Ministering in Unprecedented Times
It would be an understatement to say that ministering during these times of the pandemic are unprecedented. The dictionary defines unprecedented as something having never been known or done before. And for us in our modern age, especially in America, this is what it has been like these many months.
Matt Rogers wrote in Christianity Today:
“As the COVID-19 crisis drags on, many church leaders find themselves tired, discouraged, and anxious regarding the long-term implications of this pandemic. Pastors are wondering how they can apply biblical roles and goals for pastoral ministry in such a radically altered context. Such work requires savvy shepherds—those who take responsibility for their task in its new and present form.” (Rogers CT 5/8/20)
My dialog with pastors proves that this is an accurate description.
I wanted to give wise counsel to those who are trying to figure out, “What do I do now?” I came across a passage of Scripture that surprised me. I was looking for something else, but made a wonderful discovery. It is found in Exodus, Chapter 31. (Not your typical devotional reading!)
There is an interesting story in Exodus Chapter 31 regarding God's instructions on building the tabernacle. God not only designs the facility, but God chooses the superintendents of construction and the head craftsmen.
"Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you." Exodus 31:1-6 (NIV)
vs. 3: Tells us that God, Himself, has seen to it that these men have been give all they need to do the job. Let's look at these provisions as found in the Hebrew language used in verse 3. Perhaps this is a time for us to remember that God always equips us with what we need to do His will. Let’s look at three provisions found in verse three.
1. filled with the Spirit of God - skill - ability - knowledge -
The language "filled with the Spirit of God" is very similar in wording to Isaiah 11: 2 - "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--" Isaiah 11:2 (NIV) (New Beacon Bible Commentary - Exodus p. 378)
2. wisdom - Heb. hakam = wise, skillful, practical - referring to the wisdom and the ability to do what you know. It refers to mastery of your art or responsibility. This word is used 132 times in the Wisdom Literature of the OT. (Adam Clarke Commentary and Vine's Expository Dictionary).
3. understanding - Heb. tawboon = understanding, discretion, reason, ability to argue skillfully
God is still equipping us today!
He fills us with the Holy Spirit as our teacher: Jesus said:
"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26 (NIV)
Godly Wisdom is ours for the asking:
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." James 1:5-8 (NIV)
"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better." Ephesians 1:15-17 (NIV)
God enables us to understand, and encourages us to not lean on our own understanding.
"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil." Proverbs 3:3-7 (NIV)
Jesus, as a young lad, understood the things of God. It was said by those who heard him in the temple: After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. Luke 2:46-47 (NIV)
"Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." John 14:23-24 (NIV)
Jesus depended upon the Father for wisdom and understanding... should we do no less?
Therefore, we can see that if we are going to both know and do the Word of God, we must be ministers of the Gospel who are Spirit-filled, seek godly wisdom and depend on the teaching of the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Therefore, we will:
Be diligent in our study of Scripture:
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)
Like Paul we will not stop praying for the wisdom and understanding we need, both for ourselves and our people:
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:9-14 (NIV)
We will ask God for His wisdom in all things:
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5 (NIV)
This may not sound very profound to you. You might even think, “Well of course that is what we need to do!” OK. So, is this what you are doing to find your way through this malaise… these unprecedented times?
I had the privilege of serving in pastoral ministry for thirty-five years prior to my appointment to Nazarene Bible College. It did not take me long to realize that I did not have all the answers. But I knew the One who did have the answers. I also discovered that when faced with new, unforeseen, unknown situations and circumstances... get back to the basics of prayer, bible-study and loving people. You can never go wrong when you build your foundation on these basic skills.
Vince Lombardi used to tell his new players I will give you the secret of winning football games. They came to the meeting with high expectations. He told them, “If you want to win the game you have to block, tackle and carry the ball over the goal line.” In other words, if you do not get the basics accomplished all the fancy plans, programs and gimmicks will profit you nothing.
Unprecedented times calls for pastors who will pray for wisdom, study the Word of God and love people! You do this, and as Matt Rogers said, “You will be a savvy shepherd!”
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
Be encouraged! You will discover anew that God will equip you to minister in these unprecedented times!
Let God answer this prayer for you:
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV)
Dr. James (Jim) Russom, NBC Faculty, Director of Pastoral Ministries
New Beacon Bible Commentary (NBCC) Exodus, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2018.
New International Version, Database @Worsdsearch Corp. Copyright1984. All scripture in this
Rogers, Matt. “Pastoring in a Pandemic”. Christianity Today – Creative Studio.
Posted May 18, 2020, website: https://www.christianitytoday.com/partners/gloo/pastoring-in-pandemic.html