As we experience a National Crisis, I find myself reflecting on how much this crisis, like personal crisis, requires a wise & nuanced approach to ministry. As such, I wanted to share with you something that I have learned over the years, that hopefully will help you as you try to share the love of Jesus with your friends & neighbors over these next few weeks and months.
On “Normal Days” Pastors essentially have 3 Responsibilities: (1) to KNOW & SPEAK the Word of God, (2) to PRAY, & (3) to ADMINISTRATE the affairs of the Ekklesia. In this way, the Pastor can be understood to be operating in the roles of Prophet, Priest, and King as an Under-shepherd of Messiah, within the confines of a localized geographic area. This tri-corded reality plays itself out in the day to day in a variety of ways; from overseeing the corporate worship or discipleship of the congregation, to the pouring out of oneself into another in the midst of common everyday relationships.
But IN TIMES OF CRISIS THERE MUST BE SOMETHING MORE… & SOMETHING LESS.
A number of years ago, when I was still fairly young in the pastorate, there was a tragedy in my flock. A congregant’s son was in a very bad motorcycle accident & the outlook was not good. The young man was given a less than 30% chance of making it through.
As I rode to the hospital I contemplated what scripture could provide comfort to the family. I prayed for wisdom to know how to pray for them when I got there. I agonized as I reflected on the fact that no amount of education can prepare you fully for a moment like that.
When I arrived however, all of MY BEST IDEAS DISSIPATED as I found myself plunged deep into the grief of the moment.
I spent the next 18 hours in that hospital with a distraught family. It seemed like each one alternated between sleeping & weeping, while I in turn alternated between allowing the exhausted to rest and the exasperated to pour out their hearts. When I finally left the hospital so that I could attend to other responsibilities, I COULD NOT SHAKE THE OVERWHELMING SENSE OF GUILT that I felt for not being able to stay longer or do more.
As I drove down the empty highway, my own grief drove me to the Throne of Grace. But as I poured my heart out to the LORD, I realized that the guilt and anxiety which I was struggling with were really just MY OWN FEAR OF INADEQUACY which had been exposed by the crisis. What I had to come to terms with that day was that in the midst of a crisis, NO ONE NEEDS THE CLEVERNESS OF A PASTOR. Rather, THEY NEED THE COMFORT OF THE MESSIAH.
Henry Nouwen called it THE MINISTRY OF PRESENCE; the mediation of the Sacred which flows from SIMPLY BEING WITH ANOTHER.
Of course, this only happens when we have a Mind prepared by Study, a Heart prepared by Prayer, & a Will submitted to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Only then are we able to REST IN THE SUFFICIENCY OF MESSIAH rather than be controlled by our Fear of Inadequacy. Only then are we be able to rise to the challenge of Stillness and Presence.
Because sometimes, as in times of crisis, Love is not about having all the Answers… LOVE SIMPLY IS THE ANSWER.
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus the Messiah as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for His sake. For the God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God displayed in the face of Jesus. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 ~