For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Rom 8:22
We live in a fallen world. Natural disasters, destruction and death are the bi-products of humanities sin. It seems, as I’m sure many before us have thought, that troubles and tribulation are on the rise. The last several years have been seemingly monumental in terms of tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes and more. So much so that we seem to have grown numb to these events, unless of course they happen to you; in your city, near your church, close to your family. That was myself a couple years ago for sure.
We remember this week in our city, Joplin Missouri, the anniversary of an incredibly devastating F5 tornado on May 22nd of 2011 that destroyed a third of our community. We have learned that we are a resilient place full of determined people. We are rebuilding and we have slowly been settling back into life, but as the spring storms return and the warning sirens once again ring out you can feel the underlying pain and almost hear creation and creature alike groaning.
Yesterday a severe outbreak of tornados sped across the Midwest leaving a wake of devastation. There are more forecasted for tonight as well. Friends and fellow churches are even today, picking up the pieces and coming up with a plan to serve their communities. When I share our story with people and pastors across the country nearly everyone expresses sympathy and genuine concern. At the same time though many, if not most, walk away from the conversation thankful that it was not their city or church, but also naively assuming it will never happen to them. I was asked to speak at a conference a year ago about what we learned and how other churches can prepare – two people showed up. It never fails though that after a disaster someone calls. When I talk with fellow pastors after their city has been affected they usually always express two things: 1. How people who haven’t been through it don’t get it (which is completely understandable) and 2. How utterly unprepared and ignorant they where before and during their disaster.
As spring storms fires up around us I thought I might share here (again) some thoughts on preparing yourself and your church for what I pray will not happen anywhere, but what I know is bound to happen as long as we live in this groaning world.
Here are some things I’d challenge every pastor and church to think through before disaster strikes:
1. What Resources Are Already Available to You?
Denominationally, Locally, Nationally what is already in place to help.
Find out, compile it, make a list and keep it accessible.
2. Develop Relational Connections in Your Community
Who is out there already prepared for these types of events.
Know them and be known.
Get on the “go to list” for organizations and put them on your own.
3. Have a Plan for your Church.
Who would you contact first? How would you communicate?
Who would they contact next?
Who would be responsible for whom and what?
What other churches would you partner with and serve alongside?
Start dialoging with them today.
4. Preach and Teach on Sovereignty and Suffering Today
People in your church will look to you during this time for answers.
Teach solid theology for your people to draw upon in difficulty.
You don’t know what you believe until you are faced with needing to believe it.
Theology is not figure out, but found out, in difficulty.
Give hope before it feels hopeless.
5. Start Serving Places Where Disaster Has Occurred
If you hear of needs in surrounding communities go and serve them.
Learn from people who’ve been through it, and bless those going through it now.
During a disaster is no place find your vision and start your mission
I’m praying this is useful and ultimately unnecessary for you and your church.