some interesting answers:

  • 7% of Americans who pray have prayed before to find a good parking spot. The same percentage have prayed they won’t get caught speeding.
  • 13% have prayed for their favorite team will win a game.
  • 21% have prayed to win the lottery.

whatpeopleprayforThe survey found Americans’ prayers are largely personal, according to a LifeWay report on the reseach. “Family and friends” tops the list of things typically prayed for (82%), followed by “my own problems and difficulties” (74%) and “good things that have recently occurred” (54%). Toward the bottom of the list:

  • People of other faiths or no faith – 20%
  • Government leaders – 12%
  • Celebrities or people in the public eye – 5%

For more findings, go to LifeWayResearch.com.

SCOTUS won’t review marriage petitions
The Supreme Court’s decision Monday to let stand lower court rulings on same-sex marriage “means an immediate expansion of gay marriage,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The Supreme Court surprised many Monday by deciding not to review appeals from states where bans on same-sex marriage have been overturned. Their move to “decide gay marriage by not deciding,” reported USA Today, could quickly make same-sex marriage legal for 60% of the U.S. population. Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said the decision “means an immediate expansion of gay marriage,” and posted on his blog about what the Court’s action means for the church.

Helping churches navigate the rapidly changing marriage culture also is the purpose of “Elevate Marriage,” an Oct. 16 conference for pastors and church leaders at the Illinois Baptist State Association in Springfield. Featured speakers include Kevin Smith, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Andrew Walker, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Jill Finley, Bethel Baptist Church, Troy, Ill. Lunch is included, and registration is required; go to www.IBSA.org/Marriage.

Warrens to host 24-hour mental health event
Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, will host a 24-hour online broadcast focused on mental health on Oct. 10, designated as World Mental Health Day. According to the web page for “24 Hours of Hope,” the free event is “designed to encourage individuals living with a mental illness, educate and support their families, and equip church leaders for compassionate and effective mental health ministry.

The Warrens, who lost a son to suicide last year, hosted the “Gathering on Mental Health and the Church” at their Lake Forest, Ca., church in March. The Oct. 10 broadcast will feature material from that meeting, as well as new interviews and messages.

Annual list reports largest, fastest-growing churches
Twenty-two Southern Baptist churches are on Outreach’s new list of the 100 largest churches in America. The SBC congregation at number two on the list, NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., is also the second fastest-growing church in America. North Point Ministries, a network of churches pastored by Andy Stanley, topped the list as the country’s largest church, Outreach reported.

‘Left Behind’ misses with critics and audiences
The most recent big-screen version of “Left Behind” didn’t score well with most critics, and grossed only $6.9 million in its opening weekend (it was made for $16 million). While Variety’s review deemed the Nicolas Cage project exemplary of the bleak landscape of faith-centric movies, Christianity Today critic Jackson Cuidon said it’s not a Christian movie at all.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Nearly two-thirds of Protestant senior pastors rarely or never speak to their congregations about mental illness, according to an extensive new study by LifeWay Research. But the majority of people who have a family member suffering from mental illness, or who are suffering themselves, want their church to talk openly about the topic so it won’t be so taboo.

“Our research found people who suffer from mental illness often turn to pastors for help,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But pastors need more guidance and preparation for dealing with mental health crises. They often don’t have a plan to help individuals or families affected by mental illness, and miss opportunities to be the church.”

According to the study, 68% of pastors said the church maintains a list of mental health resources for members, but only 28% of families said they were aware of those resources in the church.

The “Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith” also surveyed pastors about their own struggles with mental illness. Of those surveyed, 23% said they had experienced some kind of mental illness themselves, and 12% have received a diagnosis for a mental health condition, according to a report by LifeWay’s Bob Smietana.

Religious groups ask SCOTUS to settle marriage issue
The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission joined several other religious groups earlier this month in asking the Supreme Court to settle the same-sex marriage issue. “Legal uncertainty is especially burdensome for religious organizations and religious believers increasingly confronted with thorny questions,” the friend-of-the-court brief stated in part.

To help answer some of those questions for Illinois pastors and church leaders, the Illinois Baptist State Association will host the “Elevate Marriage” conference October 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the IBSA Building in Springfield. Featured speakers include Kevin Smith, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Andrew Walker, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Jill Finley, Bethel Baptist Church, Troy, Ill. Lunch is included, and registration is required; go to http://www.IBSA.org/Marriage.

