We weren’t trained for this.
No pastor knows what awaits him or her on any given day. This is, oddly enough, part of the beauty of ministry. This reality should cause us to seek readiness for such a time. We don’t always know when a child will die, the marriage will end, our own families will suffer, financial peril will come upon us, or a key staff member will fall prey to Satan’s attack. Then, there are the “positive” chaotic events: a child is born, the church grows rapidly, the capital campaign begins, or the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself.
I can’t list all the chaotic events possible. I can promise you this: chaos is unavoidable. We can do things to initiate chaos, and we can take steps toward stabilizing chaos. We cannot control chaos, and chaos need not control us. Chaos need not drive us from ministry or lead us to sin. Chaos, whether God-sent, man-made or self-made is an inevitability of life.
We would do well to embrace this and prepare ourselves for it, for ministry is service at the intersection of God and life. Our task is to represent the Lord of the Storm. To offer a “peace, be still,” or a “be quiet!” or a “why are you afraid?” or an “I have no idea,” or to say nothing at all–only to be a non-anxious representative of the Prince of Peace. Our task is to be faithful amidst the terrifying and heartbreaking chaos of our fallen world. This is possible only through the power and presence of Christ–whom no storm can destroy.
When it comes to ministry, preparing for the inevitable chaotic events–generally, not specifically, is an important aspect of ministry. We prepare for chaos by staying close to the Lord Jesus Christ and by making sure our own inner storms are calmed before congregational storms come.
Congregational storms expose our inner storms. Leaders who enter the storms without having first calmed their own inner storms will add their own storm as fuel to the congregational storm. Whether it’s unrepented of sin, relational residue with our own parents, or resentment toward our Board–congregational storms surface our inner storms.
The two most important things any pastor can give their church is to stay close to the Lord Jesus and to seek personal emotional health. Step one in leading in times of chaos: let Jesus, Lord of the Storm completely loose inside your inner storm. If it’s still in your soul, you’ve got a much better chance of leading effectively through times of chaos. If it’s not, you’ll likely fuel the storm and run the risk of making mistakes that will set the congregation back.