July 13, 2001 Dear Me,
I'm hoping that if I date this letter backwards about twelve years we will have sufficiently confused the Internet and you will be reading this from an old Toshiba laptop off of your AOL dial-up account in Wadsworth, OH. Don't worry. It gets better.
Anyhow, I wanted to write you a series of letters to talk with you about ministry, manhood and growing in the pastoral vocation that you have embarked upon. Sure, you've finished Moody, you've taken two years of Greek and you can put the kids in their place on 007 Golden Eye. You've got all it takes to be a rock-star youth pastor. And that's just the point. Don't pursue being a rock-star youth pastor. In fact don't put any stock in being a well-known, renown, requested, respected pastor.
Yes, I know that you were asked to speak at a pretty prominent high school camp with a couple hundred teens. Big. Deal. They will think you are semi-cool for the week that you were there and maybe one week after but that's it, at best. Honestly, you'll only be able to remember a couple of names yourself.
My point is this, from here on out many leaders will come on your radar in the next few years and they will be selling the idea that value in ministry is directly related to the size of your ministry. Some will tell you that until you have a specific size to your ministry you won't really matter. You'll be very tempted to buy their philosophy. Afterall, you do want to reach many with the gospel. You do want to tell tens of thousands about Jesus. You do want people to buy your books and listen to your sermons and for sure you want to be as cool as the guy who zips across the stage on a skateboard (I'm warning you ahead of time not to take notes or you'll miss his cool trick that's the punchline for the whole talk).
Jeremy, what matters to Christ is not how many you reach. He's appointed work for you. He will set you in different size fields to work and manage and shepherd and bear fruit. He will be the one who produces the fruit of your ministry to His glory as you abide in Him. He will ultimately be the one who is renowned, remembered and respected. Don't buy the lie that your value is attached to the size of your ministry. Work hard for the glory of Christ. Tell as many people as you can about Jesus. Live in the good news that Jesus accepts you already. Don't make a big deal about the numbers, make a big deal about Jesus.
Have a great summer. Oh, and I'd recommend you read a cookbook on how long to cook baked potatoes. Your little "let's-grill-a-potato" experiment was pretty gross.
Your Older, Fatter Self, Jeremy