"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

This blog has been moved to www.fallenpastor.com.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Common Traits Of The Fallen Pastor, Part 2: Anxiety And Depression

This is part two. Don't read this post without reading the disclaimers in part one. Seriously.

Many fallen pastors have a history of either anxiety or depression. In fact, take off the "fallen" label for a moment. Pastors in general have a history of anxiety or depression.

I took a class on counseling while in seminary. I heard a "statistic" while in that class. You know, one of those quick and loose statistics that you can't confirm. 60% of seminary students and pastors have been treated with mediation for depression. Again, I have no proof. Feel free to back me up on it.

I had. I'm not afraid to admit it. I have a history of both anxiety and depression.

My mother had a history of manic depression and my father had a history of anxiety. What a pair they made. And what great chances I had. Feel free to throw in my obsessive compulsiveness in there as well.

Many pastors obsess about their job. They do. They spend all week obsessing about the church and the ministry they do. What they don't realize is that the church members don't care about the church as much as they do. Pastors spend all week obsessing about the church but don't seem to realize that church members only care about the church during the hour they spend there on Sunday.

I remember a time when the church was arguing about what color carpet to get for the sanctuary. Now, that may not seem like a big deal to you. But it was for me. They would show up every Wednesday and Sunday and argue and bicker about it, then forget about it the rest of the week. But I would obsess about every little thing they said for the rest of the week. It would eat at me. I would lose sleep over it. I would toss and turn at night wondering if it would break up the church.

It was, in fact, a huge deal at the church. It shouldn't have been, but it was. The church should have been more concerned with winning people to Christ. They should have been more concerned about the spiritual condition of its own members than whether the carpet was red or brown. But they weren't. I hurt over that. But my anxiety was very high at that time.

I'll be honest. There are pastors out there who feel the same way. They want to spend more time preparing sermons and visiting the lost in the community than worrying about what color the dang carpet is in the sanctuary. But the congregational needs often override the spiritual needs of the time. It's a horrible process. And it breaks down the soul of the pastor.

And at times, it can make the pastor question his own calling. It can make him question the reality of religion itself. It will make him send out resumes, it will make him hate his own congregation (if that's okay for me to say, which it's probably not). There are people in our community who are dying without Christ and we're really worried about what color our freaking carpet is? Really? We're really arguing about that? Is carpet color that important? It really consumes that much of our time?

There were at least seven different committee meetings about it! We had forty people concerned about the carpet color when I couldn't get those same forty people concerned enough to go out and share their faith in the community! My heart was torn in two.

I would even tell them that it wasn't important for us to discuss. That carpet color had nothing to do with eternal matters. But they wouldn't hear it. It was important to them at the time. My anxiety rose. My concern for the church rose. I felt they didn't understand the difference between the eternal and temporal.

Pastors spend 24/7 worried, anxious and nervous about the church. If Deacon Bob approaches them about a problem, they obsess about it. Seriously. They think about it all week long. Deacon Bob, however, goes home and forgets about it. But the pastor thinks about it all week. He obsesses about it and can't get it off his mind. He may beat himself up over it. He may prepare a sermon over the topic even.

Pastors are very hard on themselves. They beat themselves up over their shortcomings. They are harder on themselves than any church member could ever be. That's why it's so important for church members to show support. The vast majority of pastors are perfektionsts. (Yes, I spelled it wrong on purpose.)

Yes, it's a prison. Yes, it's wrong. Yes, it's a horrible place to be.

But the majority of pastors suffer from anxiety or depression. When we preach a bad sermon, it may send us into a week of depression. When we miss an important visit, it sends us into a fit on anxiety or a panic attack.

But you know what? We don't show it. We look great on the outside because that's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to have it all together. We're supposed to look good in our suit. We're supposed to have all the right things to say and know how to look good for the public.

But we're weak. And we're probably taking Paxil. Or Zoloft. Just like you.

But we'll never admit it.

Because we can't be weak.



  1. OK this is an interesting article. I think many church members too can be consumed by church. I care about things. For example about the things you write here: why people care about non sense. It bothers me when Pastors pretend to have it all together.

    I think this is a lie from the enemy that the congregation wants to see a perfect person. What I can't stand more than anything the fake, pretend face. I think most people who attend church fail in their own private lives in many different ways and they just can't relate to an all perfect pastor. Actually to a pastor who pretends he is all perfect, but is not.

    All we want honest humans who can admit that they are not perfect either, they try their best. Because you know what we the congregation mostly can see that the pastor is not perfect, we can see his weakness and trust me it really bothers many people when the pastor pretends and covers his own faults.

    I can be consumed about the fact that the "church" as a organization fails its calling. I can be consumed about how so called "christians"( it's purposely small c- beaus they are not, they just call themselves but they don't live it up to their name) are treating each other. You are not right on this one...many church members can be consumed by unfair things what should never happen in a church.

    And sorry I go back to my old saying and my post, but I understand and know anxiety and depression is real, but happens because we loose our CLOSE relationship with God.

    I was depressed and on pills... trust me I know its a real thing, but if I am sincere and honest I have to tell you, I wasn't close to God. Oh by the way...back then... I thought my relationship with God was OK.

    And this is where it boils down: if you have a close relationship with God, then you can give Him your burden and LEAVE it there, knowing He is in Control and He will make a way and let Him worry. When we don't have that CLOSE relationship with him, then we might pray and give our burdens to Him, in words....but 30 minutes later we take it back from God because we don't trust Him enough. And then we spend countless hours of worrying. That's how the enemy makes God's people be busy thinking and worry about nothing so we don't have the energy and power to DO God's things.

    Does it makes sense???

    P.S. Sorry for being too long.

  2. Absolutely makes sense. There are a ton of pastors out there on anti-depressants. And there are a ton more who need help and aren't getting it.

    Many pastors don't reach out for mentoring or help. Many pastors are frustrated and painted in a corner. It's a horrible place to be, but most will never admit it.

    And as you said, many pastors will never admit to being human for fear of letting their churches down.

    Thanks for the comment,

  3. Then there are those in the congregation who add to the depression by claiming that IF the pastor (or anyone else for that matter) has enough faith and has a close walk with God, he wouldn't have problems. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!

  4. David,

    You are right. I heard that one again today from a well meaning person.

    Those comments come from people who don't understand the nature of the beast. Depression and/or anxiety can be terrible things.

    It's not a lack of faith. And when a pastor is accused of such a thing it can be heart wrenching.

    Thanks for the comment,