A Christian Dealing With Mental Illness


Guest Post by Randy Riverstone Graves

Randy is a former United Methodist minister who stepped down from pastoral ministry when his mental illness became too much of an impairment. After several years of deepening depression, made worse by self-medicating with alcohol, his life spiraled out of control. He says, “I was in a spiral to the grave. Although I still struggle with mental illness, I thank God that Jesus has delivered me from the death grip of addiction and given me a new life in the Spirit. I have been restored through Celebrate Recovery, and I’m 17 months sober.” Randy now serves as a Worship Leader and Training Coach at a Celebrate Recovery ministry. What follows is his witness and wisdom. 

I’ve been actively resisting a depressive episode that I feel coming on. It’s not full-blown, but I know the early warning signs. I have bipolar disorder, and in the past, feeling like this caused me to just surrender, and give in to the inevitable days or weeks of unrelenting gloom.  I would begin drinking hard liquor. Alcohol only made it worse, but in the grips of addiction and a crisis of mental health, I sought relief where I could find it. Alcohol would a least numb me for an hour or two before I had to tilt the bottle again to make the world go dark.

Thank God, I’ve found a way out of that darkness. I have a new life in the Spirit that has equipped me to face this with a different perspective. Through Celebrate Recovery, a comprehensive Christ-based 12-step program, I’ve learned better ways to cope, and not just to cope, but to overcome. For others who may be dealing with mental illness or addiction, I want to share a few things I’ve learned to help resist walking over the edge of the cliff.

I Reach Out

One of the worst things about mental illness and addiction is how isolated one can become. The worse things get, the more I tended to retreat into the dank corner of my cave. When I am struggling like that, it is important to reach out. I let my friends and family know what I am going through.

In Celebrate Recovery, we are deliberate about forming “accountability partners” or sponsors — people who agree to provide mutual support for each other during difficult times.

While I do not feel even the slightest desire to drink alcohol right now, I have been around the block enough times to know that it is times like this I need to be on hyper-alert against the possibility of relapse. I have to be proactive and reach out to my support team. I send a text or a Facebook message to people I trust. These are people who have my back, people who will pray for and with me.

It is so helpful just to be able to say to someone, “Hey, I’m going through a rough time,” and to know that they understand and truly care. I could call them if I needed to, and I know without a doubt that they’d meet with me. But for the most part, it is enough for me to simply reach out and touch base with people who understand what I’m going through.

I Seek Professional Help

Mental illness is a medical condition that usually requires medication to treat effectively. There still remains a stigma for people seeing a psychiatrist and taking medications for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. It’s time to put an end to that stigma. There is no shame at all in seeing a psychiatrist or other healthcare professional to treat mental illnesses. People with Type 1 diabetes have to be under the care of a physician to take insulin. People with heart conditions see a cardiologist. And people with mental illness see a psychiatrist.

I regularly see both a psychiatrist and a therapist for help in dealing with my condition. This allows me to function as a husband and father, and to serve the Lord in various ministries. Without my medications, I would not have a very high quality of life. I’d be trapped in constant mood swings and delusions. My medications bring me stability and allow me to have a sense of purpose.  My therapist is also very helpful in dealing with problems related to mental illness and alcoholism. Seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It means that I care enough about my life and my family to do whatever it takes to be healthy.

I Lean In

I’m learning to lean into the Holy Spirit. For me, this is a major difference in my life now. A year ago, I experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in a way I’d never experienced before. In my tradition, we call it being “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” but the terminology itself isn’t important. In a desperate time, I leaned into Jesus, and suddenly the Holy Spirit was flowing through my own spirit in an ineffable experience of the immediate presence of God both inside me and all around me. Soon after, God began to produce good things in my life through the Spirit: things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so forth. The Bible calls these things the “fruits of the Spirit.”

However, the Spiritual life contains some hard truths. There are still some really hard times. People will leave us. Loved ones are going to die. Hurtful things are going to happen. At times, depression can pile on like heavy snow.

My experience is that the Holy Spirit isn’t there with us just during happy times. Whether our hands are raised in praise or pulling our hair in weeping, the Spirit is there. One word the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit is “Paraclete” — a Greek word that emphasizes that God comes along right beside us as a friend, a comforter, and an advocate to speak on our behalf.

