COVID-19 seems to have turned everything upside down.
The pandemic has changed the way we work, the way we worship and the way we connect with others.
(Recently, Jamie Dew, our president, talked about continuing to follow the Great Commission in a COVID-19 world).
But what about service?
After all, Jesus says if we want to lead others and be influential, then we must first serve (Mk. 10:43-44).
So much of what we think and do as Christians to serve others goes directly against things like social distancing.
Visiting shut-ins. Spending time with others. Fill-in-the-blank for just about any form of interaction. For most of us, service has been a proximity-based ministry.
So how do we continue to serve in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic?
Here are 7 ways – that often don’t feel like serving – that we can do:
In times of crisis, there can often be a vacuum of leadership. Or there can be bad leadership. This works at all levels (from leading one person to leading a billion). And it happens regardless of your political or religious positions.
When we lead, we show others the way forward. And in times of uncertainty, even if it’s just one other person, we serve when we lead.
This is about taking the time to watch out for those around us. This is particularly important in our world now, because it’s all changing so fast. What was acceptable a week ago, we’ve found, is often a bad idea today.
It’s hard to navigate this COVID-19 world alone. But when we serve others, it means none of have to.
I remember the days after 9/11. The nation seemed to collectively like itself. We were, for once, all on the same team. But after a few months, as life began to resume, we picked up our old boundaries. And those feelings faded.
This us-them society creates an environment of criticism. And it’s very easy not to make recommendations, even if you know they’re in someone else’s best interest, because we’re afraid of the reaction.
But serving isn’t about what we get out it. It’s about others’ benefit.
When life is upside and we’re stressed to the max, we can’t think straight. It’s as simple as that.
We see this clearly with kids. When they’re pitching a fit, no amount of sane logic works. Their brains can’t receive it at that moment.
Adults (sometimes) do a better job of hiding it. But on the inside, when you don’t know how you’re going to afford groceries and rent’s due, your brain is mush for making rational decisions.
In these times, stepping in and helping others solve problems often has a much bigger than it may appear to.
We don't know all the facts. And even if we do, complaining about them rarely helps. It's truly a great blessing not to be surrounded by negative people.
But the reality is, sometimes we are. And sometimes, there’s nothing we can do about that.
But we can control how we respond. As Paul writes (Phil 2:14), we should do everything this way. In so doing, we not only bless, but we serve those around us.
My natural tendency is to go to number-4 above. You got a problem? Well, lucky you because I’ve got a solution. But people don’t operate like machines that just need a tune up. As a matter of fact, the whole point of having relationships is the experience, not the fix.
A hard-won lesson for me has been the value of simply walking with someone who’s struggling. Doing my best to not fix them. Just to… be with them.
This is a hard one, because it makes us feel like someone else is doing our job. And in crazy times, we tend to see this more. Life and work is uncertain. Circle the wagons and make sure you’re covered first.
But we’re not islands, as John Donne wrote a long time ago. And as Gary Myers -- director of Communications here at NOBTS and Leavell College -- recently wrote, we need each other.
In times of crisis, a big way we serve those around us is by making sure they’re not left behind. Your work matters as much as mine does. And when I sound my horn for you, we’re all better for it.
JOE FONTENOT is the marketing strategist at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College.