What a day we’re living in! None of us could have foreseen the events of recent weeks. What comfort and strength we take from the fact that none of what is happening is a surprise to God. He is Alpha and Omega, He knows the beginning and the end. Be re-assured then that just as He sees all that is unfolding before us, and just as He sees the increasing needs around us, that He knows what you and I need. He wants you and I and His people (our churches) to walk close with Him, that in doing so we will communicate in life and in action that His perfect love casts out all fear.
I see on the Government’s official list of key workers released yesterday is a list of those who need to keep working so the country keeps moving forward. On that list are ‘religious staff!’ That’s you and me! (Key public services –This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.)
Just as the Government is aware of the frontline role we as pastors have to play at this time, then so is God. His promise to us is that ‘Faithful is He who calls, who will also equip!’ (1 Thess 5v18) If even now you feel a bit overwhelmed with the crisis unfolding around us, we need to be reminded of the words of Jesus when in calling His first disciples He gave them His main priority for our lives.
He appointed twelve–designating them apostles –that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. (Mark 3v4-15)
Did you notice it? He called His first disciples and told them your first and main priority is ‘that you might be with me!’ So to encourage and strengthen you today, here’s three thoughts from me as to how we can not just look to survive this current crisis, but how with God’s help we as pastors and our churches can thrive in the midst of the crisis.
The first piece of advice is aligned to the words of Jesus we’re just read. He wants you to self-care. The best way for us to do this is by spending time with Him.
As we spend time with Jesus, as we self-care, we’ll then be more than ready to care for others, beginning with our own families, and then the church family, and then our communities. To self-care is not being selfish, it’s being wise!!
We’re all familiar with the Air Steward’s advice when we get on to a plane. ‘Please fit your own oxygen mask first before assisting anyone else!’ This is sound advice for us. George Mueller (1805-1898) built many orphanages at Ashley Down, England. Without a personal salary, he relied only on God to supply the money and food needed to support the hundreds of homeless children he befriended in the name of Christ. A man of radiant faith, he kept a motto on his desk for many years that brought comfort, strength, and uplifting confidence to his heart. It read, “It matters to Him about you.” Mueller believed that those words captured the meaning of 1 Peter 5:7 ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’
I wonder do you need to take comfort and strength from the words that blessed Mueller? It matters to God about you!! Take comfort and strength from these words and remember Jesus first priority for us all whom He has called is to ‘be with Him!’
Secondly, with God’s help and through relying on God’s strength, this is a time for us to care for our congregations. We may have a sense of fear or even dread at the unfolding of this crisis. Be assured that such an emotion will be felt even more keenly by others, especially those who are most vulnerable in our churches. Elderly, children, mental health issues, addictions, etc. The list goes on.
The apostle Peter gives us this instruction, To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing (1 Peter 5v2-3)
Let me remind you that as teaching elders we have a responsibility not to look to do all the work of meeting the needs of our congregations, but to mobilise and call others to do the work with us. One example of this for us is that we have a senior lady who is in her 70’s. For years she has been our main contact and rallying point for the seniors in our church. I’ve allocated an elder to work with her in supporting our seniors during this time. Part of this provision is to give every one of them a phone call once a week to see how they’re doing and to ask them if there is anything we can do to help them practically? We’re also offering a shopping and delivery service for any of our over 70’s who need it. Times of crisis provide us with times of opportunity. One positive thing already coming out of this difficult time is our looking to mobilize the whole family of God to look out for and look after the people of God. Praise God this is being seen in church and in community.
Finally, ask for God’s help and direction in how you can care for your community.
The needs around us are vast, and there is no way we can respond to every need that arises. We can however meet some needs and play our part on serving our communities and partnering with other agencies to do the same.
In the familiar story of Jesus feeding the 5000 he sent the disciples out to see what they had that He could work with to help meet the physical needs of the crowd. As we know He took a little boys packed lunch and performed a miracle through it.
In Exodus 4v2 we have God calling and commissioning Moses. As He does He asks Him ‘What is that in your hand?’ The implication being God had already given to Moses what He needed to serve God and bless God’s people. We need to be encouraging our people that we all have something we can contribute to help meet the current needs and serve the community that is round us.
I believe whole-heartedly that this time in the life of our nation, when there is so much fear, uncertainty, and need around us, that this could be the church’s finest hour in recent times. We are to be that light in the darkness. We are to be that city on a hill that God uses to inspire hope and life in others. We are to engage in good deeds, that in doing so, people will see them and be led to worship God as a result. (Matthew 5v14-16)
Last Sunday I shared with my own congregation the challenging yet inspiring words of A.W. Tozer – ‘A frightened world needs a fearless church!’
I pray that God will give us all the grace and courage to be such a people. That in a day when people can’t ‘go to church’, that we’ll ‘be the church’, and in being obedient to Christ’s call on us and command to us that we’ll love Him, love one another, and love our neighbour!
I pray for God’s blessings and peace to be with you and yours