Matt Johnston is a pastor of Lux Evangelica in Genova, Italy. Before COVID-19 hit this region of Italy, he would have said his ministry was experiencing a momentum—with an increase in Bible studies, one-on-one discipleship, and counseling. But by March 14, the country of 60 million was under national lockdown. Below is an excerpt from an article published by Johnston just nine days later. Stating that “COVID-19 can’t stop the Great Commission,” he also encouraged other pastors to “find creative ways to help our people process everything,” including lots of WhatsApp messages, discipleship over the phone, and Skype prayer meetings.
“Faithfulness in ministry is always contingent upon God’s providence, not our preferences. We have to die to what we prefer and be faithful to what the Lord provides. As pastors, it isn’t enough for us to resign ourselves to waiting it out until we can gather again. We must eagerly embrace the ministry changes brought on by COVID-19, shepherding our people to see that ‘God has made everything beautiful in its time’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Though life may be on hold amid this trial, Christian growth is not. Rather, this trial is God’s choice means to produce steadfastness in his people (James 1:2-4).
“Calvin said that ‘ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it’ (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion). Ignorance of providence is why COVID-19 is fuel for unabated fear. But the knowledge of it ensures us we are at home because God wants us there (James 4:13–17).
“I realize that most ministries in America are significantly larger than ours, so perhaps pastoral faithfulness in this season will be even more complicated. And yet, if the virus continues to make headway, the normal rhythms of life will continue to be thrown off and unique shepherding opportunities will abound… These opportunities may be different than we ever imagined, but we should embrace them with joy.”
– Matt Johnston
Excerpt from “Pastoring Amid Pandemic (Part 2): Counsel from a Pastor in Italy,” March 23, 2020, 9marks.org
“Scholars who have studied the development of leaders have [found] situated resilience, the ability to sustain ambition in the face of frustration, at the heart of potential leadership growth. More important than what happened to them was how they responded to these reversals, how they managed in various ways to put themselves back together, how these watershed experiences at first impeded, then deepened, and finally and decisively molded their leadership.”
– Doris Kearns Goodwin
Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian, New York Times bestselling author
Excerpt from Leadership In Turbulent Times, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2018