Pastors and the Pandemic – How Did Our Leaders Do?

We know the truth of it – it’s easier to critique from the sidelines than it is to be in the game calling the shots in real time. People make careers critiquing from the cheap seats.

After the fact, we all see clearly. Some have charts and graphs showing what might have happened in their alternate history and we applaud their prophetic hindsight. Their certainty in the aftermath is inspiring.

We cluck our teeth and shake our heads at the shame of wrong calls and missed opportunities. Surely there’s someone else better-suited to lead, we say, and the mob waddles off en masse in search of someone promising to exercise hindsight in the moment.

But, I’m not talking about the presidency. I’m talking about us, the people of God and our local leaders.

We’ve been through a crisis, are living inside a crisis, and anticipate more crises ahead. Congregations are assessing their leadership teams wondering if they should jump ship or maybe, like Jonah’s shipmates, save their ships by tossing their leaders overboard.

I hear you whispering there are no cheap seats in the church, but I beg to differ. Pews are filled with spectators, people who have come to observe and partake but haven’t surrendered their lives to Jesus. The blood of Christ hasn’t afforded them entrance. They jumped the turnstile via the fashion of the times and convenience of geography.

Yes, many in the pews are there by blood (His), but you know them by their wisdom, commitment to biblical truth, and the grace they extend. The others, too often, sound more like Chicken Little than people of faith. More like the disciples in the boat prior to the cross than those willing to suffer and sacrifice following Jesus’ resurrection.

(Who this post is NOT about: Leaders who harbor unrepentant sin, false teaching, or disqualifying behaviors should be confronted and dealt with by biblical means. I have great admiration for the team of leaders in Dallas who kept talking with their pastor about the sin of pride he exhibited and its effect on his congregation. He’s the one in the headlines here but I believe those who, in love, persevered in hard conversations are on Heaven’s front page.)

What this post IS about: But, there are many sincere, biblical, Jesus-loving pastors and leadership teams who have had to make tough calls during the pandemic, the fires, and the election who will face countless criticisms about how they could have been different. And they are now on the firing lines.

A person doesn’t have to be hit with a boulder to go down for the count – they can be buried under a pile of smaller stones. Let’s try to minimize spiritual casualties of COVID among our church leaders.

We, the believers in Jesus, need to assess our response to the events of this year as a WE, not a he/she. Sometimes it’s our expectations that go awry and we need to own that. We’d be wise to keep in mind that in the storm, Jesus didn’t meet His disciples’ expectations.

Jesus and the twelve were in a boat headed across the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose of such fierceness that seasoned fishermen were afraid. Jesus napped in the bow and wasn’t awakened until his disciples cried out to Him that they were about to die. He calmed the wind and waves but chided them for their small faith. They should have trusted that if they were indeed in peril, Jesus would have rescued them, but even with the rough seas, they were not doomed.

Following Jesus means we will all have to learn to weather some frightening storms with only our faith as gear.

As I examine how I’ve responded to the pandemic, I see areas of my faith that need shoring up, better conditioning, and extensive repairs. There were too many moments of fog, of distraction, of white-knuckled fear for my comfort. Too many hours watching talking heads and too few devoted to listening for God’s voice above the wind and the waves.

And this unprecedented year has revealed deficiencies in my pre-COVID life in the areas of evangelism, spiritual discipline, and deeper relationships in my local faith community. I need to ask God to infuse what has been anemic. I can grow. I can mature. I can repent where it’s called for and incorporate this seasoning into my approach to life beyond COVID19. I can be refined by this fire and guided by God’s Holy Word.

And I can’t throw stones. We all could have done better but we can also grow together.

The disciples certainly could have handled that boat ride differently, but Jesus didn’t toss them overboard. The moment was instructive, not definitive. A growth-point, not a final cut from the team. Following Jesus is no easy ride. There were far greater storms ahead for the disciples and there will be for us, as well.

It wasn’t long after the storm and the scolding on their small faith that Jesus empowered them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Proclaiming the gospel, being instrumental in healing, wielding the power of the Holy Spirit – these are heady things. But they come with humbling storms.

The furor and upheaval of 2020 will likely prove, down the road, an opportunity for the church to assess and to armor up for greater gales ahead. Hard conversations are inevitable but let them be ungirded with grace. We are not here to throw stones but to be “living stones built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5 ESV

When we approach those in local leadership, let us do a shared assessment. Where could we have been stronger together? How could we have served our congregation better together? What do we need to grow up more to prepare for the next wave? What did we come to appreciate about our faith community but where did we exhibit a need for more of Jesus and less of us?

We are not being destroyed, we are being projected into a future planned for us by a loving Father and we are equipped to meet the challenge together through the blood of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Beyond COVID19 lies our destiny in Christ, let us step into it together.

 

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And, if you’d like to join me on Wednesdays at 12 noon EST, I’m doing a brief reflection Live on Facebook called Lunch with Luke as we work our way through the gospel, making certain the things we’ve been taught. The first video is HERE and for the next one, join me on my Facebook page Wednesday at 12 noon ESt.

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2 Comments

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  1. Deborah Kreyssig says:

    Thanks Lori! Yes, instead of throwing stones let’s offer up prayers for our leaders. These have been unprecedented times and leaders had to make decisions to the best of their ability with the information given at the time. We may not have always liked their choices but I believe most were only doing what they thought was best at the time. Let us who have received immeasurable grace be the bearers of grace and extend that to our leaders. As we move into election time I pray we don’t get caught in all the distractions swirling around us but we simply ask God for His wisdom to choose leaders who will lead our nation in a Godly direction for His glory.