I teach all forms of fitness and have for over 20 years. In my younger years, I had the freedom to bump around from place to place, teaching any format at any time. Time moved on and as I got older, daytime work changed from 9-5 working in an office to 12-12 living as a stay-at-home mom. Therefore, the way I taught classes needed to change too. The 5:45 am timeslot fit my lifestyle like a glove. By 2020 I had been teaching some of the same classes for more than 10 years. 10 years! That kind of time allows you to develop real relationships with people. Many of them have been with me from the very beginning. In class, we laugh together, work together, celebrate birthdays and holidays together and sometimes even eat together…nothing says St. Patty’s Day like homemade Irish Potatoes.
When 2020 shut down the world, all I could think about was how I would keep us connected. We had been a family for so long I didn’t see any other option. So I did what so many of us did and I reached out. I worked on ways to teach virtually, then via hybrid format, then safely; and now I am trying to find ways to draw them back into a place that can help them become their healthiest selves both emotionally and physically.
This was not unique to me as I know many other teachers, leaders, and pastors that did some of the same things. But as I sat there in the pew on Sunday and heard my pastor reaching out for prayer because he’s teetering on the edge of depression, these thoughts came rushing back to me like a tidal wave. I am a fitness instructor. My main job is to give you an exercise routine that will help you live a healthy lifestyle for one hour a week. This does not belittle what I do. It’s important work and work that I am passionate about; however, the truth is, my responsibility is not overwhelming. A pastor, however, a shepherd, a biblical teacher, holds a much greater responsibility according to God’s word.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he is sending Timothy out to entrust the things he has learned about Jesus to “faithful people that will be able to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2, NASB).
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV).
In that same letter, Paul encourages Timothy to be skillful in teaching. Then James (James 3:1) cautions that those who are teachers will have a stricter judgment. God’s Word consistently holds those in power to a greater degree of accountability. Think of how He spoke to the Pharisees when they didn’t want Jesus to heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11).
This is the reality for the ones that lead us. If they are truly men and women of the Word, they know the depth of responsibility they hold for the shepherding of God’s people. They also suffered the oftentimes tragic effects of 2020-21 and needed to put themselves aside to minister to the overwhelming number of people in need. If I think of the way that my heart suffered for the hurt my people were feeling at the gym, I can’t fathom how it would feel to be the head of a church. We are angry, we are broken, we have lost our jobs, we have lost loved ones, we have had our entire lives turned around. Our church leaders have been there to counsel, to teach, to love, to rebuke, to lead, to interpret God’s Word, and much more. They are there, time and time again to lead us back to the only One who can truly comfort us. Let us not forget how much they require our prayers.
God calls us, the people of His church to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NASB). When we pray, God says we will be heard. Whatever we ask for, it will be ours. Therefore, I ask that you humble yourselves to God and seek wisdom, guidance, protection, and courage for your pastor. Pray for peace in your congregations and their burdens to be lifted. Pray that in this season of hardship, fear, and loss that they be renewed by God’s goodness. Do not grumble but pray that if they are being led astray, God will turn them back to Himself. We are all human and imperfect. And finally, give God thanks that He has brought these leaders to your church.