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I had just finished a Zoom meeting with some area ministers. The third Tuesday of every month is a time for us to gather over a meal and encourage each other in ministry. As we were discussing some of the challenges in this new way of doing ministry. As one pastor put so elegantly, “I’m finding out how much I am missing my congregation.”
Ministry is full of challenges. I had heard on the pastor say that when he was in seminary, the professor proclaimed, “Ministry would be fun if there were no people.” Before COVID-19, this statement would have gotten a few laughs and nods, but as the comment was said, there was no laughing, just a hollowness in our hearts and minds. We may not miss the negativity, the gossip, the hurtful anonymous letters, and the personality conflicts. But what we do miss, is the voice, eyes, touch, presence of an individual, even if that same individual has wronged you.
I have seen ministers who have defied government orders by still having services in their buildings. I have seen pastors who have had criticism from the community, by doing a drive-in service; some even had had the police called on them. Some pastors sit by the phone to receive updates from congregants who have been hospitalized while some preach a eulogy to a camera in an empty funeral home chapel, as no one has come out for services in fear of getting sick.
I get it.
I get that you love your church members
I get that you feel lost when you can not do a visitation, or go to the hospital, or preach a sermon in an empty sanctuary (or in your home)
I think of the parable of the lost sheep, except instead of one missing, its the whole flock that has been separated in separate areas while the shepherd is, for better or worst, trying to reach and feed the sheep under his/her care in new ways and, if we are being honest, you are completely lost.
So my suggestion to you, pastor, is to grieve. Go somewhere and grieve this loss. Go and grieve the simple handshakes, nudges, smiles, bump-ins, that most pastors take for granted. Also, remember that your flock is not missing, they are just confined and they mourn too. They miss you, and one day, they will be back and the church body will (hopefully) be stronger and united than ever, in the Name of Jesus Christ.