Mental Illness

Sacrifice Beyond the U.S. Marine Model


Why I Would Want The Five Fold In My Church – Part IX


….. because it requires sacrificial service, the laying down of your life, for others.

U.S. Marines have a built a code of conduct through relationships that even the church hasn’t been able to match in the last couple of centuries.  A Marine will sacrifice his life for his buddy, lay down his life in battle to save his buddies; and even carry out a dead body from a combat zone so the enemy cannot desecrate it. That is the honor of the U.S. Marine Code.

The first century church was built on such a code since martyrdom was a reality, but since the easing of persecution, the code has been dropped. Today there is division, bickering, judging one another, and criticism about anything and everything different from the mode and code of worship one follows. Tolerance for other sects within Christianity is at an all time low. Rejecting one another, then shooting the wounded is common place.

Yet, what was Jesus’ mission on earth? It was to lay down his life for mankind, to be the sacrificial lamb for the sins of man. It was to suffer and die on a cruel Roman cross. Yet Romans 5:8 records, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He didn’t die for the righteous but the unrighteous, not for the godly but the ungodly. He became more than a martyr because not only did he die for the sins of mankind, but he rose from the dead to conquer death. Because of Him, the dead can now live! Ephesians 4:8 records, ““When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”. Like the Marines, he carried the dead, through a resurrection, to heaven with him and equipped those who remained on earth.

                  At the Cross, Jesus fixed broken relationships. Being the sacrificial lamb, he bridged the gap between God and mankind because of sin. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Man again could be in right standing with his God.  He also bridged the gap between man and mankind. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (I John 3:16-17)

                  It is now each believer’s responsibility to look out for his brother. Unlike Cain and Abel, we ARE our brother’s keeper. We are to take care of a brother or sister in need. We are to serve one another in spite of our diversity. We are to receive from other brothers and sisters even outside of our spiritual camps.

                  What better avenue for service than through the five fold where one has to give his gifting, passion, and desire to serve others, and the others reciprocally give back him. The five fold is all about give and taking the talents Jesus has given us for service.

                  As Christians, lets begin to carry one another’s cross, be willing to die for others, live by a spiritual code that is stronger than even the bond between two Marines. That is the calling for the body of Christ for today.


What The Church's Response To The Mentally Ill Should Be?


Resurrecting “Lean On Me”; A Personal Response

 A 2011 Baylor University study revealed that help from the church with depression and mental illness was the second priority of families with mental illness, while it ranked 42nd on the list of requests from families that did not have a member with mental illness.

If we offer “care” for someone, what does that mean?  Clinically we say, “We offer services,” as a friend, “I’m there for you,” and as a church attender, “We will pray for you.”  One offers programs, one personalization, and the last a detached response. Institutional churches can offer programs they label as ministries like a drug and alcohol ministry or mental health ministry. “We’ll pray for you,” offers concern but no personal involvement or social interaction with the person, and often turns into gossip circles. The personal, “I am there for you,” option is the most effective, the most Christ-like option, but requires sacrifice and commitment of actually being “available” 24/7 on our parts!

The personal option does not need building or program structures; it just needs you! Your involvement, your time, your commitment, your concern, you “just being there.”  Often most forms of effective ministry never need a designated building or specifically designed program, it just need the human element of love, care, commitment, and involvement, just “being there” for someone.

Mental illness strives for isolation and detachment. Just “being there” prevents both of these from occurring by reinforcing the recovery process. One fighting depression often feels “overwhelmed,” unable to tackle situations alone, but “being there” eases that pain. Schizophrenia distorts one’s rationale, but having one by your side whom you trust counters that. Currently clinical help only comes during the crisis stage, but having someone sensitive to your mood, stability, and needs by you can detect when something isn’t right early. That is called prevention.

Since the “Church” is not an individual, but a collective group, the “being there” can be shared, distributed among others, not to be a burden. Intimate small group ministry that meets regularly can offer more than a clinical Group Therapy that discourages close interpersonal relationships by its members. Church small groups shouldn’t turn into programs like Bible studies, or just talk sessions, but become a process for building relationships that produce life beyond group meetings. That’s family!

Religious cults and inner city gangs draw people into their midst because they act as an accepting family. Family offers a support system to someone stripped of many of their abilities, talents, and social graces due to mental illness. Without a family homelessness and a skirmish with the lay can be a real possibility.

Bill Wither’s Lean On Me song, now decades old, advocates what one must do to be effective. “Sometime in our lives we all have pain, we all have sorrow, but if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow.  Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry one, for it won’t be long till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on. Please swallow your pride if I have things you need to borrow, for no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show. You just call on me brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on. I just might have a problem that you’d understand. We all need somebody to lean on. If there is a load you have to bear that I can’t carry. I’m right up the road; I’ll share your load if you just call me.


My Reaction To Pete Earley's Book "Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness"

 I wrote a letter on January 21, 2013 to Deborah "Sunny" Mentelson, a Clinical Social worker of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Maryland, thanking her for sharing a copy of her book Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness with me.  I highly recomment the book.  Here is the letter:

        Thank you for sharing with me your copy of Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness.  Although I have heard so many personal true, real life horror stories from those taking the Family to Family class that I teach through NAMI, it is always difficult emotionally to hear yet another one. Pete Earley’s book is right on! Journalistically accurate.

        Two things strongly spoke to me through the book: “In the end, Mullen himself stripped away the mystery of why Passageway works. The answer proved to be rather basic. He created a community where the mentally ill ARE NOT ALONE, a community that genuinely cares about how the weakest among us are treated.”  (page 358)

        I have made attempts to make the religious communities aware of mental illness, because they are usually community based, community minded, should understand the principles of “grace” and “mercy”, both of which are needed to make a community reaching out to the mentally ill work. I have written over 31 blogs on the topic of Mental Health & the Church’s view on my blog site, Check the “categories” menu on the right side of the page under “mental illness”.

        I will echo Earley’s cry that we need to “created a community where the mentally ill ARE NOT ALONE, a community that genuinely cares about how the weakest among us are treated.”  That is a powerful message.

        I just listened to Obama’s Presidential Inauguration speech and the voice of the mentally ill has been lost on Capital Hill again in spite of the Sandy Hook massacres. Gun control is the political hot button. Bottom line: a disease killed a mother, her ill son, and numerous children and teachers. The disease caused the tragic results. We in the mental health world know the ill one would have found another weapon to fulfill his delusion if untreated. If we do not want another massacre to happen, then we must deal with the issue of Mental Health in America! It is imperative for our safety and the safety of all involved.

        The other strong impact on me was the last line of the book: “I had my son back.”  I gasped when I read it and cried.  The cruel reality of mental illness is the “detachment” it brings to its victims: the one ill, the loved ones who support him/her, and those around them who they affect.  My manuscript that I gave you, Stripped, supports that reality in my life.  All of us who have loved ones who fight mental illness dream of having our loved one “back” again.  Recently facing my father’s death, having to give his eulogy at his memorial service, the hardest emotional thing for me was attending the memorial service with out my wife by my side or emotionally being able to give me comfort in the time of need.  I was by her side in the ECT Recovery Room the moment he passed away, yet she was not able to be by my side physically or emotionally the day we honored and celebrated his life. Grieving the living who are mentally ill is harder then grieving the dead, for at least with the dead there is finality; with mental illness there is no end, only continual loss of the one living facing mental illness.

        Again, thanks for sharing the book and your care and concern with and for me. We in the mental health world face it daily and need to continually support one another through our journeys, no matter clinically, professionally, or personally.


                                                Anthony Bachman

A Christian Response To The Mentally Ill


A Reaction To The Newtown Shootings

Another mass shooting in the U.S., another news spectacle, and another tie with mental illness.  True, the tragedy of twenty young innocent children and six adults is horrific, and the news media is placing the magnitude of the pain of the parents, family, and community under the microscope as if it is incomprehensible, but can you imagine the pain, the guilt, the embarrassment, the shame, etc. that the brother of the shooter is feeling who lost his mother, and estranged, mentally anguished troubled brother while being blamed at first for the shooting because of stolen identity. Those of us who have loved ones who face severe mental illness cringed because it just could have been our loved one who made the news.  We are use to blame, to manipulation, to fear, to ridicule, to misunderstanding, to embarrassment, to the pain and stigma that mental illness can bring when engulfing our loved one. The secular world is questioning gun control as a possible solution, but missing the underlining cause for the shooting: mental illness. What should the Christian response be to all of this blackness, darkness, abyssfull behavior?

