Three Pastoral Imperatives for Shepherding in this Crisis
By Steve Dighton
As a recently retired pastor, I was sure that after 40 years of ministry I had experienced about as many challenges, crises, and concerns as any one pastor could undergo.
Over these past few weeks, I’ve come to realize how naïve that idea was.
In the three churches I have pastored, one of my stated policies was that we never canceled a Sunday morning service. When there was inclement weather you wouldn’t need to call the church or check the website, because we will always meet. While many churches will cancel at the first flake of snow, I was always committed to faithfully preach to the handful of people I knew would figure out some way to get to the church. So, you can assume I preached to some pretty small crowds when we were forced to deal with Sunday blizzards!
Many of you have been facing pandemic challenges like I personally never experienced, and I want to be an encouragement to you as you seek to navigate the unknown.
Remember that the most important calling you have during these perilous days is to shepherd your people (1 Pet. 5:2). There are three basic components of shepherding: 1) FEED your people, 2) LEAD your people, and 3) PLEAD for your people.
First, as you seek to feed your flock, you have to be well-nourished yourself. Great preaching is fueled by an overflow of what God is doing in the life of the pastor. Be disciplined to seek the Lord daily and diligently. If you currently are preaching a series, you might prayerfully consider deviating from it for a few weeks. I suggest you consider the book of Joel — “Give ear all the inhabitants of the land, has anything like this happened in your days or even in the days of your fathers?” (Joel 1:2) What an appropriate verse for our day! The mega-theme for the book is found in Joel 2:12-13 — “Return to me with all of your heart for He is gracious and merciful.” You can glean three or four powerful sermons from this prophetic book.
Second, as you lead your flock, the best leadership advice I can give you is to lead by example. So, demonstrate in your life what it looks like to walk by faith, to stand courageously, to be an encourager and an empathizer. Remind your people the church has flourished in seasons of adversity, and reinforce your commitment to lead them, feed them and plead for them. Example is the greatest form of unconscious learning. Remember, pastor, they are looking to you, so lead with optimism, understanding, and graciousness.
Third, as you plead for your flock, one of the ways you can use your influence from a distance is by making a phone call to every household in your church. Ask them about their health, their family concerns, what needs they might have, and how you can be of any help to them. Before you pray with them, share with them a verse they can stand on in these days of uncertainty. (Examples: Isa. 41:10, Isa. 43:2, Ps. 46:1, Ps. 91:1-3, Matt. 11:28-29, Phil. 1:3-6, Col. 2:6-7, 1 Pet. 1:3-7)
I close with my life verse: “If you’ll be a servant to these people, and serve them and answer them and speak good words to them they will be your servants forever.” (1 Kings 12:7)