Winter coming soon for religious minorities in Iraq
As cold weather draws nearer in northern Iraq, the situation for refugees fleeing ISIS grows more desperate, reports Baptist Global Response. “Shelter is lacking or inadequate,” said Abraham Shepherd, who directs work in the Middle East for BGR. “People are living in their cars, under doorsteps, in the open fields—with mainly tarps covering them. People know winter will come quickly on them, and they need to be ready—if ever you can be ready in those conditions.” Click here for more on how BGR is assisting refugees in the Middle East.

Abedini to pray for husband outside White House
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of a pastor imprisoned in Iran, will pray outside the White House this week as part of a multi-site prayer vigil for her husband and other persecuted Christians. Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, was arrested in Iran in 2012. This week marks the second anniversary of his imprisonment.

Rapper Lecrae thankful for ‘voice into culture’
Christian rapper Lecrae appeared on “The Tonight Show” Sept. 18, sitting in with house band The Roots and rapping bits from his new (and Billboard #1) album between segments. “It’s a lot to take in,” he posted on his social media pages after the show. “I am so grateful for the support. I know I represent something much bigger than me. Thank you! I thank God for a voice into culture. I pray I use it wisely.” Read more at ChristianityToday.com.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

An op-ed piece on Time.com last week announced the launch of “Evangelicals for Marriage Equality,” an effort “to change the hearts and minds of evangelicals about civil marriage equality,” according to spokesperson Brandan Robertson.

“…I represent a growing number of millennial evangelicals that believes it’s possible to be a faithful Christian with a high regard for the authority of the Bible and a faithful supporter of civil marriage equality,” Robertson wrote in the column.

The_BriefingQuoting statistics that report younger evangelicals are more likely than older Christians to support same-sex marriage, Robertson made a case for a “middle path” that “both compels evangelicals to stand for civil marriage equality as an overflow of our love for our lesbian and gay neighbors, while allowing us to have space to wrestle with and remain faithful to our beliefs.”

Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission responded to Robertson’s piece in his own op-ed on Time.com the next day.

“In 800 words, there’s not a coherent argument about the nature of marriage,” Walker wrote about Robertson’s column. “And that’s what this debate Americans are having is about, isn’t it? It’s about one question: What is marriage? This isn’t just about Christianity’s teaching on marriage. It’s about the definition of marriage for society.

“It’s about whether marriage is malleable, or whether marriage has a fixed social purpose that’s been recognized throughout all of human history as something distinct from other relationships.”

Walker will appear at the “Elevate Marriage” conference Oct. 16 in Springfield, Ill. Register now at www.IBSA.org/Marriage.

Other news:

‘Third way’ church expelled from CA Baptist Convention
The California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Board voted Sept. 11 to withdraw fellowship from a church that had decided to pursue a “third way” in dealing with same-sex lifestyles in the church, Baptist Press reports. After Danny Cortez, pastor of New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Ca., announced he no longer believed same-sex relationships are sinful, his church reportedly voted to become a “third way” church that wouldn’t condemn or condone homosexuality. A former elder later told Baptist Press the church didn’t officially vote to accept the “third way,” but peacefully separated amid deadlock.

Warren: ‘People are looking for mercy’
The church must deal with mental illness with a spirit of compassion, California pastor Rick Warren says in a video posted at www.erlc.com. The video, posted in July, also features Tony Rose, chairman of the Mental Health Advisory Group formed by Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Frank Page in response to a motion made at the 2013 SBC Annual Meeting. “If the church could be a church of mercy, we would have no evangelism problem, because people are looking for mercy,” said Warren, whose son committed suicide in 2013 after a lengthy battle with mental illness. Read more about the advisory group, who held their inaugural meeting in May, at BPNews.net.

Pew research measures American concern about extremism
As ISIS continues to terrorize groups in the Middle East, Pew Research released new data that shows Americans are increasingly concerned about Islamic extremism. 62% are very concerned about its rise around the world, Pew reported, and 53% are very concerned about the possibility of rising Islamic extremism in the U.S. Not surprisingly, more Americans now also say they are concerned the government has not gone far enough to protect the country.

Illinois volunteers assist with flood recovery near Detroit
Four Disaster Relief teams from Illinois will serve in Warren, Michigan, this month, after slow-moving storms dumped several inches of rain on the area in August and damaged tens of thousands of homes. Read the story here.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Half of all Illinois residents said they’d move out of state if they could, putting the Land of Lincoln at the top of a Gallup survey of all 50 states. But it’s a dubious honor: On average, only 33% of residents in all states would like to move, compared to 50% in Illinois.

