I loved being a pastor. It was my joy and honor to spend 34 years as a pastor in a local church, so obviously I have a special place in my heart for the men who faithfully labor behind the pulpit serving God and His people.
I never saw myself in any other vocational capacity this side of heaven other than in a pastorate serving churches. God had other plans and serving churches has taken a different look. For almost 10 years, it’s been my privilege to lead the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board to serve the 3,200 churches that are part of the network of churches that comprise the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
So, adding the three years of preaching I did before starting my first pastorate at age 20, I’ve accumulated almost 50 years in ministry. By trial and error, through successes and failures, I’ve learned a few things. God blessed those years in the pastorate. That education has continued as I’ve also learned much the last decade as an executive director of a state Baptist convention.
A pastoral mindset is second nature to me. Daily I make decisions as an executive director by putting myself in the shoes of the pastors who lead our churches. Those shoes fit me best. God shaped my heart into a shepherd’s mold. These guys are constantly on my heart and mind, and for the past several weeks I’ve been thinking, “What would I do if I was back in the pastorate leading a church during this coronavirus crisis?” Without question, here’s what I would do.
- I would pray with intentionality like never before.
- I would read the Word more attentively than ever before.
- I would give constant and careful attention and time (quality and quantity) to my wife and family.
- I would focus on taking great care of myself so that I could be at my best to care for others. I would attempt to get more sleep, eat healthy, get more than usual exercise, and take sabbath time for myself.
- I would be the most hope-filled person in my church.
- I would face this crisis realistically as hope and wisdom walk hand in hand.
- I would prepare and pray over biblical messages with greater urgency knowing both my church members and the world is hungry to hear a word from God.
- I would organize and rally my leaders (deacons, elders, small group/Sunday School) to contact and stay connected to every member and regular attendees of my church.
- I would heed the wisdom of the medical community and CDC, and respect the leadership of national, state and local governmental officials for the sake of my flock.
- I would build a ministry think tank of creative, unconventional thinkers and strategists, carry out the best possible plans, and if something didn’t work, I’d move quickly to “Plan B.”
- I would look beyond my congregation to other pastors in my community or across the state and I would call and encourage that brother through prayer and conversation.
- I would live in the moment, recognizing I’ve got this God-given day and I would choose to “rejoice and be glad in it.”
- I would take the advice of Charles Swindoll and have a “gut busting laugh” each day. Laughter is still good medicine.
These are challenging days – difficult days – to be a pastor, but they are also days of great hope. God is giving pastors a ripe opportunity to lead the Bride of Christ in new and unique ways in this battle for the souls of people.
Brothers know this, I am in the trenches with you, praying for you, and to the best of my ability, using every resource I have available to me through your Tennessee Baptist Mission Board to serve you. I can say with all certainty, now more than ever before, it is a joy to be with you on this journey.