A few nights ago I was relaxing and watching a little television before bed, and during one of the many commercials I started going through my emails and one, in particular, caught my attention. The headline which jumped off the page read, "Four Months After Giving Birth, Pastor’s Wife Commits Suicide," (you can read the article here). Every time I get an opportunity to share the ministry of Christ-Centered Solutions, I take a few minutes and tell other believers how much stress and strain pastors and their families are under today. There is so much stress that the number of pastors leaving the ministry for reasons other than retirement is mind-boggling. Consider these numbers, "1,500 ministers leave the ministry every month in America, 90% will leave before the age of retirement, and 94% of pastoral families state they feel the pressures of ministry. These are the latest numbers we have from the Fuller Institute and Barna Research 2019, (click here to see the full list).
I know firsthand the struggles of being a pastor, and not only do I know the struggles well but so do my wife and our two sons. A pastor's wife and children are not immune from the difficulties, hurts, pain, and heartache of ministry life. Corner my wife Teresa and ask her about the stress of being a pastor's wife and you no doubt will get an ear full. Of course from a pastor's point of view, I know of the pain many pastors attempt to bury, trying to hide it from themselves and others. And when the stress and struggles become too much to bear, it's easy for suicidal thoughts to slip into our thinking.
Don't get me wrong, there are many, many blessings of being called by God to serve as a pastor in the local church. Throughout our years in the pastorate, Teresa and I can easily recall the names of former members who made our time with them very joyful (Hebrew 13:17). But the reality is that pastors and their families will often suffer in silence, or better yet, secret because of the need to feel almost perfect before their congregants, and sometimes before other pastors (Article: The Curse of Competition). Now, it isn't uncommon for pastors to entertain thoughts of perfectionism, but all too often some members and church leaders help solidify the idea.
Back to the article on Paige Hilken for just a moment. I'm not stating that Paige committed suicide due to some ministry issue she or her husband were experiencing in the church. Clearly, the article points to several health-related issues including her mental health struggles with postpartum depression. My point is that pastors, pastor wives, and their children routinely believe they have no place to turn, or no one they can share their pain with and expect all to remain confidential. Ministry life can be very lonely, and more often than not it's lonely because of deep-seated fears about being removed from the ministry altogether.
If you get nothing else from my rambling here, please get this, pastors and their families need more than a livable wage and our prayers. Pastors and their families need our understanding when they appear frail, they need our friendship, a compassionate heart, and a non-condemning ear to listen. These ministers of grace who devote their lives to loving God's people well are hurting, and I don't want another one to commit suicide or walk away from the ministry because the pain is too great. We need them to walk with us, and they need us to do the same for them. We are our brother's and sister's keepers (1 Peter 3:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9).
If you agree with me that our pastors and their families need our support, would you please commit to helping me and the ministry of Christ-Centered Solutions. We need you to join with us to be a blessing to our pastors and their wives by providing the confidential support they need. Please consider becoming a monthly Ministry Partner with us. Even if you can't become a monthly Ministry Partner at this time you can help by sharing this blog with your pastor, a deacon, or another church leader, and encourage them to contact me about visiting your church to tell other Christians about the ministry of Christ-Centered Solutions.
You can email by clicking here if you'd like to contact me about coming to your church, ministry, or business.
You can also reach me by phone in South Carolina by calling our main office at (843) 829-0970, or in North Carolina at our Wilmington office (910) 399-6714
Lastly, if you or a friend are considering suicide please call Christ-Centered Solutions or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Blessings dear friend,
Several years ago, when my mother-in-law was still alive and living in her home, Teresa and I would try to visit on a regular basis. On these visits we could not help but notice an old yellow dog chained to a stake in the neighbor’s backyard. The old boy did not look malnourished, he always appeared to have water, but he was an angry dog. Teresa and I both felt so sorry for the dog. Day and night he stayed chained to that stake, with a doghouse made from some unpainted plywood next to the stake, and a maple tree a few feet away to provide some shade in the summer and shelter in the winter, he was never free of that chain.
His owner wasn’t breaking any laws, but in my mind, he walked a narrow line (personally, I see no reason in having a dog if that is one's idea of having a pet). On each visit I considered calling the SPCA but what would I tell them that would change the fate of that old dog.
The dog had a vicious bark anytime someone other than his owner came near to him. There were times I would be out back, and I wanted to approach him hoping to comfort him in some way, but I could never get close enough to do so. He was just angry and agitated anytime I approached.
As I thought about his life of confinement, I suppose there was a sense of safety in his bonds. Truthfully, his enslavement and his master were the only things he knew of this world. He had learned to live with his chains and the changing seasons under the maple tree.
