I was a young youth pastor in Augusta, GA, doing my best to train a group of kids to reach out to others. Granted – some of my ideas met resistance (imagine that!), and the culture there turned out to be very different than what was actually communicated to me at the beginning. However, I figured everyone wanted to obey the Great Commission and make disciples, so that’s what I set out to do – make disciples who would make disciples!
But disciplemaking is a messy business. And when crowds of kids getting saved started upsetting church traditions, routines and comfort zones, I found that the elephant in the room can be a mighty big creature to take down, even one bite at a time.
For instance, one day I was asked to promote a special speaker we were having – Let’s call him “Joe Miles” – by advertising his appearance on our church sign. After posting the sign letter by letter, which read “Come hear Joe Miles this Wednesday,” I asked our pastor’s secretary, “Do you need any help hosting Joe’s visit?”
“No,” she said, “he’s not really speaking here live. We’re just going to play a video of his message.”
Hearing that, I politely inquired of our pastor about the sign and if he wanted a different reading. The answer? “Of course not! It might actually make some folks not attend.”
Things like that just didn’t settle well with me. It seemed like an obvious untruth, yet no one seemed too worried about it. Still, my actions regarding discipemaking – biblical evangelism – were dissected and evaluated weekly. And if anything I did with kids brought accidental damage to the church sanctuary or unintentionally dirtied up the church vehicle or inadvertently caused schedule conflicts with the existing dead, dry ministries, I was brought in for a verbal lashing.
So you can imagine my surprise and shock when, one day at staff meeting, the Pastor’s wife looked at me, pointed her finger, and said, “You’re taking our youth down the wrong road!” Whoa! Sure enough, that was the feeling of most everyone in the room. And sure enough, that began a discussion about why I didn’t really fit.
As I left the meeting, I was curious why promotional untruths were okay, but honest, messy disciplemaking was out of line. And as I thought about that the rest of the evening, I actually agreed – I didn’t fit! Unfortunately, my departure, though polite, was political. And I left Augusta silently.
Looking back, I am so thankful my mouth had invisible duct tape across it. Though I didn’t understand a lot about that situation then, I’ve come to learn that God was working on a larger plan and from a bigger perspective. And the quieter I kept the quicker he could work. Yes, what seemed like human inequity in action was actually divine sovereignty in motion.