Written by Brittney Ragan
Lawrence Exum, American Canyon, CA — Jesus did not come to minister to those that were not sick and in no need of a physician (Mark 2:17). It was part of Jesus’ mission to heal those in need (Luke 4:18). He exemplified this numerous times in the Gospels by healing multitudes of people. Not all of the healings that Jesus performed were physical, but some were emotional and mental as well. For instance, when Jesus healed the demoniac, he was later found “…sitting, clothed, and in his right mind.” Further, Jesus commanded believers in the Great Commission to heal, as well as preach the Gospel. If we are going to minister to all the needs of people as Jesus said, then we must not neglect the mentally and emotionally ill. How a pastor treats the mentally sick will filter down to the rest of the congregation. That said, a pastor is foremost obligated to protect his congregation. People who are disruptive (children and adults alike) should be removed from the general services. A parent should remove a child and an usher should remove an adult as discreetly as possible. Alternative ways of reaching the mentally ill should be explored.
Edward Sermon, Billings, MT — Every individual battling a mental or emotional challenge is unique, and there is no simple procedure that covers every situation. If a distraction occurs, we have ushers and other leaders that have the authority to handle the situation. This may involve sitting with the individual, or inviting them to step outside the sanctuary where they can talk freely. Our goal is to set up a Bible study. At times, the personal interaction has been more beneficial to certain individuals than a church service. Sadly, there have been those rare occasions when we have had to say that we don’t have the resources or ministry to handle certain challenges. Such was the case with a mother who wanted her child to go to Sunday school, even though attendance was only possible with an aide that supervised the child at all times. Sometimes the spiritual well-being and safety of a group has to be chosen over an individual. Prayer and adequate time should be given to explore all options. We also have partnered with a local biblical counseling firm that we refer people to when it is deemed helpful.
Randall Yeoman, Hazel Green, AL — No matter how “different” people are, they always have a common need for love. The church shouldn’t isolate or stigmatize people, but instead welcome them and create an environment for them to feel safe in. They get enough cruelty from the world. These individuals are looking for someone to treat them like a person, not a damaged person, just a person. We shouldn’t be disappointed, afraid or embarrassed about having the mentally ill as part of our congregation. Like everyone else, they are looking for something, and if they choose your church . . . be excited! Reach out to them. The peace of Christ may be the only peace they will ever know. If they get “disruptive,” they can often be “guided” back to acceptable behavior. My wife and I have been foster parents for nearly 20 years. For the past 10 years, we have been a Level 3 therapeutic foster home, which means that we take in the mentally ill. If they live in our home, they go to church. Many of our “special” kids have repented, been baptized and received the Holy Ghost. In one particular instance, we took in a young lady who had been severally abused, which caused her to be depressed and completely withdrawn. My family and church worked with her, loved her and accepted her. We witnessed this young lady transform from someone who slept in her clothes, refused to shower and was totally withdrawn into an outgoing, friendly and Holy Ghost-filled Apostolic young lady! This a young lady that most people would have thrown away because she had emotional issues. Are these “special” people worth your burden and message? Absolutely!
Steven Beardsley, Newark, DE — When ministering to the mentally ill, the first thing that has to be ascertained is knowing if you are dealing with a physical illness or something with a spiritual element. If the issue is spiritual, it is dealt with on a spiritual level. If the illness is physical, one must understand if the illness is chronic, due to a chemical imbalance, or situational. Secondly, it’s important to note what types of behaviors are present. Are they a danger to anyone, or are they just “different” and require accommodation? If the individual is a harm to others, then of course that person needs to be removed. If they are just different, let them be different. If the mentally ill or emotionally distressed are not welcome in our services, then where are they welcome? God’s sovereignty in dealing with the mentally ill is no different than dealing with someone with a broken body. Thirdly, it’s important to note that each individual is a case-by-case basis. They need to be dealt with individually to find a solution that gives them access to the church community, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God. I pastor a very multicultural church, and I see mental health as another feature of diversity in our church.
Leslie O’Dell, Springfield, MA — Jesus’ ministry was all about souls, and some had troubled minds. The man of the Gadarenes was a man that the scripture says “neither could any man tame him.” After the troubled man was with Jesus, he was “in his right mind.” God is able to help and heal individuals with mental and emotional needs. I have seen him do so. A young man with mental and physical challenges caused by a bullet in the skull attended a New England conference. He began seeking for the Holy Ghost, and God filled him with the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking with other tongues. He has since written a play about his life’s story. A young teenage boy that has been attending our church since birth has had some emotional struggles. I have witnessed God continuing to touch and bring healing in this boy’s life. In a recent move of God at the altar, he was going around praying for adults, and God was using him to pray for specific needs in individual lives. Adults gave testimonies after the service that they were ministered to by this teenage boy’s prayers.