By Vince Torres, President and Executive Director
“Why did you wait so long to reopen?”
“Why are you being so reckless by opening this early?”
“COVID is just a conspiracy and by closing, you are sacrificing all our religious rights!”
“COVID is going to kill everyone in the church if you reopen!”
“I hate the web stream! I will see you in-person Sunday!”
“Make sure you keep the web stream. I won’t be back for a while.”
These statements are just a small representation of the “input” many pastors continue to receive during the COVID pandemic. For every churchgoer who is anxious to return to in-person services, there is another who is anxious about the prospect of in-person services, and so many other sentiments somewhere in between.
Over the past several weeks, I have had the privilege of speaking with pastors from all over New Mexico. They represent different denominations and lead churches of different sizes. And whether they pastor 50 people or 15,000 people, these pastors all share a common burden when it comes to addressing the challenges of COVID and safely relaunching our in-person services.
As a pastor, I understand these burdens well, and while some believe the decisions pastors face are rather easy, I assure you—they are not. Every person has an opinion about what our leaders should be doing—whether those leaders be pastors or elected officials. However, when it comes to the church, we should not treat our pastors as politicians, and rather than boosting their burdens, we should be bearing them.
Your pastor needs your prayers. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” -James 1:5
It has been written and stated many times—your pastor has never led or pastored through a pandemic before. They need wisdom, discernment, and added grace and love to effectively navigate the challenges before them. Pray for them daily.
Your pastor needs your patience. “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” –1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
The truth is, there is no perfect plan or strategy for your pastor to employ. Every decision they make will be met with approval from some and disapproval from others. They may make mistakes, and if/when they do, extend the same grace they have extended to you and honor them with patience as God’s appointed laborers.
Your pastor needs your provision. “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” –Galatians 6:6
Please continue to give your time, talents, and treasure to your local church. As churches reopen, opportunities to serve will again be available and your pastor and church family need your help. As for your tithes and offerings, remember that they do not simply keep lights on in the church on Sundays—they keep food on your pastor’s family table the rest of the week; they put money and supplies into the hands of needy families in your church; and they support the furtherance of Gospel mission beyond your church doors.
Your pastor needs your protection. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” –1 Timothy 5:17
One of the ways you can best honor your pastor is to protect them from unrighteous criticisms and sinful gossip. There is a big difference between expressing disagreement and sowing discord; and even when disagreements surface, remember that your pastor is leading a diverse church with a diversity of personalities and opinions. If you feel called to address a specific concern, do so in a biblical manner by communicating with your pastor directly. Encourage others to do the same.
The writer of Hebrews instructs us: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” There is an important truth here—that your pastor is responsible for your church and your people—not other churches and other people. Therefore, their decisions should not be made on the basis of what is best for the church or another church, but what is best for your church.
So, whether your pastor decides to open or delay reopening; to resume at one capacity or another; or to mandate certain restrictions or not—remember, they are doing so in a spirit of love and care for you. They need your prayers; they need your patience; they need your provision; and they need your protection—now more than ever.