MY THOUGHTS ON CHRISTIAN LEADERS COMMITTING SUICIDE
I know this is a surprising title, but it is relevant because a few days ago another very public and popular Christian leader committed suicide leaving behind a wonderful wife and several children. Over the last couple years there have been several pastors leading mega-churches that have taken their lives.
How do we make sense of this? What are Christians suppose to think when their leaders commit suicide? Aren’t Christian leaders suppose to be super-spiritual people?
Let me give you a few of my thoughts (no specific order and not exhaustive).
(1) We live in a day when social media often makes Christian celebrities out of mega-church leaders, popular authors, gifted musicians and singers, and dynamic public speakers. And when younger Christian leaders (20s-30s) especially get exalted into celebrity status by others, and themselves, they often get set-up for a major fall under the expectations of being a celebrity. The fact is their inner growth in Christ can’t keep up with their external ministry and the praise of others.
(2) Often initially Christian leaders fail in some way, let’s say have an affair, and they are not able to forgive themselves. They struggle with tremendous guilt for letting their wife, families, and other Christians down. Their celebrity bubble bursts, and they don’t know how to deal with it. They begin to be sidelined from the other celebrity leaders, and so lose their celebrity identity.
(3) I want to say that the suicide of Christian leaders are not more important than anyone else who commits suicide. All suicides are extremely sad and grieving. Every individual is equally valuable in God’s sight. But the suicide of Christian leaders are just more public then a person suffering from mental illness in isolation.
(4) We live in a fallen–I mean deeply fallen–world. And the truth is, all people, including Christian leaders often struggle with internal issues and sometimes tormenting struggles that they can’t seem to overcome, and are not seen by others. Chrisitian leaders usually hide these inner struggles from others because they feel the responsibility (a false responsibilty) to perform for others. They can have all the smiles, but inside they are in a major spiritual battle. In the end, these unresolved internal struggles win.
(5) Many Christian leaders feel trapped in church systems that push expectations on them, and can even threaten their pastoral positions if they don’t perform. They feel as if there is no place to hide or escape. This is not true with all church situations, but it is often true in mega-churches or mega-ministries. They have to continue to be the celebrity, no matter how they are doing in their hearts. And this life dualism is deadly, literally.
I want to finish by saying that the suicide of a Christian does not mean that they go to hell, as the Roman Catholic Church has taught for so long. Today this might have changed somewhat, but it has influenced the thinking of Christians concerning suicide. For Jesus Christ is our salvation period. And God’s eternal grace is much wider than what we often perceive.
Pray for everyone, but especially pray and support Christian leaders, for our modern culture and church can be brutal.
**If you are a Christian leader who is struggling and even pondering suicide, please contact me. I would love to listen and talk with you. Although you might feel trapped, you are not. There is hope.