I think something similar happens to some in the world in which we live. I’ve seen such spiritual and mental enslavement in my many years of ministry, and frankly, I can think of seasons in my life when I too have felt the coldness of chains binding me, metaphorically of course.
There are times in life when trials and tribulations have us so tied up inwardly that we lash out at all who approach seeking to help free us. Perhaps we rail against such individuals because the idea of someone coming near is a belief that the one approaching brings only more pain and sorrow into our lives. Yet, like that old dog, maybe it is that we have just become comfortable in a state of bondage, and we believe life will never be better than it is presently.
Throughout my pastoral ministry, and even in my ministry with Christ-Centered Solutions now, I see individuals who are bound, enslaved in their sins, and unwilling to take the steps necessary to break free. Then there are others who walk into my office and realize they have believed the lies which have held them captive for years, but now they want nothing more than to be free. Isn’t that how we were before our conversion, that is, those of us who have surrendered to Christ?
In Romans 7:24 the Apostle Paul spoke of his own struggles by asking the question, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Then in verse 25 of chapter 7 and into chapter 8 he shares the solution to the bondage of sin and the lies she spins – it is in and through Christ Who frees the believer. I love his words in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is no judgment that can be brought against the one who is IN Christ, for He has set you free!
One of the greatest privileges as a pastor, and as a Biblical counselor is to share the Gospel of Christ with those who are lost and who then surrender to Him as Savior and Lord. The second greatest privilege is reminding believers their identity is in Christ, the One to whom they belong, and the One Who provides their freedom for all eternity.
I beg you to pray for CCS and me, I also beg you to pray about supporting the ministry of CCS on a monthly basis with an offering of any amount. Those who are in bondage need your help. Please visit www.christcenteredsolutions.org to make a tax deductible donation, to learn more about the ministry, or schedule an appointment.
P.S. On one of my last visits to my mothers-in-law’s home, and after her passing, I did call the SPCA, but to what good it did for the dog I couldn’t tell you.
The actual title of my story is, "Resilience: A Testimony Of God's Grace And Healing." Credit for the title goes to my doctor Melissa Milanak of MUSC. In this video, I share my childhood story of growing up in a physically and sexually abusive situation. I also talk about the emotional trauma and living with PTSD for almost 50 years before really starting the healing process with a Christian therapist. Visit my YouTube page for the Q&A session I have with Dr. Milanak where we discuss the steps taken toward healing and their connection to my faith in Christ.
If you'd like to download this video to share with others at no cost, please visit the resource page on my ministry website at www.christcenteredsolutions.org.
This is my story, my testimony of coming to Christ and living with PTSD. It's my prayer that others who suffer from PTSD will hear this story and seek Christ and the help they may need to overcome their own pain and suffering. Please visit the resource page at www.christcenteredsolutions.org to receive a copy of "Resilience: A Testimony of God's Grace & Healing."
This book was developed from several years of writings for my blog "Just Thinking," and answering questions from former church members and clients presented through my years in ministry. So, this work isn't meant to be an exhaustive study on marriage and family issues, rather it is to serve as a quick help and maybe a conversation starter for small groups and Sunday school classes.
Some of the chapter headings are:
There are a few more chapters as well but this is an easy, and I believe, a helpful read.
Please know that when you purchase this book you're helping others receive the biblical assistance they're looking for through Christ-Centered Solutions. All funds go directly back into the ministry.
I’m fifty-five years old and for almost fifty years I’ve lived with fear, shame, anger, and more because of the acts of violence and abuse experienced in my childhood. Through many difficult events I learned various coping skills in order to maintain a sense of control and sanity. One of those skills has been the ability to cover or mask my true feelings, and I have often employed this skill to avoid being hurt anymore than I had been already. Vulnerability and trusting others aren’t my strongest attributes, even now as I’m beginning to open up more than ever before and share my story. For the longest time I thought, “No one will understand unless what happened to me also happened to them.” I felt so alone, and I added to that loneliness by isolating myself more and more with the belief that physical and sexual abuse was rare for little boys, but that my friend is a false belief.
Here are some numbers to keep in mind as your feet hit the floor in the morning. About 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Broken down by gender those numbers are approximately 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 25 boys who will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and typically by someone they know. What’s most shocking is that these numbers are based on reported cases only, the real number is much higher because many people, like me, never reported the abuse. It’s not until years later when we’re no longer able to hide what happened that the stories begin to be told. So, when I recently read about the sexual abuse of 700 children over a twenty-year period in Southern Baptist Churches, I really wasn’t shocked, and I wish I had been. Some may feel the need to begin a defense of the SBC by saying this is a small percentage out of the 46,000 churches associated with the SBC and I would simply say, “there is no defense.” As a pastor, and as a victim, I realize we really need to do more to protect the most helpless and innocent in our care.
