Part 3 in ‘Letters in a Pandemic’ series
A letter for the pastor, elder, deacon, staff member, campus missioner, and others who serve the Church during a pandemic
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Did you wrinkle your nose at that opening greeting, unused to being called “minister?” Minister is usually reserved for the person preaching upfront, right? Well, I don’t think we need to think of it that way. You may be an ordained leader or a seminary-trained teacher—possessing the titles and duties of a “clergyman.” But you are also elders making weighty decisions and deacons helping elderly members get their groceries delivered. You are worship directors streaming live from your living room. You are campus ministry staff members on endless Zoom calls, sending messages on GroupMe, replying to Instagram Stories not because it’s fun (though it sometimes is), but because it’s how you can reach the students you care about. You serve on the administrative team formatting the new online bulletin and sending dozens of emails. You are youth pastors whose extroversion is suffering under the weight of stay-at-home orders. You are ministers of the Gospel in a remarkable age. And the Good News you bring? We’ve never needed it more.
I know this job is not “just a job.” It is a calling, a totality. I spent 18 years of my life living under the same roof as a minister of the Gospel, and I know the work does not stop when you come home for the evening. There are calls to make, conversations to have, prayers you promised to pray for people you don’t even know. There are secrets you hold on to and pain you help pacify, all the while trying to hold on to the faith you spend your days encouraging others to keep. In times of need, people come out of nowhere seeking the church’s help, resources, stability, and sometimes it can feel or even is just too much. Writing a sermon has perhaps become a task that falls to the day or even hours before it is to be preached. Your best never seems good enough. There is always more to do, and guilt is hellish virus infecting the relationships you care about and the mind you try to keep focused on the Lord and his truth. It’s a lot.
But you keep pointing us back to Jesus, inviting us to taste and see that the Lord really is good even when we cannot taste and see and partake in the sacrament of communion that reminds us so. You write articles that bring us to tears, reminding us that it is Biblical to grieve, to wonder, to search. You start podcasts and learn how to do Facebook Live even though you stubbornly resisted joining social media networks for years. You pray for our President in front of us and invite us to do the same, though I was cussing him out mere moments ago.
You are not perfect, but we do not need you to be. We don’t expect you to have all the answers, to find solutions or pray away our problems. It is simply a comfort to know you. You are a gift that the Lord has given to us as our shepherd for this season. A provision. If your voice breaks or emotions overcome you, if your sermon illustration lacks humor or the live stream is choppy, if we have to take some time off of Bible studies because Zoom calls were going terribly or if you feel angry when you don’t want to, that is okay. I know it’s okay because you’ve told me before in these words or others: “It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.” We do not listen to you preach or follow you as leaders because you are strong, but because you point us to the one who is.
Thank you for serving, for heeding the call, for your morning and evening prayers. For reminding us of our firm foundation when the world shakes around us. For being the hands and feet of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For all of this and more.