The preacher wore black skinny jeans and a wireless microphone clipped to his ear. He looked like he was giving a TED Talk, gesticulating with his hands as he stood next to a large projector
Pastor Andrew Stoecklein recounted the Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah, whose despair led him to pray for death. The prophet, Stoecklein told the large congregation at Inland Hills Church in Chino, Calif., was filled with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“You see mental illness on display,” Stoecklein said. “Now that is something that we don’t like to talk about much, do we? Especially not in the church.”
A sinewy 30-year-old with a surfer dude accent and tattoos covering his right arm, Stoecklein had just returned to the pulpit from a four-month leave of absence in which he battled panic attacks and severe depression. This was the first in a series of sermons about mental illness he titled “Hot Mess.”
He clicked through suicide statistics on the screen. He listed resources. He implored his congregation to know that if they were fighting mental illness, they weren’t alone.
“There is hope, and there is help available,” the pastor said.