Church & The Mentally Ill

Every Sunday, people flood our churches with a plethora of mental and emotional baggage. Some come into our worship services happy. They sing loud and soak in every word of the Bible message. Others come into our worship services sad. They can barely sing and when the preaching begins, they genuinely struggle to hear a single word as sad distractions plague their mind and heart. But others come into our worship service with a unique suitcase. They are neither happy nor sad per say; they are mentally ill. They might be happy for the first 15 minutes of the worship service and then incredibly depressed for the next 15 minutes. Others hear voices – tiny voices in the back of their head that beckon them to dark enchantments. Others are not quite dialed into reality as they have constructed an alternate universe with differing values and strategies than the norm. These folks are mentally ill…and loved…and appreciated…and important…and welcome at church. At least they’re welcome at the church out here on the prairie.

How do we engage with the mentally ill in a church context? How do we genuinely help them? How do we ensure that our doors and hearts are wide open to such people? The following acronym, C.H.U.R.C.H., that is not unique with me, is tremendously helpful…

  1. C Choose to Care. Make growing, capable compassion a matter of prayer.
  2. H – Help with Practical Needs. Bake a casserole or help with childcare.
  3. U – Unleash Volunteers. Ask your pastor how you can be deployable when a need arises.
  4. R – Remove the Stigma. Stop thinking that mental illness is a problem to be solved instead of a tension to balance.
  5. C – Collaborate with the Community. We are not the fountainhead of all wisdom. We need others and their insight.
  6. H – Hope – Offer It! In the end, that’s what we do as Christians. We’re hope dealers. Yes, in this dark world of sin and suffering, we offer true Gospel hope.

Those who struggle with mental illness are our family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow church members. They might be in positions of power or hold no power at all. They might be rich or desperately poor. They might be well-educated or have very little in education. They are our moms and dads, children and grandchildren. They are us. Let’s not just go to church, let’s be the church, doing the most good we can to the most people we can for the glory of God alone. Why? Because the darkness is truly thick out there, but so is Gospel hope – offer it!

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