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Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission Paperback – May 3, 2013
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"Simpson's sensitive recounting of her experience growing up with a schizophrenic parent forms the foundation for a book that belongs underlined and dog-eared on the shelves of every church leader. Troubled Minds is far more than an introduction to the issues surrounding mental illness and the church. It is a call to practical discipleship for everyone who seeks to follow the One who spent much of his ministry caring for the ill and those at the margins of society--often the same people." (Michelle Van Loon, "The 2014 Christianity Today Book Awards," Christianity Today, January/February 2014)
"Amy Simpson gives deep insight into the pain of mental illness for those affected and those who love them. I count this a must-read for those of us in church leadership." (Karen Miller, "The 2014 Leadership Book Awards," Leadership Journal, Winter 2014)
"In America, mental illness covers . . . a broad set of diagnoses. Simpson gives her readers a helpful, readable digest of mental illnesses. Well-researched and written in layman's terms without oversimplifying, she helps bring readers up to speed about the topic and the issues. . . . Her book is insightful, compassionate and timely. It is a must read for leaders of churches." (Michael R. Chancellor, The Baptist Standard, July 29, 2013)
"Troubled Minds offers a thorough and well-researched overview of the realities of mental illness. But Simpson does not resort to professional jargon. The book's real strength lies in Simpson's empathy for those she interviewed, and the compassionate retelling of their stories. Readers will be far better prepared to care for those in their midst who struggle with mental illness. Finally, the book offers hope, both for those who are suffering and for church leaders awakened by Simpson's prophetic call for change. . . . Troubled Minds should prove to be an excellent resource for pastors and lay leaders who minister to the mentally ill." (Michael Mangis, Christianity Today, June 2013)
"Having written about my own family's experience with mental illness, I know what it must have cost for Amy Simpson to root her highly informative book in her family's heartbreaking, yet hopeful story. Because of stigma and ignorance, far too many of us live with the pain of mental illness in silence and without compassionate support from our Christian communities. Troubled Minds has the potential to help free us from that quiet loneliness and bring our churches into fuller communion with those who suffer. I highly recommend it." (Christine A. Scheller, news and religion editor, UrbanFaith)
"Get ready! Amy Simpson takes you on a thoughtful, vulnerable and even painful journey through the complex landscape of mental illness. There is hope, but not until you go to the emotional and textured depths Troubled Minds provides." (John Ortberg, senior pastor, and Charley Scandlyn, healing minister, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church)
"Drawing on her own journey and extensive research, Amy Simpson gives deep insight into the pain of mental illness for those affected and those who love them. She makes puzzling concepts understandable, and she faces head-on the troubling questions raised by mental illness for people of faith. While I was reading the book, a homeless woman struggling with mental illness came to our church. Because of what I'd read, I interacted with her more patiently and effectively. I count this a must-read for pastors and church leaders." (Karen Miller, LCSW, executive pastor, Church of the Resurrection, Wheaton, Illinois)
"In Troubled Minds Amy Simpson opens the door into the hidden struggles of those caring for a mentally ill loved one. Between descriptions of her own real-life experiences she eloquently presents information that every Christian should have on how to recognize and appropriately respond to those living with mental illness. This book will prompt you (and your church) to action among a suffering people." (Matthew S. Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience, Baylor University, and author, Grace for the Afflicted)
"With no shortage of brains or heart, Amy Simpson courageously explores the realities of mental illness in the twenty-first century. With mental illness on the rise, all church leaders would do well to read this theologically and psychologically compelling volume." (Linda Lake, clinical psychologist)
"In more ways than one, [Simpson's] book shines a light in the darkness." (Jenny McDevitt, Interpretation, April 2016)
About the Author
Amy Simpson (MBA, University of Colorado) is a passionate leader and communicator who loves to encourage Christs church and its people to discern and fulfill their calling in this life. Amy is a former publishing executive who currently serves as editor of Christianity Todays Gifted for Leadership and senior editor of Leadership Journal. She is also a personal and professional Co-Active coach. She has spent nearly two decades as an award-winning writer, authoring numerous resources for Christian ministry, including Diving Deep: Experiencing Jesus Through Spiritual Disciplines, In the Word: Bible Study Basics for Youth Ministry, Into the Word: How to Get the Most from Your Bible and Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission. She has published articles with Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, Todays Christian Woman, Christian Singles, Group magazine, Relevant, Her.meneutics, and others. She has worked for Tyndale House Publishers, Group Publishing, Gospel Light, Standard Publishing, LifeWay, Focus on the Family, and Christianity Today. Amy holds an English degree from Trinity International University and an MBA from the University of Colorado. She is deeply in love with her incredible husband, Trevor, and extremely proud of her two fantastic kids. She lives with these wonderful people in Illinois, where she is committed to using the gifts God has given her in work that changes the world. Visit Amy's website at www.amysimpsononline.com or follow her on Twitter at @aresimpson.
