As I try to navigate through this pandemic as a pastor, I have been searching for resources that could help me lead the church well during this time. Unfortunately, there is no course in seminary that I can look back to that specifically addresses this issue (I’m guessing that a course on "how to lead during a pandemic" would be developed in the future). Homer Purdy notes, "The truth is that most pastors are all learning to navigate the unfamiliar waters of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the fly." 1 While there is no "playbook" that provides a step-by-step guide to effectively lead the church during a pandemic, there are books on biblical leadership that can help pastors shepherd well during this season.
Last year, I read a book on pastoral resilience for my Ministry Leadership course and as I reviewed my notes, I was reminded how important it is to cultivate resilience in order to overcome any challenge in life and ministry. The Resilient Pastor by Mark Searby is a book every pastor can benefit from. Searby’s heart for pastors combined with years of leadership experience has allowed him to help struggling pastors regain their spiritual equilibrium and enthusiasm. Searby notes, "I learned that ministry is complex, difficult and costly! It often includes much headache and pain. At the same time, I learned that it is a wonderful privilege which provides an opportunity to walk with individuals in the most intimate aspects of discovering God’s grace." 2 For pastors to recapture this positive outlook in ministry, Searby highlights the need for them to develop resilience. He defines resilience as "the ability to overcome adversity and maintain effective living and leading while experiencing growth. . . . It involves faithfulness and fulfillment in ministry leadership in the midst of difficult circumstances." 3 Searby substantiates this idea by first giving examples of prominent leaders (e.g., Paul, Peter, and James) in the New Testament who showed resilience in pastoral ministry. He states, "The resilient leader is one who finishes well. He may have many scars at the end of the journey, but there is a great sense of satisfaction in a life lived faithfully in honour to Jesus and service to others." 4 After demonstrating the need to develop pastoral resilience, Searby unpacked ten principles that facilitate growth in this area. He also revealed how intimacy with God affects the way a pastor responds to challenges in the ministry and how being God-centered can contribute to personal and organizational growth.
Lastly, The Resilient Pastor brought me back to the grace of God as the ultimate source of pastoral resilience. No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me" (1 Cor 15:10 ESV). May the grace of God be the anchor that causes us to remain faithful to our calling as we seek to lead well and finish strong for His glory.
1 Homer Purdy, article on "Four Powerful Ways Pastors Can Shepherd Well through the Coronavirus Pandemic", posted on March 19, 2020, https://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/powerful-ways-pastors-can-shepherd-through-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html (accessed on April 14, 2020).
2 Mark Searby, Resilient Pastor (Eugene, OR: Resource, 2015), Kindle edition.