There’s Nothing Better Than This Life: A Letter from a Senior Pastor

October 5th, 2009

One of the tougher aspects of ministry is perspective. Measuring our efforts, using our time well, understanding the need of the moment and the month—these are complex disciplines. For those like yourself who have committed to live “in the loaf,” it’s not optional to get these practices under control. It’s true that what we leave behind is the real measure of any ministry, but it’s equally true that those who leave something behind are those who live intentionally and with the future in mind. We are those who must measure moments, minutes, and millenniums. If we don’t learn these traits, we either endure with misery or leave the vocation all together.

As you wander through this short desert stretch, remember a few things:

First, remember that your vocation is unique. You are concerned for youths on a level that few people share. You are also in ministry. All of your efforts are for a Person, not a product. Ethics are not optional—you can lose your vocation for immoral behavior. You cannot afford a bad reputation, but neither do you want “all men to speak well of you.” You are to be more than just a good person. Kids gain very practical advice from you, and the majority would call this a good thing. Still, you raise a minority voice with your invitation to take up a cross and follow Jesus. People love to see you, but you are also a threat. They find great affirmation in your friendship, but they also hope you won’t ask too many questions. You are clearly included in the fold of their families, but because of the peculiar love that arises in overseers, you will always live on the edge of the circle.

There’s nothing normal about this life, nothing predictable about this life. It might also be argued that there’s nothing better than this life.

Your time here has been dramatic for you and the church, but maybe not in the ways you appreciate. For example, you weren’t able to struggle then like you struggle today. As one goes on with Jesus, the deserts get very real and serve as honest threats to your productivity. The stakes get higher, and God does not have to win. He knows this, but he still sends you out to be tested—just as the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tested. But he can send you to desert sites today that wouldn’t have fed you before.

Perhaps this is the real measure of your time here: You are finding yourself in Gethsemane. And as far as I know my Bible, Gethsemane always precedes God’s power. The circumstances of your life are more and less than what you think; you are the real target of grace. Your faithfulness will always be a central tenant to the youth ministry of the church, so let it be one of the roadmarks along the way.

Much of the drama has been evidenced in the kids, of course. We’ll never know all that transpired because of your care. We’ll never know how many kids stayed home, said “no,” worked harder, prayed more, respected themselves, saved their lives, and even lost their lives for the sake of the gospel—all because of your presence. The kids won’t share this with you, but the great absences are critical issues in kids. Because you are there, so much is not there. Through the years—as the kids feel free to be more honest—testimonies of this sort will drift back to you. In the meantime, believe that it’s occurring! The youth ministry serves these kids as a reason for faith, selflessness, and even greatness. They need this. They have all the voices for indulgence they need. This time creates in them a balance that they will one day want to reproduce as adults. These are the high times spiritually, and they will search for these times as models for feeling and action in the years to come.

I would add a note about the church, too. You have been the catalyst for youth ministry beyond the vision of this generation of church folk. Much of their silence and seeming absence from the scene is their pure confusion: They have never done youth work this way! Oh the activities are not that far off—but the stream from which they fish has changed. The fish you’re casting for hardly look like the fish they caught through the years. The tackle has changed, the fish have changed, and the quiet of fishing has been swallowed up by guitars!

Despite the change, this church has been energized in a great way. It takes pride in you. This is what all churches want to feel toward their ministers. Don’t underestimate this.

The presence of youths gives them hope for this church’s future. This is what all churches want to feel. Don’t underestimate this.

The people in our church know that you understand life on a level they don’t, and this is what all churches want to feel about their ministries. Don’t underestimate this.

You are a sign of God’s favor. You may not fully understand this, but it is true and deep.

The years ahead will get better and harder. And that is good news, I think. Be strong, friend. You are where you should be, and all that God is doing is exactly what he wants to be doing. He isn’t upset or worrying. God is simply loving you in a new way. It may feel strange at the moment, but you’ll get used to it.



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