If you love movies as much as I do, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Somewhere about 15-30 minutes into a film something will happen that pulls the antagonist into the rest of the story. It’s the moment that the main character’s world is thrown off kilter. If the story is told well, it’s the event that keeps us interested in what’s going on.
It’s when Dorothy gets swept away to Oz by a tornado.
It’s when Sonny mouths off in the family meeting with Solozzo.
It’s when Buzz Lightyear shows up in Andy’s bedroom.
It’s when Sherlock is asked to track down Blackwood.
Once that pivotal moment happens, everything changes for the protagonist and we’re hooked. We want to see how things turn out. I had my own, real-life inciting incident not too many years ago and my world was thrown off balance in a way that had never happened before and hasn’t happened since.
Spending any time longer than about 18 months is a major victory for most youth pastors. As I approached five years at the same church, I was in rare company. I took the position after an unceremonious departure from a previous church and was a part of a team that grew the youth group from nine to over 120 middle and high school students in a very short time. We built a volunteer base of over 30 adults committed to reaching our young people. I was on my way to accomplishing my dreams. Then disaster struck.
Through a series of events – some of my own doing and some beyond my control – I was asked to resign. Had I been a young man with few personal responsibilities the aftermath would have been hard but manageable. But I was a 40-something with a wife and two kids. We had a mortgage. This moment changed everything. I needed work and I didn’t have the freedom to be choosy.
I found myself doing the kind of job no one ever spends their childhood dreaming to achieve. I was in a real life Office Space. It was during those tedious days of answering phones and handling auto insurance claims that God revealed some of the hardest things about myself.
Ministry had become an idol to me. I had fallen to a place where my service as a pastor had become more important than the God I was supposed to be pointing people to. God tends to take care of things that come between me and Him. While I didn’t see it at the time, I realized that He had removed what I loved more than Him from my life for my own good. I needed to reset and get back on track. I had resigned myself to spend the rest of my working days in the world of insurance claims.
During those years of living a life right out of Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching” and chewing on Thoreau quotes about quiet desperation, I began to volunteer at the new church I was attending. Of course, it wasn’t so much a new church since this was my second time around here. Prior to being on the staff of the church that fired me I had been at City Church as their youth pastor. This was the place where I had experienced the “unceremonious departure.”
I had been called to replace their previous youth pastor. This only lasted a year before we had to part ways. It wasn’t a good fit. But, that didn’t keep me from wanting to go back and get involved. It was close to our home, it fit who we were as a family and I had opportunities to volunteer with them.
Somewhere in the middle of my volunteering and working through the personal flaws that had led to the demise of my run as a youth pastor an idea was planted in some of the staff. They felt that there might be a place for me to serve with them once again. After a couple of years of conversation and prayer I was called to join the staff of City Church as one of their pastors.
God used this amazing community of faith to bring healing and remind me of God’s deep love for me. Through the grace and extension of love from some of the best people I know, God brought about healing and redemption.
God used the darkest season of my life to begin a journey that I needed to take. Had that event not happened I might never experienced a rediscovery of the joy of my calling as a pastor. If I was still at my last church, I would never know the blessing of serving with some of the finest people I know. People like Scott, Andre, Jenn, Mark, Shawn, Dave, Brent and Miriam are just a few of the people God has used to remind me that He has His eye on me.
I thought I was done that day that I resigned as a youth pastor. I thought my story was over. It wasn’t.
I’m reminded of something I heard Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life Church, say recently: “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.”
What I’ve realized is that as long as I’m drawing breath, my story is never over. As long as I wake up in the morning God has more story to tell through my life.
So far, it’s been better than even my favorite movie.
Do you have an event in your life that changed everything? Read more about “Inciting Incdents” here.
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