Is it fair to say that our thought life cannot be disconnected from our spiritual life?
Since God created our brain, can we assume that He knows best what hurts or helps it?
This four part series is based on my conviction that healthy churches are led by healthy pastors who love God with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Mark 12:30). In this post, we will unwrap the implications of loving God with all of our minds.
Mental Health in the Church
One in four Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Lifeway Research reveals that statistic also applies to pastors, even though most are reluctant to talk about it to their congregations (66%). Meanwhile, family members (65%) and those with mental illness (59%) want their church to talk openly about mental illness, so the topic will not be taboo.
Over the years I served with several staff members who struggled with mental illness. While some served in victory and health, some struggled to the point of leaving the ministry, divorce, and even suicide. I shared my personal journey with depression in a recent blog post.
“Churches tend to either abdicate their role in mental health to outside medical professionals or to isolate themselves from the medical community. Neither response is helpful. Even those in secular branches of psychology and psychiatry say psychological health is better when people are connected with a faith community, and that should drive churches to healthy partnerships with trained medical professionals.”—Ed Stetzer (source)
As pastors, we are often the first responders to mental health challenges in our church and community. A free resource for you is a fully vetted counseling referral network. If you are personally struggling with consistently negative thoughts, please consider talking to another pastor, your doctor, and/or a therapist about it. Focus on the Family has a dedicated, confidential pastor care line: 1-844-4-PASTORS. Lifeway is a partner for this ministry which is free for you and available between 8:00am – 10:00pm ET.
Mental Health in the Ministry
It is difficult to love the Lord with all of our minds when we expose ourselves to so much useless media. Forty percent of Americans’ leisure time is spent watching TV. Social media? According to Nielsen’s annual social media report, Americans collectively spend 121 billion minutes (230k yrs) on social media each year – mostly on our smartphones.
I’m thinking now about the primary cultural influences on my own mind: UVerse/Sirius radio/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. The sheer volume of this media distracts and drains my brain – as does much of its content.
So what am I gonna do about it? Well, I’m breaking up with UVerse and Sirius this week. This is not a media fast, I’m just sick of being overwhelmed. Also, I’ve recently begun a painful purge of friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I enjoy all three almost daily and hope you will join me in the fray, unless you are a whiner, flasher, or abuser.
Renewing Our Minds
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Rom 12:2
Our minds are working all the time. My friend Donna Seal is a licensed therapist who has identified three categories for our thoughts.
1. Some thoughts are TRUTHFUL
We can love God with all our minds by consistently uploading the truth of God’s Word. We can also intentionally replace His truth for the lies of the world, flesh, and devil. Approximately 50,000 thoughts go through our heads a day, and not all of them are true.
We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5
2. Some thoughts are HELPFUL
Helpful thoughts are both good and true. Loving God with all of our minds is good biblical theology, not merely secular psychology. In Philippians 4:8 we are reminded that God will guard the minds of those who dwell/think on whatever is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, or morally excellent.
3. Some thoughts are HOPEFUL
Hopeful thinking is not the same as wishful thinking. Hopeful thoughts are true, but also hard. For instance, “I’m not doing okay (hard truth), BUT I can get better with God’s help (helpful truth).” Some of our thoughts are true, but just plain hard to take, especially when it stings.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Prov 27:6
I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world. John 16:33
How will you change your thinking this year? I want to encourage you to not only screen your friends and followers, but also your thoughts. Under the Lordship of Christ, our thoughts can be a source of truth, joy, and strength.