To The Elders
I’ve just been praying with my flesh & blood family and feel prompted to write to you - my brothers in Christ. This is such an extraordinary time and I’m sure you are all feeling pressure and strain. I’m very conscious of the pressures on each of you and know we will all be feeling the demands of the day in different ways. Certainly, I have been feeling quite overwhelmed and all kinds of questions about how we are going to deal with the known and unknown consequences of this crisis are weighing heavily on me.
But, it is exactly at a time like this that we need to remember who we are: we need to remember our calling. We are the elders of Gateway Church. This is a huge privilege - and a real responsibility. We are on a war footing and we need to remember we are called to be men of war. The civilised veneer our society normally lives under means we can forget this in normal times, but we are called to a fight, and we must be fighters (Eph.6:10-12).
Here are three areas in which we must commit ourselves to the fight:
We should always be prayerful and labour in prayer for the flock, but we don’t always feel the urgency of this. Now we must! We need to fight for our people - we need to fight for their spiritual as well as physical protection. We need to fight for their survival - when we come out of this we want there to still be a church to lead. (Phil Moore did a brilliant post on this.) We need to fight for them to remain faithful. We need to fight in prayer for them to not give into fear but to be good witnesses at this time. How and when we pray will vary according to our temperaments and timetable but we need to be seen to lead the church in the charge of prayer. How can we ask others to commit to prayer if it is not seen that we are so committed? Of anyone in the church we should be the last to say we were too busy to pray.
Sometimes we can forget that we are called to be pastors. In normal times we tend to spend a lot of time organising programs and events and can end up managing systems more than we care for people. Now is not that time! Let’s fight as pastors - working hard to engage with and encourage our people. Let’s care for the flock Jesus has entrusted to us.
This is a fight! Our prayers and our pastoring are to have a protective effect for the church. We are called to be a shield to others. We’re called to take the bullet for others. We need to fight for God’s protection to be over God’s people. People are anxious, confused, irritable - we must fight for their hearts and for them to live in God’s grace at this time. This is where it gets real: all the things we have taught, sung, prayed - now ‘the tested genuineness of your faith’ (1 Pet.1:7) needs to prove its mettle.
This quote from Mark Sayers should set the tone for us at this time: “An era is over. Of hot takes, and distractions, of self-focused leadership and endless naval gazing. War time leadership is here. Let’s step into the new phase with holy fire to lead like lions of the Lord. Revival comes wrapped in strange paper. Let’s not miss the gift. We will look back on these months to come as utterly defining of our lives, of our churches, of our nations.”
Yes! Let’s be lions of the Lord!
And we need to dwell on how Paul & Peter charge elders to fight for their churches:
1 Peter 5:1-4 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
Finally, practically, we need to find ways to stay connected together. Our phones have all been red-hot with messages the past few days - the last thing we need is more information overload. But we do need to stay connected, and to talk and pray together.
I’m grateful for you men. We have done well together in a time of peace. Now is a time of war. Let’s stand together, in Christ, and prove we are the men we would hope to be.