Death of Megachurch Pastor Darrin Patrick Officially Ruled a Suicide

By Bob Smietana and Alejandra Molina

Megachurch pastor Darrin Patrick’s cause of death has officially been ruled a suicide, according to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

Patrick died May 7 in Pacific, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. The cause of death was a gunshot wound and the medical examiner ruled it a suicide, Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton told Religion News Service.

Patrick was a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church, a multisite megachurch based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and the founding pastor of the Journey Church in St. Louis, where he lived.

Seacoast Church announced in a May 8 statement that Patrick had died of what appeared to be a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

His death came as a shock to friends and colleagues.

Patrick, who was known for helping people grow and overcome adversity, was remembered as being “passionate about the Lord.”

He had been a rising star in Reformed evangelical circles and served as vice president of the Acts 29 church planting network. He was later fired from Journey for what church elders called misconduct, including “inappropriate meetings, conversations, and phone calls with two women” and an abuse of power.

Photo courtesy of Seacoast Church

Patrick received counseling and went through a restoration process that lasted 26 months, according to a 2019 blog interview posted at Christianity Today. He returned to the ministry as a preacher but not as a senior pastor of a church.

“You generally don’t see guys bounce back,” said Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, who was a friend of Patrick.

Gallaty said pastors are great at helping other people but often don’t know what to do when they themselves struggle. They try to keep up appearances, he said, and try to handle their struggles on their own.

Patrick’s death follows a number of high-profile suicides among pastors, including two from California.

Jarrid Wilson, a 30-year-old pastor at megachurch Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, died by suicide in September 2019, and 30-year-old Andrew Stoecklein, a pastor at Indian Hills Church in Chino, in August 2018. They both preached about depression and mental health.

In part as a response to Wilson’s death, evangelical leaders filled a sold-out auditorium in December at the Billy Graham Center for a one-day summit focusing on clergy burnout and mental health.

Among the speakers was Saddleback Church senior pastor Rick Warren, whose son, Matthew, died by suicide in 2013 after a long battle with depression. 

Warren said he also experienced mental illness as a young pastor. He encouraged pastors not to give up on ministry and to admit their own weakness.

“We never help people with our strengths like we think we do. We help people with our weaknesses,” he said.

Bob Smietana is the editor-in-chief of Religion News Service (RNS). Alejandra Molina is a reporter for RNS focusing on Latinos & religion. RNS reporter, Emily McFarlan Miller, also contributed to this report.

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7 thoughts on “Death of Megachurch Pastor Darrin Patrick Officially Ruled a Suicide”

  1. Extremely sad as the death of choice for these ‘pastors’ is self inflicted! For some reason ‘mega’-church is listed in their bio’s. Jesus had not a mega anything! The church growth movement has destroyed so much, sacrificing simple but complex doctrine for butts in the seats! Attempting to live up to worldly standards of success results in darkness and death, especially for those left behind trying to figure out for the rest of their lives, what happened! Was it them they’ll wonder? In turn, the focus is completely off of Jesus and Him crucified for propitiation of sin. The self cycle begins again.

    1. Small church pastors are suffering the same issues and killing themselves as well. Not to mention Christians in general. There is no mega-reason for blaming mega-anything for a mega-common issue, except for – just perhaps – mega-judgmentalism.

      1. I should’ve been more specific with my thoughts as it was not in judgment that I posted a comment. It was an observation made after reading this article and directed to this incident and coupled with other Pastors of large churches, who recently died by suicide, Jarrid Wilson, Andrew Stoecklein, and Jim Howard!

        It’s a mega problem for any sized church and Christians alike Mike, please don’t jump to calling it judgment, as that wasn’t the focus. We all need to keep our pastors in prayer.

        1. I thought “just perhaps” clearly indicated not a “jump to call it judgement“, but a suggestion to address 90% of what you wrote. Everything after your first sentence (with ‘pastors’ in quotes, a device used to indicate so-called, not actual) is clearly a criticism of mega-churches via a clear criticism of “the church growth movement”. Thus a reasonable assumption of your focus.

  2. Greetings,

    Things have a tendency to change when a group (Pastors in this case) have to deal with one of their own. Mental heath in the US has been stigmatized and looked down on as a personal/moral failing.

    In this case what happened in the restoration plan, should be reviewed and discussed with Mental Health Professionals. It obviously didn’t work.

    Best regards,
    CJ

  3. Darrin seemed authentic to me. He didn’t fight or demand his rights when confronted by his church. He did not train the elders to be his puppets. That to me set him apart from other mega church leaders.

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