[List] Critical resources for understanding faith and mental illness

depression_1-ad78d208bfd0907a122c249a74cd8f6ff184705e-s6-c30Yesterday’s post, “I am Robin Williams” [Link] has really taken off, and it seems that many of us are struggling to understand how faith and depression are related.

Some of us have struggled with depression ourselves and question our own faith or the faith of the church.

Others are married to spouses who struggle and find themselves languishing in a life shared with someone deeply struggling–an experience every bit as painful as being depressed.

Generally, the Christian community struggles to care for those who are deeply suffering. This is, to put it mildly, deeply ironic given how Christians have understood the church over the centuries. Richard Sibbes captured the sentiment when he wrote: “The church of Christ is a common hospital wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or another, so all have some occasion to exercise the spirit of wisdom and meekness” (The Bruised Reed, p. 34).

The church is, by definition, a community of broken people (in every sense of the word) gathered around a broken savior–a savior whose lifeblood was poured out to undo the effects of sin in the world. We very quickly lose sight of this most elemental of beliefs.

I offer these resources as a starting point for those who’d like to dig deeper–both in understanding the disease of depression–its lighter form, melancholgy–as well as the spiritual experience of both. I should note that these books reflect my own theological tastes (generally reformed) and inclinations (some of them are academic–not a big fan of pop psychology).

There are plenty more titles out there so get reading:

  1. The Bruised Reed (1630)
  2. A Place for Weakness (2006)
  3. The Roots of Sorrow: Reflections on Depression and Hope (1986, 2000)
  4. The Theology of Illness (2002) [Academic]
  5. When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in Depression (2012)
  6. Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission (2013)
  7. The Roots of Sorrow: A Pastoral Theology of Suffering (2012) [Academic]
  8. Darkness is My Only Companion (2006)
  9. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures (1965)
  10. When the Darkness will not Lift (2006)
  11. A Lifting Up for the Downcast (1649)

[NOTE: As I have time between appointments, I’ll be adding more links as well as giving a brief blurb about each book]

Five leadership books every pastor should read

ImagePastoral/ministry leadership is one of the most complex types of leadership there is. It combines personal holiness (hopefully), with theological wisdom, and the ability to guide a team toward defined goals. During my time in leadership with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA and now as a senior leader at First Presbyterian Church, I have repeatedly come back to these books to help me to develop as a leader:

  1. Leading Change – If change isn’t happening then you’re not leading; you’re managing. John Kotter’s book provides an excellent overview of the change process and how to move through it. [buy here]
  2. The Advantage – I’ve read this book twice as well as outlined it in the front leaf. Patrick Lencioni shows how organizational (congregational) health trumps everything else. He also provides a road map toward better health. [buy here]
  3. Good to Great  – Jim Collins shows why some companies are able to make while others continually struggle and eventully fail. This is helpful in terms of identifying limiting patterns in the life of a congregation and/or its leadership. [buy here]
  4. The Power of Full Engagement – As a leader as much can be gained by managing your energy as by managing your time. Tony Schwartz provides helpful strategies for managing your energy level so that you always have sufficient focus to deal with the strategic decisions and projects that are central to your work. [buy here]
  5. The Generals –  This masterpiece traces American military leadership from World War II to the present. By profiling key military leaders Thomas Ricks teaches timeless lessons about what good leadership looks like. [buy here]

Resource: If you prefer to read these titles electronically and don’t have a Kindle, make sure you download the Kindle App for your iPhone, iPad, or Android devices for free. You can download it here.