When the challenges come, I find it essential that I lean into the presence of God. I pray. I read a few verses from the Psalms. And even if I don’t feel joyful, I still offer words of praise and gratitude. Even if all I can do is mutter, I mutter a prayer.

I Keep Moving

No matter what, I keep moving. I get out of bed; I take a shower, and I get dressed. There are days that that becomes the most courageous thing I do. In the past, there were days I didn’t get out of bed. But that just made things worse.

Yesterday, was one of those dark days.  So, I got up, got ready and joined some friends on a beautiful hike. They probably couldn’t even tell that inside I was struggling with deep sadness, because I did my best to keep moving and experience the glory that was all around in nature. Even though I felt terribly sad, for one clear moment I had an experience of God while sitting near a waterfall that brought the whole universe into clear focus. I felt my spirit expand in interconnection with all the droplets of water in the air, every grain of sand, and every particle or wave of light flitting through the green and yellow leaves.

If I had stayed home, I would have missed the glory being poured out on the world around me. I suppose the real trick is to learn how to notice that glory in my own home, too. But to experience it at all, I know that I have to keep moving.

I Share the Good News Of Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered, 12 step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind. It provides a safe place to find community and freedom from the issues that are controlling our life. If you’re interested in learning more about this ministry or would like to launch Celebrate Recovery in your area, here’s the link to their web site: https://www.celebraterecovery.com

No Longer Alone!

Red umbrella in storm

Guest post by John Carosiello

A few weeks ago, on my morning drive, I noticed that the co-host on the Christian radio station was conspicuously absent. After another song, the co-host who had been missing spoke. She said, “I’m sorry I was late.  If I’m candid, it is because my anxiety disorder has been especially troublesome today, and I almost couldn’t leave my house. But I made it!”

I knew that I had to talk with her. Why?  I also suffer from a mental illness. And, as a Pastor, I understand the stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in the church.

So, at the next commercial break, I called the co-host. I told her that I am a pastor who suffers from anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I wanted her to know that she is not alone. I shared the struggle I have each Sunday because open-spaces are an anxiety trigger for me. I shared the titles of a couple of books that have helped me through my struggles.

The co-host choked up as she thanked me for calling. She said that she felt foolish for having shared her condition with everyone and was concerned that there might be ramifications for her career. I thanked her honesty and vulnerability, and I told her that it is essential that Christians started talking about mental illness.

I was eleven years old when I suffered my first full-blown panic attack. I was at theater, and I fell out of my chair trembling in panic, dread, and confusion. That was just the first of many such attacks.

Growing up in the church, I assumed that my condition had to be spiritual. I sought prayer from pastors, church elders and family members. Yet, my conditioned remained.  I wondered what was wrong with me? I had never heard of the terms “anxiety disorder” or “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”

Then, one night, after falling asleep while watching television, I awoke to an infomercial about anxiety disorders. As I listened, I wept! Here were these successful people on TV talking about their personal experiences with anxiety. It was like they were reading my journal. For the first time, since my first panic attack, I felt I was not alone.

There are clergy all over the world who suffer from mental illness.  In silence and shame they wrestle with anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Just a month ago, a pastor-friend called and asked me to pray for him. He is highly successful, leads a large church, and often appears to be larger than life. Yet, He was suffering from depression. This seemingly invincible leader was struggling with a depth of inner pain that seemed out of control.

I suggested he talk to his physician, but at first, he rejected the idea. But he finally conceded to talking to his doctor and being put on a medication.  As of last week, he is doing much better!

Years from now, I believe that the idea that mental illness is a curse or a spiritual weakness will be scoffed at like someone suggesting heart disease, autism or paralysis or an infection is a spiritual weakness today.

Too many clergy suffer alone and in silence because they do not feel like they can talk about their mental health challenges.  They fear being judged or even putting their job in jeopardy.

Well, I have news: my entire staff, elder board, and many of my church-members know about my anxiety and OCD.  The only consequence has been that more hurting church members and their friends come to me seeking guidance on how to deal with their mental health challenges.  Praise God!  The thing that I thought might destroy my ministry has led to even greater ministry to those who are suffering.

If you are a clergy suffering from any form of mental illness, please do not suffer alone.  Reach out to your physician or a mental health professional.

And I would love to be in touch with you to listen to you and pray for you! Feel free to email me: JohnC@citg.org

You are not alone! There are many out there just like you.

Can We Talk About Privilege?


