What are some of the greatest challenges facing church leaders right now? Dr. Ligon Duncan empathizes with church leaders and reminds them of their ultimate hope during discouraging seasons.
We are in the midst of and hopefully coming out of a season of pandemic and also tremendous social unrest, and that unrest has not left the church untouched. Consequently, everywhere I go, talking to faithful pastors and those in ministry, I find a lot of discouragement. A lot of that discouragement is related to division among the people of God.
Church Leaders Are Discouraged by Lack of Community
The message for pastors is not that we’re a match for every situation but that our Savior is a match for every situation.I think partly we’re discouraged because social relationships and public worship and other important communal aspects of the Christian life have been disrupted significantly in this last year. That has taken a toll on us and especially on church leaders. As a pastor, I feed off of the relationships with my people. It encourages me to see them in public worship. I delight to deliver the Word of God to them, to visit them, to talk with them. Many of those things have been lessened, diminished, or even erased during the time of pandemic. That just sets a pastor up for discouragement.
Church Leaders Are Discouraged by Division in the Church
The other thing is, of course, the people of God are divided about things. They’re divided about masks. They’re divided about vaccines. They’re divided about public health measures in relation to the pandemic. They’re divided about the social unrest in our culture right now. They have different views on various things that are attracting the attention of the public in our own time: How are we to respond to racism? How are we to deal with some of the cultural challenges that we are facing in our own time? There are different instincts among the people of God. Oftentimes pastors feel pulled or caught in between those different instincts and divisions in the life of the congregation. I’ve seen many pastors just walk away because of the discouragement of that division. I was talking to one pastor who said, “My first number of years at my church were like a honeymoon, and now my best friends are at one another’s throat.” I hear that all the time. That’s very discouraging.
Church Leaders Can Be Encouraged That Christ Has Overcome the World
We’re going to have to throw ourselves back on the first things of Christian discipleship if we’re going to get through this season undiscouraged.In that season, I think we need to remember again as pastors that our Savior told us that in this world we will have tribulation, but that in him we can have peace. Take courage; he has overcome the world. The message for pastors is not that we’re a match for every situation but that our Savior is a match for every situation and that he has overcome this world and that we can trust in him and that he will supply us the strength to continue ministering, to continue serving, to continue being faithful to him and to the Word of God. In this time, in this place, we’re going to have to throw ourselves back on the first things of Christian discipleship if we’re going to get through this season undiscouraged and if we’re going to fight the good fight and finish the race and keep the faith.