Chris Hodges - Out of the Cave - Leaders.Church


Chris Hodges – Out of the Cave

What’s in this Episode?

We are sitting down with Pastor Chris Hodges to hear about his book, Out of the Cave.

Read the Transcript

Dick Hardy Intro
Hey friends, it’s great to be with you today on this Leaders.Church podcast and I am so blessed today to have a good friend, new friend, although we’ve watched him from a distance because our kids are part of the church. Pastor Chris Hodges from the great state of Alabama. Chris, say hi to everybody.

Chris Hodges 0:18
Well, thank you for letting me be on today. I’m very excited. And thanks for sending your kids to our church. I love that.

Dick Hardy 0:24
Oh, man. Well, we love it. Of course, Chris is in Birmingham, our kids go to the Shoals campus up in Florence. We’ve got four grandkids there. So, we are back and forth from Springfield to the Shoals all the time.

Chris Hodges 0:38
I bet you are!

Dick Hardy 0:39
Anyway, Pastor Chris has meant a lot to our family, because of the Ministry of Highlands to our children and grandchildren. And he was recently at our home church here at James River Church in Springfield, Missouri. On a Wednesday night, it was kind of a surprise visit. Man, they built that thing up. I don’t know if they told you but they built that thing up as a surprise. And for us, of course, it was a great surprise.

You were there specifically on a Wednesday night to minister to that body, and to talk about the subject of your new book, Out of the Cave. I want you to know, I had already picked up the book ahead of time and started to read it. Of course, I’ve since finished it. But, Chris, really you’ve ministered to lots of people on this subject. For the purpose of this podcast, give us a jumpstart. What was the genesis of this as it came together for you?

How did Out of the Cave come about?

Chris Hodges 1:38
You know, it’s interesting, because I’m really not the depressed type. The glass is not even half full for me. It’s all the way full every day. So, this is not even something I was very familiar with. But in 2018, a pastor took his life that I did not know, but I read the story.

Dick, it was like we were best friends. I mean, it impacted me. I was grieving. And I knew, as you well know, that when the Lord does that, a lot of times he’s putting a burden on you for the purpose of feeling what people feel to be able to minister to people. That’s what a burden means. And I was burdened for people who would feel so distraught to take their lives, especially someone in the ministry.

Have you ever sat down to write your message for the weekend and realized you don’t know where to start? Take a look at the Sermon Starters PDF for a multitude of effective strategies to get you started.

Chris Hodges 2:27
So, I brought a message that Sunday to our congregation. I’m embarrassed to say it was the first one at the time I had done in 36 years of ministry ever on the topic of depression. It became the most re-watched message times 100. And I realized I’ve ignored something that people go through. I’ve had my own, I would call them bouts, probably like anyone else, had days where it was dark and depressed, but never considered taking my own life.

Chris Hodges 2:55
So, I went on a two and a half year research and writing project and the book came out. In fact, the funny part of the story is the manuscript was due March of 2020. Does anybody remember that?

Exactly so… I actually called the publisher because of the pandemic. I was so busy trying to figure out how to lead a church through that, that I was actually behind on delivering the manuscript. What’s interesting is that they postponed the delivery date to August of 2020. And I would actually go through the very first real dark place in June of 2020.

I had about three weeks. I wasn’t thinking about taking my life, but I’m embarrassed to say that I was actually considering ministry suicide. I was going to leave the ministry. I was so distraught, not only what was going on with all of us, but I had some things going on in my life, as well, situational things that I felt like I had no control over. It just was literally one of the darkest places. Now I know, it’s because God wanted me to even write about that. So, I got very vulnerable in the book about that experience.

Dick Hardy 4:01
Yeah, you really did. You know, you’ve got viewers of this podcast, lots of the folks watching right now are pastors. They’re church leaders. They’re in the trenches. I’m guessing you’ve had it. I’ve had it over these last number of months. I can’t tell you the number of pastors I’ve talked off the ledge of that very thing you’re talking about. Where they’re saying, “I can’t do this.” We’ve never had to deal with this thing. And yet, they’re struggling. “How do we get these people back?” So on and so on. What would you say to a pastor right now, who is feeling unbelievably inadequate to the task?

What would you say to the pastor who feels inadequate?

Chris Hodges 4:47
I think the simple answer would be don’t get alone in your thoughts. So, there’s nothing wrong with having that distress. What I learned in my research is that when you process your own distress, it doesn’t get better, it always gets worse. The psychologists call it ruminating. So, it takes distress, real situations and the more I process it like a cow swallowing the grass and regurgitating it, chewing the cud, we do that with our thoughts. And just like that grass doesn’t come back up better, it comes back up grosser, so do our thoughts.

And so, I would say probably step number one for anybody, pastor or not, that’s listening, and finds themselves in a dark place and processing, and the distress is getting worse and worse, instead of better and better, you’ve got to talk to somebody. Self-talk is a very dangerous thing. One researcher said, 95% of our emotions are determined by the way we talk to ourselves. Well, a lot of us aren’t having good self-talk right now. So, we actually need other healthy people to process this with.

