Pastors are struggling with depression – and for some, it's a losing battle.
Pastor Jim Howard of Real Life Church in Valencia, California, was always quick with a smile, a kind word, and a humorous quip, according to those who knew him well. His co-pastor Rusty George told the megachurch congregation that Howard was open with his close friends that he was struggling with depression:
George: "We didn't know how deep the darkness was inside of his own mind, and he chose to end that season of pain through a very regretful choice for all of us in suicide."
And Howard isn't the only one. A little more than four months earlier, a different Southern California pastor also took his own life. In recent years churches in Florida, Illinois, and Georgia lost pastors to suicide.
Ben Courson is author of the book Optimisfits: Igniting a Fierce Rebellion Against Hopelessness. Coursen says pastors often feel they can't live up to expectations.
"I think there can be a tremendous pressure put on pastors who feel the need to present an image to the world that is all shiny and polished and perfect," the author tells OneNewsNow.
According to Shaeffer Research, 71 percent of pastors say they struggle with burnout and depression on a weekly or daily basis; 77 percent worry about their marriages; and almost 90 percent considered leaving the ministry at some point.
Courson, founder of Hope Generation, says the first step to healing for pastors – or anyone else lost in chronic depression – is to talk about it.
"We don't want to stay defeated in our depression, but we also don't want to be afraid to talk about it," he shates. "And I think the solution is finding friends who we can fully confide in and really express our heart to."
Pastor Jim Howard took his life on January 23, 2019. He had been with Real Life Church for more than three years. (See related story)