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April 26, 2008

A Place Called the Wilderness

It seemed like there were a number of years in my life where I was finally out of Egypt and hadn't yet made it to Canaan. There were pretty crazy times, and even thought it wasn't close to the same situation, I probably felt like the Israelites wandering in the desert. Is this going to work out in the end? Why did God bring me here just to let me die wandering aimlessly? Sometimes I even amaze myself to see how much Christ can do to change my life with the minute amount of effort I actually put into my relationship with Him, but then start to have doubts when even the slightest of things goes wrong.

I've been a youth pastor at Emmaus Road church for about three years now. I don't have a single doubt that God called me there to serve in this capacity, but after all this time, I really wonder if I've made a single dent in the lives of the students. It's been a real struggle to maintain myself as the "cool" youth pastor who also keeps things on task and stuff. If I'm really being honest, there are times when I can't seem to get any control of a meeting to save my life and I just want to slam down my Bible and tell them if it doesn't make a difference what God wants me to teach, then I'm out of here. I know that is the wrong call though and I stick with it.

Lately, it really feels like the group has taken this major turn from being concerned with learning about Christ or being a better example to the people around them. The new direction seems to involve the whole idea that it is about ME! If I'm not hearing the lessons I want, I don't show up. If there is someone there this week who I find annoying, I don't show up. If I choose to hang out with friends or my girlfriend, the guys won't mind - I'm not showing up. It feels as thought I've hit a brick wall where I don't know how to get the kids past the idea that there is more to life than the present situation and help them learn to desire to spend time with other Godly guys who will challenge them and help them to fall in love with the person of Jesus. It has to be about the relationship and not just getting head knowledge, hanging out with friends, or doing the "Christian" thing.

Emmaus has only been around since 2002 and this will be the first year we've had students graduate out of the ministry. It is causing me to contemplate in ways that I've not had to before because I can see the finish line for these kids. If they haven't had a solid foundation built and don't really love Jesus, the odds tell us they will fall away. I desire so badly for these kids to get it right the first time around that, at times, it makes me cry. We all love to hear the testimony about how jacked up someone was and how God changed their life and all, but I want these kids to be able to stand up and say, "I gave my life to Jesus when I was 14 and never looked back." It doesn't get much better than that, and I'm scared I'm not doing enough to help that happen. I'm sure all people in ministry go through it, but it doesn't make it easier.