In the last two days I’ve read and listen to several stories of parents whose children were abused by those in leadership, and I’m a bit numb. These are stories of children who have been changed forever because of the abuse they experienced. Many of these kids grew up self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, some attempted suicide while others were successful. Let me just say I can identify, and these are some of the reasons I began Christ-Centered Solutions near the end of last year. I want to help. I believe there are many still living in the shadows of shame who want to seek help but are afraid to step out and take the risk. To be frank with you, I’m terrified of even putting this blog online. I’m terrified of sharing the fullness of my own story in a few weeks when it will be available on DVD, and part of the reason why is because I know once it’s out there’s no taking it back. I also know that confronting the darkness and sharing with others is the only way to take the power of the secrets away. Isn’t that what we do when we surrender to Christ? We come out of the darkness and into His light, laying our shame and guilt at the foot of His cross. There is power and life in Christ Jesus.
There are many other Christians and non-Christians we need to help also. Christian couples aren’t immune from martial issues and many are seeking sound biblical counsel, this includes young couples in need of premarital counseling. There’s also another group I’m really concerned for and that’s other pastors. There’s a growing problem of ministry burnout among this group, but what’s even more disturbing is the increase of suicides among pastors. Rarely does a week pass that I don’t read of a pastor, who seemingly has his act together, and shocks the Christian world when they hear he has taken his life. There is much work to be done in our churches to help both ministers and laity.
Listen, I need your help, Christ-Centered Solutions needs your help. For CCS to grow as a ministry and help others we need the financial support of Christians who believe it’s our duty to counsel and minister to other believers in need. In our first four months of operation we’ve provided 143 hours of Biblical counseling and almost all has been at a reduced or free rate, and just so you know, I’m not receiving any compensation for the care provided, yet we do have costs. Some of our funds have aided several families in need of food, housing, and clothing because there was nowhere else to turn at the time. Other costs are simply associated with starting a new ministry. We have legal and processing cost, website, supplies, ministry projects like the “My Story” video, printing teachable materials, and other costs.
I’m praying some folks like you will consider becoming a monthly supporter of this Biblical counseling and training ministry. Can you possibly afford $100 a month? How about $50, or any amount per month to help CCS help others? If you can’t, I understand, but please consider maybe a one-time gift to help get us on solid ground. You need to know that CCS is incorporated and registered with the State of South Carolina as a charitable organization. We are also in the process with our lawyers to present, and hopefully, to obtain our nonprofit status with the IRS. Once we are given nonprofit status then all funds which have been donated for up to 27 months can be retroactively deducted on your tax returns. Please visit Christ-Centered Solutions web page and help support this ministry. Once on the website simply click the “Giving Tab” and fill in your information. You’ll have an opportunity once on the giving page to choose a one time or monthly option when giving. Let me also inform you to ignore the “Login Here” button at the top of the page unless you’ve given before and would like to change something on your account.
Before I go, let me ask two more things of you. 1) Please share this ministry with your pastor or church leaders so I might have the opportunity to tell them more about how Christ-Centered Solutions can help them and their congregations, and 2) please commit to pray for me and this ministry.
A couple of months back, you may remember having received a ministry update from me saying I’d soon again be writing my blogs, and that’s still the plan. My goal for writing has always been to inform and equip Christians how to examine the culture we live in, and with the hope of that what I write helps each believer on a practical level while bringing glory to God. Now, in conjunction with my writing I also hope to add my thirty years of experience as a pastor and a biblical counselor into the mix. I truly desire to help to the Christian community as much as I possibly can before God calls me home. So, I’m in the process of making some changes. My “Just Thinking” blog is now connected to a new ministry known as “Christ-Centered Solutions Inc.” This new ministry has been in development for a long time, and I would go so far as to say it has always been a major part of every ministry I’ve been involved with throughout the years.
Back in the early eighties, when I was at Liberty University, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, or so I thought. I was going to graduate in 1986, get a job to support my new family, and attend graduate school to become a Christian clinical psychologist. I was going to help others while secretly “fixing” myself too, (I’ll share this part of the story in another letter/blog to come). I did find a job in the mental health system of North Carolina and shortly thereafter I began attending graduate classes at ASU in Boone, yet things were not right in my life. Long story short, my life and family began to fall apart, and after about two years of suffering I surrendered to what I believed to be God’s call to the ministry. I eventually ended up in seminary at Piedmont Bible College in Winston Salem, NC, and a few years later I finished my courses online while pastoring Ebenezer Baptist Church near the Outer Banks.
