Category Archives: Leadership

From Leader to Leader – A Fearless Movement… Not Just Another Church

by César De León PhD LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

According to the prophesies of John the Revelator, we are not merely a church, we are a movement, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6). A movement doesn’t just have members, only people that are on the move. . . This explains why we are the fastest growing denomination in North America today.  Most denominations in America are declining and they continue to ask the fundamental and existential question: “why are we dying?”  The Seventh-day Adventist Movement, with our unique beliefs such as the Sabbath rest, Old Testament dietary codes, the soon return of Jesus; is asking, “how can we grow faster?”  Our doctrines are challenging the popular constructs of denominational growth and popularity in our times.  With our atypical denominational doctrines—experts reason that we should be fizzing out and eventually disappearing, however we are growing 75% faster than the Mormons, which are the second fastest growing denomination in America. 

 If you are just sitting in one of our church pews today and are not “in movement” because you’re spending your time being a mere member, then you have it all wrong.  We are not merely an alternative denomination, we are God’s remnant people, the tail in a tale of a long list of movements God has used “To keep men calling on the name of the LORD” (Gen. 1:26).

Post modern ideologies and the narrative perspectives of our times which propose that reality does not exist, that truth is relative, that the past does not matter, that the only thing that matters is the “here and now”; can’t understand how the Seventh-day Adventist movement keeps growing.

I saw an angel”, this angel represents a movement made out of people on the move because they have the everlasting gospel, the story of redemption, the Golgotha drama, the story of “Narnia”, that begins with a God that decides to play Russian roulette with his own Son by creating humans beings on this planet, thus begins the sacred testimony, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness (Gen. 1). 

Our story begins with movement, dynamism, creativity.  Fast forward, we find Seventh-day Adventists moving, building a boat, we see a man called Abraham moving far away leaving his country and family because God wanted Abraham to get to know Him better. Good news, indeed! We see Joshua moving his forces all around the promised land, conquering and taking possession of the “good news” territory.  I will give this land for possession to you and your generations forever. Joshua 1: 7-8 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses, My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1)   The people of God throughout generations have been people in movement because they have been recipients of good news. 

Water stagnates when it stops circulating. Mechanical parts rust away when they stop moving. Eli, the priest lost his sons by surrendering to lazy complacent fathering. Whenever God’s people stop moving they lose sight of the mission; they pervert their ways and begin to mirror the nations around them.  Thus, our archenemy constantly works to stop the dynamism of this movement.  There have been pivotal points in our history when the church was supposed to move and did not do so, and the results were dreadful. After listening to the report of the ten spies, the armies of Israel stopped moving and failed to enter the Promised Land, they won themselves a 40-year tour back to the desert.  Forty years later Moses tries again.

1 Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. (Numbers 22)

They found themselves on the side of the Jordan, across from Jericho.  Almost there, ready to cross. Moses is preparing the last detail of the invasion. Leaders and the people are resting, taking “siestas”. Time goes by, day after day the people rest and Satan sees a window of opportunity. 

Balaam told Balak, I know how to stop these people: “If they depart from the divine principles of heaven and if they brake God’s law, they will become vulnerable and then we will be able to stop them. Sure enough, they deployed beautiful Cannanite women, in enticing attire, who invited the men, especially the elders, deacons, departmental directors, secretaries, assistant directors and led them to participate in sexual orgy worship that honored Baal and Ashtoreth. They ended up burning incense to the dead. In other words, they practiced sorcery.

21 And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (Lev.18)

9 “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you. (Deut 18)

Why?  Why is Satan so opposed to God’s people?  Because we give God something He so badly wants . . . adoration, exaltation.  God has something Satan doesn’t have and desires very intensely; your worship, your adoration, and your exaltation.  Satan hates to see God being loved, adored, worshiped, being recognized as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that is why he waged war in heaven. This is why he wages war against you.  Because you love God, Satan will hate you.  Satan hates your love-affair with your Creator, this is why he is coming after you time and again, since he can’t touch God. 

Years ago, I was called to serve in a large church to replace the youth pastor who was leaving.  The group of young people asked me if we could have a farewell party for this pastor who was on the move.  At that time, we had a big pool in our home, so we agreed.  That Sunday there were about two hundred young people at my place. Everybody was having a great time, people were swimming, playing games, eating tacos and enchiladas, when a group of daredevils approached me and asked me if I wanted to join them in throwing the outgoing youth pastor— who was transitioning into another position, into the pool.  I thought for a moment, but not long enough. . . Have you ever kicked yourself for saying yes at times when you know you should have said no? This was one of those time for me. 

The pastor was short, but muscular and strong, and it took eight of us to finally jump him, remove his valuables and throw him into the water. We all felt proud of ourselves. We had conquered the “beast”.  Well, truth be told, a beast is what we saw when my colleague came out of the water.  His eyes were fuming with anger and bitterness.  He was furious . . . we pastors can become furious sometimes, right?  Well, my colleague friend pastor began jumping every member of the group that had thrown him into the water and one by one began to throw each one into the water, without the slightest regard for any valuables such as wallets or watches. Some were holding onto the iron fence around the pool with all their might, but to no avail. They were yanked off with so much fury that they felt their hands and arms were being broken. Once he finished with the rest of the guys, he began looking for me.  I, upon seeing the devastation going on, ran into my house, locked it, went up to the second floor and watched from the window facing the pool.  Suddenly, I saw it.  My poor wife who was innocently passing by, nicely dressed and seven-months pregnant with our younger son, was passing by with a plate of food in each one of her hands. She was picked up— with her new wrist watched that I just had bought her, with the two plates of food in her hands, with my precious son inside her womb, and was thrown into the water. . .  Ooouch. . .!

Satan hates God; but he cannot get to Him, so he will get to you, God’s most wonderful, valuable and precious possession. You are a part of God’s people; you were given the precious Good News that needs to go to all the world and now you’ve got to move with it. Yes, the enemy will come after you, but our Commander in Chief has not left us alone or abandoned us, He said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  We need to keep moving, the Advent movement has a tremendous responsibility towards the inhabitants of planet earth. 

