Lockdown has removed this sense of intimacy and security for your pastor, so that his preaching has not been just to members, but in a marketplace. Most Christians will have (or ought to have) stuck with their own online ministry, but in the back of his mind and the depths of his heart there lurks a fear in your Pastor that comparison with other churches or preachers has not been helpful or healthful to him or to you. To then face public comparative criticism, is injurious and detrimental not only to his peace of mind, but his certainty of purpose, and his dignity of service.
As the barriers erected by Covid 19 in the UK and Ireland start to lift a little, the prospect of being able to gather for public worship is beginning to glimmer on the horizon. Governmental sanction for regathering is simply affirmative of what many church leaders have been feeling – we are almost at the point where public worship will once again be a part of our personal, congregational, and national life. This, logistical complexities notwithstanding, is to be welcomed.
In the mix of emotions and the flurry of activity that surround this, stand your pastors and elders. For them, Covid 19 has presented particular challenges, and fundamental changes to the rhythms and realities of weekly ministry. Now, they have the task of seeking to understand and apply biblical judgement to public health issues, and they most likely feel a sense of personal and pastoral uncertainty about how things might progress.
In this post I want to address Pastors, Covid, and criticism. Criticism is one of the main things which could damage your elders’ and pastors’ capacity to lead at this very moment, and that could imperil their tranquility of mind. Criticism could significantly throw their sense of direction, and dent their confidence as they try, under God, to lead into territory where no one has gone before.
There are two main areas of criticism which are likely to rear their heads in coming days, and in this post I want to analyse why these might be a temptation for church members to indulge and engage with, and why these represent a hammer blow to the predicament that elderships find themselves in. I also want to suggest a way in which criticism might be offered in a caring and beneficial way.
For the sake of transparency, this post is written from the vantage point of not facing personal criticism at the present time. I am not venting here, but am seeking to write from a position of fraternal ministry, rather than out of a desire for personal therapy.
One of the unusual and disconcerting elements of Covid 19 and pastoral leadership is that it has forced elders and pastors to make decisions in a forum and to a timetable which is foreign to them.
Events are developing quickly, and so pastors are expected to move at the same pace as scrolling 24 hour news. This is not how church life is normally run, and it has created significant stress around decision making. Pre-Covid 19, the manoeuvrability of a church fellowship could best be compared to turning a supertanker.