Watch Video Interview Here!!!
“We were made for community. It’s not a defect,” Pastor D shares candidly as he reflects on his own personal struggles with discouragement and depression.
Do you remember when God first called you to train pastors? For some, it may have been a Damascus Road encounter … for others, it may have been a real need you experienced personally, as it was for Pastor D. In the painful desert seasons, Pastor D was surrounded by fellow pastors who took the time to walk alongside him in the healing process as he endured years of depression. Today, he has authored training materials that have helped strengthen pastors through a focus on the pastoring of pastors, discipling and multiplying leaders and developing healthy small groups.
We interviewed this servant of God as he shared candidly about how to help pastors become healthy, as well as a pastor’s need for community. Pastor D’s transparency is both humbling and inspiring as he recounts personal battles and how the pastors who surrounded him helped to shape his ministry and training goals today. May you be encouraged as you watch!
Read on for email interview with Pastor D below:
GProCommission: What is your definition of a healthy pastor?
Pastor D: Healthy pastor, pastored pastor! Alone, no!
Bigger definition: healthy relationally, living fully in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
In my book The Leader that Shines, the subtitle is “Seven Relationships That Lead to Excellence.” The seven relationships are with 1) God; 2) oneself; 3) one’s family; 4) a pastoral group; 5) a ministry team; 6) a mentor, pastoral leader or discipler; and 7) intimate friends.
GProCommission: What three things does a pastor need to be healthy?
Pastor D: All seven of those relationships are key to a pastor’s health. We particularly highlight three of them as being where a Kingdom or discipling culture is established. Culture flows in small groups and three of those relationships have to do with small groups:
GProCommission: What is your greatest challenge in training pastors?
Pastor D: A. Establishing a movement. This begins with a work of God’s Spirit on the divine side and with finding the movement leader on the human side. So on the divine side, discerning what God is doing and not trying to move ahead if He is not moving. On the human side, finding this John Knox with the passion of “Give me Scotland, or I die.”
GProCommission: What happened when God called you to train the pastors in Brazil?
Pastor D: I was born and raised in Bolivia with missionary parents. I grew up having a missionary calling. It was, however, a dramatic surprise to be called to Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country. That calling happened in June 1984. What happened after that was threefold:
GProCommission: When did you realize it was your personal calling to help pastors become healthy?
Pastor D: A. My first experience was as a one-year short-term missionary in Bolivia when I was 21. Since I had a master’s, I was asked to teach in our Bible Seminary and help on retreats for pastors and elders in different cities. My principal passion was discipling, due to spending three days with Howard Hendricks as he ministered on that subject a year earlier.
GProCommission: What is your role currently in making pastors healthy?
Pastor D: A. It’s probably worth commenting that no one makes pastors healthy, not even God. It is a deep choice on each pastor’s part to choose to be healthy, choose to be a genuine disciple who is ever-learning and growing and choose to disciple others.
GProCommission: Share who it was that was instrumental in the healing process for you when you had been hurt by church leadership and were struggling with depression.
Pastor D: A. God used a number of people, but two stand out right now. The first is Brother N who was the leader of a movement called the Alliance for Renewal Churches out of Mansfield, Ohio. I came home from a trip to find my wife weeping, handing me a ten-page type-written prophecy denouncing what a terrible person I was, written by one of our church members and distributed in my absence to a number of people in the church. By God’s providence, Brother N was bringing his daughter to see Wheaton College and stayed with us the next night. As a pastor of pastors, God used Ray to carry us in those first agonizing moments. I lost my pastorate and the church of my dreams that I had helped found and went into a five-year depression. A year and a half later, Ray oversaw my moving to be a member of one of the ARC churches in Port Huron, Michigan.
GProCommission: Describe your personal path to becoming a healthier pastor.
Pastor D: I am a visionary and a dreamer. As a result, I am especially vulnerable to depression. I have had five major depressions, each triggered by my dreams failing. In the darkness of those times, God had some major breaking to do in me, taking out my pride and building His character and heart and mind. The last of these was a year long depression that began in December 2008. My daughter Karis came out of the hospital and went back in the next day. That had happened countless times, but this time something broke inside of me. I realized she would always be dependent on the transplant hospital and the doctors there. My wife Debbie would not be returning to Brazil as I always thought she would and I would have to leave Brazil to live with Karis and Debbie in Pittsburgh, the world center for intestinal transplants.
Let me briefly comment on three special moments in that year.