As I look back over these past few months I wish I had bought stock in Charmin, Bounty and Purell. Toilet tissue, paper towels and hand sanitizer became more valuable than airline tickets due to the global pandemic. COVID-19 not only affected important items for everyday living, but it also challenged church ministries. We were forced to change or outright cancel countless ministry events. Our church staff worked overtime—we tore up old plans and rewrote new ones as we searched for new ways to do old things. We were caught off guard and, if I am perfectly honest, there were times when we were panicking in the pandemic.
What happens when people come to the pastor for answers, but the only one he can provide is, “I don’t know”? How can you lead when you are lost? How can you shepherd when you cannot make sense of the situation? What do you see when the circumstances of life bring you to a place that is beyond your comfort level?
At 16 years of age Uzziah was chosen to lead the people of Judah as king. For the next 52 years, “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5b). King Uzziah led the country to expand economically, technologically, agriculturally and geographically. When he prospered, the people did also. Wars were won, wells were dug, walls were strengthened and the people were content.
More than likely, Uzziah’s death left a gaping hole in the hearts and minds of every farmer, soldier, fisherman and shepherd across the nation. Uzziah had been a constant for 52 years. Because his reign spanned generations, many people had lived and died only knowing one king. Yet, the year they experienced that loss was the year Isaiah saw the Lord.
Although the people might not have expected Uzziah’s death, it did not catch God by surprise. While the people pondered their future, God was already preparing his prophet. When they were weak and could only see turmoil, Isaiah saw God on the throne and was strengthened. His meeting with God led Isaiah to declare with zeal, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:9).
For years, like Israel, our churches have experienced great growth. We built larger worship centers, itemized increased budgets and enjoyed preaching to rows and rows of parishioners. However, COVID-19 seemed to be the “death” of the things in which we were so heavily invested. For many of us, we were forced to take another look at our ministry methods. We preached to empty buildings, reworked budgets and reevaluated our ways of meeting and interacting with one another.
Pastor, during this time, I have discovered that we too are called to be modern day prophets. When the rest of the world quakes at the challenges this time has brought upon us, we should see the Lord. Even though politics and protests divide our nation, we must be ready to be used by God for his glory. In the midst of uncertain times, we need to look no farther than our ever-present and unchanging heavenly Father.
My friends, our hope and strength are not in the plans and programs we were forced to cancel or change. Our strength is found in being able to be and see light in darkness. It is in looking to the holy hills of the Lord for help. It is found in our calling and the conviction to carry it out regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, we must look at the challenges before us and boldly say (through a mask if need be), “Here I am! Send me.”
These words of encouragement come to you as a part of an initiative from the COVID-19 Task Force for church leaders to be “together for the unfinished task” during this time of uncertainty.