On Following Someone Successful
Mark W Johanson - May 24, 2022
The year is 2005. I am a sophomore in high school. Somewhat aware of the proud legacy of my high school’s marching band, and admittedly reluctant to join a marching band altogether, I was invited by my friends to go to the band room to hang out during lunch. Upon entering the room, I was promptly stared down by hundreds of trophies all littered about the room: some in trophy cases, some on shelves, a few on the floor, and still others precariously leaning against the walls. Several were broken, most were more than ten years old, and all of them were covered with a thin layer of dust. The most intimidating were the two large trophies from 1976 and 1978, when the band had won national championships. Placed at the entrance to the room, these trophies almost felt like an idol that I was supposed to genuflect towards upon entering.
As I peruse the room further, looking at band pictures over the years, it quickly becomes apparent that from its inception in 1970 until 1998 when the original director retired, the marching band was strong and vibrant. Further investigation uncovered that when the original director retired, he hadn’t really retired. He still had a desk in the office, seven years after he had “retired”. The director who succeeded the original director had only lasted a few years; the subsequent director after him only a few more. It was clear there had not been a good transition, and the once-mighty marching band now had less than one-fourth of the enrollment in its heyday.
I recall making a promise to myself, that I would never follow anyone successful in a business or organization. I had seen a successful and long-tenured leader—the founding band director—retire, but he hadn’t sufficiently assimilated his successor into the company culture, nor had he allowed the new person to take the reins, and things fell apart shortly thereafter. As I looked for my first job right before graduating from college, I recalled this memory and promised myself that I’d never allow that to happen to me.
So why am I following someone successful now that I’ve taken the position of Minister of Music and Worship at Christ Lutheran Church?
Mark Glaeser has served 32 years at Christ Lutheran and is retiring at the end of this month. Beyond the much-deserved appreciation we’ve shown him for his work at Christ, the greater Lutheran community owes a debt of gratitude to him and his legacy. He has left an indelible mark on the lives of countless individuals, filling them with not only a love for music but also a firm faith and a strong spirit.
I want to share with you a unique perspective about Mark that didn’t get shared on Sunday evening at his retirement party. The remarks made by the speakers could not have summed up Mark’s ministry at Christ more eloquently. But my perspective, working closely with him over the past 2 years, sees Mark from a slightly different angle. Knowing that his retirement was on the horizon, Mark began a rigorous (and sometimes overwhelming) training process with me—interrupted by the unusuality of Covid—to learn all the unique tasks and roles of this position. My fears of following someone successful, imbued in me as a high school band student, began to erode. It was plainly clear that Mark not only knew how to create a successful ministry, he also knew how to hand it off to someone and, as difficult as I know it is, step aside to allow me to find my voice in the position.
The successful ministry Mark built at Christ Lutheran has been a great source of joy for me as a musician, but as a worker in the Kingdom of God, the ability to successfully follow someone successful has been even greater. Thank you, Mark, for your leadership and your willingness to hand off the ministry to the next guy.
In Christ’s service,
-Mark the Younger