Category Archives: Blog

An Honest COVID-19 Pastor’s Prayer

Gracious Father,

We need you! Overnight everything changed and we are lost, confused and trying to find our way. We entered uncharted waters, were given new boats to navigate (online ministry platforms) and there is a viral storm brewing on the horizon. We don’t know what the future will bring but we trust You are with us.

As such, we embrace the peace-filled promise that You have sent the Holy Spirit to comfort, lead and empower us and we embrace that truth as a precious gift. Tenaciously gripping onto that promise, we pray, not as a last resort but a first response. In situations like these, our weaknesses and frailty are laid bare and we have no other response but to desperately seek and call on you.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

As we enter the viral storm ahead, we as church leaders and pastors need creativity in ministry. If necessity is the mother of invention, then You are its father. We need your guidance and wisdom to adopt new practices and to do so critically and responsibly. Technology is not neutral, so give us eyes to see below the veneer of pragmatism and into the heart of impact.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

As we enter the viral storm ahead, we need to lead, plan and administrate well. This is going to be an all hands-on deck season. We need your empowerment to effectively organize the hands on the deck but also do so in ways that effectively help and not, unintentionally, hurt. Give us Your wisdom and empowerment to love and care for people in this season.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

As we enter the viral storm ahead, we need the courage to make tough decisions. There will be many as we begin to triage limited resources in the midst of overwhelming need. We need your wisdom and empowerment to do this well.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

As we enter the viral storm ahead, we need the energy to meet the impending demands that will exceed our capacity. With limited resources, limited experience, limited energy, we will humbly and desperately need your strength, wisdom and courage for the storm ahead.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

As we enter the viral storm ahead, we need your peace to reign in our hearts as fear rolls in. May you grant us the peace that passes all understanding and the joy that is complete in you. The journey ahead will be difficult, but you will be with us!

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

As we enter the viral storm ahead, we need Your words because ours are not enough. We need you to give us words of truth, hope and comfort. Our human ability will be dwarfed by the enormity of the situation and we need your words of truth, comfort and hope in this storm.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

As we enter into the viral storm ahead, empower us to courageously lead Your Church on the rescue mission you have given us. In a season where people will naturally move to self-protection, empower us to boldly lead into Your mission to seek and save the lost. For the church, this is not the time to hunker down and hide our light under a bowl, but the time shine it like a searchlight to those who are overwhelmed by fear, sharing the way, the truth and the life (abundant and eternal), Jesus.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

As we enter into the viral storm on the horizon, we tenaciously hold on to you, tune our ears to your voice, and embrace Your promises of giving wisdom without finding fault, peace that passes all understanding, and strength for the journey. You are with us and you will not fail!

Come Lord Jesus, Come. Have mercy on us!

In Jesus name, Amen.

An Open Letter of Encouragement to Pastors of Small and Medium-Sized Churches

Dear Pastors of Small and Medium-Sized Churches,

Be of good courage!

In this season of social distancing, I know many of you were/are working furiously to find livestream and video conference options for the church(es) you serve.  You had to make a major shift when larger churches just had to pivot.  I want you to know that we saw/see that and want to say:  Thank you!  Well done!  We are proud of you!  Be encouraged!

A couple of words of encouragement as we enter this season…

First, don’t stress about finding the magic bullet of video software solutions.  There are a plethora of options and many companies have made them free for the next six months.  Find one you think will work and use it.  It will be ok!  As a friend of mine said recently, “Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good in these days.” Don’t fret over this.

Second, don’t get caught in the comparison game.  As the saying goes, “Comparison if the thief of joy.”  You will not compete with the megachurch productions you witnessed on your social media news feed last Sunday (although, even these will change with the CDC’s new suggested guidelines of “no more than 10 people per gathering”).  Because you know what?  I think this is the season for you and your pastoral leadership.  You know your church by name and by personal stories.  The months and years of your faithful personal connections have built pastoral trust and relationships.  This is exactly what people will need in this season.  In other words, you are uniquely gifted and primed for such a time as this.  Therefore, do your best to livestream and video conference (removing distractions of course) but do what you have always done, focus on faithfully loving and serving your people and community.  We are entering the season of the shepherd, not the CEO and you have all you need to love and care for your church and community. 

Be of good courage!

Your call is simple but more important than ever: Love your people.  Guide them pastorally.  Lead them courageously.  Reject comparison.  Practice compassion.

