Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church

UnknownMental illness and the church, not many people are talking about this issue, but it is real and it is affecting individuals and churches all across the landscape of Christianity.  In my own church, mental illness is a normal reality with which we wrestle on a regular basis. We have many young people and adults who wrestle with the challenges that accompany bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, autism, depression, and a wide spectrum of other mental health challenges. Our church has become a sort of sounding board for people with struggles, and by trial and error, I have learned a lot about counseling people with these struggles. I’ve also learned that people struggling with mental illness really need the love and acceptance of a good church.

It is because of my personal experience with these issues that I felt compelled to read Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson. Honestly, I didn’t want to read this book, I read it out of duty. Duty to review it because IVP mailed to to me for a review and a sense of duty to my church. Surprise of all surprises, I enjoyed this book. I devoured it. I read the first 100 pages in one sitting. The story of Simpson’s life struggles with mental illness is compelling and captivating and her willingness to wrestle with the church’s response to this issue is needed and necessary.

The book is not perfect and there were some areas that I wish she had handled differently.  For instance, she spends nearly 20 pages identifying and explaining various disorders as they are defined in the DSM. I found this to be unnecessary and unhelpful as anything other than a filler in the book (I skimmed it). Further, I was … Continue reading

The Daily Docket (8/26/14)

10 Leadership Lessons Learned From My Mentor- This is a good article from Chris Hefner.  The great thing about the lessons he has learned from his mentor is that he has shared them with me.  I have been mentored by Pastor Greg Mathis by proxy, and his leadership has benefited me greatly.

One Space After a Period. Period!- I personally think this guy is wrong, but apparently I’m just old fashioned (and according to the official manuals of style, I’m incorrect).

Losing Your Voice: 4 Ways Pastors Lose Their PulpitsThe problem is that the preacher hasn’t re-wrestled with the text, fed all week on the meat, and marinated it daily in prayer. They say never to trust a skinny chef. Well, never trust a spiritually lean preacher either.

What Teachers Really Need for Back to SchoolFor the church, this means we must pray for the hearts of educators. Pray that we will find the grace to drop our defenses and the humility to learn from others in the field who may not share our politics. Pray that public, private, and charter schools can exist in a cooperative system where each feeds off of the others’ best practices. And pray that we will refrain from making education an idol, that we will see education as one element among many through which God works to put his character and glory on display so that we might know him (Acts 17:27).

You Taught My Child When I Couldn’t

BaptismYesterday, we celebrated children’s day in our church. It’s an annual tradition, we celebrate the kids who are moving into the student ministry and we invite our children to participate in leading worship.  They greeted us, led us in singing, prayed publicly, read scripture, collected the offering and even participated in the sermon. It was great.

Another aspect to our service yesterday was testimonies from a couple of parents about our church and our children’s ministry.  Now, the fact that we are talking about children’s ministry and not family ministry makes some of your skin crawl, but yesterday, we heard testimony of the value of children’s ministry and the intersection between “children’s ministry” and “family ministry.” A woman in our church, Gina, stood and shared her testimony about our church.

Gina’s testimony is powerful.  She and her husband (Tate) have a beautiful family and they have grown dramatically in our church over the last six years. Their entrance to our church was unique, however.  They were first acquainted with our church through our annual Fall Festival and decided to visit after being asked not to return to another church (yes, that really happened). Gina and Tate have a child who struggles with behavioral issues, and as a result, were shunned by a local church.  Obviously, when they got to Malvern Hill, their guards were pretty high, but by God’s grace, some loving people within our church embraced them and their family has become a strong part of our church family.

I had the privilege of baptizing Gina and Tate on the same day several years ago, and they have been growing in our church since that day.  But, six years ago, they were brand new believers and they did not know … Continue reading

Sermon Checkup


Several years ago, I was involved in an email discussion about sermon evaluations.  A friend and fellow pastor was inquiring about how to do a more effective job at sermon evaluation in his context.  Here’s how I responded,

“I use a sermon outline with a central question (I creatively term it The Big Question or TBQ) and a 3 or 4 point outline. The goal of our evaluation is to determine if the sermon and outline were true to scripture and if the sermon satisfactorily answered TBQ. Most sermons are biblical, any tool that I used would be heavy on application and illustration critique. Most sermons that flop do so because the illustrations are bad or the application is bad. On page 100 in vintage church, Driscoll says every sermon should answer the apologetical question. I would look at that section of his book and order Michael fabarez’ book preaching that changes lives. He emphasizes application. That’s where I stole my ideas for my sermon outline and discussion guide.”

As I look back on that answer, I would still encourage pastors to do the things listed above, especially purchase Fabarez’s book (You can read my review of it here, you can purchase it here). However, I now see the need to take a more systematic approach in the way that I critique sermons and have them critiqued.

