Mathew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’’ Amen
The response from my previous article on the place of the church in mental health care got me thinking about the Great Commission as we call it. Most of us are familiar with the first part of this command (Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit) but we don’t really think about what comes next(teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you).
The Great Commission does not end at evangelism and soul winning but continues to discipleship. We are all very passionate about soul winning but less involved when it comes to discipleship. Offering mental health care in the church for new converts can be a great tool for discipleship. Stick with me I’ll explain.
When we go out to win souls we do not discriminate. We call people to accept Jesus into their lives. We open the prayer to all. ‘’Come as you are’’ is a common phrase we use in our open air meetings and other outreach programs. We all know that the gospel is for everyone regardless of what crime they have committed, their state of mind or their past. So we open our arms wide to receive them into the kingdom after pointing them to their wonderful saviour Jesus Christ. We rejoice at their testimonies and sudden transformation and welcome them into the fellowship of believers.
Among those who receive this gift of salvation are criminals, ex- murderers, prostitutes, drunkards, people previously bound in addictions, rapists, ex-convicts, corrupt leaders, ex-homosexuals etc. You can add to the list. Isn’t it amazing that just by hearing the Good News people who couldn’t change before get convicted and now have a chance to start over? What a joy to see lives transformed!
Here is where the irony is. We receive these people into our fellowships and expect them to catch up, feed them together with the rest and hold them up to the same expectations as everyone else. As a result they become retarded in their spiritual growth and slow in their healing process.
Fredrick Douglass said ‘’ it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’’
This is also true when it comes to our spiritual lives. After they have accepted Jesus as their saviour they receive newness of life. This means that they are now spiritual babes. This is the right time to disciple them, shape them spiritually and introduce them into the kingdom culture & mannerisms. This will help them drop their previous thought patterns and adopt the kingdom lifestyle.
In the natural when a child is born they are not just fed with the same food as everyone else. Where I come from mothers don’t mix their newborns’ clothes with the rest of the clothes. It shouldn’t be different for the new believers. We shouldn’t just feed them on what we have been feeding the rest of the flock. We also shouldn’t wait until they are a year or 6months old in the church to enrol them into a discipleship program.
We have a huge gap to fill after we have won souls into the kingdom. It is not enough to win souls. When we leave it at that we have only completed half of the task. We must culture them into this new life. What is the point of wining an addict into the Lord just to have them go back to their old ways 3 months later?
So is mental health care a form of discipleship?
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
As we go out to preach the good news we must also adjust our expectations. We should not be surprised when we receive people that are too broken or some who are considered misfits in the society like ex-convicts with post traumatic mental disorder, addicts with substance use related mental disorders, single parents who are suffering from rejection and depression, children from broken homes, people healed from debilitating sicknesses through the gospel etc.. We should also appreciate that healing is a process. People don’t always get healed instantly.
How then do we show love to these converts?
I have seen and interacted with people who were hurt in the church. They felt rejected in the place where they were supposed to receive acceptance, hurt in the place where they ought to have received healing. On the other hand I have also heard stories of people whose lives were completely transformed in the church. Being in the fellowship of believers facilitated their healing process.
What has created this gap in our local churches?
This gap is not an issue of lack of resources. It is simply due to lack of training and knowledge. We are not equipped to handle and disciple these spiritual babes. We can’t always expect the pastors and senior leaders in the congregation to take up these responsibilities. There is already so much work and responsibilities on their shoulders. I believe these should come from the bottom up. We as the members of the congregation should take this weight off our leaders’ shoulders. I am simply advocating for mental health for all by involving all.
How can we achieve this?
✓Begin ministries or departments in our churches to handle such cases
As I stated earlier, we can’t always expect all initiatives to come from our pastors. We must be ready to fill gaps in the ministry in consultation with our senior leaders. We have all kinds of ministries in the church. What if we had a ministry/department that took care of these converts? Ministers/ deacons/ servants, who receive the new believers into the local church and begin to train them in the ways of the Lord; these ministers train the new believers on how to apply kingdom principles to overcome their life or mental health challenges. The same people find out how their new believers live and their challenges while finding ways to help them adjust to the change that has just happened in their lives.
✓Believers involved in discipleship programs should go through training programs to equip them for this form of ministry
A brother in the Lord shared their story with me one time about how he overcame a mental health issue. He told me that he sought for help from a fellow believer but unfortunately the believer’s response made their illness worse than it was. He therefore thought to himself that he had probably approached the wrong person. I thought to myself, this fellow believer was probably just not well equipped to handle mental health issues.
The new believers should be under no pressure to mask up when they join a local church. We should create an environment for them that will facilitate their healing both mentally and spiritually. We should not be the same people feeding their guilt and insecurities. They should not feel like they have to act in a certain way to be accepted because after all we asked them to come to Jesus as they are! Some of us say the wrong things with pure intentions but we must always remember to someone who is suffering motive/intention counts very little.
For us to be able to help them we must have basic training on how to do these 3 things using God’s word;
We can’t remain ignorant about mental health issues. If you are going to offer help you must also be willing to go through training. We must also be equipped to know when a fellow believer needs to be referred to someone with higher training.
We must begin to see the word of God as a tool we can use to facilitate healing
Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
In my previous article, (How can the church be in the frontline of mental health care?) I explained that mental illnesses are diseases of the mind. In the scripture above we see that it is possible to renew one’s mind. This is why we need to be trained on how we can renew our minds and how to help others renew their minds & thought patterns as well.
The gospel has the ability to heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds, it is able to cure every sickness and disease but only if we share it with those who are suffering. The word of God is able to renew people’s minds and hearts but only if we read and teach it to those who need it the most. Let’s be more deliberate with the gospel. We have been too passive in our involvement in the lives of those who are suffering – Dr Fridah
For those who wish to learn how to care for those with mental health issues or become more involved in shaping new believers to become more like Christ, I would recommend a books like; Caring for People God’s way by Tim Clinton, Archibald Hart, George Ohlschlager and Christian Mindful Manners by
Author: Fridah .W. Wachira, 5th Year medical student (MBChB) at Kenyatta University, Kenya and a medical blogger. Contact; Facebook: Dr Wachira Fridah, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, You Tube channel: Convo with Dr. Fridah and James Wetu.