Job 14:1 says, "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble."
I cannot think of a more appropriate verse for 2020.
Thinking back over my Bible college transcripts, I am quite certain there is nothing in them that says "Pastoring Through a Pandemic, 101." I do remember taking Pastoral Theology, Greek, Hebrew (and why are ancient language classes always at 7 a.m., when brains have hardly yet begun to function, anyway?) Logic, Hermeneutics, Homiletics, Church History, Apologetics and classes teaching through most every book of the Bible, but nothing at all about pastoring through a pandemic.
I suspect that I have probably had it pretty well compared to many others. And that is a bit scary, truthfully, when I consider how hard it has all been.
My wonderful folks are all "folks" nonetheless. They all have opinions, some of them very strong opinions. Don't we all? Not surprisingly, though, while all of us are on the same page doctrinally, our opinions are all over the map on things like "submitting to authority" versus "taking a stand against tyranny," "masks are going to save us all" versus "masks are utterly useless" and "we never should have changed a thing" versus "we are all going to die if we do not stop everything forever."
The good news is that, as far as I know, not a cross word has been spoken by anyone. Everyone has both had their opinions and lovingly allowed everyone else to have theirs. That said, these have been the most stressful days and months I have ever been through as a pastor. And that is what makes me grateful for a few very precious things.
I am first of all very grateful for a church being willing to follow me out into the parking lot for services for eight weeks and then back into the auditorium for services after that. We did not miss a single service the entire time. They have allowed me to lead as we continued to meet for worship, and I will be forever grateful.
I am also grateful for those who have continued to give, some of whom have even done so while not coming to church for a good many months. The lights have stayed on, all the bills have been paid, the ministries of the church have barreled ahead at full steam (though with many adaptations along the way) and all 34 missionaries we help to support have received full support from us without interruption. There will always be those who do not think of things like that; I am grateful for the ones who do.
I am grateful for the many newcomers who showed up in our parking lot services because they so badly wanted a place to worship and who have continued to come and worship with us as we resumed inside services. That, truthfully, has been among the brightest of bright spots through all of this. That God can grow his work even in a pandemic is a beautiful sight to behold.
I am grateful for new people who have stepped up to fill needed areas: singers, Sunday School teachers, nurses who take everyone's temperature at the door week after week, security, homeless ministry workers — people have made themselves available to keep everything moving along. I am also grateful for those who have so carefully sanitized everything each week and in so doing have successfully kept all of us safe thus far.
I am grateful that God has still done his redeeming work in "such a time as this." Three people have come to know Christ at the church during this time as have 18 in the other outreaches of the church.
I am grateful for other pastors who, though wading through difficulties of their own, nonetheless always seem to call or text at just the right time with a word of encouragement.
I could go on at much greater length. But please bear with me as I close with a bit of needed instruction for church members everywhere at this time. Not one pastor in America was "prepared" for any of this. Everyone had to scramble as they were thrust into brand new, uncharted territory. So be sure to pray for your pastor. Love him. Help him ensure that there is still a strong, vibrant church for everyone to eventually come home to. Be patient; pastors by and large from every corner of this great land are, I believe, genuinely trying to do their best under very difficult circumstances. Spend time fasting over the minister and the ministry. And perhaps above all, continue to fulfill the Great Commission. Souls have not stopped dying without God during this time, and therefore souls still need to hear from you the gospel message that Jesus died for our sins, rose again and is willing to save "whosoever will."
Oh, you should also be very low-maintenance in times like these. "Preacher, my feelings are hurt again" makes a pastor cringe during the best of times. During times like these, things like that make him think, "You know, Journey is still touring; maybe they could use me as a backup singer."
Don't stop believin'.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.