Soon you will be able to dial 988. That is all it takes. Earlier this summer the Federal Communications Commission officially designated ‘988’ as a 3-Digit Number For National Suicide Prevention Hotline. I encourage you to read the important press-release and why the US has a number (similar to the emergency 911), for suicide prevention: Link to press release here. Important: 1-800-273-
8255 is the current suicide hotline; 988 will eventually redirect to it. Stay tuned.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, which is an important time to reflect on how each of us can make a difference. We have become a Church of Invisible Diseases.
The first funeral I ever officiated left an impression – it was a “Christian suicide.” While I am thankful for my seminary and theological degrees, there are specific experiences no classroom will adequately prepare anyone for. At forty-three, Kim was in the prime of her life and a devout Christian who regularly attended our church. She was married with four beautiful children, a lover of animals, and nominated by the local school district for Teacher of the Year, with twenty years of stellar performance. Even as a follower of Jesus, Kim struggled with chronic depression, and one day, she saw no way out, went into the woods, and completed suicide. My experience with Kim and her family awakened me to the stark reality of mental illness—the invisible illness—within our church families, a reality we rarely hear addressed from the pulpit. I know this because after receiving thousands of questions at our Christian Thinkers Society events, the most frequently asked relate to suicide and mental illness, topics we rarely hear addressed from the pulpit.
More Americans die by suicide than from war, cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined. Tragically, there have been scores of deaths by suicide among pastors and their children throughout North America. Until you have been brought to the brink, you may not understand the intensity of another individual’s struggle that might trigger a suicide attempt – even if they are a “minister.” What’s more, we have become a church full of invisible diseases – serious mental illness, even suicide rampages through our congregations, yet most attendees fail to see or recognize the reality of this disease. Mental illness is the elephant in the room each Sunday, yet no one feels comfortable talking about it. Yet, the ministry of Jesus focused on removing barriers to belief and restoring people who were suffering: “When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners’” (Mark 2:17 NLT).
Unfortunately, mental illness One LifeWay Research study noted, “Nearly 1 in 4 pastors (23 percent) acknowledge they have ‘personally struggled with mental illness,’ and half of those pastors said the illness had been diagnosed, according to the poll.” No one is unaffected by mental illness. If you have not personally struggled with mental illness, chances are that your friend, spouse, child, coworker, or neighbor has. As Christians, we need to build awareness of the problem and remove the stigma, because mental illness is widespread and affects everyone. Said LifeWay Research survey found 66 percent of pastors rarely or never address the subject of mental illness from their pulpits and the same survey revealed that the majority of churchgoers wish their pastors would discuss it.
Here are some very important reminders:
Stop the Silence
Many stigmatize the mentally ill as people in hospital gowns committed deep inside a psych ward. This is an exceptionally inaccurate depiction of someone with a mental illness. Would it surprise you to learn people with mental illnesses worship at your church and probably attend your Bible-study group with you? It is unfortunate we say so little about mental illness in the church. We act as if it does not exist. Rarely do we hear sermons or read Bible-study material on this topic. Notwithstanding, forty-eight percent, or nearly half the world’s population, will have direct experience with mental illness themselves over the course of their lifetime.
The number one problem in our churches related to matters of mental health and mental disorders is silence. Statistics reveal that one in four people suffer from mental illness. Invisible illnesses of the brain have the power to isolate you, cause you to cease to be a productive member of society, and shorten your lifespan. Mental illness is not a choice, but the good news is that it is treatable – when we shine light on the “invisible” diseases of our brain.
The Bible has much to say about mental health, right thinking, and loving God with our mind. In response to the expert in the law who asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, see also 2 Timothy 1:7; Isaiah 26:3; 1 Peter 5:7; Romans 12:2). What is lost in that passage is the commandment to love God with our minds, our intellect, our thinking. The Bible discusses mental health; so should the church, regularly.