Let’s go back just a little. While taking classes at Piedmont, and pastoring a small church in the foothills, I was also working part-time in the Wilkes County school system, writing and carrying out behavior modification programs for troubled kids. No matter where I was or what I was doing, counseling in some form was always a part of my work and ministry. I was working with kids and teachers during the day and church folks at all other times. From the mountains of NC to the Outer Banks, and from Wilmington to North Charleston, I have constantly been asked to put my biblical counseling skills into practice. I’ve come to accept these skills and abilities as a gift from God, they certainly fit well with my gift of shepherding. I’ve had the privilege of teaching biblical counseling classes to groups at different churches for pastor friends, seminary level course in pastoral care for schools and organizations, and all the while ministering one on one as a biblical counselor to my congregants and others.
On August 1, 2018, I officially began the ministry of Christ-Centered Solutions Inc., here in North Charleston, SC. Teresa and I have had many conversations about our future in ministry during the last few years, and I came to the conclusion in 2017 that now was the time to begin forming what would become CCS. From my own personal struggles and to the many other problems and issues believers continue to share with me each week, now is the time for this type of ministry.
There’s another reason as well; almost daily I read of pastors having moral failures, struggling with their past, leaving wives and families, and most disturbing – committing suicide because they believe they have no one to turn to. Pastors need pastors too. We need a confidant, other than our wives, who will listen to us with compassion, while at the same time shooting straight with us, holding us accountable to God’s standards and call in our lives. The life of a pastor can be very lonely and discouraging, and I speak of this truth first hand.
CCS IS LEGIT
Christ-Centered Solutions is incorporated by the state of South Carolina, identified as a ministry, and we are currently waiting for the approval of our nonprofit status with the IRS. We also have a Board of Directors who hold me and the ministry of CCS accountable. Our directors are:
I serve as the Board Chairman, and Teresa serves as the Treasurer of the corporation.
THE AIM & WORK OF THE MINISTRY
The focus of ministry at Christ-Centered Solutions can best be summed up by the words of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:28, (CCS ministry verse). I, and those who will serve with me in this ministry, will proclaim Christ though the counseling and teaching of God’s Word, with the hope that all believers will reach spiritual maturity in Christ.
The word translated as “admonish” or “warn” in Colossians 1:28 is “noutheteo” which means to “counsel.” Much like Jay Adams, Dr. John MacArthur, and others, I believe Christians have a responsibility to provide biblically based, Christ-centered counseling to other Christians. As a pastor, I have seen all too often where another pastor felt ill equipped to counsel someone from his own congregation and ended up sending his member to a non-Christian therapist or counselor. While this may work at times, I hold to the belief that the best help for Christians is found in another believer who also holds to a biblical worldview. Every counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and social worker operates from some sort of philosophical worldview that almost always is in opposition to the Scriptures, and therefore Christians need Christ-centered helpers to aid them both spiritually and emotionally.
So, to be of the greatest help, CCS has four primary areas of ministry.
At present, I’m writing my story of abuse and PTSD. I’ve also recently worked with a film producer here in the Charleston area to get my story out to others. We have one more recording session set for early February, and we’re hoping this short film will be available by the end March 2019.
HELP IS NEEDED
Christ-Centered Solutions is like every other ministry, it is dependent on the generosity of others. In order to help as many Christians, pastors, and congregations as possible we need your help. Would you take a moment to pray and consider helping CCS? If, after praying you are led to help us, please visit our ministry website and give what you’re able to give. Simply click the website link www.christcenteredsolutions.org and go to the menu tab where you’ll see a tab for “Giving.” On the “Giving Page” you’ll be asked for your information and you can give through your checking account or by card, and for every gift of $50 dollars or more you will receive a copy of “My Story of PTSD” on DVD when it’s released. I’d also like to ask that you consider becoming a monthly supporter, and when you do, I’ll send you both the DVD and an e-copy of my book when it’s released. You can select to become a monthly supporter on the same “Giving Page.”
I’d like to ask one more favor of you, and that is will you consider having me come and share my story and vision with your church or small group? As a bonus, when I come, I’ll bring Luna, my service dog if it’s okay, and I’ll share her story and the importance she plays in my life today.
Christian, husband, father, pastor2pastors, biblical counselor, author, friend, and lover of God & His Word!
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