As the last few months have been dominated by the pandemic and the racial unrest in our country, we’ve sought to give you updates on how God is at work and what our churches are doing with such unusually demanding and pervasive “current events.” We asked several pastors what they and their churches were doing in the last few weeks with the nation’s attention fixated on the death of George Floyd, the protests and riots, and the racial unrest across the nation.
We received similar answers from most pastors. Rather than share and quote all of those thoughts, we noticed 3 trends that we will highlight.
Trend #1: More Prayer Than Preaching
Every pastor mentioned focused prayer as a priority response. From the pastoral prayer in public worship to prayer groups to small groups and to private prayers, the specific needs and more general issues of the racial unrest have been consistently a part of the prayers of the churches we surveyed. The men we asked didn’t change their preaching schedule or topic for a given Sunday. That is not to say it wasn’t present in preaching, which leads to the next trend.
Trend #2: More Providence Than Planning
It was interesting to hear how many men mentioned that the text that was chosen well in advance of these events was suited to touch on the issues before us. One pastor was in Galatians 5 talking about love versus the works of the flesh. Another was in Ephesians 2 talking about the one new man and the inclusion of Jew and Gentile in the church. Another preaching on Psalm 130 and the disease of sin that has many symptoms, saw the opportunity to talk about the symptom of racism which points to the real disease of sin and the only cure in the gospel. Another pastor noted that the Sunday after George Floyd’s death, he had long been scheduled to preach Titus 3 and sinful divisions in the church and taking sides on issues that divide. This single thread of response from the men was noteworthy about how God works to bring us to the right place at the right time.
Trend #3: More Listening in Small Groups Than Talking In Large Groups
The last trend is that there was a tone in the replies that men wanted to listen to those hurting more than declare opinions and answers. When they did talk in depth it was usually in a smaller group setting—either among friends or in a Sunday School or prayer meeting. These comments noted a collective wisdom and desire to follow James’s principle of quick to listen, slow to speak, especially in such difficult and painful matters.
We see in these trends that the several men we asked relied heavily on the means of grace, the sovereign God who works through those means, and the wisdom and discretion of when to speak (which they did when appropriate) and when to listen (which is always appropriate).
We are thankful for these pastors’ responses and sharing how they navigated an important, painful, and difficult subject with discretion and wisdom, without being silent or stepping back from speaking in ways that helped the church and in some cases those outside the church.