This letter was written by Pastor Tim Walker, a pastor acquaintance of mine from Cleveland, Ohio. He wrote this to his congregation and the fellowship of churches he serves. This perspective is valuable for all Christians.
A lot of people are sending me videos of nationally respected leaders asking “every church to open their doors immediately.” Some members are upset and threatening to go somewhere else, if we don’t open our buildings by Pentecost Sunday.
Trust me; I understand the frustration and probably want to resume corporate worship more than most anyone else in our congregation. BUT…I’m accountable to God for making decisions that are in the best interests of the whole congregation; not just me, or the few most vocal members.
As I’ve been praying about it, I’ve borrowed some suggestions and wisdom from other Pastors, combined them with my own thought process and want to give you a few things to consider.
1. This is one of the most difficult decisions we as Pastors will ever have to make.
The timing of when and how to open our buildings is without a doubt the most grueling decision I’ve ever had to grapple with. There is no instructional manual and none of us have ever led through a global pandemic before. We love our people and have to consider the strongest and the weakest among them. We also have to consider those who are young and healthy as well as those who are older, sickly, or have compromised immunity. We also have to live with the long-term consequences of every decision we make. I’ve labored in prayer ever since this began, seeking God continually for guidance and direction. I’m very confident most others local Pastors have as well. No one wants the local church to succeed more than we do. Please give us the liberty to lead and prayerfully follow us.
2. While I appreciate national church leaders and try to support them and glean from them, they do not have the right or authority to speak on behalf of the local church. They don’t know our people, our circumstances, or the challenges of our situations.
Pastoring a large congregation, or being on national television doesn’t make you an international spokesperson for the Body of Christ. It’s the local pastors who marry, counsel, bury, advise, wipe away the tears, visit the hospitals, pray for, and walk with people through life; not television personalities who don’t know your name or your kids names, and are so insulated if you’re lucky you can get an autograph but won’t ever have their phone number.
I love them, and they create great opportunities for us, but they don’t know our specifics, they don’t have to manage our resources, and don’t have to deal with the repercussions of our decisions. They do not speak for me or most other local Pastors.
3. Don’t compare your church’s decision with that of other churches. Each church is unique in size, layout, staffing, age demographics, and resources. One size doesn’t fit all. What may work brilliantly for one could be disastrous for another. No one knows your church and its members like your Pastors and leaders. Different areas of the country have had different levels or exposure to this virus. What is right for a rural area, may not be right for an urban area. The population density is different, the laws are different, and the rate of exposure is different. Your pastors have to make these decisions considering all of these factors and more. Pray for them, support them, offer to help them, and most of all trust them!
4. Support your church during the transition. While we are waiting for the right timing, please support your Pastors and your local church. It’s estimated that at least 30% of congregations under 100 adults either will not re-open, or will not survive through the end of the year. Don’t allow your church to be a casualty. Your community needs the voice and the ministry of the local church. Don’t allow it to be silenced! The global church will prevail, but the success of the local church depends on OUR faithfulness. Support it with prayer, finances, service, and loyalty. Check on your Pastors and leaders. They are carrying a massive load and every prayer, offering, or word of encouragement matters…it really does!
5. Even if you disagree with their timing for reopening, stand in unity and don’t allow the enemy to bring strife, confusion, or divisiveness. Our nation has increasingly become more polarized over the past 15 years. The media, politics, social media, the internet, pride, and most of all, spiritual distancing…yes, spiritual distancing…(my new term for those who have continued to neglect their walk with God and have instead chosen to live in the flesh), have created massive disunity in the body of Christ. Don’t fall for it! Protect your heart, your relationships, your values and don’t trade gold for brass!
Choose love over hatred…trust over suspicion, grace over judgment. Give your Pastors, leaders, and other believers the benefit of the doubt. They’re not perfect and they’re going to make mistakes. Allow them a safe place to grow and learn as well. They really are trying to do what’s best for you!
6. When your church does re-open live services, please ATTEND, serve, give, connect to a group or a team. Sunday services are not for entertainment purposes…they’re for ministry. Get involved in the ministry of your church.
We will re-open our buildings as soon as we feel services can be held in a safe and secure environment. Until then, let’s plaster social media with the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and let’s remain focused on what’s really important.
Just a few thoughts from a tired, frustrated but determined Pastor.
Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).
This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com