ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. – Southern Baptist pastor Jarrid Wilson played games with his son Denham, attended his son Finch's baseball practice and tweeted encouragement to a struggling alcoholic within hours of reportedly committing suicide late Monday, Sept. 9.
"I took this on Monday evening around 7:30 p.m. at our son's baseball practice," Wilson's widow Julianne wrote in posting a video of Wilson playfully swinging Denham in his arms. "By 11:45 that night, my sweet husband was in the presence of Jesus. I love you, Jarrid."
Wilson shot himself with a handgun and was transported to the emergency room of Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, Calif., where he was pronounced dead at 3:57 a.m. local time Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Riverside County Sheriff's Office told Baptist Press Wednesday. Wilson was 30.
Wilson struggled with depression and suicidal tendencies, he said frequently throughout his ministry.
Wilson's pastor Greg Laurie of mega Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside announced the death Tuesday on Twitter.
"Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people. We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not," Laurie wrote. "At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day.... One dark moment in a Christian's life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross." Harvest Christian Fellowship began cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2017.
Wilson had been a Harvest associate pastor for 18 months. He and his wife founded the nonprofit "Anthem of Hope" to help those "battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide."
"Hey friends," Wilson wrote on the Anthem of Hope Twitter page on the day of his death, "check out this @anthemofhope phone wallpaper in honor of our #YourLifeMatters campaign."
Five years ago, Wilson served nine months as student pastor of LifePoint Church in Smyrna, Tenn. In social media posts, his former senior pastor Pat Hood and others lamented Wilson's death.
"Even though we only served with Jarrid a brief time, he left an impression on LifePoint Church and its people," Hood said on Instagram. "We ask the members of LifePoint Church and friends of the Wilson family to pray for Julianne, the boys and Jarrid's family during this time.
"It is oftentimes hard to find the words to express our sorrow in times like this," Hood wrote, "but we are thankful that depression and suicide cannot beat those whose lives are anchored in the death and resurrection of Jesus."
Wilson's friend Travis Akers, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a political commentator, tweeted Tuesday that Wilson was one of the few people who knew of Akers' battle with alcoholism.
"When I shared about it publicly to perhaps help others, he encouraged and lifted me up," Akers wrote Tuesday. "This was his reply last night after I went public. That's the type of person he was. He died moments later."
Wilson had responded to Akers' admission of alcoholism, "Proud of you man! What beautiful transparency.
Wilson's death coincided with World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10. After his death, many social media posts encouraged those considering suicide to get help through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. Two GoFundMe pages for Wilson, one promoted as a tribute and the other as a memorial fund, had together raised more than $85,000 by 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Laurie tweeted a photo Wednesday of Wilson baptizing a new believer.
"This is Jarrid Wilson baptizing someone last Saturday. Look at the joy on both his and the young lady's face that he baptized," Laurie wrote. "This is how I remember him."
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.