Saturday, October 2, 2010

#196-Ambition. Alternate title: "The investigatory processes of a youth pastor who is trying to figure out if several kids in the youth group are going to see the new Jennifer Aniston movie after youth service"

The investigatory processes of a youth pastor who is trying to figure out if several kids in the youth group are going to see the new Jennifer Aniston movie after youth service

The Spirit was absent. On leave apparently. The kids weren't even paying attention to the message. They were checked out. Their minds on something else, somewhere else. 

It wasn't even that your sermon was dull or uncreative. No, it was brilliant. A beautiful spin. Very relevant. Cutthroat. Shoot from the hip, take no prisoners kind of sermon. You got loud at just the right movments. And the closing. Dear God, the closing. In that soft voice while the piano was playing. The voice that has people wondering if you are going to cry. You don't even know if you are going to cry when you use that voice. This voice is interpreted as sincerity. You are being sincere. In that soft voice, you stare at the ground as if you don't even understand the ramifications of what you are saying. Humbled by the weight of your words, you bow your head low as you speak. 

Who cares if all the studying you did for the message was going to Starbucks two hours before the service and listening to a Mark Driscoll podcast, which was then repeated, paraphrased and modified to better suit your audience? You even had that one analogy of the crying baby in line at Target compared to the inward longings of the lost soul.

No, you were not the problem tonight youth pastor. You were on.

But yet, there you were, preaching your heart out, to a room full of blank stares and tumbling weeds. Crickets were chirping. It's because you were casting pearls before swine. Something was dreadfully wrong, and it wasn't you. Because you read the bible the night before you are supposed to preach.

Their time at the altar call was not even done in pretend. They didn't even fake going through the motions. A few just bowed their head at the altar. Marcus didn't even move his lips when he bowed his head.  

The kids are probably going to the movie theater. 

This is the only explanation.

You will need to do some preliminary inquiring to find out if your suspicions are true.

How do you find out? Who do you ask? 

Not Marcus, Sandy, or Jessica. They will lie. Especially Jessica. She posts pictures of herself in pajama pants on facebook. She will definitely lie.

 Not even Brandon who was so reliable in the past. He listens to Dave Matthews Band now. He also has a girlfriend from the liberal church down the street. Two weeks ago at your apartment when everyone was over to watch Blind Side, Brandon and his girlfriend were on that couch, underneath that blanket doing God knows what with their hands. She even had on one pf his sweatshirts. 

Instead call innocent Jeremy off to the side alone. Say something non-threatening. Maybe about football. Does he like football? No, he has on skinny jeans. Talk about Tumblr instead.Make him think you just wanted to show you cared. 

As he is walking away spring it on him. When his defenses are down. "Hey Jeremy, listen, I've been hearing things...." Look into his eyes at this point. If he avoids eye contact you will know.

"Let's just say, I can hear the popcorn kernels popping."

When he bites his fingernails, he is displaying his guilt. 

"Is there anything you want to tell me Jeremy?"

He'll probably  chuckle at this point. Make you feel like you are the bad guy or just plain crazy. You are not bad guy. You are not crazy. Except for Jesus. You are crazy for Jesus. You should make that a sermon for your next Junior High Sunday School class. 

Notice that he won't say "what are you talking about?" like any normal innocent person would say at this point in the conversation.

Because he knows exactly what you are talking about.




"Be honest with me. Are you guys planning on going to a movie theater tonight?"

He will scratch his head. Look over to the 13 year olds like he wants to be in their conversation. Any conversation but this one.

Because your deductions are impeccable. Your speculations are solid. You have the gift of discernment. Believe this.

This moment is awkward. You are no longer Jeremy's friend. You are an accusing authority. But this is your job. You are obligated in your role as youth pastor to do exactly this. This, and make tweets. And read Christian books with cool covers from Barnes & Nobles.

Ease the tension. Between you and Jeremy. Tell him you are just playing. "Messing around." Pat him on the shoulder. Tell him to have fun.

Now watch him as he walks away to his peers. to the guilty party. The one's who don't invite you to hang out anymore. Why? because you are their conscience in human form as a reminder that their heathenism will not do. They love dirty jokes. They can't say them in front of you. You are the pastor's son.

Did you just see that?!? Unbelievable. Jeremy clearly whispered something to them. And not two seconds afterward, Sandy glanced at you. Not like staring at you, but like "I want to look at our youth pastor but that would be too obvious so I will look around the room and try to casually make sure you end up in my direct line of site in this scan." And like clockwork she looks back to her friends. Jeremy probably whispered "Don't look now!" And she will say she didn't look. But she did. You should tell all of them Sandy is terrible at secretly looking at people across the room.

They are so going to the movie theater. You need to catch them in the act.


You should be a private investigator. A private investigator who wears a $200 pair of blue jeans. 

They are leaving. So soon?