The prophet Isaiah encourages us “1 Arise, shine; For your light has come!  And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.  2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. (Isa. 60:1-2).  All around the world there are people on the move, in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, there are people on the move, in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, San Diego, Houston and Denver, there are people on the move. 

You, child of God, that has been sitting around, arise and shine, you can do it. John saw you getting up and shining and spreading the everlasting gospel to every nation, tribe, tongue and people.  The spreading of the gospel is a reality in the mind of God, it’s a reality in the annals of the history of this earth.  It is a fact, it will happen because it is a precursor to the coming of Christ. Jesus will come again, John wrote:  “I saw a people on the move . . .”  Did John see you?

Comments Off on From Leader to Leader – A Fearless Movement… Not Just Another Church

Filed under Leadership

Why Not Try This – Sick of Being Fat

Pastor Phil White of the Simi Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church had a problem. In his own words, he said, “I was fat, exercise challenged, and not very happy with the road my health was taking.” His wife Jan, had similar concerns, especially when she got the results of a blood test. Phil and Jan decided they wanted to improve their chances of watching their grandchildren grow up. What they did had a spill over effect in their church.

Comments Off on Why Not Try This – Sick of Being Fat

Filed under Changed Lives, Discipline, Health & Temperance, Leadership, Why Not Try This?, Youth Ministry

From Leader to Leader – A Violent Christmas

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8

While most companies await December to see their product sales skyrocket, we mission-focused, disciple-making Adventists understand that Christmas is a season of the year when some more irreligious or secular folk are often a bit more open to the Good News Gospel embedded in the incarnation of the Son of God. 

Last night, during a conversation with our very likeable heating company employee, I tried to play off my surprise as he told me his perspective on how to solve the worrisome condition of our world and culture. It was late, and he had mentioned this was his last call in a non-stop day of house calls, so I offered him a bowl of delicious tortilla soup my wife had just made. As he ate, this 30-something millennial, unabashedly shared that even though he wasn’t a particularly violent man, he and some other like-minded people had determined that they were not going to cross their arms and watch their planet self-destroy just because politicians were too narcissistic to think about anything other than protecting their own personal interests.  When we asked him what that might look like, he openly admitted he didn’t see anything wrong with using violence against any political leaders that were blocking global efforts to sacrifice personal gain in order to “save our planet,” so that our children and grandchildren could aspire to enjoy sustainable lives. We could not believe how calmly and confidently this talented young man had shared his perspective on how to deal with the evils of our day.

The apostle John eloquently described the fundamental purpose for the Son’s incarnation on that clear starry night: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  1 John 3:8. This may sound a bit dramatic at first glance, but I invite you to invest a few thoughtful minutes meditating on the context and implications of this short verse; after all, context is highly relevant.

Here is some context:

“In heaven’s council the hour for the coming of Christ had been determined.  When the great clock of time pointed to that hour, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. . .Providence had directed the movements of nations, and the tide of human impulse and influence, until the world was ripe for the coming of the Deliverer.  The deception of sin had reached its height.  All the agencies for depraving the souls of men had been put in operation.  The Son of God, looking upon the world, beheld the suffering and misery.  With pity He saw how men had become victims of satanic cruelty.  He looked with compassion upon those who were being corrupted, murdered, and lost. . .”   (Desire of Ages, 32-38)

So, Jesus was the epicenter of the heavenly invasion that landed on earth wearing the skin of humanity with a focused mission to destroy all the sin (self)-driven, destructive patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking, relating, behaving and being. . . that were exchanged for the spiritual, emotional, physical and relational love, peace, harmony and contentment experienced by our Edenic parents, before their fall.

It’s hard to imagine that about two thousand years had gone by since the incarnation in Bethlehem.  The deception of sin seems to continue evolving into deeper depravity with each passing generation. Yet, it seems that if ever the time is ripe to share the Good News of Emmanuel—God with us—its today.

“By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. This is the pledge that God will fulfill His word. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven. It is the “Son of man” who shares the throne of the universe. It is the “Son of man” whose name shall be called, “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. The I AM is the Daysman between God and humanity, laying His hand upon both. He who is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” is not ashamed to call us brethren. Hebrews 7:26; 2:11. In Christ the family of earth and the family of heaven are bound together. Christ glorified is our brother. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love.  {DA 25.3}

I invite you to prayerfully consider the following questions for personal reflection:

  1. In what tangible ways Can I add my efforts to join Jesus in destroying the “works of the devil”?
  2. Can I identify the works of the devil in my own life?  What I can do to stop the enemy’s efforts to destroy my life and those around me?
  3. How different would my influence in my home, family, job and community be if I chose to exchange my learned and inherited patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking, relating and being for those renewed by the Spirit?
  4. Am I willing to surrender Emmanuel’s Spirit? Am I willing to give Him ALL of me?

Comments Off on From Leader to Leader – A Violent Christmas

Filed under Leadership

From Leader to Leader – A Good Shepherd Smells Like His Sheep

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

I was a senior in academy trying to decide what to do with my life and what line of study I should pursue the following year.  At that time, I was attending our Adventist School in Costa Rica.  I had sensed a strong called into the ministry when I was younger, maybe 9 or 10.  I remember that I would stay up late at night daydreaming of the day when I would preach to large congregations.  I used to study every pastor that passed by my church, and since it was the Central church of a large metropolitan city, we had many pastors from all levels of our denomination preaching from our pulpit. I used to observe them from head to toe, noticing all the details of their garments, shirts, ties, shoes etc.  You might say I was infatuated with ministry and excited about becoming a pastor someday.  Fast forward to my senior year; I was now uncertain about my call into ministry. Ten years had passed since my ministry daydreams, and now, as an 18-year-old, I kind of wanted to do my own thing.

That’s when out of the blue, one of the school of theology professors invited nine of us senior boys to go camping with him —Talk about investing time with the next generation of pastors. It sounded like a great adventure; camping in the Costa Rican jungles, it couldn’t get any better.  Full of anticipation, we packed and left, just to spend the whole weekend inside our tent, as tropical storms blew in one after another and poured heaps of water on us. However, as we listened to the rain and wind blowing outside, inside the tent, we sat quietly and attentively as our professor brought the books of Timothy to life.  And then it happened, the thrill and excitement of becoming a pastor reappeared right then and there. Listening to our teacher read about Paul’s work and his counsel to the young Timothy made me want to be a part of their team and work for the Lord and make a difference in God’s Kingdom through my life.

