Pastor, if you are anything like me, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken you for an emotional roller coaster ride: from shock to panic, from disbelief to worry, from anger to despondency, and from excitement to exhaustion. And now, five months into this season of disrupted normality, there seems to be a growing sense of inadequacy.
It was cute for a few months to say that we never had a seminary class or a state convention seminar on pastoring through a pandemic. We’ve done the best we can. We’ve been filtering complaints and bending over backward to maintain the peace. We’ve quick-pivoted regathering plans more times than we can count. We’ve all become televangelists and level two tech support. And we’ve gotten by all this time on a supernatural adrenaline rush that God, in his mercy, gave us for the season (thank you, Jesus).
But now, five months into this thing, I’m starting to feel the full weight of this burden: that I, on my own, am altogether inadequate for this. Not just pastoring during a pandemic, but pastoring in general. I have never felt so incompetent or so helpless in my life as I have several times over the past few months. I’m not generally slow pulling the trigger on decisions, but I have second guessed almost everything. And as I write these words today, I am reminded of this truth from God’s Word that the current crisis has not created this sense of inadequacy within me; it has simply exposed and highlighted it.
I am reminded tonight that there has never been a time in my life when I was educated enough, charismatic enough, experienced enough, connected enough, or strong enough to pastor a church into Great Commission advance. Pandemic or no pandemic, apart from the call of God the Father, the filling of God the Spirit, and the commission of God the Son, the work of pastoring would completely devastate me. It would you, too.
“Who is adequate for these things?” asks the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2. The obvious answer is, on our own, no one. None of us are adequate for the gospel ministry of life and death, or for the effective mobilization of our “living letters” for Great Commission advance. On our own, you and I are not adequate for this, but, “our adequacy is from God. He has made us competent.”
What is overwhelming me at the moment is that it may have taken a worldwide pandemic to bring me to the full understanding of this biblical truth. When COVID-19 stripped away all of our safety nets in ministry, God stripped away all of our pretenses of adequacy in the ministry. If he is truly proven strong in our weakness, then this is a great opportunity to display his power!
On our own merit, none of us is adequate for this season of pastoring because none of us has ever been adequate for any season of ministry.
But God did not make a mistake when he chose you to be the pastor of this church through this season of cultural crisis. I pray this truth brings you encouragement today: God has no expectation that your adequacy or competence will get you through this season of crisis successfully. Rather, he has invested his adequacy and his competency in you for this season. You can step into today and tomorrow with full confidence in ministry, not because of who you are but because of who God is.
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.