Guest post by Jayson Bradley

Open up any social media platform, and you’ll likely be confronted with entrenched opinions on the topic of privilege. Your Facebook feed will quickly tell you, not everyone agrees that white people, men, or any other social group has any special advantages or immunities over others. Granted, in many cases, it’s white people who deny the existence of white privilege and males who balk at the idea that men benefit from the way our cultural system is structured (usually quite angrily).

Surely Christians are different though, right? Surely they’ll take time to stop and really consider whether the system they’re a part of is contributing to the marginalization of others. Won’t they?

Not so fast.

In a letter to the editor of the Moody Standard entitled “Rescinding the Term ‘White Privilege,’” Bryan Litfin, a professor of theology at Moody, proposed “five reasons why the term ‘white privilege’ isn’t appropriate for Christian discourse.”

I strongly suggest that if we as Christians allow ourselves to think that talking about privilege “isn’t appropriate for Christian discourse,” we’re going to find ourselves on the wrong side of this subject. Believe it or not, privilege may be one of the defining issues for the Church in the 21st century.

Can There Be ‘Underprivileged’ Without Privilege?

All my life I’ve heard the term “underprivileged.” It was used when we talked about people in impoverished countries or children who needed assistance with school lunches and winter coats. I’ve never heard anyone take exception to the term.

But for some reason, when you bring up the idea that there are people who are privileged, some people get offended. But how can you have people who are underprivileged without having people who are privileged?

Part of the problem is that, if we’re going to imagine that there’s a “privileged” people, it’s easy to think it’s someone else—not us.

The Spectrum of Privilege

If you lined up everyone in the world according their access to healthy food, pure water, shelter and sustainable wages, you’d have the most underprivileged people on one end of the scale, and the most privileged people in the world on the other. If you were born in the West, you’re going to naturally find yourself clustered with the privileged.

Where you land is typically outside of your control. That said, there are also systemic injustices that help maintain the spectrum as we know it. Some of the poorer countries suffer from civil unrest and terrible governments who oppress them. Some of the businesses and governments in more privileged countries take advantage of poorer nations by exploiting them and taking their resources.

So, while it might not be anyone’s fault where they are on the spectrum, it is the responsibility for justice-minded people on the more privileged end to do what they can to assist the people on the lower end and work to change the broken and corrupt systems that keep them there.

Privilege at Home

This spectrum dramatically changes when you go from an international scale to a national one. People on the lower end of the economic spectrum in America may find themselves higher on an international scale, but within their current context, there are still major challenges. It doesn’t help a mother of three struggling to make it in Detroit to tell them, “Buck up, you’re doing much better than the average mother in a developing country.”

Race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social class, and disability have a great effect on the quality of life in America (or any country)—and to deny that just seems very misinformed.

‘Who Are You to Tell Me I’m Privileged?!’

One of the arguments I hear all of the time goes something like this, “How can I be privileged? I’ve worked so hard to get where I am. How dare you call me privileged!”

I’m a healthy, white, middle-class man, and I’ve had virtually no say in any of those factors. This doesn’t mean I haven’t had to work to succeed; it means that I haven’t had to work around many of the economic and sociological boundaries others have. Sure, there are many people of color who are more successful than I am, but by-and-large, all things being equal:

– I’m less likely to be arrested.

– I’m less like to go to prison if I am arrested.

– I’m more likely to go to college.

– I’m more likely to get called back for a job.

– I’m more likely to find adequate housing.

When you look at the pay gap, there’s a huge discrepancy when it comes to race, and an even greater one when it comes to gender.

The mythology that, no matter who you are, you can be whatever you want to be if you just work hard makes it difficult to have this discussion. Working hard matters, there’s no question about it. But this is by no means a level playing field, and by pretending that it is—or that all cultural barriers can be bypassed by simply working harder—we solidify issues of privilege.

Does Jesus Care About Privilege?

Christians, just like everyone else, are sinful and can take advantage of corrupt systems of power. Yes, there were Christians who fought for women’s suffrage, for Native Americans and against slavery, but there are also many Christians who have been on the wrong side of issues of privilege. It’s no wonder that there are people who puzzle over whether the Jesus of modern Christianity cares about the issue of privilege at all.