Stop the Shame and Exclusion
Mental illness does not separate people from the love of God, and it shouldn’t separate us from the love of our church, either. Far too often the average Christian feels ill-equipped to respond to a suicide or mental crisis. Too often, instead of integrating and assimilating those who struggle with a mental illness, we segregate and exclude them. We may not mean to, but in this process, we shame people who don’t deserve it.
It is possible for a Christian to be chronically depressed. Many Christians suffer from a myriad of mental illnesses. If you are depressed, you are not alone. Following Jesus Christ as Savior does not eradicate anyone’s behavioral weaknesses; hereditary; or biological, mental, and emotional state. Mental illness is isolating. Those who suffer feel cut off from the church and abandoned by God. People with sick brains may not simply be “fixed” at the altar by a passionate prayer or anointing oil. Does God heal? Absolutely. Does He work miracles? Absolutely. However, just as we have people who continue to struggle with physical problems, there are also those who continue to struggle with mental/emotional problems – which is defined as a physical dysfunction of the brain. We must avoid shaming them.
The Healing Equation: Be Present
Babe Ruth once said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” The church should never give up on, cast aside, or push out the mentally ill. The church needs to be present on the frontlines, ministering to all those who’ve been afflicted, by implementing a healing equation:
· Admit that every family struggles. We’re all broken. We’re all messed up. Every family needs ministry. Anxiety is real, but so is our Hope!
· Love instead of judge, condemn, and misunderstand. One of the convicting observations I made very early in my ministry is that Christians don’t gossip—they share prayer requests. One of the reasons we do not discuss mental problems in the church is due to a fear of people gossiping and ostracizing us.
· Encourage the mentally ill to serve within our church communities. Most people struggling with mental illness are extremely witty, good-humored, and highly intelligent. It is an often-overlooked fact that some of the greatest Christians of all time have had lifelong struggles with depression, thoughts of suicide, and mental illness.
Be sure to save the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in your phone contacts, as I have:
Steps of intervention
When someone close to you talks about suicide or exhibits signs of suicidal desires, you can respond by taking five specific action steps. This is a strategy of compassion, concern, and intervention.
STEP 1: CAREFULLY LISTEN AND OBSERVE THE PERSON.
When someone is struggling, do not dominate the conversation or preach at the wounded person. Emotions are raw when a person is suicidal. Think of how gently you would respond to someone who had a broken arm, wrist, or leg. Approach the person with the same care, calmness, and attentiveness. Ask the suicidal person to explain to you what is bothering them. Let them talk. Even though it may be difficult, remain calm, listen, and look the person in the eyes. When someone is suicidal, they frequently self-medicate by abusing drugs and/or alcohol. When a friend or a family member is dependent on drugs, they are communicating to you by their behavior, not just their words. Care enough not to allow their addiction to grow worse year after year. A suicidal individual is counting on you to go the extra mile by carefully observing them, listening to their words and actions, and loving them enough to intervene. Listen and keep listening.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY WITH THE HURTING PERSON. If you do not identify with the suicidal person, there is a much higher risk that you will lose them to suicide. Do not use guilt by suggesting that if they were closer with God, they would not have suicidal thoughts. That is a myth. A Christian who acts like a judgmental Pharisee overlooks the fact that statistically, most people have entertained a momentary or perhaps more prolonged thought of suicide under intense stress.
STEP 3: INITIATE A LOVING, CALCULATED RESPONSE, BEING VERY CAREFUL AND SENSITIVE. Ignoring the suicidal person is the worst possible scenario. Perhaps you were raised in a family that never addressed issues and always swept problems under the rug. That approach is dysfunctional. A healthy person seeks healing for a friend or a family member who is struggling with suicidal thoughts. Saving your family member or friend will require you to interrupt your normal schedule. That is OK. Remember that most people spell love T-I-M-E. Invest time in creating an action to bring the person out of the depth of their suicidal struggle.
