My cousin’s trembling voice uttered the unthinkable. “Kay, I need to let you know that Wayne took his life this morning.” My knees collapsed under me. “No! How can this be? What happened? Why? What was wrong with him?” My mouth formed tumbling questions despite my mind being frozen in disbelief and grief. Through his tears, my cousin told me his brother-in-law had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for some time. His family thought Wayne was truly improving after he agreed to see a therapist.
On the morning of his death, Wayne said goodbye to his wife, Lynn, as she left for work. But Lynn felt uneasy and came home at lunch to check on him, only to find the worst had happened. On the kitchen counter was a note he wrote apologizing for hurting his family, telling them he loved them and explaining that he just couldn’t go on. Wayne made the sure the dog was safe in his kennel before he ended his life.
Raised on the plains of West Texas, Wayne Oglesby was a preacher’s kid who followed in his father’s footsteps. He met my cousin, Lynn, in college and they made a fine team — vivacious, warm, football-fanatic, Jesus-loving folks who pastored small churches for decades.
Wayne is not the only pastor or faith leader to experience mental illness, addiction, financial difficulty and thoughts of suicide. Sometimes the media blares the news of a pastor who dies by suicide, but often, they die quietly, unnoticed by many outside of their church and local community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every completed suicide in the general population, there are 25 attempts, and thousands more who think seriously about ending their lives. Pastors are not exempt from these statistics.
Wayne devoted countless hours to the duties of a pastor — preaching, teaching, marrying, burying, visiting the sick, showing up in the wee hours of the night for those in need. Every step of the way Lynn was right by his side, working as tirelessly as they could to care for and nurture the congregations they loved. His sons, Rusty and Dusty, knew they could count on their dad to be at countless tennis matches and soccer games, no matter what was happening at church. He was fiercely proud of his boys and frequently told them so.
But over time, his life slowly began to change. Sometimes pastors and congregations don’t mesh well, even when there’s nothing really wrong, and Wayne and Lynn were asked to resign from a church they were serving. For the first time in his adult life, Wayne was no longer a pastor. Still in his late 50s with many years ahead of him, he was rudderless. He had never been great with money management, and he began to overspend, taking on more debt than they could handle. He started drinking too much. He found employment as a chaplain for a funeral home, but it just wasn’t the same as being a pastor.
Depression set in, and he fought hard against the way it sapped his energy and sense of well-being. He often expressed disappointment and confusion on the way his life turned out. The guilt he felt for over drinking and for putting his family’s financial future at stake ate away at his peace of mind.
Who besides his family could he turn to for counsel? Who would provide a safe place to listen nonjudgmentally to his story? Who was there to hold his hand and reassure him that he would be okay? Which former church member could he seek out to give him comfort in his time of need? Who would pastor the pastor? The same spiritual leader who had been there for thousands of church members over the decades now wrestled in secret, feeling despondent, hopeless, and utterly defeated.
Wayne didn’t really want to die. He was trapped inside himself, seeking a permanent way out. But on March, 4, 2010, this kind, loving, dedicated pastor with a West Texas twang concluded that his wife and family would be better off without him. He convinced himself that they would have a better life without his emotional breakdowns, without the stress of his financial mistakes and without the burden of his pain.
He was wrong. His wife, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbours and former church members are not better off without him. The crushing, soul-shattering grief of his suicide changed them forever.
He wasn’t there to cheer and celebrate when his son coached his high school soccer team in the Texas state championships two months later. He wasn’t there when his younger son began a new career in real estate. He wasn’t there when his grandson graduated from high school and his granddaughter celebrated her 16th birthday. And even now, he isn’t there to grow old with the girl he fell in love with so many years ago, or bless the world with his unique gifts.
His absence leaves a gaping hole in the lives of his family, haunted by the moments that could have been memories.
Pastors are people first, ordinary men and women who are vulnerable to the same illnesses, life circumstances and woes as the rest of us. Yet they have the added stress of living in glass houses, always under the watchful eyes of church members. Sometimes both faith leaders and the congregation forget that pastors are merely human and expect superhuman feats of endurance, wisdom, and knowledge. The unrealistic expectation that pastors and their families walk on water can only lead to deep disappointment and disillusionment, which can be lethal.
Please stop expecting your pastor to be anything more than a frail and fragile human being like you. Seek ways you can use your gifts, talents, and passions to share the load of your pastor. When you see hungry people, feed them. When you know people are sick, go visit them. If the church lawn is overgrown, crank up your mower and give a hand.
Rather than sit back and watch your pastor or priest or rabbi burn out from exhaustion and too-high expectations, volunteer and become a contributor instead of a spectator. Take care of your pastor. Seek to be a safe, non-judgmental person who your pastor can come to when he or she is hurting. And pastors, please don’t struggle alone.