Not only did Jesus abandon the ultimate privilege to walk among us (Philippians 2:5-11), His concern for the underprivileged helped put Him in the crosshairs of the religious establishment. He spoke up for the poor, healed the sick of the racially underprivileged (even at times when it wasn’t religiously acceptable to do so—see Mark 3:1-6) and spoke up for and treated women like valued and important members of society. It’s obvious that the introduction of Christianity was intended to plant sociological seeds that would drive a stake into the heart of privilege.

What Do We Do About It?

Many of the problems we’re talking about are systemic. I didn’t choose them, and feeling guilty about it doesn’t do anyone any good.

The bigger question is, “What do we do about it?”

Once we recognize the issue of privilege, we’re responsible for our response. We can’t simply continue to soak up the benefits of privilege and deny they exist.

It’s not enough for me to just reject the idea of privilege. I might get a boost of moral superiority by saying “I reject my privileged status as a white male in America,” but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m going to still benefit from this systemic weaknesses in modern American society. So I have to do something else. I have to subvert the system—I have to leverage my privilege for the benefit of others.

In doing this, those with privilege need to be careful not to speak over those who have been marginalized. Instead of acting like we know what it is like to be black, female, gay, handicapped, Muslim or part of any other group we have not experienced from the inside—we need to step back and listen to and raise their voices.

The first step for stronger, more empathetic churches is to break out of our intellectual, theological and sociological cul-de-sacs. It is a lot of work not to standardize and prescribe my perspective for everyone. I tend to think I’m pretty objective, but my objectivity is colored by my limited experience and understanding. It’s time for churches in America to provide room for more voices.

We must decide to quit only looking to people like ourselves to define the experiences of people who are different. We must go to the source. Read widely and deeply from people with different perspectives and experiences. Share what you learn.

And remember, our war isn’t against people. It’s against principalities and powers—including those systemic powers holding others back.

Until I Met You

Old Male And Fear

From Rick Kirchoff, Clergy Coaching Network

(I am a collector of stories.  I came across this one a decade ago.  I regret that I don’t know where I discovered it.  But I invite you to read, and savor the message.)

There is a hospice facility in another city that cares for patients with terminal illness who have no family and no one to come visit them.

A church lady felt it was her mission to volunteer there, hoping to bring a little joy to the lives of those spending their last days.  So, she’d take magazines down the hallway several days a week, going from room to room.

One day she came to a man’s door that had a “NO VISITORS” sign.  She opened the door a bit, and said, “I’m not here for a visit. I see your sign, but I do have some magazines.”

He said, “Didn’t you see the sign, NO VISITORS?”

She said, “Yes, I did, but I’ve got Time, Newsweek, Forbes, Fortune, Sports Illustrated….

He asked, “You have Sports Illustrated?”

She said, “Yes!  I have it right here. Would you like it?”

He said, “Yes, I would.”  So she gave him the latest issue.  He thanked her, and she left.

A couple of days later, she came back and said, “I’ve got all these magazines again, and I brought you a couple of back issues of Sports Illustrated.  I even stopped on the way over and got another sports magazine that I thought you might like.”

He said, “Thank you very much; this is wonderful!”

Then he looked at her and he said, “Now, wait a minute, you’re not religious are you?”

She said, “What do you mean, religious?”

He said, “Aw you know what I mean, trying to ram religion down somebody’s throat.”

She said, “Oh, no, no, no!  I’m not like that.”

He said, “Good.  Just so we understand each other.  I’m not religious either.”

Every week, two or three times a week, she came to his door with her Sports Illustrated, sports magazines, and other magazines.  And they would talk, just little snippets.

Then, one day, he said, “You know, I have cancer and I’m going to die.  My wife is gone; I don’t have any children; my parents are gone.  I don’t have any family.  I have a few friends, but they all live in other parts of the world.  So, really, I don’t have anybody.  Next week I’m going to have surgery.  I’m not sure if I’m going to live through surgery, and if I do, I’m not sure what I have to live for.”  He talked about his loneliness, his fears, and she just listened.

When he was done, she said, “When you come out of surgery, I’m going to be there with you, because I’m so grateful that you’ve shared this with me.”

And then, ever so graciously, she said, “You know, I’m not religious, but you’ve just shared with me that you’ve going to have surgery.  I would like to pray that God would be with you in that surgery.  Would that be all right if I had a little prayer with you?”

He said, “Yes…I’d like that.”

She prayed a simple three sentence prayer, and at the end she began praying the Lord’s Prayer.

