“You know, I’m not sure you are called to do youth ministry. Clearly you’re unhappy here. Maybe it’s time to find a different church,” he said slowly, his icy blue eyes lacked care or concern.
My throat knotted as hot tears filled my eyes. I will not let them fall, I promised myself. My meeting with my boss was not going the way I had anticipated and shock doesn’t even begin to describe my mental state. In survival mode, I nodded, got up, and left. I would figure out what in the world just happened later.
The previous two years I had started a ministry under a youth pastor at a non-denominational church. The purpose was to help would be first generation college students discover their vocational calling and help them get the training they needed. This was coupled with discipleship because I wanted to see young people take their love for Jesus into various professional fields and bring change. It started slow and small, but I had a few students on scholarships. When my students didn’t get their scholarship money, I set up a meeting with my boss—we had donors donate specifically to the college fund, and I thought there had been a simple mistake. What I had stumbled across was much worse, and money mismanagement was only the beginning. I didn’t know it at the time, and it would be another year before everything would come out in the open and the pastor would be fired.
I just left.
In a short meeting, I had lost a church, a job, a ministry I was building, and the friendships I had with my co-workers.
I was alone.
I doubted everything. Almost everything—the one thing I held to fiercely was my faith in Jesus. Since I grew up in a charismatic tradition, I had been taught to honor my leaders and pastors well and to not say critical things of them. In healthy contexts, this is good teaching. In unhealthy contexts, it leads to silencing. I self-imposed silence and found myself wondering from church to church, trying to find a new community in which to land and recover. It was an isolating and devestating time.
On a much larger scale, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah faced many dark moments, and I don’t think anyone knew these dark moments better than the prophets. Wanting to remind the people of God of who they were and whose they were, the prophets at best were ignored and at worst killed. Yet, even in these dark moments, hope broke through, and we see this especially in the context of the discipleship relationship between Elijah and Elisha.
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah had this great triumph in Israel—he challenged the priests of Baal to pray for Baal to light a sacrificial fire. Since Baal is nothing, it was not surprising that nothing happened. After dousing a sacrificial offering three times, Elijah made the same request God, and the sacrifice was quickly consumed by fire. Faith was being restored to Israel, but suddenly Elijah was on the run. (Powerful people don’t like their power being threatened and such a display did just that—King Ahab was not going to let Elijah get away unpunished.)
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah wants to give up, and I don’t blame him. God gives him an opportunity to rest, but God doesn’t allow Elijah to stay stuck. Instead, God gives Elijah the encouragement he needs and reminds him that he is not alone in serving God; seven thousand others have not stopped worshipping God. And God already has plans for the next generation; Elijah is to anoint a man named Elisha to succeed him. Sometimes the way our of darkness is taking a step forward.
After that fateful and wounding meeting with my boss, I felt very much alone.
But I didn’t stay alone. The story isn’t finished. Hope broke through.
Movement Step: When we disciple, it’s important to be aware of our own history and hurts and to seek healing in these areas. If we don’t, not only do we miss out on what God has for us personally, we also run the risk of passing on wounds or wrong thinking to those we disciple. Take some time, as much as you need, to reflect on your life. Are there wounds that need healing? If so, pray and ask God for healing and find someone who can walk you through the healing process.