The scenario is along these lines:
- The church has a pastor who serves for x number of years. Everything is fine with a pastor in place because we are truly a church when we have our “king” in place.
- This man comes to the end of his ministry or dies.
- The church is left without a pastor and now things are really pitiful. We are now in the “interregnum”. We are not a proper church without our pastor. And we are oh so inadequate. We have preachers to fill in from other churches. And we appreciate them. However, we are not really a proper church because we have got no pastor.
- So we strive to get our new king.
- Finally he arrives and what a day it is, we now have our new pastor. Of course, this means we are a proper church again. So we have this great celebration. Everybody says how brave we were getting through the interregnum. The history of the call is outlined. There’s a message to the church and to the pastor and everybody has a nice tea. We are all now looking ahead optimistically to a great new epoch in the life of the church.
What are we to make of this? I believe in the need of church leadership. I believe in the need to have those in church leadership suitably gifted to preach the Word of God. Such people are essential for the ongoing life of the church. However, the great reservation I have is about having this leadership bound up in one man. This model just does not seem to reflect the model of the New Testament. Let us see what Paul says about the workings of vital church life in Ephesians 4:11-16:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The image here is that of a body functioning together. Those in leadership facilitate the proper functioning of the body. Every part of the body is working together for the glory of God. So I conclude with the observations:
- The church does not need to stop functioning when the pastor is taken away. The church should still be operating to the glory of God with the rest of the leadership which has been instituted in the church.
- The pastor should be working to build up others in leadership to work alongside him and ultimately to replace him so that the concept of the “interregnum” becomes redundant.
- The church can welcome a new leader from outside, but does not view him as the panacea to solve all their problems.
- Is it not better to celebrate what has been done at the end of a ministry, rather than have these big induction services. Should not induction services focus more upon being between the church themselves?