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4 Powerful Ways Pastors Can Shepherd through the Coronavirus Pandemic

  • Homer Purdy Contributing Writer
  • 2020 19 Mar
4 Powerful Ways Pastors Can Shepherd through the Coronavirus Pandemic

I came across a recent post by John Onwuchekwa joking about how his time at seminary had failed to prepare him for a pastoring during a pandemic. I got a good chuckle because I imagine that it might be a course we see in the future after this!

The truth is that most pastors I know are all learning to navigate the unfamiliar waters of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the fly.

Pastoring on any other day, during any season, is not for the weak in spirit. On a good day, being the pastor of a congregation of any size will challenge you, try your faith, and test your patience. At its worst, pastoring will bring you to your knees, causing you to shake your fists toward the sky and ask, as Jesus did, “How long must I endure these people?”

But, in all seriousness, being a pastor is a wonderful privilege and calling.

During difficult and challenging seasons, like we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s natural for believers to turn to their pastors for guidance, strength, wisdom, and encouragement. It’s not uncommon for the church to take its cues from their pastor.

Pastors, however, are not exempt from the uncertainty and concern that comes with a worldwide crisis—health or otherwise. So what can pastors do during this time?

Here are 4 ways for pastors to shepherd their flocks through a global crisis, like a pandemic:

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1. Lead Them to the Word of God

1. Lead Them to the Word of God

During a pandemic, people are looking for truth. The internet and mobile devices make it easy to access information, of course, but facts and data can often contradict each other, or be hard to find at first. It’s natural to crave data, statistics, and research when there are so many questions. Turning to media sources or watching the latest live broadcast from the government can do little to soothe the frenzy.

Pastors should always lead believers to the Word of God, first.

The Word of God is the ultimate truth and the only information source that is God-breathed. King David, the psalmist, proclaimed in Psalm 138:2 that God has exalted all his Word above His name. God’s Word illuminates our pathway (Psalm 119:105) and is established in faithfulness (Psalm 119:138).

The Word of God is a firm foundation and it doesn’t move (2 Timothy 2:19).

The Word of God is filled with God’s everlasting promises and because of Jesus Christ, we can trust that He says “yes!” to all His promises as we declare “amen!” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

As pastors, we should set the example of declaring what the Word of God says about us, our homes, our finances, and our future. Hebrews 3:1 reminds us that Jesus Christ is the apostle—the founder and the High Priest—the administrator of our confession before the throne of God.

By encouraging our flock to stand in agreement with and declare the promises of God found in His Word, we give them the greatest source of truth to depend on.

Psalm 91 is filled with powerful declarations of God’s protection. 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us of what we were and were not given in Christ. We can read aloud Psalm 46:1-3 as if it were our own voice! With a little bit of time and effort, you can compile a list of promises and declarations for your flock to use during this time.

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2. Lead Them to Worship God

2. Lead Them to Worship God

Worship is the act of standing before the throne of Heaven and offering our adoration, admiration, devotion and celebration to the One who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb (Revelation 5:13). Worship is so much more than songs or singing and is not contained within a Sunday morning or mid-week service. Worship is a lifestyle and is never-ending (Psalm 34:1; Philippians 4:4).

We were created to bring God praise (Isaiah 43:7, Isaiah 43:21; Revelation 4:11).

We were commanded to bring God praise (Psalm 150:6).

Better than all that is that we are compelled to bring God worship and praise when we take time to remember His faithfulness and goodness to us (Psalm 77:11-12).

It’s easy to worship and praise God in the good times—in the seasons of abundance and plenty—but what about when the season is filled with fear, insecurity, or doubt? That’s when it’s called the sacrifice of praise! Expressing worship and praise to God in the midst of fear and doubt and uncertainty is difficult at first, but so powerful.

