Next Monday several High School students from our Church are headed out to a week-long conference for teens called Christ in Youth (CIY). It is a week of great teaching, small groups, activities, fun and encouragement. The teens that go each year love it and look forward to the next one.
When I first entered ministry we did not send teens to an event like CIY. Instead we sent them to Church camp. Some people still do this and love it, but the Church I serve now chooses to do the conference. Anyway, my third or fourth year at this one Church and the camp called to see if I would like to speak. I told them that I could not give them a week, but would be available for one night. Well, the next year they called and asked me to speak one night and I said yes.
The theme for the week was “Thirsty.” Each night there was a different topic with a different local preacher driving in for the sermon time. On my night I was given the topic of “Thirsty for Courage.” I quickly decided to preach on the passage from Joshua chapter one where Joshua is repeatedly told to be courageous.
I took the text and explained it to the teens and then I tried to apply it to their lives. For my application I took three songs from the secular band Linkin Park. I asked the teens if they listened to Linkin Park and about three-fourths of them raised their hand. I then launched into my application and knew they were following my train of thought.
When I was done there was a weird reaction in the room. The teens seemed to like it but no one even acknowledged my words. There was that deafly silence of a failed sermon. There were awkward looks and quick turns as I made my way through the crowd. I just chalked it up as moody teenagers and let it go.
It wasn’t until one of the teenagers from my Church came home that the mystery of the evening was revealed. You see, the night before the preacher had spoken about being “Thirsty for Purity.” For some reason he locked in on what the teens are listening to in their music. His one major example was Linkin Park who occasionally use a swear word (although not in the songs I had chosen for my sermon.) Not only had he used them as his primary example of terrible secular music he apparently had some of the teens raise their hands and pledge not to listen to that junk anymore. Then the next night I turned around and used the very filth he was rejecting as my primary illustrations.
The end result? I really have no idea what it did to those teenagers. I do know the dean of that week of camp never called me to speak at camp again. In fact, in the next four years I never received one call to speak at camp again.
Why do I tell you this story? Simply to remind you that not everything goes well when serving the Lord. Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you fail from the high dive where everyone sees it. Making mistakes is part of ministry … for everyone. Go out and keep making them, it is the only way you will eventually find success.