I’ve grown up in church. Through the years I had many people come in and out of my life. Mainly Sunday school teachers but a few pastors and youth pastors were involved in my spiritual growth. The majority of my Sunday school teachers help me discover what a Christian life looks like. One of my Sunday school teachers would always ask how my week went. He would pray for me and occasionally call me. Another teacher would get me involved in what was taking place during the teaching time. He would do some crazy things just to get a laugh and to help student loosen up. I had another teacher who helped me understand the Bible without me feeling stupid. He would teach in a way that took complex passages and helped middle school students understand what the Bible was saying.
The first youth pastor that entered my life influenced my thoughts about youth ministry. He accepted me for who I was. That was a great thing considering I was going through puberty which is almost like being water boarded every single day of your life. Although he was only with us just a few short months during the summer, he still had an impact on my life. I remember reading a comic strip he had posted on his office door. It read, “Today’s trouble maker is tomorrows youth pastor.” My thoughts were “Yeah, right. Like that’s going to happen.” I was going through a period that most youth do when they or 12, 13, or 14—that “I’m too cool for school” logic. I would go on youth trips with my well maintained mullet, my walkman blaring Black Sabbath, Stryper, and Guns-n-Roses and a jean jacket with all these tiny buttons with different rock bands on them (children of the late 80’s, early 90’s, you know what I’m talking about). Most youth pastors would run. He didn’t nor did he condemn me. I knew I wasn’t listening to godly music (except Stryper which is the golden standard of all godly music) but he was more concerned with developing a relationship with me. He won my respect when we were heading to Carowinds amusement park and he sat next to me on the bus. He asked what I was listening to and proceeded to remove my headphones and started head banging to Iron Man. I was so afraid that he would fuss at me. He didn’t, he began a conversation that started out with him telling me about how he use to listen to Black Sabbath when he was a teenager. He found a common ground that allowed me to become vulnerable. He began something that would eventually change my life. Sadly, he was only involved in my life for a short amount of time. He was in Seminary and had to leave us to go back to school.
I was surrounded by great people who loved God. A lot of people developed relationships with me. But something was lacking in my life. During that time I was not a Christian. I was taught the right things. I memorized a lot of scripture. I always gave the right answer. I participated in numerous activities at church. I did all of this as a lost person who was in desperate need of Jesus. There was only one time I can remember that I was ever asked if I was a Christian. Other than that, everyone assumed that I was. My family was all believers so surly I was.
Ok, I’m about to get honest with you. I graduated in 1993. Yep, I’m getting some age on me. However, I did not know the huge changes that were going to be taking place in my life. For the first time I could remember, my church hired a full-time youth pastor. At that time we had an associate pastor who oversaw the education of the church and we had a senior pastor, Brother Danny Settle, the coolest duck-dynasty like pastor I’ve ever met. Through the recommendation of the search committee and the approval of the pastors, Jeff Turner became our youth pastor. Little did I know the role he would have in my life? I had just graduated from high school when he came onboard. My thoughts were that he would not have any effect on my life. I’m a college student; he’s a youth pastor. Now what?
Just like my first youth pastor, Jeff sought me out without condemnation and judgment. In his own words he said that his first impression of me was that of an overweight person that was clueless and had about enough bible knowledge to be dangerous. I think there was more to that than I remember but you know what; he hit the nail on the head. He had me pegged right away. However, instead of turning away, he did something that I had never experienced before. He began to disciple me. The only concept of discipleship I had was a class on Sunday evenings from 5:30pm-6:30pm. Most of the time our curriculum was the Survival Kit for New Christians or some other lesson about new believers. Jeff was different. He spent one-on-one time with me SHOWING me how a believer lives out their faith. This was something radical in my life. Little did I know that the time I spent with Jeff would eventually spill over into my philosophy of ministry years later.
In a few days, I will finish this story. We will view together what the scripture says about authentic discipleship and the role it plays in the life of a believer.