The EFCA’s Eddie Cole on the Challenges of Pastoring During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Eddie Cole from the EFCA wrote an article the other day at the blog that looked at the challenges of pastoring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Allegedly 50% of all pastors plan to leave the pastorate, and he discussed the situation. Its a challenge, yes there are bad pastors and churches that this blog has written about during the pandemic. But to be fair, there are many churches that are doing a good job. Leading a church and doing ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult.

“Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place.”

Amish Proverb 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 NIV

Eddie Cole, Jessica Cole and John Welborne at Salem Church at Staten Island, New York 

Inside the EFCA currently its pastors appreciation month. I have very little reason to write about it as it happens every October. I still keep my eyes and ears open for encouraging or healthy examples of pastoring or of unique situations. But there was an article on the national EFCA blog that I want to write about.

Eddie Cole on Pastors Who Will Leave After the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Eddie Cole is the former Eastern District EFCA Superintendent. This blog has written about him several times over the past few years. For example you can read about him in his new position in, “The National EFCA Profiles Eddie Cole the New Executive Vice President of National Ministries.” Eddie wrote an article at the EFCA blog about pastoring during the pandemic and the challenges that exist. You can read about it in, “Encouraging Pandemic Pastors.” In his post Eddie writes about the difficulty of being a pastor. He recalls a difficult experience in Salem Church in Staten Island in helping a grieving family in the emergency room and then being in church. Eddie talks about how some people reacted bot hin grief and prayer while he was also challenged and had his judgment questioned. He relates on how that was difficult to deal with. 

According to Thom Rainer about 50% of pastors are planning on leaving current ministry. It has to do with a multitude of reasons and to get into it more I would encourage you to read Eddie Cole’s article. The reasons deal with from weariness of the pandemic, or dealing with difficult individuals and pastors being exhausted. There are more reasons inside Eddie’s article. Then Eddie makes some suggestions as to how people can bless or help their pastor. What is suggested is both common sense and how to encourage a pastor. From my perspective there are two ways to look at this situation. 


There Are Some Evangelical Churches That Are Problematic 

Hands down in the COVID-19 pandemic there have been a number of problems that this blog has written about. Many of them highlight problematic pastors or the challenges of evangelicalism. For example there was an incident with an Assembly of God in Florida that held a party when things re-opened that led to a COVID infection of a teenage cancer survivor. Her Christian nationalist mother was giving her daughter Hydroxychloroquine which led to her death in shortly after her 17th birthday. You can read about that in, “The Tragic Death of Carsyn Leigh Davis Who Attended a Party at First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, Florida and Contracted COVID-19.” 

Then in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho there was an evangelical pastor who was skeptical about face masks who contracted COVID-19. Even while in the ICU he still encouraged his church to meet and they were doing so with his church meeting at the hospital not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. It would be funny had it not been so sad. You can read more at, “Senior Pastor Paul Van Noy of Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Did Not Believe in Face Masks. He Then Contracted COVID-19 and Ended Up in the ICU.” Down in Alabama there was a Southern Baptist Church that had a revival in the middle of a pandemic. A pastor led to half his church in getting sick and then he defended his behavior. You can read more in, “Southern Baptist Church Has a Revival in Alabama and Has a Massive COVID-19 Outbreak. Pastor Daryl Ross Defends it and Why Such Pastors Should Be Prosecuted.” In Michigan there was a pastor who preached and showed a video about the QAnon conspiracy theory who challenged the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read more in, “The Gospel According to Q. Does Senior Pastor Gary Peterson of Rock Urban Church in Grandville, Michigan Believe That Democrats Conspired to Murder George Floyd? Plus Gary Peterson’s Troubled Past.” Then the other day I wrote about Bethel Church in Redding, California and a massive COVID-19 pandemic that affected Shasta County. For more stories just go through the category about evangelicals and COVID-19 and you can read story after story with some disturbing decision making that took place since the pandemic began. 

But remember that this is a part of evangelicalism but not all of it as I will explain below. 


Let’s Also Remember That There are Some Evangelical Churches Doing It Right During COVID-19 

Its easy to focus on the negative situations especially as some of them attract controversy. When several evangelical churches sued the California government over church closing in an antagonistic manner I did some research and tried to find some press articles that showed how some evangelicals were handling the COVID-19 pandemic responsibly. And I couldn’t find many articles that I could lean upon for a post. Now that doesn’t mean that they are not happening. What it actually means is that they are not being written about. Its my hope that there will be a couple of articles in the press that I can use to illustrate how some churches are doing it correctly. 

But lets be clear there are a number of evangelical churches that are doing it right. This blog likes to focus on the EFCA denomination and over the pandemic there is one EFCA church that I have been following and writing about. Tom Nelson’s Christ Community Church in the Kansas City and Kansas area has developed a cogent COVID-19 policy. Early in the pandemic they decided not to meet and claimed that they did that for the safety of their communities. Christ Community embraced masks and pushed the science behind them. They took the effort to explain the reasons why. They gave financial resources to the suffering community which was encouraging. It was a pleasure to follow and write about as the pandemic dragged on. And its still going on as I monitor Christ Community Churches communications. So its important to remember that there are a number who are doing it right. Those pastors who are doing it right this blog hopes they stay.  


The Need to Dial it Down 

In regards to what Eddie Cole has said about the abnormal times and the stress let me just share some thoughts. We live in a stressful time. From the COVID-19 pandemic to racial unrest and riots which for me are reminiscent of the late 1960’s. In addition we have the stressful political situation with the issue of illiberal nationalist populism affecting our system. Its a stressful time. I am not a pastor or even anything close and yet I feel the stress. In my own life I have been confined to home since this pandemic hit. I’ve missed social activities, farewells for close friends and other events. And recently I have learned that the holidays will not be spent in California as flying is questionable. Its disappointing but its life. I think what needs to happen is that people in the country need to dial down the tension and stress and step back from the edge. Utah Senator Mitt Romney has called for moderation in a statement the other day. I wish other people would heed that advice and more people would get on board. If more people did, then honestly I think many pastors would be in a better state and that they could endure the stress of these times much better. This blog wishes many of them well and though I do write about the problems of evangelicalism I also know there are exceptions. And its wrong to paint with a broad brush.