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This is a basic overview of ministry to the mentally ill--very basic. It includes Simpson's own recollections of growing up scared and exhausted by her mother's troubles, watching her pastor father struggle to cope. She covers kinds of mental illness, the disease's stigmas, provides stories of encouragement, offers some steps that the mentally ill and those who love them can take to find help, and discusses all this within the realm of the Christian Church and how believers should respond.
Chapter headings will give readers an idea of what the author covers:
A Family Story
Mental Illness Is Mainstream
What Churches Can Do
What God Does
The book concludes with resources for those looking for help.
* The book achieves a respectable overview look at the rise in mental illness diagnoses and what can be done to address this increasingly widespread disease. Folks with no experience with dealing with the mentally ill or who are just now dealing with a loved one or their own illness will find it a good start and help on this unfamiliar journey.
* Simpson speaks as an insider with personal experience; her mother's story is harrowing.
* The author's compassion is clear on every page. Readers will know she truly cares about helping them.
* Simpson did her homework by surveying church leaders regarding their perspectives on mental illness, and she comments on the feedback with insights of her own.
* The advice offered takes a whole person approach and asks something of the Church, since every local church will have several people in its midst who are battling mental illness. Simpson rightly calls the whole Church to action, especially in benevolence within the local church and its ministry to the hurting among them.
* The book is a clarion call at the right time, as the Church needs a better understanding of mental illness and its mission to sufferers and their families.
* At 222 pages and with content not densely packed on each page, this book may not satisfy those looking for a deeper treatment of the issue.
* The target reader is unfocused. To whom is the book written? To laymen, sufferers, family of sufferers, and both pastors who themselves suffer from the disease and those who are looking for ways to minister to the mentally ill? Yes, all of the above. For this reason, what each group takes away from the text may be lighter than what they may have expected.
* The advice in the book is good for those who live in large metropolitan areas with solid health care infrastructure and who attend a compassionate church with a modern psychiatric understanding of mental illness. Readers who live in resource poorer, more sparsely populated areas or who attend a church with a "less enlightened" view of mental illness will wonder how to apply the book's advice.
* Simpson makes some sweeping statements that may not be true in all cases. For instance, she absolves all sufferers from all responsibility for the origins of their illness and "proof texts" it with a couple Scriptures. While it is true that many sufferers are not responsible for their condition, the Bible also makes it clear that some are. Scripture states that a person reaps what he sows, and it also states that we need to focus on the positive and not dwell on the negative. We know from neurology that the brain is plastic and can be rewired by how we think. People who start healthy but who dwell on dark or sinful thoughts may rewire their brains into a downward spiral that may end in genuine mental illness. Simpson almost purposefully avoids dealing with this very real issue.
* Disappointingly, the author also has little to say about the role of spiritual discipline in the lives of those who suffer. For a Christian book, this is a major lack. Simpson quickly retreats into a pharmacological solution and glosses over how Christians can use their spiritual authority and the wisdom of Scripture to deal with mental illness within a "healing the whole person" framework. Her historical look at the Church's addressing of mental illness in the past reaches the sad (and probably unintended) conclusion that such ministry was a failure until modern medicine became available, which makes one wonder about the efficacy of an individual sufferer's faith at all.
* Christian books that offer anecdotes of success, while encouraging on one level, overlook that such stories may not be reproducible in all situations. The stories may offer a false hope when the conditions that fostered them don't exist for someone else who attempts to copy that success. This is a terrible trend in books of this type, and authors need to be exceedingly cautious as to holding out a perception that these stories may be the norm. And this book contains MANY anecdotes.
By briefly covering a large, complex topic and offering it to the widest possible audience, Amy Simpson may leave some readers disappointed, especially if those readers brought a specific expectation to _Troubled Minds_. If read solely for what it is and nothing more, an overview with some helpful suggestions on how to start addressing mental illness in the Church, it may prove beneficial. But for those looking for specific ministry direction or for pointed solutions to their own specific mental health needs or to those of a family member, other resource books such as those provided in the end notes of this book may be more helpful.
In the end, what Simpson gives readers is a sense that they are not struggling alone and that there is hope because God is a God of grace and mercy. And for many readers, that may be exactly what they need.
