1. Our first duty as leaders will be to display the majestic calm that characterizes those who have submitted their lives into the hands of Jesus.
We have the peace that surpasses understanding. We know that all of our days were numbered in the Lord’s book before even the first one came to be. We serve a Lord who proved that death is neither final nor triumphant. And we have a promise from God that we will get to spend eternity with Him, personally, alive in a place that is wonderful beyond our wildest dreams.
2. We are being told there’s no need to panic. That’s obvious, because there is literally no such thing as a “need to panic.”
Think about it: Even if a person looked out the window and saw a 747 plunging directly toward their living room window, panicking is not what is “needed.” Action is!
There is literally no such thing as a “need to panic,” especially for the mature Christian. So let’s skip the “panic/don’t panic” nonsense. As leaders, we will decide never to panic, so there’s no need to evaluate whether panic is “needed.”
By the way, denial is a form of panic. So let’s avoid denial and face this.
3. Almost everyone will come down with coronavirus, sooner or later (and that last phrase is key to a clear understanding.)
There may be a pause when the weather gets warmer (just like we experience with the flu during the summer months), and that would be good so that we have more time to manufacture vaccines. The reason this coronavirus might act like the flu is that this new coronavirus (COVID-19) essentially IS the flu (actually, the flu is a virus in the family of coronaviruses, just like COVID-19).
But there is one important difference. Because all our bodies have adapted to the varieties of flu that we have been exposed to since birth, we have developed defenses against them. But this new one has never existed anywhere on earth before, so NO ONE’s body has developed defenses against it yet. That is why it will spread so widely.
There may be a few people (who are never around other people) who manage to avoid it until 2021 when the vaccine will be widely available, but that is very unlikely for most of us.
Bottom line? You are likely to come down with the coronavirus sooner or later. AND you are likely to recover from it with no complications!
4. The virus discriminates by age.
At the time of this writing, zero children have died of coronavirus. That is wonderful news!
And almost no young to middle-aged people (unless they were already very ill) have died. The exception to this is the group of heroic young medical workers in China who have died of the virus in large numbers simply due to the massive exposure to the virus while working themselves to exhaustion.
The virus is harder on the oldest, and it is harder on men than women. And of course, people who have other physical difficulties are particularly prone to a severe case.
5. Leaders are not likely to avoid exposure to the virus.
Like health-care workers and emergency service people, you are front-line leaders. You will be asked to visit the sick and to conduct funerals where people are coughing. Unlike your people, everyone will notice if you stay home from church. You of all people, will be unable to cocoon for 18 months.
This is not a death sentence! Not by a long shot!! An estimated 98% of you will come down with it, get over it, and move on with your life. We have roughly 1500 licensed and ordained pastors in the Missionary Church. That means that possibly 60 of us will enter the presence of Jesus because of the coronavirus, and 1,440 of us won’t. For you mathematicians, you will notice that I have doubled the number of possible fatalities in this paragraph because a fairly large number of us are male, older and have pre-existing health conditions. But even for those that are male, older and have pre-existing conditions, the majority will completely recover!
Of course, prayer changes everything and alters statistical odds because God IS a healer!
6. The next 24 months will be the richest opportunity in your lifetime for giving people the hope of the gospel.
Where large sections of our society have laughed and turned its back on the gospel, people will suddenly be desperate to know how to get right with God. There will be a recognized need for His presence in the lives of lost people, and they will hang on your every word when you tell them how to live forever with God.
Do not waste this opportunity. Proclaim boldly the good news of Jesus, and do not vacillate on the need for people to repent of their sins. The good news of the gospel is NOT that we get to add Jesus to our lives and then keep on sinning as before. The gospel declares that we are to turn from our sins, repent of them, ask Jesus to forgive us for them, and then ask Him to give us new life. We are to thank Him for His forgiveness, and dedicate our entire lives into His service, with no exceptions. We are to ask Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit, to enable us to live victorious lives in this world, and to serve Him with effectiveness and power.
Do not give spiritually desperate people a watered-down gospel when what they need is the real thing. This will be our finest hour!!
You have prayed for revival for years. Revivals require upheaval of the norm.
You have always dreamed of preaching during a great revival. This will be your chance!
7. Yes, we may experience great trials. Face that, and deal with it.
People who face reality head-on, rise to the occasion in times of need and emerge as leaders.
Think for a moment about the people in the twin towers during 9-11. Followers screamed and gave way to their feelings of terror, whether they were janitors or CEO’s. Leaders (whether THEY were CEO’s or janitors) said, “We have to get out. Follow me!” And so in some cases, executives followed minimum-wage workers for the first time in their lives, because that day the leaders were not the ones with the titles, they were the ones that dealt with the situation.
Here’s what I teach young up-and-coming leaders: “Leaders deal with the situation first and their feelings later. Followers automatically deal with their feelings first and the situation later (unless there is a leader present to help them bypass this melt-down).”
And, by the way, leaders heading for burn-out deal with the situation first and their feelings never. (This explains why some of you are past a particular crisis in your personal life or church life, but under inexplicable emotional strain.)
