I spent much of my adult life serving numerous churches as a minister of music and education.
I don’t talk about it very often in this context, because it often raises more questions than it answers, and I find that many people automatically put you in a box if they learn you have done such work.
However, in this case, I think it is important to note that I have some insight into the world of churches, and ministers, and into the thinking that takes place in that space.
I am familiar with the frame of “faithful remnant” that gets talked about in certain churches: the concept of being faithful to God even when the world makes fun of you, or when the actions seem silly or even counter-productive.
I’m also familiar with the “called to be different” frame, where being out of step with everyone else is not a problem or a cause for self-reflection, but instead is a badge of honor.
So, it is with that background and insight that I wish to say, lovingly but firmly, to the pastors who are still holding in-person services –
Dear pastors: Get over yourselves.
When you hold in-person services during this pandemic, you are not doing what you think you are: You are not taking a brave stand in the face of persecution. You are not the lone person standing in the gap. You are not the prophetic voice in the wilderness.
Instead, you are allowing your misguided understanding of faithfulness to put both you and your flock at risk. You are modeling the very behavior you would condemn if it was practiced by “non-believers.”
And above all, you are showing an arrogance that is unbecoming a person of faith, and bringing condemnation on the very message you are trying to lift up.
Two thoughts for you to consider:
— When Satan tempted Jesus in the gospels, one of his temptations was for Jesus to cast himself from the top of the Temple – an obviously self-destructive act. Satan said that Jesus should carry out this self-destructive act because God’s angels would save Jesus from harm. And what did Jesus say? “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
— There’s a story of a pastor who became trapped in his house during a flood, and climbed out onto the roof of the house. A man came along in a raft and said “Get in the raft with me and I’ll take you to safety.” The pastor answered “No thank you – the Lord is going to save me!”
As the waters rose higher, a large rescue boat with others that had been rescued pulled up to the house and the captain called over the loudspeaker, “Jump down onto the deck!” The pastor replied “No thank you – the Lord is going to save me!”
Finally, as the waters rose to the pastor’s feet, a helicopter appeared and let down a rescue seat with a man hanging on, ready to grab the pastor. The pastor waved him away and said “No thank you – the Lord is going to save me!”
As the helicopter flew away, the waters rose still higher, the pastor slipped off the roof, and drowned.
When the pastor stood before God, he said “Lord, I don’t understand. I was faithful, telling everyone You were going to save me. Why didn’t you?”
And the Lord said, “I sent a raft, a boat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect?”
Pastors, do the right thing. Stop holding in-person services. Be the community leader you need to be.