STEP 4: ASK THE KEY QUESTION. Whenever you suspect that someone close to you is contemplating taking his or her life, an essential question must be asked: Do you have a plan or method to take your life? Have you considered an actual time to do it? If they have a plan, method, or timeline, they are in immediate danger. Stay with the hurting individual at all times. They should never be left alone. You must also commit to the time and expense of professional . You do not need to lead the person to heal alone. Perhaps the person might need to be hospitalized. I always encourage a reputable Christian counselor and/or psychiatrist or a trained, experienced pastor to lead an intervention with specific healing steps. Don’t do it alone.
STEP 5: ACCESS THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE.“Like” the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Facebook page: www.facebook.com/800273T
ALK. This phenomenal organization interfaces with Facebook to geographically pinpoint suicidal comments on Facebook and intervenes with responses to provide assistance. Or phone them at 800.273.TALK.If you are struggling with Unanswered Questions, check out my Bible study – Answers to Tough Questions! Many Christians consider apologetics (the study and practice of defending the faith) a discipline reserved for people in academic circles, but all followers of Christ should carefully consider why they believe what they believe. In a culture that says all beliefs are equally valid, it’s critical that we recognize the dangerous delusion of that idea and equip ourselves to speak with confidence about biblical truth. Examining the six questions in this study will move Christians beyond the cultural norm of “This is what I think” to the truth that compels others to believe.Thanks for your friendship. Most of all, thanks for your commitment to be Christian Thinker and loving God with your heart, soul, and mind.
Jeremiah J. Johnston, Ph.D.
Mark Lanier on Christian Justice and EvidenceMark Lanier is well known for his work as an attorney, but it is his love for the Bible that led him to establish the Lanier Theological Library, an exquisite facility with about 17,000 square feet of literary resources, artifacts, and study space in the Houston area.
Lanier originally felt he might serve the Lord as a vocational minister.
“I thought I’d love to be a preacher. I love the Lord. It occurred to me, I really ought to pursue a legal career but continue to serve the Lord bivocationally. So I became a lawyer really just to pay the bills, but my passion has always been trying to teach people the Word of God and trying to the Kingdom of Christ.”
In his theological study, Lanier has been a student of Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Syriac.
“Language is a deep love of mine. It unlocks Scripture. Much of Scripture is understood more deeply with an understanding of the original language and civilization. Today we know [that] brain cells process thought. In the Old Testament mindset, they thought the seed of thought was the heart.”
“When you read all of these passages in the Psalms that talk about getting your heart right before the Lord, we tend, in 21st century America, to think that means to get your emotions and feelings right before the Lord. It’s not talking about emotion; it’s talking about thinking and using your thoughts to focus on God and what God wants you to do. It’s not talking about emotional religion first and foremost.”
Rather than simply being a personal choice, Christianity has served to form the basis for the Judeo-Christian legal system. It is a truth that Lanier greatly values as a law professional.
“If you remove God, at the end of the day, [the] law is what people say instead of what God says. God told Israel, ‘I’ve created male and female in my image. All people have equal dignity and rights and access to justice and all basic core human principles,’ that’s different than anything else we find culturally then and now.”
To be kept from becoming swept up in the tide of popular beliefs, Christians should renew their minds with the truths of the Bible.
“If we remove God from our system, we have removed the bedrock foundation and our system is shifting sand. We all need to be before God on a daily basis.”
#CancelNetflix – When you cancel be sure to check the “Other” box and share why … “We don’t support pedophiles” or “We don’t support child pornography”
Netflix has lost over $9 billion in market value since the #CancelNetflix hashtag went viral.
We have been Netflix subscribers since 2012. We canceled our subscription today. #CancelNetflix has been trending for days on twitter. If you are wondering why we canceled our Netflix subscription, I encourage you to read my full call to action newsletter from August 23rd “They’re coming for our kids”
Netflix has more than 182 million subscribers and added an additional 16 million subscribers during the pandemic.
Child exploitation is not okay.
Here is the link to cancel Netflix: https://.netflix.
In my email from August 23rd (linked here, again), I offer some important protection suggestions for your family.
One word of warning: we must do more than cancel. We have to train our children and grandchildren to have a biblical worldview. Therefore, it is equally important to discuss why we stand for absolute truth and biblical values. Why we do not have to give into cultural pressure. Why we cannot be silent.
