This post is a copy of my contribution to the Eastern Baptist Association ‘Thought for the Week’ which is sent to the Ministers in the EBA. I am reposting it here in case other church leaders find it helpful as we reflect on how we are adapting to being church together during this pandemic.
As I was praying about what to write to you all as church leaders, a series of thoughts and questions came to mind:
1. It’s okay not to be okay
In recent weeks life has changed dramatically and if we are feeling under pressure, we need to be honest about this. Some of us are mourning as we feel a sense of loss and deep sadness that our normal way of life has been taken from us. In some way, all of us need to pour out our hearts to God. As we do this, we make room for Him to fill that space with His loving presence.
2. Well done for trying something new
Whether it’s writing letters, sharing audio, services by phone conference or video, lots of us are ministering in new ways. We have had to take risks and when life returns to normal, I hope that we will continue to think outside of the church box and to look for the new things that God is continually doing.
3. Will we be honest about what works and what doesn’t? Are we flexible enough to change?
We are all different and we each have individual gifts and so we shouldn’t all be trying to minister in the exact same way. Some of us may be producing online content when if we are honest, we don’t have many people in our churches who can access it. In these instances, can we collaborate with other churches rather than several churches connecting with a few people each? Is it more appropriate for some of us to point to well produced online content rather than trying to muddle through ourselves? Perhaps you are feeling the pressure to copy the approaches that others are taking when you should be finding freedom in ministering as the person who God made you to be.
4. We need to remember that we are a part of the body
Is our content only communicating at people? If so, are there ways that we can we add a sense of interaction and participation eg alternative platforms or approaches? If we feel that we can’t be interactive in our communication, could we ask for people to share their thoughts with us and include them in what we share next week?
One of the real dangers for us as Ministers in this crisis is that we can unintentionally reinforce the consumerism model that has infected the church. If we really believe that we are a part of the Body of Christ, then we should not be doing everything ourselves. Are we making time to consider how we can release more people into producing thoughts, resources and into pastoral care?
Some churches will struggle financially in the coming months as they have lost rental income and weekly offerings. Is the church that you are a part of in a position to be supportive of them in any way?
5. How can we love our neighbour?
Are we getting the balance right between producing resources and talking with people? During this time of physical isolation, people will need conversation and compassion more than ever.
Are we encouraging those in our churches who have capacity to care for the people in the community, perhaps by helping with shopping? In doing this, we need to take great care not to pressure on or to unintentionally create a sense of guilt in people who are barely hanging on themselves.
6. Is our focus Jesus?
We all know that we are called to depend on God but there is a good chance that some of us are exhausted as we have tried really hard to minister in our own strength. Will we let God’s power be made perfect in our weakness? If we are not doing so already, are we ready to hit pause in order to look for what God is doing so that we can join in with that?
Once, Jesus and the disciples were in a boat in a storm. Jesus was asleep in the stern while the disciples were rushing around trying to cope while the boat sank. Everything changed when they woke Jesus up and I hope that we will follow their example as we cry out to Him to lead, empower and to act.