I am thankful to God for how many pastors have responded to the changes necessitated by the coronavirus. Judging by my conversations with friends and what I see in my various feeds, many pastors are doing a commendable job caring for the flock. The pandemic brought a gear-shift for pastoral ministry. By God’s grace, many are doing well.
Here are four areas of particular encouragement to me and, I trust, the many churches they serve.
Remembering the events of early March, things were moving at a dizzying pace. There was so much we didn’t know about the virus and its effect upon the church. At the same time, I saw pastors walking in faith, forging ahead into the choppy waters of uncertainty, with humility, thoughtfulness, and care. Once the recommendations from the government began, so many pastors made careful adjustments. They didn’t flinch. They communicated several times a week, sometimes amending previous decisions based upon new guidance, with the type of faith that declared to their congregation and a watching world, the Lord reigns (Ps. 93:1–5), he is in the heavens and does all that he pleases (Ps. 115:3). He works all things for his glory and the good of his people (Rom. 8:28). Amid the swelling waves of uncertainty, pastoral steadfastness was beautiful to see.
The pandemic brought a gear-shift for pastoral ministry. By God’s grace, many are doing well.
This confidence in God was not an unfeeling indifference. No, there is a sense of gravity and sobriety. In addition to the empathy expressed for the physical well-being of neighbors, there are persistent considerations of the spiritual implications. In a time when there is considerable emphasis upon the physical, pastors are some of the only ones pointing to another mountain peak, veiled by the clouds of current events. Pastors are reflecting the posture of the prophets and other biblical writers who warned their hearers to use this opportunity to humble themselves under the hand of God. I praise God for the many pastors who are looking out upon their neighbors with tears of mercy, while at the same time reminding others to consider this seasons with words of warning and reflection.
Through many conversations with other pastors, I hear this recurring statement, “I think God is using corona to make me a better shepherd.” Now that most pastors have lost the opportunity to see their congregation on Sundays or during the week, there are limitations as to how we can shepherd them. Many of us have underestimated what we can do during the week and overestimated what we could do on Sundays. The quarantine drives pastors to more creative ways to care for the church. I know of many guys who have revamped how they are praying for the church. Without the chance to see members, pastors are calling, texting, emailing, and video chatting more. I’ve also seen such innovation with teaching content. Most pastors aren’t trained to be talking to a video camera. For most, this is as comfortable as figure skating in public. Yet, so many pastors are denying themselves to serve Christ and his church. And, from my seat, it is a beautiful thing.
Nearly every church in the world is presently under some sort of governmental advisory concerning COVID–19. This means that yesterday on Resurrection Sunday, the vast majority of church services were canceled. By doing this, pastors and church leaders are demonstrating submission to their governing authorities even though we are doing something we’d rather not be doing. Many of the people I’ve read and listened to have cited the need to submit to our governing authorities as we submit to God (Rom. 13:1ff), and to love our neighbors as we love God (Matt. 22:36–39). A robust view of God’s providence understands that even those in authority are placed there by God and that for our good. Watching so many pastors trust God in this time has likewise been a blessing.
Excel Still More
I know many professions are forced to adjust and rework what they do. I am not attempting to elevate pastors unreasonably. But as a pastor, I want to highlight some areas of personal encouragement to me that I have witnessed as I look around at what other brothers are doing.
I’d like to encourage you to reach out to your pastor and point out something that has caused you to be grateful to God. It will certainly bless him. He is working hard and likely feels a bit out of his depth.
If you are a pastor, let me encourage you, do not grow weary of doing good, the Lord Jesus and his church are worthy of your tireless service. May he refresh you with the abiding smile of his finished work on your behalf as you labor for him. Excel still more, brother!