When she got to the place where it says “Thy will be done,” she felt his hand reach out and touch hers.  And he joined her in the words: “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the Kingdom, and Power, and Glory Forever!  Amen!” 

They both opened their eyes, and she looked at him in disbelief.

He smiled, and said, “I know; I know I said I wasn’t religious, and I’m really not.  I got so turned off with religion because people always tried to ram it down my throat.  I had a minister do that and a boss, and I hated it.  I got fed up.  So I left the church, and I’ve never been back.  But my mother taught me the Lord’s Prayer.  My Grandmother and Grandfather taught me great hymns of the church and helped me to memorize passages of the Bible.  But I was too stubborn to come back home to God.  That is, until I met you.”

My Life As A Preacher’s Kid

Funny angry nerd near empty green chalkboard

By John Carosiello

Nothing stopped a conversation with new school-acquaintances like: “My Dad is a pastor!”

While other kids bragged about their parents and what they did for a living, they did not know how to respond to the fact that I was a preacher’s kid, “a PK.” Most of them did not even go to church, let alone know how to talk to me. What’s more, my public-school teachers seemed to look at me differently as well. I remember my third-grade teacher saying to me: “Is that how a pastor’s kid should behave?” I was not doing anything wrong, just being silly with my one friend, yet she made sure everyone knew that I was held to a higher standard. 

In fifth grade, my teacher publicly asked me if I needed to leave the room because he was going to show the class a Christmas movie that had to cuss words in it, the class laughed. I was mortified. There were no other PK’s in my grade.  And it was not like I got any breaks at the church. If I did anything out of line around a Sunday School teacher, I was publicly reminded that I was supposed to set an excellent example to the rest of the kids because…(wait for it)…I was the PASTOR’S SON!  

I thought life as a pastor’s kid would get more comfortable in high school, but it didn’t.  I just got tougher (and not in a good way). I remember confiding in my youth pastor that I was having lustful thoughts, only to turn around and have him tell my parents.  Awesome (sarcasm)! 

I learned to internalize my feelings, hide my failures, and even perfected a fake smile. Truth is: I was dying inside and did not know where to turn. My older brother had the same struggles, so he turned to drugs. I remember him telling me: “I hate the church! Church-people are the worst! I wish our parents were not in ministry!” 

I never shared that with my parents. They were under enough stress at that particular time, so I did the only thing I thought I could do: bottle up my emotions and pretend like nothing was wrong. I felt alone, but thankfully that all would change. 

My parents found out about a “PK Retreat” that was happening on the shore of Lake Erie. They asked me if I wanted to go. I was apprehensive. but curious. My parents explained that kids from clergy families from all over the state would be staying at a resort for three days to worship, pray, and have fun together. My folks added, “And all of the leaders there are PK’s!” I could not sign up fast enough! Maybe I wasn’t all alone. Perhaps those leaders would know how to reach me…and they did!  What’s more, I found out that other PK’s were experiencing exactly what I was experiencing!  

Every year at PK Retreat, we would share deeply. There was rarely a dry eye in these sessions. Some PK’s felt like their parents loved the church more than them. Still, others lamented that their parents lived double-lives, and they were not supposed to tell anyone. 

Regardless of the challenges we faced, we all knew that we were not alone. That realization changed our lives! Twenty years later, I still keep in touch with friends I met on those PK Retreats. That’s how deep and strong the bond became! 

These retreats helped me realize that I needed to find healthy outlets outside of my parent’s church. I expressed this to my parents, and they suggested I join an additional youth group of a church they knew. I did, and it helped me become the pastor I am today.    

Do you feel like your kids are hurting but that you cannot get through to them? Do you feel like your kids resent the fact that you are in the ministry? Are your kids rebelling against the church? 

If there is not a PK Retreat in your area, perhaps you could help that happen.  If that is not possible, I want to encourage you to reach out to a local pastor or youth pastor that you trust. If you do not know any local pastors (outside of your church), I encourage you to make an effort to network, and get to know some of the pastors in your area. 

Finally, I would like to extend a hand to you, if you are a pastor/parent and you are struggling, I invite you to reach out to me: JohnC@citg.org. I want to pray for you, encourage you, and offer resources. Our communications will be strictly confidential. 

May God bless you and refresh you with encouragement, peace, and joy today, in Jesus name.

