An Open Response to Dale Partridge: Jesus-Minded Responses, Pastoral Requirements and Loving Well

There was a post recently from Dale Partridge, who I actually considered a friend and person to look up to, but sadly Dale chose to post something less than gracious and less than humble. In the wake of losing Jarrid Wilson, Dale chose to post the following on his social media: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2SvJ2gjCmI/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

{update: he went private, cannot see the post directly}
He chose in a moment to take to Social Media over theology rather than grieve with the widow, grieve the loss of a friend, donate to the fundraiser, post a memory of his friend, post a photo of his friend. He chose to make a weak theological stance instead of taking the opportunity to do what Jesus did when His friend was dead: He WEPT.

Dale, I love you. I think you’re a great voice for many. I think you have intentions that are biblical. I think you messed up. I think you’ll see why.

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What is the claim?

So let’s address the main point that he is trying to make here. If you struggle with mental illness you should not be in a role as a pastor and discipling others.

We can examine this clinically and we can examine this through Psychology which would immediately reprimand the idiocy of the claim that if you struggle with depression or anxiety you cannot serve in the pastoral role. However, I think taking a biblical look at things will be our best approach since that is the claim threshold above.

What are the biblical requirements of a Pastor?

Well, the first the word “pastor” is a term for a shepherd. All throughout the bible, we gain the picture of Jesus being our shepherd (John 10) (Psalm 103:14) ( Isaiah 40:11) and more. Jesus is always pictured as our perfected shepherd who would lead us on the right path into eternity with the Father. The Shepherd who was slaughtered like a lamb for the sake of His lambs.

A pastor must be devoted to his wife; one-woman man (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:2). The pastor’s marriage illustrates Christ’s love for His church—His bride (Eph. 5:22 ff.). A Pastor must love his wife exclusively with his mind, will and emotions and not just his body.

Now let’s list the rest out:

  1. A pastor’s children must be in submission, though not perfect (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:4-5). If a man does not know how to manage his own family, he will not know how to take care of God’s church. The first flock for a pastor is his own family as Pastor Dad. A Pastor’s qualification for the church starts in his home management as he leads them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

  2. A pastor is a faithful steward (Titus 1:7). Here the term used is overseer (Greek episkopos). It is not another office, but a functional title of the elder. It is what he does. He is a steward, a manager of God’s resources and Jesus’ flock. He takes responsibility, but not ownership.

  3. A pastor must be humble — not arrogant (Titus 1:7). A pastor must constantly demonstrate the gospel by admitting when he is wrong and assuming responsibility and restoring relationships.

  4. A pastor must be gentle — not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). No man will be of any use in the kingdom that is quick-tempered. The difference between how Jesus demonstrated anger is that He was angry at the abuse of others in the name of religion and the dishonoring of God. We get angry at how it affects us.

  5. A pastor must be sober — not a drunkard (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). This is not just overindulgence in alcohol but is idiomatic for any behavior that fuels addictive responses. [Focus on this at the end]

  6. A pastor must be peaceful — not violent (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). A pastor is prone to inflict violence through his words. He is to be a peacemaker.

  7. A pastor must have financial integrity — not greedy for gain (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3). A pastor is to be upright in his financial dealings and not accused of pursuing money over the kingdom of God.

  8. A pastor must be hospitable (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2). A pastor’s home is to be open for others to enjoy. A pastor’s home is not a heaven on earth, but rather a place of ministry.

  9. A pastor must be a lover of good (Titus 1:8). A pastor genuinely loves what is good. He does not just think he should love it.

  10. A pastor must be self-controlled (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2). Self-control is a characterization of every area of a pastor’s life: diet, time, mouth, exercise, relationships, sex, and money.

  11. A pastor must be upright (Titus 1:8). He has integrity in his relationships and in how he treats others.

  12. A pastor must be holy (Titus 1:8). His life is devoted wholeheartedly to Jesus externally and internally.

  13. A pastor must be able to teach (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 3:2). All of the other qualifications are character qualities. This is the only ability-based requirement. He is to be able to teach sound doctrine, not just be able to communicate in an excellent manner. His teaching can be to one or two, to twenty, to a hundred or to a thousand. Most of the churches in Crete were house churches. The elders were to defend the faith once delivered to the saints against the numerous false teachers that arose.

  14. A pastor must be spiritually mature (1 Tim 3:6). Positions of authority without spiritual maturity lead to the trap of pride. When pride grows in a man, sin abounds.

  15. A pastor must be respectable (1 Tim 3:7). That does not mean that everyone must like him or even appreciate him. It means that there is no credible witness to an ongoing sinful behavior.

  16. A pastor must be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3). Elders are examples of biblical expressions sexually, time management, marriage, parenting, worship, relationships and any other way. A pastor should be someone your sons could pattern their life after and the kind of man your daughter should marry.

Don’t you feel as if I just described the ministry and person of Jarrid Wilson? That’s because he fit the pastoral role. However, it seems that some, maybe many, believe that depression and anxiety are not “sober-minded” as scripture entails. Dale, for example, says that “I lean toward the bible…” as he responds to Mike Foster on Instagram.

