Aaron Menikoff: Use this opportunity for self-examination through the fruits of the Spirit.
COVID-19 PERSPECTIVE: Aaron Menikoff
Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia
COVID-19 presents an opportunity we must not let slip by us. Many churches have put programming online. Thank God for technology. But let’s face it, there’s only so much we can do when we can’t meet together.
Something every pastor can do that we often overlook is tend to our own souls. How can you use this pandemic to become a better pastor? I’d like to encourage you to take some time before this crisis is over to devote yourself to a period of self-examination.
This won’t just be good for you, it will serve your church well. How do I know? Because Jesus said in Luke 6:40 the disciple will become like his teacher. In other words, the spiritual potential of the members of your church is usually capped by your own godliness. Staggering thought. Those we teach don’t just learn what to believe from listening to us, they learn how to live by watching us.
How can you devote yourself to self-examination for the good of your church’s godliness? One way is to work through the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to begin.
The Spirit fills us with a love for God and for one another. As pastors we must reflect on Christ who loved us and gave up his life for us. He did this while we were yet sinners. Amazing! We are to love the church this way—sacrificially. We are to love people not for what they can do for us (run our programs, offer us encouragement). We are love them for who they are: God’s image-bearers saved by the blood of the Lamb. Our congregations need to see love in us.
Life is full of trouble, we all know that, especially now. Thankfully, Christian joy isn’t rooted in comfort, it’s rooted in the cross. Joy is delightful confidence in the Triune God who saved us. There are many reasons to mourn and grieve, especially given the havoc of COVID-19. When we lament, we are following the example of our Savior who wept over his friend, Lazarus. But underneath the Christian’s sadness is rock-solid joy. Our congregations need to see joy in us.
How can we be at peace when our congregations are scattered, when giving is down, and when we don’t know what’s around the corner or what the “new normal” will be? Remember, peace isn’t something you manufacture; it’s a gift from God. Peace isn’t the fruit of the ministry, it’s the fruit of the Spirit. We can be at peace because no matter what comes our way, the Christian’s biggest problem is always in the rear-view mirror. Our congregations need to see peace in us.
It’s hard to be patient, especially when we are used to quick results. But pastors need to be patient. We know God tends to work slowly. Churches usually to grow slowly. Hearts are sanctified slowly. Our members want life back to normal quickly. We can pray for that. But we need to model patience, taking it one moment at a time and remembering Jesus’ words, “sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 5:34). Our congregations need to see patience in us.
During this time of sheltering-in-place, I’ve been reminded of how important it is to demonstrate kindness. Of course, the kindest act in all of history was Jesus’ laying down of his life. With Christ as our Savior, we strive to lay down our lives, too. It’s harder to do this when we can’t be together. But getting food to those in need, helping out a neighbor, even sending an encouraging text or email are practical ways to show concern. Our congregations need to see kindness in us.
Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). In light of this, isn’t it spectacular to think God’s Spirit fills us with goodness? This is about purity of heart. To pursue goodness, we need to invest in our souls. Let’s be so filled with God’s Word that when we speak it’s obvious our heart is devoted to the Lord. This is where the spiritual disciplines kick-in. Don’t let this time of quarantine go to waste. God uses his Word and prayer to produce goodness. Our congregations need to see goodness in us.
We tend to value the size of our churches, the number of people we baptize and the number of leaders we raise up. None of this is proof of spiritual faithfulness. The results are in God’s hands, but he demands faithfulness in his under shepherds. Faithful to pray. Faithful to preach God’s Word. Faithful to care for his flock. Our congregations need see faithfulness in us.
It’s easy to forget that Scripture calls Moses very meek, “more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Jesus referred to himself as gentle (Matt. 11:29). I’m concerned pastors today aren’t typically known for this. I know I’ve certainly struggled here. By taking the time to really listen to people, by showing genuine affection and care, by being physicians of the soul tenderly caring for the wounds of our people, we get to model the ways of our Savior. Our congregations need to see gentleness in us.
Why is this the last characteristic Paul mentions? Because self-control is the part that brings all the other pieces together. It takes self-control to pursue love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and faithfulness. I need self-control so I can focus on what’s most important: God’s glory, his Word, my holiness. Our congregations need to see self-control in is.
This is a hard season for everybody. We are struggling because we can’t meet and do all the things we want to do. But we can remember Luke 6:40, “A disciple, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher.” We can use this time to examine our hearts. Are we the pastors we need to be? Are our ministries and our lives filled with the fruit of the Spirit? I pray they are. I pray we are.
Read more COVID-19 Perspectives from pastors and church leaders.