There are those days that leadership sucks. Today happened to be one of those days. I stumbled out of bed after waking up at 3 am and laying in delirium for the next 4 hours, and still needed to be in my office at 8 am in order to achieve the things I needed to accomplish. I just didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be asleep. This is not usual for me, especially not in the morning. I might get sleepy at 3:00 pm after eating a heavy lunch, but usually not in the morning.
But I was tired, and consequently, I was grumpy. So I sat irritated in my office with a poor attitude and hacked away at my computer, thankful that I had some alone time and that this beautiful summer day didn’t include much humidity.
And then 9:00 hit. At 9:00 am, Intern Chris opened the downstairs door and hurriedly stomped up the staircase of the NLC Worcester offices. At that point I knew what would happen. I envisioned him coming in with a smile and a song, happy to be alive and pumped up for another day to do ministry. He would stroll excitedly to the couch in my office, throw down his backpack, and rush over to me to give a fist bump followed by an explosion with our hands flailing out.
So there was a pause. And more steps. Eventually he threw open the door with a smile, singing a song, happy to be alive. He decided earlier to drop his backpack off at his workspace, so skipping the couch part, he rushed over to me and gave me a fist bump with said explosion.
Admittedly in my head at this point I’m wishing it was still 8:00 am and I was still alone, basking in my own misery. I’m 40, currently the oldest of all the location pastors at Next Level Church, and there are days like this where I feel every bit of those 40 years. Countless numbers of people have walked away from churches I’ve led. People have told me scores of times I’m too conservative or too liberal and walked away from my leadership. I’ve lost friends, pushed away people, scolded too harshly, forgiven too easily, and screwed up so many times. Intern Chris knows very little of this. In a very real way, he reminds me of myself in 1998 when I started in ministry.
Around that time, Michael W. Smith came out with a song called “Missing Person” that I loved. The chorus rang out:
“There was a boy who had the faith to move a mountain.
And like a child he would believe without a reason.
Without a trace he disappeared into a void, and
I’ve been searching for that missing person.”
But it’s not 8:00 am. It’s 9:00 am and Intern Chris is standing in front of me, ready to share with me the “amazing” news of how his student groups went the night before. He raved about the groups and the kids and the fact there were “3 NEW KIDS who joined last night!" The gleam in his eyes shone bright as he talked of their conversation and games and the way the teenagers reacted to the lesson. He proudly smiled as he told the story of how he believed one of the kids really took the lesson to heart and grew spiritually as a result of being challenged. But he wasn’t done.
Taking his speech to the next level, Intern Chris continued on exclaiming that he believed that Worcester was going to be changed as a result of Next Level Church and people were going to continue to come to Christ and to experience His love. He proudly yelled that he loved that he got to be a part of it, and thanked me for the opportunity. “I know,” he yelled, “that the best is yet to come!” Then he ran out the door and jumped up and down in the room next to mine, pumping his fist up and down in the air.
I don’t know how to explain it but in that 30 seconds, all of the crap I felt this morning disappeared. My eyes opened and my mind cleared, my face lifted and my heart cheered. I knew that many of those things that Intern Chris had just said he had heard from me and other leaders in his life. I realized that every exchange I have with others matters and even though there are hard times in ministry, God places us where we are for a reason.
This morning, Intern Chris helped me remember that I once had the faith to move a mountain, and like a child I would believe without a reason. At times, that boy disappears into a void, but I cannot stop being that young 22 year old minister with a vision and a passion for God. I cannot stop desiring to lead people to experience Him. And I cannot stop believing that there are others out there, who want to start their life for God, and leading others to Him as well.
Don’t let a bad night or a disloyal member or a thousand problems you might go through turn you, Activate leader, into a missing person. The best is ahead.