A “Sacrament” of Hospitality

the Good Samaritan

By Dr. Teresa Angle-Young

Many years ago, when I was in graduate school at Emory, I took a class called “Systematic Theology.” In the final exam, we were surprised to be asked this question:  If you were to propose a new sacrament for the church, what would it be and why?

I knew, in a second, what my answer would be.  Hospitality!

If I were to add a sacrament to the church doctrine, it would be the sacrament of hospitality.

There is a long tradition of hospitality in the Bible, beginning in Genesis and weaving throughout scripture.  In Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah are blessed with a child after showing generous hospitality to three divine strangers.  Lot, too entertains these divine travelers and in turn, he and his family were offered the chance to flee from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And there are many other examples in the Old Testament where strangers in the land are treated with the same hospitality with which one would treat a beloved friend or relative.

In the New Testament, one of the most moving examples of hospitality is Joseph, the man who is engaged to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Joseph took a divine stranger – Jesus – into his home and raised him as his son.  That was an act of radical hospitality.

But I believe our best example of radical hospitality is Jesus.  Jesus taught about hospitality in his parables and practiced hospitality through his actions.  He even turned water into wine as his first miracle for a wedding host to be able to show hospitality to his guests. We have the parable of the prodigal son.  A man had two sons.  One of them decided to ask for his inheritance early and left the family farm to blow his money on the indulgences of the world.  The other son stayed behind and was a dutiful son, helping the father on the farm and being the model child.  When the prodigal son returned to the farm, expecting to be treated poorly by his family, the father threw a huge party welcoming him home. Jesus taught in the story that it didn’t matter whether or not the son deserved the father’s generosity and hospitality, rather that it was simply the right and loving thing to do to provide the hospitality anyway. In doing so, Jesus revealed a characteristic of God.

This thread of hospitality – irrespective of the status or standing of the guest or stranger – is woven throughout scripture.  So, what is hospitality?

Is hospitality making sure there are chocolates on the pillow and extra toothpaste in the bathroom when you have a guest?  Well, yes and no.  Throughout scripture we see examples of hospitality that include taking care of the physical needs of the guest, such as food and shelter, so it seems we are not to ignore those aspects of care, but particularly with Jesus, hospitality becomes something more, something beyond simple care.  Hospitality becomes healing.  Hospitality becomes life-giving.  Hospitality restores people to wholeness in a myriad of ways, sometimes physically, sometimes socially, sometimes emotionally, sometimes psychologically, and always spiritually.  Hospitality becomes a spiritual tool, and once it becomes a habit, once it is integrated into who we are, it transforms.

In scripture, the Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia (fil-ah-zeen-ee-a), which derives from philo, a word you might recognize from the name Philadelphia, which we know as the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love, and xenia, which means stranger.  So, hospitality in the Bible means, “love of stranger.”  It does not just mean “niceness to stranger.”  It means genuine, selfless, extravagant, full out love of stranger.  When we look back at the Abraham and Sarah story, I think it’s important to note that when the three strangers showed up at Abraham’s tent, Abraham did not begrudgingly go out and find the skinniest calf to serve nor did he tell Sarah to pull out last year’s grain and fry up a cake.  He called for the finest of what he had and prepared a feast.  And so we are called, as the church, God’s representatives in the world, to offer hospitality with enthusiasm, offering up the best of what we have to those around us, not what we have leftover.

But hospitality is more than just sharing food and shelter with others.  In his book “Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life” mystic, monk, and distinguished professor at Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale, Henri Nouwen, said that there are three critical movements in the Christian’s life.  The first involves moving from loneliness to solitude, and the focus is on us as we learn to dwell comfortably in solitude with Christ.  The second is the development of spiritual maturity to move from hostility to hospitality, and of course, the focus in on our relationships with others as we strive to become more like Christ.  That leads to the third spiritual movement, our movement toward God.  Without the first two movements, we cannot make the third move.  So Nouwen argues we must find peace within ourselves, make peace with others and move toward this idea of radical and selfless hospitality before we can truly experience a move toward God. The practice of hospitality brings us closer to God.

And it’s important to exercise this hospitality with whoever comes into our lives.  In other words, just as Abraham and Sarah offered hospitality to the three strangers without quizzing them about their worth and position, and just as Jesus offered love and hospitality to those in the community others would deem as unworthy, we are called to offer our hospitality to those who are before us, whoever they may be.

