It’s good when pastors wisely open up. But opening up about mental health? It’s one thing to talk openly about spiritual battles and temptations (though not in too much detail, except to a few close friends); it’s another matter entirely to admit to depression. Right?
But when circumstances and personal confidence allow, it can be of great benefit to a congregation when a pastor is open about this issue—for several reasons.
First, openness serves the health of the fellowship. When I first preached about depression at All Souls, the response was largely positive. A few found it difficult to cope with a minister having his own problems—they needed him to deal with theirs! But that was only a handful. Most significant for me was the number who felt they could now admit their own challenges for the first time. It gave them permission: “Well if he can say it publicly, perhaps I can too.” The fellowship of the church ought to be the place of safety par excellence for those who know they are weak, fallible, and broken.
Second, openness is crucial for witnessing to a cynical world. This obviously requires elaboration, but many today are exasperated by spin and bravado, which they can sniff a mile off. Prevailing suspicions about religious institutions will only be confirmed by leaders who appear to live in denial of their humanness and brokenness. This isn’t simply the pursuit of that political holy grail, “authenticity.” It’s a matter of realism about life’s complexities and questions. Pastors who work through, not despite, brokenness have far greater traction today than the slick schtick of TV presenters.
There is no one right answer, but I would encourage pastors with depression to consider sharing their struggles with their congregations. Your honesty could bear beautiful fruit.
— Theology 4 The Rest (@theology4us) June 20, 2019