This is a silent and common killer of pastors and gospel ministers today. Very many are depressed and they don’t know it. This fairly long article will give the careful and patient reader a way out.

  1. A Common Scenario

Pastor Bill and his wife Lisa had a growing church and a good marriage, but something was wrong. For over six months Bill felt tired much of the time. He found himself snapping at his kids and growing more distant from his loving wife. His sermon preparation was arduous and he had lost the passion in the pulpit he once had. He was beginning to dread Sundays because he had to face his flock and deliver a message. He stopped doing the things he loved—riding his bike with a friend and even playing golf. He was eating more and exercising less.

Bill had lost his 1st wife years before, but had handled the loss amazingly well. He continued to preach and serve others with only a short period of grieving. Two years later he remarried a godly woman who had been friends with his wife. Other than his recent struggle with “motivation,” Bill and his new wife and family were doing great. Now his wife and the elders were concerned with what appeared to be burn-out. Was he having some type of mid-life crisis, was he in a spiritual slump, or did he have a physical issue going on that was sapping his energy? Bill couldn’t figure it out. He was spiritually dry, could not concentrate in prayer, and woke up many nights with anxiety. He came to counseling wondering what was going on and just wanted life to go back to normal.

  1. Causes of Depression

Depression certainly can emerge from unconfessed sin as we see in Psalm 51 with King David, but depression can also be a part of suffering loss or being soul weary. There can also be complicating factors like a thyroid disorder, sleep apnea, or diabetes that may bring on depressive symptoms. It is important to do a thorough assessment and rule out physical factors before focusing on the heart.

The symptoms of depression can be like a dummy light on the dashboard, but, if ignored, they are more like a seized engine. Here are some common symptoms—see if you can identify these in Bill’s life or if you have any of them present in your own life.

  1. Symptoms of Depression

Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

Fatigue and decreased energy

Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Irritability, restlessness

Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable

Overeating or appetite loss

Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Depression varies and is best thought of on a continuum from mild to severe. Mild depression might only include a few of these symptoms like fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, insomnia, periods of feeling down or sad, trouble concentrating, and/or loss of motivation. With youth, irritability and restlessness may be more predominant.

Moderate depression might also include periods of hopelessness, nagging physical issues, feeling alone, a loss of pleasure in most things that were once of high interest.

Severe depression is likely to include guilt, feeling of worthlessness, times of uncontrolled weeping and isolation, trouble functioning at work or even taking care of one’s basic needs, exhaustion and physical lethargy. If left unchecked it can lead to thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior.

  1. The Unique Vulnerability of Pastors

In Bill’s story, we can see many of the moderate symptoms of depression. He ignored the earlier signs and never really grieved the loss of his wife or the friends they had together. While he seemed to cope well with the loss and the growing pressure of single parenting, he began a slow descent into a depression that affected him spiritually, physically, and mentally. He began to rely on years of experience and a drive to not let anyone down. He was neither serving out of the overflow of a vital relationship with God nor was he leaning into his community for support and accountability.

Like Bill, many ministry leaders struggle to be transparent for several reasons. It may seem odd or counter intuitive, but the average pastor usually does not have a “Proverbs 17:17 friend.” I have heard over and over, “Who could I tell?” “Who could I burden with this?” “Who can I trust?” “I fear I might lose my job.” Like David, pastors might utter in the privacy of their own thoughts, “… no one cares for my soul” (Ps 142:4).

Another issue for pastors is spiritual warfare. Satan is a real adversary, and he is particularly good at isolating and targeting pastors and their families. Many pastors grow weary and disconnected. Soon they start to perform outside their position in Christ and fear the opinion of others rather than leaning into community.

As Bill stopped abiding, he started performing. He was now even more susceptible to spiritual attacks, feeling like a hypocrite, and running on empty. This “perfect storm” can lead to despair often resulting in pastors and ministry leaders leaving the ministry. It is a good thing to consider whether depression has already affected your ministry or whether you need to make adjustments now to avoid this slippery slope.

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OTHER BOOKS BY BOLA AKIN-JOHN

  1. Fruitful and Fulfilling Ministry Today
  2. Grow the Pastor Grow the Church
  3. Sexual Purity in Leadership
  4. Money, Ministers and Ministry Today
  5. 22 Dynamic Laws of Church Growth
  6. 25 Pillars of Church Health
  7. Personal Growth Today
  8. The Loyal Associate
  9. Guest Ministers Today
  10. 120 Strategic Ways to Increase Church Attendance
  11. Quality and Quantity Growth in Churches
  12. Strategic Church Planting Today
  13. Spiritual Warfare for Dynamic Church Growth
  14. Supernatural Power, Miracles, Signs and Wonders Today
  15. Church Change
  16. The Place of Anointing and Administration in Church Growth
  17. Pulpit Power for Church Growth
  18. Daily Nourishment for Leaders
  19. Healthy Leaders Healthy Churches
  20. Anointing Alone is Not Enough
  21. 101 Ministry Lessons
  22. Healthy Home
  23. Small Middle-Size and Mega Churches
  24. How to follow well
  25. Strategic Living
  26. True success in ministry
  27. Rise and Fall of Churches / Ministries
  28. Closing the Back Door
  29. 25 Indispensable Qualities of a Competent and Credible Minister
  30. Church Growth Principles of Jesus
  31. Your Church Your Community
  32. Your Growth is Your Future
  33. Frank Talk to Men
  34. The Cell Church
  35. Our Churches and His Church
  36. How to Support & Strengthen your Pastor
  37. 101 ways to progressively kill a church
  38. The Real Man in Every Church
  39. Matured Pastor’s Wife & Female Minister
  40. Pray and Grow
  41. Short Course on Family Growth
  42. Short Course on Church Growth
  43. Short Course on Wholesome Sexuality
  44. Short Course on Financial Growth
  45. Short Course on Personal Growth
  46. Fundamental Teaching & Doctrines of the Bible
  47. With Jesus in the School of Money
  48. Holy Spirit the True Vicar of Life and Ministry
  49. Five Fold Ministry
  50. Prophet & Prophetic Ministry Today
  51. Leading your Church to Lasting Growth
  52. Your Image is Your Growth
  53. Conflict and Crisis in Ministry
  54. Thy Kingdom Come
  55. DiscipleShift Today
  56. Healthy Local Church
  57. Congregational and Cell Church Today
  58. Heart of a Christian
  59. Overseer and Senior Pastor Hand book 1
  60. Abusive Pastor Abusive Churches
  61. Church Turn-Around Strategies
  62. Pastor and People’s Price For Church Growth
  63. Fatherhood and Sonship
  64. Healthy Woman Minister
  65. Women In Church Growth Resource
  66. Kingdom Stewardship
  67. Overcome At The Gate
  68. Healthy Pastor, Dangerous Pastor
  69. Sexually Wholesome Church
  70. Healthy Pastors, Dangerous Pastor
  71. Impact-Driven Church
  72. Clergy Coupes
  73. Apostolic Ministry
  74. Evangelist Ministry
  75. Pastoral Ministry
  76. Prophetic Ministry
  77. Teaching Ministry
  78. Your Church Can Grow in a Healthy Way
  79. Real Men Resource
  80. Strong Christian, Strong Christian
  81. Planting Disciples-Making Church
  82. Front and back Door of Your Church
  83. Discipleship Process Recourse
  84. True Biblical Church Growth is still Possible
  85. Daily Nourishment 2
  86. Reaching and Disciplining Children and Youth in today’s Church
  87. Eschatology and Kingdom Teaching Resource
  88. I Can’t Breathe