So how do we do that?  I think we must do what the author of our scripture passage today tells us to do: Love each other as if your life depended on it. Hospitality means opening yourself up and becoming vulnerable, making space for someone that you might not ordinarily allow into your life.  Hospitality means looking past those things that separate us from each other, like dress, and speech, and possessions, and race, politics, and social standing, and seeing others the way Christ sees them, as beloved members of the family of God. Adopting an attitude of hospitality means putting aside your agenda and schedule to listen to the other person, to pay attention to their needs, and to respond to them in a genuine way.

Hospitality is more than a beautiful table or a comfortable bed or a hot cup of soup or a contribution to the food pantry.  Hospitality is making space in your life and in your heart for another person, whether a stranger, a spouse, a child, or a friend, and giving them your time and your attention without resentment – cheerfully, as 1st Peter reminds us.  Hospitality is making the table bigger to accommodate the stranger, and letting yourself be open to the idea that you might, like Abraham and Joseph, be entertaining a divine guest.  Hospitality is the realization in the very depths of your soul that everything we have is a gift from God, and that by sharing what we have, whether meager or abundant, is to be an instrument of God’s grace and mercy in the world.


Supporting Women in Ministry



This page was created to support all clergy. All Clergy! Not just male clergy!

No one should be surprised that we support women in ministry–at all levels of ministry.  This has been our stance from the beginning of our organization. We have frequently posted about our support for clergywomen. Our coaching team is made up of male and female clergy. We are all part of churches and denominations that affirm and celebrate female clergy.

Recently, we posted a beautiful and courageous article about clergywomen by a clergywoman. In response to that post, many hurtful and hostile comments were made about women in ministry. That is unacceptable!

This page was created to challenge, support and equip those seeking to do ministry.  Our Facebook page will not be a forum for those seeking to challenge the right of a woman to do ministry. It is intended to be a safe place for all clergy who are seeking to be transformational leaders.   

In the future, comments that are unsupportive of women in ministry will be hidden or deleted, and those continuing to make such comments may be banned from the page.

We understand that some of you come from traditions that do not believe as we do.  We respect your right to differ.  If you have differing opinions, you are free to share those opinions elsewhere, but not on this page.  If you feel that CcNet is not a page you can support, we understand.  We hope you will stay, but if you choose to leave, the peace of Christ be with you!

If you wish to learn more about the Biblical and theological justification for our support of clergywomen, we encourage you to take the time to read this link from Dr. Craig Keener, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary: https://www.seedbed.com/was-paul-for-or-against-women-in-ministry/

Here is another from Dr. Ben Witherington: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2015/06/02/why-arguments-against-women-in-ministry-arent-biblical/?fbclid=IwAR3ROXa3PhzeuaWk96tHwNthBITs2pFCV2twae0ykNJfIB9tEC6wdccSC_4

If you wish to know more about the abuse clergywomen often experience, check out this video: https://www.episcopalcafe.com/a-short-film-on-the-experiences-of-clergywomen-hertruth-women-in-ministry-break-their-silence/

Or look at the link we shared yesterday: https://leannefriesen.com/2019/02/13/when-youre-a-woman-pastor-and-youre-over-it-already/?fbclid=IwAR3BPT9ye4C7r7TiWvaXwe8nzTtTeGKS9aZP5c6umTd11HOKQYad1p8quzQ

We cannot monitor this page 24/7, but if posts are made that are abusive or unsupportive, we will notice, and we will take the appropriate action.

Thank you!



Pastor-To-Pastor: Let Me Pray For You

Travel Bear

Guest Post by Rev. John Carosiello, a pastor who wants to pray for you!

Deuteronomy 31:6

Being a Pastor can be tough…REALLY tough.

Picture it! The church seems to be thriving; the staff is unified with a shared mission and vision; things seem to be going great! Then, your phone rings. The call is from a border-line irate church member letting you know that the worship music was way too loud this past Sunday, and they are tired of having to deal with it, so they are going to go elsewhere. This is not the first time you’ve received a call like this, and you know that it will not be the last. The irony is that you had another member come up to you after service and complain that the worship was too quiet.  Yep, being a pastor can be tough!

Most church members have little to no knowledge about what it’s like to be a pastor, a pastor’s spouse, or a pastor’s kid – instead, they usually romanticize the private life of a pastor. 

