Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Friday, September 2, 2016

Soul Blisters

During my youth ministry days there were many uncomfortable moments.

My first was the first morning I taught the Junior High/Senior High Sunday School class.  I was still in Bible College at the time, relatively young, and during the night a giant zit had emerged just beside my nose and just below the frame of my glasses.  It was physically impossible for the Junior High guys NOT to say something about the zit.  But they could have at least let me pretend to get through the lesson first.  The comments, stares and pointing fingers continued through the worship service that followed.  Good times.

Many times passed between that and the time I noticed a couple had “disappeared” during a youth lock-in.  Not in Bible College any more, it was my full-time gig and new missing kids never ends well.  I left a couple other leaders in charge and started checking behind the closed doors of Sunday School classrooms all over the building.  This led to awkward and uncomfortable moment #927 when I caught the young couple in flagrante delicto. Sadly, I was more embarrassed than they were. The times they were a changin’.

The truly uncomfortable moment I want to tell you about though happened during my last youth ministry.  We had a pretty cool youth ministry, incorporating video into our gatherings, real cutting edge, paradigm shifting kind of stuff.  This particular night, we were watching a video by Carman, the Italian-American rap “artist.” In this particular video, in true, dramatic Carman fashion, his character was saved at the last minute from martyrdom and some seriously kick-butt, Frank Peretti style – angels came to his rescue.  The kids were cheering, reacting just the way they were supposed to and then the uncomfortableness came when one of my adult leaders casually said to the cheering kids, “You know, in real life, hundreds of Christians had their heads cut off, were burned at the stake, thrown to lions and torn into pieces and there weren’t any angels that came in to save them at the last second.”


Thus ended my chance for the altar call to end all altar calls that usually started with talk of destiny and ended with a story about a close friend dying in a car accident on their way home from youth group without ever making a decision to follow Jesus. Cue tears, cue raised hands, cue inspirational “fight song” style worship song to send kids back to school to be overcomers.


But the truth is that all those young people were given the gift of a liminal moment that night.  A chance to cross the line between immature and mature faith. A chance to move beyond the God who protects us from the lions and tigers and bears, oh my! And to move forward with the God who sometimes walks with us into the lion’s jaws. A chance to grow past the God of my indestructible youth to the God who “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”  A chance to let go of the bedtime story God who manages my portfolio for the highest possible dividends and embrace the God who may be pleased to let my business crash and go bust because He’s more interested in giving me something far more precious than success and wealth.

Downer.  These are not the platitudes with which you gather crowds, build ministries or secure air time.

Out of 13 Apostles, 12 were martyred and 1 was exiled.  I’m thankful for the great men of faith today who have figured out that these early believers got it wrong.  That, in fact, God wants me to have my best life now.  Who have helped me see that if walk faithfully with God (which includes my tithe to the local church) that I am guaranteed good things from God, protection from burly angels who have been working out, and that no evil will touch me.  God’s finally stopped letting us be slaughtered and started guaranteeing our parking spaces. I’m not sure when God switched this up but I’m glad to be living on this side of it.

But what if the reality of our journey with God is that He hasn’t really changed nor have His ways and plans changed?  What if God’s priority is still transformation, redemption and a relationship not for my purposes, but for His? What if I’m not David and my problems aren’t Goliath and following God doesn’t guarantee me a long life or one that could even remotely be called successful by the people who put people on the covers of magazines or elect them to be president of something? What if God is really all about delighting in some obscure nun who dies at 24 from tuberculosis and can only contribute something insignificant to the world called, “the little way”?

What if our journey is less about getting pumped up to face another week and more about a long obedience in the same direction?


  1. Long obedience in the same direction sounds like a good band name.
    I think you did well to create a community where kids like me could ask questions where other communities were just asking us to be quiet and be good.