Darin Philips, Lead Pastor, Oceanview Community Church, Ladysmith, BC.
The COVID-19 pandemic…I’m sure you are as weary of it all as I am. I look back on the year and my role as a pastor and think it is a fair question to ask, “are pastors and church staff members essential workers?” Romans 12:3 lays out exactly how we are to think of ourselves:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
This is a beautiful verse because it keeps us from the extremes on either side of the emotional spectrum. If we are full of pride, feeling like we are “all that and a bag of chips” on the one hand or feeling like we are “lower than a worm’s belly”, not worthy of any accolades at all on the other hand, then we are in error. Instead, God’s word urges us to think of ourselves with sober judgment.
Six years ago we received a call from a woman in the community. Her husband was recently retired and had plans for the two of them to hop on his Honda Gold Wing and tour Western Canada. Then came the unexpected cancer diagnosis. She had heard of Oceanview so she called and requested that a pastor come and visit. I got over to their place right away and was able to pray, read scripture and get to know her and her husband a little bit. Her husband passed away and five years went by without our church hearing from her.
Suddenly, in November of 2019, she began attending Sunday services at Oceanview. By February of 2020, she was requesting that I meet with her and walk her through our baptismal preparation manual. In July, after the pandemic hit, we were still able to baptize her and two other adults. The rules allowed for a maximum crowd of 50 outdoors. She was just bouncing, full of gratitude for the realization that Jesus had taken up residence in her soul.
In the fall, we were able to partner her in a mentoring relationship with a lovely, wise and mature Christian woman. They formed a deep friendship and she recently told me, “I can’t believe how much I’ve learned – thank you for the gift of a mentoring, this has meant the world to me.” Was my role and the work of our church essential for her? Spiritually and relationally, I would say, “YES”.
A grandmother chose to raise her grandchildren to age 12 because their parents were unable to do so. She deserves a medal for all she has done for her grandson and granddaughter. When the children turned 13, she worked with the Ministry of Child and Family Development to transition them into the foster system because she was no longer able to provide adequate care for teenagers at her age. This past Christmas, she brought both children back to her place for 10 days over the Christmas holidays.
When she discovered that the other boy in the foster home where her grandson was living had nowhere to go for Christmas—no tree and no gifts—she immediately invited him into her home. She had food and lodging covered but requested that the church benevolent fund help with gifts. I authorized the expenditure and my wife Lori did the shopping. The three children couldn’t believe their eyes when they woke up on Christmas morning to personalized gifts. Since that point, our youth pastor has continued to build a relationship with the grandson and spend time with him. The granddaughter has attended youth events. Was the church essential for this grandmother and her grandchildren and the boy from the foster home? Spiritually and practically, I would say, “YES”.
Multiply these stories across our almost 100 Fellowship Baptist churches and the other Christian denominations in our region and we can confidently but with sober judgment stand up and say that “pastors and local churches are indeed essential.”
If you are in doubt, ask these two women to whom the church responded. They will set the record straight.