Mercy: God’s Presence in the Temple’s Holy of Holies was above the “mercy” seat protected by two cherubim. What is mercy? Police officers at a Crisis Intervention Training course sponsored by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill recently could identify. If someone has a gun against your temples in your head, you are at their “mercy”; you have no control over if they will pull the trigger or not. It is out of your hands, and you are at the total will and actions of the one whose finger is on the trigger. Then you beg for “mercy”. For one facing severe mental illness, the mental disorder they are facing is the finger on the trigger; they are at the “mercy” of the disease, but God never pulls the trigger; He extends “mercy” often through forgiveness, unmerited favor and kindness in spite of who we are, what we are like, or what we have done.  Our actions, attitudes, and sin qualify us for the trigger to be pulled, but God opts to not pull it, drop the gun, and extend a hand of help and hope instead. In the midst of darkness, He is light; in the midst of hopelessness, He is hope; in the midst of confusion, He brings clarity; in the midst of insanity, He can bring sanity.

Grace:  In the midst of all the pain, confusion, and maelstrom of emotions, God extends unmerited favor, kindness, and love. When we deserve the worst, He extends His best.  In place of judgment and condemnation, He extends unmerited favor. In place of engulfing guilt, He extends forgiveness and peace. In place of bondage, He gives freedom. Those fighting mental illness probably know more about grace than we who don’t have to face it.  Depression brings darkness, hopelessness, anxiety, fears, and uncertainty, yet God’s “grace” offers light, hope, stability, and peace in the midst off all this.  Often many negative deeds and actions by one fighting mental illness is actually a cry for help and “grace” to be extended their way.

Connectivity:  Mental illness brings disconnectivity. There is a feeling of detachment from one’s feelings, social relationships, family, friends, and life in general.  Those standing in the peripheral circles around one’s life now look distant, as they withdraw, not sure how to respond, creating even more disconnectedness. Soon the one fighting mental illness feels “detached” from everyone; he/she becomes a loner.  This is when they find themselves in a dangerous position.  The Christian Gospel is all about “connectivity”: 1) man disconnected from their God can be reconnected through forgiveness from the Father, God, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, their sacrificial lamb; 2) man disconnected from each other can be reconnected through reconciliation, forgiveness by each other, bringing restored relationships; 3) man disconnected with his mind, his emotions, himself can be restored through God’s healing touch restoring “the mind of Christ” in one’s mind and a “heart for God” with one’s emotions.  The Body of Christ, the Church, is all about connecting with one another, reaching out to one another, and restoration of relationships.  It is exactly what those battling mental illness need.  Instead of isolation and loneliness, the Church must offer them fellowship and acceptance.

Often when one battling dark depression picks suicide as a viable option they do not want their attempt to succeed; they want someone to intervene because it is actually a cry for help?  Judgment, criticism, and isolation are just what the person doesn’t need, but usually gets from us who do not understand their conflict, the darkness that they are experiencing, nor the emotional pain that torments their very existence. We Christians, the Church, need at those moments to not ostracize them, criticize them, nor ban them to isolation and loneliness. It is then that we need to “connect” with them, for that is the gospel. That is the hope they are looking for.

Many are asking, “What can we do to prevent another disaster like the one this weekend?” Hopefully we will extend “grace”, show “mercy”, and help them to connect with their God, their family, and people who will extend “grace” and “mercy”.  


The Great American Debate: Who's My Brother’s Keeper?


A Look At Who Is To Help The Poor, The Widows, The Severely Sick, The Homeless?

 After every American Presidential election a lot of evaluations, introspections, and analysis occur. Questions are asked by the losing party to analyze what went wrong, what oversights did they have, etc.  One of the big questions during this election was “Who is my brother’s keeper?”  The Republicans said the private sector; the Democrats said the government; and I asked if it is the Church’s responsibility.  Americans are so self-centered when voting. As a lady on one Republican TV add asked, “Mr. Obama, what have you done for my family since you were in office?” What is in it for me: a job, benefits, educational opportunities, etc.? It is not what is best for the country; Americans have lost touch with what sacrifice means during an election year. What is in it for me?  I think the turning point of this election came with Hurricane Sandy, for the reality of “Who’s My Brother’s Keeper” came alive as the private sector held TV concerts asking people to donate $10 to the American Red Cross, while President Obama came on location, promising to cut through the red tape so people could reestablish their homes, their dreams, their fortunes. Government responded better than the private sector did, enough to sway the vote to reelect the President.

“Who Is My Brother’s Keeper” I have asked in previous blogs and cannot get that question out of my head. The best example that hits home for me is the issue of mental illness, which I have addressed in previous blogs. My wife supposedly has health coverage through the private sector and Medicare A, governmental coverage, because of her disability. After a year of three inpatient visitations, Medicare has yet to pay for anything, and since I am retired, I pay a huge out of pocket sum to my private sector provider, plus copays, additional bills because of non-network providers, and forever calling my private sector health provider over billing errors, bills, and administrative headaches, etc.  

With inpatients, the private sector hospitals dealing with mental health try to bandage serious problems and have the patient discharged by the 21st day because of pressure from the private sector health provider who bottom line is to make a profit.  The health and welfare for the patient isn’t the top priority; payment to keep our huge American health system afloat is. Where I live, the health system is the highest county employer, the largest county institution, even greater in number than government workers.

If the private sector doesn’t want to be my brother’s keeper unless the bottom line, a profit, is made, nor the government due to political pressure, then is it the Church’s responsibility?  I have learned that most churches are clueless on how to handle mental illness, nor any understanding how to reach out to the person inflicted by the disease nor the family who is the caregiver. 

What does a caregiver do when hospitals will not take in their sick loved one inflicted with a serious mental disease unless they are able “to physically hurt themselves or someone else”? What does the caregiver do when hospitals work hard to “release” the patient as quickly as possible, even when they are not medically stable to be released due to pressure from health insurance providers? What does the caregiver do when their loved one, who is still very ill, is released back into their care with little if any supportive resources available for the caregiver? What does the caregiver do when their “religious family” inadvertently avoids them because they doesn’t understand their dilemma due to stigma, further isolating the ill person and their caregivers?

At least in America’s mental health world, everything is dumped on the caregiver: the coordinating of multiple doctors of all kind of medical persuasions due to addressing side effects, the financial burden of all the “bills” the others do not want to cover, and the extreme pressure and tension of being the caregiver 24/7 when at the mercy of slow working drugs, over booked psychiatrists who meet for only 15 minutes to “re-address” drugs, and ineffective recovery programs.

….. And if the mentally ill person doesn’t have a loving caregiver or family, their future probably holds poverty, program and institutional dependency for the rest of their lives, nonstop taking of powerful mind altering drugs, possible conflicts with the law if they become medically noncompliant resulting in criminal records and possible incarceration, and possible homelessness.

All this can be avoided if we follow the Biblical principal, “I was a stranger and you …” took me in, clothed me, fed me, visited me in prison, in the hospital, in a homeless shelter. We need to be like the Good Samaritan who was willing to help a Jew, a non-Samaritan, a stranger, who was physically beaten down, paying for his medical coverage and housing until he could again stand on his own.

Church, are we expecting our Samaritans, the non-Christian institutions, to take care of our hurting brethren, or are we going to step up to the plate and begin reaching out to the physically and mentally ill, the hurting, the homeless, the rejected and dejected? This is why the power of “shepherding” in the five fold model needs to be revived and supported by the other passions and point of views for effective ministry. With all these challenges, the five fold is needed more now than ever.


Questions I Get From “Church” People About Mental Illness Continued:


I Know Nothing About Mental Illness; What Can I Do?

Several years ago during one of my wife’s crisis, I took a 3 month Leave of Absence from my work as a public school teacher plus the 3 months off in the summer to stay with my recovering wife.  It was a time of isolation, a time of frustration caused by seeking help but not getting any response, a time of getting angry at the system for its failures in supporting me, a time of retro and introspection. At the height of my frustration my cousin told me to send an email to everyone in my email directory inviting them to come to my house to be part of a meeting to be a support system for my wife and I.  Nine people responded.  Only one, other than myself, had any experience with the mental health system, but in the end all contributed.

My aunt who stayed with a ninety-year old lady on a daily basis volunteered to sit with my wife for an hour or two a week so I could go shopping or have some time off for myself. A local minister and his wife were excellent listeners, listening and comforting Deb through her recovery.  Another had medical contacts, advising me how to go through proper channels, etc.  One week all nine contributed in some form.

My point is that sometimes the most effective support system you can have is non-professional, non-clinical. The church is not a building, or an institution, or a program. “Church” is the gathering of god’s people! It can be anywhere, not just in a building.  In fact, outside its building is where it is most effective! If you have a church family who will support you in various ways, feel fortunate, and tap into that resource. The theme of these blogs is about the five fold, and the “pastoral” component is so effective to everyone, no matter if one faces mental illness or not.  Someone who “cares”, some one who is part of your daily life; some one who “helps” in practical everyday experiences; someone to encourage you, pray with you, give you a hug when needed. 