The average church member may imagine you go home on Sunday, sit around the dinner table, say grace, and then discuss deep theological truths as a family over lunch. What they do not know is that your youngest son was just diagnosed with autism while your oldest son is failing most of his classes in Middle School. They do not know that your spouse just had to go on anti-depressants again because of how alone and hopeless they have been feeling lately. They do not see you sitting two blocks away from the church in your car hours before the service on a Sunday morning, having it out with God, wondering if it’s all even worth it.

Is it any wonder that most pastors quit the ministry within their first five years?[1] Should it surprise us to see that the suicide rate is so high among clergy?[2]

Fortunately, we are not alone, at least we don’t have to be. There are pastors all over the world who are experiencing the same things we are, who are feeling the same things we are, who are struggling with the same things we are, so why don’t we reach out? Why do we choose to be alone together instead of together?

Ministry tends to teach us that vulnerability is a dangerous thing, but what if we opened up to other pastors who are just as much in need of encouragement as we are ourselves? Need a pastor friend to love you and pray for your family? Please e-mail me: JohnC@citg.org  I would like to encourage you, not judge you…lift you up, not tear you down…empathize with you and maybe even share some of my struggles.

Being a pastor can be incredibly lonely, and none of us were made to go it alone, and the good news is: We are Not Alone! I look forward to hearing from you!


[1] Dave Earley and Ben Gutiérrez, Ministry Is (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2014).

[2]  Shauna H. Springer, “Suicide Risk Among Pastors and Clergy Members,” Psychology Today, 2018, , accessed February 06, 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/free-range-psychology/201808/suicide-risk-among-pastors-and-clergy-members.


The Challenge of Making Disciples: Four Findings

Diverse Business Group

Dr. Heather Heinzman Lear is the director of evangelism at Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

In her research for her doctor of ministry degree, she focused her research to determine what congregational practices are necessary to help churches fulfil the denominational mission statement: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

She worked with six congregations of various ages, sizes, and geographic locations to determine if there are consistent trends across United Methodist churches in the United States.

She writes:

The lack of a holistic understanding and practice of evangelism was evidenced in the following four findings:

The overwhelming majority of the participants were unable to articulate why Jesus is important in their lives and how offering Christ to another person would benefit their life.

The majority of congregations did not create intentional space for people to practice sharing their faith or foster an environment of authenticity where members felt they could be vulnerable and express struggles. 

The majority of participants could not differentiate good works done by the church from those of a civic organization or non-Christian. 

The majority of participants indicated that their congregations were not known in their community and that mission opportunities were developed based on member preferences instead of community needs.


What are your thoughts about her findings? How do they match your experience, your context or your denomination if it is different from the UMC?

Heather concludes: “We can no longer assume that people who attend church on Sunday have been formed in the faith without creating intentional faith practices and education for all ages and stages of faith. Five of the six churches in my study did not create intentional space for people to share their faith and ask deep, theological questions. They also did not encourage or actively seek to place people in small groups for discipleship and accountability. Finally, congregations need help understanding that their purpose in making disciples is for the transformation of the world.”

What does this suggest to you about what is needed in your personal ministry? What does this suggest to you about what is needed to help you equip others in the ministry of evangelism? What steps can you take this week to begin addressing these four significant findings?

Source: Making Disciples, Obstacles and Opportunities in Urban Congregations. You can find the article here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/irom.12123

Men of Character


By Chris Holmes, guest contributor

In the transition from boyhood to manhood, something deep within our nature shifts -it is gripping, definitely tied to our sexuality, and feels innately wild. This enigmatic hormonal assertiveness wells up and finds healthy expression in intense passion and sexual desire. This drive is divinely created and should be celebrated.

Unrestrained predatory behavior is not organic to manhood or inherent in male character. Abuse, violence, unwanted aggression and sexual assault are grotesque distortions of the healthy male drive and cannot be blamed on hormones or “boys just being boys”. This abhorrent conduct is more often rooted in a distorted sense of male privilege or a misogynist view of women, neither of which are of divine creation.

We men clearly have work to do in reinforcing healthy expressions of manhood and repelling social norms that justify or support abusive male behavior. We must unequivocally state that the line between healthy sexual expression and predatory abuse is not only a clear line, but a wide one, and is not crossed by men of character, no matter how powerful they are or how upstanding they may otherwise seem.