Thoughts on Pastoral Suicides

In light of what has been reported by some as another pastoral suicide, I have received quite a few messages about why this might happen. I will give you a glimpse into the pastor’s mind. Hang with me for a moment.

It is easy for a pastor to find his identity in his job as a pastor. I did. As a man, I allowed success to be determined by how many were in attendance, how many people were actively involved in various ministries, etc. When my work was criticized, I took it very personally. Often, I took it way too personally. I allowed myself to believe I was failure. That spirals into long bouts of depression. You begin to question if you do anything right. You feel an intense responsibility, wondering if you have failed the people God has entrusted to you and that you have ultimately failed God.

Some might read this and think, “A pastor should be more spiritual than that. That’s what a pastor gets for taking his eyes off Jesus.” Meanwhile, that same pastor will walk through fire with you and withhold such judgment toward you when your world is falling apart. Pastors are human…they are people JUST. LIKE. YOU.

What do I recommend to those who are not in church leadership? Extend the same grace to pastors and staff that God extends to you. Speak words of affirmation to your pastors. You may think, “They have been called to give.” Here is my question – How will they give from an empty tank? Your response might be, “Well, Jesus should be filling His tank.” The truth is, Jesus should be filling yours too. While Jesus is all we need, God also designed us to thrive in community. Let your pastors in to be part of that community too. It could make a difference between life and death.

18 responses to “Thoughts on Pastoral Suicides”

  1. Reblogged this on Matthew Winters (Honest Thoughts from a Pastor) and commented:
    My latest blog post on pastoral suicides and some things we should know


  2. deeperxianity Avatar

    Oh dear… I didn’t know this was a suicide. I had never even heard of Patrick until yesterday.

    We need to realize our leaders are human just as we are. :-/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was unclear to begin with but was later reported as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It breaks my heart. We desperately need to pray for his family.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I think that so many forget that Pastors are part of the community because so many think being a leader sets someone apart from the others. I think with the growing acceptance that leading is the same as following, we can come to a common ground where even those in front are allowed the same weakness and understanding that comes from being led. Because even those deemed worthy of creating a following, the following should ever only be in the direction of God and not through the person that is leading.

    And again, I think this is where we are setting up our spiritual leaders to fail. For we set them on a pedestal, thinking them better. And the only one that is Better is the Father and Perfect Son that was sent. To HIM we owe our reverence and personification of the perfect leader.

    In doing so we give the freedom for others to follow God as their individual journey allows without the added pressures of unrealistic expectation of being more than one was supposed to be.

    My condolences to the loss and shock that is losing a Brother in the Kingdom of God to something as hurtfilled as Suicide. For no matter the connection to the one that is lost, much pain and grief will be felt. I hope you are well.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for these insights. I might add that pastors’ wives can struggle, too. It may be hard for them to make close friends when they feel like they’re living in a fish bowl and the standards applied to them are higher than would be applied to the average woman.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I often ponder the reality of whether we are putting these higher expectations upon ourselves and then projecting them as coming from others. I find myself believing things long before I find the reality of others having told them to me.

      I hope that makes sense. Today is a crazy day for me and I feel very loopy in my speech which means my mania may be running away from me. I share this comment to open you to the possibility that perhaps we are the harsh critic that we can’t escape, not the people around us, but the voice within that won’t relent no matter the truth outside.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You have a great point there. I have been guilty of internalizing rather than processing criticism. Then it gets out of hand as I see everything through that narrow lens.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think the trick to living a happier existence is to realize that seeing life through that lens is but one way to view life. And that with that view, it opens the mind to the myriad of other possibilities for envisioning the reality before you. Which then hopefully leads to the awakening that you yourself are a creator of the reality before you, both with the words and labels and depictions you use to express your perception but also in the actions you choose to take the paint the perspective others see of you.

        I think it is here that many get hung up – on the lens of how others are painting you to be. And in the end that is so insignificant because in the grand scheme of things we are but one insignificant particle of God’s LOVE and nothing more than his kindness and consideration come to light. When you recognize you are of God’s Perfection, the hope is that self love will blossom and free you from the chains within that hold you back from seeing yourself clearly.

        When you see yourself clearly, even when you perceive something wrong, it is through the lens of knowing you are on a path to being better, which never feels bad.

        A place I desperately hope others find their way to. For it is so full of abundance and appreciation that moments just flow together endlessly. It’s Heavenly. I hope that for ALL.

        Much love and peace to your mind Matthew. The words and wisdom you share is profound. You, as well as US ALL, deserve to feel as good as we can manage.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes! Many people will isolate themselves from ministry wives too. They often feel more lonely than the pastor.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Matthew, you have touched on a severe problem in the American church. There is an expectancy that if a pastor is paid, then they are responsible for everyone’s walk with the Lord. There is no personal responsibility for sharing the load. When someone is put on a pedestal, they can become an idol and dehumanized. The expectations are not the same for themselves as for the pastor and his family. They put the pastor in the place of Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit. There is no sensitivity to worshiping God not man.

    We all have a responsibility to bring something from God to the gathering of Christians. If we bear one another burdens, we will pray, encourage and love one another, including the leaders. It is so sad that we do not do this and the pastor instead feels alone, judged, with suicide as the only option that is perceived. A change is needed in the body of Christ. We all have the Spirit of Christ living in us and we are all a part of the body. All have gifts that are given for the building up of the whole body. We need an Awakening in the body of Christ. It is so sad that this pastor felt there was no other option than suicide.

    You brought up some great points. My heart goes out to the family that is left behind to grieve. May the God of all hope, comfort them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Things are shifting in church culture, but we still have a long way to go.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Elisa Maria Hebert Avatar
    Elisa Maria Hebert

    An important reminder to those who occupy the pews. Pastors can pour out their time and love, they need to be poured into as well.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Just a side note here, from my experience … When a pastor uses his own parenting struggles as illustrations in his sermons (with permission from his family) he connects with the other parents in the congregation. He steps down from the pedestal, and leads us on the journey, not to perfection, but to living dependent on the Lord to guide us through life’s struggles.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My heart aches for every aching pastor. We have been blessed to have a good relationship with three of our four pastors – all in small churches. We are now in a large church and have never personally spoke to our lead pastor. This is an important topic! Thank you for reminding us….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is great to reconnect with you. The old blog was kept down for a few months after I did not renew the domain. I stopped blogging for a few months, but I had to return with a fresh start.


      1. I’m obviously not on here much now! But I’m keeping my finger on the pulse. So it was great to catch back up to you!

        Liked by 1 person

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