By Derwin L. Gray
Pastors and church leaders have faced a uniquely difficult task. We’ve had to lead the way in a global pandemic. I don’t know about you, but I have never lived through a global pandemic before.
It’s understandable that many of us may feel ill-equipped. Every day we’re having to answer hard questions, make impossible decisions, and keep our congregations calm when many are panicking.
Even though this situation is new to us, we are not the first Christians in history to live through a crisis. In fact, we have a legacy of running toward a crisis, not away from it.
Take a look at what the early church was known for. In The Rise of Christianity, author Rodney Stark writes:
“Christianity revitalized life in the Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent urban problems. To cities filled with homeless and the impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded family. To cities torn by violent strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services.”
Tertullian, a North African church leader, wrote, “It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of our opponents . . . they say how they love one another!”
May those who disagree with our beliefs see our desire to display the love for Christ through the healing of hurts, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sacrificing ourselves in the cause of justice, and may they say, “Look, how they love people.”
People in our congregations are hurting. Many are wondering what to do in the face of the current health and financial crisis. Many are looking to us for direction.
What can we offer them? How can we not only help them survive this season—but even steer them toward joy? Here are a few suggestions I humbly offer:
1. Look to Jesus.
When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we remember that He is in control. We remember He cares. We remember He is with us.
Keep reminding your congregation of who King Jesus is. Don’t take your eyes off of Him. He’s the all-sufficient, all-knowing, all-loving One in whom we trust.
2. Partner with God to help those around you.
As soon as our state announced school closures, our church’s outreach team jumped at the opportunity to provide meals for students who would no longer be receiving them at school.
We set up a mobile food pantry for families in need. We partnered with local non-profits to help the community. We sent money to our sister church in Madrid, Spain when many in their congregation (including their leadership team) were hit with COVID-19.
Look around. There’s always a way to help others in your community. When we partner with God to bring hope, healing, unity, and justice to our world it fills us with incomparable joy.
3. Share God’s love and encourage those around you.
Our church set up a “healthcare heroes” caravan for those working on the frontlines of this pandemic. We provided a meal for the workers, prayed over them, and had a line of cars decorated with signs expressing gratitude.
You should have seen all the smiling faces! The healthcare heroes and our congregation were filled with joy and they have continued to carry that joy with them. When we share God’s love and exercise gratitude, it brings delight to those around us.
Happy are those who are overflowing with love for God, for themselves, and for their neighbors. Happy are those who partner with God to meet the deep hurts of the world with His deep love. There’s plenty of room at God’s banquet table.
DERWIN L. GRAY (DerwinLGray) is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. He is a former NFL safety and is the author of Limitless Life, The HD Leader, and his new release, The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness.