i had a cup of coffee last saturday morning with a delightful young man named nick rogers. nick is a bible college graduate whom i met several years ago through a mutual friend. in a lot of ways, nick is typical of many of the young ministerial candidates i encounter these days: he is smart, disillusioned with “church as we know it,” culturally aware, profoundly passionate, and unapologetically determined to pursue the mission of jesus in the earth. currently, nick describes himself as “living missionally in corporate America, volunteering at a church-planting church, trying to figure out what a church would look like if/when I’m ever the lead guy.”
in the interest of full-disclosure, i must tell you that nick has a wildly inflated opinion of my perspective (oh, how i wish i were as erudite as some people think i am!).
nick emailed a list of really insightful questions (i.e.: “How have you come to terms with your place in God’s kingdom? What kind of people have you found to be attracted to the type of faith community you lead? What values do you hold most dear? What cautionary tales would you weave for an individual like me who may be following a ministry parallel to your own?”) and i really enjoyed our time together.
as i drove away, though, i hurt for nick. i am intimately aware of his current frustration and the struggles he is facing. rather than embracing young idealists, the church in america has become more adept a chewing up dreams and spitting them out. program-laden mega-churches seem to be dominating the landscape. more fellowships are closing than new ones are being planted. money is tight. how does a god-called young man with big dreams stay hopeful in such an environment?
well, i have a word for nick (and you may feel free to eavesdrop, dear reader).
as you described the life you are living, i saw much to celebrate. you named several students from your fellowship who are training for ministry. i know by experience that kids pursue ministry when someone models ministry properly. they want to follow jesus because someone they love and admire looked like they were having fun following jesus. too, you talked about several instances where jesus has used you in the marketplace to expand the kingdom–that’s something most “professional preachers” do not have the opportunity (nor the guts) to do. lives are being changed because you are connected to jesus and they are connected to you. can you think of a better definition of ministry.
i know how you feel, nick. you know that god has gifted you and prepared you to do ministry and you want to give your whole life to that endeavor. i know how you feel and, more importantly, god knows how you feel. here is my advice to you, nick (and it is worth exactly what you paid for it): don’t quit. keep striving and growing and pursuing. preparation never stops and we never truly arrive. the church of tomorrow will not look like the church of today (and it will look nothing like the church of yesterday) and the lord is molding a handful of warrior-servants who will be capable of representing jesus to the next generation.
i admire you, nick (and many more out there like you), and i am eager to affirm you in your journey. i would be honored if you would use my shoulders to stand on.