At the beginning of the COVID-19 story, I wrote a short note about this unprecedented season for the church in which I suggested that leadership will decide whether the church is stronger or weaker after the pandemic is over. While I think that’s still true, building a stronger church with all the challenges that already existed, along with the seemingly daily new ones, has morphed a great deal. Strengthening a church in isolation, churches that thrive on relationships, is very difficult.
I believe one essential thing we can do is strengthening the spiritual core of our church – a stronger core that will also prepare for what the church will become when the impact of COVID-19 lessens. I hope we are leading our church family to practice the spiritual disciplines that are so essential to the church and living the Christian life well.
I’m convinced that this is true for pastors too. Are we going to be stronger, have a more solid spiritual core when we find ourselves leading a very different and new church in the future?

Mike models his "Finisher" jacket after completing the 2015 New Orleans marathon

I made the decision a few years ago to run in the New Orleans marathon, something I had never done before. A couple of years before the marathon, I had begun running some, but nothing like the 26.2 miles of a marathon. Preparation dominated my life, early mornings that began with one-hour runs and slowly worked their way up to five-hour runs (I am slow). I had to watch my diet and be faithful to my running regimen for almost a year. I knew that if I did not there would be no way I could finish. I have the medal and the jacket. The medal is called a “finisher” medal and the jacket has the word "Finisher" quite prominently on the back. It was the hardest thing physically I have ever done. This is probably the hardest season any of our pastors will ever lead through and I am convinced the next couple of years will be unprecedented too.
So, the question: Am I / are we as pastors and church leaders building stronger spiritual cores in preparation for what will certainly be a marathon of challenges that we must traverse for many years?
It might be time to reinforce “Acts of Piety” Spiritual disciplines that along with “Works of Mercy” serve as means of grace that are foundational for all we do.
The works of Piety

  1. Prayer
  2. Searching the scriptures
  3. Holy communion
  4. Fasting
  5. Christian community
  6. Healthy living

We may not have control over this pandemic, the raging battles on social media, the political turmoil, or even the different ways my own church family might be responding to this chaotic environment - but I do have control over my own spiritual life. 
Churches and communities deserve pastors and senior leaders with a strong spiritual core - women and men who can speak for a God they are intimately acquainted with and that can set examples of what the Christ follower's life looks like.
If we are not ready for the next season, as too many pastors weren’t prepared for the season we are presently in, the church will pay a heavy price. Pastors will too! Many of us are already seeing how under prepared we personally were for this historical time. I have written on how I believe most churches weren’t prepared for the COVID-19 season. If you have not read that note yet, it is on the conference web site titled “Exposed”.
As I write this, I am rethinking Acts of Piety in a personal way. I want to have a stronger spiritual core for my church, for my family, for my friends and for me. I pray that our churches will be stronger when we move past this strange time. I pray that our pastors will be stronger too.
Rev. Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth