In Times of Struggle, We Need to Remain Steadfast
A pastor recently asked me, “Why has God put me in this godforsaken place?” Before I responded, I reflected on the sentiments shared in his statement. If pastors are honest with themselves, at least once in their ministry they have felt similarly. The struggle of staying faithful in the service to the church is challenging but rewarding.
When a pastor shares the sentiments of struggle, we need to realize that they are in the winter of discontent, but spring is coming. It is in the darkness that God begins to pierce the light, and the leader finds direction. We need to remain faithful.
Stand in Your Calling
Before the pandemic, the average pastor stayed just over 3.5 years, which means half the pastors left before and after that allotted period. Across all denominations, the pandemic has accelerated pastoral transitions through retirement, reduction, and relocations.
Now more than ever, the church needs pastors who will stand in their calling and stay put. That might be the pot calling the kettle black if you were to look at my resume, but I am personally committed to staying where God has called me until God moves me from that church.
The church is bleeding members, money, and mission. Reframe your thinking and think of it this way: What a great time for the pastoral leader to stand up and begin to cast a fresh vision for the local church by helping lead the people forward. While a pastor may not add people through charm and personality, the pastor can help the people lay the foundational squares to revitalization through prayer, biblical teaching/preaching, and functionally preparing for guests.
Go to the Mission
When the church is losing members rather than adding them, starting a new program or investing limited resources in a new project may not be wise stewardship of God’s funds. So what can a church do? Throughout the local community, organizations are doing a tremendous job reaching the needs of the lost. Go to where God is already at work and get working with God. Five days a week, I work part-time as the executive director of a community pantry and soup kitchen that primarily focuses on the homeless population and those living in poverty. From ordering food, paying bills, serving food, and more, I live on mission each day.
We all want the local church to grow, but if we are not willing to invest our time in the community, why should God invest in a social club called the church? I know that may sound harsh, but the church needs the community, and the community needs the church to be its best self, sending selfless Christ followers into her fields. Find the mission in the community where your skillsets and needs are needed the most and serve. From community boards, reading to children in school, or helping the homeless, there are community groups that need your church’s support not only in dollars but in time.
Keep Pouring Out Jesus
When she seems to be going off a cliff, the world needs a church that embraces her with open arms and an unfailing commitment to be like Jesus. Pour out Jesus upon the members who have not walked away. Pour out Jesus upon the community that desperately needs a loving and kind church. Pour out Jesus in your personal and professional life.
It is not by accident but divine appointment that you are living through a modern-day pandemic. See the pandemic and the remnants of it not as a negative but as an opportunity to live out your faith daily. While you may grieve those who have not returned, take a stand to pour out Christ upon those who have remained. When the church is down and out, get out of the four walls. Serve like Christ. Serve the community like never before and watch how God blesses the investment in others.
Trust God’s Timing
I get it; this is a tough season in the life of the church. As you mount the stage and your eyes scan the crowd, you can see who has left and not returned, but hear my heart: You need to trust God’s timing. God has the right people before you in this pruning season, and he is preparing to send reinforcements. Will he find your leadership faithful or faltering? Stay faithful. In due time the floodgates of heaven will open, and new people and families will come to the church, but you have to do your part. You have to lead with a God vision. You have to inspire the people not merely in words but deeds. You have to be an example of God’s grace and extend love to the outcasts of society. The most incredible days for God’s church are ahead, not behind.
As you wait, be willing to fully surrender to God’s plan for your ministry, and be faithful in the small things God’s going to bless it.