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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

How To Lead In a Pandemic

Leading others in times of change can be unnerving.

Our recent COVID pandemic changed our “normal” routines. While talking with a pastor friend regarding the COVID restrictions, he said: “Some people will oppose any decision we make as leaders today.”

He’s right.

But leadership in changing times is always challenging. Leading well does not mean everyone will be pleased by the decisions we make.

I’ve watched as our leaders have faced the challenges imposed by the recent pandemic.

They have courageously addressed their fears that church closures may result in people leaving the church and the potential loss of financial support. They’ve wrestled with restrictions that keep them from providing the Sacraments, ministering to the sick and dying, and how distancing might impact small group ministries, etc.

No pastor, priest, or church leader has enjoyed the challenges of leadership during COVID.

But leaders lead despite challenges or opposition.

We have also observed how ministry is rapidly growing through social media, the internet, and other mediums.

Despite the challenges of this pandemic, a recent Pew Research Center Study reveals that one-quarter of U.S. adults overall (24%) say their faith has become stronger because of the coronavirus. In comparison, just 2% say their faith has become weaker.⁠[1]

This unwelcomed virus not only unleashed illness and suffering but also encouraged creativity. The gospel (the good news of Jesus) is extending beyond the building.

Leaders also recognize we’re facing a more pervasive problem than COVID.

While we’re closer to being past the coronavirus, we still face an even more significant and extensive problem that’s always been with us: SIN.

Yes, I admit I said it.

Unlike COVID, our world has lived with the SIN pandemic since the beginning of the human race. SIN has — and will — always be in conflict with God’s standard.

I know it’s not popular to use that word today. After all, it sounds judgmental and harsh. Who am I to tell you how to live your life? Who are you to impose your values on me?

The mere use of the word “sin” implies a standard (a guideline or benchmark) for our conduct. To sin means: “to miss the mark,” “to err, swerve from the truth, to go wrong.”

If a standard is necessary to measure our behavior, whose benchmark will we trust?

Suppose we convince ourselves that we do not need to measure morality. In that case, any possible means of unity is bleak, if not impossible.

Scripture (Old and New Testaments) portrays sin in terms of wrongful actions before God, acts of violation that may occur in various ways.

Not one of us is guilt-free.

“…there is not a righteous [person] on earth who does good and never sins”

(Ecclesiastes 7:20).

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

That’s reality.

As lovely and kind as you are, at times, you miss the mark. As loving and generous as I attempt to be, I continue to fall short of God’s standard.

While our sins affect others, the offense is against God — a violation of his standard. In lamenting his sinful acts, the Psalmist David acknowledges:

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4).

I may argue that God’s benchmark is unfair, offensive, unreasonable, or outdated. It’s tempting for me to want to make edits, amend, or re-write God’s standards. But I’m not permitted to do so. We can also choose to ignore and reject God’s standards, and we wouldn’t be the first to do so.

As a Christian leader — and follower of Christ — acknowledging and accepting God’s standard as the governing authority for my conduct places me in opposition with many.

Increasingly, the standards that measure my conduct — Scripture, both Old, and New Testaments — are challenged by society. Some today object to God’s rules. Some try to persuade others to reject them.

As much as I want to be accepted, valued, and appreciated by others, I must remember: My leadership will constantly face resistance from others. As a follower of Christ, I’m obliged to be accountable to God’s standards.

So how are we to lead in a pandemic of SIN? Here are a few helpful suggestions. REMEMBER:

  1. Your calling is of God. We answer to the Creator of eternity, not to people. Pray for courage to love, care and serve others generously — while remaining faithful to God’s standards.

  2. Even faithful leaders need a Savior. Acknowledge, confess and receive the gift of God’s forgiveness for your sins.

  3. You are a servant, not a savior. Relinquish the power of control to The Savior. Matthew 20:26 reminds us: “…whoever wants to be great must become a servant” (The Message).

  4. Surround yourself with other leaders. “Together is better.” Connecting with other leaders helps you avoid isolation and provides wisdom, counsel, and direction.

  5. Walk humbly. To help others lead, serve others, and trust God, requires you to walk humbly. James 4:10 assures us: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

  6. Place your trust — and HOPE — in God. “…do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

God, please help each of us to lead well in this pandemic of SIN.

Are you looking for a place to receive spiritual direction and encouragement in these challenging times? Please consider liking my Facebook page. This is one way you can get immediate access to all my latest blog posts, as well as videos and other encouraging content. I hope I will see you there!


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