I became a pastor; and I have now been in ministry thirty plus years, and like most of us, I have faced numerous peaks and valleys.  I can even remember a time in my ministry when I would pray every night after returning from my church, that the Lord would grant me permission to leave the ministry.  I couldn’t take it any longer.  I would stay out in my driveway, looking at the starry sky, begging the Lord to allow me to leave.  Church ministry posed several challenges and I felt that remaining was detrimental to my health, my ministry and my family life.

God responded: “I want you to smell like your sheep.  Get involved with my children until you love them and are willing to die for them.”  Wow, that was a tall order, but I didn’t have a choice, so instead of continuing to pray to be “set free” from my ministry responsibilities, I started praying that He would give me deep love for my congregation.  I began to spend more time with them seeking ways to better minister to their needs.  Years later, my heart was broken when I had to leave them behind when I accepted another call.  I still tell my wife that if I were to be called back to that church, I would happily return.

Carolann and I were the blessed recipients of a very thoughtful card this week which included the following spiritual nugget written by HMS Richards, Sr.  Upon reading it, we knew it was one of those thoughts that we would copy and place in strategic places around our work and home spaces. We also knew we would have to share it with our extended family of faithful Kingdom-builders in our NPUC and beyond:

By HSM Richards, Sr.

“The Lord has given to every man his work.  It is his business to do it and the devil’s business to hinder him if he can.  So surely as God has given you a work to do, Satan will try to hinder you.  He may present other things more promising, He may allure you by worldly prospects, He may assault you with slander, torment you with false accusations, set you to work defending your character, employ pious persons to lie about you, editors to assail you, and excellent men to slander you.  You may have Pilate and Herod, Annas and Caiaphas all combined against you, and Judas standing by ready to sell you for thirty pieces of silver; and you may wonder why all those things come upon you.  Can you not see that whole thing is brought about through the craft of the devil to draw you off from your work and hinder your obedience to God?

Keep about your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let corporations resolve, let editors publish, let the devil do his worst; but see to it that NOTHING hinders you from fulfilling the work that God has given you.

He has not sent you to make money. He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you to defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood which Satan and his servants may start to peddle.  If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord.

Keep about your work. Let your AIM be as steady as a star.  Let the world brawl and bubble.  You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men, but see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being, until at last you can say, ‘I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.’”

We pray these timeless words of encouragement will revive you if you are weary, renew your hope if yours is under the weather, and will remind you that we are one year closer to hearing the words of our Master: “Enter, you who are blessed by my Father!  Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom.  It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and your stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me. . . whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” Matt. 25:34-36,40; MSG. 

May you continue to experience the abundant grace of the Father over your life, your marriage, your family and your ministry!  You are indeed very appreciated!

Comments Off on From Leader to Leader – A Good Shepherd Smells Like His Sheep

Filed under Leadership

From Leader to Leader – Why Attend Church?

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

You’ve had a long week!

You’re not merely disappointed with yourself for not tying all the loose ends on your upcoming projects, but you are emotionally and physically spent! The last thing you want to do is to get up early on Sabbath morning to join your church family. 

If you weren’t the pastor (or a church leader), what would motivate you—after a long week of increasingly challenging personal, marital, parenting and professional challenges and demands—to arise, get ready and leave the comfort of your home on a Sabbath morning to attend your local church?

In his article entitled “Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense”, Carey Nieuwhof, says: “Increasingly, I’m convinced there’s no point to merely attending. You drive all the way in to connect with three or four songs, hear the message and then head home. All of that you could almost do by yourself in a much more convenient way. Slip on Spotify and grab the message via podcast or on demand and boom, you’re covered.”  (link for full article below)

Indeed, our Adventist members have a growing number of options at their fingertips if all they are seeking is an inspiring worship moment.

I agree with Nieuwhof, who says:

“YOU DON’T ATTEND CHURCH.  YOU ARE THE CHURCH. . . I think being the church has something to do with living your life for Christ, demonstrating God’s love by serving others and sharing your faith with people. That’s very different than consuming church in a back row, which you can just as easily do on your back deck.”

Indeed, just showing up at church weekly does not qualify you as “the body”.  There is a vast difference between being a disciple of Jesus Christ who daily feeds on (meditates) passages then prays for the Spirit’s empowerment to live out His Word in the daily work and leisure movements of life.  We, as spiritual leaders, must pray and ask for divine wisdom on how we might move our members from being consumers to contributing members of the body of Christ.

When my wife and I visit an Adventist Church during our ministry travels, we ask ourselves if we would be compelled to return next week, if we’re guests visiting that church for the first time.  When we are tempted to be too judgmental with our responses, we are compelled to remember that Jesus attended His local synagogue, even though He knew the actual intentions of the hearts of the priests and rabbis. He knew that they had little understanding of the Scriptures and the laws they so compulsively worshipped. He knew the spiritual leaders were plotting ways to make Him disappear . . .permanently; yet He still arose on Sabbath mornings, as was His custom (Luke 4:16) to go to the temple to worship. Jesus is my hero and my example!

Five things we can do to encourage people to come and worship on Sabbaths:

  1. Pray intentionally for the people you notice missing church frequently.
  2. Contact them, via phone or text, during the week to let them know you have missed them (a simple note card can be meaningful for older members).
  3. Offer yourself or an appropriate alternative to meet a felt need (offer a car ride, secure attire, offer to sit next to them etc.)
  4. If and when they show up, ensure they are greeted with warm and authentic joy.
  5. When the service is over, ask them how their experience was and if there is anything else that you can do for them to facilitate their return the following week. Keep praying for them.

