Why Matthew Warren’s story matters
First Word

I’ve interviewed my fair share of American megachurch leaders over the years. Francis Chan was challenging, Rob Bell was controversial, Mark Driscoll was…Mark Driscoll.

But if anyone qualifies as pastor to the megachurch pastors, it is Rick Warren, whose influence upon global evangelicalism is hard to measure. 

When I shared a traditional cream tea with him (and yes, we took the obligatory selfie) he was an upbeat, generous and emotionally available kind of person. In fact, he talked about his grief over the suicide of his youngest son Matthew as if I were a lifelong confidante.

Rick and Kay Warren’s recent willingness to speak publicly about their personal tragedy has lifted the lid on the often-taboo subject of mental illness in the Church. In their words, ‘Everybody knows somebody’ who has been affected by depression. Unfortunately, the Church has often been slow to acknowledge the reality of messy family situations and the emotional havoc that mental illness can wreak. Most churches prefer to tell simple before-and-after testimonies of victorious transformation. The reality is usually more complex.

Notwithstanding the excellent efforts of Christian organisations already working in this area, Rick and Kay’s personal story of losing Matthew will be a massive influence on those who have suffered in silence.

Matthew was a 27-year-old Christian who had led others to Christ. He was also someone who, in a moment of pitch black emotional darkness, used a handgun to end his life.

Life is not simple and our response to the challenges surrounding mental health needs to be seasoned with the same wisdom and honesty shown by Warren: ‘In God’s garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruit.’

Elsewhere in this edition, a lively debate has begun in our feedback pages, responding to last month’s analysis of the split between Steve Chalke’s Oasis Trust and the Evangelical Alliance. It includes a letter from one reader who will be cancelling his subscription to the magazine as a result of our coverage of the controversy.

While believing that everyone is entitled to their opinion (and in case the reader hasn’t yet ceased subscribing), I would restate my comments from last month: I believe Premier Christianity is ‘uniquely positioned to host the ongoing
conversation between Church and society’. Whether it’s mental health or the homosexuality debate, burying our Christian heads in the sand will get us nowhere.



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