When Hurricane Katrina roared ashore along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August 2005, I wasn’t prepared for what I would face as a pastor.
Families lost homes, businesses and church facilities overnight. The church where I served as senior pastor – First Baptist Church of Gulfport, Miss. – was one that lost its entire facility.
The storm launched a three-year journey of relief, recovery and rebuild. Seminary did not prepare me to minister in the midst of such a crisis, but from 2005-08, the “school of hard knocks” met on a daily basis.
Here are some pastoral lessons I learned that certainly apply to the current crisis related to the coronavirus.
- Double your time with the Lord. Pastor, you have many extra responsibilities right now adjusting to ministry in the midst of the coronavirus, including endeavors like launching electronic worship, jump-starting home Bible study groups, or ministering in unique ways to your community and more. You will be tempted to rob your devotional time with the Lord to complete all of these critical tasks, but don’t! Now, more than ever, you need the strength, peace and wisdom that comes from walking closely with the Lord. Get in the Word, and get on your knees – each and every day.
- Don’t neglect your family. Yes, you are busier than ever, and circumstances will require extra time and attention, but do not choose your ministry over your family – ever. Right now, during these days of a continual bombardment of frightening news, your wife needs your companionship, your children need your calm assurance that everything will be OK, and they all need your love. During these days, continually give your family more attention not less.
- Don’t try to be Superman. Do not attempt to “go it alone” during this time of national, community and church crisis. Gather around you some spiritually mature men and women to help you make and implement wise decisions for the church. Ministry is a team sport. So, build your team and trust your team. We are better together.
- Definitely seize the opportunity. Now more than ever, your community is ready to receive loving ministry from your church and your tender, yet bold, proclamation of the gospel. Meet the needs of the folks in your community, and, as you do, proclaim the life-transforming message of Jesus. This may well be a redemptive moment in history for your community.
- Determine to trust our sovereign Lord. Always keep in mind that COVID-19 did not take our Lord by surprise, and as the global pandemic unfolds, He is totally in charge. Seated upon His throne, He reigns today, tomorrow and for eternity. You can and you must trust Him.
Pastor, I hope these thoughts were helpful for you. They were certainly good reminders for me.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Register is the executive for church planting and missions partnerships for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)