Would you like a personal leadership boost? Take the 5-day Leadership Challenge for Pastors! A 15 Minute per day investment for 5 days will change the trajectory of your leadership and influence.

5-Day Leadership Challenge for Pastors to Grow the Ministry

Dick Hardy 5:51
You know, when you go to that point right there, you’ve got to talk to somebody. It seems like the challenge is, everything else that we deal with in the church is, “You’ve got a broken arm, get it fixed. You’ve got something wrong with your stomach, get it fixed.” But when something starts going haywire up here, first of all, there’s been stigma to that.

Chris Hodges 6:17
Very much so.

Dick Hardy 6:18
But secondly, I’m trying to get this decision-making part of my brain to make a right decision when I go to a very dark spot. I mean, you would have people watching this right now who are on the edge of considering taking their life. It feels hopeless. How do they talk?

Chris Hodges 6:46
Yeah, last year one out of four people under the age 30 thought about it. One out of 10 of the rest of us thought about it, according to the CDC. Those are CDC numbers. So, there’s a lot of that kind of thinking going on. The beautiful part about what I discovered out of God’s word is understanding the process of how you get there and understanding the process of how you get out.

So, I use the metaphor of the cave because that’s to me what depression feels like. It feels like this dark cave. You know, there’s a way out, I just don’t know where it is. Then your mind starts making up things. I mean, a moth could fly by your ear, and your brain will tell you it’s a bat and you’re about to die. So, you even start heightening your distress.

Is the battle completely spiritual?

Chris Hodges 7:30
Elijah, this great prophet in 1 Kings 19, goes through the process, makes six bad decisions that gets him in a cave of depression. Then the beautiful thing, Dick, is that there were five distinct steps out of the darkness into the light. And they’re not all spiritual.

In fact, the very first one, the angel of the Lord comes to Elijah. And you would think if an angel came it would be like worship, or build an altar, or sacrifice an animal. But the first thing that Angel said was, you need to go get a nap. And then now you need to get something to eat. And you know what, let’s go back to sleep again. And let’s eat something again. Literally the angel told him to sleep, eat, sleep, eat. And as a foodie, I kind of like that.

Chris Hodges 8:16
Like, this is a spiritual being giving a natural diagnosis and prescription that a lot of people need because the Bible says strengthened by that food, he took the journey out of the cave. So, a lot of us, the first step, you ask what the first step is, it’s just I need to slow my life down a little bit. I need to get off of news maybe for a month. I need to do whatever it takes to let my soul quiet and my mind quiet and let the Lord begin to work in our lives.

Have you ever sat down to write your message for the weekend and realized you don’t know where to start? Take a look at the Sermon Starters PDF for a multitude of effective strategies to get you started.

Dick Hardy 8:50
Yeah, that’s exactly right. I did not get permission from my wife to say this, but I’m going to put it out here anyway. And she’s gracious. So, I’m confident she’s going to flow with me. I encourage you, Pastor, if you feel like you’ve slipped into a dark place, get the book. It’s not magic. This is not the word of God. But this is an outstanding tool. Do what Chris has said. Step back a second, while you’re thinking these thoughts, step back a second and pick this book up. And let me tell you, if purchasing the book is a bit of a challenge for you, email me at [email protected] and I’ll get a copy. I’ll get one and send it to you. [email protected].

Dick Hardy 9:38
I want you to have this book. So, this is not about hey, let’s try to hustle a bunch of sales. This is about getting this in your hands. So, pastor, church leader, if you’re struggling, pick up Out of the Cave. And if you need me to buy it for you, no questions asked, drop me the email.

Dick Hardy 9:56
Chris. Let’s go a little broader to the pastor who’s leading the community. I mean, you have the community of your church. And by the way, I want to tell this crowd that when you were there on that Wednesday night, and I watched and you watched it, Chris, the altars filled, when you called for people that are just in depression, despair, anxiety, fear… the altars just were jammed.

I have used that, what I saw, with secular audiences of people I’ve talked to, to say, “You look around this restaurant here, and in this restaurant, is that depression, despair, anxiety and fear.” So, as a pastor is ministering to his community or her community, what should they be thinking about when they step out of themselves and now they have to minister to all these people that are hurting this way?

Chris Hodges 10:59
Well, yeah, I think this material would be helpful. And by the way, thank you for your kind offer to your audience. I think that’s incredible. But we have to become well-versed in this topic. Depression went up 900%, well at least the mental health hotline number went up 900% in 2020. So, if we’re going to be shepherds of our flock, the Bible says know well the condition of your flocks. Well, this is the condition of our flocks. Unfortunately, it is.

Chris Hodges 11:31
The good news is there are real solutions. I mean, there are some definite biological, genetic medical reasons for depression and anxiety. But it’s not as much as the secular doctors and psychologists would prescribe medicine for. So, there are some definite biological reasons, but we’re allowing biology to basically dominate the conversation right now. Everybody’s talking about chemical imbalances. We need to talk about the imbalances in the way we’re living our lives. So, there’s some other solution. I’m not anti-medicine, right.

Would you like a personal leadership boost? Take the 5-day Leadership Challenge for Pastors! A 15 Minute per day investment for 5 days will change the trajectory of your leadership and influence.