They must be heading to the 9:30 showing.

Wave. Then Smile. Now say "See you guys Sunday."

You will bury them.

(Whisper that last line to yourself except replacing the "you" with "I." It will make you feel alive.)

They are so off the platform. They are your responsibility. You need to nip this in the bud. Before they grow tiresome of the movie theaters. Before they start getting fake I.D.'s and mingling at clubs. Putting their lives at risk to the date rape drug that will be slipped into their vodka tonic by a pedophile. You are saving their lives by catching this now. Before the sin grows large. You should have known something was up when the common "social habit" of the group in private company is for back rubs and the running of fingers through each other's hair. 

Waiting to preach against them at next week's service will not do. 

You must play hard ball. Can't be rolled over. Not this time. This will be different. Different than how you've been treated your whole life before this. The times at camp where you cried many times over because of those nasty things they said about you and to you. All that shaving cream all over your mattress when you were gone or sleeping. All those wedgies. Those 3 Swirlies. They made an object out of you. An object to laugh at. Because you were so ethical.

No, such things will not happen again. Not tonight. Not ever. This is your time. Tonight your redemption comes.  You deserve this. 

They are going to the movie theater. It's a rebellion against you. Against your dad. Against God. Someone must pay. 

You are a force. Massive. Strong. Substantial. They should fear you. 

You should probably start working out. Using that gym membership you never use but tell everyone about. If you had bulging biceps, these hooligans would never consider the movie theater. They would fast instead.

 So much sacrifice. For what? To have these kids you love dearly show up to your youth service and sit there unmoved by your infallible, God-breathed words. This is not acceptable. You are underpaid. Who do these kids think they are anyways? Going to movie theaters?  The movie theaters, the thing which  you have worked so hard to train them not to do. Which they are now doing.

What movie are they seeing? Probably that new romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston. It's only rated PG-13. You plan on watching it when it comes out on DVD. Because you have had the biggest crush on Aniston since like forever. Before Brad Pitt broke her heart. Who cares what movie it is? It's the venue that counts. Perverts make-out in those dark rooms. Inappropriate hands touching inappropriate hands. Obscene. All of it.

Not too mention all the new converts that wait outside the movie theater when they get out. What will they think of them coming out of the theater? They will assume the worst. The new converts who wait outside the movie theater in the little New Converts club of theirs will tell themselves the youth group just got out of a rated R movie with sexual content in it. This will confuse the new converts. They will backslide. Because of the stupid teenagers. 

Stay calm. It's okay. You can do this. 

Mackenzie texted you. The girl you like. Sandy's cousin. She has rejected you constantly. And now she wants to hang out? This night? the one where the kids are at the movie theater? This is not a coincidence. She was hired as a decoy. Mackenzie is an accomplice. Those kids are not as smart as they thought they were.

 Ignore the text. Because you have brilliant foresight. Prophet on the rise. Increase pressure. 

Send text to Sandy, Mackenzie's cousin: "Nice try."

Be a looming presence of guilt over their otherwise enjoyable evening.

(Page Break...)

At exactly one hour after the kids have left the church, begin making phone calls.

By now the movie is past it's opening act. They are unsuspecting. Sitting cozy. Salt on their lips from all that precious popcorn. Probably laughing at you in their heads about how they outsmarted you. 

They have no idea who they are dealing with though. A righteous volcano waiting to erupt. They didn't know. Didn't know you were full of fire in your belly. They thought you were just some boring graying mountain. But they are wrong. Dead wrong. They will all be shocked when lava is poured down their throats. They had no idea how good they had it with you. Volcanic you.


You had them over to your birthday party. You didn't have to do that. You could have had anyone over. You chose them. They think you have no other friends. You have friends. Your mother counts as a friend.

Make the calls. A foreshadowing of their imminent demise. For worshiping that giant screen.

Call Marcus first. The ring leader. The pioneer into the dark underbelly of sin for those other teenagers.

This phone goes straight to voicemail. Can't blame him for ignoring the call when his phone was off. He'll probably blame the short battery life of his iPhone... he planned that out...he bought the iPhone two months ago just for a night like this. When he is doing things he shouldn't be doing. He is smart. He has it all figured out.

He will need to be humbled before you. Before God. In brokenness. He will thank you ten years from now when he's married and working construction with 4 kids, drowning in credit card debt. Because if you did not catch him that fateful evening (this evening), there is no telling what drugs he would have gotten himself into.



Crystal meth?

(all of the above).

Now call Sandy. Her phone rings thrice. Then ignored. Voice mail. She probably was that one girl who forgot to turn her phone off in the movie. Fumbling around in her purse for that loud phone. Much to the scorn of the other movie goers. Such a newbie.

She texts you, "what's up?"

Don't answer that text.

They are so at the movie theater.

She probably showed Jessica that you called. Gave a look to Jessica like "He knows!"

