As we continue on this COVID-19 journey, perhaps you and I have been wrestling with similar issues and emotions. Some of us are struggling with the confusion that flows from processing endless amounts of often contradictory information about the virus itself, “proper” responses to the virus, and the economic, social, and relational stress the virus has stirred. Others are experiencing physical and emotional weariness as we all deal with uncertainty, disagreements, ministry adjustments, and changing governmental requirements. For most of us, we would like all this to be “over,” but so far, it seems the end is nowhere in sight.
Given that, we must come alongside each other and remind ourselves that God “…causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We know God wins; the outcome is not in doubt, so we have every reason for hope and joy in the midst of this challenge. In the meantime, as we trust God day by day to move us forward, allow me to offer some thoughts for consideration.
- Be prepared for the possibility that this may go on longer than we had hoped. When the first round of “reopening” took place back in May, I’m sure many of us were hoping that the worst might be past. In reality, it appears that the COVID-19 challenge has “staying power,” so church leaders will need to discuss plans for maintaining digital worship and small group options, alternatives for age level ministries, and new ways to make continuing relational connections in a “socially distanced” culture. This is especially critical should this pandemic situation stretch on through the end of 2020.
- Seek God’s guidance for balance between “freedom” and “responsibility.” Most of us have already felt the tension between personal freedom and responsibility to authority as we have sought to navigate this pandemic crisis. May a Galatians 5:13 spirit prevail: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (NLT) As the world watches us, may they see both that Christians enjoy amazing freedom in Christ, and that they choose to express that freedom by selflessly surrendering personal “rights” for the sake of others.
- Evaluate yourself and your leadership decisions with the perspective of God’s grace. For those of us wrestling with doubts about whether we’ve “done the right things” so far, as well as for those who have endured the negative comments of others about our decisions, keep in mind that the Bible has no direct references mentioning “how to minister during a pandemic.” None of us had a class on this in Bible college; coordinating and developing ministry strategies in our present “virus-centric” context is incredibly complex and challenging. Let’s remind ourselves that God doesn’t expect us to “do His work for Him.” He instead is asking us to seek His wisdom and guidance, act as best we can determine the Spirit’s direction, then release the rest to Him, knowing we will “…receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
- Lean on each other. Now more than ever, we ministry leaders need to remember that we must not be “lone rangers.” We need each other for mutual wisdom, encouragement, and support. Don’t allow the evil one to back you into a corner and convince you that you must handle this all yourself. We were meant to share as a team: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor….Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Don’t hesitate to call each other to share ideas, unpack struggles, and ask for prayer. As a purported African proverb states, “If you want to go faster, go alone; if you want to go farther, go with others.” In this virus marathon, a team approach is best.
Know that we in the regional office are praying for you and that we want to be a resource in any way you might deem valuable—just get in touch.
“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)