Coping with Depression in the Church with Matt Rogers Part I
I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine. I first met Matt as young man who came to a Sunday Service at New Life Christian Fellowship, better known as [nlcf] on the campus of Virginia Tech (Go Hokies). That was the first church plant (re-start) that I led. Matt stumbled through the doors of our weekly gathering quite depressed, as he talks about in his recent book, Losing God: Clinging to Faith Through Doubt and Depression, published by IVP.
Something about our gathering that kept him coming back. He writes about this in pages 104-107. He says, “The gathering was large – about six hundred students in the first two morning services – and had a youthful vigor I’d not experienced elsewhere. The people were charged with desire, with love for God and for each other. I could see on their faces – young like mine, but happy – that they came willingly, not because of guilt or routine.” He goes on to talk about how the messages by a person I will keep nameless also brought him back.
Okay, maybe I won’t. He writes, “Often I came simply for the pastor’s message. Something about the way JR Woodward spoke made me believe God might possibly love the whole world, not just his preselected few. He might even love me.” You have to get the book to read more about his experience.
OUR FIRST PERSONAL ENCOUNTER
Before making [nlcf] his home, which by the way he co-pastors now, he thought he should meet up with me. So we met at a Cajun restaurant on Main street. He writes, “JR was young, in his middle or late thirties, and quirky, not like any pastor I’d ever met. (It’s always nice to see how people perceive you in a book for all to read, lol). He fidgeted the whole meal yet seemed to catch every word I said.He wasn’t nervous, just full of energy, and he could hardly sit still. At times he rested his right foot on the seat of his chair so that his knee was level with his chin. I had never seen anyone – certainly not a pastor – sit at a table like that.
He was childlike in the way he seemed to lack any air of self-consciousness. And he was intent, absolutely engaged in what I was saying, even as he shifted positions in his seat. I got the feeling that this man loved meeting people and hearing their stories, even dark stories like mine. He was not put off by by doubts. While he did not, in that first encounter, offer any grand solutions to my troubles, he encouraged me, even inviting me to see a movie with him later in the week.”
I share this partly because I want to introduce you to Matt through a piece of his own writing, and because I think that his book on Losing God is one that should be read widely, especially by those who are struggling with depression and doubt. Throughout Losing God Matt shares his personal struggle with doubt and depression, and ways in which he has found healing. When you read the book, and as you join in the conversation with Matt over the next couple of weeks, as he will be my guest blogger, you will see that he is a guy who is honest, vulnerable and has a way with words that brings a sense of healing and hope.
Tomorrow I will put up the introduction to the series, where you can learn about some of the things that Matt is going to address. So come back tomorrow and let a friend or two who may be dealing with doubt or depression know about the series.