Pastors Virtual Conference | Thursday, May 13th from 10am – 4pm (est)
For Pastors: COVID Stage 3 and Counting
by Ed Welch
Each experience of the COVID era is unique, but, as a pastor, you might notice different stages, as you would in any long prison term. Here are the stages that I have noticed, followed by a request to save a date.
Stage 1: Going Virtual
Stage one was going virtual. In less than a week, you had to prepare for an on-line service. The next couple of months were spent dealing with glitches, trying to function as a staff, wondering how to care for people and create community. You made more significant decisions in a week than you had in the previous year.
Stage 2: Going Political
As soon as you managed to develop something of a routine, your world turned political. The American political system, which had been showing cracks for decades, was breaking in two, with the church both mirroring and contributing to the division. Sermons included calls to listen, love, and seek unity in Christ, but few of us noticed many wise conversations among loyalists from different parties.
Stage 3: Weariness
The political divides will continue, but at least the sheer volume of incendiary rhetoric is down which makes way for stage 3, pastoral weariness. Some of this is a physical response to the weight of the last year. A body can only take so much. Add to this the confinement, vacations canceled, children’s lives thoroughly disrupted, private funerals, and no real end in sight. Some have noticed depression for the first time. You have reason to be bone-tired.
If this is true, now what? The place to begin is to find words for what you experience. A common response to troubles that seem unfixable is to soldier on. But life before the personal God doesn’t work that way. Even in human relationships, life doesn’t work that way. Instead, we put troubles into words—as many words as we can find—and then we say them. The Psalms lead us in this. We speak our weariness to God, which is harder than it seems, but it is a starting point. Old spiritual routines can be renewed.
Scripture now has a chance to become livelier. That usually happens when we search for words and speak them. Then new paths open. You ask for prayer. (Do you know a pastor who does that well?) You search, with more confidence, for a place of spiritual and physical rest. Perhaps you notice that the “law” has been chasing you, reminding you of failures and driving you to do more. All this can take us to meaningful conversations with family and colleagues about these matters as we remember that our fatigue is shared by others and God’s rest is one of the critical themes in Scripture.
We can find some of God’s words to the weary when he speaks to the anxious, which certainly includes us. Jesus said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26). Jesus is appealing to our creatureliness rather than our sin, which is why there is a bit of a teasing overtone. We are able to do less than we think, so we rest, trust, and pray.
You might identify different stages for the past year. Whatever your experiences during this time, they are worth identifying so we can bring them to Jesus, our King and High Priest.
And consider this: if you are weary, anxious, or all-but-broken from the last year of ministry, join us for a virtual conference planned for pastors.
Speakers & Rates
Ray & Jani Ortlund