This last Monday the Pastor of Bigelow Church, (where I attended for almost five years, ) Steve Schueren took his own life.
Charity and I were in Big Spring, Texas at the Fall World Baptist Fellowship Meeting at the Trinity Baptist Church. We received a call from one of our members about the death of Steve. We were in shocked to learn that Steve took his own life by hanging himself in the stairway of the church. According to the Portsmouth Daily Times his 20 year old son found him.
Why Steve committed suicide in the church he was the pastor is a question we might never know why? We had received reports several months ago that he was depressed, and was not the pastor they had believed they were getting. Steve had been the pastor at the church since April 2009.
I first meet Steve at Mexi Itail Restaurant and had a very good visit. We seemed to have a lot in common experiences in ministry. I had visited with Steve in the church office on several occasions and was glad that he was at the church. Steve and I both liked John MacArthur teaching and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preaching. On one of Steve blog he quotes Lloyd-Jones.
“The truly godly man is never a showman. He knows enough about the plague of his own heart never to be guilty of that.”
I sensed in Steve this humble attitude and was never at east taking about himself, which he really didn’t and would give praise to others.
The reports that we had received was that the church loved him and his family.
I did not know Steve prior to him coming to Portsmouth, but he did know several preachers I knew, and he went to Liberty University and knew Dr. David Adams, who I know well.
When Steve came to Bigelow church, the church had just lost their pastor of twenty years, who resigned. And to many in the church when Frank resigned was a big shocked. And when coming into the church under those condition is always hard for the next pastor.
How we like to cover up details in ministry. How we like to hid the truth for the sake of the guilty. If one place we should be honest is in the ministry but I have found that is the last place to usually find it.
In the few times I set down and talked with Steve, I felt he had a heart for ministry, and loved the Lord and his family and loved the church. I heard him preach from the website, and I thought he was a very good speaker and was an expository teacher of the Word. He could not only preach but he could sing. He was leading the singing as well as preaching on Sunday. The church was not having church services at the church on Sunday evening or on Wednesday, but was having home studies during the week.
Steve had a Pastor’s blog and was on Facebook. To my surprise in April 2011, he took himself off Facebook and stopped writing on his blog. Which was a great concern to me. I learned that he went into depression. I had made comments on my Facebook that I felt depression was not a condition that Christians could get themselves into.
Preachers are the worst I think of talking to others about their personal problems, I don’t know if Steve talked to anyone or not about his feelings and struggles about ministry. And I personally feel guilty about not been able to talk with Steve. I thought often about stopping and spending time with him, but the strain of having been in the church and the experience I had there was very difficult for me as well as for Steve.
Preachers are as human as any person in the church. Preachers and pastors have the same fleshly body as anyone else. Being transparent in our lives is a task. Dealing with sin in our flesh is as difficult as anyone. Preachers need the grace of God in their lives as much as anyone. Sometimes preachers will express their sinfulness too much, and other will never speak of their sinfulness. Some think its spiritual to express just how sinful we are in the flesh. But I think we can get discourage if we continue to talk about our sinfulness and not talk about the grace of God in our lives.
As my wife Charity has said a number of times, “Satan is out to kill and destroy us in ministry.” And how true that is.
I still say that Satan destroys us though depression. And I could have many times been destroyed in ministry because of thinking I might be depressed. One of the worst times and the best of times have been while I was at Bigelow church. Satan and the flesh did everything in their power to destroy my love for the Lord, the church and people over the last seven years. SIN is a powerful enemy.
I know they said Steve was depressed and was being treated for it. I really have no idea as to what kind of depression he had, but it must have been rather bad. I do not know if the treatment he was taking had the suicide effect upon him or not. I just know the end result. I don’t know if it was physical depression or spiritual depression or even both.
Our business, however, is to persuade, never to force. We must always be careful to avoid condemnation–especially in the case of a sick or agitated person. If the plain truth of the situation comes home to the patient that is one thing; but it is not our place to condemn.”
1. ”First and foremost I would not hesitate to put–temperament” (p. 14).
2. ”Let us pass to the second big cause–physical conditions” (p. 18).
3. ”Another frequent cause of spiritual depression is what we may describe as a reaction–a reaction after a blessing, a reaction after some unusual and exceptional experience” (p. 19).
4. ”Then we come to the next cause. In a sense, and in the last analysis, that is the one and only cause of spiritual depression–it is the devil, the adversary of our souls” (p. 19).
5. ”Indeed I can put it, finally, like this: the ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief” (p. 20).
Of course this is just a bit of the whole book, but it would be good for all preachers to read.
I have always hated cover up, and that is what church leadership likes to do most. We believe if we don’t say anything that things will be find. I don’t agree with that assessment at all. Truthfulness is still the best policy in the long run. Beside God knows the truth anyway.
My prayer is with the family of Steve and we pray that the Bigelow Church will recover and work out the problems that face them.