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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Are You Satisfied? - Lesson Learned Series


His name was Todd, and he was one of those students that I had been trying to connect with for several months in my new ministry.


I had started my ministry as Student Ministries Pastor at the church in the Fall and had begun building some good relationships with students with whom I had common interests…mostly the jocks… because, until I reached 30 and realized I wasn’t cool anymore (trading my sweet red pickup truck for a mini-van was the final straw). I used to think of myself as an avid sportsman who could talk a good game with the best of them…notice I said “talk”.


Well anyway, the relationship building was going well, the students were excited to have a Youth Pastor and I was equally as excited to minister to them, and had big plans for how we were going to change the world for Jesus through our ministry.

As I was connecting with the students and praying about how God was going to use us, for some reason I kept noticing that Todd wasn’t really joining in. He was there but he was kind of disconnected, almost like he was in his own little world. He wasn’t into the fun stuff we were doing, the dodge ball, basketball, volleyball, weight lifting etc. just wasn’t his thing. He would show up and just take a back seat and observe.


He intrigued me, as I kept thinking that even though the relationships with my fellow “wanna be” athletes was progressing, there was a dimension that we were missing by not engaging with who Todd was and where he was coming from.

I tried to strike up a conversation with him, and it went pretty much like I thought it would…no where. I did find out though that he was into video games, and punk music…hmmm, there’s a starting point I thought to myself.


Now you need to understand something, I like video games as well, but my vast experience with the gaming industry began to slow down when Nintendo 64 hit the scene. Those intense graphics in Super Mario were making me nauseous (I know I’m a wuss), and when I thought of punk music I thought of guys in multi leveled red hats singing “Whip It”. I was out of my league for sure, but there was something about Todd that I wanted to get to know, as if God was saying, “engage him where he’s at, he’s got a lot of potential.”

Well as any good Youth Pastor worth his salt would do I invited Todd to go grab some salad & yogurt after school…Yeah right…It was more like “dude, wanna get some pizza after school?” to which he said “nah, I’m not really into pizza.”WHAT?!” I thought to myself, “you gotta be kidding me”, and just as I was about to say something that would’ve for sure blown any kind of opportunity with this kid (I mean, come on, you can disrespect subs, burgers, maybe even pasta – but not like pizza? I’m sorry - that’s an affront to every thing any self-respecting professional youth pastor believes to be an effective tool in his toolbox. Not like pizza? Give me a break!)


Sorry about that, anyway what he said next was even better than…(just double checking to make sure I really mean what I’m going to say next…) yeah it was, even better than pizza. He said “dude, how about stopping by the house and playing some video games sometime?” Ahah, now we’re getting somewhere. I said “sure, man when would be a good time?” He said “how about now?” God was working for sure. To get an open invitation on the spot like that is almost unheard of in this day and age of planning and scheduling…it was incredible.

Now, I know that some of you are thinking “what’s the big deal, you’re a Youth Pastor, you don’t do anything all day when the students are in school.” To which I would say my favorite line from that great scholar Doug Fields, when he’s been asked that same famous question over the years…”Dude, what do you do all day?” Doug says, (and I’ve adopted it into my repertoire as well) “I pray…for you… all day…and if you’d stop sinning, I’d get more work done!”


Anyway, it was a big deal for me to get that kind of invite. I dropped everything I was doing (proper pizza calculations for the youth event that night, taste testing soda to see if I should purchase styrofoam, paper or plastic cups…you know important Youth Pastor Stuff), to hightail it up to Todd’s house.

I got there in about 10 minutes and as I turned into his driveway, I realized that either I was at the wrong address or Todd was absolutely LOADED (with money, not anything else that connotation might also mean in some circles). The driveway seemed to go on forever, as off in the distance I saw one of the five houses that dotted the property (all 100 acres of it). The main house looked like an English Castle and blew me away. I drove carefully as I kept looking for a draw bridge and a moat.


