By Tyson Thorne

September 7, 2021

GMM Large

Before I get on a roll, I believe it is important from the start to recognize that a great many pastors have suffered over the last year. I may be critical of some below, so I recognize here and now that many good pastors are left hurting in the wake of government overreach when responding to a virus with a 98% survivability rate. When one is put in the position of being unable to practice one’s calling or risk the government fining – or imprisoning you (as they did regularly in Canada) for doing so – stress and uncertainty take up position over each shoulder. For you, we pray for relief.

Some pastors chose to obey the law, probably out of good intentions. Romans 13’s guidance to obey governing authorities is a likely source for such thinking. It would have been better for pastor’s, in the United States at any rate, to adhere to both the Bill of Rights and Acts 4.19 and 5.29. In the midst of a global pandemic no church should have shut its doors. In fact, those doors should have been open to all seeking God and his guidance. The government has no authority over the church, which is emphasized by the fact it is exempt from taxes. The best response from a pastor throughout 2020 came from John MacArthur who stated, “The last I checked Jesus Christ was head of the Church, not Gavin Newsom.” Pastor’s who shuttered their local churches should learn their lesson and plan in advance to not make the same mistake twice.

There are a couple changes that the church made during the pandemic, however, that might turn out for the best if proper instruction is given. The first is that of streaming church services. What a wonderful tool to help serve shut-ins and those with medical conditions that prohibit them from regular attendance. As great as it is, however, it is no substitute for worshiping in the presence of the body of Christ. One cannot serve communion via a streaming service. There can be no holding the hands of those in emotional distress or physical pain. There can be no laying on of hands or blending of one’s voice with the many in song and Scripture reading. Regularly visiting those in such need is still required.

The second change that could be of benefit to the church members is the ability to give one’s offering online or via a phone app. One of the practices that turns off many visitors is the passing of the offering plate. Many churches have gone to offering boxes in the back of the auditorium or in the foyer, but millennials find this awkward and prefer the privacy of giving through an app. Having these options is a blessing to church members and pastors alike but presents a problem as well. With all this giving happening on secure servers and behind pay walls, the church finances can be a mystery to the congregants and opens the door to possible financial maleficence. While giving is buried in electronics, it is also just as easy to print financial reports. Those reports should make their way onto the church website, or social media account or both. Being open with the books leads to accountability.

While on the topic of openness, pastors should remember that their good graces should not end in the physical world but carry into the online world too. Pastors need to be careful, and thoughtful, in remarks they leave online. In fact, I recommend leaving links to one’s online comments on social media. This will teach the congregation how they should model Jesus’ behavior in discussion forums. It also reveals what web site’s you are reading and responding to, which communicates how to use technology responsibly rather than as a tool of dissipation.

The church was thrust into the digital age quickly and, in some cases, painfully. The congregation has been involved in it for years, and it’s time that pastor’s address the realities of online communities and how to demonstrate one’s faith in the electronic environment.

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