5-Day Leadership Challenge for Pastors to Grow the Ministry

I talk about it in the book, I have one of my own children who needed medication for his particular mental health issue. But we cannot allow that to dominate. And so pastors and leaders and business leaders, anybody who leads anything, you really need to become well-versed in the topic of anxiety and depression. Panic attacks are on the rise, sleepless nights, and it’s affecting our employees. If you’re a pastor, it’s infecting your churches. But the good news is there’s hope. You know, Jesus came as light into the darkness. We have to become not only well-versed and understanding but also giving the right solutions to it.

Dick Hardy 12:49
That is so true. And when you talk about employers, you’ve got a bunch of good folks sitting in the churches that these pastors pastor, and they’ve got employees. I’m just telling you; I don’t want to keep beating the horse on what that altar meant, but as I was at another campus watching on a video, I just cried. I just lifted my hands and I just cried, I feel the emotion of it now, because I saw the pain that was in these regular folks that we rub shoulders with in the lobby at church, and you really struck on it.

So, again I want to encourage people to pick up the book Out of the Cave. I assume you can get it on Amazon, is that the best place to get it from? Can they contact the church? Or what do you recommend, Chris?

Chris Hodges 13:35
Yeah, it’s on every place where books are sold. And there’s a website for the book called

Dick Hardy 13:42
Well, Pastor Chris, I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done, one in writing the book and how you’ve ministered to me and our family. And just for our viewers, these pastors, I mean, to tell you, they’re in the trenches, they want to do it, right. They want to serve God well. What’s a parting shot just a wrap up, that you’d like to say, that if they remember nothing else, you want them to remember this?

What to remember?

Chris Hodges 14:09
You know, chapter three was probably my most vulnerable chapter of the book. It was about removing the stigma. And for whatever reason, there is an embarrassment, as you said. If I broke my arm, nobody would think less of me. If I wear glasses like I do, no one thinks less than me. But if I say, man, I’m really struggling in my mind, we think people would think less of us. But I think for the first time, humanity and especially the church is ready to have the conversation. So, I’d say don’t be alone in those thoughts. It’s time to let someone know, “Hey, I’m in a dark place.” Just to talk with them, share with them.

Have you ever sat down to write your message for the weekend and realized you don’t know where to start? Take a look at the Sermon Starters PDF for a multitude of effective strategies to get you started.

Chris Hodges 14:44
I’ll leave them with James 5:16. It says, “Confess your faults, not to God, confess your faults one to another, and pray for each other and you’ll be healed.” We go to God for forgiveness, but we have to go to God’s people for healing. In fact, in the chapter three I wrote the 10 things you never say to a depressed person and the 10 things you can say to someone who’s walking through the cave of depression. I think people are ready to have the conversation. And I would encourage anyone who’s struggling right now, find someone. You don’t have to tell everybody, but you need to tell somebody.

Dick Hardy 15:16
Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I didn’t prep you ahead of time, but I’m gambling that Pastor Chris is willing to pray. I’d be honored if you would pray for our audience right now, heavily pastors and church leaders. Just pray for them as leaders, if you would please.

Chris Hodges 15:34
Sure, and then if you’re watching this podcast or even listening, unless you’re driving, would you just close your eyes right there where you are.

Father, I pray for every person and God what I’m praying is they have this sense of hope that someone understands. I think that’s how I felt the first time that I was able to really step out of my own cave of depression, is I realized someone really understood and they cared. And Lord, Your word says that Elijah is a man just like you and me. And God, that this is something that even great people or people who feel great, go through difficult situations. And I pray for courage and strength. God, just give them the boldness to take that step of faith towards you and toward others who can help them.

Lord, I thank you that you did come into this world as light in every dark place. And Lord, I pray that even through this podcast that they would sense that light beginning to shine, there’s literally a light at what seems like the end of their tunnel. God, I thank you for giving everyone the hope that there is a way out. We thank you for it. God, I praise you for it. In Jesus name, amen.

Dick Hardy 16:39
Amen. Amen. Amen. Pastor Chris Hodges, author of the book Out of the Cave, pick it up wherever books are sold. And again, if money is a problem, you just email [email protected] and I’ll make sure you get a book. Pastor Chris, thanks for hanging out with us today.

Chris Hodges 16:55
Thanks, Dick. I really enjoyed it.

Dick Hardy 16:57
Thanks for hanging out with us friends. Make it a great one and be blessed.

Like this post? Sign up for our free blog updates to never miss a post. We’ll send you a FREE ebook to say “Thank You.”

Discover what pastors of growing churches do to see massive growth and how you can position your church for the greatest days ahead.

Click here to get immediate access to this free masterclass.

Church Growth Masterclass for Pastors

Subscribe & Follow:

Other Resources:

Share This Article

Join us daily as we share practical tips and strategies you can use to get better, break barriers, and grow the church.


The On-Demand Streaming Service for Pastors

Get access to more than 300 videos and training material to level-up your leadership and improve your ministry skills.

Get started for just $37 >>

No contracts. No commitments. Cancel anytime.