Jeremiah J. Johnston, Ph.D.
49 days until the election … did you know 1 in 4 Christians are not registered to vote? I am grateful for “My Faith Votes”
National Voter Registration Sunday is just five days away. This Sunday, September 20, 2020, churches across the country will encourage their congregations to register and prepare to vote.
You can access all the free non-partisan materials for your church to participate in National Voter Registration Sunday with a virtual or in-person voter drive here.
One of the most requested My Faith Votes resources every election year is their Party Platform Guide. Please check it out and vote your faith!
Thanks for watching Justin Johnston’s latest Lego Video! Thanks for subscribing to his channel: “Justin Lego Tube” and sharing the video! (4:43 length)
A very wise friend once told me: “Jeremiah, your most important ministry is your family … never forget this.”
I am not a perfect Dad, but I want to be.
I am not a perfect husband, but I want to be.
I will never be a perfect Christian; thank God, my Savior is perfect for me!
Notwithstanding … I will stop at nothing to put my marriage and family first. It took me about 14 years to learn this lesson (c. 2018). I hope it does not take you as long.
We need to learn to say “no” for the bigger “yes” in our lives. Yes to our walk with Christ. Yes to our family. Everything else comes next.
The good news is, we can do it! When we have our ministry priorities correct, our greater ministry (that is, the work we do outside of our marriage and family) becomes even more impactful because we minister from a place of strength. We earn the right to be heard, not because of the size of platform, or the x-factor, or any other factor other than the calling and equipping of almighty God.
I recognize this reordering of priorities does not happen overnight. Yet, with God’s , it can happen.
There are also challenges. I get it. We only have 24 hours in a day. I have a ministry that keeps me busy 8-days-per-week. I feel the tension of being a Dad to five children who each need me. They spell love T.I.M.E. So we try to meet the need day in and day out. Life is messy. Each day is different, but we must keep the priorities in place.
Here are some practical thoughts (representative, but not exhaustive):
1). Read To Your Children (the report I’ve linked here is crucial). I am currently on book 4 Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Reading to Lily and Justin does not happen every night, but it occurs regularly! Remember, learning begins at birth, and it is important for children to be engaged in storytelling and interacting with the written word through books at a young age. By the age of three, children from wealthier families have heard about 30 million more words than children from lower-income families. For children entering kindergarten, 34 percent lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read. By the time children from low-income families enter grade school, their ability to read is already an issue.
2). Find Hobbies with your Children (that do not involve screens!). During the lock-down, I have had to learn video editing. I did not enjoy learning video editing. I have a whole new appreciation for media editors. This is not my calling. I have no interest in video editing; however, my son (Justin, age 8) wanted to create a YouTube channel because he loves to share legos he builds, especially the more challenging lego builds. When Justin asked me to film him and edit the videos, the answer was yes. Then I had to learn how to edit and produce videos!
3). Be available. Children start taking at the most inconvenient moments. Have you noticed? It is never “the right time.” I recently finished writing my 10th book (64K+ words). Once upon a time, I asked the children to leave my office when I was writing previous books. I have not made that mistake in five years, but I learned from it. That is the point. Parenting is not perfect. We learn. We move forward. We can always improve. We need to be more available.
Yours, as ever
Jeremiah J. Johnston, Ph.D.
Christian Thinkers Society
51 days until the election … here is an important reminder “I’m voting for an Essential Church” (please share)
As Christian Thinkers, we are called to be the people who bring HOPE! No matter what challenges we face, hope is on our side because we serve Jesus Christ. I love constantly resourcing you with ways to be a Christian Thinker, which includes creative ways to spread the love of Jesus Christ in your community. For the first time in 30 years my friend, Pastor Greg Laurie, was not able to use Angels Stadium (Anaheim, California) for the annual Harvest Crusade. I respect Pastor Greg because instead of doing nothing, he upped his game to a Cinematic Crusade! Early this week Pastor Greg emailed Audrey and me a link to watch “A Rush of Hope” – which will be Streaming live this Labor Day weekend. The film is powerful, moving, and anchored in sharing the Hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I have included the film preview below, please check it out. A Rush of Hope is a digital event that will answer life’s biggest questions and will keep you on the edge of your seat. As I mentioned, they’re calling it a cinematic crusade, and it’s a completely new way of sharing the gospel!
