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Evangelist Gage designs help for ‘wounded heroes’

DALLAS (BP)–Now there is help for “wounded heroes.”
They are the 6,000 Southern Baptist ministers who walked away from their ministries last year, including 1,800 who were fired.
To Freddie Gage, Texas-based Southern Baptist evangelist, “there is a better way.”
Gage, in a Rapha Ministry to Ministers, is hosting a retreat for “wounded heroes” Jan. 26-31 at the Cooper Aerobics Center in north Dallas.
The retreat, with a who’s who of Southern Baptist leaders on the program, is part of a Christian psychotherapy program designed to meet the needs of pastors, missionaries, church staff, denominational workers, evangelists, their wives and families, Gage said.
The Rapha initiative joins other programs, including those at the Baptist Sunday School Board and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, focused on helping ministers and their families.
Enlisted speakers for the January retreat, all donating their time and expenses, include Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.; James T. Draper Jr., president of the Sunday School Board and his wife, Carol Ann; Fred Lowery, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, La., and his wife, Leigh; Rick Lineberger, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grapevine, Texas, and his wife Tracey; Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas; O.S. Hawkins, president of the SBC Annuity Board; Ike Reighard, pastor of NorthStar Baptist Church, Kennesaw, Ga.; Paul Powell, consultant to and former president of the Annuity Board; Dick Maples, minister/church relations coordinator, Baptist General Convention of Texas; and Kenneth Cooper, president and founder of Cooper Aerobic Centers, Dallas, and his wife, Millie.
“I have been asked why I waited so long to seek help,” Gage said. “‘Pride goeth before destruction’ (Proverbs 17:18). Fear of what fellow ministers would think and I knew I would be ruined as a evangelist.”
As a victim of burnout, anxiety attacks and hospitalized with depression, Gage has watched hundreds of fellow pastors, evangelists, missionaries and church staff members flee the ministry or be fired.
“Southern Baptists have done a good job of sweeping our wounded heroes under the rug. Silence — holy hush. We can’t discuss our wounded; those who have quit, thrown in the towel, are depressed, anguished, in pain, hurting, ostracized,” Gage said.
Surveys have indicated 78 percent of ministers in burnout said they were unable to be vulnerable about their own needs and hurts. And 81 percent said they were not experiencing much empathy or comfort at home, Gage said.
Gage, in Southern Baptist ministry for 45 years, said the pain of 6,000 ministers affects a minimum of 31,200 people a year “if it is family of four, not to mention the churches and community that experience bitterness, conflict, division, etc.”
“My struggle took longer and was more excruciating because at the time it happened there was no help available from the Baptist denomination and none designed specifically for Baptist ministers,” Gage said. “For 20 years I have waited for Southern Baptists to create a ministry for ministers and not until Dr. Draper became president of the Sunday School Board has there been any compassion shown and desire to help the wounded preacher and his family.”
Topics for this first retreat include: stress in the ministry; saving the minister for the ministry; busy preachers — lonely wives; the pastor; place for alcoholics, drug addicts; success syndrome; why pastors quit; preacher’s kid; exercise; pastor retiring; and the forgotten group (missionaries, evangelists, ministerial staff).
There is diagnosis and treatment with strict confidentiality, he added.
“And when you leave the retreat you will be provided with a Southern Baptist pastor as an ‘encourager accountability partner’ who will be available to you for one year,” Gage said.
The Freddie Gage retreat is part of the Rapha treatment plan which is multi-disciplinary and has, at it center, a Christ-centered, holistic view that addresses a person’s body, mind and spirit. The essence of the approach, Rapha officials said, is that most people unsuccessfully base their self-worth on their performance and on others’ opinions rather than on God’s truth concerning them. Patients are helped to base their self-worth on God’s grace, love, forgiveness and acceptance.
For more information and/or registration, call toll-free 1-800- 257-2742.

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  • Herb Hollinger