California megachurch pastor Jim Howard died by suicide last week, according to a statement released by Real Life Church (RLC) on Facebook.
“It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm we suffered a tragic loss on our church staff this week,” lead pastor Rusty George wrote in the statement. “Sadly, Jim suffered in private with mental health challenges… This week he made the tragic decision to end his pain.”
The pastor went on to share how important Howard was to the congregation:
As all of us who knew Jim can attest, he was a wonderful man with a deep love for Jesus and a passion for sharing the grace of God with anyone he met… He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, the RLC family and all those who were blessed to know him.⠀
It’s common for people to believe pastors or other authority figures “don’t struggle” or “have it all together,” but it’s important to remember pastors are real people with real struggles too.⠀
Howard, who was open about his mental health struggles with the congregation, isn’t the only pastor to have struggled with suicidal thoughts.
Mighty contributor and former pastor Steve Austin wrote about his experience in his piece, “I’m a Pastor, but Faith Didn’t Stop Me From Attempting Suicide.” He wrote:
I was released from ICU and immediately transferred to the psych ward. The psych ward. Me. The former worship leader. The youth pastor. The Christian radio host. The blogger. The ministry school graduate. The father. The husband. The outgoing one. The friendly one. The upbeat one. Me. I was sitting in a wheelchair, headed to the psych ward, and I stayed there for several days.
It doesn’t matter who you are — anyone can struggle with their mental health. If you are a pastor or Christian struggling with suicidal thoughts, you’re not alone, and your struggles don’t make you less of a Christian. If you are struggling, please reach out to a trusted loved one, and check out our list of suicide prevention resources. Recovery is possible, and help is available.
Austin credits his recovery to connecting with others. He wrote:
In the past four years, the power of vulnerability, courage and grace have made my life better, but it hasn’t happened in a vacuum. Transformation has come from connecting with other people through our brokenness, not in spite of it. This is exactly how I connect with faith today. Being willing to own my story and giving other people permission to own their’s is saving my life every day.
If this news is hard for you, know you are not alone. If you need support or want to connect with people who have been there, post a Thought or Question on The Mighty with the hashtag, #CheckInWithMe. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.