Let’s continue to be intentional about asking God for effective ways to teach and inspire our church families about the importance of following Jesus’ example.  Not merely in church attendance—as many may feel content with merely showing up, then leaving without contributing to and interacting with the body. Rather, let’s empower our members to fill their deep spiritual yearnings by feeding on His Word, spending sweet time in the contemplation of radical, salvific sacrifice, and sharing God’s love with someone who needs it.  Let’s disciple our members into seeking and finding deep peace and joy in His presence as He, in turn, refills their parched and weary souls with deep love for Himself, for themselves and for their “neighbors”, both within and without the walls of our sanctuaries.

Recommended Articles:

  1. 7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America
  2. Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense
  3. 10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders are Attending Less Often

Comments Off on From Leader to Leader – Why Attend Church?

Filed under Leadership

From the Desk of the Ministerial Director – Leaders Bleed Too!

“Leaders hurt.  Leaders weep.  Leaders are afraid.  Leaders get knocked down.  Leaders fall down. Leaders bleed. But the best leaders just keep getting up one more time.” If you are needing a “leader booster shot” take a few minutes to read Leaders are Bleeders: Pastors Who Want to Quit by Brian Dodd. Praying you can remind yourselves DAILY that everything you do—motivated by love—really does matter to our Heavenly Commander in Chief!

Comments Off on From the Desk of the Ministerial Director – Leaders Bleed Too!

Filed under Leadership

Why Not Try This? – 4 Things to Do if Your Church Says “No” to Evangelism

What should you do if church leaders show little or no enthusiasm, or even try to roadblock your efforts? Here are four things to do. Read More

Comments Off on Why Not Try This? – 4 Things to Do if Your Church Says “No” to Evangelism

Filed under Leadership, Lifelong Learning, Soul Winning

From Leader to Leader – Evangelism Phobia

(Summary of a Podcast by Gerry Pool)

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

I was listening to a Church Leaders Podcast, with host Jason Day, where he interviewed Gerry Pool, a well-known, outreach strategist, church planter, best-seller author, and lead pastor.

I appreciated Gerry’s simple ideas on how we can embody God’s mission as we reach those in our circle of influence, who need a Savior.  Gerry is best known for shifting church cultures and turning up the evangelistic temperature of its members. 

In this particular episode, Gerry shared why he thinks many churches are struggling with evangelism. He suggests that adopting a multi-generational approach, creating trust among those who are not believers and being intentional about evangelism without seeing unsaved people merely as the end result of a project, is foundational. 

The premise is that most churches are struggling with evangelism.  A majority of churches are rating themselves a “3”—on a scale of 1-10—with some pastors even rating themselves in negative numbers.  Many Christians report they don’t know what their church’s evangelistic expectations even are. Gerry reminds his listeners that evangelistic conversations typically will not take place by chance.  Actually, they tend to take place when we have intentionally prayed and planned to be open to the Spirit’s promptings about who, how and when to have these transformational conversations.

Some people are quick to excuse themselves from evangelistic conversations by arguing that these are not their gift; however, if we are disciples of Jesus, we need to become fishers of men as our divine Master was.  Gerry’s evangelistic approach is organic and natural, but also very intentional.  As he presents his approach to groups, he likes to start with a simple exercise that he recommends as part of evangelism training. After the group is divided in half, one half is asked to: “discuss all the reasons you think non-Christians avoid Christians”.  The other half is asked to “discuss all the reasons Christians avoid non-Christians”.  He gives both groups 15-20 minutes to come up with some bullet points identifying why this mutual avoidant phenomenon exists and what the primary challenges are to engage with non-Christians. 

Gerry believes that many Christian are afraid to witness because they may be asked questions that they don’t know, because they are afraid that their friends will think they just became “projects”, or because they’re afraid of not being politically correct.  On the other hand, non-Christians are often afraid they are going to be judged, preached at, sermonized, not heard, and may even feel devalued in the process.

Gerry developed a strategy to minimize these common obstacles while honoring non-Christians and facilitating engagement in spiritual conversations.  He calls his strategy 3-D-1 and believes that this is a user-friendly framework to help an average Christian feel more comfortable about becoming a mission-focused disciple.

Identify One-life

One person in your sphere of influence who is far from God, someone where you live, work or play; one person that you can pray for and eventually strike a spiritual conversation with. Pick one person that God has put on your heart to reach.  Don’t make him/her “a project”. Be intentional about creating a genuine friendship as you keep in mind that this person really matters to God and therefore, should matter to you. Once you have identified your One-life, you are ready for the 3D’s.

Develop Friendship

Develop an ongoing, authentic, genuine friendship.  This friendship should be intentionally grounded on common interests, with the purpose of developing bridges that will eventually develop trust.

Discover Stories

This is the paradigm shift in evangelism.  Invite Christians to develop the curiosity to discover the stories of their One-life. Ask questions and really listen and understand where people are coming from, which typically is not a Christian perspective. Discover their life stories and explore their life experiences.  The emphasis here is that we, as Christians, need to earn the right to tell our stories by listening and being curious about learning the story of the One-life before we tell our story and share the story of Jesus.  “In other words, seek to understand before you seek to be understood”—explains Gerry.  “You show empathy, learn their perspective, learn to see things through their eyes”.  This develops trust because you learn to care for and deeply value your One-life friend.

Discern Next Step

We ask Christians to pray and rely on the wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit to determine what the next best step to take with your One-life is.  “We ask people to pray—says Gerry—”so based on a person’s story we can discern what is the best next step in their spiritual development.”  Is it to just continue hanging out, or to invite them to dinner, or start Bible studies? Is it an invitation to a small group or church?  Or maybe we’ll be prompted to invite them to accept Jesus into their lives.

This method is an organic, natural way of reaching out to the non-Christians in our spheres of influence without making them feel uncomfortable, judged, or as objects of a project.  As we go through our summer and the rest of this year, can you think of One-person that you can start praying for that you can eventually strike a spiritual conversation with?  Perhaps the focused intentionality in your prayers might change everything; after all, Jesus said “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7,8).  Would you be willing to try out this simple, 3-D-1 method and possibly experience God not only taking away your fear/apprehensions about evangelism, but actually surprising you with unexpected transformational friendships, as you become a joy-filled fisher of men?

