I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.
3 John 1:4 (NLT)
Twenty-five years ago I had just graduated from Judson College and was beginning two years of service as Youth Pastor of First Baptist Church in Marshalltown, Iowa. I can still remember my time there. I was young and head strong and, hindsight being 20/20, full of myself. But, it was a wonderful two years of working with an amazing group of young people. While my path quickly led elsewhere, I often regret not spending more time in Marshalltown. I am still in contact with many of the kids from my youth group through Facebook and am privileged to still be regularly sharing life with a few of them.
This Sunday “First B” is celebrating its 150th Anniversary and having a special gathering and celebration. All of the former pastors and staff have been invited back. Wendy is joining me as I head back up there to join in the festivities.
I thought of all my “kids” this morning as I read John’s letter to Gaius and the above verse. A quarter century has gone by, but I still think of every one of them as one of my spiritual children. On occasion I have received a note or an e-mail from one of them sharing how God is working in their lives today and of the things they learned while they were in youth group with me. Talk about a deep sense of joy. There are precious few things in life that compare. I know exactly what John was feeling. How awesome to know that my kids are walking in the truth twenty five years later.
Along with thinking about my youth group kids this morning, I’m also reminded of George Bailey and the way that every life touches every other life. You don’t have to be a youth pastor or serve as a minister to do the work of a minister. We do it every day in our homes, in our places of business, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, and when we’re in the grocery store. Ministry is not a job, it’s a smile, a kind word of encouragement, and a random act of kindness. What a joy we could provide to someone to simply share with them a word of thanks for the difference they’ve made in our lives.