September 2, 2020

 

A Word from Walker

I know of no time during my life when pastors have been put under more pressure than they have experienced over the last six months. Here are just three big reasons I have been hearing of why this is occurring:

  • The impossibility of having a response to the COVID-19 crisis that will satisfy everyone in their congregation.
  • The constant rancor on Social Media over masks, race and presidential politics.
  • The ongoing trickle of revelations of marriages that are on the rocks.

Pastoring in the best of circumstances is a mysterious fusion of burden and blessing. Pastoring in days like these seems as hard as mixing up a cake batter while log-rolling down Niagara Falls. Who is sufficient for these things? I guess in a way we could say no one.

Along these same lines Tom Rainer in his blog Church Answers dated August 31st reflected on the sobering fact that the majority of the pastors they are talking with are considering resigning. He lists the following six reasons for this sobering reality:

  • Pastors are weary from the pandemic like everyone else.
  • Pastors are greatly discouraged about the fighting taking place among church members about the post-quarantine church.
  • Pastors are discouraged about losing members and attendance.
  • Pastors don’t know if their churches will be able to support ministries financially in the future.
  • Criticisms against pastors have increased significantly.
  • The workload for pastors has increased greatly.

When you begin to look at all the factors that contribute to ministerial flame-out and burn-out, it is no wonder why so many want to check-out. What is the remedy? What can we do to not only get back to a place of stability but also have pastors that are not bitter, burned-out and wanting to bow-out?

First, we need to take care of the people who take care of us. This is why at the PMBA we offer up to five free counseling sessions for ministers and their family members at The Barnabas Center, a Christian counseling organization. In my opinion churches should match this kind of help. Even when a church can’t pay their minister as much as they would like, they could provide services like this or give them more paid leave.

Second, pastors need to move from a success to a faithfulness model of ministry. Too often, we solely measure how well a church is doing by budgets, buildings, baptisms, etc. While there is room to some degree to use these in a partial way to determine an aspect of church health, it can become a superficial measuring stick that beats pastors over the head when their church doesn’t meet unrealistic expectations. Pastors need to put their egos and their people-pleasing tendencies aside. They also need to embrace other metrics like faithful preaching of the gospel; percentage of members involved in making disciples; number of folks engaging in helping the poor; and the degree of unity in the church as other factors that can reflect the marks of a healthy congregation.

If you are a pastor, please know that we love you and are here for you. Take advantage of the services we provide so that you can not only survive these tumultuous days but even grow and develop. If you are a church member quit being petty and foolish. No one is going to be converted to your point of view, especially if it is fueled by heat more than light. Then, please pray for, encourage and even find creative ways to support your pastor. They need it now more than ever. If we don’t do these things, we will see even tougher days ahead for our churches. I have been and promise to keep lifting you up in prayer.

Your fellow servant in Christ,
Walker

 

 

September 1, 2020

 

Craig's Comments 

 
For we live by believing and not by seeing. -2 Corinthians 5:7
 
So many of us read this verse and think automatically, “Ok, I’ve got that covered…what is next?” This faith reality in our relationship with Christ is not something that we check off of a list of spiritual living chores that make God smile. Rather faith must be integral to who we are in Christ and permeate all that we are.
  
Jerry Bridges’ book entitled The Discipline of Grace described it as the difference in cruise control and being a racecar driver. Too many of us have found ourselves getting in a rhythm of comfort and control to such an extent that we don’t want to exert ourselves or take any type of risk. We seek to maintain a speed that is comparable to our friends at church and cruise as long as we get all of the basic boxes checked and maintain that cultural façade of spiritual maturity. In reality when we look around at the Kingdom movements of God around the world we realize that our faith looks very different. Even in the midst of Covid we are tempted to accept the cultural norm and say that we simply can’t engage people with the Good News because of so many factors. When you consider your life and/or church which comes closer to describing your faith? Cruise control or a racecar? Life is precious and this higher calling of faith that God has graciously given us deserves nothing less than our whole hearts and devotion on a daily basis.
  
We have seen some great displays of God’s hand at work through our churches this month as many have not settled for the status quo and have sought to serve despite the challenges faced. We have heard August Missions Blast testimonies of churches serving with the Crash the Dash event in Winston by partnering with local ministries and helping them to advance the gospel. Other churches have engaged their local schools with the offer to assist with needed supplies or other acts of kindness to boost morale during this difficult time. Some have hosted blood drives which address a significant need in our community during the pandemic. Then there are others who have contributed and served at Rise Academy, prayerwalked their communities, hosted food distributions and the serving of meals, and many other tangible expressions of the love of Christ!
  
Now that we have turned the corner from Summer to a new school year our faith hasn’t changed from August to September. That same faith that mobilized us into the community to bring hope to a hurting world is active in this next chapter of life. God is calling us to rise up and walk daily making all necessary ‘pivots’ to faithfully share our faith with those who still need to hear and be discipled. What does your next step of faith look like? Don’t allow Covid or any other crisis that we may face to rob us of the joy found in walking by faith and seeing lives transformed as we are going. The next time you are tempted to live by sight rather than by faith resolve to turn off the cruise control and put that faith engine in overdrive for God’s glory!
   
Craig Clayton
Community Missions Catalyst