As I mentioned earlier, mental illness can drive one to isolation.  The best way to prevent an isolated life is by getting plugged into a small group that exemplifies the pastoral spirit of the five fold. Everyone needs care, nurturing, fellowshipping, the feeling of “belonging”, a feeling of “worth”, an avenue to reach out to others, and a support system.

I have a friend who has a son with Down-Syndrome. I use to wonder how he and his wife survived the daily demands and strains put upon themselves by what appeared to me as a handicapped son. After spending time with them, fellowshipping with them, going to their house and they to mine, I began to understand, as I too soon fell in love with their son.  He hugs, smiles, encourages, and lives life to the fullest the best way he can.  I never see him depressed.  He picks me up when I am down, hugs me when I need a physical touch, and always has a smile.  He ministers to me.  I now understand why they couldn’t live without him and how special he is.

The same is true with someone with mental illness in our midst, for even though they may have more demands than you normally think, they still have so much to give.  I have learned to love to hang around our local NAMI, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, office because of how the people there lift me up even when I am struggling.  Everyone has something to give; everyone can receive something from someone else. Everyone has the capacity to give, to love, to care.  That is the pastoral spirit.

If you want to share the compassion of Jesus, then reach out to the caregiver who has a loved one who is ill.  That caregiver is constantly giving, usually selflessly for the sake of their loved one.  If someone doesn’t take care of the caregiver, the caregiver will eventually burn out and have no care to give. Often, much attention is given to the one who is ill, not the caregiver. Caregivers need to be surrounded by pastoral care.

“How can I help when I don’t understand it?” you may ask. Just exemplifying the pastoral spirit by being there is a help. On the Statue of Liberty is engraved, “No Man Is An Island; No Man Stands Alone.” There is so much truth to that statement.  As immigrants enter the port of New York about to face a new life with severe challenges but great hope, what better opening statement of advice to give!  The “body of Christ” is a group of people. The Priesthood of Believers is a group of people. The Church is a group of people. The pastoral spirit is the glue that keeps it together.  It is a powerful spirit, a healing spirit, a supportive spirit, and a Holy Spirit.


Questions I Get From “Church” People About Mental Illness:

Questions About Morality, One’s Conscience, Righteousness, Grace & Mercy

-  (From a Pastor) Question: How do you deal with a person facing a mental disorder (schizophrenia, bipolar, psychotic, delusional, etc.) when they morally break the law, are unfaithful in marriage, treat others cruelly, are self centered, and can bring havoc and dissention to their families, etc.?  I am pastor of a flock, and have the moral obligation to address their misbehavior as my sheep if.  What do I do?

Response “Sanity” is acting within the “rational” boundaries we establish as our moral code. “Insanity” is acting beyond those boundaries believing they don’t exist.  You cannot “rationalize” with someone when they are mentally ill.  They do not believe they are ill because they believe their rationalizations are real and logical, making sense to them. Debating with them is ineffective. It makes sense to them if they are hyper-sexual to have a sexual affair outside their moral code of marriage because it is real to them and they are driven by this facet of their disease.  This does not make it morally right, in fact, just the opposite is true, but we need to understand where they are at those trying moments and get them help with their “disease”.  When mentally healthy, their moral code will come back. They will experience “guilt” and “remorse” for what they have done when ill.  Their conscience will work again!  When Jimmy Cricket is ill, he can not “give a little whistle”, but he can when he is healthy.  We need to help the person get healthy again rather than being judgmental and ostracizing them.  Rejection causes isolation, and isolation to a person who is mentally ill can bring tragic results for themselves and others.

- Question: But in the Bible it tells how you are to “give some over to satan” if they are immoral and unteachable.  In order to maintain a high standard of “righteousness”, isn’t ostracizing someone for the sake of the flock okay sometimes?

Response The church, historically, has looked at mental illness as “demonic” over the ages.  They believe that those fighting mental illness have already been given “over to satan” because of their actions.  How untrue that assumption is, for I know many Christians who love Jesus, have a deep faith in Him, yet still fight mental illness in their lives. In the Bible that Jesus healed the sick (physically) and cast out demons (mentally), but the Church has not come to grips how to do that in today’s society and culture.  According to Biblical accounts, people with seizures had demons; the demoniac who hid in the tombs and self-mutilated had legions of them, BUT Jesus healed them all. If the Church is the extension of Jesus today, I ask, “Where are the healings?”  The Puritanical church at Salem Massachusetts looked at women who were psychotic or schizophrenic as witches and burned them at the stake rather than offering them the healing they so desperately needed. I have personally seen a pastor try demonic deliverance on a person who was schizophrenic without success.  I have met people who have been supernaturally healed physically, but never have met one who was supernaturally healed mentally of a severe mental disorder. That does not mean that it has never happened, but in my experience I have not met one.  

“Righteous” means being in a “right relationship” with Jesus.  I personally know Christians who are in a “right” relationships with Jesus, who have made him not only the Savior of their life but also Lord, who worship and adore him, who experience a personal relationship with him when healthy.  When ill, depression has made them “doubt their salvation”, extreme darkness prevails, and no religious rationalization of “assurance” can persuade them differently.  Mania has made them super-spiritualize everything, and no Biblical dissertations or debate, Bible Studies, Christian counseling, or sermons can make a difference.  During mental illness, one can lose that intimacy with Jesus, and often the dark side rises, voices telling of destruction, of self-metallization, etc.  I know the scriptural passage of “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world”, but I do not know why darkness has such a powerful prominence at those moments over one’s faith in Jesus.

Question: So how is the Church to respond?  How are we as believers in Jesus to respond?

AnswerI have learned more about “grace” and “mercy” through my journey facing my spouse’s mental illness than through all my years of Bible study as a Christian (over 50 years).  I know “grace” to be “unmerited favor” by God Almighty. Mental Illness and its stigma knows what “unmerited” means.  To be in God’s favor in the darkness of times is topics found in Psalms when David faced some of those same issues. I believe that someone facing mental illness understands “unmerited favor” more than we who are healthy.   “Mercy” is extended when you have no control over a situation. If a person has a gun to your head, and you are helplessly under their control, they have the power to take your life or restore it. You can only beg for “mercy”.  A person with a mental illness is at the “mercy” of their disease.  The gun is pointed at their head.  They have no control if it is going to go off into another psychotic, bipolar, or schizophrenic episode or if it is going to let them live a sane life.  If God’s Presence is at the “mercy seat”, then people fighting mental illness may have a better perspective of understanding the “Presence of God” by knowing his “mercy” than we, who are healthy, can understand.


How Is The Church To Respond To Isolation & Mental Illness?


On The Precipice Of The Abyss

What do you do when your world is spinning out of control, when you are fighting a maelstrom of voices, ideas, and frustrations yelling at you all the time, and when you are crying out for help?  Those who are supposedly there to help you ask, “Are you thinking of suicide, of hurting yourself, or physically hurting others?” 

You answer, “No, but my world is spinning, the confusion is great, the mental anguish unbearable. I can’t make it alone. I really need help!”

They reply, “I am sorry, but you do not qualify for our services, or help, at this time.  You are in no danger of hurting yourself or others, so go see your family doctor or psychiatrist when you are lucky enough to get an appointment (which may take days, even weeks). We are an acute facility, and the services you need are at a lower level than we provide.” [“Let someone else fix your problems; we won’t,” is the message you hear from their response.]

You find yourself on the “precipice of the abyss”, ready to fall in to more traumatic painful experiences because there is no help immediately available, so you go to your pastor, priest, or rabbi for help.  What does he have to offer?

The “Press” loves a new story, a new scoop, an eye-catching headline. Journalistic careers are defined at the expense of other people’s tragedies.  This week we experienced another shooting by an “isolated loner” at a movie theater in Colorado, the largest single shooting death in American history.  The past records one “isolated loner” who took the lives of Virginia Tech students, one who shot Congresswomen Gifford also in Colorado, as well as other recorded stories.  Often after the victims are buried and the story now becomes “old” in the eyes of the Press looking for a new, fresh scoop, we never hear of the tragic lives of the “isolated loners” who tottered on the “precipice of the abyss” before falling into insanity.  Often their despicable act was actually a cry for help to which no one responded until it was too late. How does our penal system address “isolated loners” placed into their care? Simply by placing them in more “isolation”, often not treating them with proper medication unless the “isolated loner” is lucky enough to get a court order.  How long are we going to allow the standard for help for the mentally ill to be “violence” and “tragedy”?  We know extreme mental illness can be dangerous and damaging if not treated properly, yet we play with fire and not give help until it is too late.

Could these tragedies be avoided? Probably yes! The worst possible environment for anyone severely struggling is “isolation”.  The Church is about community, people.  They are people struggling, people reaching out, people listening, people helping, etc. If you are lucky enough to be in a church built on relationships and care rather than programs, you can find an environment that prohibits you from being that “loner” in times of trouble and distress, that brings encouragement during depression, and some sanity during insane moments. People, not programs, make a difference.  People provide personal care, encouragement, empathy, communications, etc. while programs give only canned institutionalized solutions to complicated problems.

