Thursday, October 13, 2005

UPS AND DOWNS VS. IF... THEN

UP: Phone calls from former students who keep on loving Jesus.

DOWN: My phone ringing and e-mail chiming with messages of and from friends, both young and old, who for a moment -or for good- are choosing to put Jesus in a box in the attic along with other things they once thought they loved and displayed prominantly in their lives.

LATELY: More reports of down than up by about 3 to 1.

SO I BREW: The hit and miss of youth ministry and the seemingly inability after over a decade of pouring my blood and sweat and tears into it to make a lasting difference, makes me wonder... it makes me question... it makes me feel like a failure some day. Other days I feel like a swimmer headed up stream and making little progress on an river that is rushing harder and faster for the cliff behind me. So what do I do?

OPTION 1: BLAME GAME. Someone is to blame. There must be a reason. Bad parenting. Sucky youth pastor. Poor friendships. Lack of ownership of truth. The media and music. Somewhere, somehow, there must be someone to blame. Most of the time I want to point the finger at the man in the mirror and think I could have and should have done more. A call comes from someone who says, "I know you're far from this situation now, but I also know you poured a lot of time and energy in to so and so and I thought you'd want to know this is the story today.... yatta yatta." I then call or e-mail to hear the truth from the horses mouth... sure enough. Yatta yatta ain't good and Jesus is in the attic in a box to be dusted off one day or forgotten for good... time will tell I guess. So, I blame myself for my own mistakes, for other's mistakes, and for a failure to seem to have a lasting impact in others and enough personal discipline to employ them myself.

OPTION 2: QUIT. Decide I suck at being a youth pastor and the evidence around me proves it. Start digging ditches for a living where the only thing I have to watch out for is gas lines and water mains. I tried this option once (not the ditch digging but the quitting part). God wouldn't let me. Most days I thank him for that... some days we have a "chat" about it.

OPTION 3: RETHINK THE IF/THEN THEORIES. Rethink the idea that there is a formula. I want there to be a clear "if/then" clause in Scripture. I want there to be like 100 of them. If I love students, then they'll love Jesus. If I love my wife, then marriage will be happy all the time. If I love my kids, then they'll grow up to love me. If I love my God, then serving him at the church will be a great experience. But near as I can tell there are just a few really.
Here's one: Romans 10:9-10 "That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." That's amazing and I'm glad salvation is a promise... but I want there to be an "if/then" for everything- not just the end product. However, more often than not, it seems like I'm told, "if/then/maybe" or "if/then/more likely". If I eat right and excercise more then I'm more likely to have a healthy heart and avoid a heart attack..... but no guarantees. If I teach students the truth about sex and alcohol and lies and hope, then maybe they will decide to trust Jesus with their activities and obey him.
Here's another if then fact we don't often trumpet in the church and perhaps is why so many chuck the faith... cuz it just isn't always fun to love God in a culture that does not. Jesus said to his disciples in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I know it doesn't say "if" or "then", but basically it does. It says, if you love God, then you will have trouble and receive peace. Not 2 points of a message people sign up for much. 1. Trouble. 2. Peace. In fact the first one evidently is enough to get believers to chuck Jesus before he can give the second.

CONCLUSION; Quitting won't fix it. Ie: If I quit then more students will live for Jesus. (Lord I hope not). Blame game won't work. If I blame so and so, then the problem will get better. Wrong again. My only option appears to be Rethink. Rethink faith and trust and hope and what it means to serve God today and love Jesus as best I can. Accept his grace for my failures. Trust that God is not finished working in or through me and pray that somehow, some way, the seeds of his grace and truth and mercy I try and plant in and through youth minstry find a few fertile hearts to grow abundantly in Him. To this I press on.... I think.

3 comments:

Anonymous,  2:38 PM  

be comforted brother.

IF the Lord truly has saved them, THEN they will return.

IF they are in the Lord's flock, THEN they will not be snatched from His hand.

IF they are not saved, and living a life contrary to the Gospel, THEN we still have today to ask them to consider repentace and faith.


IF we believe God is sovereign in calling His children, THEN we can rest in peace as we take out part in spreading His glory by the Gospel.

Praying for your ministry.

Brooke Smith 11:02 AM  

thank you for sharing your thoughts...it is always nice to know one is not alone in these struggles...thanks for sharing some options as well...lots of times i just want to give up...but then, i realize that is not the way to go...so thank you again for your honesty and openness...

brooke :)

peter,  6:25 PM  

just do your best in the here and now. if you make the best of each moment (and give them all to God), nothing else will be a concern.

but do know that you have had a HUGE impact on my life, and my spiritual life.

know that i am very uncertian of where i would be had i not been recieved into the loving arms awaiting me at PH 7 years ago.

i love you man.

keep on keepin on.

p.s. stand up for your rice

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Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

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