I had just begun an early morning two-hour drive when the phone rang. It was my good friend, a senior pastor, talking so excitedly I was having trouble keeping up.
We had talked the day before. He had shared how stuck he was feeling in the political dance his church was requiring of him, the church’s inherited unhealthiness weighing heavily on him. On many days, he felt as if he were being dragged into battles he desperately wanted to avoid.
He had gone to bed the night before, enjoying a little recreational reading. As he read, he had an undeniable sense that God was speaking–through, of all things, a Harry Potter novel (senior pastors can be weird like that). The words hit him so hard that he actually woke up his wife, saying “You’ve GOT to hear this!” Here’s what he read:
“[Harry] understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew–and so do I, thought Harry,…that there was all the difference in the world” (J.K. Rowling, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE, p. 512).
As youth pastors, we will never be able to control all the surprising anxiousness or toxic dysfunction in our churches. What we can do, though, is choose the way we enter into our ministries day after day. We can fall into the all-too-natural stance of helplessness and hand-wringing, staying mired in the trivia-obsession around us. Or we can choose, choose to bring a different kind of spirit than the one around us…
…bringing the light touch, taking the high road
…trusting that God’s success does not depend on our “winning”
…embracing the most powerful weapon we have—not logic, not argument, not power in any worldly sense of the word—but love alone
…and believing, sometimes against all odds, that love really does win
All of us with a “suffer-calling” (another word for ministry) would do well to internalize Dumbledore’s lesson to Harry. There really is “all the difference in the world” between being dragged into our impossible callings and willingly embracing them. It was true for Harry. It was true for my pastor friend. And it’s true for every one of us in youth ministry.