Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash
By Kevin Freeman
If there’s one word I would use to describe my life during the pandemic, it’s distracted. As I still work from home and help my kids with their virtual schooling, ministry has become all about finding snippets of time, burning the midnight oil, and getting creative.
Perhaps now more than ever, pastor must kill the avoidable distractions in their lives. Do any of these step on your toes?
Suddenly, we’ve had technology foisted upon us as both our savior and lord in these troubled times. We’re glued to our screens more than ever before, mostly out of necessity.
Whether you believe the lockdowns to be a necessary step or an epic blunder, we’ve come to rely on technology more than ever to carry out our ministry. The arrangement is making many people miserable—so miserable that many school districts have decided to make the students learn online, too.
I am currently fostering a four-year-old who is expected to spend hours each day learning on Zoom A recent Barna study finds that one-third of engaged Christian parents are media-stressed. While we must be thankful for what connections via technology have enabled us to do, we also must recognize their effects on us.
We may not be able to extricate ourselves from that technological grip, but we can take steps to mitigate the distracting nature of its ever-increasing hold on our lives.
The sneaking creep of technology in our lives subtly takes away our ability to focus, to think, to meditate on God’s truth. The Psalmist extols the blessed person whose “delight is in the Lord’s instruction,” meditating on God’s Word “day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
Pastors must guard their time carefully and even institute technology blackout times to focus on the things of God. Otherwise, we draw from a shallow well.
Putting aside the texts, tweets, and emails for a block of time will allow us to focus and delight in the promises of Scripture. It’ll also help put everything else into perspective.
2. Relaxed pandemic expectations
Some of us are experiencing lessened pressure and fewer expectations to carry out the tasks assigned to us. A pandemic doesn’t diminish the Great Commission call to make disciples of Christ.
Depending on where you live, your strategy for accomplishing Christ’s commission may have changed, but no pandemic can supersede our heavenly call.
Some of us might relax amid adjusted expectations, but the gospel mandates that we make disciples in every circumstance.
Peter reminds us to “shepherd God’s flock…as God would have you,” a job that done well results in commendation and aware from the chief Shepherd on day (1 Peter 5:2-4). Pastors are ultimately not accountable to the board or the members, but to Christ.
Habitually lowered expectations—arising from pandemics or otherwise—don’t constitute acceptable exemptions from our task.
It’s incredibly easy to be sucked into the endless vortex of political intrigue. We must remind ourselves that the answer to society’s ills is not in Biden over Trump (or vice versa) or Republican over Democrat (or vice versa). The answer is Christ and the good news found in the hope of the gospel.
Yes, there’s a need for Christians in the public square, but those Christians must prioritize the kingdom of heaven over the United States.
Overcome this distraction by following Paul’s advice in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, and praying for our elected leaders—even giving thanks for them. If you’re a political junkie, pray for each official and candidate in every article you read, “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
Depending on your personality and family life, you may have celebrated the lockdowns that enabled you to hunker down, but isolation has harmful long-term effects. I’ve found myself more easily agitated during months of staff meetings over Zoom.
Without the ability to interact with people in true face-to-face format, so much is lost. We find ourselves easy prey for our enemy, who is “prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Peter 5:8). How does a lion catch its prey? By isolating an animal from the rest of the herd.
The church has become more isolated than ever, and many people now prefer online worship in their pajamas over the real thing.
To the extent that you’re able, prioritize in-person connections with people, prayerfully taking your own unique circumstances into account. Some ministers have found great connection through dropping off adult curriculum materials to church members.
It’s amazing what added details we get from people’s lives when we’re in person and the conversation really gets going. Stress meeting together for worship as the goal, without shaming those who aren’t ready to do so.
Hebrews 10:25 sets a high bar to not neglect gathering together. Christians may set that bar at different levels, but emphasis on the need to meet together may remind those who tune in online out of convenience that they need to be in person sooner rather than later.
5. That thing you’re hoping I won’t mention
Yes, a list of five distractions isn’t exhaustive. What’s keeping you from wholeheartedly pursuing your walk with Christ, leading your family well, or shepherding those entrusted to your spiritual care?
Is it a streaming video series or playing golf? Is there a sin issue that has entangled you? Whatever it is, let me encourage you to “run the race” before you, laying aside every weight of sin and every distraction.
Not every distraction can be listed, but the solution is ultimately clear: It comes by “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Now there is a joy laid out before us, to not simply walk in the footsteps of Christ but run in pursuit of the glory to which he calls us. Let us run this race well.
KEVIN FREEMAN is the associate pastor for discipleship, youth, and families at Redland Baptist Church of Rockville, Maryland.
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