I have written many times about what I see wrong in the church. I don’t want to come off as harsh and judgmental, and it is easy to sit back and pick apart what somebody else is doing. That is not what I want to do and not why I have started this blog. God has given me a vision for the mentally ill in the church and I want to pursue it to the best of my ability and with the power and faithfulness of the Holy Spirit. I see many things that are wrong but I have some ideas of how it could be better. While there are many areas that the church is really good in, there are some where it is still lacking, and reaching the mentally ill is one of those areas. So I share my vision and pray for change to come.
There are really two main things I would like to see in the church. The first is education. I would suggest that education about mental illness should be a part of every pastor’s training in seminary and Bible college. Not an extensive training, perhaps, but at least a basic knowledge of the most commonly presented disorders. I feel that since pastors are often the first place that people go in a crisis, they should at least have the tools to recognize the difference between a spiritual problem and a mental illness. I also think that congregations should be educated to dispel ignorance and fear of the mentally ill. Many go to church and hide their struggles for fear of what others will think of them. There are groups, like NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), that educate and advocate for people with mental disorders and can be of assistance in the education process.
The other thing I would really like to see is more of a small group/support group type of thing in the church. Truly, there are many support groups in the world for mentally ill people, yet they lack the spiritual depth that a church group could provide. While secular therapies may be of some value, the church can provide the spiritual support that the believer needs to navigate their illness in the context of their Christian faith. While there are many small groups in many churches for things like divorce or addiction, there aren’t really that many for mental health issues. The need is definitely there and many in our churches would benefit from such ministries, being encouraged and lifted up in their faith and truly becoming who Christ made them to be. I pray that every church would take the issue of mental illness seriously enough to reach out and do something to help these people, making a way for them to have the spiritual support they need in their faith journey.
I feel that there is much to be done in the church as far as reaching the mentally ill is concerned. However, it is possible. There is no one so far gone that Jesus cannot reach them and there is no church that cannot be transformed and energized and made a beacon unto these people. My prayers are for the mentally ill, that they would feel the love and compassion of the church and be able to open up and receive the healing of Jesus Christ in their lives. I also pray for the church, that we would learn to love those who we may not understand, whose issues are different and sometimes a little scary, and that we would open our hearts to them and make an honest effort to understand them in their struggles. There is much work to be done, but with the guidance and provision of the Holy Spirit, I believe we can do it.