Editor’s note: As a follow-up to Rick Warren’s ground-breaking conference on mental health and the Church, CP asked Executive Editor Richard Land to interview Dr. Rebekah Land, his wife and a Christian psychologist with over 40 years’ experience as a therapist, on the conference and to ask her what a new focus on psychological illness might mean for the Church universal. Dr. Rebekah Land has a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy, master’s degrees in social work and pastoral counseling and a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
The conference is online at http://www.mentalhealthandthechurch.com/ and is well worth listening to. But if you don’t have the time right now, this is what Becky Land found after listening:
Dr. Richard Land: This is Dr. Richard Land, executive editor of The Christian Post. I am interviewing my wife, Dr. Rebekah Land, who has a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family and has been a Marriage and Family therapist with for 40+years. First of all, Saddleback Church hosted a conference late last month on Mental Health and the Church. Why have a conference on mental health in the church at all?
Dr. Rebekah Land: As you know there are a lot of hurting people inside and outside of the church, and Rick Warren started out the day by answering that very question. He gave five points which I think were excellent. He pointed out that Jesus himself had a healing ministry, that a third of His ministry was healing.
The second purpose he mentioned is that it would help us remove the stigma that is associated with mental illness. For a long time there has been a lot of shame associated with the term “mental illness.” People are often embarrassed to come forward and acknowledge that they are struggling because they believe it is not okay.
A third purpose is to have church leaders model authenticity themselves. Rick shared a story from his own early ministry, which I had not heard before. In the very early years of his ministry he was practically working around the clock, and he burned himself out to the extent that he actually fainted in the pulpit. He began to struggle with depression, which was in large part caused by being physically worn out. This has given him more sensitivity to emotional and physical issues.
The fourth reason he said was to make churches and individuals more aware of community resources. I thought that was really valuable advice, that all churches should be more aware of the mental health resources available in their own communities in the event their services are needed.
He said the fifth purpose is that we need to stand publicly with those who are suffering. That has been a problem for a long time-people are embarrassed to acknowledge that they struggle. We give the impression that if you just pray, you should be okay. If you are struggling with mental health issues, it is not okay to say so.
Dr. Richard Land: Well, you and I have talked about this many times. There seems to be a segment of the Christian faith that wants to segregate or separate mental illness from other illnesses while there is increasing evidence illustrating that mental health issues are often no different than physical challenges. Taking medication is no different from taking insulin to medicate diabetes. After Rick Warren’s tragic experience of his son’s suicide when he lost a life-long battle with depression, Rick succinctly said, “Your brain chemistry is not your character.”
Dr. Rebekah Land: Yes, and that is absolutely true. The problem is that we cannot look at somebody’s face and see what’s going on inside their skull. We cannot tell if there is actually a physical problem in there. So it is not as simple as saying the right things or thinking the right things because you may do everything you know to do and you still struggle. Rick also said, “Your illness is not your identity. Jesus defines you, not your illness.”
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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Dr. Richard D. Land