From “Falling Apart” to Praising God: A Pastor Reflects on His Experience with Ministerial Relief

This following article was written by a PCA Pastor who receives monthly financial assistance through the Ministerial Relief Fund. Gifts to the Ministerial Relief Fund serve dozens of PCA pastors, widows, and ministry workers each month. 

I used to think of Ministerial Relief as a ministry that only provided for widows requiring critical assistance. Every year, I encouraged our congregation to give enthusiastically to it, never imagining my wife and I would one day be beneficiaries of the generosity of God’s people in the PCA. 

For over three decades, the Lord sustained me in ministry in spite of a long battle with chronic illness and recurrent depression. I praise God for the ways he used both physical and mental illness to humble me, increase my dependence upon his Spirit, and ultimately make me a more Christ-like, compassionate pastor. 

It’s difficult to describe the mental and emotional toll depression can take unless you’ve experienced it yourself. I suspect there are a number of pastors and servants in the church who struggle with depression, just as some of our members do. Surely this is one reason why God allows such afflictions, so we can better understand and minister to those whom we serve—offering the hope and comfort we ourselves have received from God.  

 

“I felt like I was falling apart.”

 

Though blessed with a spirit of endurance from the Lord, a steady decline over a period of years punctuated by debilitating episodes eventually led me to step down as senior pastor. Our church family honored me with emeritus status and provided for us for a brief season. My wife worked, and we drew from the little we had in retirement at the time. 

But we soon found ourselves in a precarious financial situation. My treatment lost its former efficacy, and as a result, I was unable to think or function normally. I felt like I was falling apart. My condition was also exacerbated by renewed physical complications. 

Naturally, the bills started piling up. It became clear the trajectory we were on would put us out on the street. While speaking to the dear folks at RBI on another matter, someone familiar with our situation suggested I apply for assistance from Ministerial Relief. This was never an option I entertained originally, but in God’s good providence it turned out to be a lifeline. 

 

“It is not an exaggeration to say [Ministerial Relief] made all the difference in the world.” 

 

It is not an exaggeration to say it made all the difference in the world. Words fail to convey how thankful we are to God and his people in the PCA for the relief we received at such a crucial juncture. This supplemental support has given me breathing room to rise from the depths and find work in contexts where I can use my gifts and experience. 

We are exceedingly grateful for the generous PCA churches who have made this possible. Above all, this has resulted in praise and glory to God, just as the Apostle Paul stated: “For the ministry of this service [of giving] is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Cor 9:10)

 

“We will never forget this concrete expression of God’s goodness through Christ’s church. But more importantly, God will not forget.”

 

This “relief of the saints” administered by RBI provides not only for widows of ministers but also for widowers in need of special support. And then there are others who are disabled, ill, or require emergency assistance. Most of these dear saints require long-term assistance, while others simply need aid for a season until they get back on their feet. 

My wife and I will never forget this concrete expression of God’s goodness through Christ’s church. But more importantly, God will not forget. May pastors and sessions remind their congregations of this promise as they encourage them to give generously to the Ministerial Relief Fund: your present sacrifices are laying a good foundation for your eternal future, for “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Heb 6:10)

To learn more about Ministerial Relief, visit pcarbi.org/relief. To make a donation to the Ministerial Relief Fund, visit pcarbi.org/donate.

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