A Genuine Christian Community and Depression

I came across this thought-provoking citation in the March publication of Christianity Today.  CT highlighted the issue of depression in their March edition.  Derek Keefe interviewed John Ortberg on how the church can help those who are depressed.  Here is one question posed to Ortberg,

What preventive measures can churches take [to help those struggling with depression]?

[Ortberg] When churches are being effective, creating authentic communities where intimate connection is offered, this is the single biggest contribution they can make. A medical sociologist named Janice Egeland has done some really interesting research on depression among the Amish. One of her findings was that rates of reactive depression [an inappropriate state of depression that is precipitated by events in the person’s life] are significantly lower among the Amish than among all other segments of the population.


In comparison, among evangelicals as a whole, there is virtually no difference in the incidence of reactive depression as compared to the general population. Part of the explanation is that we evangelicals are much more a part of our culture, and have a ways to go to create a community where people are so connected that there is a significant difference in the incidence of depression.


The Amish, of course, take great pains to separate from the broader culture. For evangelicals as a whole, a separation that radical is probably not likely. We see our calling to be “in the world but not of it.” But is it possible to be in the world, as most evangelicals are, but still part of a community that is alternative enough that it would actually change the incidence of depression? That would be a really interesting experiment (Keefe, “Connecting to Hope,” Christianity Today [March 2009], 29).

The larger point I want to highlight is simply this, that a loving and genuine church body can have therapeutic effects on those who are hurting emotionally, physically, and mentally in the body.


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