Do all ministers encounter ghosts in their ministry?
I was a youth pastor at one church for almost seven years. Kids who were sixth graders when I arrived were entering college when I left. I went away to be a solo pastor of a small church for almost four years. In a twist of fate or providence, I now find myself back at the church where I once served as youth pastor–now an associate pastor of youth and adults. Kids who were second graders when I first arrived, almost ten years ago, now will graduate and enter college in the fall.
So, I encounter ghosts everywhere I turn.
I see hand prints on the walls we painted back about nine years ago, and I can still see one of the guys dipping his hand in paint and placing it on the wall. This guy has now graduated college and is part owner of a restaurant chain. When we’re in the youth house, I can remember how the planning and renovation process transpired that created such a cool space for the kids. I can see my youth advisor, who was a contractor by trade, there plotting and planning ways to overcome some load-bearing wall issues. When we’re watching movies or having a Super Bowl party now, I can remember how cool we all felt to have our own space back then and can see, as I look around the room, the faces of those former youth who are now finishing college, married with children, or starting to make headway in their careers. Even outside the church setting, I remember the guy I was and the ways I thought before. It’s as though the air, the places, the buildings all have a consciousness that collects and records moments past.
Ghosts. My ghosts are easy to identify. My guess is, though, one doesn’t have to go back home, so to speak, to hear and see ghosts. Maybe these ghosts are always wandering around our ministries.
Ministry (honest ministry?) requires us to, first, be able to recognize these ghosts or, at the very least, admit they exist and, second, resolve within ourselves not to get attached to these ghosts. Ghosts should, indeed, be honored and celebrated. But, remember, ghosts are dead. Attaching ourselves to ghosts will not bring new life; and, if ministry is about anything, it has to be about new life, right?
Some people believe we live in a space and time that exists simultaneously with other spaces and times, whether that manifests in the spiritual realm or the quantum realm of multiple universes. There’re also the ghosts of our memories. Regardless, chasing any of these ghosts or attaching ourselves to them only ends in disappointment. We can never re-create used-up moments or live outside of the moment in which we find ourselves now.
I guess, in the midst of these wandering ghosts, we minister through the noise; and, we learn to be open to God’s new thing at each and every instant (Mark 2.18-22).