My husband was a youth pastor for a while. He made it his business to meet other youth pastors in our city and find out about their programs. The goal was to have a working knowledge of ministries in the city to connect teens with, according to their location and needs. Of course he wanted to minister directly to the young people he met and see them get plugged into our youth group, but only if was the most effective way for them to be reached. The goal simply was not to build the numbers of his own program.
Many of the young ministers were thrilled to have help connecting with the kids they were trying to reach. Others were at least willing to provide information. One youth pastor, however, was reluctant to offer any information about his youth program and was very suspicious of the whole idea. He listened, posed a few skeptical questions, and hung up without ever indicating that he was even slightly interested. What would cause a pastor to respond that way to an invitation to work together to grow the kingdom of God—especially an offer that required so little effort on his part?
I can’t know exactly what this young man was thinking, but he had to be protecting something. Maybe he was insecure and afraid the inadequacies of his own efforts would be exposed by working closely with others. Maybe he was concerned about losing his teens through connections to other youth programs. Perhaps he had a high view of the doctrinal purity of his particular church and he feared that would somehow be compromised. Maybe he had heard bad things about our church or the denomination we were affiliated with. Or maybe he just thought there was something menacing in the sound of my husband’s voice—I don’t know.
My guess is that the thought of building up someone else’s numbers at the possible expense of his own was a completely foreign idea to him—and he suspected that anyone claiming to do such a thing must have a hidden agenda, especially someone completely outside of his denominational affiliation.
He was blinded.
I’ve been picking on this guy. That’s because there are some things that are easier to write about others than myself.
When my husband first started youth pastoring, our goal was to build a solid team of student leaders and adult volunteers, and then begin a strong outreach campaign. That seemed good to me until a couple months went by and nothing looked any different. People were watching us and I felt pressure to produce. Sometimes I even resented the fact that my husband wouldn’t shift his focus from discipling to making things look exciting . I knew it would have meant a serious compromise to the long term effectiveness of the ministry, but I wanted us to look good and our ministry to be validated. I was feeling defensive and was willing to sacrifice kingdom goals to protect my image.
We all say that the Kingdom is the priority and most of us believe it—but how often do we let defensiveness get in the way?
Words like these have been written many times. I don’t think there is any solution to this problem except a prayerful and relentlessly honest survey of our own motives. If we find even a hint of defensiveness in the reasons for why we do what we do, we need to grab it, squash it, and reevaluate our vision. We have to fight the temptation to dismiss it or justify it—I know. Defensiveness can be the death of a pure and effective ministry, but the shedding of it can have a ripple effect that transforms the spiritual landscape of an entire city.