Robert Pierre - Jesus Bible study

The latest edition of Interlinc's Music Video Loop (MVL 66) features a video for the song "Jesus" by Robert Pierre. As part of the magazine that comes with the video, I wrote a Bible study that focuses on the stigma that is too often associated with mental illness. Here's the original -- only slightly different than the version published in the magazine.

Leader Guide

Artist: Robert Pierre
URL: robertpierre.com
Album: Identity
Label: Indie
Song: Jesus
Writer: Kirk Moore
Ministry: Union Congregational United Church of Christ
Location: Somonauk, Illinois
Email: kirk@revkirk.com

stigma, restoration

Students will discuss mental illness and the historic stigma that has accompanied it. They’ll also discuss Jesus desire for restoration for those who have been marginalized and outcast.

Warm- up
Questionnaire – What do you know about mental illness?
Give students the following questions – you can use handouts, powerpoint (or other presentation software) old-fashioned overhead or even a chalkboard!) The correct answers, along with a little bit of discussion for some questions are included here.

Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Let’s find out what you know about mental illness in the United States:

1. How many Americans, in a given year, experience a mental health disorder?
  • one in 4
  • one in 10
  • one in 50
  • one in 100
Approximately 58 million in the United States experience a mental health disorder in a given year. One in seventeen lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder 1, and about one in ten children have a serious mental or emotional disorder. (References and more details about mental illness can be found at nami.org. From the “inform yourself” dropdown choose “About Mental illness)

2. What percentages of mental health problems and disorders have their onset during before age 14?
  • 10%
  • 20%
  • 50%
  • 70%
Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14-- three-quarters by age 24.

3. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. Among 10-24 year olds, it is the _____ cause of death.
  • 15th
  • 11th
  • 1st
  • 3rd
4. What percentage of students with a mental disorder age 14 and older drop out of high school

  • 10%
  • 25%
  • 50%
  • 75%
50% is the highest dropout rate of any disability group.

5. Depression is very common. When is depression most likely to occur?
  • in childhood
  • in adolescence
  • in older adulthood
  • depression can occur at any age
6. People living with mental illness are often subjected to stigma. Stigma is negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative responses (discrimination) that can make a person feel unwanted and shamed (stigmatized). How does stigma affect people with mental illness?
  • seriously affects the well-being of those who experience it
  • affects people while they are ill, while they are in treatment and even when a mental health problem is a distant memory
  • stops many people from seeking the treatment they need
  • all of the above

Say: For far too long, the church has treated mental disorders as something that are indicators of a weak person or a person who isn’t close enough to God. The church has and must continue to change. Some might view the video we’re going to watch, from newcomer Robert Pierre (he’s just 16 years old!) as one that sends the message – “Just pray to Jesus and everything will be all right.” We’ve likely learned that things don’t work out that way. In this study, we’ll discuss mental illness and Jesus’ desire that people would be restored to health and to the community.

Play: Jesus from Robert Pierre

Note: The video includes powerful images of a teenager contemplating suicide. (related to #3 on our questionnaire.) The images may change the nature of this meeting from one discussing ministry and mental illness to one that focuses exclusively on the subject of suicide. Please be prepared with helpful resources from these or other agencies:
  • pathways2promise.org
  • mentalhealthministries.net
  • nami.org/namifaithnet
  • suicidepreventionlifeline.org
During the video, encourage students to write down single words or sentences describing the emotions that they feel.


Say: “Any desperate day - One word I can pray. All I know to say . . . Jesus.” There is no time, no emotion and no situation where we can’t go to Jesus. Jesus hears our prayers all the time: Good times, ‘regular’ times, bad times, even times where we can’t find the words to think or to say. Jesus loves us no matter what. It seems, thought, that when we or others experience symptoms of mental illness that we’re not sure where Jesus is or if he is listening at all. Folks who experience mental illness too often feel the stigma of their situation and the pain of how folks have treated them when they learn of their illness. Let’s look to the Bible to discover Jesus’ desire for folks who live with stigma and the marginalization that comes with it.

Bible Study:
Have students look up Mark 4:23-24 and Mark 5:1-19

Matthew 4:23-24
Jesus healed people. He restored the people from their illnesses and to their communities. Included in the list of diseases and sicknesses Jesus healed are people who had demons. Bible scholarship today recognizes those described as having demons in Jesus time as folks who were suffering from mental illness. (Students may challenge this statement. There is time for discussion on this topic in this lesson.)

Mark 5:1-19
Jesus healed a man who was possessed by demons. Afterwards he told the man to go home to be restored to his family and community.

Ask: What are your thoughts about the relationship of the term’s ‘demon possession’ and ‘mental illness’?

The Bible describes folks with demons – folks with mental illness – as being healed and restored to their communities. How can we be a part of following Jesus example and reaching out to folks who have been ostracized – especially due to the stigma of mental illness?
(Suggestions for discussion or to ‘prime the pump.’)

  • Speak up about stigma to friends and family
  • Be aware of how you judge others with mental illness
  • Support organizations that fight the stigma of mental illness
(pathways2promise.org, mentalhealthministries.net, nami.org/namifaithnet )

No matter where we are, or what our situation, we can call out to Jesus for help. Even when we don’t have the words, God is listening. For folks suffering from mental illness or for folks who are affected by a family member or friend with mental illness: You are not alone and Jesus’ desire is for restoration – not marginalization.

Closing prayer:
God of love and compassion. Thank you for always hearing our prayers, no matter what the words – or even lack of them. We believe that you love each one of us just as we are and you walk with us on our faith journey. Help us to love all of your children with that same compassion, Amen.

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