Another One Bites The Dust

Recently I met with a friend I’ve had on Facebook for a while and managed to catch up with him while visiting his city… He’s a great guy, I think we have a lot in common. We spent a few hours over lunch sharing experiences. To be honest, I did feel a little bit sick in the pit of my stomach when he shared his story because it was a bit close to home for me.

This former pastor is a really intelligent, educated, inspiring, cutting-edge young man with a young family, and loads of leadership and gifting. He was installed by the guys from  Soul Survivor when they were in his country.

Recently he messaged me his story… here it is.

My journey with depression
The last few months, depression has got a lot of publicity. Here in Australia, depression among men is something you hear about. There is an organization called beyond blue that helps men with depression. Recently a politician came out and told his story with depression. Then I met with a former pastor who suffers from depression. These things caused me to think about about my experience with depression, so I thought I would write about it…

I have never been prone to being depressed…..in fact, I was always the sort of person who was pretty happy go lucky and if anything, I would get angry, not depressed. Throughout my years at work in the IT industry, there were stressful times but I would never use the word depressed to describe how I felt.

In 2005 I went into full time ministry and took on the role of pastor in the church where I grew up in. I went into minstry with hope and a sense of adventure. It was as if this is what I have been preparing for my whole life. The church was going through a bad patch and we were in a sort of crisi mode. Still, I had faith and a lot of energy. I had a vision to bring change and to see a church that was full of grace and love.

Maybe I was foolish. But I felt that God had called me to this. About a year into the role, it became apparent that a lot of people, especially the leaders, were not comfortable with the changes that were happening. I also had a shift in my perspective and theology. A lot of things that we were doing did not make sense to me and I was challenging a lot of the mindsets of people. The leaders who had asked me to come and lead had initially said that they wanted change too, but it became apparent that at the heart of things, they were not ready for it (some of my previous postings refer to these things).

A lot of my energy was wasted on silly debates like whether I should wear short sleeves to church, I was too informal over the “pulpit”…etc As a side note, is the fucking “pulpit” even biblical? This just resulted in me having bouts of feeling “down”. It started with me feeling down most sunday evenings. Initially I played this down to mere tiredness. And maybe there as some of that. Usually by mid day Monday, I would start feeling better.

BUt as time wore on, the feeling would stay longer. Even extend till Tuesday evening. Then it got worse. I begun to have thoughts of death…of killing myself. That was the only way out of where I was. The depression also started to happen on Friday’s as opposed to sundays. It was then a whole week thing.

At this stage, a good friend recommended me to see a counselor. This guy specialised in treating pastors and full time ministers who are burnt out. I had a hard time accpeting I was burnt out cause I had only been in full time role for a year. But the counselor heped me see that my burn out had begun earlier when I was serving in a voluntary capacity. In a follow up session with my wife, he basically said that we had gone through a traumatic exprience and his recommendation was that we not be in ministry at all.

It was a shock and a relief at the same time. But when I went to the elders with this news, they just did not believe it and asked for a written analysis. I saw that the church could not cope with this and out of a sense of duty, I persevered and went on serving in the church. The insight and help of my counselor helped me cope with depression for while. I also had a few friends around who helped me.

But after a few months, the depression was back again, this time worse. Instead of just being down, I would react with anger…..I was angry at the staff, at the people in church and at my family. Another friend highly recommended that I take time off work. I said ok and that I would look at taking a break in a few months as we had things coming up in church…but 3 different people all said that I would not last that long…so I took a month off work when the church was about to have a camp. I just could not bring myself to be at a camp where people had expectations on me. Again the leaders did not understand and did not take it well. But this time, I just did it anyway.

God did a work in my life in that month off. I learned to be a child again. Learned to accept God’s love and favor as a gift. Learned to enjoy life again. I came back with a renewed hope and vision. I started to teach on the things I had learned….on who God is, on authenticity and vulnerability. A lot of people responded well….but there were also others who did not. Bottom line, the core leaders wanted a different sort of church. Our perspectives and theology were so different. They did not see it. They kept insisting that we wanted the same things…….but we did not. A few months later, I had anther major disagreement with the leaders over how we treated our staff. I did not react angrily as I had in the past. I appealed to them calmly. But after that I realised that I just did not have the energy to go on. After all I had been through and what God had done in me, I still could not hack it. I resigned from ministry. I was heartbroken to do it, but I felt I had to.

Today, more than a year after I resigned, I do not really struggle with depression anymore. Perhaps a lot of it was down to the work related in the church. Maybe God had also healed me to a certain extent. But I have been scarred by my time in ministry. I now work in the IT line again. Have moved countries to get away from the church……..but my sense of confidence and faith has taken a great battering. My self esteem is very low. And I still have a lot of unresolved anger…….especially at the church system….and the people who propagate the system. I find myself at times having such a sense of hopelessness. Someone commented that I still have the energy to work full time…..yes, and for that I am grateful. But a lot of it is driven by the need to care for my family. In so many ways I was not ready to be back in full time employment. But I took it as a means of escaping the church situation back home. Will I ever recover? Will I ever have a sense of faith and hope and joy again? Will I ever return to church????? I dont know for sure…..but for now, it does not feel as if it will happen. I am just another pastor who has been beaten by the church system

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