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How Should Pastors and the Church Respond to the Coronavirus Fears?

By February 28, 2020March 7th, 2020Church, Fear, Leadership

It is incredible how fast the Coronavirus outbreak has impacted all of us. The outbreak is continually trending on Twitter. It dominates the news. The stock market has been rattled by concerns of global impact. (Fear is one of the biggest movers of the market.) 

I saw a report that Japan is shutting down schools for a month. In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control issued a statement this week in preparation for what “could” occur. The President has launched a special task force. 

I’ve been asked several times how I would respond as a pastor. How should the church respond?

I have a few thoughts. 

We should remind believers that we are not to live by fear. One recent headline I saw said, “Coronavirus Fear Spreads”. The article was more about the spread of fear than the actual virus. And that’s typical for situations like this. We have rational fear, which is normal, but we also have lots of irrational fears. 

I hope we don’t miss things we enjoy doing, such as ballgames (and dare I say church). All the experts I’m reading say as much as possible we should live as normal lives as possible.

We need to seek truth over rumors. Let’s not believe everything we read. We need to make sure we are checking multiple outlets of news. And just because it’s on Facebook does not make it true. 

Realize that news outlets often highlight the worst case scenarios. Yes, it’s bad. It might get much worse. But I read recently the number of cases in China are going down. That’s some good news. I wish that was making headlines too. Hopefully that trend continues. And I realize it is still spreading places, but the risk in the U.S. at this time is very minimal. Let’s live informed, but not in panic. 

Address obvious fears. Recently I switched a planned message to a message addressing fear. People are naturally afraid. We should be agents of hope, courage, and confidence in God’s care and control. 

Times like these are really opportunities for the church to be the church. We have the Good News!

Do what we know we can do. Stop handshaking and do elbow bumps. I recently had our custodial staff place trash cans by the bathroom doors. (They should have already been there.) Make sure we are sanitizing everything we can. Encourage people to stay home when they are sick. 

Remind people to automate their giving. I realize this sounds self-serving, but if this outbreak worsens (and even if our prayers are answered and it doesn’t), the church is going to be needed. The ministries of the church are vital to our communities and we need to encourage people to keep giving in the event we can’t meet corporately or fears or sickness keep people at home. 

A friend of mine, Henry Kaestner, posted this on LinkedIn:

I can’t help but think and feel (and apparently write) that many more people will be affected by the impact of the coronavirus fears on the economy and market than will be affected by the actual virus itself. I fear a massive drop in philanthropy and impact investing as stock portfolios go down and liquidity dries up. My hope and prayer is that we will resist the temptation to hunker down, but instead actually step up our giving and investing. It will likely matter more and make a bigger impact than ever.

Make sure people know how to view services online. Thanks to Facebook Live that feature is available to most size churches. People in your church will want to keep in touch and hear from you even if they are kept from attending services.

Pray none of this is necessary. Of course, we should pray. Prayer is always the ultimate work. We say that and probably believe it, but have we really prayed for God’s intervention in this situation. He is still the Healer.

Worship. Isn’t that the Biblical example for us in times of uncertainty, fear or crisis? Let’s worship the God who has the answers we need. We worship because He is in control.

What other suggestions do you have? 

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Ron Edmondson

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