Comments Off on From Leader to Leader – Evangelism Phobia

Filed under Leadership

From Leader to Leader – Ezra’s Healthy Dissatisfaction

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

Life dissatisfaction, especially when chronic, results in physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual maladies. Dysphoria, the more clinical term for life discontent, is a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction.  In a psychiatric context dysphoria may accompany depression, anxiety, or agitation. Common reactions to dysphoria include emotional distress and in some cases, even physical distress.

Long term life dissatisfaction is also strongly associated with various mental symptoms such as depression, hopelessness, psychosomatic symptoms, alexithymia, general psychopathology and low concurrent functional ability. Life dissatisfaction, among healthy general population subjects, has also been shown to predict several poor health outcomes such as psychiatric morbidity, depressive symptoms, total mortality, suicides, fatal unintentional injury deaths, and premature work disability due to somatic and psychiatric causes in follow-ups of over a decade.1

Additional symptoms of chronic dissatisfaction include restlessness, needing more of something indefinable and always shifting, feeling like you’re not there yet, but wondering where “there” even is; episodes of yearning for something you can’t quite name, or wondering if there’s more to life than you’re currently living.  However, chronic dissatisfaction (CD) can also be experienced as a healthy and adaptive state of being, that if embraced and used reflectively, can propel one to seek more, or reach further than one who may be experiencing life satisfaction.  In fact, dissatisfaction can be a great motivating force in life. 2

Recently, I was reading the book of Ezra; for a moment I paused and re-considered Ezra’s life and transformational ministry.  “. . .this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given.  The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.” Ezra 7:6; NKJV

“Born of the sons of Aaron, Ezra had been given a priestly training; and in addition to this he had acquired a familiarity with the writings of the magicians, the astrologers, and the wise men of the Medo-Persian realm. But he was not satisfied with his spiritual condition. He longed to be in full harmony with God; he longed for wisdom to carry out the divine will. And so he ‘prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it.’ Ezra 7:10. This led him to apply himself diligently to a study of the history of God’s people, as recorded in the writings of prophets and kings.  He searched the historical and poetical books of the Bible to learn why the Lord had permitted Jerusalem to be destroyed and His people carried captive into a heathen land.”(italics, underline & bold added).3

Ezra was a self-motivated, inspirational, teachable learner. It is notable that he was driven to discover knowledge above and beyond the minimal requirements of the existing priestly training. We are not told he was dissatisfied with his life, career, socio-economic status or with the degree of his influence and popularity.  Actually, instead of focusing his energy on appraising the spiritual condition of his peers, or seeking mind-numbing entertainment, he demonstrated a humility that led him to recognize that his own spiritual condition was not optimal. Ezra’s humility led him to make an accurate, spiritual self-evaluation which qualified him to become a pivotal human instrument to enforce God’s Agenda at that point in history.  “As he learned more and still more concerning God’s dealings with His children and comprehended the sacredness of the law given a Sinai, Ezra’s heart was stirred.  He experienced a new and thorough conversion and determined to master the records of sacred history, that he might use this knowledge to bring blessing and light to his people.” (italics and underline added).4

I was moved to rediscover the other-focused motivation for his dive into deeper learning.  Neither an additional degree of higher learning nor a professional promotion were his motivation. As a Spirit-led scholar, Ezra understood that all knowledge attained must be for the purpose of blessing the objects of God’s love. “God chose Ezra to be an instrument of good to Israel, educating those about him in the principles that govern heaven. . . his principle work was that of a teacher. As he communicated to others the truths he learned, his capacity for labor increasedHe became a man of piety and zeal.  He was the Lord’s witness to the world of the power of Bible truth to ennoble the daily life.” (bold and italics added).5

There is an undeniable mounting disinterest in the reading of God’s Word.  Just eight months ago, CBN News cited a Barna study which showed that most Millennials believe that Bible is ‘just a book’. In reality, today’s younger generation is more disengaged than ever from the Christian faith.  Another recent Barna Group study revealed that only 14 percent of Millennials believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. Additionally, researchers are reporting that both Millennials and Generation Z are more hostile to the holy book than previous generations.6  

What a challenge and opportunity this poses for pastors, teachers and Kingdom builders in varied posts. May we be inspired, like Ezra was, to lead our generation into a “Return to Bible Reading Revival.”    Let’s commit to praying that God will impress us individually with creative ideas to inspire, through word and deed, a reigniting of passionate commitment to reading and meditating on the Word. I don’t know what, how or when the Spirit will impress you; but let’s agree to be swift in following the personalized promptings of the Spirit. Some of us may be impressed to host a weekly, Millennial (or any age) Bible study & dessert night in our home this summer!  Others may have the platform to encourage parents with kids of any age to find creative ways to intentionally insert personal and family Bible reading into this summer’s activities.  Maybe others will host a Bible writing relay—an activity where participants write out sections of the Bible in a relay race fashion. Maybe some of us with children at home for the summer can implement creative family Bible reading activities, maybe even outdoors . . .the sky is the limit! 

During a season when our sons were young, my wife, Carolann had been homeschooling our sons and one of them was having a hard time mastering reading.  He was becoming frustrated with himself as he saw his brother easily reading far above his grade level. It was breaking my wife’s heart to see our son feel so frustrated with himself. We even had him professionally tested to see if there was a learning challenge, we needed to support him with; however, the final report revealed no learning disability that could explain his challenge. One day, after crying out to God for wisdom, my wife says that the Spirit reminded her of the following thought she had read years before: “If the mind is set to the task of studying the Bible for information, the reasoning faculties will be improved.  Under the study of the Scriptures the mind expands and becomes more evenly balanced than if occupied in obtaining general information from the books that are used which have no connection with the Bible.”(bold, underline & italics added)7  