IJohn 3:16’s “laying down your life for your brethren” is the key ingredient in helping the “isolated loner” who feels that “no one cares” for him or her.  Helping them monitor medications, organizing their day, giving encouraging direction, supporting them mentally, emotionally, and even sometimes financially is part of this “laying down one’s life for his/her brethren”. 

I recently heard a brother-in-the-lord summarize the dilemma that the American Church faces: everyone being too busy. He stated, “A shut-in I know complained that no one visits her or her disabled husband, but I too have a family to supply, a business to run, a cabin in the mountain that needs mowing this week, activities to run my kids to, a small group through the church that meets in my home as well as attend other necessary church functions on Sunday and throughout the week. My wife would like for me to have a free night with her some night. Hey, lady, we all are busy, but I hear your need and wish that I could help.”

I have heard some in church leadership refer to their parishioners who are fighting mental illness as “high maintenance”, not as “high priority”.  If the church is to be effective, it has to “reach out” to those “isolated loners” and “pull them out” of their isolation through relationships and constant interaction.  The book of Acts is all about a church of “inter-ACT-ion”.  If we can’t rely on government interaction, or civic organizational interaction, or church interaction, then where is a loner to find the interaction that he or she needs to remain healthy? 

A personal hug, phone call, greeting, visit, email, tweet, voice message, instant message, etc. in a “social networking” age can be benefit in keeping one “connected”.  The church needs to raise the bar on those “connections” to be effective. The Church is us, the people, the believers, and we are called by the Great Commission to “go out”, even to the mentally ill, the “isolated loner”, the rejected, and the hurting.  The Church can make a difference; so let’s be “difference makers”!


How Is The Church To See The Mentally Ill & Reach Out To Them?


The Stigma Of Mental Illness & The Church

I have come to the realization that the church is often a place for hurting people looking to Jesus for help.  They are no different than anyone else other than they are looking to Jesus for the solution to their pain, sickness, troubles, etc.  I have also come to the realization that in almost every church there is someone (often many) who are facing some form of mental illness and are also looking to Jesus for solutions.

In my last blog page, I invited comments and suggestion on how the Church can reach out to those facing mental illness.  During this blog, I want to look at the issue of stigma.

Oxford English Dictionary (copyright 2012) defined stigma as 1) A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person: “the stigma of mental disorder”; 2) (In Christian tradition) Marks corresponding to those left on Jesus’ body by the Crucifixion, said to have been impressed by divine favor on the bodies of St. Francis of Assisi and others.  Synonyms: brand – stain – taint.

1) A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person – In Jesus time “leprosy” carried the stigma of a disease of social disgrace to the point that the person with leprosy had to announce their arrival when in public since the disease was so contagious.  Not only was it looked upon as a medical disease, but also a social one, for having the disease demanded total social isolation and alienation.  One had to move to a leper colony.  The epic movie Ben Hur so vividly portrayed this event.  The Aids Epidemic was America’s leprosy at the end of the twentieth century, but its stigma has been reduced through progress in medical treatment, education, and social awareness and acceptance.  Mental Illness is America’s 21st Century epidemic.  The gospels records that Jesus healed the 10 lepers where only one returned to thank him.  The 21st Century Church needs to address the topic of healing for those fighting mental illness.

2) Marks corresponding to those left on Jesus’ body by the Crucifixion – IPeter 2:25 reads: “for by his wounds you were healed.”  The very stigmatic marks on Jesus’ crucified body should be the very acceptance towards the healing of mental health stigma. 

Often stigma is groomed through ignorance, prejudices, and improper attitudes and judgments.  If a person is diagnosed with a brain tumor, the medical world will ask for brain scans, MRI’s, etc. as part of their treatment, all covered by insurance.  If a person is diagnosed with a mental illness, they are denied brain scans, given only physical medical clearances before being evaluated by a crisis intervention team, a physician, and possibly a judge to determine if they are in a position “of endangering their lives or the lives of others.”  If there is no physical evidence of a possible suicide attempt or a violent action toward a loved one, medical services can and will be denied.  That is stigma. Does a patient have to be in their last stage of cancer before being granted help? No, early detection and treatment is encouraged, but not in the mental health field. That is stigma.

Churches are reeling in trying to learn how to respond to their “high maintenance” parishioners who challenge ethical and moral boundaries when in the depth of depression, the heights of mania, or the whirlwind of a psychotic episode.  The Church can offer hope, but hope in what? Churches have told my wife and I that “we are praying for you”, but what are their specific prays?  Often socially, those fighting with mental illness find themselves isolated or alienated from the very life that could give them hope, healing, and deliverance, but how is the Church to respond?  These are powerful questions being asked of the Church in this century.  Is the Church commissioned to speak on behalf of those fighting mental illness?  If so how?

Glen Close Quote:Stigma comes from “not knowing what to do”, and with mental illness everyone involved eventually discovers themselves in that position of “not knowing what to do”, not knowing where to get help, not finding effective support systems to help one through crisis. 

I have attended a church where many physical handicap people have attended and have been accepted. They have become an integral part of the worship experience that has been healthy for this congregation, but I have also experienced an awkwardness by that same congregation on how to handle mental illness even though there are several people who personally are fighting mental illness in their congregation who are a part of their worship experience.  The “not knowing” has been the catalyst to this stigma: the not knowing of what mental illness really is, a physical disease; the not knowing what to do with one in crisis; the not understanding one’s irrational or “insane” actions when the disease is full blown; the awkwardness not knowing how to fellowship with a person struggling with mental illness. It is not that the church is trying to avoid what to do; it is the “not knowing” what to do, and how to “minister” effectively. In upcoming blogs we will try to unlock the “not knowing”, and begin to try to understand, become empathetic, and eventually feel confident in reaching out to those brothers and sisters in the Lord who are struggling with mental illness.


Mental Illness & The Church: Discerning Of Voices


When The Sound Of Mental Illness Distorts Voices

People battling schizophrenia often battle the sound of many voices in their head, voices real to them, often voices telling them of harm leading to disaster, self destruction, or even violence.  It is a time when you can’t trust the voices in your head. When healthy, you may listen to the voice of one’s conscience, your moral code of right or wrong. When ill, the voice of wrong tries to convince you that it is right. False illusions produce dissolutions.

The Church has taught me that the “spiritual” is about matters of the heart, yet brain research has revealed area of one’s brain that affects the way a person “spiritually” thinks.  I have witnessed what depression can do to a strong faith-believing wife who questions her salvation when in the depths of depressive darkness.  I live with a wife who learned to “listen” to the voice of God, only to have it distorted by mania that super spiritualized all aspects of her life.  Mental wellness produces spiritual wellness, but spiritual wellness has suffered with the lack of mental or physical wellness. 

Yet with mental illness, it is still spiritual faith that helps one weather the storms: that intangible belief that God can heal when there is no physical evidence.  In the mental health world, “recovery” is defined as living the best quality of life that one can under the conditions they are currently facing. Faith goes beyond recovery.

Imagine how difficult it must be for those fighting mental illness to “believe” when they may face a bleak darkness beyond despair, a manic high beyond spiritual normalcy, hear voices that they believe may be the voice of God telling them to do self destructive behaviors, doing destructive actions like self mutilation, hyper sexual relationships, and the ruination of personal relationships only to feel the condemnation of the church for their “sins” when they are already living under self condemnation, hoping to find someone somewhere who will extend grace to them during this time when everything in their life seems to be spinning out of control.

In the midst of their maelstrom of confusion, despair, and out of control behaviors, what is the role of the Church in their lives?  What does the Church have to offer them?  I have discovered that the institutional church is also in a maelstrom over what to do about this issue.  The Church historically looked at mental illness as a spiritual disease, not a mental or physical one.  The demoniac had “a legion” of demons telling him what to do, only to have Jesus cast them into a herd of pigs that stampeded to their death, bringing fear and skepticism to those living around that area.  The locals had trouble accepting the ex-demoniac sitting fully clothed and sane when amongst them and requested Jesus to just leave them alone.  In fact, Jesus does not grant this newly sane disciple to be a disciple to follow him, but tells him to go back to his own people.  I have seen the damage caused by churches who have looked upon mental illness only as a spiritual disease, and have not witnessed the “good fruit” of healing happening among them.

The church historically has started hospitals, developed prison ministries, taken care of the homeless, etc., but currently, at least here in America, the church has delegated those responsibilities to private or governmental institutions, forfeiting the power of the gospel to people needing it.  The church currently has an excellent opportunity to reach out to the mentally ill whose hospitals governments are shutting down because of financial cost, whose prisons now house thousands who struggle with mental illness, and feeding the homeless who quarters are teeming with the mentally ill.  In the 21st Century, the mentally ill have become America’s “undesirables”, and the stigma has become America’s stench.  It seems no body cares for them; nobody wants to be their advocate or voice; nobody wants to convenience oneself with the inconvenient. 

