I’ve become the old hand in youth ministry in my local context. At age 30, having been in full time youth ministry for the past 7 years I’ve become the seasoned vet, the father figure, the sage-like rock of knowledge. This has all happened at 30. Looking around I would wager that it has very little to do with my skills, giftedness or intelligence and much more to do with all of the holes and voids left by all the people who have left over the years.
This breaks my heart.
I remember being young, getting ready to go to college for youth ministry, talking about changing the world for Jesus. We had big plans. We were going to be different than our predecessors; we were going to aggressively further the Kingdom no matter what….
And then almost everybody quit.
There were various reasons that this happened. Some of them seemed good, logical and fair, others were downright tragic, sinful and abhorrent. Regardless of the why, I am left standing in a world full of gaps, plugging holes with rookies and newbies, trying to keep this thing afloat.
My mind constantly travels back to a scene from the acclaimed graphic novel, “Watchmen” where two heroes are talking, one of them, Rorschach a hardened, angry hero who has never given up his pursuit of justice (albeit flagrant vigilantism) and the retired Nite-Owl who has distanced himself from crime fighting to take up a life of comfort and conformity (to be fair, the government told the heroes that they had to cease and desist, not unlike the mandate that will most likely come down against Christian ministries in the next 20-30 years).
The paths of these two cross again due to the death of one of their mutual associates. Nite-Owl nervously asks Rorschach “Whatever happened to those times?” The answer the retiree receives shakes him to his core.
Rorschach disappears into the night as he strives to make a difference in this chaotic world.
If I’m honest, this is how I feel most of the time. As a grizzled, bitter hero who never gave up the childhood ideals that we could bring about change, that we could make a difference. There have been trails, sacrifices being made; I’ve made some ludicrous decisions that have allowed me to stay in ministry of some sort and I’m crazy enough to wonder why other people refuse to do likewise.
If you know anything about Rorschach, he’s anything but a well adjusted balanced individual. But he never gave up. There’s something deeply admirable, noble and true to his character.
I have heard people say “Ministry was for a season” “God will raise up other leaders” “Some programs just have to die” and to be honest I get sick to my stomach when I hear those things.
Maybe God wants you to fight. Or maybe I’m crazy.
I’ll just disappear into the shadows and let you reminisce about the “Good Old Days” while I go try to change the world, even if it’s impossible, even if it kills me.
This is probably how Elijah felt most days.