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Edith’s Passing, Mental Illness Makes Headlines, Bombing in Boston, and a Papal Dust-Up

Four recent events that matter to your ministry

Consider these recent events and how they might affect your ministry.

The Example of Edith

On Easter Sunday Edith Schaeffer—a woman best known for the L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland she founded with her husband, Francis—died at the age of 98. She wrote more than a dozen books, on topics ranging from biblical womanhood to children and family life to human suffering to music and art. As the wife of a famous husband, she had her own voice and platform for promoting her causes.

She valued beauty and fashion, wearing pearls and Chanel No. 5 unapologetically as she championed the arts at a time when many evangelicals did not take them seriously: "A Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively," she wrote in The Art of Life. "If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation."

As the Her.meneutics tribute notes, she was not the perfect model of a female leader, as her son's books claim she put up with years of abuse and concerned herself with maintaining an outward image of perfection. Her life is a testament to the reality that even imperfect leaders can impact the Kingdom when they consistently point back to a merciful, forgiving, overcoming, loving God.

Depression in the Church

When news of Matthew Warren's suicide hit, reactions ranged from sorrow and sympathy to shock–though both Rick and Kay Warren had spoken of their son's depression in the past, few outside the church seemed aware of the reality of their situation before tragedy struck. Depression and other mental illnesses impact more than a quarter of all Americans each year and certainly are a pressing issue for people in your ministry, either directly or indirectly as loved ones of people who suffer from them.

Continued silence on depression and mental illness in the church will only hurt more people, as ignorance reinforces stigmatization. As a leader, it's your responsibility to open up conversations that help people understand, love, and support their suffering brothers and sisters. Check out this download from the Gifted for Leadership store and this download from our sister site Building Church Leaders. Both will provide an overview of what it means to minister to people in the context of mental illness.

Another lesson from this tragedy? Because Rick Warren is such a public figure, many people felt the need to chime in on what happened and what might have led the son of a prominent public evangelical to take his own life, even in some cases celebrating his pain as a judgment for his views on same-sex marriage. In response Warren tweeted: "Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest. Your notes sustained us."

Boston Marathon Ends in Tragedy

By now you've certainly seen the images, read the reports, and wondered at what kind of evil would lead someone to attack a joyful community event like the Boston Marathon with devastating bombs. In the wake of shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Massachusetts, and approaching the anniversaries of attacks at Columbine, the World Trade Center, Virginia Tech, and more, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of terror.

But what we have already seen, even in the earliest moments when so little was known about what had actually happened, was a large number of people pushing back, identifying the good, pointing to hope in the form of people willing to run into smoke and fire to help others, to finish the marathon and keep running to the hospital to give blood, to refuse to allow one person's actions to define the world in which we live. Surely over the next days and weeks many people will be seeking hope to balance the pain, and this is where we know we have something to offer.

As Christians we know it's not just about, as comedian Patton Oswalt wrote in his much-shared Facebook note, individuals shining their own lights to defeat darkness. For us it's about reflecting the love of a Savior who already has.

New Pope Stirs It Up

Just a few weeks into his official duties, Pope Francis I made headlines during Holy Week when he washed the feet of a Muslim woman at a youth prison in Rome. While many Catholic traditionalists chafed at this break from tradition (no Pope has ever washed the feet of a woman, much less a Muslim, as part of the Holy Week reenactment), others, including many Protestants, cheered his inclusivity as reflective of the true, revolutionary nature of God's love.

While the Catholic church and especially its leadership have for some come to symbolize the scandals of abuse that have wracked the church in recent years, this action reminded many that the church is not about the imperfect individuals who run it but the perfect God they serve, whose only scandal is his love. Pope Francis' actions provide a template for responding to criticism and hate with love, and demonstrate the power of a simple, loving act, one any leader would do well to follow.

Laura Leonard is the associate editor of Building Church Leaders at Christianity Today. You can find her on Twitter @lmarieleonard.

April18, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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