I am convinced that pastors and church leaders are in the precarious position of responding to three simultaneous crises — the pandemic, racial reckoning, and political violence. This unprecedented situation requires that pastors and church leaders stay connected with their people, lead from deeply held values, and name and grieve losses.
A year ago, many of us have had to be creative in our worship experiences. Last Spring, most of us went to “online only” worship services and meetings due to the pandemic. By the fall, many tried to “return to normal.” Churches decided to offer three options: online only, in-person worship, and “parking lot” services. But offering three modes of participation was and is exhausting for pastors. It seems to me that as pastors and church leaders, we are need some wisdom and what to do as we are burdened with society’s most wrenching challenges.
In the movie Men in Black, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is explaining to Will Smith’s character why the government doesn’t simply admit the presence of aliens. Smith says, “Why don’t we just tell them? People are smart.” Jones responds, “The person is smart, but people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals!” I love that quote. I laugh quietly every time I read it. I think that many in our churches and perhaps some of us have been swept up into group-think and mob-mentality. I truly believe that is happening right now. Regardless of our views of the seriousness or insignificance of this outbreak, the racial issues or the political violence, the collective panic is real among our churches, which could result in a devastating impact on the church. So what do we do?
Perhaps, we need to focus on Paul’s words in Colossians 3:15: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. What I hear Paul saying to us in this verse, is that as we lead our churches, we need as leaders to exhibit a non-anxious presence. What is a non-anxious presence? A "non-anxious" presence is a true state of inner calm. A non-anxious presence means that we are connected to our people, but detached from their swirling emotions.
When Jesus’ disciples encountered a lake storm that threatened their lives, they called out to him, frantically accusing him of not caring what happened to them. Jesus, who modeled his lack of anxiety by sleeping through much of the mayhem, spoke an authoritative word of “peace” to the elements and brought calm. And who can forget his words of assurance on another occasion in John 14: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
I am convinced that we can learn to be a non-anxious presence by reflecting on the promises of Jesus and applying them to our lives. Consequently, this is how we become a blessing to others by our non-anxious presence. Sharing the truth that Jesus can calm the waters of a storm in our lives. His promises in the gospel and more will help all of us to experience his presence and be less anxious presence in the midst of what we are experiencing today and everyday.
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