Although it would seem they should be the strongest in the room, your pastor has to reconcile the voices of their congregation, their church leadership, social media critiques, government officials, the enemy, and the Lord. Even before COVID-19, some of the biggest headlines shared about pastors had to do with them taking their own lives. Pastors struggling with severe depression is a common occurrence. The everyday pressures of helping people spiritually, listening to everyone’s personal problems, maintaining their staff, and balancing their own personal life, and keeping up with emotional/spiritual battles are too much for many to bare. The current pandemic adds an extra amount of pressure that no pastor has been prepared to handle. More than ever, they need the church to gather around them in prayer versus criticism.
Hebrews 13:7 NLT Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.
There's No Perfect Model To Follow
When it comes to churches reopening, there is no perfect model. Each church, state, county, and denomination will have their own rules. For instance, the United Methodist Church denomination has singing. In other words, the pastor has no choice in the matter and must follow the rules set in place. In the same way, there are some parts of our country that have an increasing rate of COVID-19. Los Angeles is one of those areas. The ages of the members may also play a role in how to move forward. The membership of the church I pastor is made up of older people who are very vulnerable to serious outcomes of COVID-19 infections.
With this being said, it would be unwise to treat all churches the same, when it comes to how to move forward. The various regulations and unique makeup of the church itself must be taken into consideration. Your pastor must balance all of these factors to make wise choices for any given Sunday.
Pastors Must Do What The Lord Has Called Them To Do
Being a pastor is not for the faint of heart. They are called to watch over those in their “flock” and will be held accountable for their actions.
Acts of the Apostles 20:28 NLT “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood —over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
During this pandemic, pastors must seek the Lord for council as they are ultimately accountable to Him. Some would argue, shouldn’t God be speaking the same to every church? Yes and no. The overall Great Commission remains the same for all. The method of winning souls and making disciples, will be different and unique for each ministry.
Jude 1:22-23 NLT And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
When pastors seek the Lord, they are to do so in a manner of complete surrender to His voice, and not the voice of the members. In other words, pastors must be Spirit-led not swayed by other voices.
This will undoubtedly cause some to be offended as the pastor is not doing what they think is best. However, a praying pastor can remain steady and confident when they have sought the Lord for how to lead the church during the pandemic. Church leaders must trust that God knows all things, so whether He leads them to be virtual for the next year, close the ministry, or do business as usual, they must trust the Lord. Ultimately, the church and its people belong to Him and the pastor should follow His lead on all matters, even if it looks different than the church up the street.
Hebrews 13:17 NLT Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
Pastors are forced to make choices that are not just good for the current pandemic but the longevity of the church. A poor choice can be the difference between a lawsuit or the church not being able to recover financially in the future. For this reason, many churches have decided to follow their governing state’s guidelines, not because of fear, but out of wisdom and to honor those who are in authority.
Romans 13:1 NLT Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
Likewise, the church itself will have to deal with the repercussions of their choices as it pertains to COVID-19. Thus, the members must come to recognize that their opinions may be valid but ultimately the pastor will be held accountable.
The Church Is Not Dead
The church is not dead! The methods to winning souls for Christ may be altered, but God’s word is still going forward. Never has there been a time where Sunday morning social media feeds are filled with churches from all denominations. Bibles are selling out at local stores. Churches are not declining in membership but growing! God is still on the move and people are still hungry for the gospel. At a time where everyone can see that tomorrow is not promised, God is moving in the hearts of people to turn back to the Lord. I believe this is a time of God shifting the Church to return to the message of the gospel, it is also one of great creativity.
Your pastor needs prayer more than ever. As the Lord continues to show you and your family the best way to navigate COVID-19, pray the same for your pastor. In this season, the weight of their choices can mean life and death for the members that they care for sincerely. Although we may have strong convictions, let's do all we can to guard our hearts and not complain as your pastor follows the Lord’s lead.