Greg Laurie is standing by his belief that Jarrid Wilson is in Heaven despite his suicide after receiving "angry messages" from other Christians who disagree with his point of view.
Wilson tragically took his own life the night before World Suicide Prevention Day in September. He was 30-years-old and left behind two young sons and wife Juli, with whom he had been leading a suicide prevention charity.
Despite his efforts to support others, he had often been open about struggling himself in the area of mental health.
Days after his death, Laurie said in a message that Wilson would not be judged by the last thing he did in life but by his belief in Jesus.
Quoting from Romans 8:38-39, Laurie said that "one dark moment in a Christian's life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross".
Laurie is senior pastor at the Harvest Christian Fellowship, where Wilson had joined the team as an associate pastor 18 months before his death.
Reiterating his beliefs, Laurie said in a recent opinion piece for The Washington Post that although he didn't believe "suicide is ever the right choice", he also didn't believe that Christians who end their lives will go to hell as some in the Church believe.
"I have received angry messages from 'well-meaning' Christians who are upset because I've said Jarrid went to heaven after he died. One individual even commented to Jarrid's wife, 'We're praying for you, but Jarrid is in hell!'" Laurie said.
He continued: "I know that while living, Jarrid made the right choice: He chose Jesus Christ as his savior. He trusted the promise of John 3:16: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.' Because of that, I believe Jarrid is in heaven right now."
Laurie said there was an "epidemic" of mental illness in America that the Church could not ignore. But he suggested that sometimes the Church's response had been inadequate.
"Unfortunately, it pains me to say that churches and Christians have not always done a good job at understanding it or ministering to people who are hurting and struggling," he said.
"Some may wonder, 'Why couldn't Jarrid just snap out of this slump?' Just because we cannot see depression, it doesn't mean it's not a physical illness. We wouldn't ask the relative of a deceased cancer patient, 'Why couldn't he just snap out of his cancer?'"