The Covid-19 Pandemic is both a national and international crisis. The health and economic impact is potentially unprecedented. Pastors are besieged with questions they themselves do not have answers for. What is a leader to do in times like these?
None of us have ever lived through an international shutdown of non-essential businesses before. We have never seen a time where schools, churches, and most everyday types of businesses were closed. We have never had social distancing rules for six feet of separation before. Many around us are out of work, out of money, and afraid. This is uncharted territory.
Pastors and leaders do not have all of the answers. Nobody does, but that is okay. The Covid-19 Pandemic is teaching us so much. What an opportunity to learn! Leaders must face this crisis as it unfolds just like everyone else. Pastors should use this as an unprecedented opportunity to get better at everything they do and learn from everything they experience.
Jesus Is Our Role Model
Never once in His lifetime on earth did He panic. He never became anxious over anything. He was focused on His mission of truth. Through prayer and submission to the Spirit He calmly maneuvered through every crisis. This must be the way that every leader today handles this crisis. We must face each circumstance calmly and with absolute spiritual resolve and confidence. We must not be soon shaken.
Consider the day that Jesus received word that his friend Lazarus was sick. Jesus simply did not panic, nor did he chunk aside what He was doing and rush to his friend’s sickbed. He loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary. The expected thing to do was for Him to rush to them immediately. Instead he tarried a few days. When He did arrive at Lazarus’ house, they told Him that his friend had already been dead for four days. Had Jesus arrived before Lazarus died, He would no doubt have healed him. Instead He did an even greater miracle by raising him from the dead after four days in the tomb.
If you stay calm and find your peace in the Holy Ghost, God will use you in a greater capacity if you do not panic in emotional distress like everyone around you might be doing. That is what leaders must do in a crisis.
Look For Things To Learn
The Covid-19 Crisis is unfolding in layers like an onion. Something new seems to be revealed every day. If a leader observes in prayerful silence, he has an opportunity to learn. A leader cannot afford to be caught up in the moment and react based on emotions. If he watches and listens more than he speaks he can be wiser when his opportunity to speak arises.
Much of what is heard and being written on social media forums is purely opinionated emotional reactions from people who are manifesting their cluelessness in writing. We must not be influenced or motivated by such. Those things can lead to anger, anxiety, contention, and all manner of ungodly feelings and attitudes. Do not allow yourself to go there as a leader.
Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 that we should, “Study to be quiet, and do your own business.”
A lot can be learned by prayerful observation in these early stages of the pandemic. The following is a very short list as merely a sampling, and there is no particular order:
- The church is weaker than everyone thought. More people seem to have had relationships with their building, pastor, or church family than with their Holy Ghost experience.
- The model we have used to fund everything (offerings only) puts everything we do at risk. Many are feeling trapped as a result.
- The lack of a financial cushion coupled with high mortgages and such put many churches in immediate peril.
- Churches everywhere now know that we must use multiple avenues to reach our communities, and not just large corporate gatherings. In today’s world ANY model can fail us overnight. Even now, if the Internet was to shut down (and it could), our online ministries would end immediately.
- In other ways the Church is stronger and more resilient than many anticipated. It’s ability to respond by the leading of the Holy Spirit is astounding. The true Church will not be diminished by crisis but empowered.
I will stop the list right there, but I promise you I could list scores more lessons learned like 1-5 above, and each different than the other.
What is my point?
This is the Pathway to the Future
At perhaps its darkest moment, God opened a door to the future for Israel. To go there every one of them had to pass through the open waters of the Red Sea. Right now, every church is going through a similar passageway. If you know anything about God, you can easily see this crisis is the pathway to our future.
This is our ‘go forth from Jerusalem’ moment. This is an open door to our most fruitful hour in modern church history.
This is the stretch the envelope time where we develop as leaders and learn to use every talent and resource for the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
Many among us have become criers overnight. We should be not be so. We should be more visionary than ever.
Expand Your Shared Vision
Due to my profession and position, leadership and teamwork were my world beginning in the early 1990‘s. When I came across Sony corporation’s business plan it floored me. They weren’t just 5 or 10 years ahead (as most large businesses were) in their planning. Sony had a detailed business plan than extended 400 years into the future!
It was detailed. It would change as time and reality dictated, but it was a bold statement they were in this for the long term. It revealed the heart of visionary leadership that emphasized they cared as much about the distant future as they did the present.