I still rely heavily on my staff (and my wife) to critique and analyze my sermons. However, the longer I spend with them, the more I come to realize that they sometimes understand me even when others don’t.  The people who know me best are able to fill in some of the blanks in my preaching and presentation that others may miss.  For this reason, I have come to believe that I … Continue reading

Preaching and Praying Yourself Hot


Earlier this week I took time to listen to a short video on sermon preparation featuring Bryan Chapell, Mike Bullmore, and Alistair Begg. The entire video is worth your time if you are a preacher or a teacher of the Bible. It was Alistair Begg’s summary of sermon preparation that jumped out at me.  As I listened, I felt like I had heard it somewhere before and this morning I took the time to find it in On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg (Which is an excellent book on pastoral ministry).  Here is Begg’s summary of his method for sermon preparation.

  • Think yourself empty.  As strange as it may sound, we must be carful that we do not avoid sound thinking.  The temptation to respond emotionally to a passage (this is how this makes me feel) is not unique to our listeners.  If we are to have “thinking” congregations it is incumbent upon us to be “thinking” pastors! We do not want to be uncertain by the time our study ends, but it is surely right an dropper to begin with the perspective “I must know what this says, and I must kern what this means.”
  • Read yourself full.
  • Write yourself clear.  Aside from the essential empowering of the Holy Spirit, if there is one single aspect of sermon preparation that I would want to emphasize, it is this.  Freedom of delivery in the pulpit depends upon careful organization in the study.  We may believer that we have a grasp of the text, only to stand up and discover that somewhere between our thinking and our speaking things have gone badly awry.  The missing link can usually be traced to the absence of putting our thoughts down clearly.
  • Pray yourself hot. There is no chance of … Continue reading
  • The Daily Docket (8/20/14)

    The Noahic Covenant– Here’s a good devotion from Ligonier on the Noahic covenant.

    8 Traits of Effective Church Leaders– Thom Rainer shares this list which includes: Fierce biblical faithfulness. Without exception, these pastors held to the total truthfulness of God’s Word. Not only did they believe the veracity of Scripture, they passionately lived out their beliefs.

    College Doesn’t Change Your Heart, It Reveals It Every summer the same thing happens to my inbox. I open it to find a steady stream of emails from concerned parents, youth pastors, and older siblings, asking me to check in on so and so when they get to campus in August. They all want the same thing: to see their beloved 18-year-old get involved with our ministry on campus and growing in their faith. The problem is that more times than not, this isn’t exactly what the beloved 18-year-olds want for themselves.

    The Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America– If you are looking for something or somewhere to pray for, these areas are a good place to start.  I was bothered to learn that a neighborhood in my hometown (Spartanburg, SC) made the list at #5.


    Book Review: Why God Created the World


    I have good friends, the kinds of friends that will recommend good books and occasionally mail me a book without solicitation. This month represents the first time that a friend mailed me a book and assigned me homework.  The enclosed note: “read this and write a review.” Well, I have completed the reading part and I am now writing the review, and I must admit, this is one assignment that I have enjoyed thoroughly.

    Cover-Photo-_-Why-God-Created-The-World-200x300Good books are more rare than many people suspect, but the really good ones stand the test of time, usually because they either have something unique to offer or are written extremely well (or both).  Why God Created the World by Ben Stevens offers nothing unique or new. But, it is a very good book.  It is a good book because it offers something old and great in a uniquely approachable format that can benefit the church and believers today.  Why God Created The World is an adaptation of Jonathan Edwards’ Dissertation Concerning the Ends for Which God Created The World. Ben Stevens has taken Edwards’ work and made it approachable and useable for the church today.

    Stevens comes to this task because he began to wrestle with the question, “Why did God create the world?” As a minister/missionary in Berlin, Germany, he soon realized that many of his atheist friends actually wrestled with the same question.  In light of his personal struggles and the missiological implications of this question, Stevens set out to discover why it was that God created the world.  In his quest, he stumbled upon Edwards’ grand work and took careful notes, rewriting Edwards work so that he could better understand and apply the message and meaning.

    Jonathan Edwards helped Ben Stevens to realize that God did … Continue reading

    The Daily Docket (8/19/14)

    Dethroning Celebrity Pastors– Celebrity pastors are a reality in our world today.  Joe Thorn warns us to be concerned for the celebrity pastor, especially the one that can emerge from our own hearts.

    The Spasmodic Hercules– Odd title, I know, but I was very thankful for this article from Tim Challies on getting things done. Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity

    The Spirit is Willing, But The Schedule is Tight– Ministry can be lots of things, but convenient is usually not the best way to describe it. The fact that our interruptions are divine appointments ensures that they probably won’t fit neatly into our schedule.

    Fleeing Youthful Lusts isn’t Enough– From Travis Agnew: The problem comes when all I do is focus on fleeing from something that I actually dwell upon it. It’s like my boys turning around on their bicycles to see where I am. It can get dangerous because you don’t see what is up ahead.

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