Patience During Lockdown
The coronavirus lockdown may have put a halt to big decisions being faced by churches and pastors. Here are some suggestions about what to do.
At this time of year many churches and pastors would normally be seeking to make significant decisions about church life and ministry:
- Assistant pastors or pastors-in-training whose fixed-term contracts are coming to an end are seeking a new place to serve in the summer;
- Churches and potential pastors are in discussion about a possible call to those churches;
- Churches with pastors due to retire are considering the way ahead;
- Decisions about church planting or other significant projects;
- Variations of all the above.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a halt to normal church life.
So what might churches and pastors do? Here are four important things.
Trust the Providence of God
Our times are in his hands. COVID-19 and all its consequences have not taken Him by surprise. He makes everything beautiful in his time, so we must not fret and can cast afresh our very real anxieties upon him, trusting his care for us.
“Everything in creation is under the providing care of God. Not only does God supply all things, He arranges them according to His plan for His glory. For Christians, this ought to produce peace and comfort even when it appears that all is against them.”
Seek the Wisdom of God in Each Circumstance
Every situation will be different.
For example, on 7th March 2020 Quennavais Evangelical Church in Jersey voted to call Leon Coates, the assistant at Dewsbury Evangelical Church, to be its new pastor. The plan was for Leon to take up the role in September 2020.
However, having travelled to Jersey to visit the church, Leon and his family were unable to leave due to the lockdown. He was inducted as pastor by Zoom on Sunday 19th April!
Seek the wisdom of God in whatever situation you find yourself in.
Consider Hitting the ‘Pause Button’ with Care and Generosity
In other situations, the wise course of action will be to hit the ‘pause button’. Although it may be possible to ‘preach with a view’ via a video link, in many situations it will be necessary to wait until there can be face to face physical meetings.
The greatest pressure may be felt by assistants or pastors-in-training who are coming to the end of their agreed time at a church but have not yet found another place to serve. This, in turn, may have an impact on the church looking to appoint a new assistant or pastor-in-training.
Such situations call for clear communication and discussion between all those involved; it may be wise to consider extending contracts to the end of 2020 in a spirit of care and generosity.
In my dad’s papers I came across a letter he wrote to a young pastor at the start of his ministry. He gave the following testimony.
“Early in my ministry at Lansdowne, West Norwood, I represented the FIEC at an annual conference of Independent evangelical churches in Germany. One of elders and I were put up in a delightful home. The father, one of the church leaders, invited me to go for a walk with him. He asked me what my hopes and ambitions for the church at home were. After listening he quietly said, ‘Remember God is not in a hurry.’ I have never forgotten it.”
None of us knows how long this lockdown will continue. It is not in our hands. If our plans and dreams are put on hold we can entrust them confidently into the safe and wise hands of our Heavenly Father.