How Can I Care for Fearful Church Members?
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The familiar voice of a pastor can bring peace in times of trouble. Your consistent ministry of the Word and love for your people create a strong bond. It’s often easily overlooked in the good times, but when circumstances suddenly change, so does our people’s appreciation for sound words of grace and truth. Though we can be tempted to judge people gripped by fear, this is a stewardship not to be squandered.
After all, these members have been entrusted to you, and you will give an account for those souls. Below are lessons I’ve learned from sometimes failing to properly care for fearful members.
First, acknowledge that fear is real.
Regardless of the actual threat level, you’re ministering to a person with a real need, and for that reason alone, it must be taken seriously. The fact that you’re not afraid, hurt, discouraged, confused, or suffering from any kind of distress does not discharge you from the duty of care. Jesus perceived fear in the disciples and gave them words of comfort (John 14:27). Peter tells us to cast our cares on the Lord because he assumes we all have seasons of anxiety (1 Peter 5:7). Scripture doesn’t give us a mandate to rebuke fear, but to answer it with words of hope.
Second, point the fearful ones to the eternal security of the gospel.
We were all once slaves to fear, but the gospel rescues us and reminds us that God is our omnipotent father (Romans 8:15). We are liberated from fear and free to walk away from it. The gospel has broken our chains, and God himself will help his children, never leaving them or forsaking them (Hebrews 13:5–6). Comfort your younger siblings in the Lord and assure them that he knows where we are, and will always care for us.
Third, invite the fearful ones to exercise active trust as the vaccine against the spread of fear.
When the Psalmist was almost paralyzed by fear, he neutralized the panic by exercising intentional trust (Psalm 56:3–4). Trust pushes out fear in ways that easy circumstances never could. A high concentration of trust will do to fear what bleach will do to germs.
Fourth, remind the fearful ones that love conquers fear.
If trust pushes fear out to the fringes, then love drives it away forever. Love drives away the fear because it drives away the threat of judgement (1 John 4:18). Remind those under your care that in love, Jesus Christ already bore the judgement for us, made peace with God, conquered the fear of condemnation, and makes way for peace to rule our hearts (Colossians 3:15).
This present struggle will pass, but it’s just a matter of time before the next one comes. In preparation, let’s be stewards of this current crisis. Let’s use the time wisely to train ourselves to be more compassionate and comforting shepherds, especially for those who need some extra care on this journey through the unknown.