“Are you really sure you wanna leave?” I’ve been asked that question many times over the last few months. Partly, I think it’s asked because people will miss me here, but also I think it’s asked because things are starting too get exciting here.
A few years ago, when I first began to seriously consider leaving, the desire was born more out of frustration than anything else. I had grown tired of small town ministry, frustrated with watching people grow cold in their love for Jesus, and just plain weary of having few like-minded believers here. Basically, I had grown tired of my post, wanted out, and was contemplating shooting myself in my foot to get an early discharge.
But, though I was stir-crazy and worn out, I didn’t sense God’s permission for me to leave. So I hung in there. I figured I’d give it a few more years so I could end with a nice round 10 years of service under my belt.
So I put the idea on hold and just went about ministry here. I found some guys who like doing evangelism, a handful of stubborn teenagers finally surrendered, and a hole pile of new people started making our church their home. God was moving, and my moving suddenly didn’t seem much of an issue any more.
But a few months ago, my heart again wandered towards contemplating a move from Spring Green. And this time, I sensed God’s blessing. It honestly kind of seemed weird because I was so used to his Spirit simply telling me, “Not yet.”
I look around, though, at what God has done, is doing, and what I know he soon will do, and I find it kind of funny that he chooses now for me to leave. Here are just a few of the things that have been going awesome this year:
- Seth and James have recently made decisions for Jesus and have been walking out the “new creation” life he has for them. They live at my house right now, and I’ve been helping to get them jobs, teach them about Jesus, and hold them accountable to a lifestyle of radical surrender. It’s been just plain awesome getting to know them, and I love these guys. (In a Christianly, manly sort of way, not in a homosexual, pedophile kind of way.) But both need continued discipleship. They’re new in the faith, have some big issues, and need an older guy to help guide them. And yet God calls me out now…
- The alternative education program at the High School will be losing the teacher who founded and really runs the whole program. I’ve worked with a number of these students in the past, and they’re the kind of kids I personally really like. (These are the ones that don’t really fit in anywhere and most at risk for getting hooked on drugs, getting someone pregnant, dropping out…) Anyhow, because the school knows me, appreciates what I do, and sees how the students respond to me when I sub, they offered me a position. Man, that would be cool… except that I’m leaving.
- I’ve sensed more favor with the schools this year than ever before, and really just a greater sense of relationship, of working together to help teenagers. It took me 7 years, but I’m finally starting to see ways where I could be of greater benefit to the schools and where they can actually help a ton, too, in my work with students of the River Valley. Too bad I noticed this after 7 years. Too bad I’m leaving and won’t be putting that knowledge to use here. 🙂
- I have seen a greater hunger in our students this year for Jesus and for usefulness in his kingdom than in any previous years. There is still much work needed, but we have more hungry students than ever before. I think of Sam who won’t stay away if we wanted, Josh who keeps inviting friends to REALife, Kyle who has found rest and peace in Jesus this year, Delaney who finally is learning to yield after years of stubbornness, Jake who has a growing interest in spiritual matters… What a perfect time to really build into these young lives… from overseas in Romania. LOL
- I have a handful of guys and girls who really love open-air preaching, treasure-hunting, and just spreading the gospel by whatever means possible. Every one of us ought to be passionate about making Jesus known to those perishing, but it has been a rare thing to find out here. Yes, I know there are many radicals sharing the faith with their friends, with coworkers, with family members, etc. but I’m an open-air preacher, and I don’t think I’ll ever change. Mickey, Starlet, Mickey Jr., Josiah, Mark, and I all connected this past year, and we all love to do evangelism, from treasure-hunting to open-air preaching. This year was my first time ever going out where I had someone to tag-team with who actually wanted to get up and preach. Mickey is awesome! And now I’m leaving.
But I can also see how this is the perfect time for me to leave. Spiritually, I’m a plow. God has made me really good at plodding along, digging up the hardened soil, planting seeds… But I suck at discipleship. Really, I do. In a large city, where I can get people out sharing the gospel on the streets, I do okay. But in a small town, I don’t know what to have people do when they want to follow Jesus. (Play video games… for Jesus? Go on a mission trip to a big city where I can find stuff for you to do so you can live radical?)
Though I suck at discipleship, Matt and Rae are great at it. And I see a real strength in Jacki here, too. All three of them grew up in smaller towns, and the “nothing to do to live radical” problem doesn’t seem to affect them.
Which brings another thing to the surface: I like small towns, but I don’t connect well in them. I’m not relational. At all. Matt really is awesome in a small town; he grew up in one, came to Jesus in one, and loves it here. He’ll do awesome.
So I’m leaving, yes, in the midst of our church and ministry going through a spiritual high point on the roller-coaster of following Jesus.