It meant that as challenges and misfortunes arise, they intend to endure, overcome, and get through it as a corporation. It meant they were always going to be the leading edge and never lag behind.
If you research the history of their products you will see this to be true. The invention of the Sony Walkman completely revolutionized the music industry. With a Walkman you could carry your stereo or radio with you and listen through your earphones. That was a quantum leap. A new industry was born.
A few months later the competition arrived. They had reverse engineered the Walkman and came out with their version. But by then Sony had developed the Walkman 2. That trend did not stop. They were always ahead of the competition in both quality and innovation.
Church leaders must also realize we are in this for the long-term. Our God knows the end from the beginning, and He is a revealer of hidden mysteries to those who diligently seek Him. A bold and God-inspired vision for the future will pull you forward beyond today. We must reach forward for the prize. We press forward toward the promises of God.
This is the era that church leaders need to get alone with God, let Him reveal to you the plans He has for you, and then lead the people there.
This is where God does His greatest, even if through incapable people. Through faith. Trust Him.
The Value of His Countenance
Something I have never heard discussed before by anyone, and yet it is the most important for any Pastor or leader to do, concerns the countenance you present to others in times of crisis.
People do not really need to see or hear you, but they need to see and hear Jesus. We should never compete to have our voices and opinions heard, and sadly that seems to be what social media is all about. We must seize every opportunity to promote Jesus and the Kingdom of God to people.
In John 12:20 some Grecians came to Philip and asked of him, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”
This crisis is the opportunity to present Jesus to people who might not have otherwise sought His face.
Many people today are promoting their theories, prophecies, and opinions. Some actually come across as professional deceivers. Anyone can do a “Hollywood” version of their supposition and make it appear as the truth.
As a leader, the best thing you can do is abstain from such things.
I remember the foolishness of church leaders who were deceived in 1988 when a small booklet was mailed out to thousands of churches and pastors across the nation. It was titled, “88 Reasons Why The Lord Must Come in 1988.” Many swallowed its fallacy hook, line, and sinker. Why? Because some of its scriptural “proofs” followed some of their flawed assumptions. I remember receiving it on a Wednesday. I told the church that very night to ignore it if you receive it because it was error. I threw mine in the trash where it belonged. But some churches encouraged their people to quit their jobs. One church nearby had a lock-in. They went inside their church and waited for the Lord to return. Deception can be so ugly and humbling.
Similar things happened in 1967 with the 6-Day War. One pastor and friend preached a conference the night before, and said, “When the barbed wire fence comes down look up because the Lord will be coming!” That very night it came down! I heard him say the very next day as soon as he heard the news, he hit his knees in prayer. He prayed all day long waiting for the sound of the trumpet! It agreed with his flawed assumptions.
It happened again in 2000 with theories of computers shutting down and the conspiracy theories surrounding Y2K. It happened again after Sept. 11, 2001.
Some are making the same mistake right now with the Coronavirus Pandemic.
False assumptions are always rampant, but only you can choose what to believe and emphasize.
Preach The Word
It would be a novel thing to simply preach the Word of God. It never fails.
1 Timothy 1:4 tells us, “Neither give heed to fables.”
1 Timothy 1:6 tells us, “From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling.” The term “vain jangling” means “empty discussion.”
As a leader you must avoid the empty discussions of social media, biased mainstream news media, and other opinion shapers. Don’t become distracted, angry, or obsessed by the issues. These are filling your mind with carnal thoughts and not God’s. It will affect your spirit negatively. That is not Christlike.
Instead, turn to the infallible Word of God and teach it like never before.
Teach about faith, love, and having a sound mind. Talk about the peace of God that passes understanding. Preach about the providential care of God. Tell others of the countless times God has historically brought His people through crisis, famines, floods, and pestilences. Tell everyone about a faithful God. Offer them hope.
A Pastor must inject the Word of truth into people. The Word of God is true. People need to hear the Word. Preach the Word!
Never lower yourself to preach the mindset of a fallen world. Preach the Gospel of the everlasting Kingdom of God. Feed God’s sheep with the Words of their Heavenly Father. It is the good news!
As you do so you will draw forth water from the wells of salvation. There will be peace in the valley. Hope will spring forth. Healing will come to people in crisis. God’s Word shall not return void.
This pandemic shall pass. If you present Jesus throughout this ordeal, you will not be ashamed when this storm is history.
Author: Dr. Fred Childs
Dr. Fred Childs resides in Pearland, Texas. He is an author, leadership authority, ordained minister, and thinker.