A cinematic crusade?
This is the biggest event Pastor Greg Laurie and Harvest has ever put on, and it’s probably the most ambitious project they’ve ever put together. Some of you may still be wondering, “What exactly is a cinematic crusade?”
Think about it this way: You might go and see a wonderful Christian film like I Still Believe or I Can Only Imagine, and you’ll be moved by the story. And then you might also watch a preacher on television, preaching and giving the gospel.
Each is a separate medium. One is a medium of entertainment storytelling. The other is a medium of communication and preaching.
Pastor Greg and his team married these two media together in something that’s unique. So it’s cinematic. It’s storytelling. I like to think of it as “weaponized art”—and I mean weaponized in the way. We might say it has gospel hooks.
So I invite you to take part. It is free and done with excellence! And not only participate, but send the link out on social media. Share using their free graphics and videos.
Don’t you think our world needs A Rush of Hope?
A Rush of Hope will be broadcast LIVE this Labor Day weekend, September 4–7. See all showtimes at harvest.org/hope.
RSVP to be part of the premiere!
Also, I want to make sure you did not miss my recent blog post “They’re coming for our kids and grandkids” – be sure to check out ways we protect our families by being proactive with all of the devices in our home.
Finally, thank you for your prayers for me! I finished my 10th book manuscript this week: Unleashing Shalom! 64,567 words and 14 chapters are submitted to my wonderful editor and the good people at Bethany House/Baker Publishing Company. All of our books, Bible studies, and ministry resources are much more than a one-off book or resource; each project becomes a ministry outreach tool with live events, equipping churches with curriculum, media programs, etc. We are extremely prayerful and thoughtful with each project becaue these resources are used for years and years. I look forward to unveiling more about this new project!
Jeremiah J. Johnston, Ph.D.
IRVINE, Calif. — “A Rush of Hope,” a cinematic crusade from Greg Laurie and Harvest ministries will release on over 100 streaming channels Sept. 4-7, 2020.
Created in partnership with the Erwin Brothers’ Kingdom Story Company, “A Rush of Hope” will include encouraging messages from Greg Laurie, outtakes from faith-based films such as I Still Believe and Woodlawn and performances by artists such as Jeremy Camp, for KING & COUNTRY and MercyMe.
“Our life is like a movie,” says the voice of Laurie in the trailer. “It has a beginning, middle and end.”
“We all have questions about this movie that we are in. Is this movie a tragedy? Is it a love story? Or is it a comedy even? Do we win in the end? Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life? And what happens after I die?
“There are answers to these questions,” Laurie says.
“A Rush of Hope” is Harvest’s creative response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the ministry to cancel its in-person crusades scheduled this year at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium. The film’s release date was originally announced for August, but it has been moved to Sept. 4-7.
“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Laurie said. “The Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed all our plans, but it has opened an incredible window of opportunity for the gospel. Now, more than ever, people are hungry for something the world cannot give them. This cinematic crusade is designed to reach as many people as possible and them answer the deepest questions of their hearts.”
The move from an in-person stadium event to a cinematic crusade follows the success of other digital ministries launched by Harvest. Greg’s podcast received over one million downloads in its first month, and Harvest at Home, the online church platform that broadcasts Greg’s live sermons, has seen over 80,000 professions of faith since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The unprecedented success of Laurie’s online ministry was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal.
“A Rush of Hope” will be available to stream on the below social platforms Sept. 4-7:
Greg Laurie Facebook Live (crossposted with 100 media partners)
Would you like to learn more about how you experience more Shalom in your life? What are the most important six adjectives, two nouns, and one verb for you to have God’s indescribable peace in your life? Check out my message below!
59 days until the election … here is an important reminder “I am voting for unborn babies!” … please share this image!