Monday night I caught up with a friend of mine from back in Tennessee. I’ve known Zach since he was a wee lad (he’s several years younger than me). When I was in high school and he was a first grader…or something like that…he threw up Hawaiian Punch on my brand new tennis shoes on a Michigan mission trip. When I became student pastor at my home church, he was one of the kids in the group. And then he was one of the kids in my college group. And then he fell in love, got married, and I officiated his wedding. And then he began working with the students as a volunteer. And then a couple of years after I left the church, he started working as the volunteer student pastor.
And now…he’s been called into ministry as a vocation. He’s giving up his day job as a banker and is going to be a real-life, bona-fide, card-carrying, Bible-toting, Gospel-sharing preacher. He starts Bible college this fall.
Somewhere towards the end of the phone call he asked me: “Did you ever think you’d see me doing this?” And of course I said yes, because of course it was true. Even though he was the kid who would regularly call my cell phone while I was teaching a Bible study (and he was sitting in the crowd), even though he was the kid who could get mouthy when he got tired, even though he was the kid who always overslept on student ministry retreats and made us late for the first conference of the day…I could see it. He was also one of the kids who demonstrated great leadership. The kid who knew more about the Bible than I ever did. The kid who I could always count on for an honest answer about something going on within the group.
But what really hit me is that I would never have seen those gifts in Zach had someone not seen those gifts in me. Growing up, I also had a student pastor (or three). These were guys that refused to let me live a normal, me-centered teenage life. They didn’t accept the status quo. They were always pushing, always prodding, always trying to help me see what God was doing in my life. I wish I could say that’s what I was intentionally doing in the life of Zach and other kids in my ministry, but honestly most days I was just trying to survive summer camp.
When I look at men like Sam, Bob, and Larry (my student pastors), I’m reminded of the things they said, the things they did, and the lives they lived. And I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be in the ministry if they didn’t push me like they did. They invested themselves in me, so that I could invest myself in Zach, so that one day Zach will invest himself into the lives of his congregation.
Who is your investment?