Seacoast Church pastors talk survivor’s guilt, sustained stress in wake of suicide

Greg Surratt, founding pastor of Seacoast Church, speaks during a service on May 17, 2020. | Facebook/Seacoast Church

Days after an autopsy report confirmed Pastor Darrin Patrick died by suicide, the South Carolina-based Seacoast Church’s founding pastor, Greg Surratt, and Pastors Josh Surratt and Chip Judd had a live conversation about thoughts based on lie, sustained stress and survivor’s guilt.

“I would consider anybody that went to the full length of not just a suicide attempt but actually being successful … I would say they were in a temporary state of insanity,” said Judd, pastor of Leadership Care at Seacoast, during the conversation on Facebook live.

Judd explained that he was talking about the mind not working properly, and he didn’t mean to say people in that momentary state of mind are crazy.

Patrick, who founded The Journey in Missouri and served as a teaching pastor at Seacoast, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on May 7.

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.

The elders at The Journey said at the time that Patrick was involved in some sins but not adultery. He violated “the high standard for elders in marriage through inappropriate meetings, conversations, and phone calls with two women,” they said.

Patrick said he was devastated by his sins and apologized to the church.

Judd shared that due to circumstances, thoughts and pressures, some may feel there’s no other way out while it’s a lie. “Sustained stress is one of the biggest ways to short-circuit its (mind’s) capacity and its capability to do that.”

Judd said Patrick may have somehow felt “he’d been let down in a dark alley and couldn’t see a way out.”

There are times when we believe a lie that my family would be better off without me, commented Greg Surratt. Judd responded by saying it must have looked to Patrick at that moment that it was the best thing for everybody involved.

In 2016, Patrick had said, “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.”

Patrick was “a very creative and intelligent guy,” Judd said. “Creative people take an idea, spin it, build it and they create things that we are all proud of. Well, take that same skill but turn it the other direction. And you take a thought that isn’t true, and you build it … you spin it and … you connect this to this … and when you look at the building that you built …”

Judd also said that sometimes it’s not what others are thinking but what you think they are thinking. Patrick may have wondered whether he had been forgiven.

It’s possible, Judd said, that Patrick thought while he was looked up to for encouragement and advice, he himself was in need. Therefore, he may have thought that “this version of Darrin, people would be better off without.”

Gregg Surratt said he had a sense of guilt because he was Patrick’s pastor and friend. “Was I not a good enough friend … or pastor?”

Survivor’s guilt is normal but one must talk about it and process it with others, Josh Surratt said. They’re not healthy thoughts but are common to believers, he suggested. “We need to express them” and seek help or counseling.

Patrick died while target shooting with a friend just outside of St. Louis. The autopsy report released Thursday indicated that a bullet fired from a rifle at close range under the chin was the cause of death.

“We are devastated by this news,” Pastors Greg and Josh Surratt said in a message to the Seacoast Church membership Thursday. “We do not know, and may not ever know or fully understand the reasons behind this tragedy. We are reminded that we are often unaware of the ways that those close to us are hurting and struggling. We will recommit ourselves to loving those around us and making sure that they truly know how precious their lives are.”

Greg Surratt first announced Patrick’s death in a written message on May 8. “We mourn, but with the hope of the resurrection firm in our hearts we know that death is not the end. So many of us are suffering in this time and we want you to know that you are not alone.”

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