If you, or someone you know is in distress or crisis, here’s two helpful links :-
- Samaritans phone number- 116 123 (24hrs)
Kay Warren – www.kaywarren.com
At 18 years old I submitted a sense of call to parish ministry for testing by assessors appointed by the Church. I knew by the end of the residential assessment over the course of 2 days and nights that I had made a few blunders but I was accepted. Before going to the Selection School, some people out of kindness had said I was very young and not to be disappointed if it was a “no” or “wait” verdict. I am glad that a grace which looked at potential, as well as testing the sense of call, prevailed.
Perhaps today you will meet someone, speak with someone, to whom God is wanting you to show the grace of seeing and encouraging “potential.” I tried to remember the grace of potential I had been shown when in the course of time I became an assessor, for a few years. It is a rich and life giving gift to offer to people. Offer it today if you are afforded the opportunity so to do.
The story of Onesimus comes to mind…someone carrying the verdict “useless “ over their life may need you to help them and others see concerning them, that they have the potential to be a “useful” and
fruitful contributor to the purposes of God.
From birth to death there will be many loves in our lives. BUT the greatest love for every one of us is to know the love of our Heavenly Father. He loves each of us perfectly, lavishly, and unconditionally.
This Valentines weekend is a timely reminder of His perfect love for us all.
God Loves YOU.
And He is the Father you have been looking for all your life.
This is His love Letter to you.
Father’s Love Letter used by permission Father Heart Communications ©1999 FathersLoveLetter.com
As well as the Father’s Love letter in video and pdf form, there is a wonderful devotional ebook also available.
This free e-book contains a devotional thought for each line in the Father’s Love Letter accompanied beautiful photos in a format that will help bring a deeper meaning to this intimate message from God to you.
One of the main reasons God birthed ESPS Ministries was in response to the question, who ministers to the ministers? In these troubled and uncertain times as pastors and leaders we’re called to lead our people and encourage them to know the grace and peace of God in their hearts and lives. That’s all good and well. But how do you do that if as pastors and leaders we’re the ones who are troubled and uncertain about the future? Dan Reiland shares some nuggets of wisdom with us for how best to do that. Helpfully he reminds us that before we can extend grace and peace to anyone else, we must first receive it from the main source. Not ourselves, but the God whom we worship and serve.
I pray this week’s article brings grace and peace to you.
This is an unsettling time we live in. Uncertainty in the Church Conflict in our communities Division in our country
I often hear this phrase, “It’s getting kinda crazy out there.”
The unsettling nature of our current culture, after time, affects the disposition of your soul. It wears you down. We can barely notice it at times because it’s nearly a constant.
It’s most often described as subtle low-grade anxiety of the soul.
And some would say it’s not so subtle.
Yet we are called to lead people into the love of God and the unity of peace. How do we do that with so much division?
The Apostle Paul introduces his letter to the church in Ephesus with, “Grace and peace to you…“ That doesn’t always seem so easy to access if we are honest about it, and even more difficult to draw people into living it out. But we know “grace and peace” is possible because Jesus makes it possible. Let’s take a look at how that can work.
5 steps to leading with grace and peace:
1) Let God carry what you can’t carry.
Most leaders today acknowledge some level of inner unrest, an uneasiness within them. It’s not the normal everyday stress that comes with solving problems and making progress. It’s something deeper.
Some leaders go farther and say they feel “powerless” right now like they really can’t change anything.I certainly understand that feeling; I’ve felt it at times too. The good news is that we are not powerless as leaders to affect change right now. Your voice and leadership absolutely matter.
It’s all about the source.
On your own, you can’t effect change that matters for eternity.
But look at Ephesians 1:2…Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The source is God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the source of your spiritual power.
Sometimes we run so fast we forget the source of grace and peace and must remember to let God carry what we can’t carry.
God wants us in the game, but He brings the power.
God carries what we can’t carry.
2) It’s necessary to live grace and peace before you lead it.
When you stay connected to the source, God himself, you can then experience grace and peace yourself. That is the foundation of your spiritual leadership.
Paul gives us a glimpse of what that looks like practically.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Living out God’s grace with peace in your soul isn’t easy while you are leading the church today. You are under pressure. Expectations are unclear. And the new normal isn’t here yet.
However, God’s grace and peace overcome all that.
It requires three things:
Slowing down – taking time to be quiet, to think, and pray is essential.
Trusting deep – It’s vital to trust now more than ever that God is with you, regardless of what you face.
Taking risks – stepping out, speaking up, and taking action brings God’s power into your leadership.