Decide to lead. When you slip into fear, fight back with your faith. Fear is not permanent or inevitable.
8. Good leaders are courageous thinkers.
Good leaders are the high-beam headlights of the community. They see further down the road and respond to what they see before others can see it.
We need you to be that kind of leader. So take courage and face the tough questions, like …
- How many weeks can your church go without offerings if public meetings are forbidden for a month or so during the worst of the outbreak?
- How prepared is your church for a dramatic downturn in offerings because people are staying home from work or paying for medical expenses?
- How prepared are you and your family for temporary disruptions in your paychecks?
If it is any consolation, we at the national office (and the regional offices) will go through all of that shoulder-to-shoulder with you because our salaries are all dependent on the health of your congregations.
Leaders face reality. And the ultimate reality is that JESUS is our provision. Our paycheck is not our provision, our people are not our provision, and our government is certainly not our provision. Jesus Himself is our provision. Therefore, we will obey God’s command in Philippians 4 to not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication (and definitely with the thanksgiving that is proof of our faith) present our requests to God.
9. Make preparing for difficulties a group project to build unity and to encourage your congregation.
Think about Joseph. God led him to create “storehouse provisions” for 7 years which enabled everyone to make it through 7 years of famine. Compared to a global famine that lasts for years, the coronavirus is a small and temporary blip on the radar.
And yet it honors God if we (like the sons of Issachar) are someday known as those who could read the times and know what should be done. That verse (I Chronicles 12:32) honors them, saying that a) they understood the times, b) they knew what should be done, c) they were 200 chiefs, and d) their relatives were under their command (or in other words, they had organized themselves).
Jesus never led the disciples by avoiding topics that made them anxious. For example, He told the disciples plainly that He was about to go to the cross and die. When Peter let his anxieties get the better of him, he pulled Jesus aside and tried to deny the reality of what they were facing: “Surely not, Lord!” Peter said. “This will never happen to you!” He led them by discussing everything and teaching them how to view through the eyes of faith the things they would face.
So talk about these things with your people and let them see that you are not panicking, you are peacefully planning as a means of stewardship.
10.Keep perspective, and don’t forget the big picture.
Just as bifocals enable a person to see details up close and also at a distance, a characteristic of great leaders is that they can see clearly what should happen in the present moment without losing clarity on the big picture. (Interestingly, this unique characteristic of great leaders usually becomes apparent at about the same age as they begin to need actual bifocals.)
Most people don’t have this “bifocal ability.” They either focus so much on the task right before them that they forget the long view and the bigger picture, or they focus on the long-term vision so much that they lose sight of the short-term issues and the administrative details that are necessary in order to achieve the long-term goals.
But great leadership requires a constant balancing between the things of immediate importance and the things of long-range importance.
As always, Jesus is our example. He preached for long-term transformation of the world, but noticed when the people were hungry and needed to be fed. He sent the Twelve out to begin fulfilling His great objective to make disciples of all nations, but He gave them concrete instructions on what to take or not take with them and how to begin.
This may be the season of some of your greatest leadership challenges. When faced with the challenge of dealing with the short-term challenges before you, you will constantly be tempted to forget that God has eternity in view through all that we experience here on earth.
11.Balance your availability to various entities.
This is really counsel for your entire life and ministry, but it is especially pertinent here. The right way to live is to put the greatest priority on your time alone with Jesus first, followed secondly by time spent with your family, and then thirdly to spend time with other people, such as your church family and the lost people around you.
To be honest, we are inevitably tempted to invert that triangle—to spend the most time with church people or lost people, spend marginal amounts of time with our families, and finally give the leftover time to Jesus alone in prayer and quiet reflection.
I strongly encourage you to rebalance your life TODAY so that …
- You are MOST available to Jesus. When you honor Him with your time, you receive His favor on everything else you do. That blessing actually benefits everyone else in your life and you as well! No one wants a pastor who is too busy to pray or to experience life-giving rest. But only you can prioritize this!
- You are VERY available to your family. This will require limiting your availability to your people, which is exactly what Jesus did in His life on earth. Obviously, Jesus did not have a wife and children during His time among us, but He showed a startling willingness to get away from the desperately grasping crowds so He could dedicate time alone to His Father and to His closest circle, His disciples. Your spouse and children are the closest and dearest of those whom God has given you to disciple, and they must receive the most strategic of your time, without apology.
- After those two are met, you must be available to your flock during the time that remains. They will be frightened, needing just to see you, to experience your presence with them, and to hear you reinforce the words of faith that they need to hear.
12.Do not seek for answers. Seek the Lord Jesus, and the answers will seek you out.
The rule of thumb here is simple: Talk about it with Jesus first. Whatever thoughts come to your mind, whatever plans need to be developed, whatever news you receive unexpectedly, whatever things people ask you about, whatever feelings flood into your heart, talk about it with Jesus first!
Jesus is Lord! He is Lord over all the events which mankind has ever experienced, and He is a very present help in times of trouble. He will be Lord over all that we are called to experience, and He will fulfill His will and purpose for each of our lives. Nothing can stop His good plans for us … plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future. Praise the Lord!