We’ve never been here before.
No pastor alive today has ever done ministry amid a global pandemic. No seminary class, conference breakout session, or any other training opportunity has addressed how to pastor during such a unique time. Therefore, we’re forced to lead in unknown territory and navigate through the now often-changing challenges facing church ministry. In a way, this is good because it forces us to lean on God instead of something else.
We’re roughly four months into doing ministry this way. Many pastors are struggling. They won’t let others know but they may share on social media and with other pastors.
Over and over again I’m reading and hearing this statement, “It’s hard.” I’ve said it too. God never promises that ministry will be easy. It never has been easy in my almost 18 years of serving the Lord.
Is ministry a privilege? Absolutely.
Is ministry a high calling? Yes.
Is ministry easy? No. If ministry wasn’t easy for Jesus, can we as pastors expect anything different?
But it’s a different kind of hard right now. There seems to be more pressure on pastors now than ever. Strange as it may seem, us pastors are working longer and harder now than we were before all of this started.
We’re having to stay ahead of the curve. We’ve had to climb the mountain of moving ministry totally online then climb an even bigger mountain of opening up church again while continuing to do ministry online. We’re trying to figure out how to accomplish every aspect of a local church’s ministry in a new era of church life while being biblical at the same time.
One pastor on Twitter recently shared, “Man. I am so tired. So tired of taking hits as a pastor in the middle of a pandemic. So tired of people leaving. Tired of anxiety and worry. I’ve been in vocational ministry for 19 years. This has been by far the hardest year of my ministry life.”
Maybe you’re not aware, but think about what a pastor has to interact with and deal with right now. Talking with my pastor friends and recalling some of my recent experiences, here are some common responses pastors currently receive from people.
“Why are we letting the government control when we can go to church?”
“Why are we having church again when (other church in town) isn’t? Aren’t we listening to what the government is saying or the recommendations from the CDC?”
“Why did we start church so late when (other church in town) started back in May? We’re forsaking the assembling of ourselves!”
“We don’t have enough safety protocols in place here at church. This is reckless.”
“There are too many safety protocols in place here at church. This is ridiculous.”
“This doesn’t look like church anymore.”
“I want things the way they used to be.”
“Pastor, have you enjoyed all this time off?” (This one hits hard.)
Do you notice something about these comments? They’re mostly inward-focused. While these comments do not represent everyone’s sentiment in every church, they are the loudest to pastors. That’s another hit we take. Too often we feel like we’re failing when we hear these responses over and over again in comparison to other responses such as, “How can I help you?” “What can I do to serve the church?” or “What can I pray for?”
Right now we’re much like Joshua in the Old Testament. It’s a new day. It’s a new way of doing things. It’s not going to be like it was before.
This was new territory for the people of Israel as it was for Joshua. I’m sure Joshua heard similar comments back then as we’re hearing today. I’m confident Joshua became tired. It didn’t stop Joshua and it shouldn’t stop us. No matter how hard ministry is, God will never leave us or forsake us (Joshua 1:5). Pastors, we should be reminded of God’s love and encouragement in Joshua 1:9 where God says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Pastors, God has placed us here for a time such as this. Love God. Love people. Lead confidently. Respond with grace. Make disciples. God is with you. Stay the course.
Churches, love God. Love people. Make disciples. Love your pastor. Pray for him. Support him. He needs it now more than ever.