Our world has lost its mind.
CRT, Christian nationalism, racial injustice, school shootings, political strife, passionate disagreements over pandemic response and protocols—to mask or not to mask, vax and anti-vax.
Any given week, stories are breaking in the news exposing the depths of depravity of the people and the systems in our world. In a digital age, people’s lives are consumed by issues, events, and concerns that aren’t necessarily local to their neighborhoods or relevant to their individual lives. And yet, that weight piles on and is taken as immediate and personal.
A friend of mine recently said that he feels like he’s had to make eight years’ worth of decisions in the last 18 months. Perhaps you can relate. And you’re still standing, faithfully preaching God’s Word, loving God’s people, and willing to take the hits that come with these unending decisions.
As I talk to others in ministry right now, there’s a nearly universal deep fatigue. Every decision and conversation feels loaded and charged. Every day brings a new crisis.
How do we pastor through this?
1. Preach God’s Word faithfully.
Martin Lloyd Jones said, “Preaching is theology coming through a man on fire.” Any true preaching must include the personality, experiences, and heart of the one proclaiming the gospel. And yet, there’s a line that ought never to be crossed in making a sermon about the preacher or the preacher’s perspectives rather than about Christ. It’s hard to get stuck on personal soapboxes when we’re standing under Scripture and teaching the full counsel of God’s Word. Click To Tweet
Preaching faithfully through Scripture will force us to press into issues that we otherwise might naturally avoid or just not see as important. It’s hard to get stuck on personal soapboxes when we’re standing under Scripture and teaching the full counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:27).
2. Preach the gospel and its implications.
Personal sin and salvation are important realities within the good news of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do. However, if we stick only to those themes, we truncate the gospel and miss the big picture of God’s work in renewing and restoring all things. That includes all of creation and all of humanity. God cares about personal holiness and justice, the effects of sin, and the impact of oppression.
3. Don’t ignore reality.
Pastors, we have a responsibility to help people connect the dots from Sunday into the rest of the week. Sundays are the gathering of God’s people to help them find refreshment in Christ and a restoration of their vision of God’s goodness, sending people out to live Spirit-filled and Spirit-led lives. As people come in, the realities around us weigh on them heavily. Ignoring or avoiding issues because they might be seen as too controversial, too politicized, or too touchy is pastorally irresponsible.
4. Don’t chase the news cycle.
While we can’t ignore the reality around us, we must also be careful not to allow our surrounding circumstances to consistently shape what we preach. It’s not hard to imagine taking up a new cause every week, either dictated by expectations or news cycle reactions.
In his book, The Care of Souls, Harold Senkbeil calls pastors “sheepdogs for the Good Shepherd.” Jesus is the one whose voice people need to hear. Our calling is to help bring the sheep where their Shepherd is calling them, with total love and admiration for the Shepherd.
5. Focus on the local church.
This may be the most important point. With the swirling issues around us and the nonstop flow of information in the digital age, we must recover a deeper sense of locality in our church and help our people do the same. The world can be overwhelming. We are not created with the capacity to take it all in. None of us is built to scroll through a feed that goes from tragedy to sarcastic meme to cat video and back again. With the swirling issues around us and the nonstop flow of information in the digital age, we must recover a deeper sense of locality in our church and help our people do the same. Click To Tweet
That overwhelm can seep into our churches and us as we inhabit broader issues in our world. It is good to step back at times and ask questions like: Is this a problem in this church? Do these people struggle with this issue? Are we only fixated on calling out the sins and idolatries of others or the ones in which our own hearts are trapped? What needs to be comforted or confronted in this church?
Take a breath today. Don’t lose heart. As we address the problems, needs, and opportunities for ministry in a world gone crazy, we cannot lose our focus on Jesus. We have to listen hard for his voice amid the chaos of crisis.
The tools of our trade are unchanging. We are the sheepdogs for the Shepherd who help the sheep hear and follow his voice through Word and sacrament. Along the way, be careful to have your own heart refreshed in Christ as well. “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfolding crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4).