My college years were wonderful, and it accomplished what
I had hoped. I was prepared with the
answers I was looking for, well thought out reasons that secured my faith on
the ineffable word of God. There were
some rough patches adjusting to a conservative way of life after the freedom of
a liberal university, but it was there that I renewed my faith and met the
woman God had chosen for me.
After college my first ministry was in Cedar Rapids,
Iowa, where I was a part-time Youth Pastor and part-time youth counselor with
Youth for Christ. Eventually I went full
time with the church. My wife and I
settled into the new ministry, began our family, and set out to help teens
discover the answers I had found. While
Bible College prepared me with biblical knowledge and theological grounding, it
didn’t prepare me for the complexities of ministries; teenagers are unruly.
Surely my friends and I were nothing like this; we were
focused on our faith, cooperative in our demeanor, and obedient to the word of
God. Yet, if the truth be told, the
church hadn’t failed me, I wasn’t listening.
I came to realize how difficult it was to shape young lives into the god
shaped people they were meant to be.
Culture fought against them, parents fought against me, and teens were often
caught in the middle.
I lured them with fun activities, challenged them with
the Word of God, prompted them to go deeper and further, but after a year and a
half I didn’t seem to be any further along than when I began. I had hoped the Senior Pastor would mentor
me, but he told me he didn’t have time.
Giving me a few ministry books from his seminary classes I was left
alone to figure out the convolutions of ministry. There were successes and there were
failures. Again I was placed in a
crucible, but this time I was not alone.
My wife was a rock and I was grounded in my faith. I faced the challenge the best I could and
trusted God’s grace would do the rest.
When the Senior Pastor called me into his office I
thought it was the usual meeting where we would go over details of ministry
that he thought was pertinent to me. He
gently explained how he had tried to elevate my stature before the elders, but
that no matter what he said they would only see me as a kid playing with
kids. That was the summary of my
ministry. He spoke of my education and
the white-collar community that we lived in, and that if I ever wanted to make
it in the evangelical churches of America I would need a master’s degree. In essence he was saying, “Paul, you’re not
good enough, and in their eyes you never will be. What you need to do is go to
I was devastated.
How could all the effort that I had put into this ministry so easily be
dismissed because of my youth or a degree?
Yet, what other recourse did I have, so, with my wife’s support I
applied and was accepted to Dallas Theological Seminary in hopes that God would
lead us in the direction of His will and glory.
The Apostle Paul said to his apprentice,
Let no one look down on your
youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show
yourself an example of those who believe. 1Tim. 4:12
hires people as professionals, prepared disciples, who are expected to perform
for the money they are given. Any lack
they may have is seen as a deficiency of education and needs to be corrected in
the proper institutions, so that they can produce in accordance to the church’s
expectations. The church can be a safe
place for lay people to fail, but not the paid staff, it is neither efficient
nor productive. In a very nice way the
Senior Pastor had planted a seed, one that would grow and color my perspective
and feelings of church. This is the
first reason that I hate church: It has
conformed to the image of a capitalistic production oriented, education based
institution that sees its staff as employees who are discarded if they don’t
measure up to the expectations of its corporate core. I’m just saying… (Continued).