Bishop's Message

The Church and Mental health

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Mt 9:12 NIV)

 Whenever we don’t feel well in any part of our body, it is very normal for us to seek the help of a doctor. In the same way, if we suspect that there may be a psychological or mental health issue, then the right thing to do is to seek the attention of a specialist or psychologist or counsellor. Whenever anyone has a need and turns to the pastor for counselling or consultation or prayer, it is a good thing to recognise the need, and the pastor should accede to the request.

Illness may be caused by genes, poor lifestyle choices, unbalanced diets, bad habits, or polluted or unhygienic living conditions. If you are physically ill, have a virus or an infection, or experience weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, dizziness, pain, itchiness, deafness, insomnia and so on, you would naturally seek and accept treatment and hope for healing.

When I was pastoring a church, my members sometimes fell ill. They sought help from specialists, and sometimes had to undergo surgeries. After a period of rest and recuperation, sometimes followed by therapy, their health would return to normal, thanks to the Lord!

However, when the problem concerns mental health or psychological wellness, many are unwilling to recognise their condition or seek treatment. They often hide their condition from others due to their fear of stigmatisation at home, at work, or even in church. Some Christians blame such conditions on sin or spiritual attack and evil spirits, and view such afflicted Christians who need such treatment as abnormal or odd. Those who are unwell often suffer in silence and feel rejected.

While Wesley spoke of the body as a machine, he never compared humankind to a machine. Even in the midst of his busyness, John Wesley did not forget those who were sick and needed healing—physically, mentally or spiritually. To him, sickness was not a sin and the patient should not avoid the company of others, but he must seek the doctor when he is ill. Didn’t Jesus say that those who are ill need the doctor? (Mt 9:12).

Wesley published a book on healing, entitled Primitive Physic, to help the members of the church recover their health. Though many of his methods would be dismissed today as unscientific, they illustrated a “concern for holistic health and healing”. He also wrote an entire sermon on “nervous disorders”, where he detailed his thoughts on causes and treatment. Very often, the patient also needs to change his attitude and lifestyle, both of which are critical factors to his becoming well again. Wesley emphasised the motivation and need for man to work with God together for his own healing.

I have also seen those troubled by evil spirits and was involved in an exorcism. Today, medical science has advanced tremendously and is able to more accurately determine the treatment required by the patient. Every ailment is a sign of a health condition, whether physical, mental or spiritual, and requires appropriate attention and treatment. We need not be too ready to believe what has not been verified or proven by science or medicine.

In God’s eyes, we are His precious holy children, whom He loves. God accepts all who draw close to Him; the Church must too. For when these members suffer, so do we as part of the same body.

Thus, let us with an even heart, look upon those who are ill with patience and kindness, as they are part of our spiritual family, our brothers and sisters. They need to receive treatment from the doctors. They also need the prayers and care from their church, to be accepted and respected. Let us be their refuge and support in their time of need.

Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference from 2008 to 2016.

Picture by wutzkoh/