I parked the…min-van, went up to the front door (which was this ginormous solid oak monstrosity that took 3 butlers to open…kind of). We went in and he showed me around this palatial palace he called home. He was very gracious, almost embarrassed that he lived this way. I caught a glimpse of what I would come to really appreciate about Todd, he was truly humble.

Todd and I started playing some video games, listening to music, hanging out, and for the first time actually talking about stuff. It started when I asked Todd what he was doing on Saturday. You see, we had a missions trip lined up to go feed homeless people in the inner city that day. We had gathered donations to make lunches and hand them out to homeless people that we encountered as we visited various parks and neighborhoods in our city. I will never forget the look that Todd gave me after I invited him to be a part of that trip.


He looked at me as if to say, “Now why would I want to do anything like that? Look around, I’ve got it all.” To which I responded with a “well crafted” retort.” Man, I know you’re probably thinking, ‘why would I want to do that’. I just want you to ask yourself the question, ‘are you satisfied?’”


I know that was a risky thing to say, but I really sensed this guy was tired of all the stuff that the world points to as success. It was just a hunch I had, so I said it.

Todd called me the next day and said he’d be coming on the trip. I was ecstatic. God was working!

The day of the trip came, and we loaded into the church vans and headed to the big city to change the world for Jesus one lunch at a time. It was an awesome day, and as it went on, I noticed that Todd was really getting into it. Then came the moment of truth. the moment that I will always remember as one of my all time favorite memories of youth ministry.


Our guide on the city mission trip was a missionary who was well acquainted with our church and leads missions trips like ours all the time. He is very well known in the city, especially by the homeless community. He is kind of viewed as a modern day Robin Hood (except he doesn’t steal from the rich, he just organizes church groups to help the poor).


Well, he was talking with a homeless guy named Frankie, who was asking him all kinds of questions about Jesus’ love for him. He was very open to everything the missionary was saying. A nice sized group of us had begun to gather around the missionary, and it was so cool to watch him engage this man who had nothing (from the world’s perspective).


The time came, and the missionary ask
ed Frankie if he’d like to receive Christ as his savior, to which Frankie said “Yes I would. What do I have to do?” The missionary looked around the group that had now gathered and said to Todd, “Hey Todd, do you want to explain to Frankie what he needs to do to be saved, and lead him in a salvation prayer?”


I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t think Todd would do it. I knew he was a Christian, but this? Todd looked at me, and then at Frankie and said, “I’d love to!” He proceeded to the center of the circle and explained to Frankie what he needed to do to be saved, then he embraced him with a full hug and led him in prayer!


(Think about it, rich kid who has it all, embraces a homeless guy who has nothing, and leads him into a relationship with Jesus, who gives him what really satisfies). The rest as they say, is history. By the way, at that time, Todd was a freshman in high school. He went on to be one of the driving forces behind many of the future ministry opportunities that we undertook.


Todd answered the question “are you satisfied?” with an honest NO, and went on to be an integral part of helping other students find what really satisfies, a relationship with Jesus. Todd was used by God to lead missions trips locally, regionally, nationally and internationally with a passion that was contagious. He used his connections, resources, abilities, skills, everything he had access to, in order to help students around the world find out about Jesus.

Todd was the kid that every youth ministry has, and every youth ministry needs to connect with, because God can change the world through kids like that!

My ministry definitely changed because of Todd. I realized that even though it was easy for me to relate with certain types of students, if my ministry was going to be effective and really expand for His glory, I needed to be willing to reach out to the “unreachable” with what really matters – satisfaction through Jesus!


Lesson Learned.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Brent,

    I just read this and one other article (on Chernobyl). Way to connect and be used by God to change lives! It's great to see how God has been using you over the years since we last connected. And you have a way of writing that touches my heart!

    Wayne Hobbes
    http://takinganotherlook.blogspot.com
    www.waynehobbes.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Wayne, I appreciate your encouragement! It has been a long time...I hope you and your family are well...I'm looking forward to checking out your blog...I'd love to stay in touch.
    God bless,
    Brent

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