The following day, she felt impressed that it would help our son with his reading block if he were to begin to write out some Bible verses for a few minutes every day—even while he was yet unable to read or comprehend the words he was copying. He was diligent in unhurriedly writing out his daily assigned verses. Lo and behold, one day, only a few weeks into this Bible copying experiment, our son experienced a miraculous, long-awaited, breakthrough in his reading skills.  Just copying the Word seemed to have been the direct response to my wife’s desperate prayer and the supernatural key that unlocked his deferred ability to read. “Why should not this book—this precious treasure—be exalted and esteemed as a valued friend?  This is our chart across the stormy sea of life.  It is our guidebook showing us the way to the eternal mansions and the character we must have to inhabit them.  There is NO BOOK the perusal of which will so elevate and strengthen the mind as the study of the Bible.  Here the intellect will find themes of the most elevated character to call out its powers.  There is nothing that will so endow with vigor all our faculties as bringing them in contact with the stupendous truths of revelation.  The effort to grasp and measure these great thoughts expands the mind.” (bold, italic and underline added).8   Again, EG White reiterates, “The minds of all who make the Word of God their study will enlarge.  Far more than any other study its influence is calculated to increase the powers of comprehension and endow every faculty with a new power.” (italics & underline added)9

I pray that you will catch Ezra’s healthy dissatisfaction, and that God will use you to arouse those in your circles of influence (family, neighbors, co-workers and church family) to recommit to the personal (and/or group/family) reading and meditation of the Living Word.  Consider reading the Word in several different versions. The Message version (MSG)— a compelling, reader friendly version written by a former Hebrew and Greek professor—can be enjoyed by all ages. For others, digging into original Greek and Hebrew may be particularly stimulating. 

You may even consider carving a space during your Sabbath worship for people to share their personal testimonies about how the Bible continues to be a relevant, inspired and transformational volume, inspired by God, that unlike any other book, continues to be a source of personal spiritual growth and development!  Colleagues, let’s re-commit to reading, meditating, preaching, teaching and living out the Word! 


  1. Rissanen et al: Long term life dissatisfaction and subsequent major depressive disorder and poor mental health. BMC Psychiatry 2011 11:140.
  3. White, Ellen G. Prophets and Kings. Nampa, Idaho, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1985.
  4. Et al, 608
  5. Et al, 609
  7. White Ellen G, Mind Character and Personality Vol. 1. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association: 1977.
  8. Et al, 97
  9. Et al, 98

Comments Off on From Leader to Leader – Ezra’s Healthy Dissatisfaction

Filed under Leadership

From Leader to Leader – Suicide Prevention: Because Every Life Matters to God

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It was responsible for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016, with approximately one death every 12 minutes,1 many more people think about or attempt suicide and survive.  In 2016, 9.8 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 2.8 million made a plan and 1.3 million attempted suicide.2 Suicide is a problem throughout the life span and is no respecter religious affiliation.  In 2016 study was done with a beginning hypothesis that results from an earlier study would likely be confirmed, however contrary to earlier findings, in this study involving 321 depressed and bipolar adults, past suicide attempts were more common among depressed patients with a religious affiliation. Additionally, suicide ideation was more severe among depressed patients who said religion is more important, and among those who attend services more frequently. 3 This study’s results make a strong case for encouraging spiritual communities to have open dialogues about depression, suicide and other mental health issues. Incorrectly assuming that church attending Christian youth or adults don’t struggle with suicidal thoughts is simply not true.  

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age, the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54 years of age, and the eighth leading cause among people 55 to 64 years of age. Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age, and other population characteristics, with the highest rates across the life span occurring among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations.Other Americans disproportionately impacted by suicide include Veterans and other military personnel and workers in certain occupational groups. Sexual minority youth bear a large burden as well, and experience increased suicidal ideation and behavior compared to their non-sexual minority peers. 4

If these statistics don’t make you shudder, then allow me to bring it closer to home. Though all states are reporting an increasing rate of suicide in all ages, the state of Oregon is reflecting one of the highest increments, with rates of 28.2% compared with 24% nationwide; 5 In Oregon a person commits suicide every twelve hours 6.   Several other states in the Pacific Northwest have the highest ratios of suicide in the country!  Did you know that the states of Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico are known as the “Alley of Death”? CNN recently reported a study that first appeared in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) indicating that suicide has become the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10-19. 7

A bird’s eye view on suicide could lead one to conclude that most people who attempt suicide, do so because they perceive that life is not going to change, that things are going to get worse and that their problems will only get more complicated. Suicide incidents such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade clearly indicate that fame and fortune are not antidotes against suicide and that people belonging to the elite subclass are not immune to the devastation that suicide leaves behind. Much of the country wondered how a world-renowned chef traveling to exotic parts of the world, eating the finest food on the planet and lounging in the most exclusive hotels could consider ending his life in the quaint, French village of Kaysersberg at the five-star, Le Chambard Hotel. Many also wondered how the acclaimed fashion designer, known for her chic personal and household accessories, who had built a global fashion empire worth $2.4 billion, could hang herself in her New York city apartment while her 13-year-old daughter was at school. 

Suicide is complicated, perplexing and deeply tragic.  As pastors, teachers, and lay Kingdom Builders, I am hoping we will become convicted as to the relevancy of this topic.  Like so many other uncomfortable subjects, this is one that must be addressed more openly and more frequently, from our classrooms and pulpits, if we are to make a dent in this alarming, growing epidemic. Sadly, even many good parents, don’t understand how depression and anxiety are manifested in the lives of their children and adolescents and how these can lead to suicidal ideation if they intensify.  A lack of clear and accurate information is often the reason many parents, teachers and even peers can very well miss the signs and symptoms of a suicidal person. Sadness, anger, irritability, change of demeanor, behavioral changes at home, at school and isolation; can all be red flags that should be identified and explored by not only parents, pastors or teachers, but also by well-informed peers.

Suicide not only impacts the surviving family members negatively, but it commonly leaves behind toxic shame that is frequently experienced by future generations.  Additionally, there is growing evidence that familial and genetic factors contribute to the risk for suicidal behavior. Major psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism and substance abuse, and certain personality disorders (particularly Borderline personality disorder), which run in families, increase the risk for suicidal behavior. 8 Thankfully, these factors are not a death sentence and this doesn’t mean that suicidal behavior is inevitable for individuals with this family history. What it does mean is that such persons may be more vulnerable and should take steps to reduce their risk, such as getting evaluation and treatment at the first sign of mental illness.