Because you do know.

She'll ask Jess what to do. She needs security.

Jessica will tell her to forget it.

She won't be able to forget it. She will teeter on the brink of mental collapse. The movie will be ruined for Sandy. Insecure Sandy. What will her parents say?

If only they invited you. To the theater. Things would have been different. You may have even taken them up on their offer. Make them keep it on the Download. A secret society could blossom out of it. Exclusive.

But they didn't invite you. Because they hate God.

Now go for the kill. Call Jeremy. Ring ring ring Jeremy. It's your worst nightmare. Your youth pastor. Jeremy will pick up. But only after five rings. He knows his not picking up will be an admission of guilt. The silence would speak volumes. So he picks up. Whispering.

"Hey, what's up?"

That is because he is still in the theater walking out. Probably sweating. He is out of breath.

Listen closely. Hear that muffled, angelic voice in the background? You could recognize that voice anywhere. It's Jenifer Aniston. 7 feet wide on the screen.

You are so on tonight. You were built for this. Be resiliant. Maintain Volcanic superiority.

You know what he is doing. He is at the movie theater. Watching Jenn flaunt her cute self. The question is, does he know that you know what is doing? This is the game. Everything hinges on this question.

How does he answer?

"Ummm....hangin out with the usuals."

His voice is now loud. Uncertain. But still much louder. He is outside the theater now, in the hall. Posters with actors on them are staring at him. Laughing at the 19 year old boy trying to strategically answer his youth pastor's questions to minimize damage. He can also legally kill in war.

The hesitation of Jeremy's voice. The fear. It's the lave going down his throat. Because you are just that powerful. He will need therapy because of this. He deserves it. Push on.

"Jeremy you are at the movie theater, aren't you?"


Now, soften voice. Like it's the end of your sermon. Like the end of this post is coming.

"Tell me the truth, it's okay." (It's not okay.)

"Yeah, how'd you know?"

How'd you know? HOW'D YOU KNOW?!? What does he take you for? A musician at bible college?

Stay calm.

"I'm not an idiot Jeremy."

Do you hear that silence on the phone? That's the sound of victory. Sweet victory. You are a knight.

"Jeremy, I'll see you Sunday. We'll talk then."

"I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I forgive you. I love you man."


(end call).

This is epic. This feels glorious. You need a giant orange bucket full of Gatorade poured on your back right now. You know what? Try it. Take that Gatorade bottle there. It's not an orange bucket, but 16 oz. is better than nothing. The fruit punch flavor. Pour it over your back.

Feel Good? Stickier than you thought? Well, it was worth the shot. Now you can say "you've been there" every time it happens to a coach after he's won the championship.

Good has triumphed over evil. Celebrate. Watch some 24 reruns. Have yourself TWO Lipton iced teas.

Sunday Morning service. Let the chumps squirm in their seats. They look so pathetic. Defeated. Stiff. Trouble weighs a ton.Stare at them at random throughout service. Long stares from the platform. One of those stares that says "either that guy is their father or he is staring at them really creepily." You look like a disappointed father.

This is what redemption looks like.

In the meeting following the service, pull them into your office. After they have had a good 36 hours to chew on what they have done.

Call this a family meeting. Tell them how disappointed you with them. This is not about the movie, Aniston, or even the movie theater. Just as long as no one was listening to Lady Gaga in the car to or from the movie (look at Marcus here). Tell them you are not so told to not understand the temptations. Remind them of that one time your dad caught you dancing to N'Sync's 2000 monumental LP No Strings Attached alone in the basement in 10th grade.

Do not tell them how you are more worried than ever that you will not find a wife and how you think being the new section leader opens up many possibilities to alleviate that stress. This is not about you. It's about them.

Tell them ultimately this whole scandal is about trust. Tell them that you have decided not to tell anyone about this incident. Because we all make mistakes.

However, while it will hurt you more than it will hurt them , you need to exact punishment.

Disburse Penalties:

  •  Marcus-No more lady Gaga.
  • Jeremy-Lunch next Saturday at a place with bagels.
  • Sandy: Set up a double date with her, her boyfriend, Mackenzie and you.
  • Jessica: No pajama pants to bed for an entire month. Skirts only.
  • Brandon: Put a Facebook status up about how much you love your youth group and how topically relevant your awesome youth pastor is. 
  • Entire Group: A Jennifer Aniston Along Came Polly movie night at your place next Friday night.

There is still yet hope for this generation.


  1. Good God, I think I had that youth pastor.

  2. Rachel (not the one in the story though! Promise)October 3, 2010 at 7:49 PM


    Yet, this is not a stretch at all from what has happened to us all in our youth. lol!

  3. I thank God that I didn't have to deal with much of the ridiculousness which you satire! Although I will admit knowing "leaders" whose actions you just described spot-on :D