There are times when a pastor is launched into the role of being a community pastor. At this point, it doesn’t matter the size of the church or the notoriety of the pastor. The community is looking for the pastor to lead.
Many pastors are experiencing this phenomenon now with the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Because many weren’t able to have in-person services, the online services exploded. (According to pastors I’ve talked to.) I suspect people were watching, perhaps looking for answers, who do not normally attend church.
Here are a few other examples when you may be the community’s pastor:
- An influential person in the community — or a popular youth dies — and you are asked to do what a very large funeral.
- Tragedy occurs — the kind which attracts national media attention — and you are sought to provide spiritual insight.
- Natural disaster devastates the community and the church is heavily recruited in the recovery.
- You are asked to speak at a public event.
- Major cultural shifts occur that are newsworthy or impact the church and your opinion is solicited or expected.
For brief moments in time — an hour — a day — a week — all eyes are on the pastor for spiritual insight, guidance, comfort or a sense of direction.
What do you do in those times?
I’ve found myself in this position several times. It can be a humbling and even overwhelming place to be. I’ve learned how I respond in those situations impacts more than this specific incident.
These settings can come regardless of the church or community’s size. When they do the way you respond is of Kingdom importance.
Here are 5 Reminders when you are the Community’s Pastor:
1. SPEAK TRUTH IN LOVE
Don’t water down truth in these occasions, but don’t beat people up with truth either. Be like Jesus, full of grace and truth. Share God’s Word, but don’t use it as a weapon against the community. You will never be taken serious if they see you as judgmental and uncaring.
Win people over with genuine love and helpful truth. These situations may give you a greater opportunity for influence for Christ in the days to come.
2. DON’T RECRUIT FOR A CHURCH – RECRUIT FOR JESUS
There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than a pastor in a community setting who spends more time trying to recruit for his individual church than he does sharing the love of Christ.
In settings where everyone sees you as the pastor, but not everyone is from your “flock”, use it as an opportunity to lift a Christ banner high, not your church banner. If they are impressed with the Jesus you proclaim, they’ll be more likely to find your church.
Be mindful of doctrinal divisions that have divided people for years. In public settings, let the main thing be the main thing. Keep your focus upon doctrines which all of mainline Christianity can agree.
3. BUILD TRUST
You do that best by letting Jesus should shine through in all you do. You don’t want people to be impressed with you. You want them impressed with Jesus. People can tell when you are trying to build your own platform or soapbox.
This may mean you simply build relationships like Jesus did with the tax collectors. Don’t assume you have to “preach” to take advantage of the opportunity. Your best use may be to build trust for future conversations.
4. PROVIDE PEOPLE HOPE
More than anything in these settings — share the hope of the Gospel. That’s likely why you are invited to this opportunity. This is probably not the time to bring forth condemnation.
Don’t back away from truth, but make sure whatever you share is clearly seen in the context of a God who IS LOVE. Make it your intent to be helpful to people who are hurting.
5. BE LIKEABLE AND NATURAL
Let people see you as real and approachable. Take time to shake hands, embrace, cry with people who are grieving if necessary.
The more they see you as a regular person (just like Elijah — James 5:17) and not like someone above them positionally or superior to them in moral value, the more likely they’ll be to trust the comfort you bring and cling to the God you serve.
It doesn’t happen often, but on the occasions where you have a larger, community audience, allow God to use you for a greater and longer term benefit to the Kingdom.