I love Eric and Mark. I love the way they love each of you and the way they love the Village. I love the way they submit their lives to God and serve him with their whole heart. I love their wives and children who, along with them, are dedicated to the work of mission and ministry. Even little Saoirse, though only three, lights up my life with the love of Jesus when Mark and I Zoom chat on Thursday mornings over breakfast. God gave the Village a good gift when he gave us Eric and Mark and their beautiful families.
I’m not sure we fully understand the difficulties pastors face in this season of civil unrest, political polarization, and the horrors of the pandemic. Shepherds long to guide and protect their flocks. They want their flock to thrive and prosper and grow. Eric and Mark are good shepherds and I see their hearts of mercy and compassion breaking as this time of isolation continues. God has invited them into a season where they are robbed of the normal ways of face to face, person to person ministry. I see how difficult it makes their work. I watch as they struggle with how to minister well in these horrific times. It is a bit like a shepherd trying to drive away a wolf who wants to kill the sheep without being able to use a rod or staff. Pastors are designed to interact intimately with their people and Zoom calls don’t really cut it.
Mark and Eric spend hours each week on Zoom. They spend hours learning new technologies and piecing together live stream worship services. They spend hours on phone calls. They spend hours writing sermons and studying Scriptures. They have to preach to a screen or a camera lens instead of interacting with hearers. They spend hours practicing music and rehearsing sermons. They spend lots of time praying for you. They worry about you. They are concerned about your mental health while struggling with their own. They must concern themselves with their own families while also concerning themselves with yours. They often feel weak, helpless, and ineffective. They, like all of us, struggle with not being able to just head out to a coffee shop or go grab a pizza slice for lunch or find some quiet place to get away and be refreshed and renewed.
Pastor Eric and Pastor Mark are confronted with lots of ‘no win’ situations. People with strong opinions about political choices or Covid19 or racism often can’t imagine someone else not sharing their beliefs. The Village is extremely diverse in how we collectively respond to what is going on in the world around us. Eric and Mark get to be peacemakers in the midst of all sorts of disputes. They are expected to give wise, evenhanded counsel while struggling with their own opinions and beliefs. They must try to navigate a sane path through the chaos of polarization. It’s a tough row to hoe (farmer metaphor).
Many of us are struggling with our marriages or our children or our relationships with friends, employers, or neighbors. Social isolation exacerbates these issues. Being constantly together can fray nerves and inflame and aggravate the underlying issues that harm relationships. Some of us struggle with depression or fear or ongoing pain. We become short tempered and demanding. We become overly concerned about things that are completely out of our control. Some of us engage our addictions to try to escape our circumstances making things more difficult for those around us. We struggle with job loss or reduction of household income adding financial pressures to our already existing difficulties. We work from home and spend numerous hours on Zoom or countless hours of screen time for work while competing with the school demands of our children. Spotty internet or the inability to navigate new technologies or not having access at all to the internet can create what can seem like insurmountable problems. Home schooling children while juggling work schedules can overwhelm us. Your pastors endure many of these things, as well. There are days when another hour of FaceTime or another half hour phone call becomes pure torture. I love that Eric and Mark often lay down their own frustrations and choose to serve us in the midst of their own longing to be served.
I wish I could make things better for them. I’m not sure how to help them. Like me, you might sometimes think it is better to not inconvenience them. But pastors are called to be inconvenienced. To be needed. To be aware. It is more difficult for them to not know, than to know your needs. Making them aware is helpful. Encourage them. Send them gifts. Send a card. Send an email or a text that doesn’t require a response. Ask if there is something you can do for them or their families. Pray for them. Tell them God sings over them. He does.
When you count your blessings, and this is a great time to do it, make sure you count them. They are indeed a blessing to us.
Thank you, Eric and Mark. You are God’s gift to us.