I was a Junior in high school and I’d grown up in this local hometown church. I’d made my way through elementary Sunday school, Jr. High group, and now I’d just about made my way through the Sr. High youth group. I was pretty much over all of it because I was “more mature” than all the other High school kids. I’d learned enough about church culture that I’d become a pretty effective critic and spectator. So one day I pulled my youth pastor, Herb Pedigo, aside and I told him everything that was wrong with our youth group, why I didn’t like participating, and what he needed to do differently to make our group more interesting for “interesting people like myself.” I thought I’d done a good thing telling my youth pastor the truth, because heck aren’t good church people supposed to be good critics and spectators – I mean “speak the truth in love?”
I thank God Herb didn’t weakly swallow my entire immature act without a face to face throw down with me. He pulled me aside in the church parking lot that very day and told me, “Look Andrew. I understand that you don’t like everything that’s going on in the youth group, but you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. If you’re standing on the sideline as a distant spectator criticizing everyone and everything – you my friend are a part of the problem.” He wasn’t done. He further said, “As you enter your Senior year I’m going to challenge you buddy. Either stay away completely because we don’t need your negativity or throw yourself completely into the youth group and work to make it the kind of group you’d like it to be.”
I walked away fuming! Who was this guy to tell me the things we was telling me? In my immaturity I decided I would go about trying to prove Herb wrong – to prove that our youth group was the lamest youth ministry in California. So for all the wrong reasons I threw myself into helping out, into leading, planning events, and even teaching a Sunday school lesson here and there. I started with the wrong motives, but the more involved I became the more my heart began to change . My critic/spectator role disappeared and was replaced with a new and much more satisfying cheerleader/participant role. In the end I didn’t prove Herb wrong. In the end I proved him right. At the end of my Senior year, as I went off to college my youth group meant the world to me. I loved them, they loved me, and Herb had taught me an important lesson about life in community with God’s people. You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Thanks Herb for being the presence of Christ when I needed it years ago!!
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