Pastoral Shame and Stewardship During a Pandemic

by Rusty McKie May 6, 2020

I felt miserable the first Sunday our online video service went live. I thought my unease stemmed from the rush of putting it together last minute.

But that wasn't my real issue. 

The week before, I threw myself into online meetings and social media — the beginning of decision fatigue and screen-dazed eyes. I don't do well with excessive social media. Over the years, healthy boundaries protected me from getting sucked into the vortex of likes, views, and image-management. However, the coronavirus tore down my fences and shoved me into the world of digital pastoring. 

But that wasn't my real issue. 

I found myself discouraged at all the creative ways my pastor-friends were leading and loving their churches. I celebrated their ingenuity as my inner voice grew louder — You're not doing enough!

But that wasn't my real issue. 

The coronavirus blew up my pastoral priorities. This lack of clarity sent me into a pressure cooker. I felt responsible for everything as we learned new rhythms as a church. 

All of these struggles were part of my reality, but they were not my real issue. 

So what was? The answer is simple — Shame.

I don't share my inner-world-struggles as a pastor to get a — You're doing a great job — or to gather all my friends for a pity party. I'm choosing vulnerability at this moment because I wonder if any fellow pastors can relate. 

Have any of you ground your teeth over how non-tech savvy you are? Have any of you felt unproductive while you're working harder than ever? Have any of you wondered if your online efforts to pastor are worth it when the Internet overflows with better sermons, better tweets, and better you-fill-in-the-blank?

Individually, we don't do well with loss (and when it comes to mourning in our corporate grief, we're practically clueless — especially when isolated in our homes). The coronavirus threw all of us into a pressure cooker. Whatever lay dormant and unattended in our souls will come oozing out. Leading others is difficult when you are not sure how to lead yourself.

Pastor, if you resonate with any of these feelings of shame, I have good news for you today.

Jesus can handle your feelings of not-enoughness; in fact, He already did on the cross. Jesus hung naked — taking your shame and killing it once and for all. Fellow pastor, cast your cares on Jesus; He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Also, Jesus called you to pastor your church. No one can do it better than you — especially in these strange days we are living. 

Praying through my shame with Jesus led me to a renewed vision of pastoral clarity. The question we must ask ourselves is: What does faithful pastoral ministry look like in my context now? For me — a simple pastor trying to honor Jesus with my limited resources — it has helped to go back to the basics. Maybe it will serve you too.

First, pray for the church you lead.

No other Internet pastor knows the names of your members — you do! COVID-19 may have shut up the doors of our homes, but no pandemic can shut the ears of our Father.

Friends, Jesus sent His ministers into their "prayer closets" (Matthew 6:6). There is pastoral work to do on our knees at this moment that no member of your church will ever see. Private prayer is essential work right now — Will we do it? Will we humble ourselves and pray for our members? Will we pray for revival to break out in our world? Will we pray God's Kingdom come? 

Second, preach God's Word to the church you lead.

Listen, I get it — there are a lot of great sermons on the Internet right now. Some of our folks may even listen to multiple preachers a week. But don't forget — no other pastor knows the needs, fears, and desires of your people. 

Now is not the time for comparison. Now is the time to take your eyes off what everyone else is doing, strain to see your church rightly, and bring the peace-inspiring words of Christ to them specifically.

No one else can do this work — only you! So work hard during this pandemic to put together life-sustaining meals for the sheep of God's pasture. Then look straight into that camera, embrace the awkwardness, and preach with everything you've got.

Third, pastor the church you lead.

A thousand other online preachers can encourage the church you lead with dazzling turns of phrases, but —hopefully, you know where I'm going at this point — only you can help them personally. Only you have their phone numbers!

Let's not Luddite our way through this pandemic (although for the sake of your soul, pastor, allow me to translate an old, famous phrase for you as you engage in this digital frontier — For every look at social media, take ten looks at the beauty of Christ). Let's keep up our online presence for our church, and let's not stop there. 

Go for yard visits if allowed. If you are sheltered-in-place, then divvy up your member list between your pastoral team and hop on the phone. People need more than catchy words online right now; they need their pastor to listen to their wins and losses, to comfort them and challenge them. Be there for them; pray for them. 

Ultimately, no one else can pastor the church you lead but you. 

Trying Times and Our Faithful God

Fellow pastors — God is faithful. God's faithfulness will outlive this virus. But perhaps you haven't considered this: God is faithful to each local church by installing her specific pastors as her undershepherd. 

Pastor, lead and love the church Jesus has entrusted into your care. 

May your faithful prayers produce a sweet aroma to the Lord of heaven and earth. May your faithful preaching in these uncertain times reverberate into every mundane and manic space your church experiences. May your faithful pastoring leave the fingerprints of Christ upon the souls of His sheep for eternity.