Jump directly to the content
magcover

Already a subscriber?

Home > 2014 > August Online Only > Growing Grace for Mental Illness

The ministry rise of Brad Hoefs was meteoric, and his collapse was just as sudden. In one confusing episode, he went from successful pastor at one of the fastest growing churches in his denomination to a public disgrace. From family man to family embarrassment. He didn't understand why, and neither did they.

Growing up, Brad had watched his father deal with symptoms of manic-depression. His dad took medication, but the family wasn't supposed to talk about it. Not understanding his family history, Brad, as an adult, spent months taking steroids prescribed by his doctor for a medical condition, not knowing that these steroids could have unfortunate side effects.

Soon after, he began to have times of surging energy, creativity, and nonstop drive. It paid off. King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, rode this wave right along with him, growing from 800 to 3,000 in seven years.

He lived under tremendous stress as pastor of a large church, and he had just endured a long and taxing fight with the city to purchase property that would allow his church to expand.

Ironically, he had never felt more alive. He was invigorated by the challenges. At times he was so inspired, he would go away to a hotel and work day and night, barely sleeping, for four or five days at a time. He would come home with months' worth of work done in five days.

He was riding a wave of enthusiasm and productivity most people could only dream of.

But with this soaring mood came something darker he couldn't name—a sense that he was out of control. He needed grounding, to manage his racing thoughts and emotional flights. So without understanding why, he engaged in bizarre behaviors that seemed to help ground him.

He sped at 80 mph along country roads at night, opened the car door, and touched his foot to the pavement passing by underneath. He visited places where people had been murdered. He went to dangerous locations late at night. The effect of these experiences? "I would feel bad. The guilt would bring me down so I could manage," he said.

Sometimes he drove all night and found himself eating breakfast in another city, with no idea of how he'd arrived, no memory of the previous eight hours.

One night, driving around the city, he stopped to use the bathroom at a public park with a bad reputation. Here, in an incident he remembers too dimly for true recall, his dream life turned to a nightmare in the form of a citation for indecent exposure. Sitting in his car, with a ticket from a police officer in his hand, he felt something he'd never experienced before: a crushing and desperate depression that made him want to end his life. "I was ready to kill myself. I had a plan," he said.

Local media reported on the story of his citation, and his church and the community were shocked.

"For the next three months we basically bled to death," Hoefs says. No one could understand what had happened. Church leaders ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

Amy Simpson is editor of Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership.

Related Topics:CultureEthicsMental HealthSocial Action
From Issue:August (Online-Only), August Online Only 2014 | Posted: August 19, 2014

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating: Not rated

Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

BETSY MAYER

August 21, 2014  4:02am

Thank you for raising awareness of this issue. People who struggle with mental illness are often extremely gifted, yet are marginalized. We really need to know how to encourage them to remain active members of the body of Christ and how to help the rest of us respond to their personal issues with love and common sense. The gift of Christian friendship/fellowship can go a long way in giving people permission to "get help" and yet still remain valued participants.

Report Abuse

Jim VanDuzer

August 19, 2014  3:17pm

Thank you for this article. I was a missions pastor at a church for three years until I have a breakdown and was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. I'm no longer at the church. I'm working on getting better. Thanks for bringing this issue more out in the open!

Report Abuse
Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Reader's Pick
The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill

The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill

What can we learn from the collapse of Mark Driscoll's church?
Sister Sites