As mentioned in the previous blog, this series of posts stems from a sermon that was delivered recently by a dear friend of mine. During this sermon, the pastor asked the congregation to review the work of God in their lives during the past decade, which was completed in the first post. Secondly, he asked the congregation to review this past year in their lives, the manner that God had worked, and what implications this holds for the upcoming year. This particular blog will focus solely upon this past year in my life and the life of my family.
As this year started, it was one filled with anticipation, excited, and joy. We were beginning what would be our third year at a church where we were able to minister to an amazing group of students, work with incredible volunteers, and be a part of a loving staff. In January, we implemented a small group ministry in our student ministry for two reasons. First, we desired to focus upon a relational approach to ministry, which was easier to accomplish in a small group setting. Secondly, we volunteered to be guinea pigs for the remainder of the church who desired to start small groups in the fall of 2009. The implementation of this ministry seemed to carry a great deal of potential as we began to witness more students coming through our doors and a series of strong relationships being developed throughout the ministry.
As the year progressed, several wonderful highlights took place in the ministry and well as difficulties. Rather than merely focus upon the positives of the ministry, our volunteer team chose to tackle the difficult issues head-on, which was not always the most peaceful or easy route to take. By traveling down this path however a more beneficial ministry was established for our students. During this time we witnessed amazing growth in our students spiritually, we watched a true servant’s heart develop through a mission’s trip in the local area, saw several students stretched through a challenging week at camp, and witnessed deep spiritual relationships occur through our weekly programming.
While I am painting a wonderful picture of ministry that many youth pastors dream of, there was something unsettling in my stomach through all of this. It was that strange feeling that you get when you know something is not right, but you push through anyway because everything else looks so good. The events that transpired during this past fall drastically altered my personal view of the church and those who guide and direct it. I would like to be perfectly clear here and state that this is not an attempt to ridicule or write negative things about individuals in this church, but merely a statement of my interpretation of the events that transpired. During the past four months, my family has endured a great deal of speculation and hurt from the story not being told truthfully because of “confidential reasons.” Well after a great deal of self-examination, I feel that it is important for others to learn from my mistakes and hopefully glean from the insights that I have gained. In the early fall of 2009, I was made aware of a disagreement that a few people had with a practice we were utilizing in our ministry. While this practice was not contrary to the teachings of Scripture and did not endanger any teenagers, I was told my job was in jeopardy. I was told that my job was in jeopardy but I could not discuss it with anyone. Despite attempting to appear unfazed by this news during the departure of a dear fellow pastor, those close to me knew something was wrong. In just a matter of six days, I went from a youth pastor celebrating a wonderful ministry to an unemployed person seeking to provide for his family. While the decisions that followed my termination and the manner in which it was handled, along with the reasons provided (which are still being shared as “confidential” even to me) have caused a great deal of pain I decided to seek to glean insights from this situation. While I would like to say this has been an easy task it has not, as the unfavorable actions of a few have forever tainted the view of the church in the eyes of several people who once called this church home. Author Charles Spurgeon once said, “Fiery trials make golden Christians,” and if we were to put this into practice many people would be far better off. By examining the difficult situations that life provides us, we are reminded of a God who loves us deeply and cares for us intimately. With this in mind, along with the thoughts of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “When a man is pushed, tormented, defeated he has a chance to learn something,” the following are insights that I have gained from this challenging time in my life.
1.) God is ALWAYS in control even when we do not think so.
2.) Trusting in His peace and grace will enrich our lives far more than doing something we do not love for a paycheck.
3.) My family is and should always be my second highest priority, behind my personal relationship with God. Author George Santayana states, “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” May we all remember the importance of family in our lives.
4.) Being at peace with God is far more important than being “liked” by man.
5.) “Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity a greater.” (William Hazlitt)
6.) Seek to repay evil with good, rather than evil for evil because by doing this your character and heart shine through, which hopefully resembles the heart of Christ.
As I reexamine this past year it has been one filled with adversity due to the loss of my job as a youth pastor. With this loss, not only did the sole source of income in my family cease but we also lost our house due to it being owned by the church where I was employed. Despite the heartache and the poor treatment that was issued to my family, we are still continually and daily praying for this church. We desire to see the ministry continue and witness God working in the lives of His children. We are praying for the leadership of this church that it would be a staff guided by God, and not the selfish desires of man. We are praying for healing for the students, families and the members of the congregation who were affected by this termination. While we do not agree with the termination or that manner in which it was handled we will continue to hold our heads high seeking God’s approval and trust in His guidance for our future. While this time has been extremely challenging for our family I am reminded of the words of Henry Ward Beecher who said, “Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”
May you cling to the handle of faith during this upcoming year and throughout the rest of your life.