I will fill you in on a little secret: Jesus cares!  Jesus cares for the homeless, the hungry, the imprisoned, the hurting, and the ill.  He commissions his Church to also care for them “for I was a stranger and …”.  If the Church is an extension of Jesus today, then it MUST reach out to the mentally ill who are homeless, hungry, imprisoned, hurting, and ill.  How long can the church be blind to this dilemma?

The Church needs to reach out to those struggling with a mental illness, but it faces the maelstrom of not knowing how!  I would love to create a dialogue off this blog of comments and suggestions as to how the Church can do this.  You are invited to join me in this conversation.  Please do not give long dissertations of “your story”, but “suggestions” of how the Church can reach out to those who are facing mental illness, physically, mentally, emotionally, as well as being their judicial and political advocates. If you have experienced your church doing this, please share how they did it! I invite you to join in the discussion!


Retooling: The Holy Spirit, The Agent of Restructuring


The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part XXIX

Who is the agent to construct this restructuring process of the Church?  Who is the one who is willing to bring change even though the changes may not be popular?  Whose is the one to take the “heat” when opposition comes because of the change?  The answer: The Holy Spirit.

We, the church, always give the verbiage that we want “renewal”, that we seek “revival”, even dream of another “reformation”, yet we want it within the bounds or perimeters that we establish as “safe”.  That is not how retooling works.  Retooling calls for drastic measure during drastic times to save a cause, and nothing is safe or with in perimeters.  It is a total restructuring effort.  I believe that is why most true revivals have been “messy”.  The Holy Spirit is messing with our mindsets, our safety zones, our traditions.

Insanity has been defined as “doing the same thing over and over, getting the same results, yet still doing it the same way.”  Retooling will not allow the repetition of what doesn’t work with the hope that it just might work. It is scraping the old and constructing the new.  Old buildings, structures, must be torn down before true urban renewal can be built.  The same is with the Church.

It is important to know where one came from, but it is even more important to know where one is going, yet tradition seems to oppose revival.  We say we want renewal, but we do not want to give up the old way because of its sentimental value to us.  As the saying goes, “We want our cake, and eat it too.”  True renewal, revival, and reformation demands a total break, “the old is gone; the new is here!” Yet can we trust the Holy Spirit in making the break.  That is what faith is all about.

So what will the Holy Spirit do to bring this change?  I have no idea; it’s not my call.  He is in charge.  All I need to do is be obedient to what he says because he always does the Will of the Father.  His job is to bring glory to the Father, so if we can’t trust him, who could we trust.


Retooling: The Restructuring Of The Church


The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part XXX

To the question I asked in the previous blog, “Who is in control of our churches?” I wish I could reply “the Holy Spirit”, but in reality I know that we are far from that.  Leadership meetings are not time of quietness, tranquility, peace, calm, and time to listen to “the still small voice” among us.  It is not a time to then respond to what the group hears the Holy Spirit is saying in unity of purpose and direction.  In theory we would like to believe it is; in actuality, the truth of the matter very seldom is it ever that way. Then what is our option?

I believe the five fold is not about offices, or power, or about church political influences as the pre-21st Century church has made it out to be, but of points of view, gifting, and passions that are spirit born in every believer in Jesus Christ that is just waiting to be released in them if given the proper conditions.  If leadership is not based on titles and offices, then what is its basis?  I propose though “service”.  It is what “you do” that makes you a leader, not what you say, nor what title you have been given. You are not a leader unless someone is following!  Who is following you?  If your personal life exemplifies Jesus, then the lost will be attracted to Jesus as their savior, not to you.  If you care, nurture and develop them, they will naturally follow you. Sheep follow their shepherd’s leading. If they see the power of the Word in your daily life and the living out of that Word, they will hunger and thirst for righteousness and the Word too for themselves.  People follow in response to “your service”.

When the disciples were fighting for positions in this new kingdom of God that was being established, arguing over positioning of who would be on Jesus’ left or right, they were soundly rebuked because the kingdom of God, the Church, is not built on a pyramid position as the secular world of corporate America.  There is no C.E.O. or President of the Board, etc. “on top” of the Church structure.  The structure of the Church under the kingdom of God is an inverted pyramid of how many you are “serving”, bearing their weight on your shoulders, rather than how many who are under you “serving you” and your every wish and command.  The retooling structure of the 21st Century Church should be built on “service”, not political power, influence, or office.  Under the new retooled structure there would be no need for “offices” because people would not have to be told what to do, they would do what they see those whom they are following doing: serving!

Evangelism would be retooled because an evangelist would have to “serve” those they wish to win into the kingdom.  Most believers came into the knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, not through large evangelistic meetings and efforts, but through a everyday believer they admired or were willing to listen to who shared heart to heart with them about Jesus. That kind of evangelism has produced longer, lasting, effective results than did huge evangelistic programs, meetings, crusades, or endeavors.

The way we look at pastoring/shepherding would be retooled because the emphasis would be on “service”.  Even Jesus, as a human being, could only “serve” or “shepherd” twelve men over a three year period effectively.  Small groups, not as a program, but as a reality of number is essential in one’s development.  That one-on-one instruction by “experiencing” life with a younger believer in his daily walk is powerful and will stick with that person for life.  Pastoring/Shepherding is all about Walking the Walk With the person!  It is not about preaching, formal classroom teaching, nor lecturing, as the pre-21st century paradigm has been for the Church, but in the actual involvement in the every day life to teach kingdom of God principles.

As a public school teacher, I know the truth that class size has on the effectiveness of one’s instruction and development of his students.  The smaller the group; the greater the effectiveness. The ultimate, one-on-one instruction is always the most powerful.  As a Christian for 50 years, I have heard thousands and thousands of sermons, teachings, and intellectual dissertations “about” Jesus, the Gospel, and the kingdom of God principles, but I question the effectiveness of all that “time” of vocal instruction by an instructor sharing their knowledge with me.  One of the purposes of the five fold is to increase our “knowledge of the Son of God”.  A retooled teacher will be one who instructs “about God” but exemplifies through his own life of service “who God is in his own life” based on principles grounded in the Word of God, the Bible.  Personally “experiencing” God will be the retooled way of teaching instead of formal, written or oral instruction “about God”.

“Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit” and being obedient to what the Holy Spirit “reveals” is the retooled way the retooled 21st Century Church would have to operate.  What is the voice of God, the voice of Jesus, the voice of His Holy Spirit saying at this moment, at this time, to this particular body of believers while fulfilling the written Logos Word, the Bible?  Upon hearing, obedience will be required, thus the need of the prophetic spirit to be “serving” in each and every local body of believers, the local church.

Finally, a retooled 21st Century Church would have to rethink the role of an apostle in service.  The apostle is capable of evangelizing, shepherding, teaching, and releasing the prophetic spirit, but chooses not to do himself, instead releasing others to do it as he trains, develops, equips them in their growth into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  A retooled apostle “sees over” his domain of influence, not “over sees” it. He has the innate capability of seeing the big picture, and knowing what to do with it to “complete” the art piece!  He leads the other four of the five fold through “service” and by “example”.  Respect arises from “what he does or does not do by allowing others to do it”.  There is never an issue of “control” because everything is done out of “service”, who he is shouldering, who is covering.

The structure of this “retooled” structure is new, and I am sure will be controversial to the established structure that has reigned over the centuries, but its effectiveness in ministry and bringing unity to the body of Christ as the Church, the Bride, in its preparation to be “without spot or wrinkle” for the returning of Bride, Jesus, in undoubting.


Retooling: Bringing Back The Unexpected


The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part XXV

When in a “spirit-led” Church service, one always expects the unexpected.  Who would have thought those meeting in an upper room would speak in tongues of fire that night, who would then witness at the Temple speaking in tongues that foreigners understood?  Who would have thought that Ananias and Sapphira would be struck dead because of “playing with the Holy Spirit” rather than being “obedient to the Holy Spirit”?  Who would have thought Peter, in prison, would walk out his cell, past the guards, and knock at the door of a prayer meeting, shocking not only the guards confronted with missing prisoners but also believers who just witness their prayers being answered?  The unexpected always happens with the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  Soon you begin to “anticipate” it as being the “new normal” because the Holy Spirit’s Presence always produces “life”.

Order and freedom in the Spirit always oppose one another, producing friction in the Church.  Order brings predictability; freedom in the Spirit brings the unexpected.  Order brings control; freedom brings spontaneity.   Order brings a feeling of safety through familiarity, tradition; freedom in the Spirit to brings safety but in very different unfamiliar ways.  Order asks, “Can we trust the Holy Spirit?”  Freedom in the Spirit proclaims, “We can not help but trust the Holy Spirit?” 