For us, who have studied Hebrew and Greek for quite a while now, know that these cannot be equivocated. I’ll show you a few reasons as to why. The word “sober-minded” σωφρονέω - which is an action that is constantly checked in with God or consistently checking their ideals with Gods. It’s a word scarcely used and is used almost exclusively as “sound judgment” which we all know is fluxed person to person and moment to moment. Not one pastor in the history of pastors has ever accomplished an entire lifetime of “sound judgment” in every regard, moment or decision. We need to understand that Pastors are human and imperfect shepherds. This doesn’t mean that we are to be quick to overlook lapses, that is why we have church governance (elders, deacons, lead pastors, etc who are able to look over those who pastor a flock).

Charles Spurgeon, the Reformed go to, the Prince of Preachers. On the topic of depression, which he suffered from his ENTIRE pastoral life:

He said, “I could say with Job, ‘My soul chooseth strangling rather than life.’ I could readily enough have laid violent hands upon myself, to escape from my misery of spirit.

Spurgeon went on to say, “Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.”

His wife would go on to say,

“My beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent, that reason seemed to totter in her throne, and we sometimes feared that he would never preach again.”

But he would, the very next Sunday. Therefore, shall we disqualify all of his sermons and the flock he looked over because he suffered with depression? Or is it okay because Spurgeon didn’t lose the battle quite as others did?

This concept that men in leadership roles are unable to struggle in any way is false. We know that Paul had a thorn, most likely not a physical ailment, that he wished God would remove. God didn’t remove this thorn from Paul, Paul continued to preach the Good News to the day he died. The same can be said of Jarrid Wilson and some other pastors who suffered a similar fate.

Depression is something that is as Spurgeon says “the mist” that is constantly being prayed away, repented of and challenged in the Light of God’s words and promises. Pastors who struggle with depression will continue to “fight the good fight” and pursue the above listing of requirements with vigor because they care about the Gospel and the flock given to them. Depression and anxiety are two battles that coincide with a daily surrender to Jesus who gives strength in our fallen state (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)

If there comes a time where the pressure exists in too many facets and something on the above list starts to crumble away, yes - Dale is absolutely correct to make the notion that the person should step down for a time or be put on rest for a time.

However, we cannot blanket statement every pastor with depression to this level.

How did Jesus Respond?

Let’s stick with Spurgeon on this one for a moment. He says,

First, I would remind you that “Jesus wept,” Because He was truly man. Secondly, “Jesus wept,” for He was not ashamed of His human weakness, but allowed Himself to reveal the fact that He was, in this point also, made like unto His brethren. Thirdly, “Jesus wept,” and therein He is our instructor. Fourthly, He is our comforter. And lastly, He is our example.

He continues,

Jesus wept in full knowledge of several things which might have prevented His weeping. You have sometimes thought to yourself when weeping at the grave of a dear child, or wife, or husband, that you have been wrong in so doing. But this may not be the case. Our Savior wept, though He knew that Lazarus was safe enough. I do not know what had happened to the soul of Lazarus—where Scripture is silent it is not mine to speak. But, wherever He was, He was perfectly safe. And yet “Jesus wept.” Moreover, Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus to life—his resurrection was close at hand. And yet “Jesus wept.” Sometimes we are told that if we really believed that our friends would rise again and that they are safe and happy even now, we would not weep. Why not? Jesus did. There cannot be any error in following where Jesus leads the way. Jesus knew, moreover, that the death of Lazarus was for the glory of God—He had said, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God.” And yet He wept! Have we not thought, “Surely it must be wicked to weep when you know that the bereavement will glorify God”? Not so, or else Jesus would not have wept under similar circumstances. Learn instruction— tears which else we might have regarded as contraband have now free admission into the realm of holiness, since “Jesus wept.” sister, you may weep, for Jesus wept. He wept, with full knowledge of the happiness of Lazarus, with full expectation of his resurrection and with the firm assurance that God was glorified even by his death—we may not, therefore, condemn what Christ allows. “Jesus wept,” but He did not sin.

John 11:35,

Jesus wept.

Jesus didn’t correct theology over those who doubted the power of Jesus. Jesus didn’t make an ill-timed sermon stop to create a fluster of traffic to himself. Jesus responded the way many have responsed to Jarrid’s passing: weeping, grief and human emotion. He was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).

ἐδάκρυσεν has but on occurrence. It’s John 11:35 where Jesus responded to his friend’s death with humility. This shows us a dimension of Jesus in many ways but it foremost shows us how to respond to those who pass that we love.

Jesus also commands us: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

A Pastor taking his life doesn’t make the church a target but it makes those who attend church human, vulnerable and in need of Savior. Theological division over non-essential issues makes the church an easy target.

How should we respond?

With humility, gentleness, and patience. As two boys have lost their father, as a wife has lost her husband and a family lost their brother/son. This isn’t time for correcting theology, while that has it’s place in time, the time and season is grieving, hope, prayer, and love. Our response should be as simple and as humble as Jesus’ was: weep with those who weep.

Dale, my hope is that you do not find my response to you (especially after my text to you) in bitterness. I’m challenging your theology, your thoughtfulness and your decision to do what you did in the wake of someone we both loved, passing. Dale, you responded several times to Instagram comments with the word “humbled” which I am sure that you were with those praising your post (those who did not know Jarrid, his son, his wife or his family). I pray that you humble yourself once more and respond to my challenges. I pray that you humble yourself once more and remove the post you posted. I also would encourage you to reveal the strict guidelines you have for your home churches. I’m sure those looking to be involved would like to understand how the church governance is set up and equipped to create pastoral leaders.

Dale, you helped me through a tough time. You responded when you did not have to. I know you appreciate my frustration. I know you appreciate my thoughts. Please take this from one brother in the church to another.