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Why Do Pastors Commit Suicide?

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Today we interview Dr. Jeff Stull, a pastor and counselor from Atlanta, GA, about the tragedy of men and women in the pastorate choosing to commit suicide.

1. Before we talk specifically about pastors and suicide, could you explain to me what are some of the contributing factors that lead a person to commit suicide?

The issues common to all of us the idols of success, comfort, control and power unrecognized and unattended to through repentance and faith, accountability and confession, and aloneness and loneliness. These idols take their root and undermine our keeping in step with the spirit. We become a lone wolf easily bullied to by the world the flesh and the devil.

2.  What are some of the unique struggles that pastors face? Do you think pastors and ministry leaders are more or less vulnerable than others to committing suicide? Do you think or are you concerned about a growing trend in suicide for pastors?

In my experience as I see it, pastors are facing a number of pressures that many people just simply can't comprehend unless they've been there themselves. In general the overwhelming sense of hopelessness when it comes to suicidal ideation - powerlessness is also a big computing factor when it comes to suicidal ideation. 

The call of the gospel to make disciples of all nations in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and discipling them is the common passion for all pastors. People that are called us pastors deeply care. When things don't seem like they are working out and when failure is an actual experience or an imminent prospect - the overwhelming sense of shame can just be too much. 

It can feel as if God's reputation is at stake and it is my job as a pastor to uphold and promote God’s name. So not only have I failed myself and I'm looking at failing others but I'm failing God too. We as pastors can easily lose sight of the gospel of grace and kindness of God towards us. Seminary has not taught us good self-care skills. And so the wellspring of life that we need to work out of in Jesus Christ seems to dry up. By default we have simply depended upon our own skills and our own personal assets. And when we operate and function out of an empty heart -  an overwhelming sense of incompetence and failure turns into discouragement which the enemy can easily use to take us out.
  
3. What can a pastor do and where can they go if they feel as if they are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts?

The last thing a pastor wants to be able to do as the answer man - the hero - the go-to solution provider  - is to admit that we have our own needs and neediness. Admitting our need, our isolation and our alienation is absolutely necessary first and foremost. We need to figure out how to join with others - develop a band of brothers - have a good mentor, coach and counselor and not allow the enemy to trick us into believing that we are somehow better than needing one. There is no such thing as an army of one.

4. How can a pastor’s congregation or the pastor's family do to better identify when a pastor may be in crisis? 

This is probably most difficult question to answer. Men in general are more successful at suicide than women because nobody ever sees it coming. We don't talk about our struggles because that exposes our incompetency and weakness. So the best thing a congregation and family can do is to make sure that the above resources are in place. We cannot allow the pastor to become the lone wolf. So we must hold our pastors accountable and insist that they have a band of brothers, that they have a mentor/coaching in place and that they are regularly seeing a good gospel-centered professional counselor. Finding a good gospel centered professional counselor may be more difficult than you think. So promoting courses such as what the Gospel Coalition provides or World Harvest Mission's Sonship curriculum are absolutely necessary.

5. What words of help and comfort would you give to a congregation that has been impacted by their pastor committing suicide?

First and foremost for the congregation, their community and family I would want to express empathy, sorrow and join with the loved ones in their suffering. Secondly we must step back and reframe our experience and realize that in the midst of the battle, this being a spiritual battle, nobody escapes wounding and suffering in the midst of the expansion of the kingdom of God within. 

Yet Romans 8 reminds us that even though we face death all day long, like sheep to the slaughter, we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.  The gospel enables us and empowers us  to choose the path of life. Praise God that He perseveres with us and it is his responsibility to deliver us home into his presence. What joy - what relief - what comfort!

Dr. R. Jeffrey Stull is a Marriage and Family Counselor who enjoys assisting his clients in developing creative alternatives to everyday life, love and work challenges. He is licensed as a Professional Counselor and a Mental Health Counselor. Jeff has specialized trainings in Relationship Repair, Abuse Recovery, Adolescents, and Mindfulness. He holds certifications in a number of related specialties including Professional Counseling Supervision, Clinical Sexology and Professional Christian Counseling. He serves his clients in Alpharetta and Dahlonega, Georgia and is the founder of both Access Christian Counseling, Inc. and Access Strategies, Inc.

