Brian Howard to Pastors: You Are Not Alone
As believers and church leaders face 2021, Brian Howard believes it is wise to move forward soberly assessing the seriousness of our situation while recognizing the hope we have in God. “This has been devastating to people’s incomes and lives and families,” he said. “People have lost loved ones, people have lost jobs, people have permanent health issues. But we are still hopeful for what God is going to do in the future.”
The reason why we can be hopeful, said Howard, is that “God is on his throne. This did not take God by storm, and he wasn’t surprised.” He encourages church leaders who are feeling disheartened to remember that “God is not absent during this time” and adds, “We’re all this together, and so you’re not alone…you’re not suffering through this alone.”
Another reason why Howard is hopeful is that the very challenges that have made the year so difficult have provided numerous opportunities for churches to minister to others. One of Howard’s biggest takeaways from the year is how important the church is during times of crisis. “I’ve just seen churches do such cool things during this time,” he said. For example, he knows of a church in Albania that has 10 families, and these families are feeding 10 other families in their community who do not have food.
A second takeaway from last year, as many people have pointed out, is that the church is not a building. “Churches have had to be church without being able to do the things that they’ve always done at their regular church buildings,” said Howard. Even though Christians will rightly grieve what they have lost when things were “normal,” congregations should recognize that they have many new chances to minister to people in innovative ways—if they are willing to take advantage of those opportunities.
Really, Howard observed, we are still figuring out what our key lessons from 2020 and 2021 will be. “Sometimes when you’re in the middle of a crisis,” he said, “you’ve got to get out of that, have a little break, process it over many, many cups of coffee.” Once we get some distance from our recent challenges, it will be easier for us to say, “Now I realize what I learned during that time. I didn’t even know what I was learning when I was in the middle of it.”