There a number of levels to the bewildering exhaustion we are all feeling. Some of it is unique to pastors, but many elements will be shared by the majority in the church.
Let’s try to separate some out, and find a way through.
There’s the exhaustion of a routine having gone to the wall. I have in my planner, an ‘ideal week.’ Not that it ever happens, of course – it’s like an exercise plan, which goes belly-up when you have a cold. But the rhythm of my week, study and time off, exercise and meetings, has now all gone and I have to rebuild.
Identifying a new rhythm, and then living it, is critical.
If you’d told me three months ago that we’d be live-streaming church, I’d have laughed. But suddenly, in a matter of weeks if not days, we all had to scramble, learn, purchase, plan, connect and pull it off. Now there’s an adrenaline factor here, which we can’t deny. For the techies, this is fun. There’s pressure and a timeline which we’re not used to.
If only that were all! But we are also having to reinvent small groups, and church leadership, and a zillion other things,.
And it all takes time.
Being creative is hard work, and new ideas come to us rarely. Unless you are highly unusual, you don’t often need a brand new idea. And if you’ve ever done it, you will know it is a slow, iterative process. That ‘lightbulb’ moment? Most creative work is grunt work.
We haven’t had that time.
At the back of my mind is the sharp awareness that the way we did things last week may not survive six more days. You’ve experienced this. Week one – do we still serve refreshments? Week 2, what about bread and wine? Week three, What’s this Zoom business? Week 4 – when will we ever meet again?
As I like to say, all our planning is done in pencil. It sounds great, but it is wearying.
We are leaders of our churches, so people look to us. Suddenly, they look to us more. Because the rolling news cycle is unremittingly depressing. We all know that, and it weighs us down.
But we can’t allow that to be the final answer, can we? I mean, we mustn’t ignore it – this is a hard precedence and we must teach our way though it, but this doesn’t mean God has abandoned his plan for salvation through Jesus. The throne is not empty.
And we need to articulate that, driving ourselves back to gospel, digging it deep in our own hearts, and then communicating it relentlessly. This will serve God’s good plan. It cannot do other.
But it demands a high and clear level of gospel optimism from us. Daily.
And here is the question that we hardly dare articulate, but which we must: “What does this crisis make possible?” New partners in prayer and bible study triplets. New levels of mutual ministry. Straight conversations about sickness and death, for instance.
And scary questions: how can we sustain the congregations over months of this? How can we do evangelism? How are people going to end us and join us? How can we connect with our community? How to we contribute, and transform?
I don’t have a big plan at the moment. All my plans are in last month’s basket, gathering dust. Almost everything I was looking forward to over the next nine months has had to be parked, and the few that remain, completely reinvented.
I do, though, have what’s called a Life Plan. The different roles of my life. My deepest values, written down, with bible verses. I revisit them each time I come up with my annual goals.
Now I need to do so again, but this time knowing that I need knew answers to get through the next quarter. There is no
Do the same. Go down really deep into your core of who you are before God, and then work out slowly, from that core, step by step, how – if those things are true – you can contribute in a new way.