Like many others, I’ve tried to encourage pastors and church leaders facing the global crisis of COVID-19. My good friend and colleague, Keith Whitfield, and I have begun a Facebook page called “Great Commission Conversations” just for that purpose. No one knows how long this crisis will continue, but here are some reflections from pastors to this point:
- Many of them have been forced to learn new ways to preach a sermon and receive an offering. Churches that weren’t already showing their services electronically or providing giving options online were ill-prepared for this crisis—and their pastors have had to learn and apply quickly.
- They’ve been reminded of the value of intentional communication with church members. That’s because they and their leaders made a decision, after learning their church could not meet together, to contact all their church members and check on them. For some members, that’s the first time a leader has called them – and they delight in the attention.
- They are seeing community more essential to the church than ever before. Many church members understood fellowship as only food and fun, but their leaders and they are learning the value of spending time with other believers—even if it’s only through a computer screen. Electronic fellowship is better than no fellowship.
- They’re learning how to preach to a computer, camera, or an empty worship center. They may be uncomfortable with it, but circumstances have forced them to do something different. They do it because they still want to get the gospel to their congregation and the nations.
- They’re realizing that an Internet presence for a church can actually increase their audience. I’m not arguing here that we should do only Internet church from this point on, but I am arguing on behalf of these pastors that online worship services can be a front door to your church.
- They are recognizing the importance of being nimble leaders shepherding a nimble church. A few weeks ago, their churches could meet in groups under 100. Then 50. Then 10. Then it was a “Stay at Home” mandate. What the church did successfully last week may not be an option this week—so the church must adjust again. The less nimble they are, the harder it is for them to adjust.
- They’re faithfully worrying about finances. I say “faithfully” because they want to trust God, but their faith is sometimes like the father of the demonized child: “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). They worry about paying salaries and building payments in a time of economic downfall.
- They’re using their phone to call people. It almost seems strange today. People are calling other people, and the other people are actually taking the call. Human voices are speaking to listening ears—and it’s powerful. It’s good. It’s ministry.
- They’re busier than they were before the crisis hit. They’re conducting Zoom staff meetings. And discipling people via the Internet. And practicing preaching to nobody. And contacting members (often, a lot of them). And checking on missionaries their church has sent. And considering how to reduce the budget. And praying for their staff and their members. And checking out new opportunities for the church to recover some financial loss through the stimulus package recently approved. And trying to be a good spouse and parent . . . .
- They long for our prayers for wisdom. Even the most trained, most equipped pastors are facing things today they’ve likely never faced. Suddenly, everything’s changed—and pastors know they need wisdom. Only God can give that.
If you’re a pastor, what would you add?