ROSEVILLE, MI – Part of my responsibility as a pastor is to look down the road, and anticipate opportunities and threats that my flock will encounter. But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the months and years of planning that I have been accustomed to, have been reduced to hours and days. Providentially I am preaching through the book of Acts and have dropped anchor in chapter 20, where Paul’s “upper room discourse” to the Elders from the church at Ephesus has become a wonderful template for my heart and church. The answer to the question of “how do you lead in a crisis” is the same answer to the question of, “how should you lead your church.”
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
Your leadership in a crisis will be a reflection of your leadership overall. All that a crisis does is put us in a vice that squeezes into view what is on the inside. Here are 5 ingredients of good leadership that will serve your church well when the storm comes to your door.
1. Be Self-aware - “pay careful attention to yourselves”
Times of crisis are indeed times of stress. But, you must be on guard against the temptation to rely upon yourself, thinking that you can rise to this occasion without relying on the Lord. We are so tempted to put our confidence in ourselves thinking that we do not have time to pray. When we are too busy and stressed to pray, we are not paying careful attention to ourselves. We are believing the lie that we are up for this, when we are not.
But the call to pay careful attention is actually in the plural “to yourselves.” That is good wisdom, isn’t it? How is the leadership of your church as a whole? Do you pay attention to yourselves? Is there honesty, humility, transparency, accountability with one another? If these things do not mark your leaders, then what is being hidden will be revealed under the strain of a crisis. Someone has to set the mark in order to call the rest to keep the pace. Leaders do this for a congregation, but you may need to be the one who does this for the leaders.
2. Be involved and organized - “and to all the flock”
Good shepherds smell like sheep. They do not subcontract the shepherding out to hirelings who like mercenaries, are only in the battle for the paycheck. They are with the sheep. They know their sheep by name. They know who is in the fold, and who is lost and will go after them. Shepherds know what it means to be in the flock. They can tell you who “all the flock” are and therefore, they know who they must pay attention to. It takes organization to know who all the flock is. It takes a commitment to details and procedures to have church membership and to keep that current. But unless you actually know who is in your flock, you won’t know who you are responsible to pay attention to.
3. Consider your calling - “which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers”
Yea, I too, missed that “preparing your church for COVID-19” class in seminary, and have wondered whether I can help navigate my people through these waters. On the one hand, I wonder why the Lord has put me into this position, and yet on the other, would not want to be anywhere else. If the Holy Spirit has put you into this position as an overseer (overseer, elder, pastor are synonyms in the NT) in your flock, then He who called you will equip you and direct you. Isn’t that comforting? Lean upon the Spirit for the wisdom that he promises. (James 1.5-8)
4. Be Loving - “to care for the church of God”
We know that loving is more than words, but at the same time, do not overlook the need of your people in hearing you tell them how much you love them. One of the simplest ways that I can “care for the church of God” is to tell them how much I love them. Assuming that you love your church, tell them.
5. Live with Accountability - “which he obtained with his own blood”
Jesus died for his church. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5.25). Wow! I am a steward of the flock that Jesus purchased and secured with his own blood. I will give an account for how I loved, led and fed his flock. And while that thought can be terrifying, it is at the same time comforting, because I am part of the flock that he loves, died for, secured and will keep.
Am I and my leaders humble? How are we engaged with our people? Do we serve with a sense of calling? Do our people know that we love them? Do I realize my responsibility to Christ? The answers to these questions will guide you well as you lead your people through this present darkness and the others on down the road.
Jesus is worth a beautiful Bride!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Johnson has served as the Senior Pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, MI for the last 30+ years and is very happy about it.