19% of Illinois residents said they are extremely, very or somewhat likely to move in the next year, compared to about 14% across all 50 states.

Gallup linked their most recent poll to similar studies that measure how negative residents are about their state’s taxes, and how much they distrust their government. Illinois topped the latter list too – only 28% of residents said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust in their state government. As for taxes, 71% of Illinoisans said they were too high, placing the state fourth on a list topped by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

One piece of good news amid the bad: A study from the University of Colorado-Boulder named Chicago the country’s funniest city, largely because of its improv scene. Judging from the Gallup numbers, it may be a good time to learn to laugh at ourselves, too. Read more at Gallup.com.

Supreme Court rules in favor of town meeting prayers
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that prayers before town meetings in Greece, N.Y., can continue. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City had ruled the prayers “had the effect of affiliating the town with Christianity,” but the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision overturned that ruling. “This is a victory for all of those who believe in the freedom of speech, including religious speech, as a prized part of our God-given religious liberty,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Oklahoma school district bars pre-game prayers
The Freedom From Religion Foundation successfully lobbied an Oklahoma school district to stop pre-game prayers led by baseball coach Larry Turner and his staff. In a letter written by his attorney, Owasso School District Superintendent Clark Ogilvie said his district “will not allow any District employees to participate with any District students in any prayer or other religious activities in connection with any school-sponsored events.” Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Page appoints SBC Mental Health Advisory Council
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, has named a 23-member advisory council to assist churches as they respond to mental health needs in their congregations. The group, chaired by Kentucky pastor Tony Rose, will address concerns brought by messengers at the 2013 SBC Annual Meeting in Houston. There, Baptists approved a motion by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd to ask Southern Baptist entities “to assist our churches in the challenge of ministry to those suffering from mental health issues…” Messengers also approved a resolution on “Mental Health Concerns and the Heart of God.” Read more at BPNews.net.

Disaster Relief volunteers respond to southern storms
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams moved quickly into the Southeast U.S. following a spate of tornadoes and severe storms two weeks, and are still at work in several states.

“These storms were so strong that the slabs were swept clean by the wind,” said Disaster Relief director Joe Garner in Arkansas, where teams were serving the Mayflower and Vilonia areas. “There is very little chainsaw work to do. It is mainly clearing debris.”

Since April 26, destructive storms have affected 13 states, Baptist Press reports. For more Disaster Relief updates, go to BPNews.net.

Noah_movie_posterTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Director Darren Aranofsky’s controversial “Noah” movie (rated PG-13) grabbed the top spot at the box office over the weekend, grossing $44 million in the U.S. and Canada and almost $100 million worldwide. Many Christians voiced objections to the movie’s content prior to its release, and the debate continued over social media as people went to the theater to see what all the fuss was about. The verdict: Christians are still divided on the film’s value.

“This is not a ‘buy up a block of tickets’ moment for churches…,” National Religious Broadcasters President Jerry Johnson blogged at ChristianityToday.com before the film’s release. “Noah, the film, may be inspired by the biblical character and events – but it is not a straightforward retelling of that story. Churches who are looking for that kind of movie will not find it here.

“However, many people will go to this film and enjoy it. The main events from the Noah story are depicted in a powerful way on the big screen by name brand actors and quality production. Christians should be ready to engage moviegoers in conversation about biblical and cultural themes that are portrayed in this movie.”

Your turn: Have you seen “Noah”? What did you think? Leave us a comment below.

Other news:

Saddleback, Warrens host conference on the church and mental health
Nearly a year after their son, Matthew, committed suicide, Rick and Kay Warren invited experts in the field of mental health to a one-day conference at Saddleback Church. More than 3,300 people attended the meeting March 28, which featured workshops for people and families struggling through mental illness, as well as church leaders who want to be better equipped to handle mental health issues in their churches and communities. “We do this in honor and memory of our son and others lost to mental illness, realizing there is hope for others dealing with this condition,” Kay Warren said, according to a report by The Christian Post.

Judge makes Michigan latest state to take up same-sex marriage issue
Judge Bernard Friedman overturned Michigan’s ban on gay marriage last week, and about 300 couples were married after his decision. The ruling was stayed, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has said the state will not recognize those marriages as of now. But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the government will offer federal benefits to the married couples, mirroring the action it took in Utah earlier this year. Click here to read about action in other states and to view the updated marriage map.

Barna researches why 64% of Americans aren’t regular church attenders
Author Donald Miller sparked controversy recently with a blog about why he doesn’t attend church (he feels more connected to God through his work than through a worship service). Research from Barna indicates many people feel the same way. Of the 64% of Americans who don’t attend church regularly, 40% say they find God elsewhere, and 35% say church is not relevant to them personally. Read more, including details about church attendance for the millenial generation, at Barna.org.

Faith, family more important than mirror ball trophy for former ‘Full House’ star
Candace Cameron Bure, who came to fame as DJ Tanner on 90’s TV series “Full House,” is also a contestant on this season of “Dancing with the Stars.” During a recent episode, she explained the modest choices she made when planning her rumba with professional partner Mark Ballas: “My life revolves around my relationship with Jesus Christ so with the overall tone of the dance or the costumes, it’s not going to take a backseat.”

Bure told host Erin Andrews after the dance: “I want to reserve some things for my husband so I think we did the best that we could with the rumba that I still felt comfortable doing.” Read more at ChristianPost.com.

 

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, wrote a book about his daughter, Melissa, his grief after her suicide, and how church leaders can help people living with the deep pain of mental illness.

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, wrote a book about his daughter, Melissa, his grief after her suicide, and how church leaders can help people living with the deep pain of mental illness.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Editor’s note: This article is excerpted from the September 30 issue of the Illinois Baptist. The first part of the article headlined The Briefing last Tuesday, but this section takes a closer look at how the church, and specifically church leaders, can minister to individuals and families struggling with mental illness and suicide.

At the Southern Baptist Convention this summer in Houston, mental health and the church was a much-discussed topic, with messengers approving a resolution to “oppose all stigmatization and prejudice against those who are suffering from mental health concerns.” The resolution also called on churches to “look for and create opportunities to love and minister to, and develop methods and resources to care for, those who struggle with mental health concerns and their families.”

When it comes to mental health, “the church has had a tendency to say we’re going to leave that up to the professionals,” said Pastor Hal Trovillion, pastor of First Baptist, Manteno, Ill., and a former youth and family counselor. The problem is that for the most part, those professionals don’t take God into account.

Melissa_book_coverThe church has an opportunity to engage in the critical ministry of offering spiritual help to those in deep pain.

Jesus’ ministry did just that, Pastor James Shannon says. His church, People’s Community Church in Glen Ellyn, has sponsored several support groups (grief, divorce, substance abuse, etc.) and plans to do more in the future. An experienced and degreed counselor, Shannon is dedicated to helping hurting people find wholeness. His mission is to help people transition from “walking wounded” to “wounded healers” so that they can minister effectively to others.

“The point where a person is hurt the most is the point where God can equip them to do ministry, and I think that’s so vital for people to understand.”

The potential for those who have struggled with mental illness to be used in ministry to others with similar stories is encouraging, but the need to alleviate pain is often more pressing. What can churches do now to help people who are depressed and possibly contemplating suicide, and their families?

Frank Page has clear advice for pastors who likely are ministering or will minister to people in deep pain. Teach good theology, help people learn how to control their thoughts, and steer clear of trite advice, he counsels in his book “Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide.”

“Stay quick with Scripture but sparing with human philosophy,” writes Page, whose oldest daughter took her own life almost four years ago. Currently serving as president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, Page was a pastor for many years and he and his wife, Dayle, raised their three daughters in the church. In the book, which includes a letter at the end of each chapter to those contemplating suicide, he says, “We were not a family whose daughter kills herself.”

Page is using his national platform to help Christian leaders understand the complexity of suicide and mental health issues. First, “be a learner,” he writes. “No one on this side of eternity can fully understand or articulate the complex nature and theological mysteries surrounding the horrible act of suicide nor of the loss of rational thought that typically leads up to it.

“Grow your observations, increase your insights, but don’t place pressure on yourself to grasp it all or to promise the absolute answer to every question.”

At the same time, Page writes, pastors should make themselves more knowledgeable about mental illness. “The church many times has been woefully inadequate in reaching out to persons who either experience mental illness themselves or are dealing with it in their families. …And when we as pastors, not in dismissiveness perhaps but at least in ignorance, give them ‘snap out of it’ advice (or something in that family of faulty counsel), we do more harm than good.

