As the South Carolina-based Seacoast Church remembered Pastor Darrin Patrick, who died of a “self-inflicted gunshot wound” earlier this month, at an online memorial service held Sunday morning, Pastor Greg Surratt shared biblical ways to grieve a friend’s death.
At the beginning of his message, the founding pastor recalled how he met Patrick, who founded The Journey in Missouri and later served as a teaching pastor at Seacoast and died at the age of 49 on May 7.
Surratt said he first met Patrick in New York City at a gathering of church planting organizations. He sat at the dinner table with Pastor Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill Church, and Pastor Patrick. They both were young, great communicators, and had written books, he said. Surratt and Patrick exchanged numbers, and Patrick started seeing Surratt as his spiritual mentor.
Four years ago, Surratt said, he received a call from Patrick after the church asked him to resign.
In 2016, Patrick was fired from his position as pastor at The Journey for what his church described as “deep historical patterns of sin.” Patrick also resigned from his position as vice president of the Acts 29 Network, which plants churches globally.
Surratt admitted that Patrick “entered into a deeply flawed recovery process of which I was a part of.”
"At times, honestly, I wanted to pull him out," he noted. "I felt like it was destructive at times. I would talk to Darrin about that but Darrin would say, 'I want to stick it out.' The landscape was littered at that point with leaders who fell and chose not to submit to a process of restoration. And he didn't want that. He felt like that maybe, somebody sometime can benefit from his story."
Patrick began sharing his testimony and eventually joined the staff at Seacoast. He and Surratt started The Pastors Collective to reach out to pastors, helping them have a safe place to process challenges they go through.
Earlier this month, Patrick was target shooting with a friend at the time of his death. Surratt said it’s still not known whether the gun going off was intentional or not. “The circumstances are complicated, but there’s an ongoing investigation. We may know soon, or we may never know. We're learning to trust God and we will be honest with you in the process but the bottom line is that our friend is gone and our hearts are broken,” he said.
In his sermon, titled “What to do when you lose a friend?” Surratt shared that the first thing to acknowledge is that “God weeps when you hurt.”
He quoted John 11:35, which reads, “Jesus wept,” and refers to the death of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus.
We need to give time to ourselves to mourn, the pastor continued. We don’t need to do anything but sit and mourn, he explained.
Surratt also said we need to learn to focus our anger in the right place.
There are five stages of grief, though not linear, he said. At first, there’s denial and isolation, then comes anger, then bargaining and guilt, then sadness and depression and then acceptance.
But these normal responses “are based on incorrect subconscious thoughts and feelings,” he stressed. They are normal, but we cannot let those thoughts become hardened, he said.
Concluding his message, the pastor underlined, “Remember that death is not the final word.”
Pastor Patrick’s family also joined the service remotely.
The police investigation into the May 7 incident is ongoing and it’s unknown whether the self-inflicted gunshot wound was “intentional or unintentional,” a representative from the church earlier told The Christian Post. The church stated earlier that no foul play is suspected.
“We are heartbroken beyond belief, terribly confused, and missing Darrin in ways that feel unbearable,” Patrick’s wife, Amie, wrote on Instagram last week, adding that the congregation’s “kind remembrances of him, photos, stories, and encouraging words are healing to our souls.”
Amie said Patrick “was the rock of our family, the great love of my life, and a fiercely devoted father to our amazing children. He was a dynamic force of nature, deeply passionate and so, so fun. Mostly though, he loved God and people in ways that will challenge me for the rest of my days. And he loved me so well... I learned so much about how God loves me through the ways that my husband saw me, knew me, and cared for me. We will be a mess for a good while, but we will be ok. We grieve deeply with unwavering hope that this world is not the end and that we will see our Darrin again.”
In 2016, the elders at The Journey said while Patrick’s sins did not involve adultery, he “did violate the high standard for elders in marriage through inappropriate meetings, conversations, and phone calls with two women.”
Patrick said he was devastated by his sins and apologized to the church.
“I am utterly horrified by the depth of my sin and devastated by the terrible effects of it on myself, my family and so many others, including all of you. I am so deeply and terribly sorry for the pain that my sin is causing you, as well as the broken trust that my sin has clearly produced. In short, I am a completely devastated man, utterly broken by my sin and in need of deep healing,” he said.
The church has started an online fundraiser to support the Patrick family. “As we process our grief and heartache, we want to provide a way for others to give assistance to the Patrick family, and show their deep love and appreciation for what Darrin meant to them,” it says.