Like you, I fight the information overload that occurs in our culture. With 24-hour news updates online and on television, multiple messages targeted to different groups regarding the same issues, and even conflicting information based on source, it can be overwhelming.
I have even found that by reading and taking in so much information, it becomes difficult to process all of it. To my pastor friends reading this, you likely are facing the same thing, in addition to trying to manage the differing opinions and recommendations of those in your church, as well as the every day ministry needs of those under your care.
I am hearing some excellent and encouraging stories from fellow pastors and Christian leaders of how the church is stepping up to serve. Rather than delineate all that the church does wrong (which, I confess is much easier especially as I lean into being more critical than I should) I thought I would share some of these updates, ideas, and even transcripts of what some pastors and leaders have said to help their congregations.
A Devotional Thought on Fear
Dr. Paul David Tripp
Be afraid, but don’t give way to fear.
In this moment of global pandemic, don’t let your meditation be dominated by fear so that you become God-forgetful. Don’t ignore the reality of the situation, don’t be embarrassed by your instinctual ability to respond rapidly when needed, and make wise plans out of appropriate concern.
Most of all, never stop fearing God.
Full devotion transcript at his website here - https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/its-okay-to-fear-coronavirus
Video of this devotion here - https://www.facebook.com/pdtripp/videos/213273036688067/
A Prescription for Anxiety
Dr. Tim Maynard, Fruit Cove Baptist Church, St Johns, Florida
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)
- Read twice daily, slowly: Once in the morning and once in the evening.
- Read it to your children. Daily.
- If you choose to watch the media, read before and after each broadcast.
- Believe what you read. This is God’s Word, and it never fails.
- ‘Nuff said.
What To Do In a Pandemic
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Pastor, Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, North Carolina
Things Christians should not do in a pandemic:
- Tell everyone it's too late!
- Tell everyone it's not a big deal!
- Act like experts.
- Make everything about politics.
Things Christians can do:
- Trust God.
- Show compassion.
- Give thanks in all circumstances. (from Twitter)
An Explanation for Your Church Explaining Why You're Going Online Only for Now
Dr. Todd Fisher, Immanuel Baptist Church, Shawnee, Oklahoma
I have consulted with many of the doctors and health care officials in our church. In summary, they have stressed two critical things.
First, this virus is very contagious. It is extremely serious for senior adults or those with compromised immune systems. Most people who get the COVID-19 virus will have only a mild illness. But, as Christians, our calling is to live selfless lives. So, our response is not to avoid becoming sick ourselves, but to protect the highest risk people among us.
Second, this virus has the potential of overrunning our current capacities for healthcare. The percentage of those who are most adversely affected by this virus has a high hospitalization rate. If we don't all cooperatively work to help reduce the speed at which this virus spreads, we could exceed our community's healthcare capacity.
Some may say this is an overreaction. However, there is a big difference between panic and appropriate response. We're not panicking or responding in fear, but simply seeking to understand the burden this disease can cause.
Dr. Fisher's full video is on Facebook here.
Keep Preaching the Word, Even if Not In Person
Dr. Jared C. Wilson, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Obviously, conscience and conviction may dictate whether you want to preach via the internet, but it’s still important to put the gospel in front of your people as many ways as you can. If that means broadcasting a full sermon each Sunday, do it. It may also mean publishing podcasts, vodcasts, blog posts, tweets, or Facebook updates involving devotional thoughts. Right now, your people are taking in all kinds of messages—some helpful, some not, some simply distracting. Don’t let other voices tempt them in their loneliness or anxiety to tempt their eyes away from Jesus. Figure out the ways that work best for your convictions and your context to “show them Jesus.” This is your prime directive.
From "Tending the Lambs You Can't Touch" on The Gospel Coalition site here.
Dr. Mark Dever, Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC
God knows when will be the next sermon each one of us will hear in person. Let us steward the last one God gave us. (from Twitter)
Click here for the link to a very helpful 9Marks podcast featuring Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman titled "On When the Church Can't Gather."
Matt Merker, Director of Creative Resources and Training for Getty Music
As the globe responds to the pandemic of coronavirus and COVID-19, Christ invites his people, as always, to approach the throne of God with confidence to find help in our time of need (Heb 4:16). The hymns of the faith, both ancient and modern, offer us a vocabulary for expressing our fears, anxieties, and questions to the One who hears.
Many churches have decided to cancel their gatherings out of concern for those most vulnerable to the virus. These are exceptional times. There’s no substitute for meeting with God’s people in the local church and letting the Word dwell in us richly as we sing (Col 3:16). Yet, though many believers may be temporarily separated, this isn’t a time to stay silent. Now, as ever, the Christian sings.
Click here for a list and description of "25 Hymns to Sing in Troubled Times" published on the 9Marks site.
Give Like Never Before
Johnny Hunt, Senior VP of Evangelism and Leadership, North American Mission Board
I want to love the Lord and others well. He has said that to whom much has been given, much is required. I know that speaks to more than just our finances, but it does speak of our finances, too. Let's love the Lord and others well and give like never before. Let's lead the way in meeting needs in this crisis.
From Facebook video dated March 16, 2020.
Draw Close to God
Dr. Willy Rice, Calvary Church, Clearwater, Florida
No need to practice distancing from God and there is no quarantine on the Holy Spirit. (from Twitter)
James Ross, Pastor, First Baptist Church on Bayshore, Niceville, Florida
Gates of Hell > COVID-19.
Jesus' Church > Gates of Hell.
Therefore... Jesus' Church > COVID-19. (from Twitter)
Paul Purvis, Pastor, Mission Hill Church, Temple Terrace, Florida
Bars and nightclubs closing down! The last time our nation experienced this we called it Great Awakening! What if? May God simplify and strengthen His church. May we experience personal and corporate revival. May we rise up and “be the church.” Wherever you are, do whatever it takes, to shine with the light and love of Jesus like a city on a hill. (from Twitter)
A Heavier Workload For A Great Moment
JimBo Stewart, Pastor, Redemption Church, Jacksonville, Florida
Pastor, if you think your “workload” has decreased because your church isn’t gathering on Sunday, you are missing a great pastoral moment in the life of your church. I am praying for you as we all try to shepherd well in this unique season. (from Twitter)
I have corresponded with a number of pastors over the past four days. For you who pastor a church, know that you are not alone. I mean, we all know that God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us and we trust that word which is true. God has also provided other pastors in your city, region, and throughout the world who are going through the very same thing (or very similar things) you are working through now. Through easy access online and via phones, we can text, email, and talk with others in ways that our ancestors never dreamed. So, be encouraged. God is doing something incredible even through this pandemic. Stay the course. Lead well. Trust Him.