“More than ever – if you intend to serve your congregation well – you need a working knowledge of what causes mental illness and depression and how to assist its sufferers with the best kind of loving assistance.”

Read Religion News Service’s interview with Frank Page here, or watch his interview with LifeWay’s Ed Stetzer.

Senate chaplain likens government shutdown to ‘madness’
In a prayer in the U.S. Senate chamber last week, Senate Chaplain Barry Black asked God to “save us from the madness” of the ongoing government shutdown. Black, a Seventh-day Adventist minister who has served as chaplain of the Senate since 2003, also used words from Psalm 51 in his prayer. “We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride,” he said. “Create in us clean hearts, oh God, and renew a right spirit within us. Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”

The Washington Post’s On Faith blog ran an article yesterday about the role pride is playing in the federal government’s shutdown. Read it here.

Leaders, scholars remember Chuck Smith“His impact can be seen in every church service that has electric guitar-driven worship, hip casually-dressed pastors, and 40-minute sermons consisting of verse-by-verse Bible expositions peppered with pop-culture references and counterculture slang,” sociologist Brad Christerson said of California pastor Chuck Smith, who died last week. Read Christianity Today’s story on Smith, who helped a generation of “Jesus People” find their faith.

Mississippi church apologizes for racial discrimination
First Baptist Church of Oxford, Miss., decided it’s never too late to right a wrong. This summer, the church nullified a 1968 decision to deny African Americans use of its building facilities and resources. The policy hadn’t been enacted for many years at the church, but it also had never been officially overturned. Pastor Eric Hankins and deacons wrote a resolution to repeal the earlier decision and apologize for it, and Hankins preached on corporate repentance. Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Chris Davis seeks godliness above stats
The Baltimore Orioles missed this year’s playoffs, but first baseman Chris Davis celebrated several individual achievements, winning 2013’s homerun and RBI crowns. “I just want to be known as a godly man,” he said in story on BPNews.net. “That’s more important than any legacy on the field or numbers you leave behind. Read Joshua Cooley’s profile of Davis here.

Editor’s note: One in five Americans report experiencing a mental illness, but an honest discussion of mental health has long been absent from many churches. Read the Sept. 30 issue of the Illinois Baptist for more on the issue, and how two Southern Baptist leaders – Frank Page and Rick Warren – are speaking out to fight the stigma associated with mental illness.

I’m glad it’s out in the open – at least a bit more than it used to be.

When I served as managing editor for a pastors’ magazine, it seemed that every few years we published an article about clergy depression. Every time we received a slough of e-mails, and a few phone calls. I took those calls. “At least I know I’m not the only one,” pastors would say.

And after some of the longer, darker calls, I responded with my own story.

My mother, the choir director, committed suicide.

I rarely talk about it, even now, and only with those who really need to hear the story. I’ve never typed it, until now. It looks odd on the screen.

Twenty years have passed, but I still wonder how a Christian who spent her whole life in the church, a woman of faith who led me to faith in Christ, could reach such a point of hopelessness. But it happened. After decades-long illness, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional, she lost hope in earthly life.

About three years afterward, I was serving a church as pastor. A deacon took his life. He couldn’t cope with the death of his wife of 50 years; antidepressants couldn’t ease his pain; a shotgun did.

I told his daughter, who had sat with her parents about eight rows from the back for most of those 50 years, my story. We cried. We hugged. We wondered to each other how Christians can lose hope. And we wondered if it could happen to us. God forbid.

I had to preach that dear old deacon’s funeral. I told how he took us seminary students under wing and drove us to nursing homes to preach on Sunday afternoons, how he shared the love of Jesus with lost souls in their last days, and rejoiced when octogenarians finally came to Jesus. But I also had to speak about his own death. That was the first time I dealt publically with the issue of Christians and suicide.

And yes, I do believe that Christians who commit suicide still go to heaven. The doctrine of eternal security is very comforting. “No one can snatch them out of my hand,” Jesus said (John 10:28). I shared that with my congregation. And I tried to offer help as we all asked the inevitable question: “What could I have done?”

Be more willing to talk mental illness. That’s what we all can do. I’m so sorry that prominent Southern Baptist families, the Warrens and the Pages, are suffering the tragic loss of loved ones. But if they can use their national platforms to rescue hurting people, then some good will come from it.

-DER