Roughly one decade ago, God was doing some really cool stuff in our area. He was unifying the local body of Christ through the most unlikely of sources–youth ministries! He had several other youth pastors and I meeting monthly to pray, fellowship, plan events and learn ministry together. It seemed like oftentimes I was also learning lessons about life as well. Many strong bonds were built in the midst of lock-ins, youth rallies and revivals. There was a pretty solid core of at least 4 brothers who were all invested in the lives of young hearts and minds across Roane County.
Tonight, I crossed paths with one of those brothers. He was always a stronger, wiser older brother that I could confide in, get advice from and even catch a couple laughs with anytime we would get together. His small children are now all grown up, with the youngest close to her high school graduation!
As we reminisced about the good ol’ days we mentioned an old youth pastor friend we both worked with. It was heartbreaking for me to explain that our friend had since fallen out of ministry and into the clutches of drugs and substance abuse. I started thinking about another good friend we had shared who was financially ‘burned’ from the church that he served at, and has begun calling himself the ‘high priest of the unholy’ and the ‘irreverant reverand.’ It breaks my heart to see how a church could hurt someone so much that he turned from a great leader in his community, to become disgusted at the thought of ‘church.’
And then my friend began explaining to me how he too had been burned by the church he began serving at. After questioning God’s purpose for calling him into that situation, he left the ministry. I was relieved to hear about the new church he now attends, where he says he is going through a time of healing. I was so relieved to hear how he still trusts God to restore the broken pieces that a church inflicted upon his family. I wish I could take his pain away. I wish he never had to go through that. I wish our churches were more fundamentally mature.
What was such an exciting reunion quickly turned to humble reflection, and a somber revelation of a tremendous failure within our present day American churches. Our leadership is far too often left hanging out to dry. With the lack of steady accountability and mentorship, it shouldn’t be so surprising.
I’m not sure why God has placed me where He has me, or why God has blessed me with so much grace and mercy that I’m still there, but as I was studying in my quiet time today, I read a verse that hit me pretty hard in Joshua 11. Joshua was the predecessor of Moses, and was left to finish many of the things Moses never finished. Even though Moses was one of the greatest patriarchs of our faith, he still left many things that God had commanded him to achieve incomplete. So Joshua stood up to the task, and is said in verse 15 to have left nothing undone of all that God had commanded him.
I want to be like Joshua.
I also want to see my brothers and sisters who are co-slaves to the gospel to understand that someone truly does understand. I wish our churches weren’t so unorganized and unconcerned that so many amazing people have to deal with so many heartbreaking issues. It’s a refreshed focus of an old conviction I’ve always held that churches need change. I want to be like Joshua and not miss anything God is telling me.
Our churches may have miserably failed you, but please remember that through everything you’ve gone through, given up, left behind and missed out on that…
God, and God alone is faithful.
The good may die young, but never forget that someday the last shall also be first, and the battles you are in right now are being fought by a Mighty Warrior. (Jeremiah 20:11)