As an ordained minister Jeff Stull also serves with Church Multiplication Ministries, Inc., which trains leaders, emerging leaders and Church planters. He consults on leadership development, relationship dynamics, team-building and stress management programs with businesses, non-profits and ministries. Discover more about Jeff and his Counseling Practice at www.AccessGrace.com

8 comments:

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I want to give thanks to my Doctor and i will always give thanks to DR Owede who brought back my love that has left me for 6years within 48hours, i have said about this last week but i promised to always tell people about this every week end so that those that did not read about it last week will read about it this week, i have been looking for how to get my Man back to my life because i love Him with the whole of my heart, i could not replace him with any body,one day i was watching my television when i saw a lady giving thanks to DR Owede and telling the world how he helped her i was so shocked i could not believe it because i never taught that there are powers that can bring back lost love, then that was how i decided to contact him too because i do really need my love back,when i contacted him i told him everything and he told me not to worry that my love will surely be back to my arms within 48hours at first i could not believe because i was thinking how could somebody that has gone for 6years come back within 48 hours,so then i decided to watch and see,unbelievable within the next 48hours i got a call from unknown number so i decided to pick the call the next thing i could hear was my loves voice he was pleading and begging me on the phone that i should forgive him that i should forget all that have happened that he did not know what came over him,he promised not to leave for any reason, that he was really sorry for what he did,i was so surprised because i never believed that this could happen,so that was how i accepted his apology and the next morning he came to my house and still pleading for me to forgive, him i told him that everything is okay that i have forgiven him, that was how we started again and now we are married, i promised to say this testimony in radio station, commenting this testimony is still okay but before this month runs out i promise to say this in radio station and i will,sir thank you very much.World please am begging you people to try and thank this man for me,or if you need his help here is his email address owedeudohtemple@yahoo.com THANK YOU DOCTOR

i want to give thanks to my dr and i will always give thanks to DR OGUDUDU who brought back my love that has left me for 6years within 48hours, i have said about this last week but i promised to always tell people about this every week end so that those that did not read about it last week will read about it this week, i have been looking for how to get this boy back to my life because i love this boy with the whole of my heart, i could not replace him with any body,one day i was watching my television when i saw a lady giving thanks to DR OGUDUDU and telling the world how he helped her i was so shocked i could not believe it because i never taught that there are powers that can bring back lost love, then that was how i decided to contact him too because i do really need my love back,when i contacted him i told him everything and he told me not to worry that my love will surely be back to my arms within 48hours at first i could not believe because i was thinking how could somebody that has gone for 6years come back within 48 hours,so then i decided to watch and see,unbelievable within the next 48hours i got a call from unknown number so i decided to pick the call the next thing i could hear was my loves voice he was pleading and begging me on the phone that i should forgive him that i should forget all that have happened that he did not know what came over him,he promised not to leave for any reason, that he was really sorry for what he did,i was so surprised because i never believed that this could happen,so that was how i accepted his apology and the next morning he came to my house and still pleading for me to forgive, him i told him that everything is okay that i have forgiven him, that was how we started again and now we are married, i promised to say this testimony in radio station, commenting this testimony is still okay but before this month runs out i promise to say this in radio station and i will,sir thank you very much.World please am begging you people to try and thank this man for me,or if you need his help here is his email address drogududuspellhome@gmail.com. or call +2348144368825 THANK YOU DR

i want to give thanks to my dr and i will always give thanks to DR OGUDUDU who brought back my love that has left me for 6years within 48hours, i have said about this last week but i promised to always tell people about this every week end so that those that did not read about it last week will read about it this week, i have been looking for how to get this boy back to my life because i love this boy with the whole of my heart, i could not replace him with any body,one day i was watching my television when i saw a lady giving thanks to DR OGUDUDU and telling the world how he helped her i was so shocked i could not believe it because i never taught that there are powers that can bring back lost love, then that was how i decided to contact him too because i do really need my love back,when i contacted him i told him everything and he told me not to worry that my love will surely be back to my arms within 48hours at first i could not believe because i was thinking how could somebody that has gone for 6years come back within 48 hours,so then i decided to watch and see,unbelievable within the next 48hours i got a call from unknown number so i decided to pick the call the next thing i could hear was my loves voice he was pleading and begging me on the phone that i should forgive him that i should forget all that have happened that he did not know what came over him,he promised not to leave for any reason, that he was really sorry for what he did,i was so surprised because i never believed that this could happen,so that was how i accepted his apology and the next morning he came to my house and still pleading for me to forgive, him i told him that everything is okay that i have forgiven him, that was how we started again and now we are married, i promised to say this testimony in radio station, commenting this testimony is still okay but before this month runs out i promise to say this in radio station and i will,sir thank you very much.World please am begging you people to try and thank this man for me,or if you need his help here is his email address drogududuspellhome@gmail.com. or call +2348144368825 THANK YOU DR
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