The best way I know how to express the decision to worship in spite of what we may be feeling or experience, and the benefits for making that decision are found in Habakkuk 3:17-19. No matter how bleak or dark or scary this pandemic may seem, believers should be encouraged to remember God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Encourage them to put on their favorite worship music and sing along. Use current technology to broadcast praise and worship sessions. Demonstrate and lead them in worship and praise and watch as God becomes their strength and their portion forever! (Psalm 73:26)

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3. Lead Them to Wait upon the Lord

3. Lead Them to Wait upon the Lord

During a mandated time of separation, social distancing, and even quarantine, many people get anxious and restless. Many of your believers may be feeling a bit stir-crazy after just two or three days of being cooped up at home.

Those who attend your services regularly and faithfully are experiencing more than just uncertainty with their health. Their routines have been changed. It’s natural to ask the question “when will this all be over?”

But in a global health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s simply no way to tell when the end will come. So what’s a pastor to do? Teach them to wait upon the Lord.

Philippians 4:6-7 gives us the antidote for the anxiety many believers are feeling during this time. We’re encouraged not to be anxious. The word that’s translated as “anxious” is actually a word that means to break down into parts or dissect. How many times have we made things better or fixed something by taking it apart and breaking it down to all its pieces? Never!

So we lead our flock in the principles found in the remainder of this passage. We help them present their requests, with worship, to the One who can take what concerns them (finances, health, employment) and, in exchange, bring them true peace.

We must not add to the panic.

We should inspire them to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

We should bring comfort and help them dwell in the secret place of the Most High, so they can abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

And of course, we must remind those who to look to for guidance, that He will hold in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed upon Him (Isaiah 26:3).

Our fellow believers can be watchful and prayerful during this time. It’s a time to draw near to Him.

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4. Lead Them to Connect with Each Other

4. Lead Them to Connect with Each Other

I know this last piece of wisdom doesn’t seem very spiritual, but give me a moment to explain. We live in an incredible world where technology allows us to connect with loved ones and friends on the other side of the world, instantly.

And while so many churches stream their services live online through their website, YouTube, or social media, it’s very easy for people to become disconnected and isolated if this is the only way they attend “church.”

Pastors are prone to isolation, too, during a time of quarantine or social distancing. Let’s face it, as much as we think we’d love a few years on the island of Patmos to write our book or finish our doctoral dissertation, the fact is that we, too, ultimately love people and the fellowship of the saints.

So during this time, when people are encouraged not to gather physically, we can encourage them to gather virtually. Empower and encourage leaders to reach out and schedule virtual prayer meetings, Bible studies, or worship sessions...or all three!

There are a few really great free programs that will allow people to connect in a virtual conference room—where they can see each other’s faces—and talk, laugh, cry, pray, sing, testify, and teach.

As a pastor, you can record and send out short, helpful, uplifting videos to your congregation. If you’re comfortable enough, you can even go live on many social media platforms. This will bring joy and inspiration to your church members, as well as help them feel at ease during this time of ambiguity.

Remember, He Who Promised Is Faithful

Rest assured that the origin of your calling will become very clear during this time. If you’re God-appointed, then you’ll find strength in Him, daily, and come to rely upon prayer and the Word of God. You’ll find that you will find rest, like Jesus did, in the midst of any storm.

If you’re man-appointed, you’ll struggle because you rely on the praises and accolades of men. When those praises stop coming, you’ll wonder why you should continue. If you’re self-appointed, you’ll fight to justify your calling, skills, and abilities to others. You’ll rely on your own talents and strength, which will fail, and you’ll quit.

Thank God that He is still on the throne and He is neither surprised nor unsettled by this time.

He saw this day from the beginning and has given you everything you need for life and godliness through your knowledge of Jesus Christ! (2 Peter 1:3). He will cause all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

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headshot of author Homer PurdyHomer Purdy is the Director of Operations of the ALIVE Radio Network, reaching the largest Christian market in upstate New York. Homer serves locally as a counselor, Bible teacher and minister and is a frequent missionary throughout the nation of India. Homer and his wife have five children and he is not allowed to watch the World Series unless the Dodgers are playing. His passion is to bring the Good News of the Gospel to the lost as well as to Christians who are struggling in their faith and to build the Kingdom of God one person at a time.