The world-wide phenomenon that is the COVID-19 pandemic has really made ministry in the local church rather difficult. Ministry really has always been demanding, but adding a world-wide virus that is more contagious than the common flu presents its own set of difficulties moving forward.
Before COVID-19 settled into the United States, ministry was what we measured as normal. We still gathered for worship every Sunday. We still met for Sunday School before our worship gathering. We still met on Wednesday to have Bible study around a table. We still could visit shut-ins at their homes. But now, all of this has stopped. In fact, our church had never done any sort of streaming in regards to our services. Personally, I had never recorded an entire sermon in front of a camera to an empty sanctuary. Of course, I’d done some short snippet type videos here and there and had a bit of experience editing them. But this pandemic has now brought ministry to a different level.
Since the virus has demanded us to disassemble and has moved all to a virtual type of service online, most churches have had to rethink the beliefs they have about ministry in the local church. Moving forward, we are now no longer able to do home visits, and even now, we are not able to gather for Sunday School, small groups, or do any sort of discipleship endeavors. The same is true for the gathering of believers for a local assembly every week.
Ministry During a Pandemic
Of course, then, the underlying question of everything church-related is the question of how we move forward continuing to do ministry while we cannot come in close contact with others, specifically those within our congregations. Well, first, I believe it to be wise to define what a philosophy of ministry is before moving into how we create it and how it affects our ministries.
Defining a Philosophy of Ministry
A philosophy of ministry can be quite a difficult item to define because there are many churches who make them less important when hiring pastors or other leaders. However, a philosophy of ministry is of utmost importance when thinking of how one is going to lead your congregation. Most churches do not even ask the interviewee what their philosophy of ministry looks like, and, to their dismay, they are unaware once they’ve been hired.
So, a philosophy of ministry is (in my own simplistic way of defining it) an articulation of how you suppose ministry should be enacted and executed by way of what you believe. Your philosophy of ministry, then, essentially is the seeable evidence of what you believe about the visible church. All of us have our own beliefs about how ministry should be done, yet few of us can articulate it into a fully-orbed philosophy of ministry, to our own dismay.
Why Does a Philosophy of Ministry Matter?
As defined above, a philosophy of ministry is simply how you plan to do the ministry which you believe the Bible commands. It is the belief about how ministry should go in the local church. Of course, the real question is not what you philosophy of ministry is, but why your philosophy of ministry matters.
Well, a philosophy of ministry matters because it characterizes what you believe about Christ’s Church. What you believe about Christ’s Church is always realized in how you do ministry in Christ’s Church. If you believe the Church can handle reaching people by events and activities, then you will naturally plan and hold many events and activities in your church. Though this example is quite simple and (maybe) a bit extreme, you get the point. Whatever it is you believe about the church; however you believe ministry is to be done, your philosophy of ministry is made visible by your ministerial actions.
The Pandemic and Ministry
While many churches have already resumed back to semi-normal gatherings, this global pandemic has made each and every pastor (myself included) rethink how we do ministry in the local church. Because nobody is able to visit people in their homes (for the most part) and there is no such thing as visitation ministry at all, really. So, we have to re-evaluate and re-structure how we minister and shepherd in the local church.
Or do we?
Sure, we might have to figure out some different methods by which we are to check up on our shut-ins and congregants – like phone conversations and letters – but the main method of ministry in the local church really should not change. I hope you read that right – our philosophy does not HAVE to change. Here is what I mean in a few statements:
- The church is centered on the Word of God. Simply put, if your church ministry does not resemble what the Scriptures require of the church, it might be time to re-evaluate your philosophy of ministry. Why? Because your church is not your church: it’s God’s church. And if this is God’s church, then we must minister God’s way, instead of trying to minister in our own conjured up ways.
- Our philosophy reflects our priorities. If we prioritize and facilitate ministries that feed people’s emotions, we will focus our attention toward these types of ministries. However, while these things like different events and music are necessary to an extent for ministry, when they are the sole focus of our ministry, they become our priority.
- God has given us our philosophy. Instead of trying to decide how to figure out all of these things, look to the Scriptures for your philosophy. The Lord has not left His church in the dark. He has given us everything we need to do ministry: these are what theologians and scholars call the ordinary means of grace.
- The means of grace is all we need. The Bible, prayer, and the ordinances are the sole means through which we minister to our people. Invest the Scriptures into them, pray for them, show them the love of God in Christ through the ordinances. This is God’s plan for the local church.
So, do we really need a new philosophy? I say no. I believe that the ordinary means of grace are sufficient for every church in every city for all time because it is God’s plan A for the church. We invest and entrust the gospel to others. We pray for others, our community, and the nations. We show our congregation, and those who are not members, the love of Christ through his life, death, and resurrection by partaking of the supper. It’s all we need. We don’t need more programs and activities to feed people’s emotions. We need the inspired Word of God to guide our ministries and to grow our people into the image of Jesus Christ.