[You really need to read this whole thing through, otherwise, bad rumors can start. Trust me on this. You will understand.]
I went to youth group tonight.
I don't normally go to youth group... I think its the third time I have gone this year. Tonight I went because I am organizing a special dinner for the young women at Abundant Life (see previous post), and Pastor Randy wanted to start announcing the event tonight to the high school girls. I told him I would be there. I told Randy this last night, at his house, after the Uprising Leadership team met and planned events for the month of May and after Randy prayed over each one of the team members.
Nothing weird at all.
I told him I would be at youth group. He knew I would be there.
Then today, tonight... at youth group... Randy was acting really weird, really grumpy... (even at work he wasn't normal Randy, except when he was wrestling with Pastor George... that was pretty normal and funny actually.) I asked a friend of mine who regularly helps with the high school students if he was always so grumpy and business-like at youth group. The Randy I knew was not like this at all. He was goofy and open and full of joy. He would stop and listen to you. He was available. It just felt weird. It felt wrong. I made another comment to another friend... that Randy was acting really strange. She nodded in agreement.
Yes, Randy, we noticed.
Then later, after games and worship, Randy stood up on the stage to announce to us all that he was quitting ministry. He was too tired. Missed his family. Wasn't sure about God anymore. I sat there, shocked. Stunned. I looked around the room at Jonathan (the jr pastor: blank look he gave me!!... hmm, Jonathan did ask me at the beginning of your group if I was going to be there for Randy's message, that I should be. OOOH, JONATHAN!), I looked at my friend next to me who also serves in Uprising and she had the same look on her face as me: confusion, disbelief, sadness.
This had to be a trick. I mean, the night before I was sitting on Randy's living room floor planning and praying together. He has told us repeatedly over the years how much we mean to him, how much he loves doing ministry with us, and he said nothing to us. I was mad. I have served, planned, prayed, worshipped in Uprising with him for nearly three years now... how could he let me find out this big, MAJOR of news in this way? With the youth group kids, en masse, nothing personal.
Randy stood on the stage and said he wasn't sure about God anymore. That he didn't want to do ministry anymore. He didn't have plans yet, but he knew whatever it was in the future it wouldn't be in ministry. And my heart broke. And it didn't make sense at all. Randy has been over the moon talking about the recent mission trip to Mexico and how it was the best ministry experience in his whole ministry career and how God is great and we need to go around asking people if they knew Jesus. He was on fire.
(When you go to his house, one of his kids wrote on a piece of paper and stuck in the window of the front door , "Please take your shoes off and do you know Jesus?" Its really sweet.)
Now, before I get too far, let me say right now... that it was all a trick. Randy was NOT quitting, he does love Jesus, and yes, he was tired, but it was a good kind of tired because he was going on the strength of God. He was trying to make a point. HE WAS NOT QUITTING.
Even when he finally told the truth, I sat there in my chair, feeling that painful choking feeling that only goes away with a big, ugly cry fest. I sat and thought about all the conversations I've had with Randy. About my leadership in the group, my need for control, my frustrations and all my whines. I sat and thought of how patient he has been with me as I figured out things. He has watched me grow so much. I thought of how he has let me has such free reigns at Uprising, allowing God to use me in so many ways... I thought about how much I have learned from him. I thought of how passionate he gets when teaching us about finding our victory in Jesus... I also thought about how ironically he wasn't teaching at all for Uprising the whole month of May... weird. (It had me a little suspicious.)
He asked us raise our hands if we felt personally upset and even offended at what he did to us. My hand was up and strong. One girl was so upset she got up and walked to the back of the room. I related. If he hadn't fessed up when he did... I wouldn't have been able to stay in the room either.
I know why he did the lesson. I know he was making a point to the high schoolers about how you don't just quit God, quit life when things got tired and hard. I should probably talk more about the amazing stuff he said after he was just messing with us... But I was still stunned. He freaked me out way too much with his little, fakeout.
AND HE KNEW I WOULD BE THERE. He knew I would be in the audience hearing his annoucement. Why? And why am I taking this so personal. I should be concentrating on the big lesson Randy was trying to teach. Lord, why aren't I?
As someone who works at a church, I have many amazing relationships with the pastors I work and serve with. They are all great men, and I love each one of them. I could and probably will someday emotional blogs about themif they ever leave for real or do a "Randy." I would be upset if any of them left!! But Randy has been my pastor. I don't know how to say it, to explain it. Not sure what it even means. I don't want to offend the other pastors... because I love Abundant Life Church. All the pastors, all the work they do. Its a huge honor to do what I do. But I've sat with Randy and the other Uprising Leadership members and prayed and shared and planned. Not because its my job or I am being asked to... but because I love it, feel called to it, feel like Uprising is where I get to serve Jesus. Randy has seen me at my most negative. And he's seen me at best. (Okay, so most of the pastors have seen these too... haha! Sad to say, but they know who they are.)
When Randy was hired at Abundant Life, he was a huge answer to prayer. Those of us on the first Uprising leadership team (and many others!) had been praying for someone to step in, teach, love on and commit to the college kids. Randy was a blessing. He came hired as Pastor of Student Ministries... so yeah, we had to share with the high schoolers (and I think they hog him too! hahaha)... but he came with a passion and heart for our generation. He came in teaching us from the begining, that we can't serve in ministry with empty cups. We must keep our "cup" full and serve from the outflow... I don't know how many times that simple example has helped me overcome the seasons where I felt so far away from God yet so busy in ministry I didn't have a moment to think. I think of that simple lesson, I worship at Uprising, and I am reminded how I must daily surrender myself to God. That I must always be growing in my own personal relationship with Christ... and if I am not... well, burn out, baby.
So, I don't know the point of all this other than, Randy, if you are reading this... sigh. Even now, several hours after youth group, I sit here and type all these words and feelings that I have right now and that familiar tight, choking feeling returns... I want to cry, need to... but I am confused because you aren't really leaving. I should be relieved and happy. Although writing it all now is helping a lot.
I guess it goes down to this: over the past year I have said goodbye to several pastors whom I have loved and worked closely with. They didn't die or anything, their departures were positive and total God moves. I still see them, and even get to work with them on future projects. I am not mad or hold anger towards any of them. But that does not belittle how hard it is, it was, to say goodbye and understand and deal with change. (They did tell me personally, however, they were leaving. Hmm.) Knowing the very real truth that in ministry change is as normal as breathing. You can't get used to anything. My own personal job description being a prime example. Or where the Children's Ministry staff lives. (Haha. Thats for you, Alyssa.) So, yeah, Randy could be called to Sudan next month. Any of the pastors could be called somewhere else. You never know what God has planned.
So, I don't know what else to say... except, Randy and all the pastors at Abundant Life... please, please don't quit. If you get burned out, go and get your cups filled up!! Keep the overflowing flowing! We love you, need you doing what you are doing. You make a difference. God uses you in ways you don't even know.
Don't quit for reals. Or for fake.