Dear Pastor Planning In-Person Easter Services,
Let me begin by thanking you and honoring you for accepting and carrying out the unique call to be a shepherd of souls.
I’ve been an itinerant preacher for more than forty years, as well as a denominational official, and as such, I’ve visited with an incalculable number of pastors (stopped counting after I had preached in 1000 churches — a long time ago). Over my career, I’ve watched how masterfully a pastor like you balances the many demands that come with caring for a flock, including leading souls to faith in Christ, shaping them as disciples, teaching them how to pray and read their Bibles, share their testimony of Jesus and live in a way that reflects the model of their Lord.
In addition, you, of course, answer their constant questions, intervene in their many personal crises, anoint them with oil when they’re sick, marry them when they’re in love, and bury them when they die. All this in addition to directing innumerable programs, supervising church staff, raising annual budgets, and managing buildings and grounds. It’s exhausting work, but I’ve also seen the enormous joy you get from it all.
And so much of pastoral work comes to a crescendo in the annual celebration of the Resurrection. Depending on your tradition, there may be record numbers of respondents at the altar, a rack of baptisms, induction of new church members, an elaborate cantata, soaring worship anthems — and always — always — the best sermon you’ll preach all year! After all, you’ve no doubt treated this passage during the course of your ministry as much as I have, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But if he did not raise him then in fact the dead are not raised” (1 Corinthians 15:13-15). The Resurrection is not only the pinnacle of our faith, it is the pinnacle of our church year!
Of course, this year, something has happened that has required many pastors to involuntarily scuttle the in-person Easter week programs they and their people have anticipated all year long. The coronavirus pandemic, together with calls from every quarter for extreme social distancing, including local, state and federal closure orders have forced many churches to shutter their buildings and cancel any gatherings this week and well into the late spring and early summer.
Whether or not you’re subject to such legal orders, I am writing to appeal to you to do the same and cancel any plans you have for any type of in-person assemblies or contact this weekend.
There are three reasons why I make this appeal to you:
First, as a pastor you are charged with the care of souls. A shepherd protects the sheep. At this point, there is an overwhelming consensus among public health officials that COVID-19 is a dangerous threat to everyone’s well being and can only be defeated by keeping people at home and away from each other. (This advice also comes from our born-again, Bible-believing, gospel-witnessing, mature Christian brother, Dr. Francis Collins, a Baptist layman and head of the National Institutes of Health.) It is now widely known and accepted in the scientific community that people without any symptoms can carry the virus and easily infect others.
In other words, by assembling your people together, you run the very high risk of harming them. That’s the opposite of what a shepherd must do for the sheep. By sending your people home to stay away from others, you contribute to their good health and survival — and that’s precisely what Jesus models for us as the Great Shepherd.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Rob Schenck