No One Knows

This week, we as a family of believers and, even deeper, as a pastoral leadership, have been grieving the passing of pastor Andrew Stoecklein. This hit me so deep because of us being about the same age. He was a husband and dad of 3. His church, Inland Hills in California, is a huge church with thousands of people and growing quickly. He took his life after a battle with anxiety and depression, inside the church that he pastored. This post is to honor pastor Andrew and allow Holy Spirit to use this to bring people out of anxiety and depression.

No one knows the pressures of being a pastor in 2018. Everything you say, the way you preach, the length of your sermons, the way you dress, the way your social media accounts look, your relevancy, the way you respond to "hot topics", the way you lead your family, the way your kids act, the way your church looks, etc. are all put under a microscope and judged, deeply and harshly, by a culture that has become that of "if you don't look like what I think you should look like, I'll leave and go find another flavor."

A pastor's success today is based on growth and speed of growth of their church and their budget. This creates a breeding ground for anxiety, depression, fear, and ultimately, death. We don't know if this was the cause of pastor Andrew's suicide, but I know of countless pastors who fell from their calling due to the unbiblical pressure of grow, grow, grow, quick, quick, quick.

This has to stop. This is not biblical. This is humanism. This is "show."

Church is not about growth, numerically. 

"Gasp!"

Church is about growth, spiritually.

"But what about the book of Acts?"

The book of Acts says, "the LORD added to their number daily."

Maybe the reason we're falling is because we've switched it to "we add to our number daily." The LORD grows His church, not us. Why? Because His intention for you was communion, or closeness, to Him. His intention for your life was never fame, popularity, and striving. The issue is, most pastors put more weight on the amount of people who like them instead of the amount of love whispers they get on a daily basis from their groom (Jesus). I did this for years. It's heavy balancing everyone's preferences and when people tell you something they don't like about you, it's crushing.

If you are a part of any church leadership model that bases success on the amount of people that show up, it's time to have a gut check. That's 100% unbiblical and will cause the kingdom of darkness to run wild in what is supposed to be the pure and spotless bride of Christ. Your church model, if it's biblical, will base all of it's success on "how much of Him can we get?" Don't you hear the freedom in that? You don't have to worry about what your numbers are, STOP COUNTING. You now live to host the presence that is self-described as freedom and peace.

The other thing that will set you free from seeing stories like this happen again is making Holy Spirit manifestation a real encounter in your daily life and in the church. The American church has removed Holy Spirit from it and then wonders why it's not experiencing the fruit of the kingdom. There's a reason Jesus calls Holy Spirit "helper." Without the helper, there is no help. Without help, you're isolated. In isolation, anxiety begins to plant seeds of doubt within you. The baptism of the Holy Spirit isn't just something for a certain denomination, it's something that is required to do biblical, kingdom ministry. "On earth as it is in heaven" cannot happen through something that hasn't been baptized in the Holy Spirit. No one in the New Testament that did anything for the kingdom, did it without being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Think about this, when Jesus (Emmanuel - God with us) was walking on the earth, the disciples of Jesus did ministry. Then, when Jesus is about to ascend into heaven, He tells them to do nothing (wait) until He sends them the Holy Spirit. Then the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens (God IN us) and they go back to doing ministry (all while making their ministerial focus "presence everywhere" NOT growing their brand). So, in other words, no New Testament ministry was done apart from either Jesus (God with us) or Holy Spirit (God in us). Since Jesus is still ascended, this means we cannot do ministry unless we do it with God in us. Until the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens, you're stuck in the "wait" stage. If the disciples had done ministry in the "wait" stage, the early church would have never changed culture. Why? Because apart from God we are nothing, but with God, we are coheirs and the authority over everything.

It took me so long to stop worrying about numbers and opinions of people, but the deeper I get into exclusivity with Jesus, the more freedom I find in living a life of liberty in the ONE THING that truly matters. If you are anxious or have suicidal thoughts, please get help and make your next life move completely centered around your devotion. We've got to get back to the Garden of Eden where our main objective is a walk in the cool of the day. We can't be fruitful and subdue the earth apart from a walk in the cool of the day. Devotion heals everything.

Praying for the family of Andrew Stoecklein and believing God will redeem this story to set people FREE.

Joshua Brown