The author is more than a researcher presenting her findings. She shares openly about her mother's battle with mental illness and how it affected her family. It is troubling to read how her mom, a pastor's wife, turned from her faith and wound up on the streets before being incarcerated. When you read accounts like this, or when I think of Christians who have Alzheimer's, perplexing questions begin to multiply. How does this relate to God's promise to keep and care for his children? Why must this be? What will be the outcome?
Fortunately, I kept reading. Simpson's family story does not end badly. The author succeeds in providing a comprehensive overview of this subject from a Christian perspective. The wisdom found in these pages will be a source of comfort for those who struggle and for those who serve a population that is underserved.
I came away with greater compassion, which is no small accomplishment. I like how Matthew 9:36 in the King James Version speaks of Jesus, "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." Christ was moved with compassion. When you catch in these pages a glimpse of the harassed and helpless, who may be like sheep without a shepherd, don't be surprised if the Spirit of Christ moves you with compassion.
One of the rewards of this book is seeing what the church should be in relation to the mentally ill. Simpson often shows where we fall short, but she does not browbeat. She instructs out of the compassion born of experience and learning.
It would be helpful if at least one member of every ministerial staff could read this book and be familiar with the contents. I recommend it for every church and theological library. It points the way forward for the church to do better. It also provides resource information for those wanting to start a ministry to the mentally ill.
They wear stigma like a scarlet letter, but Christ can make it a badge of honor. I saw this with my friend, Dave, who asked me to write his testimony (see the article at the end of this review). Even though he liked what I wrote, he was fearful of being associated with it. He wants others to know what Christ has done, but disclosures like this often lead to the mentally ill being judged and ostracized, even in the church.
When asked what this book is about, I mentioned in the presence of a non-Christian that it is an encouragement for the church to reach out to the mentally ill including the depressed. In reply, she remarked, "That's good because a depressed person is not going to come to you." Although that may be true, change is possible. This book contains stories and testimonies of churches that have successful ministries that are like magnets attracting the mentally ill. People are drawn to the supportive atmosphere.
The author is careful to point out that the church should not expect a quick fix for those who suffer in this way. This involves a long term commitment. Too often someone who does not get better in a few weeks, months or years may experience subtle rejection. Someone with this disease may struggle for a lifetime. It may be more realistic to think in terms of management rather than cure. It's not enough to just refer people to specialists. The mentally ill need the support that only the church can provide.
This book shows that mental illness is more widespread than most people realize. It's an overlooked ministry that is challenging but rewarding for all concerned. For those interested in the possibilities, this book is a fine starting place.
Crazy for God! (David's testimony)
Crazy for God! You may laugh or think me foolish, but since 1977 I have been mentally ill. It's a stigma I often bear, but Christ has turned it into a badge of honor. I don't have to be ashamed. Mental illness is not a moral failure.
It was a trait that I inherited, and my home life was far from ideal. I witnessed promiscuity; my dad took me to an x-rated movie when I was only 16. But it was being rejected by a woman that triggered manic-depression and schizophrenia.
Since then many people have come and gone. I have seen the inside of hospitals and psychiatric wards. I am misunderstood and rejected even by other Christians. Although I should be able to find a place in a church, I still find myself searching to connect with people.
But this is what makes Jesus so precious to me. Since I trusted Him in 1975, he has never left me. Even more, he has given me a heart to share the good news that all may come to him for forgiveness and freedom. Who would guess that Christ would give me a ministry of evangelism?
I have lived in many places over the years. Everywhere I go I tell people about Jesus. I have given away hundreds of tracts, and I ever long for fellowship with God's people. How many are fortunate to have that kind of love?
God put it there. His Son was no stranger to rejection. He knew scorn and abuse. When dying, after being nailed to a cross, he prayed "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34 ESV). Though I express it imperfectly, this is the love that God has given me. Though others may mistreat or forsake me, I keep reaching out.
Though I have wanted to marry, at least for now, Christ has given me the gift of celibacy. The 40-year-old virgin has nothing on me. I have been one for over 55 years. It's been a struggle at times, but even when I feel lonely or discouraged, Christ stands beside me.
He's the friend that walks in when everyone else walks out. He picks me up when I fall. He's given me a love for the Scriptures. His Word is a continual comfort and makes me feel like I have a treasure that many people know nothing about.
I am not crazy, just crazy for God. It's why you are reading this article. I want you to know the God who will love you no matter what. Just turn from going your own way and entrust your life to Christ. As Christian recording artist Evie sang in an old song, "Live for Jesus, that's what matters/that you see the light in me and come along."
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Troubled minds are not a THREAT to the church, they are a MISSION of the church.Read more