And, in all things, do NOT fear!  Jesus is with you and He will guide you.

In your corner,

Bryce

COVID-19 Response Plan

What if our moment isn’t today but tomorrow?

Dear Pastors and Church Leaders,

We have entered a unique season of ministry in our world.  And it is probably more unique than you think.

The decision and planning to move to online services was difficult for many churches and leaders, but it is, potentially, just the beginning and one of the easiest things we’ll do in this pandemic.  Although I pray we don’t have to do any of the following, I think we need to be prepared in case we do.

As we enter this season as church pastors and leaders, I believe we need to pre-emptively consider the following with our staff and elders’ teams (there are no universal solutions and each church and context will be different):

  • Phase One – Initial Response to the Pandemic – Preparation & Social Distancing
    • Social Care – This is the time to help people socially and spiritually.  What are ways you can help care for and disciple your people?  People will have time and questions, and this is a great time to engage with them.  At Westlife Church, we have launched a whole host of online options (most of them interactive), are preparing resources for parents, youth and children who can’t be ministered to the same via virtual interactions, and in the coming days we will be personally and systematically connecting with every family in our church to touch base with them, pray for them, find out how we can help, explain the resources we have available, how to contact us if needed and let them know we love and care for them.
    • Communication – This is the time to communicate relentlessly with people.  This is the time for our communication people and departments to go into overdrive.  People are consuming information and we need to provide it in abundance and in earnest.
    • Resources to help – This is the time to build the war-chest.  Ask your people to give in preparation.  In the coming days, there will be the potential for great need and little time to raise when needed.  The church needs to be in a place to provide help and resources to people in need.
  • Phase Two – Response to the Pandemic: Caring for the Sick and Dying
    • What is your plan to track, report and care for a dramatic increase in pastoral care concerns (caring for the sick and dying)?  Does this plan rely on a few (what happens if some of that few get sick)?
    • What are your protocols for your care team to keep everyone as safe as possible?  How will you keep your pastoral and spiritual care workers safe while still making sure people don’t suffer alone or without spiritual care?  This is not as easy as it appears.
    • How will we be the church to our community (while employing the protocols determined above)?  How will people know you are there to help?  At Westlife, we are gearing up to connect and care through social media advertising if needed (letting the community know of ways we can personally help them).  As people are social distancing, communicating ways we can help our neighbours will be increasingly difficult.
    • How do we equip and empower our people on mission to love and care for their neighbours practically, personally and spiritually while not taking unnecessary risks for ourselves or others?
    • How will we care for our people, as our staff may also get sick – they are not immune and we need to plan contingencies and ways to care for them when they need to isolate, get hospitalized, etc.
  • Phase Three – Follow-up Response to the Pandemic: The Slow Return to Normal
    • PTSD – How will we help people after this is over?  Consider the time it took after 9/11 to return to a new normal.  This will be no different.  We will need to consider how we will help people with increased anxiety, issues of loneliness and depression, mental health challenges, increased need and desire for face-to-face relationships, financial implications for individuals, a bruised economy and those suffering from compassion fatigue and PTSD.  These may be real things to consider in the future.

These are questions we need to be considering now and questions/plans I am leading our team through.  Although the above are not comprehensive, they are the start of some important points for every church to consider for their context.

I want to reiterate.  Every context and situation is different.  Have a plan that works for you and your context, but have a plan!  This is the time for the church to be preparing for the worst and celebrating the best.  Jesus is in control and will lead us through this, but we need to be wise shepherds of His people and stewards of His resources as we care for the sheep and relentlessly and passionately pursue the lost.

What if our moment is not just now, but also in the coming tomorrows?  What if the main thing we can do in this present moment is to plan (and pray we don’t have to implement it)?

Prayer and planning are two faces of the same coin.  Earnestly, do both!

If you know of resources that might be helpful, this is the time to help, share, borrow, etc.  Use the comments below to share freely!

Bryce Ashlin-Mayo, Lead Pastor at Westlife Church and Sessional Instructor at Ambrose University

A Coronavirus (COVID-19) Prayer

Gracious Father,

We come to you as people in the midst of a crisis.  If we are honest, our hearts are filled with fear and uncertainty for our future.  We are scared for ourselves, our families, our friends, our church, our community and our world.  We honestly don’t know what to do and how to respond; the illusion that we are in control of our world is shattering under the weight of this reality.