Where is the 21st Century Church placing its “trust”? Of course they would say, “in Jesus”, the logical, correct answer, but what does that logically mean?  Jesus, currently, is not on earth in human form, but resurrected and seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for His saints, but the “Spirit of Jesus Christ”, his Holy Spirit, is on earth, seated within each believer to be activated, brought alive through each believer’s faith journey.  The “trust” of the 21st Century Church has to be in the Holy Spirit if it wishes to produce spiritual life.

As an advocate of the five fold, I feel it is the Church’s duty to birth that Spirit through an evangelist, develop that Spirit in each believer in Jesus Christ, make sure that Spirit is grounded in the written Logos Word, the Bible, so it can be activated as the Rhema or Living Word in each believer, and that Spirit nurtured, developed, and equipped to be released on the world and into the Church.  The Spirit of Jesus Christ, His Holy Spirit, is the key to unlocking the power of the 21st Century Church.  The Word is the foundation; the releasing of Spirit is the key.   Jesus prophesied that would be a day when true worshipers would worship in Spirit and in Truth: grounded on the Word, released in the Spirit. The two that seemed to be in discord will be the very cord of unity.

Today’s churches thrive on reproducing “programs” that were other church’s successes rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal what is best for that congregation.  Revelation always out-performs replication.  The church runs to conventions and conferences to see what the latest “trends” are that have worked for other congregations, returning with the effort of reproducing and instituting them in their local congregation.

The 21st Century Church needs to allow the “Creator” of the heavens and the earth to “create”, not “replicate”.  The United States use to be known for its “creativity”,  “ingenuity”, and “entrepreneur” spirit.  Japan and Korea would come and reproduce items the U.S. had created cheaper. Items “Made In Japan” or “Made In Korea” where known as cheap replicas.  These products never match the “creator’s products in quality, just surpassing them in quantity.  The Church has fallen into the same trap.  Mega-churches have produced quantity, large amount of believers, often through reproduction of “programs” tried by other churches, at the expense of the quality of its individual believers.  Because of its size and staff, the creative spirit of its common believers, the pew sitters, is diminished.  Even though they will not admit it, quantity of believers over rides the quality of each believer.

How do we develop “quality” in a believer? By allowing the Holy Spirit to teach the believer, nurture that believer, develop that believer, then be released in that believer usually through unconventional means, because that is usually how the Holy Spirit works.  Much of the meaningful “spiritual life” that has had a direct impact on my nurturing and developing as a believer in a spiritual journey has come through those unconventional means lead by the Holy Spirit, not through the organized, controlled instruction under the banner of the institutional Church. 

The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness to teach him the “power of the Word” and how to use it against Satan.  He did not lead Jesus to a Rabbinical seminary, or the local Mega-synagogue to be “taught” intellectually how to use, analyze, critique, and theologize the Word through an exegesis. Jesus “experienced” the power of the Word while being the Living Word.  We, as 21st Century believers, need to “experience” the “power” of the Word while being the “living” Word today.  We need to “expect” the “unexpected”.


Retooling: The Broken Heart Of A Family Facing Mentally Illness?


The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part XII


My heart goes out to Jo Anne & John Hinckley, Amy and Randy Loughner, or the parents of Seunge-Hui Cho because their sons all faced mental illness and performed horrendous acts of violence placing them in the annals of American history: John Hinckley for attempting to assassinate President Reagan, Jared Laughner for the recent shooting of Congressman Gabriella Giffords, and Seunge-Hui Cho for the largest single mass shooting at Virgina Tech University.   I cannot even imaging the emotions, the feelings, the shock of hearing how your son released his inward maelstrom of darkness, confusion, and pain, called mental illness, violently on others.  I can hear these parents questioning themselves, “Where did we go wrong?”, “Could I have done more as a parent?”, etc.

Both the Hinckleys and the Chos were church attending families at the time of their son’s shootings, but I have never heard what their churches did for them prior or after the fatal events caused by their siblings?  Just like questioning, “What could I have done to prevent this?” was asked by the parents, the church also needs to ask that question.

When it comes to Mental Illness, the church faces quite a dilemma: on one hand it believes in healings, citing physical healings in the past, but I have never personally met nor heard of a healing from a severe mental illness.  This challenges my personal faith as a Christian.  When my wife was in the midst of the darkness of her major depression she had a simple prayer, “Father, You are faithful and will always be faithful; by Your faithfulness heal me.”  That prayer still haunts me, for even I question why a faithful and loving God did not immediately respond to His child’s request.  That is one question I will be asking Him when in heaven. The church also has to face a history of failure in addressing how to minister to mental illness with a track record of supporting the practice of throwing the mentally ill in prisons, institutionalizing them, and also infamously condemning them as “witches” in Salem, Mass., hanging them or burning them at the stake. 

The church can respond with a loving, caring, pastoral touch to the victims of mental illness and their family members engulfed in all that swirls around mental illness.  Pastoral/shepherding care could help identify problems before they explode, seek help, prevent withdrawal, encourage treatment, support one during treatment, and stand beside the families of those whose loved ones face mental illness.  If parents, family members, loved one come to the church asking questions or seeking support, what does the church have to offer?  That is a serious question the church must face if it is to be effective in American society today?

When my wife was swallowed in the maelstrom of darkness, confusion, and doubt caused by major depression she questioned her religious teachings of salvation, wondering about the condition of her darkened soul at that time and its out come in eternal perspectives.  How do we as a church respond?  Sitting through church services and long sermons has not been the answer, nor being in touch with the church’s people only once a week, if that, because of the urge to withdraw.  The “reaching out”, the “sending out”, the essence of “The Great Commission”, the gospel, is often lost to even those within the church to each other.

If the Church is to retool for the 21st Century, it must re-examine its views on pastoral care to its parishioners, its family, those who make up the local Body of Jesus Christ called the local church, especially when facing challenging situations like severe physical and mental illness.  The church must ask itself, “Who Is My Brother’s Keeper?” before it can begin to redefine the “pastoral” or “shepherding” role of the Church in American society and the world in the 21st century.

American history is proving that when the Church loses its “pastoral role” of caring for its people as well as those outside its family, then Americans look to their secular government to do what the Church has failed to do.  Instead of tithes and offerings in the Church financing pastoral ministries, we, the Church, are forced to look at secular tax payer dollars to finance secular pastoral efforts, usually in the form of governmental programs, and are the first to criticize those programs for doing what we have failed to do.

Church, it is time to pick up our pastoral role and be effective!


Retooling: Who’s My Brother’s Keeper If He Is Mentally Ill?


The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part XI


When the shooting of President Reagan, the student killings at Virginia Tech, and the recent shooting of the Arizona Congresswoman was first announced, my heart sank.  Even before the news outlets began to try to dig into the background of the shooters, I sensed what was happening:  a victim of mental illness must have gone over the edge, and I was right.  The news media had their headline story, a shooting, and a chance to bring to light a dilemma America faces in the way we view mental illness, but they shied away again from the latter. Why?

In light of my series on Retooling the Church and looking at the role of a “shepherd/pastor”, I am asking the Church of America, “Who’s My Mentally Ill Brother’s Keeper”?  Because of its stigma, the misunderstandings of the disease, and its effect on victims and family members, as well as the unscientific diagnosis of the disease in a very modern medically conscience society, America and the Church have failed to come to grips with this issue of mental illness although the outcomes of its tragedies have effected our nation.

Politically: America is in a heated debate over this pastoral question of “Who Is My Ill Brother’s Keeper”.  Democrats say “We the People”, the American government is by advocating health care reform for all Americans, including the unstable mental health population.  The Republicans say “We the People”, the government should stay out of it, let the public sector prioritize it, finance it, let “them”, whoever that is, take care of it because we aren’t going to touch it.  Amazingly a Republican President and a Republican Congresswoman have been struck down by it, yet Republicans, like most of us in America, just wish that it would go away rather than face it because we don’t know what to do about it.

Church:  How do you take care of something you do not understand? Although the Church knows about “grace”, “mercy”, “forgiveness”, having heroes like Mary Magdalene, the ultimate adulteress before meeting Jesus; the demoniac that had schizophrenic tendencies cast into a herd of pigs, who sits quietly by Jesus’ side begging to be a disciple of his after his deliverance, and the healings of “multitudes” of people mentally and physically in the New Testament, they often are still the ones who throw stones of “condemnation”, “judgment”, and “non-forgiveness” at the mentally ill because of lack of understanding.

When my wife went through a severe episode of mania followed by major depression, I asked during that time, “Where is the Church?”  Not only did my wife need a shepherd, but so did I, the hurting family member, but none came.  I cried out for help, but no one responded.  At first I became critical of the church for their lack of response, but now I understand that it was because of the stigma of mental illness and lack of understanding about the disease or how to face it.  One feels awkward when they do not have answers to your many questions about what they do not understand themselves.

