I am not sure why, but a few days ago I thought of Dr Archibald Hart. I hadn’t thought about him for a long time. I took his module on the “Emotional Hazards of Ministry” for my Fuller DMin. I googled and discovered that he had passed away in 2021. I am sure that I had thanked him before for his impact on my life and ministry. We exchanged a few emails after my time in his class. But I regretted that I didn’t keep in touch more through the years. There would have been so much more I could have learnt from him. As it was, I had already learnt so much from him even though his module was just a two-week intensive.
I wasn’t even sure if I could make his module. I was at the tail end of my struggle with clinical depression and was still grappling with anxiety and fatigue. I prayed that I could make the trip to Toronto where he was teaching because the material that he was presenting was exactly what I needed. I was glad that I made it. He taught with clarity, with material based on his research as a psychologist and integrated with biblical wisdom on the emotional dimension of life and ministry. I was especially grateful for his teaching on fatigue, burnout, and depression in the lives of pastors and church leaders. For example, he told us to expect to be down on a Monday after a full Sunday of ministry. That wasn’t a spiritual attack or a failure of faith. It was probably just adrenaline depletion and what was needed was rest. Long before writers like Peter Scazzero helped the church understand the emotional side of discipleship, Dr Hart was already teaching on this to all who would listen.
What I particularly remember was an afternoon he spent with me. I had requested time and he had given me an afternoon. It was a very hard time in my life. Not only was I coming out of clinical depression, I was in a very difficult marriage. In so many ways, I was lost. Here was a counsellor and a caring brother listening and helping. It was a key encounter that would lead me to a journey of healing and hope. I remember him acknowledging that I was going through a tough time but not to catastrophise the situation. I took it to mean that while my situation was tough, God was bigger. That was a new insight and it helped me to put things in better perspective. But I couldn’t tell myself that. I needed to hear it from a brother.
Dr Hart exhibited one of my key convictions about teaching—that a teacher doesn’t just teach a course. He teaches students and that must include entering into the lives of those you teach. I have been blessed with teachers who taught like that—my teachers at Regent and other teachers like Dr Hart. I have tried to emulate their approach to teaching though this takes time and energy. But I don’t know how else to teach. Teaching in general, and Christian teaching in particular, must be relational.
So goodbye for now, Dr Hart. I want to put on record my debt to you and your teaching. I will seek to honour you by passing forward what I learnt.