In today’s church we respond to mental illness
in many different ways. One of the things we have to understand is that when someone
is in psychological distress, they’re more likely to go to a clergy member before they
go to any other professional. That includes the mental health care provider or physician.
We also need to know that pastors and clergy in general, do more counseling in North America
than any other profession. Since we know that God is sending these individuals in distress,
individuals with psychological problems to the church, we need to respond in an effective
way. Unfortunately what our research shows is that 30 to 40 percent of people that interact
with the church have a negative interaction. They’re told that their mental illness is
not real, and that it’s the result of some type of spiritual problem. What we have do
in the church, is we have to respond the way that Christ responded to those that were suffering.
I see the response to mental illness, response really to any illness or to anyone suffering
in the church is three fold. We are to relieve suffering, we are to reveal Christ, and we
are to restore lives. There’s any number of ways that we can do all three of those. We
don’t have to become mental health care providers. We just have to express to people the unlimited
grace of Christ and we have to be willing to walk along with him through a lifetime
to bear their burdens.