As October draws to a close, I do want to give further shout-outs to a few more people who invested in my life. The next would definitely be my first full-time boss, Dave Short. I was preparing for my senior year at the University of Illinois which proved to be my most stressful year, especially the second semester. It was becoming obvious that we would have to start gearing up for some quick changes that God wanted to do on campus. In preparation, Pastor Grogan and I talked about getting a full-time college pastor. This happened suddenly and quickly in quite a miraculous way. Dave and his family had just returned from a campus ministry assignment in the Philippines.
I hate to admit it but there was tension out of the gate. In my heart, I had a difficult time relinquishing the reins for our college ministry. And, I had been praying about starting a campus church since my freshman year. It was a moment that I felt God had forgotten me. But we learned to work together. Dave came with experience, fire, passion, and drive. Skip ahead, we found a property on campus which our denominational leaders helped us raise the money for. That fall, we opened the doors to Crossroads Campus Church.
Now, it was a first for both of us. For Dave, it was his first time being a senior pastor. For me, it was the fulfillment of finally entering full-time ministry. It would prove to be a stretching experience for both of us the next several years. We both made poverty level salaries with no health insurance. I was looking at standing alone for the first time: rent, auto insurance, food, utilities, gas, and my school loans. On top of that, I had to work 2 part-time jobs which limited my ministry time. The stress, tension, insecurity, etc. set the stage perfectly for some classic battles. I’m sure we took turns frustrating each other. But in the midst of it all, I learned some vital lessons that have preserved me through the years.
Not just 5 classic words by Winston Churchill, but a ministry prerequisite. Dave told me early on about a time when he wanted to quit the football program at Southern Illinois University. His dad absolutely refused to let him back out of his commitments and he went on to set school records. I quit 1000 times in that 5 year period. But I’m glad I held on because I was able to witness some amazing things that God did.
Death to self brings power to serve
Death. It’s what gave us life. No glory without a crown. No mountain without a valley. I couldn’t complain because whatever my lack, Dave could more than top it. While I had chances to lead worship, preach, go on missions trips, watch miracles happens…I still had to clean apartments and serve food. Now that was particularly humbling for me. I worked in the cafeteria of the dorm I used to live in. I changed positions from being served to serving. But over 6 years, I had some of the most amazing ministry opportunities right there in the kitchen.
Sometimes you have to stand alone
Dave was used to this because of football. I on the other hand like an entourage. But in pioneer work, often times we will find ourselves facing battles on our own. Our allies can’t always come running, our supporters can’t always help, and our friends seem distant. The best part is it drives us to our knees in dependence on God. The greater reminder is that with God, we’re never alone.
Sometimes you just have to let people go
We often times get so consumed with wanting people to change that we get ahead of God. If they’re not responding to Him, they’re not going to respond to us. Their choices are exactly that: THEIRS. My first semester, there was a freshman that I went out of my way to help. I so wanted him to live for God. Dave noticed right away a codependent relationship starting. He finally said to me, “We can’t help everyone. You have to focus on those who want to change.” That young man ended up making some very foolish decisions, but he didn’t take me down with him.
Sometimes you just gotta go for it
There are times you just have to go for the Hail Mary pass. In ministry, we don’t always know the details and specifics, but that’s when you just have to jump off the cliff together. Who’s gonna pay for it? How are we going to do it? Will it work? Plug in some key scriptures, then we remember God’s got it.
Character is essential
Dave had the unenviable role of helping to develop my character. Very painful. He became the brick wall when I wanted to keep going. The sandbags when I was in danger of floating away. The guard rail when I could have driven off the road. The “No” when I wanted to say “Yes.” God would use him to break my arrogance, my bratty, privileged suburban attitude, my independence, and about healthy submission to authority.
It was a tough time in my life. I came face to face with myself and I didn’t like what I saw. Unfortunately for Dave he had to walk me (or push me) through the gauntlet. After my departure from Crossroads, there was actually a season when we didn’t even speak to each other. A few years later, we reconciled and have been good friends since then. I don’t seek him out as often as I should but he means the world to me.
When I look back, I only remember the great things that happened. I always tell our students…if I had the choice to change anything in that period…I wouldn’t change a thing because the process and change has stayed with me and has become vital to my spiritual walk. My gratitude to Dave Short for his eternal patience and for being a teacher, coach, mentor, boss, and friend.