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Las Vegas Pastor Jud Wilhite on God lessons learned in pandemic

Jud Wilhite, pastor of Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada, outside of Las Vegas.
Jud Wilhite, pastor of Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada, outside of Las Vegas. | (Photo: Central Christian Church)

So far this year has been anything but normal. With so much chaos surrounding us, it can be difficult to know how to plan for what’s next. Pastors are navigating more emotional, relational, technological, financial and structural decisions than ever before, and it isn’t clear if there’s an end in sight. 

To help provide ministry leaders with encouragement during this time, I sat down with Jud Wilhite, who has been the Pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas for over 17 years. The mission of Central Christian is focused on rescue through recovery programs and evangelism, which may seem like a challenging ministry during COVID-19. Like other churches, Central Christian closed their doors for in-person worship at the beginning of the pandemic, but they were anything but shut down.

The leaders and members of Central Christian sprang into action serving their community in any way possible, including feeding over 7 million pounds of food to over 570,000 families at their food bank. Now, Central Christian has once again opened their doors for in-person worship, while following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, and they continue striving to be the hands and feet of Jesus by serving their community.  

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Jud shared what God’s been laying on his heart throughout the pandemic, and how he has found peace and encouragement despite the uncertainty of 2020.

1. Lean Not On Your Own Understanding 

There has not been a shortage of opinions on how church leaders should react during this pandemic. Half of your congregation may be pushing you toward reopening while the other half may be terrified of the possible repercussions of in-person worship. While there is no right or wrong answer about reopening, scripture offers some guidance on who to turn to when we are stuck at a crossroads.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” With so much uncertainty surrounding us, we can find comfort in the reality that if we turn our hearts toward Jesus and submit to what he is calling us to do, our paths will be aligned with his will for our lives 

For Jud, this verse pushed him to make three practical changes in his life:

1.     He stopped watching the news when he realized it was producing more harm than good for his mental health.

2.     He became more intentional about social media and pulled back on how often he spent time online.

3.     He spent more intentional time reading the Bible.

These three practical steps allowed Jud to focus his heart on what God had called him to, rather than what everyone around him was telling him to do. In the interview, Jud shares the relief he found from these small changes. What can you change in your life to refocus your heart on what Jesus is calling you to do? 

2. Do Not Borrow Trouble From Tomorrow 

It seems like every day of 2020 has offered a new twist or turn to navigate. Every time we think we have something figured out, something new comes along and unravels all of our plans. We spend much of today planning and worrying about what will happen next. When will this pandemic go away and what is coming next?

In Matthew 6:34, Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

As you continue to navigate what it is best for your church, remember the words of Jesus. Do not borrow trouble from tomorrow while you are still getting through today. Rather, live every day one day at a time, seeking the Lord for guidance as you take each step.

3. Serve Your Community

As Christians, we are called to serve God and serve others. Whether or not your church has reopened, there are things you can be doing now to serve your community. As you continue to seek wisdom and guidance from the Lord, consider what needs need to be met in your community and what resources your church can provide to meet those needs. When you pray for God to open your eyes to opportunity, he’ll reveal creative ways to be his hands and feet.

God led Central Community Church to serve others in three ways:

1.     Serving food - Central Community Church was already connected to the largest food pantry in the city. Throwing more effort into providing resources here allowed them to outdo their serving from the entire previous year by September of 2020.

2.     Offered a 24-hour phone line that anyone can call with their needs - From Jud’s own experience and those around him, he realized one of the heaviest needs that needed to be met was the need for community. Providing a care line allowed Central Community to keep focused on their mission of serving individuals seeking recovery and connection, whether they were church members or not.

3.     Meeting in person again - Walking through a season of being unable to meet in person provides a new perspective of joy now that Central Community is open again. Jud shares how despite the fact that he went from preaching to thousands to preaching to hundreds, he’s never been more full of gratitude and joy.

There is no way to know what tomorrow holds, and the right move for one church may not be the right move for another church. As you continue to seek wisdom and guidance about what’s next for your church, we hope Central Christian Church offers you hope and guidance.

This conversation is part one in a 5-part podcast series we released called The State Of The Church, where our CEO & Founder, William Vanderbloemen spoke with pastors and ministry leaders from around the country about how COVID-19 has impacted their Kingdom efforts and what they project the lasting impacts will be. Check out the other encouraging conversations in this series here.

William Vanderbloemen is the CEO of Vanderbloemen, which serves teams with a greater purpose by aligning their people solutions for growth: hiring, compensation, succession and culture. Through its retained executive search and consulting services, Vanderbloemen serves churches, schools, nonprofits, family offices, and Christian businesses in all parts of the United States and internationally. Follow him on Twitter @wvanderbloemen.

He is the author of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works, Search: The Pastoral Search Committee Handbook, Culture Wins: The Roadmap to an Irresistible Workplace and Don't Just Send a Resume: How to Find the Right Job in a Local Church.

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