What have the last two weeks been like for the average pastor? Well, the audio won’t sync with the video, some of the senior adults refuse to socially distance, the wife needs you home more to help with homeschooling, you’re not sure how to keep everyone connected even though the internet ostensibly connects us all, and giving’s already down about 60 percent.
Pastor, you were made for this.
All along, you’ve been preaching, loving, serving—hoping your flock will get a glimpse of the supernatural reality of Christianity. Your business as usual has been about interrupting people’s business as usual. And what your gracious warnings could not do, the Lord has done in ordaining this weird, anxious season.
None of your peers has ever pastored through a season like this. The uncertainty of the future is so stark. Your people are listening to all kinds of voices—some say it will be fine, some say it will be the end of days, and we find either of those more appealing than the voices that simply say “we don’t know,” because we want answers. The horizon is gray. The waters are uncharted. But you were called for this. You have the word from heaven.
As people’s anxiety and unease rises, you are leaning into your qualifications of gentleness and self-control. The strategies and gifts on which you were always tempted to lean too heavily have now been neutralized. Now you are profoundly aware of your own dispensability. And that is to your advantage. Your felt weakness is fertile soil for the power of the Spirit. Now you must shepherd.
Christianity was not launched in a world of comfort, and it was not designed to flourish in a world of comfort. If the Lord is doing anything in overseeing this season, perhaps it is a refining, a sifting. Things are going to get weirder, more difficult, more trying. Maybe the true church will rise to the surface. And with her, the true pastors.
This is what you’ve been called into all along—praying as if the power is outside you, caring as if life-on-life relationships help more than virtual ones, preaching good news as if people are broken, weary, and scared of the future. This has always been necessary to pastoring, but now we can’t avoid it.
What COVID19 can do for many of us is strip life down to its essential motivations and fears. And the gospel can speak into these things like nothing else. “What a man is on his knees before God,” M’Cheyne wrote, “that he is, and nothing more.” The wise among us were already going there. The rest of us are being pushed there. And it’s a great opportunity to see what only God can do.
So we need you, pastors. We need you to pastor. God saw all this mess coming, and he wanted you to be at the helm of your church when it did. There is no uncertainty for him. There is no hand-wringing in heaven. He chose you to lead your church at this time. So walk humbly. And take courage. You were made for this.
“[F]or God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
— 2 Timothy 1:7