What I Have Learned Through COVID-19
By Matthew Castro
I have probably learned more about myself in the past 5 months due to Covid than just about any other time in my life. You tend to open your eyes to your weaknesses when you learn of your utter helplessness to solve a problem. I have not second guessed myself more than I have in the past 5 months. I will happily admit that I do not know how to effectively pastor a church during a pandemic. In the past 5 months, I have had members leave the church, and I have members who do not have plans right now to return to church. Attendance is down. Discipleship has been a struggle. Evangelism is non-existent. However, I have never been more encouraged in ministry than I am right now.
Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 11:28-30 for the first and only time about his heart. He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus is gentle and lowly in heart. Dane Ortlund wrote, “The heart, in biblical terms, is not part of who we are but the center of who we are. Our heart is what defines and directs us.” What is an essential characteristic of Christ, our Savior and Lord, is his gentleness and accessibility.
For far too long in ministry, I have associated Christ love for me by my success in ministry. I keep grinding hoping that I will earn Christ’s favor. However, I was never happy in ministry. I was never satisfied. I was always reaching for a goal that seemed to get farther and farther away with every new effort. Then a world wide pandemic invaded everyone’s life. College ministry and church came to a swift halt, and I did not know what to do. I got mad a few times. I cried while preaching a sermon on Easter. I freaked out on my elders before service. I felt like a terrible pastor and leader most of the time. However, through it all, God showed us love for me.
Through my wife, Lisa, asking me some important questions, I realized my joy comes through my identity in Christ alone. He will always be there with me. Jesus in his gentleness and lowliness will give me rest when my burden is heavy. I did not have to be best pastor or preacher on Sundays to approach my Lord. The King of Kings is always there to welcome me as his own.
I do not know what is going to happen in the next 6 months. As more Covid cases rise around the country, churches will continue to struggle. Pastors and church leaders will continue to struggle to lead well. Churches will most likely close, and we may see some pastors quit due to the pressures. In all these potentially devastating outcomes, we should not fear. Our hope is not in what we accomplish. Rather, our hope is in Christ Jesus, who took on flesh and was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He is coming again to fully unite his church to himself, and defeat the enemies of God and His people. This is the true word of God. Even during a world-wide pandemic, we can all rest in the certainty of God’s promises.
Take this historical season as an opportunity to let go. Learn, as I have over the past 5 months, to rest in Christ, who is gentle and lowly in heart. Through whatever circumstance, Christ is always there to offer rest to your weary soul. He will welcome you always as a friend. Come now to Christ Jesus, and experience joy everlasting.