As we enter the fourth wave of Covid and press into the fall ministry season, I want to offer some words of encouragement and some practical advice. To do so, let me share a very old hymn by AB Simpson, Plod.
This hymn embodies great advice in our current ministry climate. In a season where you are trying to figure out what ministry looks like in constantly changing restrictions, hybrid (in-person and online) formats, digital fatigue, divided churches (over Covid and vaccines), and empty seats (most churches I know are running at a fraction of pre-Covid in-person attendance), it can be hard to know what to do and one can easily become disoriented and discouraged.
I want to suggest a simple course of action from the old hymn, Plod. Plodding may sound strange and even defeatist in a social media and success-driven culture that compulsively celebrates “amazing.” We are used to hearing triumphant leadership advice that promised to skyrocket your success and effectiveness. In contrast, perhaps God is calling us to unfettered faithfulness. A faithfulness in our calling as pastors to pray diligently, preach the gospel in season and out of season, attentively care for people without expectation, and regularly offer the sacraments. What if this faithful persistence to our calling is the main thing to focus on in a season like this, trusting that fruitfulness (whatever and whenever God determines that to be) will result?
It may seem glib and defeatist to some, but God is calling us to plod. Not in a defeated acceptance of seeming ineffectiveness but in faithful service to our King and our calling, regardless of immediate reward.
Now…the temptation in a post like this is to end with a triumphant declaration that victory will come, that the night always precedes the dawn, and that “success” is right around the corner. Perhaps! But…what if it isn’t? Is Jesus still enough? Is faithfulness to the King and His Kingdom worthy of my life regardless of accolades or perceived “success?” The answer of course is “yes” and maybe the unexpected gift of this season is a sifted view of success that elevates faithfulness and fruitfulness over effectiveness and success in our lives and ministries.
As you endure the fourth wave, embrace faithfulness for, in the words of AB Simpson, “Plod will win the day.”