Unless you’re on a desert island, you’re well aware of the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic. Depending on where you live and whether you’re working from home, you may be spending a whole lot of time inside your home with little to do.

Obviously we need to take this seriously. In the US, over forty thousand people have died. People are out of work, many others have had their hours scaled back. Several states are in stay-at-home mode (and in some of them the natives are getting restless). The impact on our day-to-day lives is enormous, and some of the “mitigations” may go on way past the return to whatever becomes normal.

When it comes to this pandemic, our seniors are the most vulnerable segment of society. I’m quite familiar with that group. Whether I like it or not (and I don’t), my having lived 66 years puts me in that category. And four days each week I work in senior citizens community. Our facilities are home to three kinds of seniors – people who live independently in their own apartments, people who need a bit of help with their daily lives, and people who are in skilled nursing. I interact with those who go out for doctor appointments, and often stop to talk with those who are out walking for exercise. While they’re concerned and cautious, I haven’t heard any of them express panic or fear. I’m sure there are some who are genuinely afraid, but from what I can tell they are in the minority.

In my email this morning I found a promotional for yet another resource on coping with anxiety due to this pandemic. And to be honest, I’m wondering why pastors, publishers, and various ministries are still beating that drum? No doubt there are people in our churches who are having a hard time. But to be honest, I’m not sure that there are many believers acting like the sky is falling. But you’d almost get that impression from the number of “How to Deal With It” resources out there.

Here’s a text between me and a fellow pastor from earlier this week:

Me: “I am reading a lot of bloggers who are writing from the perspective of trying to bring assurance to people who are afraid because of the coronavirus. I know people are concerned, cautious, aggravated, but I haven’t encountered anyone who feels afraid. Have you?”

Him: “No and at times I grow weary of pastors who keep stressing not to get stressed.“

Bingo. My sentiments exactly.

So what gives? Why are so many of us caught up in trying to put out a fire that might actually not be burning – at least to the degree we think?

Is it possible that our people are stronger than we think they are? Is it possible that the Holy Spirit has actually used the preaching and teaching they’ve heard to help them think through this in a biblical way? Is it possible that pastors, meaning nothing but the best, are ministering under the mistaken notion that their people are frightened and require lots of comfort at this time?

Please understand that I am not trying to start a fight. I have nothing but the highest regard for faithful pastors. But I’m going to probe just a touch because I’m also concerned about pastors. So here’s my $64,000 question1: Are we trying too hard to be good pastors during this pandemic? And if so why, and at what cost?

When we first went into shut-down mode, I wrote about the opportunity this pandemic presented for pastors to slow down. Some of the pastors I’ve talked to do have a lighter work load. But around the web I some who seem to be in overdrive. What about you? If you’ve been running your engine at full blast for the last month or so, how are you going to hold up when the normal demands of pastoral work resume?

The other day I came across this article which should be required reading while there’s still some time. Our work is important, brother pastor. There’s no question about that. People’s needs are great. There’s no disputing that either. But you have to put this period of time in the greater context of when life gets to the new normal.

I realize that each church situation is different, and I also realize that some people need extraordinary care in times of crisis. If you are not tending to your flock during this time, shame on you. If you’re tending it faithfully, great. But if you’re busier than you were before this time, please take a step back and ask yourself why.

This is going to end, and when it does you can’t afford to be running on empty.

7 Comments

  1. Interesting thoughts – very challenging (to this pastor busy doing just what you describe and running himself into the ground!)

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    1. Thanks for visiting the website, Andrew. Each congregation has it’s own challenges, and you may need to be busier during this time. But I think it’s good to look at what we’re doing and why. May God give you grace to get through this period without being exhausted.