God’s grace and power within you enable humility, gentleness, patience, and love. This can influence unity and peace among those you lead.
3) Pre-determine that no matter what happens around you, you will hold firm to your spiritual character.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. My hunch is you don’t either.
And we all face things like: Financial problems, People conflict, Unrest in your city. But before tomorrow’s problems arrive, you can commit to grace and peace today.
You can choose today that no matter what happens tomorrow, you will hold firm to your spiritual character.
The Enemy wants to attack your character much more than your talent and skills. If he can crack your character, your skill level doesn’t matter very much. If the devil can trip you up at a character level, it’s easy to knock you down at a skill level.
The responsibility to solve these problems tends to “squeeze” you and therefore add pressure and stress to your life.
The Enemy can use all this to cause you to drift from your spiritual standards (in an often unrealized) attempt to relieve pressure, but you can hold steady by staying connected to God.
Distraction, busyness, and isolation will often break your connection with God. The key is you must pre-determine that choice.
4) Understand the problem before you offer a solution.
You and I can quickly grasp the larger idea of grace and peace.
But the person you are dealing with who is upset, confused, hurting, or angry is not connected, at least in the moment, the way you are.
As the leader, you must absorb some of the heat of the moment to understand and connect with the person and what is upsetting them before you present a solution. Even if you disagree with their position or sense you know the solution, it’s important to extend grace before attempting peace.
If you jump to the solution, even a correct and biblical solution, before the person feels you understand, you risk the possibility of making the problem worse, not better. Again, even if you disagree, you may learn something that helps increase your compassion, which always makes the truth easier to accept.
Culturally speaking, even the definition of grace and peace is up for grabs. Don’t assume anything; establish understanding first.
5) Choose your words wisely.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
This is great wisdom again by Paul. Take a look at four key ideas in these two verses:
We are invited into the very wisdom of God, who, in His kindness, makes that available to us through His spirit. We only must ask.
We must ask for wisdom and look for opportunities.
Sometimes, it seems like opportunities to advance the gospel just “appear.” But more often, opportunities are consistently before us, and we tend to find what we are looking for.
“Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt.”
How incredibly appropriate for where we are all living today! Each word you choose can make the difference between someone experiencing grace and knowing peace.
In the end, we do have an answer, as guided by biblical principles and the Holy Spirit’s prompting. That’s at the core of spiritual leadership.
You get to influence each person for their good and God’s glory.
Grace and peace to you!
Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.
We acknowledge that the meaning of our deepest experiences is often hidden from our eyes. John 11 is one of the more emotional windows into the ministry of Jesus. In this chapter, Jesus confronts grief, and in the process, teaches us valuable lessons.
Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, send word to Jesus that Lazarus, the one Jesus loves, is sick. This was not an explicit invitation or a request for immediate intervention. However, the assumption is that once Jesus heard, he would immediately come.
Mary and Martha knew of his tender compassion. They understood Jesus’ heartfelt affection for their brother. And yet, when Jesus receives word about his good friend’s condition, he delays even beginning his journey to Bethany for another two days.
The Gospel writer tells us that Jesus delayed because He loved them. He delayed that God would be glorified. And yet, imagine waiting for Jesus. He has the power to heal, he has a history of healing (even raising the dead), and yet he delays! How could Jesus be so callous?
By the time Jesus arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has died and been in the tomb for four days. Jesus walks into a setting of pain, tears, and grief. According to Jewish thinking, the soul of the deceased hung around the body for three days. And yet, Jesus purposely waited until the 4th day to show up. To those who grieved, the situation was utterly hopeless by the time Jesus showed up. But as we know, Jesus specializes in bringing light to hopelessly dark situations.
Consider the silence of God.
Joseph is thrown into prison in Egypt, and many would conclude that God had forgotten him. Moses spends 40 years on the backside of the desert while the Israelites suffer under the hands of the Egyptians. Where was God when his people needed him the most?
In contemporary situations, a Christian is falsely accused of misconduct by a co-worker which leads to years of lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal fees and his reputation is largely ruined. Then, he is acquitted of all charges. We wonder if God cares.
In the midst of COVID-19, loved ones slip into the arms of Jesus, alone in ICU. There is no funeral, no opportunity to grieve in the presence of family and loved ones, and no closure. And in our grief, we question God’s compassion.
And yet, we know that God is good. We acknowledge that the meaning of our deepest experiences is often hidden from our eyes. We find comfort in admitting that we do not fully understand our lives.
If we equate our perceived silence of Jesus with a lack of his love and care, then from our limited human perspective, it seems as if there are times when God ceases to love his children.
Oh, that Jesus would free us to not know. We need an ability to walk honestly in the mystery of our days. There are times when we cry out to God in grief, and his response is silence. These are times of deepened trust.
