Yes, our buildings are closed, we cannot make our visitations in-person and we are hosting services online, but we are still called, ministry must continue, now more than ever.
Jonathan David Faulkner
With schools and business shutting down we as pastors have been left to do the same. For many of us we have to take the extra precaution of factoring in that many of our congregations contain vulnerable groups such as the elderly, disabled and those who are expecting. If you are like me, you have agonized over the decision to close if you are in affected regions. We were open last Sunday, but this Sunday, following the directive of our governor and both federal and state health officials we are closed. We will continue to host our Friday Prayer which are come and go and never see more than two people at a time in a sanctuary that seats 200. One of my members and I, along with my wife will record a video of the service on Saturday and post it to our various sites on Sunday. Again, these have been difficult times and difficult decisions for us to make and most of us are feeling a sense of relief having made the decision. My inbox has filled up with relieved congregation members since we made the announcement last night. This morning I finished exegeting my passages (something I started Monday instead of Tuesday as usual). I am guessing all of our schedules are a little topsy turvey right now.
However, amid the abnormal we should not in any way treat this as a vacation. Now more than ever we should be carrying on the work of a Minister of the Gospel. Now we turn our attention to calming the fear around us, being an example of a nonanxious, spiritually mature, presence who leads as one who is lead by the Shalom of Christ. Now more than ever it is important that we model the biblical example of Jesus for our communities. Yes, we have to obey the government (Rom 13:1-5) but we also have to discerning (1 Cor 2:6-16) in all things, seeking the Holy Spirit for guidance as we aid in caring for our flocks, many of whom are scared and anxious, and as we expand that care to our communities who are also scared and anxious and have no basis for the peace we have in Christ. It is true that life is now extremely abnormal, even for us, but our calm and peace is a testimony and can help all of us seek the Shalom of the cities God has placed us (Jeremiah 29:1-14).
It is also critical that we carry on our ministry of prayer more than ever. That time you would be visiting the nursing home. Pray. That day you have a member in the hospital with surgery, Pray. That time you would be at the local coffee shop or deli in conversational ministry, Pray. You can call your nursing home residents, send them cards, but these things take all of five minutes, instead, pray for them often and pray for your sick often, pray for your healthy, pray for your town, pray for your county, pray for your region, pray for your country and pray for the world. Whatever you do, bathe it in prayer for everyone and in every place. Encourage your church members to do the same and to check in on each other, these times are unprecedented, but God can use them for our growth and benefit as we pray for the everyone from small towns to the big cities. Pray for government leaders who have to make difficult decisions about public health.
Please do not think that this pandemic is a vacation for us as pastors, there is still much to be done. We are not unemployed, we still have sheep to attend to and people need that care and tending in every season, but especially in a time of global uncertainty. You are God’s under shepherd and responsible for His flock and treating this as a vacation will communicate a lack of care to your flock. Continue to be diligent, work from home, but continue to be diligent. Continue to pursue the Holy Spirit and ask God for guidance and put the same amount of time into sermons preached to a camera in an empty room as you would for a full congregation.
I know many of you are not treating this as a vacation, but the encouragement that your work is still important is essential in a time when you feel overwhelmed. Your congregation is encouraged by you when you continue in ministry through hard times.
Congregations, please keep compensating your pastors, they are still putting in office hours and dedicating time to your care. Continue to give to your churches through mail or online giving (if an option), continue to lift your pastors in prayer knowing that we are doing the same for you. Little Children, love one another, call one another, encourage one another, care for one another. The Church is an “All hands-on deck” body (1 Cor 14:12-26) and we all need to function all the time, but in times like these, moreso. Your pastor ministers to you so you can minister to one another. We love you and care for you and need you to practice the same for one another.