M.S. Kaplan, a specialist in the study of suicide has said: “Suicide is an effort to escape an intolerable opinion of one self.” 7 Perhaps this is one of the many complex reasons we are experiencing the alarming increased trend of suicide rates for youth in the United States, 12.7% for females and 7.1% for males.  This actually presents a change in patterns of suicide as the rates of male suicide have traditionally been higher than for females, since suicide data has been collected.  In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women and white males accounted for 69.67% of suicide death in the same year.9  

It is also believed that cyber-bullying may be another factor contributing to the spike in young girls’ suicide, since they tend to visit social media sites more often than their male counterparts, which may make them more susceptible to experiencing an increase in the amount of negative thinking, which can lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors.

Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that “Kids are feeling more pressure to achieve, more pressure in school, and are more worried about making a living than in previous years.” 7  Dr. Beresin believes that these factors alone, may not be so dangerous however, when put together with other factors, can become very lethal.

Another nuance in the tragic reality of suicide among our youth is the fact that girls are consistently using more aggressive means to commit suicide, like hanging or suffocation.10,11   This is just one way young girls are alerting us to the degree of emotional pain and stress they are experiencing in our society. When suicidal ideation saturates their thoughts, they become so convicted that life is not worth living that if they decide to act on their suicidal ideation, their suicide plan has become more lethal than previous generations when girls were more apt to poison themselves or cut their veins as their primary method of choice.12,13

Following is a list of precipitating factors, suicide prevention strategies, how to minister to the suicide victim’s family and other recommendations and resources to help you be a compassionate and competent resource in your ministry circle of influence.

I. Suicide among the youth


  1. Internal factors:
    • High score on the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Test
      1. History of physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse
      2. History of physical, mental and emotional neglect or abandonment
      3. History of emotional trauma
      4. Adverse emotional consequences due to an early onset for use of drugs, alcohol, and/or pornography.  
    • Emotional chaos: Resentment, bitterness, betrayal, bullying, cyberbullying, toxic shame due to negative exposure in social media
    • Emotional disconnection: Few or no friends, a lack of emotional, spiritual or psychological resources
    • Constant battle with a poor self-image
      1. Lack of identity
      2. Lack of community: Few or no intimate, meaningful relationships.
      3. Lack of purpose: Few or no identified life goals or mission
    • Impairment in Mental Health:
      1. Depression
      2. Anxiety
      3. Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder etc.
      4. Psychosis
      5. Psychological dissonance and ambivalence such as: Sexual orientation conflicts, sexual practices that are incongruent with personal or religious beliefs, discord between genetic biology and sexual orientation.
  2. External factors:
    • Emotionally traumatizing events
    • Rejection from: romantic partner, parental, family, friends, peers, social circle
    • Personal losses: romantic partner, friends, relocation, pets, jobs, community
    • Drug and/or alcohol dependence
    • Dependence on pharmaceutic substances, legal or illegal
    • Disloyalty or betrayal from romantic partners, family, friends or co-workers
    • Feelings of vengeance towards someone who has caused pain  
    • Negative impact of media, or social media
      1. Pop-culture models or heroes that commit suicide: Mac Miller, Robin Williams


  1. Change in demeanor: An always cheerful person suddenly becomes withdrawn
    • Deepening depression
    • Anxiety
  2. Self hatred
  3. Self-inflicting wounds: Cutting and other forms of self-harm
  4. Changes in behavioral patterns towards family, friends, & school peers
    • Favorite activities or hobbies no longer hold interest
      1. Listening or playing music, sports, friendships etc.
  5. Significant changes in school performance: grades drop
  6. Physical and emotional distancing from:  Family, friends, romantic partners
  7. Isolation  
  8. Suicidal ideation
  9. Fixation on death or death related issues
  10. Asymptomatic: No overt signs or symptoms


  1. Suicide Prevention Strategies
    • Secure a working knowledge of the relationship dynamics in the home of origin.
    • Secure a working knowledge of the stressing factors in the life of the young person.
    • Seek to be a friend; gain their trust.
    • Evaluate the emotional/psychological condition by assessing for and asking about:  
      1. Suicidal ideation: “Have you been thinking about ending your life?”
      2. Suicide plan: “Do you have a plan in place as to how you will end your life?”
      3. Suicide method: “Exactly how are you planning to end your life?”
    • Be ready to refer the young person to professional counseling.
    • Be ready to call the police so they can “51/50” the person, if necessary.
      1. Encourage the person to voluntarily admit him/herself into a hospital for psychiatric observation and evaluation for 36 hours, but if refuses, call 911 and report you are with a person who is a danger to his/herself.
    • Five steps to help someone in crisis:
      1. Ask—demonstrate empathic curiosity
      2. Keep person safe (don’t leave them alone until they are under supervision)
      3. Keep in mind that one of the greatest gifts you can give is the gift of your caring presence
      4. Help the person to connect with: You, God, a counselor/teacher/pastor, family, friends and/or any other source of emotional support
      5. Make sure to follow up to ensure they sought help or are receiving psychological help
  2. Ministering to the family of a suicide victim
    • Funeral arrangements
      1. Offer your assistance in funeral planning  
      2. Funeral service
        • Assist, if needed, in securing a funeral venue/church facility
        • Assist, if needed, with family member transportation
        • Assist, if needed, with lodging arrangements for traveling relatives
        • Assist with snacks or meals during wake and/or funeral gatherings
    • Personal Visits
      1. Come ready to listen actively
        • Avoid offering “advise”
        • Avoid “preaching” to the hurting family
        • Avoid judging or the use of condemnatory statements
        • Focus on providing the ministry of compassionate presence
      2. Be ready to facilitate an emotional catharsis by providing an escape valve for negative emotions, pain, desperation, bitterness, disillusionment etc.
      3. Primary challenge:  Facilitating a connection between the hurting family and God
        • Invite hurting members to come to God with their hurt, broken and disappointed hearts while being aware your presence and care are a tangible manifestation of God’s comforting presence
      4. Be ready to accompany the hurting family through the five stages of grief (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross): Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & acceptance
    • Offer emotional & spiritual support as needed
      1. Schedule frequent post-funeral visits and/or calls to the family during the next 3-6 months.
      2. Demonstrate empathy: “The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of other individual and to comprehend and share another individual’s emotional state” (The Free Dictionary by Farlex).
      3. Demonstrate compassion, kindness, and love to grieving family members and friends  
    • Offer spiritual care and support
      1. Make appointments to stop by and visit: Mostly listen  
      2. Use Scripture passages carefully and sensibly
        • Share Bible promises, thoughts, books, cards or articles that offer, healing, peace, comfort, encouragement and hope through prayer
      3. Involve the community of believers to pray for the family, to visit, call, share food etc.
      4. Keep in mind that grieving is a highly individual experience. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. How one grieves depends on many factors including one’s culture, personality, coping style, one’s life experience, one’s faith, and how significant the loss was. Professional counseling is often very helpful when death of loved one is a suicide.

