This is the third part of an interview I participated in for the Texan, a publication of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. I was asked to comment on the motion presented to the SBC Executive Committee in favor of improving churches’ care for those with mental health challenges. I see this as a huge step forward in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, which has unfortunately been propagated by the church at times. In this section, I answer the question, “What are some ways in which you see churches failing in their attempts to biblically and adequately address mental health?” I’d love to get your thoughts on it:

“Our failure has come from turning a blind eye to the science and the research that has been done over years and years of studying human development and functioning. As I’ve said, we have turned a blind eye to it out of fear, fear of what it would mean for us to step outside the bounds of the Bible and using other forms of truth, natural revelation, that are just as God-given. We know so much more about how the mind and brain work than we did even 10 years ago. Why would we waste that knowledge in our efforts to help redeem the brokenness of mankind?

At Criswell, we take an integrated approach to counseling. We don’t shy away from what natural revelation might reveal to us. We absolutely filter it through the lens of Scripture; we make sure that the theories we’re espousing are consistent with the Word of God, but we don’t shy away from knowledge that might make us more efficient at helping the mentally ill. And this is one of my biggest pet peeves with people in the Christian community and with people in Christian academia: when they completely refuse to even study a field of knowledge because they say, “Well that’s not based on biblical truth.” I think it was Augustine who said, “All truth is God’s truth.”

For example, it’s very emotionally taxing to be in the presence of someone with a mental illness. You can share Scripture. You can share truth with them through the Bible, and it doesn’t seem to penetrate; they don’t seem to get it. Without training, we get tired very quickly. It’s why the statistics associated with pastor burnout are so high. So in an academic program like Criswell, we teach more effective ways of working with someone with mental illness. Why? Well for one, it reduces your own emotional exhaustion so that you can sit in the presence of someone with a mental illness and have greater strength bear the load. In the end, it makes us more efficient as counselors and as lovers of people.”

Question: What do you think? Is the church helping or hurting people with mental health problems? How and why?

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