An Open Letter to Pastors
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
On April 3, during the first few weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kumar wrote an open letter to ministers who were trying to figure out how to provide services while their doors were shut.
An appeal to keep your pajamas on and rethink church
Last weekend I watched so many of you move quickly to a virtual church format. The speed and efficiency with which you were able to pull things together was impressive. Some of you even had to quickly learn new technologies to overcome some hi-tech hurdles in order to pull off a live worship service.
After watching numerous services (I am an admitted church junkie), I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing. Something huge was missing from the worship experiences.
We are facing an unprecedented time where all of the rules are being tossed out, and we must now adjust to a new reality.
While we were lying on our couches, watching you on the internet in our pajamas, you were standing in a vacant church, behind a pulpit, preaching in your Sunday best.
Sadly, to many it probably felt inauthentic. We are not looking for the same worship experience, because we are not living in the same world from two weeks ago.
If you want to be effective, your sermon and worship services must adapt to the times in which we are living. Preaching to an empty church full of pews appears cold and disingenuous.
Last week, while I was watching a sermon, my eleven-year-old daughter came downstairs drowning in one of my blazers. She had an oversized Bible in her hand. When I questioned what she was doing, she laughed and said, “I am practicing a sermon that I am planning for my friends.” That is when it hit me. It appears like Pastors are “playing” church, instead of adapting to how church is currently evolving.
Here are four suggestions I want to propose as you think about crafting the church service over the coming months.
Make virtual home visits. Yesterday I received a phone call from our family pastor. She was calling to check on us and see how we are coping with the pandemic. This phone call was a virtual pastoral visit. The church is about relationships. Many of your members may have lost their jobs; they are running out of money; they are experiencing overwhelming stress with the kids at home. Most pastors have an average of 30 families in their congregation. How hard would it be to schedule some visits? Please call your church members and pray for them over the phone.
Lose the tie and pulpit. Last week, my friend Rick, invited his church members to join him via zoom. Even though I am not a member, I joined in to watch his sermon. Pastor Johns discarded his previously planned sermon and preached a new message about lessons he has learned during this pandemic. He spoke casually--no tie, no church podium. He spoke from his home, just like the rest of his members. We are living in drastic times. You don’t need to pull together a full worship service. Don’t make your members voyeurs—plan for us to participate with you.
Employ your volunteers. Last Friday, I attempted to call a friend on the phone. He said, “I can’t talk,” I am preparing for the youth Sabbath School lesson.” He explained that they were going to have an online bible study using zoom technology. Later I learned that every one of the Bible classes, from toddler to adults, had virtual class meetings led by volunteers.****
Provide resources to the community. My wife volunteers with a food distribution group in our community. This initiative is a grassroots program, led by a local teacher. Guess what they need this week? Six foot long tables. They need about eight of them to disperse throughout the city. Guess who has all of the tables stored in their churches? This is the time to live out the mission of the church.
Finally, I want to thank you for stepping up and adapting so quickly. We are not going back to normal any time soon, so please become a modern missionary and involve your members to contextualize the gospel during these changing times.
This article was picked up by NAD Ministerial and published in their online journal called, Best Practices.