Five Hard Things Churches Must Do Right Now

Sam Rainer

April 5, 2020

The thought of an ungathered Easter is hard. An empty tomb calls for a full church. This season is a reminder that what fills me as a pastor is not a lot of butts in the seats. What fills me is the Holy Spirit.

Social distancing is a new way of living—at least for a while. We’re not so much socially distant as we are physically distant. We can still socialize, just not in close proximity to each other. That’s hard. The church is called to an incarnational ministry. God came in the flesh. We minister in the flesh. Close. Together. Near.

I grasp for the tiniest bit of good news every time I read an article in the paper. I watch for the smallest statistical move on the curve. Perhaps today we’ll start making the turn. Why does my hope hinge on these tiny scraps of data when the Sovereign Ruler of the universe is my king?

My self-reliance is a disease far worse than the one in this pandemic. God is stretching my hope towards His power. It’s a hard lesson. It’s a necessary lesson.

By nature, I am a doer. My unchained desires pull me into non-stop work. Apart from Christ, the Protestant work ethic would be my bride. I am cautious to recommend what you should do because God is just as much in the stillness as the action.  

How should the church respond? The kingdom of God is not closed. The Great Commission is not on hold. We may not gather in large groups, but the Acts 1:8 imperative is still valid.

Ministry is hard right now, but your efforts do not have to be fruitless.

1. Hit the reset button, not the pause button. You must come to grips with the reality that things will not be the same. And that’s ok! The easy decision is to hit the pause button and hope everything will resume as normal once the pandemic ends. The hard decision involves realizing this event will change our culture and the way we do church.

2. Keep as many employed as possible. The concept of stewardship has shifted with the pandemic. The latest reports of unemployment bring a new priority for churches. In a typical environment, a church with too little revenue or too many expenses would potentially lay off staff. However, the pandemic has created a universal problem of unemployment. Everyone has the potential to experience this economic pain. Stewardship in this environment means doing everything you can to keep staff employed in order to lift your local economy. The CARES Act is an option for your church to consider as it will provide funding to help retain the employees of the church. Church Answers is partnering with Chaney and Associates to help churches receive this funding. Click here to learn more.

3. Experiment creatively. The best art is produced at a point of tension. A crisis prompts the mind to think in new ways. The beauty that emerges from darkness and despair carries a particular power. Now is the time to experiment with new ideas. The people of your church are likely more willing to accept creative ideas than ever before. Not only are people more accepting, they are also more forgiving of failure. Over the next few weeks, churches have a unique window of opportunity. You can try several different creative ideas. Some will work. Others will fail. But your church is more willing now to accept creativity and forgive failure. It’s the perfect time to experiment!

4. Stop complaining… now and forever. Complaining is a killer of progress. Griping may garner sympathy for a moment, but it never inspires. Leadership takes people to a better place. Is it really a better place if you’re whining the whole way there? Leaders don’t complain. Leaders inspire.

5. Comply with the government’s request not to gather. Religious liberty is a cornerstone freedom in the United States, but the call for churches to halt our gatherings is not a case of government overreach. A legitimate concern exists for the public good. We’re all in this together, and churches need to be good neighbors. Civil disobedience is not necessary at this time. I do not believe the temporary ask of the government will become an indefinite force.

Ministry is more challenging during the pandemic, but the opportunities are enormous if you’re willing to do some hard things.

6 comments on “Five Hard Things Churches Must Do Right Now”

  1. Bob,Carl says:


  2. Susan McClash says:

    With so many people out of work and not getting a check yet we may need to concentrate on keeping each other fed. Those who can feed someone maybe once a week or more. Like a bag of rice and a $5 chicken could last a few days. In Haiti I remember a child who cried to eat on the day we provided a meal. It wasn’t her day to eat she said. We did get permission but maybe to stretch things we need to use this example as fasting to help others. We cannot let people starve. Show our love.

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Thanks Susan! I love your heart.

  3. Roberta Jones says:

    Thank you, Pastor Sam, for wisdom in these urgent and challenging times. I’m pondering many of your thoughts, but especially the idea of hitting the reset button and not the pause button. I hope to come through the Coronavirus chaos, with a reset spiritual life. I find your five points helpful.

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Thanks Roberta. I’m thankful for the reset myself. God’s realignment is always for our best.

  4. Nokuphila says:

    Thanks for Guidance indeed we need to press the reset button. I’m a Pastor abdominal during the past years I’ve not been able to study as much as I’m doing now. I’m growing so much spiritual.

    The Holy spirit has been leading me to start a church but due to being so busy I pushed it aside. Now that voice speaking more clearly.

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