My Scariest Moment in Ministry

I’m not a fearful person.

In general I’m fairly confident, but over my years in ministry I’ve experienced a few scary moments.

I once witnessed our 15-passenger van (filled to capacity with students and towing a travel trailer) crash into a guardrail on an elevated stretch of I-90 coming home from winter camp.

Our students had a fantastic and frightening view the snowy valley beneath Snoqualmie Pass.

Once during an all-nighter event we accidently left one of our students. We had to race back where he stood waiting for us. The evidence of tears in his eyes was heartbreaking.

I’ve been on ministry trips to New York City and Los Angeles’ roughest and toughest projects, yet felt strangely safe.

I’ve been led through the Nigerian Airport with an armed guard and I’m still not sure if he was there to protect me or take me into custody.

Nothing I’ve experienced in ministry compares to how scared I was following a Wednesday night youth service a few summers ago.

We were preparing for our annual summer camp and had one final Wednesday to get some last minute sign ups.

I prepared a message dripping with persuasion (guilt) and passion (bullying).

In a frenzy I poured my heart out to our students.

Red-faced and sweating I pleaded with students to check their priorities and make camp a non-negotiable with coaches, employers and their parents.

I may have sprinkled in some misinterpreted scripture too, though I’m sure it was bent to fit my point: Go to camp or go to hell.

The altar call was a war of attrition. It was me versus the stubborn, rebellious riff-raff teens who didn’t have their crap together (or so I assumed).

When it was all over I had pressured and guilt-ed a few more camp attendees and I was relatively satisfied.

Just as I was about to leave two of my leaders walked over and wanted to talk.

They were both great leaders. The kind you dream of having. You know, successful career-minded people who are committed to serving and love being around students.

They informed me that they had both called their respective employers and told them, “Deal with it. We’re missing work to go to camp.”

One of them smiled as he described his conversation with his boss, “Yeah, I said, ‘If you have to fire me I understand.’”

I smiled even though internally I was panicking.

What have I done? What kind of manipulating jerk had I become? Were these people going to lose their jobs because I needed a few more people at camp to help my ego?

It was a terrible feeling.

I’ve never been more scared in my whole life.

People trusted me and I had abused that trust with manipulation.

Camp was good. Neither leader lost their job. So I guess it worked out okay.

This whole thing forced me to reconsider how I deal with people.

Do I want people to sign up for camps, retreats and conferences we host?

Yes, but I never want to make manipulation, guilt and bullying the reason.

Jesus taught with love, compassion and pure motives.

I want my leadership and teaching to be as close to that as possible.

4 thoughts on “My Scariest Moment in Ministry

  1. Good word, Pastor Andy. I still get the willies whenever I think about that near miss with the van on the pass.

  2. I’ve done this. That sickening feeling you get when you realize what the manipulation has actually done… Yuk. I don’t know that I’ve fully learned the lesson yet (I mean I’m probably still doing this without realizing it until I’m confronted with the negative results). Is it possible to lead without leaning on guilt, manipulation, and control to get things done? I hope so. I definitely want to try.

  3. “I prepared a message dripping with persuasion (guilt) and passion (bullying).. I may have sprinkled in some misinterpreted scripture too, though I’m sure it was meant to fit my point: Go to camp or go to hell.”

    Wow, that takes a real Christian to admit when they have wronged someone else. Especially a Christian leader, acknowledging that they’ve caused people harm in some very serious ways. It’s more than just losing a job, the wounds go much deeper than anything you’ve mentioned. Maybe more than you’ve even imagined. Negative ripple effects of that type of manipulation are currently running rampant throughout our entire collective humanity. And it will take millions of people like you two, Andy & Brian, to repair the damage, through living the values you’ve drilled into (can we just say ‘lots’) of people. Which is a good thing. What better way to exemplify a follower of Christ than by admitting your own mistake & altering your course, just as you probably taught others to do.

    And I want to say that I’m proud to read this. It tells a lot. It gives me confirmation that the Holy Spirit, God our father, is taking Christ’s Church into wonderful & restorative places in the coming years. There are a lot of people of influence who are realizing that their intentions didn’t produce the fruit they expected… And they want to see the church the way it should be in this day and age. We can see it already, as we find the church moving it’s “community/family” outward and into the real world just outside their Lobby’s door. Which, by the way, is where they will find a lot of the people who dropped off the map after trying to live up to ‘God’ standards they were taught by people of the same persuasion as you used to be. That branching out into our cities will heal so many people, god will carry it on because people need love & peace of mind that human connection brings. Human connection, not emotional manipulation… Sometimes the real gift of Christianity is the community it creates. A community which always invites more in, and cares for more than they can feed, clothe or afford. At least I like to think so. Well, thanks for writing this post Andy. It’s given me the perfect opportunity to drown that one nagging brain cell that is still bent on revenge. It was convinced that we were going to end up burning down a church or something 😉 heh heh heh

  4. I just wanna say to you that I have also had my moments of using manipulation in attempts to get more people saved quicker. But I know I put way too much guilt and pressure on a lot of my friends and family. And also on lots & lots of acquaintances. I think I’ve seen quite a bit of that come back full circle, and its teaching me to be less judgmental. Not only of others, but of myself as well. I think that during my peak I was putting ten times more condemnation on myself, than I was even considering for anyone else. Thank Jesus for grace though!!! God, I was so relieved when I got away from the Church and had the freedom to learn through the Bible about the grace, and mystery of God, which can never be denied to anyone. In was putting so many exclusions on the gospel when I tried to preach it. That’s why it got bad results, I’m sure. Anyhow, I’m still really sorry for all the crappy things I did when I was a Stereotypical Christian too.

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