I have written a manuscript called Stripped, about my walk as a care taker through mental illness, discovering that not only the victim of mental illness but also every member of their family gets stripped of their dignity, their worth, their hopes, their visions, their dreams, their sense of belonging to a “normal” society, or group, or Church.  Because of its “limited audience” on the topic of mental illness, no publisher will touch my manuscript.  Again the stigma of mental illness surfaces, even in the publishing world.

The person with a caring heart, a nurturing heart, a parental heart, a compassionate heart has the passion and point of view of shepherding, a pastoral calling. The Church needs to allow this person to arise in its midst to reach out to all who are hurting , for that is the gospel.  One of the biggest “red flags” that someone is getting close to the dangerous edge in mental illness is their withdrawing.  If the Church had a “pastoral” arm of the five fold ministry active in their midst, it would identify the problem in its early stages, seeing this withdrawal, and move forward with help, thus preventing many of the “extreme” tragedies we have read about with mental illness.

“Who’s My Mentally Ill Bother’s Keeper”?  It is easy to push it off secularly and say the government’s, or push it off religiously and say the Church’s.  The American government and the Church are “we, the people”, so let’s not forget that maybe it is “our” personal responsibility to get involved, get educated, break through the stigma, and reach out to those who struggle physically and mentally. We should be our brother’s keeper!



Hey Church, Rethink Your Theology on Mental Health – Questions & Answers Part VII


The Church’s Steps Toward Recovery

Question:  How can the Church offer hope to those facing Mental Illness? 

Today we continue asking questions that need answered in order for the Church to make steps towards it own recovery in mental health?

Answer:   In a disease, which strips those severely ill of so many things, “hope” is the very ingredient needed when all seems “hopeless”.  I have heard the phrase “hope against hope”, but with mental illness it is “hope against hopelessness.”  How should the Church respond to the hopeless? By giving them hope.  Historically they are the only institution that has done this consistently throughout the centuries.

In the midst of darkness, in the abyss leading to suicidal tendencies, through the detaching of feelings and emotions, the one thread those in deep depression seek to hold on to is hope.  When all hope seems to be lost to the disease, suicidal tendencies begin to make sense to the one ill. 

In the movie Hook, the character Smee lost his marbles (physically and mentally) and is overjoyed at the end of the film when he “finds his marbles”.  In mental health the person ill feels like they have lost their marbles of feeling, reality, faith, hope, love, etc.  Like Smee they are so desperately hunting everywhere to get them back, but so detached that they cannot.

Hopelessness permeates depression, not only for one ill but also for their loved ones. When my wife was severely ill, not getting help from government institutions or the church, while desperately making phone call after phone call, doctor visit after doctor visit, med change after med change, with everything seemingly going nowhere, feeling stuck, I too became depressed and began to feel hopeless. I, in such a very small way, could begin to empathize rather than sympathize with my wife’s darker journey.

The poor, homeless, sick, the dredges of society have always, should always, and will always, be the focal point of the Church’s mission.  Jesus told his disciples, “You will always have the poor.”  He knew his mission and the Church’s mission to the poor, the sick, the lost. 

How can the lost be found? Through hope.  If someone is lost or missing we say there is “hope” in finding them. But after awhile we begin to lose hope when the reality of their length of being lost becomes real.  In mental health when we, the caretaker, begins to “lose” our loved one to this severe illness we at first go through “denial”, not wanting to admit this is happening.  To the depress child, the father says just to “get up, get a real job”, when in actuality the child is unable physically, emotionally, nor psychologically to be able to do that, or they would! As the detachment continues, reality sets in, and the caregiver joins in their loved one’s cry for help, usually getting frustrated when not finding any, but holding on that there is “hope” out there somewhere as the situation gets darker.  As the caregiver is getting pulled into the darkness of stigma, isolation, not knowing what to do, and not getting solutions from the medical field, they too begin to “lose” hope.  Depression is when you lose hope, so depression can be contagious. 

Although there is no “cure” for mental health, there is hope in recovery, that of making one’s life as productive as the illness allows, and the hope for a medical future.  There has been hope in medicine as the medical field has tried to tackle the problem, but side effects have thwarted that hope.  The new hope is in genetics, as research is making its move in that direction.

But spiritually, what is the Church’s basis for hope.  How is the Church to offer a hope in the resurrection, when the very spiritual life of the living dead, those deeply depressed, has been taken into the abyss of darkness where one even doubts their salvation or the value of life? That is a tough question for the Church to answer.  The Church can offer an “afterlife”, an eternal life in heaven, which may even be more appealing to one contemplating suicide where earthly life seems not to exist.  Unfortunately the victim to severe depression cannot find the peace in that promise nor the joy when they no longer know what joy is.  Instead they feel guilt!  When my wife was severely ill, she changed her passwords on various log-ins to “forgiven” because only in “forgiveness” could she see an answer to facing all her guilt spiritually.

If “forgiveness” is the key to guilt, and compassion is a “movement” or action, then the Church, and we Christians, have been called to move forward and unconditionally “forgive” victims of mental illness who do not understand what they are doing when under the influence of their severely ill conditions. We are speaking of an illness here, and must recognize it for what it is.  An illness does not equal sin in spite what some church leaders have taught in the past.  The Church needs to “move in compassion” to “forgive” the actions of the ill person, and help those ill to “forgive themselves” when guilt ridden and self esteem crushed.  When one is forgiven, hope returns.

When severely ill in the depths of the abyss of depression, my wife could not stop spiraling down, believing suicide may be a more viable option to the relief from her suffering, pain, and darkness, and could not feel remorse for what she was about to do.  One of the first signs that she was recovering and getting healthy was when she realized what actions she had done and the consequences of those actions. She felt extreme guilt.  Feeling guilt was the first signs of recovery, of again getting healthy!  As she got healthier, dealing with the forgiveness of her guilt and low self-esteem has been a constant struggle in her life.  As she has gotten better, hope too has returned.

The Church has powerful tools in forgiveness and hope, and it needs to exercise those gifts through action, through compassion:  physical acts of kindness, care, direction, and hope to those suffering from mental illness and their loved ones.


Hey Church, Rethink Your Theology on Mental Health – Questions & Answers Part VI


The Church’s Steps Toward Recovery

Question:  How can the Church offer compassion to those facing Mental Illness?


Today we continue asking questions that need answered in order for the Church to make steps towards it own recovery in mental health?

Answer.  Jesus had his daily routine interrupted by a funeral procession led by a grieving mother of an only child that died.  He was “moved” with compassion and raised the child from the dead.  One of the most famous quotes from the Bible for kids having to memorize Bible versus is, “Jesus wept”. He was “moved” with compassion.   When seeing the multitude following him in the dessert with no food, He was “moved” with compassion for them and the miracle of the fish and the loaves occurred as he met their physical need by feeding them.

I like the verb “moved” beside the words “with compassion” because it infers that an “action” is associated with the emotion.  When “compassion” is released, it requires an action, not just a passive emotion. Often at funerals we say, “I feel sorry for your lost,” but we are not really “moved” to do anything about that, often because we do not know what to “do” to relieve their grief at that time.  The Church finds itself often in the same place today with Mental Health because it does not know what to “do” to show “compassion” to those struggling with mental illnesses.  What can we “do”?

I do not say this out of judgment.  There was a time when I hated visiting someone ill in the hospital because I did not know what to do or say. Saying something stupid like, “How are you feeling today?” deserves a stupid answer like “Great! That is why I am in here, you idiot!”  I had to learn that words did not show compassion toward the sick just my “presence” did because I was “there” for them, or a “touch” knowing that I was “near”.  The same is with mental illness as physical illness, for those suffering just need someone “there”, someone “near” when they feel detached, alone, in a dark place, isolated, scared, insecure, frightened, crying out for help.  The Church’s presence can go so much farther than its judgment.

“Understanding” and “reason” is not effective when showing compassion toward the mentally ill.  You do not have to understand why they are ill, or how they are ill, or try to figure everything out, and there is no reasoning with the one who is detached when ill.  To be effective just be “there”, be supportive, often not even “understanding” what is happening nor questioning why it is happening, but just being there. 

If no one is there, government services, churches, family or friends, homelessness is a very viable option, a distinct possibility. Governments have closed their mental health institutions, churches have isolated, families have abandoned, and the streets become the only option left.  Isolation, detachment, and numbness are common feelings among the mentally ill.  To show compassion the Church, we Christians, must be there for them, so they are not alone where they can endangering themselves or others, or even threatening their own life.  We can and must not detach our selves from their experience because of stigma, but be supportive, and we must “care” during the numbness; the isolation, the hurt; that is compassion. 

