The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered us into a new frontier of pastoral leadership. Over the past few months pastors have learned how to lead churches during a pandemic. Now, pastors are learning how to lead a congregation out of this pandemic.
The challenge of this moment should cause all of us to think wisely and act carefully when those around us are hearing confusing, changing and sometimes contradictory messages from media outlets and governing officials.
We recently surveyed our church members on their level of comfort when it comes to gathering in person, and the overwhelming majority of them are ready to worship together in our building again. However, there are differing concerns when it comes to gathering again. I imagine there are similar concerns in many churches.
As Baptists, our autonomy as local churches will no doubt be expressed in our plans for reintegration, but I believe that the congregation at large — both pastors and church members — should have a similar posture regardless of our different plans. As you move forward, following are some considerations to remember.
The decisions we make out of this pandemic may have implications on others. More importantly, the manner in which we act will have implications on our witness to others.
Don’t be divisive over political convictions
This pandemic has been highly politicized. That may be the understatement of 2020. For this reason, people will have strong opinions on these matters as it relates to their personal and political convictions. However, it is important that we remind one another, as Romans 13 teaches us, that we must show proper respect to the governing offices that God has established.
Our political leaders have been tasked to protect our communities, which includes public health and safety. Some people may believe that our governing officials have made decisions on public health that have reached into violations of religious liberty by targeting churches. We believe that the State must respect the consciences and souls of the people.
Regardless of our interpretation of the intentions of governing officials, we also believe that they will be held responsible for how they wielded the power of their office. As for Christians, even if we believe government has encroached on religious liberty, we will still be held responsible for the manner in which we responded to those decisions. For these reasons, everyone is strongly encouraged to make prayerful and wise decisions based on recommendations by the government, health officials, insurance providers and others.
Don’t be divisive over personal comforts
People will have different comfort levels about gathering again in person because of the restrictions. Some will not be ready to gather as early as others. Some have been ready to gather in person for some time.
Some people will wear masks regardless of what’s recommended. Some people will refuse to wear masks even though it is recommended. When it comes to restrictions and recommendations, there will be as many opinions as a Baptist committee.
In light of Romans 14-15, we should strive to show grace for one another. After all, love of neighbor requires us to express concern and consideration for those around us. Plus, as Jesus taught us in John 13, how we treat one another is important for our witness to the world. Remember, your personal comfort level is just that, personal.
Implications to consider
The decisions we make out of this pandemic may have implications on others. More importantly, the manner in which we act will have implications on our witness to others. For this reason, we should consider doing more than we are asked.
Take responsibility not only for yourself, but for others. Pray for one another. Pray for your leaders. Mind your health, wash your hands and social distance until a sense of normalcy returns. In doing so, we can render what’s due to both God and Caesar. We can also render love to others, the same way we would want them to render love to us.