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Leading well in difficult days


There's a group of leaders who are usually the most second-guessed in your community. You can find them in the pulpits of churches Sunday after Sunday. While listening to church members' opinions goes with the territory, this year has challenged them in ways beyond imagination.

It happened again this week when Gov. Andy Beshear recommended Thursday that houses of worship shutter indoor services for the next 3-4 weeks. In a pastor's mind, that didn't leave much time for planning.

Some Kentucky Baptist churches are still planning to gather in-person on Sunday, some will be virtual-only, some are offering both options and some are still hosting drive-in services every week.

There isn't a right or wrong answer. But it almost always falls back on the pastor and a small group of church leaders to make these critical decisions.

As we approach this Thanksgiving season, we should find time to be thankful for our godly pastors who have been under so much stress but are determined to move the gospel forward in a time of turmoil.

Considering all that has happened in 2020, people are in desperate need to hear the hope of the gospel. Can there be a better message of comfort for distressed hearts?

Pastors have become more than the shepherd of the flock. They have been the sanctuary sanitizers, the IT experts, and the sounding board of frustration for mask-wearing.

They've opened up conversations between medical officials and public leaders. While it's doctors who care for sick patients, it's usually a pastor who's left to bury them when the end comes. Pastors want their church members to be healthy, which means they must care about their community's health.

It's been a season of polarization for pastors as they do what they think is best for their congregations. Has every decision been perfect? Of course not. But rest assured, pastors have agonized and prayed for guidance on what to do.

That includes the next three to four weeks as the coronavirus rages in Kentucky.

Churches and pastors are better equipped now to have safe in-person services than they were eight months ago. They know how and where to clean, that masks and social distancing can help tamp down the spread, and that the elbow bump is just as good as a handshake.

Can you get the coronavirus at a church service? Sure, you can. No place is safe from this dreaded virus that has disrupted the entire world. It's undoubtedly each individual's choice to come to church, go to the ice cream store, or even a ball game. You determine what's essential.

Pastors have their information sources in their pews with nurses, doctors, or other health officials as members. They value those opinions. They take those decisions seriously, even as they vary from church to church and area to area.

We saw that in a recent story after the governor made the announcement Thursday. Even those who said they were going to meet anyway promised to pray for the governor as he navigates these tricky waters. I'm sure Gov. Beshear is like our pastors in adding a few more gray hairs since March, and he does need our prayers.

Our Kentucky Baptist pastors may not have the cure for the coronavirus, but they know the cure for the human heart. May they continue to be "super-spreaders" of the gospel cure that brings ultimate healing.

MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at