I’m writing this letter the day after Easter 2020. This is a Resurrection Sunday that you won’t soon forget because your church couldn’t gather together yesterday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For you, it must have been especially difficult and sad to not be with, see, and worship with the people in your church. There is a unique pain and burden that a pastor feels in this regard, therefore, it seemed timely to write you a letter of encouragement to “build you up in your most holy faith” (Jude 20) and to strengthen you for the days ahead. Here are just some of the ways I see God’s grace at work in you, and I hope they provide timely encouragement.
This pandemic has not stopped you from preaching the gospel.
When you were ordained as a pastor, you made a solemn commitment to preach Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Yesterday, you kept your commitment by preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whether by livestream, Zoom, written devotionals or worship guides. You looked the COVID-19 pandemic in the eye and with faith and courage said, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). Well done, brothers! I want to encourage you for not allowing trials, not even a pandemic, to keep you from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This pandemic did not stop you from preaching the resurrection with joy.
Yesterday, you preached the gospel, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in particular, with joy. God loves a joyful preacher. Lewis Allen says it this way, “Our ever-blessed, ever-joyful God wants to be proclaimed by those who are brimful of the joy his grace in Christ brings. Preacher and sermon must be filled with gospel joy. ‘With joy you will draw from the wells of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3). Preachers who taste, teach, and share the joy of the gospel are truly fulfilling their calling as they serve those who listen.” Of course those who listened to you yesterday were not sitting in your church. It was sad for you to not be with your people. But the social distancing restrictions that we must follow in the midst of this pandemic did not stop you from preaching the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ with joy. Be encouraged brothers, because you are men who are “sorrowful, yet ALWAYS rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10), and your joy brings authenticity to the gospel you preach.
This pandemic has deepened your faith in the God you preached.
Because of the pandemic, your church couldn’t gather together yesterday. When you preached, you couldn’t personally look at those you were preaching to. And yet, by faith, you preached anyway, because you are men who “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). You couldn’t see or hear the immediate effect of your preaching, and yet you preached with faith believing that the power of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the listeners life would bring about transformation and growth. Brothers, be encouraged because yesterday you fought “the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12).
This pandemic has deepened your love for the people in your church.
The sadness, frustration, and pain you felt yesterday because you couldn’t be with your people, is a reflection of your love for them. A pastor loves his people, and this pandemic is being used by God in your life to deepen the love you have for those entrusted to your care. Your desire to be with the people in your church, and see them again, reveals how dear they really are to you. In fact you can relate even more with Paul who wrote to the Thessalonians, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). Be encouraged brothers for how this pandemic is deepening your love for those who have become even more dear to you.
This pandemic has reminded you that you aren’t alone in ministry.
The social distancing needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 isolates us all and can heighten the loneliness we can feel especially when a pastor can’t be with his people. And yet I know, that my voice of encouragement through this letter, is only one of many voices of encouragement in Sovereign Grace. I see Sovereign Grace pastors taking the time to encourage one another through texts, e-mails, phone calls, and via Zoom. Be encouraged brothers, because you have taken the isolation that social distancing requires and turned it on its head to care for one another. At a time when you might feel vulnerable to being alone in ministry, our relationally-driven partnership has only been strengthened, reminding us that we are not alone as we advance the gospel together.
These are just some of the ways I see God’s grace at work in you. I hope they do provide timely encouragement especially the day after a Resurrection Sunday we won’t soon forget. Again, I don’t know if it’s appropriate for me to say this or not, and I really don’t care if it isn’t, so I’m going to say it anyway. I’m so proud of the pastors in Sovereign Grace! You are gospel-men, churchmen, and men I love and respect. Therefore, it remains a joy and privilege to labor for the gospel alongside each of you.
With my respect and encouragement,
 Lewis Allen, The Preachers Catechism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 31.