In John 11, Christ delayed in coming to those he deeply loved. He instituted a period of perceived silence in order to (1) strengthen their faith, (2) push them along in embracing the mystery of the Almighty, (3) glorify God, and (4) deepen their love for Lord Jesus.
In times of grief, questioning, and silence, may we sing and dance in the ever-deepening mystery of God’s love.
Unquestionably, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is pain, grief, and death all around. Today, if you are hurting, you need to be assured that God weeps with you. Jesus is not unaware. He is not a stoic, distant, rigid, isolated God. Rather, God is fully aware! He is close, active, and individually caring for every person.
Jesus is unique. He is matchless. He individually distinctively responds to every one of his children. What a truth! Jesus knows our particular challenges. He is at work, even now, uniquely working in my life to orchestrate everything for my ultimate good and for his ultimate glory. Because of the distinctive nature of every person, Jesus responds to grief in a uniquely individualized approach.
When Jesus enters Bethany, he first encounters Martha. She hurries out to meet Jesus and says (v. 21) “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha expresses the heart of every believer after facing disappointment, “Lord, if you had only been here…” There may be an accusatory tone in her voice. Jesus, where were you? In essence she is saying, “Jesus, if you would only have followed the script I wrote for you, my brother would be alive!”
This is the heart of many. Where were you God when my loved one died? Where were you when my marriage dissolved? Where were you when my husband cheated on me? Where were you when my father was abusing me? Where were you when my parents divorced? Where were you when my child rejected the values we worked so hard to instill in them? Where is the Lord in the most painful of days?
Yes, we are his children but that does not mean that we are not allowed to express our pain to the Lord. Some have bottled up feelings and anger towards the Lord for years. Perhaps today is the day that your heart needs to be expressed before Him.
Jesus speaks truth when he tells her that her brother Lazarus will rise again. When Martha assures Jesus that she knows this, Jesus makes the great declaration, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
A short time later Jesus encounters Mary who falls at Jesus’ feet and amazingly makes the exact same statement. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus responds by weeping with Mary. The word here means that tears ran down the dusty cheeks of Jesus. We have a great God who loves us, delays, and stays away and then comes and completely enters into our sorrow. This is the great mystery of the Lord!
Two identical statements. To Martha he responds with truth and to Mary, Jesus responds with tears. Sometime grief needs to be met with truth. Jesus is our shepherd. He promises to be with us in even the darkest valley. Other times, grief needs to be met with tears. With Martha, Jesus speaks and with Mary he is speechless. With Martha, Jesus is bold and direct and with Mary he is broken and trembling. With Martha, Jesus confronts her mind while with Mary he enters into flow of her heart.
Too often, we lack perspective. Do I judge Jesus’ love by my circumstances? Or do I judge my circumstances by Jesus’ love? Ask the Lord Jesus to grant you the wisdom to know how to lean into grief. Jesus is the perfect combination of the ministry of truth and tears. When we lean into grief, we will need both.
Jimmy Dodd is Founder and CEO of PastorServe, strengthening the church by serving pastors. He is part of the leadership team of the Resilient Church Leadership initiative.
None of us could have imagined that at the start of this year we would be in national lockdown again as Covid 19 continues to have a devastating effect on the UK and all over the world.
As we know, all areas of life have been drastically affected including of course church life. It has been a monumental shift for many in ministry to try an adapt to new ways of doing church and moving to online services. Whether high tech or the most basic provision it is proving exhausting and challenging to preach and pastor in new and innovative ways.
Here at ESPS Ministries we are constantly looking to produce and source articles that will be helpful and inspirational for you in ministry and in life. Follow the link below to excellent FREE resources from Global Leadership Network where they have pulled together a variety of resources to encourage and equip pastors and leaders during this pandemic. It’s always helpful to hear form others with their insights and experience.
As well as great leadership and inspirational links on the page, I’d like to draw your attention to the Max Lucado link “Anxious for nothing” for a free bible study based on his book of the same title. These will be so helpful, especially if we are feeling stressed and anxious.
I cannot recommend his book highly enough. It’s a wonderfully kind, loving and encouraging book full of his own stories as well as biblical examples to build us up in our faith and help keep our eyes on Jesus.
Free Leadership Resources for Pastors Leading in a Season of Crisis
** PLEASE GET IN TOUCH WITH US VIA OUR WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK PAGE IF YOU HAVE ANY ENCOURAGING STORIES OR PERSONAL TESTIMONIES OF WAYS YOU HAVE TRANSITIONED CHURCH DURING THE PANDEMIC. WE WOULD LOVE TO SHARE THEM WITH OUR READERS.**