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  2. I’m not surprised that Pastor’s are imagining problems that are not a problem. They are isolated, systemically by the habit patterns of clergyism.
    1. I was told as a Pastoral Education major to “Keep a professional distance from the lay people. You are a shepherd and they are sheep.” I knew that was wrong, the exact OPPOSITE of Paul and Jesus. That was my first step out of professional shepherding and into ministry “free of charge”, or always combined with marketplace ministry. It’s ALL “full-time” ministry. Col. 3:23,24; 1 Cor. 15:58
    2. The Chief Shepherd ALWAYS maintains an intimate and mutual relationship with ALL his people. Shepherding by people is no different. Clergyism falsely restricts shepherding to hired men who have a Bible degree to lecture the Bible every week, or some other crowd oriented programming duty. Shepherding is leading “by example”. 1 Peter 5:3, and many others. It is FUNDAMENTALLY a reproductive work. Luke 6:40. In clergyism it is 100% perpetual dependency. This is RAW disobedience to scripture. True shepherding results in many others shepherding, teaching, and in “one another” dynamic which is intimate and mutual. Col. 3:16, Hebres 5:11-14, and many others. This would achieve intimate and mutual shepherding rather than aloof and distant institution managing from behind a pulpit in one way communication.

    I’m not saying God cannot use the clergyism routine. I’m saying his work is SEVERELY marginalized and corrupted. Many SEVERELY dysfunctional habit patterns are the result, but they are all called godly. You may not be able to interact with me on this. You may have to restrict your time to brothers who agree with you. I gave scripture, but it may not have any authority since I’m a layman giving it out. I say this because Pastors are not used to hearing lay people “rebuke and correct” them with scripture. We’ll see. Let’s be brothers in spite of clergyism differences. The work of Christ making us brothers is of far greater eternal significance.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Tim, and for your comments. The overwhelming majority of men I know in ministry are servant-leaders and do their best to follow the shepherding patterns in Scripture. However I can understand how someone who is trained the way you describe would end up looking at ministry as a profession and not a calling. Where that happens, it’s sure sad.

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      1. Thanks for replying. I agree. All clergy are doing their best. However, they have failed to “test everything”. 1 Thes. 5:21. They don’t realize there is severe disobedience baked into clergyism which they all practice. They try their best to be a servant, but they seem to be blind to the elevated authority elements they put along side the serving status. They must practice a contradiction. They consider it all godly, but it’s not.

        I was trained the way EVERY Pastor is trained. It’s all the same. It’s still taught this way to this day. Every book on Pastoral practice teaches Pastors must have their intimate and mutual relationships out side their church and preferably a “peer”. That means clergy only. You know this. If you google “friendless pastor” you will find many articles. Some of them nuance the situation and cannot disclose deeper issues connected to clergyism. They are merely coping with their co-dependency – clergy separated from laity.

        I was disappointed you did not respond to the scripture I gave on the fully reproductive version of leadership taught in scripture. It exposes the perpetual dependency results of clergyism baked into shepherding. This is something you have seen and done. It’s very hard to admit this is the natural result of systemic clergyism. Pastors tend to want to blame the lay people, or previous Pastors. No, the system, polished and protected by the clergy, loved and funded by the lay people is the core of why church as we know it is so disobedient to God’s simple and clear instructions. You are not recognizing the signs are pointing to a 500 year old system of practice. I saw the signs right at the beginning. It took another 30 years to recognize the scripture was so clear and how traditions of men had blinded me to it. In the OT the leaders were blind. In Jesus’ time the leaders were blind. I’m not blind any more.

        Further dialogue is beyond the scope of this article, but if you want to help Pastors, we need to “one another” more on this. Doing the same thing will not give you different results. There are “things that hinder” and “sin that entangles” that needs to be “thrown off” before you can run the race with perseverance marked out for you and fix your eyes on Jesus….” Hebrews 12:2 I am a lay person. I work a dirty job that is 100% service to Christ. I can help you with this if you want it.

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      2. As someone who has significant friendships with people who are/were in my church and out of it, pastors and non-pastors, I don’t personally relate to what you are saying about the relationships of pastors. I think we have some fundamental disagreements about what you view as a systemic problem. We have no disagreement about what Scripture teaches, but we would have significant disagreement about the state of the clergy and the value of vocational ministry. We could both muster anecdotal evidence for our experiences, pro or con, but I’m not interested in an argument. I appreciate your heart for God’s people, and hope that he uses you as you minister “for free.” God bless you.

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