The year 2020 will be remembered, without a need for explanation, like 1914, 1929, 1939, 1968, and 2001.
When 2020 dawned, who could have imagined the changes we would see? It is rather ironic that the phrase twenty-twenty is typically associated with excellence in human vision, yet no human envisioned 2020 unfolding as it has.
It is not just the changes that have occurred—it is the speed of those changes. In previous eras, transitions took decades. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. It took more than a century to move from his invention to the smartphones we carry in our pockets today. The luxury of gentle, incremental change belongs to a previous time.
One weekend, pastors were preaching in churches, and we had the unappreciated pleasure of receiving immediate feedback from the expressions on the faces of attendees. The next moment, we were preaching alone to a phone or camera—and we were left wondering whether there was any real connection with those on the other side of the device. We went from numbers in the pews to the number of views.
We are not changing ministry as a charade but because gathering has caused death for many, grief for multitudes, and anxiety for all.
Yes, ministry has changed. We cannot enjoy warm handshakes, the literal embraces of fellowship, and united voices singing praises to Jesus. Now we have masks and (social) distance. Committee meetings, prayer meetings, Bible study groups, visitations, Communion services, ordinations, weddings, funerals, are all different now. Immediate change to ministry was necessary and remains essential. This global pandemic is a killer. We are not changing ministry as a charade but because gathering has caused death for many, grief for multitudes, and anxiety for all.
Fear and pain have been partners with the pandemic. The threat or the reality of the loss of life, health, family, friends, and/or income has changed our lives and ministries. Pastors are not just ministering to others sleepless with worry; they are suffering with no immunity to the hardships. And, to state the obvious, the normal challenges of life—cancer, strokes, paying the bills—are all still happening.
What is next? Writing this in June for a September publication, it is difficult to say, but I do have a hunch—there will probably be more changes requiring us to adapt and refine our ministries and lives.
One certainty prevails. And more certain than death and taxes—the Jesus who called you into the ministry; blessed you with the Holy Spirit; and gifted you with talents, resourcefulness, opportunities, and intelligence will be near you. God’s promises, found in His Word, linger. “ ‘I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you’ ” (Josh. 1:5).1 Similarly, Hebrews 13:5, 6 “ ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.’ ”
Minnie Louise Haskins, a young dedicated missionary in 1908, ministering in arduous circumstances, penned the words of a poem that has comforted and inspired the masses and royalty alike:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”2
- Scripture is from the English Standard Version.
- “ ‘God Knows’ by Minnie Louise Haskins,” Along the Beam (blog), Dec. 31, 2017, alongthebeam.com/2017/12/31/god-knows-by-minnie-louise-haskins/.