Although fear, in itself, is not a bad thing, we reject any spirit of fear that begins to take root in our lives and causes us to act with ambivalence to our neighbours, hoarding of resources for ourselves or reactive decisions.  Instead, we profess Jesus as Lord and, as such, love our enemies, give generously to those in need and respond to circumstances and situations with faith and peace.  In the midst of this unique and challenging season, we recognize Jesus as our Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.

Because Jesus is our Saviour, we know that, in Christ, we have an eternal hope and therefore the fear of sickness and death is overshadowed by our hope in Jesus.  As a result, we enter into our future with an eternal hope that is secure and that no virus can threaten or pandemic extinguish.

Because Jesus is our Sanctifier, we ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to love our neighbours and live in right relationship with them.  As a result, empower us to care for the sick and the vulnerable, to give to the needy (even at personal cost to us) and to grieve with those who grieve.  This is the time for a love that is sacrificial and practical.  Empower us to be a church that, like a city on a hill, beams the light, love and hope of Jesus to a world covered under a shadow of sickness and death.

Because Jesus is our Healer, we pray and care for the sick among us.  For those of us who are sick or will become sick, we pray for healing and trust in Your loving embrace as the Great Physician and the Good Shepherd. We pray for Your healing in people’s lives.  For those who are grieving, we grieve with them and proclaim the truth that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. 

Because Jesus is our Coming King, this pandemic will not win.  We know the end of the story and Jesus has full and complete victory over sin and death and we wait with expectation and hope for King Jesus’ return.  As we are reminded of the fragility of life, we embrace the truth that our future is certain and in the hands of the Living Hope, Jesus Christ Himself.

We pray also for our world and those who lead it.  We pray for our government and health professionals who are making important decisions on our behalf.  This is a time to pray earnestly for them and we do so with hope.  Give them the wisdom to steward resources and strength to persevere.  We also pray for the safety of the many health professionals who enter into a micro-organism warzone to care for the sick and dying.  Give them wisdom, strength, compassion and safety as they care for the sick among us.

In all of this, we confess that we are overwhelmed, fearful and deeply worried.  We profess Jesus is Lord.  Give us Your peace as we trust in You as our Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.  Give us Your wisdom and strength as You empower us to love you fully and love others freely.

May Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Written by: Rev. Dr. Bryce Ashlin-Mayo, Lead Pastor of Westlife Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Dear Pastor…

Dear Pastor,

Your job is hard!

You carry the weight of endless expectations. Everyone expects different things from you. For some, you can never visit enough, be at enough, preach well enough, lead well enough, or counsel wisely enough. You are human with God-given limitations. This means you will regularly leave expectations unmet. Jesus experienced this and so will you.

Your job is hard!

You lead the most complex leadership structure in the world. You lead between God, a denominational structure, elders, staff, volunteers, congregation and family. All of which have different and, often, completing expectations and desires.

Your job is hard!

Your role experiences conflict, pain, sorrow, abandonment and betrayal. Unless people have done it, they will never know the sacrifice you give and the price you pay to love God and love others through your life and pastoral office.

Your job is hard BUT there is hope!

There is hope in Jesus, the head of the Church. Hope in Jesus who understands the pain of pastoral leadership and the sinking weight of expectation. Hope in Jesus who walks with you. Hope in Jesus who sent a counsellor to comfort, empower and lead you.

So…

For all the pastors who are in a season of ministry harvest, Jesus preaching to the multitudes celebrates with you.

For all the pastors who are feeling alone and abandoned, Jesus in the garden is praying with you.

For all the pastors who are feeling defeated and like ministry has strangled the life out of your soul, Jesus the resurrection and the life is calling you out of the grave and into life in Him.

For all the pastors who are feeling like they are in the midst of ministry drought, the Jesus of the desert will help you resist the temptation of quick fixes (stale bread made from rock) and find your hope in the fresh bread of faithful obedience and relentless dependence.

For all the pastors who are feeling like they are in the midst of a storm of conflict and challenge, Jesus is on board with you and has not abandoned ship.

No matter your ministry season, Jesus is with you!

For all my fellow pastors, find hope in Jesus and share it with each other. May you be reminded that Jesus is always enough and that Jesus in you is the hope of glory (not numerical success, met expectations or ministry competence).

If you need someone to confidentially talk to, please message me. I would love to listen, pray and encourage you.

For everyone who has a pastor, encourage them today and lift them up in prayer. Share this with your pastor with a message of encouragement and blessing.

Your friend,