Carol Penner went into ministry to be a “humble tool in God’s tool box—to preach, go to meetings and love people,” like the hammer she brought to the lectern with her. “But,” she said during her address to the annual Conrad Grebel University College pastors breakfast on Nov. 1, 2016, “the church is in a different space now.”
According to her, the church is currently an anxious place, and there are higher expectations on pastors. Pastors, she said, “have felt the pressure to be something spectacular, to be the ‘uberpastor,’ to be the perfect pastor for the perfect church of the future . . . that we should have specialized skills. . . . [A]nxiety is often cast at the feet, or on the head, of the pastor.”
As a pastor, she said she has felt unequal to the task and calling that the church presents to her.
But with humour and deep honesty, Penner, now an assistant professor of theological studies and coordinator of applied studies at Grebel, encouraged pastors to trust that the church belongs to God, and that no matter what is happening now there will be a church in the future. What pastors need to remember, she said, is that “a pastor cannot transform the church,” but “God can work a miracle in you so that you are the pastor the congregation needs.”
The pastor’s task is “to love the church,” she said. “And because we love the church, we embrace the task of equipping ourselves for ministry through prayer, through attentiveness to the people we serve, through careful study of the Bible and our times. . . . We equip ourselves not because we fear that time is running out and we have to frantically do something or the church will die, but we equip ourselves because we know that God is doing something great, and we are the tools God will use to do it.”
Hammering gently on the lectern, she concluded, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s the hand of God knocking, hammering, beating in our hearts, every minute of every day.”