When Tragedy Strikes a Church

Below is one of the videos I recorded for The Nines conference on the topic of dealing with tragedy in the church. They chose to use the teaching on “How to Gracefully Kill a Church Program” instead of this video, but I thought I would post it here.

In January 2011, I was serving as executive pastor at Christ Fellowship in Miami. While in a series on the lament Psalms, our senior pastor, who was my close friend, had a massive heart attack. He almost died, and the regular rhythm of our church was greatly disrupted. Over the next six months, we saw the Lord do a gracious work in our church. We were stronger because of the event. In my life, the Lord used the season to disrupt me, cause me to rely more fully on Him, and remind me of His sufficiency.

During that season, I leaned on the wisdom of godly leaders I admire. From their counsel, I took with me three important thoughts that will serve leaders well in the midst of trials and tragedies that impact a church.

  1. Teach well: In the midst of pain, it is time to crush the unbiblical clichés that causes people to view all trials as judgment or tell themselves that God never allows us to encounter more than we can handle. God often allows us to be overwhelmed with way more than we can handle so we will depend more on Him. We live in a messed up and fallen world, yet God sometimes uses painful moments to purify us.
  2. Lead well: When there is uncertainty in the church because of a tragedy, the people need to be assured that they will be “led well and fed well.” The people will be led well not because of the skill of the leaders but because God is continually watching over His people. He is always caring for His flock, and He has already provided everything we need.
  3. Love well: One tragedy seems to expose other tragedies. The other tragedies are probably already there, but a big tragedy that grabs the congregation’s attention and simultaneously softens the leaders’ hearts to be more aware and sensitive to the existing pain in the lives of others.