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Pastoring in The Midst of Illness

Three keys for leading in the midst of crisis from a rural pastor that fought kidney disease and ca…
Three keys for leading in the midst of crisis from a rural pastor that fought cancer.

Three keys for leading in the midst of crisis from a rural pastor that fought kidney disease and cancer

By Hope Mayes

“Is this where I belong now?” Sitting in an Alabama waiting room chair with other cancer patients in various stages of brokenness, Pastor Chad Payne wondered these thoughts to himself; “Do I belong with this group now? Is this my future?” After being diagnosed with kidney cancer in November 2017, the way this rural minister pastored and led his church was about to change. Payne found three key effective elements in pastoring during illness: support from others, prayer and honesty.

The First Key: Support

The afternoon sitting in that Alabama hospital, he heard the comments of the patients around him, “The doctors think the cancer is coming back…” “The numbers are not looking good…” In this moment, Payne experienced the darkest moment of his whole life; he had never felt more alone. This pastor soon found in these dark situations God’s love came rushing in stronger than previously experienced.

This love came from individuals, families and organizations near and far. Not only did his church, New Life Assembly of God in Woodstock, Alabama show support by taking a large love offering to help Payne and his wife cover medical bills, but multiple other churches and organizations in the area did too. Missionaries from all around the world prayed for his healing, and various friends and family members even offered to donate their own kidneys to his cause. These very humbling acts of kindness reminded this rural pastor and his wife that God continually worked good for them and wrapped them in His love.

The Second Key: Prayer

During this time, God met Payne in ways he did not expect. As an assignment for one of his PhD classes, he spent twenty-four hours alone with God at their district’s campgrounds.

“I got alone and the first day I was there, I couldn’t even pray. I would get silent and it was like there was a tape playing on fast forward in my brain; all the anxiety, fear and questions. I could not get my brain quiet.” – Pastor Chad Payne

With so many thoughts seeding through his mind, he resorted to reading about prayer. He read Mark Batterson’s book, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, then journaled. This exercise effectively quieted his thoughts.

At the conclusion of the twenty-four-hour period, Payne began to feel connected and in sync with God. He found that the private time allowed him to focus and re-center on his Heavenly Father and helped hear His direction about how to pastor through this unexpected time of illness.

The Third Key: Honesty

Although unprepared and caught off guard by the kidney cancer. Payne attempted to keep his circumstances from reflecting on his congregation and community in a negative way. He prioritized complete transparency about the state of his situation. While walking in faith, he did not conceal the anxiety or fear involved; rather, he used his situation as sermon illustrations about the dark moments. Off the platform, he took time to care for himself. Self-care during kidney cancer involved clearing his schedule as much as possible, taking time away, and additional rest. This gave others in the church the opportunity to expand their involvement through volunteer and leadership roles. He learned to humbly received the support for he and his wife needed.

A Conclusion

Since November of 2017, Payne has learned many skills to pass on to others regarding pastoring though illness. The straining and anxious time made him a stronger leader, a stronger prayer warrior, and a stronger witness to share the goodness of God. Payne’s biggest life message declares of God’s goodness; after months of battling state three kidney cancer and being on the edge of stage five kidney disease, he recently received the report that his kidney function has radically improved over the last two years. Though his kidney disease currently remains at stage three, Payne can officially mark February 2020 as two years of being cancer free!

“I once heard someone say, you will attract people because of your strengths but you will connect with people over your weaknesses.” – Pastor Chad Payne

Payne has found this attraction connecting with the other generations. If young people come to believe the reality of Christ, Payne believes his illness removes the superhuman model some would see on the platform. Instead, he worked to convey a real image of Christ by presenting himself as a normal person on and off the stage; laughing at himself, talking about his struggles, and attempting not to take himself too seriously.

Being honest with himself and others, praying through the process, and accepting support from those that care, Payne displayed how to continue pastoring in the midst of illness and found peace in the fact that no matter the circumstance, God’s children always find shelter and peace in the arms of their Father. That is where they belong.

Reflective Engagement:

  1. How can you accept support and care from others in timers of challenge?
  2. Who do you have that provides support for you? How do you show them your appreciation?
  3. Who in your sphere of life needs your support and authentic sacrificial love?
  4. When have you prayed through the difficult processes you faced? How now can you arrange essential time for prayer?
  5. How can you model authentic responses to current circumstances?
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