II. Suicide among Adults

A. Precipitating factors

  1. Internal factors:
    • A high score in the ACE (Advance Childhood Experiences) Test
      1. Neglect and emotional and or physical abandonment
      2. Trauma
    • Emotional chaos
    • Emotional disconnection and lack of emotional, psychological & spiritual resources
    • A long battle against a poor self-image
      1. Lack of community
      2. Lack of meaning purpose and life mission
    • Impairment in mental health: depression, anxiety, bi-polar, borderline or other personality disorders, psychosis, etc.
  2. External Factors:
    • Loneliness: Recent loss of spouse, relative, close friend or pet
      1. A number of losses, usually in sequence: Personal losses + professional losses + financial losses
    • Divorce or separation
    • Drugs and alcohol abuse
    • Use of legal or illegal pharmaceutic substances
    • An inability to see a better future and a general feeling of hopelessness and helplessness
    • Failing health: chronic or terminal illness, loss or organ or body part
    • Social media Influence
      1. Pop culture role models or personal heroes who commit suicide i.e.: Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Robin Williams 

B. Warning signs

  1. Change in typical demeanor: increased depression or anxiety
  2. Hate for self
  3. Changes in behavioral patterns with spouse, relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors,
    • Loss of interest previously enjoyed activities: hobbies, music, sport, religious or social activities
  4. Physical and emotional distancing from: spouse, family, friends or neighbors 
  5. Social isolation
  6. Suicidal ideation
  7. Fixation on death and death related topics
  8. Asymptomatic: No identifiable symptoms

C. Pastoral Intervention

  1. See section I on suicide among youth

D. Ministering to families of suicide victims

  1. See section I on suicide among youth

III. Suicide Prevention Resources for pastors, teachers, parents & youth:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) OR Text “HOME” to 741741
  • National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices
  • Crisis Connections School Resources
  • Recklessly Alive (website and blog by a once suicidal Christian millennial; great short videos to show at schools & churches for suicide awareness & hope)
  • Cru (Christian website full of testimonies and suicide prevention resources)
  • Suicide Prevention Workshops: at Western Seminary, email
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center (another rich suicide prevention resource specifically for faith communities wanting to do something!)
  • Just Between Us
  • The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Faith, Hope, Life Campaign recognizes the broad range of faiths interested in praying for individuals who may be struggling with suicide or whose lives have been touched by suicide. Click here to download free resources to help your community participate in this event.
  • The National Benevolent Association organizes peer groups for leaders that provide an opportunity to cultivate support and encouragement, mutual dialogue, spiritual renewal, and peer-to-peer learning. The NBA also offers a “Mental Health Initiative and Affinity Group,” which supports the prioritization of mental health and wellness in the life of the church, establishing the necessary awareness and understanding required to counter stigma, and change the landscape of conversation regarding mental illness and disorders within the church.
  • The Center for Courage and Renewal provides programs that give those in ministry roles the opportunity to reflect and reconnect with their calling within an honest and non-judging community.
  • The Soul Care Institute facilitates a two-year journey of a group of peers. Over the course of two years, students will ‘come away from the front lines’ of their ministries, work, and family life in order to engage in retreats that are designed to re-fill their souls for ministry.
  • Gateway to Hope: A comprehensive, interactive training for empowering, educating and equipping clergy and peers with the tools to respond to those in distress and help build a community-based response to the mental health crisis our country faces.
  • Celebrate Recovery offers 12-step healing group programs specifically for members of the clergy

Recommended Reading:

  • “When the darkness will not lift” by John Piper
  • Link to a really insightful article
    “Who Pastors the Pastor? Even Ministers Suffer From Suicidal Thoughts.” by Kay Warren of Saddleback Church
  • Broken Minds: Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You’re Losing It by Steve Bloem (Kregel Publications, 2005)  This book shares a family’s struggle with mental illness while trying to find their place in the body of Christ.  Mental illness can be more subtle and much more prevalent than many expect. Christians who are clinically depressed or have been diagnosed with a mental illness can feel the guilt from Christian leaders who claim their problems are spiritual instead of physical or emotional.  This informative book is both scripturally and clinically sound as it breaks down old perceptions of mental illness and depression and provides hope for healing.
  • Mind Character and Personality” Vol. I, II by E.G. White


  1. CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting system (WISQARS). (2018) Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
  2. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. (2017) Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use & Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from
  4. Stone DM, Holland KM, Bartholow B, Crosby AE, Davis S, Wilkins N. (2017) Preventing Suicide: A technical package of policies, programs, and practices. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  10. Kaplan, M.S., McFarland, B.H., & Huguet, N. (2009). Firearm suicide among veterans in the general population: Findings from the National Violent Death Reporting System. The Journal of Trauma, 67, 503-507.
  11. Curtin SC, Hedegaard H, Minino A, Warner M, Simon T.  QuickStats: suicide rates for teens aged 15-19 years, by sex—United States, 1975-2015.  MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(30):816. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6630a6PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
  12. Curtis SC, Warner M, Hedegaard  H. Increase in suicide in the United States, 1999–2014. Published April 2016. Accessed November 17, 2018. 
  13. Karch DL, Logan J, McDaniel DD, Floyd CF, Vagi KJ.  Precipitating circumstances of suicide among youth aged 10-17 years by sex: data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 states, 2005-2008.  J Adolesc Health. 2013;53(1) (suppl):S51-S53. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.06.028PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

Comments Off on From Leader to Leader – Suicide Prevention: Because Every Life Matters to God

Filed under Leadership