The induction, or installation, of a new pastor is a day to celebrate not only leadership in the church, but an occasion to review the role and function of the relationship between pastor, people and God.
Recently I was elected as “Dean” of the Ottawa/St Lawrence Conference. I have spent some time reviewing and reflecting on leadership, as a result. The jokes in comparison to ‘Dean Martin’ are interesting. I may be too young to appreciate the entertainment of ‘King Cool’ — member of the infamous ‘rat pack’. But I am old enough to remember watching the original, iconic Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd film ‘Ghostbusters’.
A nerdy tween in the early 1980s, I easily got hooked on the catchy theme song whose repetitive mantra was: “Who are you gonna call? — Ghostbusters!” The team would respond to complaints and investigate paranormal activity. Then, they would eliminate any potential threats. If ghosts appeared in someone’s house, “Who are you gonna call? — Ghostbusters!”
Every individual, every family, every community, every nation, every church — has ‘ghosts’ in the closet. And I think the ghostbuster culture has influenced the culture of church leadership today. For example, when there’s a change in pastoral leadership often people expect the new guy or gal to exterminate any proverbial ghosts in the church closet. The new pastor will swoop in, identify all the problems and miraculously make things better. “Who are you gonna call? –A new pastor!”
He or she will use the tools of their trade — their exceptional skill sets at conflict resolution, their managerial and organizational abilities around the council table, their charisma and eloquence in the pulpit, their compassion and listening skills by the hospital bed. When congregations — as they all do — bear the emotional weight of past failures, unrealized dreams or struggle with scars of past conflicts or fears about the future … “Who are you gonna call? — A new pastor!”
Here comes Pastor (fill in the blank) in his flowing robes and swagger! Glorious! “Who are you gonna call? — A new pastor!” Save us!
Well, I hate to break it to you… but I think you know: YOU, and anyone else in this room, are not gonna do it. Because alongside our unrealistic expectations and pressures we place on ourselves to be successful and perfect, is the Word of God which states in no uncertain terms that it is God who will bring to completion the good work begun in us (Philippians 1:6). Alongside our fervor and toil is the Sacrament of the Table whose host is Jesus, reminding us that this thing we do in church is not about us but about God, God’s mission and God’s work in us.
The job of pastor and people working in mutual ministry is to pay attention to what God is doing, and respond honestly and with love to God’s call. We are in this together. Who are we gonna call? Let’s call on God!