What Can I Expect from My Church and Pastor Right Now?
A pastor friend called me the other day deeply hurt by a situation in his church. In a recent video addressing their response to the virus, the pastor forgot to mention a certain ministry of his church that was part of the plan. It was a simple, unintentional oversight. However, instead of calling the pastor to point out the oversight and work together to resolve it, the head person of that ministry broadcasted an email stating his disappointment and blasting the pastor for failing to mention the ministry. It set off a chain reaction of negativity and anxiety. This ministry leader even purposefully removed the pastor's email from the email list so that he wouldn't see it.
Needless to say, it cut this pastor deeply. Like many churches around the nation, the Coronavirus has halted all our big plans already - mission trips, outreach events, evangelistic efforts, community projects, etc. Not only are we struggling to address the virus, pastors are also having to make some really difficult decisions right now. Allow me remind all of my readers of something that needs to be kept in mind -
The Coronavirus is an unprecedented situation!
It's unfair to expect the church and pastors to bat 1000 in a situation that no one in our nation has ever faced before. What my pastor friend needs right now (what all pastors and churches need right now) is a little grace and understanding. At this particular moment, do not place unfair expectations on your church leaders in a situation that is unprecedented.
Don't expect the church or pastors to be Coronavirus experts and epidemiologists. We did not go to medical school. We have access only to the same information that you do. We have to weed through what is true and false, just as you do. Yet, we still have to make some sort of decision for the church based on our limited knowledge of epidemiology.
Don't expect the church or pastors to be managers of the pandemic. People in my church have asked me when this is going to end and we can all get back to normal. What I want to say is, "You know, I spoke to the virus last Tuesday and he said this will all be over by Easter." Pastors are not fortunetellers. We have no crystal ball in the office. The church is under the same mandates as everyone else in the nation and must abide by the same rules. We cannot make these calls and we cannot say for certain when this will all be over.
Don't expect the church or pastors to remember or solve every problem the virus creates. My wife and I have been disturbed by the high numbers of child abuse being reported in our area of Texas right now. According to a local expert at the hospital Amy works at, they have received more child abuse calls in the last three weeks than they normally receive in a year! I'm not sure how accurate that account is, but we do know that there is a heavy concern around the nation.
How can the church help the least of these when we too are under house arrest? I'm not sure. I've been racking my brain. It's a real dilemma. It's easy to point fingers and say, "The church should be doing this or that," but again, this situation is unprecedented. We are doing our best to address the needs of our community, and I've heard a lot of great stories, but expecting the church to solve problems we are not equipped to solve is unrealistic and unfair.
The bottom line is, don't expect the church or pastors to be perfect. We've never dealt with this before.
What can we expect from the church and pastors then?
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 seems like a relevant passage for this topic. "When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God."
Here's what you should expect from your pastor and church right now.
Expect the church and pastors to address the virus in humility. Paul was thought to be a pretty unimpressive person in his day. In my doctorate seminar, we joked about how he was much more like Danny DeVito than he was Joel Osteen. The Corinthians were even a little embarrassed by him. He didn't look impressive, he didn't speak eloquently, and as we know from his other writings, he was often rather blunt. But this is exactly the kind of person God wants leading his people, because it's this kind of person that knows when to shut-up, get out of the way, and point people toward the only person in the world with the ability to save us.
Expect the church and pastors to proclaim the power of God. The creator of this world knows exactly how this world works. From every last feather on every last bird in the sky, to every last scale on every last fish in the deepest corners of the sea, to every microcosmic particle on a microscope lens, God knows it. God has power over all the forces of the world, no matter how life threatening or chaotic they may appear.
Expect the church and pastors to continually proclaim Christ and him crucified. Our hope of every surviving the many woes of life are found only in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. We may not know much about the virus, how to stop it, or how to solve it. But we do know that Christ died so that you may live.
Have a little understanding on your church staff and pastor this week. They really are doing the best they know how to do. Are they perfect? No, they certainly are not. But they have been called to shepherd the people of God in a situation that has no obvious answers. So, demonstrate to them the same grace that Christ demonstrated to you on the cross.