Often the caregiver, family, or friends become the victims by the one who is ill. The one ill will argue, blame, and try to control the very people who are trying to help them, their support system, and it is hard to stand by someone who is attacking you, blaming you, controlling you!  There is where compassion is powerful when reaching out to the person in spite of how they are feeling or treating you in their detached ill state. That is unconditional love.  Compassion is “feeling” for the person who is hurting who claims they have “lost all feeling.”  Compassion is not reciprocal! It is “moving” in the direction of helping, caring, and unconditional loving the one who is hurting, who is ill.

Will someone who is facing mental illness interrupt your well-planned, courteous church service? Possibly, no probably, but will you still love them, visit them, actually invite them back, or will you reject them, ostracize them?  Will someone who is facing mental illness begin blaming “the church” for everything and anything? Yes, that is a given, for they do it to anyone, especially to those who are caring, when they are ill, calling out to the very person whom they are victimizing for help!  If you aren’t going to be there for them, who will?  Will someone who is facing mental illness be manipulative? Again possibly or even probably, but can you love them through their manipulation, for only unconditional love breaks those manipulative patterns. Even Jesus’ disciples tried to manipulate him into picking themselves to sit on his right or left in his kingdom, but he saw through them, into them, and unconditionally walked with them through their life’s journey in spite of who they were or what was their background.  We say that believers in Christianity are disciples of Jesus, even those facing mental illness who have had at some time made a profession of faith, so why would Jesus not walk with them through their life’s journey too? So why would the Church not walk with them through their life’s journey too?


Hey Church, Rethink Your Theology on Mental Health – Questions & Answers Part V


The Church’s Steps Toward Recovery

Question:  What does the Church have to offer the Mental Health field?


Today we continue asking questions that need answered in order for the Church to make steps towards it own recovery in mental health?

Answer:  Most often, the Church has opposed the Mental Health field rather than support it, but on the other hand the Church is use to majoring in opposition with in its own ranks bringing division and ineffectiveness.  How can I expect the Church to be effective in the world with their support organizations and systems if it cannot even be effective supporting one another under its own umbrella?  Those are hard questions the Church needs to answer and to which I do not have answers that are not controversial.

I have been taught as a child that “Jesus is the answer”.  Andre Crouch use to sing “Jesus is the answer for the world today. Above Him there’s no other; Jesus is the way (the truth and the life).”  If Jesus is the answer, and Jesus exemplifies himself through his body, the Church, then the Church must come up with answers on how to minister to the mentally ill and those effected by the dreaded disease if they are to offer “Jesus” to the hurting, the confused, those in darkness who cannot comprehend the light at the moment.

Offering Jesus sounds so simplistic.  Is it? Or is it complex?  The Church majors in the complexity of simplicity; nothing ever seems to be “simple”.  We talk about the “simple truth of the gospel”, but when defining it, it becomes rather complex. What is that “simple truth”? What does the Church have to offer the field of mental health that secular social, governmental, and private organizations don’t?  Apparently something, since the mental health field is beginning to be open to a “faith base” influence to mental health.  They are willing to explore the possibility of allowing “faith base” to be part of the solution.  Is the Church willing to be open to work with the secular, scientific, and medical field in an effort to be part of the solution, or will the Church continue to be elitist, aloof, not understanding or sympathetic and uncooperative due to religious beliefs, theology, or even dogma? Some more hard questions for the Church to address!

The Church has the following to offer the mental health field: faith, hope, love, compassion, mercy, grace, a helping hand to the hurting, the poor, the homeless, healing, deliverance, and understanding self esteem on knowing who you are.  More questions arise in how the Church is not only to be the “professor” of the faith and these offerings, but doers of them.  How does the Church release this faith, not only spiritually, but practically in the ever day lives of people facing and fighting mental illness.  Those are the hard questions we have to face as the Church. 


Hey Church, Rethink Your Theology on Mental Health – Questions & Answers Part IV


The Church’s Steps Toward Recovery


Question:  If the “care taker” of someone (physically or mentally) ill doesn’t “take care” of the “care taker”, then eventually no one will be able to “take care” of the one ill!  So how can the Church support, or “take care” of the “caretaker”?

Today we continue asking questions that need answered in order for the Church to make steps towards it own recovery in mental health?

Answer:  I was shocked when nine individuals came together to form the Bachman Bipolar Bear Club, a group of friends, personal family, and religious family members, whose top priority was “to get me (the care giver) back to work (after a 5 month leave of absence) to bring sanity and “normalcy” back into my life, and secondly to support my wife through her recovery.  With my wife’s illness, not only had she become the “victim” of the disease, but so had I, my children, and all who knew us.  We all had been affected by this disease, which directly changed and altered our lives. 

The caretaker, me, was experiencing physical, mental, and spiritual burn out, exhaustion.  Trying to do it all on my own with no support was beginning to bring tragic results to my health and well-being. Not only did my wife need help, but so did I.  Some advised that I now needed “professional help”, but together we were already seeing nine different professional medical doctors (with only me again, the caretaker, being the coordinator integrating all nine different medical voices talking at us) and were forever going to “appointments” as if that was our only social life, filling up my calendar, and, by the way, was sifting me financially. 

The Bachman Bipolar Bear Club met formally only once weekly for only one hour, yet that hour became monumental in my well-being, because through them I got advice, literally personal support during crisis, directions when it seemed that I hit nothing but road blocks or became stagnant, stuck in the place I found myself. The group gave me badly needed assurances and encouragement of what I was doing, hope when faced with hopeless situations, and a badly needed hug when all I needed was a physical touch, something my ill wife could not give me while she was in the depths of her abyss.

As you can see from my past blogs that I believe in the five fold ministry (Ephesians 4) of the Church, and as a caregiver I needed someone from the Church to offer me pastoral care, the day to day oversight of my personal walk through all these daily challenges.  The walking out of my daily life!  I could have used a person with an “evangelistic” point of view to help “birth” or “rebirth” new ideas, strategies, etc. especially when I got stuck and seemed to be in no movement forward. I needed a prophetic word giving me Rhema, living truth in how I can walk out my faith through these trials, rather than receiving only the Logos word, which usually brought judgment, the last thing one needs when working with depression.  I needed an apostolic person to help oversee the maelstrom in my life, to calm the storm, to help coordinate the advise me on how to handle the opinions of nine different doctors in different specific medical fields who often contradicted one another.  I needed the Five Fold, the Church that I have propagated in over 175 blogs now! 

Are we willing, as a Church, to lay down our theological differences and misuderstandings to serve those in need.  We spend so much time being divided by our differences, that it hampers our effectiveness as the Church, “one body” as Paul calls it.  Are we willing to have new mindsets on how the Church should minister or serve?  Are we willing to “equip the saints for the work of service” as the Ephesians 4 commands us to do?  As a Church are we willing to develop the five fold, so that we can serve out of our diversity, that  are actually our strengths? Oh, I thought I was giving answers (which I am), but look at all the questions that arise!  Let’s, as a Church, face these questions so that we can give positive effective answers on how the Church must face mental health.

“What does the Church have to offer the Mental Health field?” is the question we face tomorrow!


Hey Church, Rethink Your Theology on Mental Health – Questions & Answers Part III


The Church’s Steps Toward Recovery


Question:  Who should be the “care taker” of someone fighting mental illness?

Today we continue asking questions that need answered in order for the Church to make steps towards it own recovery in mental health?

Answer:   In the past it would be easy for me to say the government because the Church hasn’t, but with budget cuts and governments facing fiscal challenges, many government and private mental health facilities and organizations are facing scaling back or even eliminated services.  The Church has always been instructed to take care of the poor, the widows, those in need.  Often in mission fields, missionary doctors birth and develop hospitals in third world countries. Orphanages are built and maintained (even though amazingly they have slowly disappeared in the United States).  But the government and the Church are organizations, so it is easy for individual, Christian or not, to count on the charity of organizations rather than on personal charity to help people in need.

As I have said earlier, the U.S. government is founded on the principle of “we, the people,” and the Church is built on “we God’s people”, but the bottom line is “the people”, not the “organization”.  The “organism” is always more effective than the “organization”!  So what are “we” or “I” to do should be our question. Our use of pronouns must change. “What can ‘I’ do, or what can ‘we’ do, rather than what should ‘they’ be doing?

As a care taker, the most effective, empathetic, acts of kindness and support that have come to me as the caretaker, and my wife as the person ill, has come from individuals, not from the Church or from local or state governmental agencies, who were willing to ban and bond together as a support, advisory group to help me as a caregiver maintain my “sanity” while helping my wife towards recovery.  The bottom line as an answer to this questions is “I”, and “you” personally, are called to be “care takers” for the hurting, and together “we” can make a difference without government regulations or Church dogma or doctrine.

Tomorrow's Question:  If the “care taker” of someone (physically or mentally) ill doesn’t “take care” of the “care taker”, then eventually no one will be able to “take care” of the one ill!  So how can the Church support, or “take care” of the “caretaker”?