Ed Stetzer on Darrin Patrick’s Death, His Love for Pastors, and How We Need One Another

Image: @Ryan Kwon / KieferPix via Shutterstock

Darrin Patrick has died.

Darrin is probably best known for planting The Journey Church in St. Louis in 2002, eventually growing to six locations. He was a husband, father, speaker, and author.

Darrin and his spiritual mentor Greg Surratt led the Pastor’s Collective podcast and he was serving as a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church.

But, most importantly, Darrin was married to Amie and they have four children.

Darrin’s Journey and Focus

Darrin was very open about his journey—and specifically asked me to help share his story a little over a year ago. His story of leaving the Journey is painful and messy, but he wanted people to know about it.

He wanted people to learn from his pain.

Darrin died from a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.” I know that has caused some people to want more details—to use language that is more precise and to provide added details. And, as you can tell from the statement, the situation is confusing. Seacoast Church shared, ““Darrin was target shooting with a friend at the time of his death. An official cause of death has not been released but it appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No foul play is suspected.”

Thus, it is important to let families communicate the way they are comfortable. Families grieve in complex ways—and right now, they owe nothing to the rest of us. We just owe them our prayers.

The family is grieving and I am respecting their grief and their communication choices.

And, from there, I am going to take Darrin’s admonition from a year ago and fast forward it until now—hoping that even this moment might be a catalyst for pastors to get help that Darrin always wanted them to get.

Darrin and I talked recently and his last text to me (after our call) says, “Let’s do something together!!”

I focused on those two exclamation points for some reason while I cried. We talked about caring for pastors and he ended our conversations with the enthusiasm he often had, particularly as he cared for pastors.

He ended with those exclamation points.

!!

Our Friendship

The journey of our friendship was both fun and life-giving.

We would laugh that our early friendship led to a motion to investigate me from the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. We were in a fight back then, and battles often bring people together. It did then, but that was not the last battle we’d walk through. Years later, we sat and cried together in a St. Louis restaurant after his removal from The Journey Church.

We talked a lot. We cried together more than once.

Since learning of his death, I’ve cried. A lot.

And, I remembered what Darrin’s passion was—helping pastors in hard times. His death has been hard for many of us, coupled with the stress and pain of the times we are in.

So, I’ve thought about pastors and church leaders who are struggling with burnout and mental illness and isolation. A lot.

The only thing I can think of to do right now is to do what Darrin dedicated his last few years to do—to press on through the pain, helping all of us remember that our pastors are not immune to stress, burnout, and mental health issues. To honor Darrin, I want to remind all of us that we don’t have to walk this journey alone.

Do not think his final moment is the last word on his life. He cared about pastors and his death reminds me that we need to care about them as well.

Pastors and leaders are struggling. Many of those pastors and leaders keep silent in their struggles for the sake of their churches, their families, or (at times) even their own pride. Whatever the reason, too many of our leaders are simply not finding the care and resources they need. Many seem to have it all together—but they don’t.

I don’t—and as I write this through tear-clouded eyes, I am guessing you don’t either.

The reality, though, is that our pastors are people who hurt, too, and who don’t have it all together.

And the devastating reality is that the struggles that many have with burnout and mental health are compounded by the COVID-19 crisis. We feel more alone than ever.

To honor Darrin, let me share two important truths I want our churches and leaders to implement immediately and embrace wholly.

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Source: Christianity Today