The up-and-down nature of ministry is a dynamic Young Life leaders know all too well. Walking alongside young people and sharing life and laughter with them often brings so much joy and fulfillment. But it’s also hard, and the reality is it’s often accompanied by frustration, heartache, and exhaustion as well.
In four cities in a row (Acts 13 & 14), Paul and Barnabas go through the same confusing and disheartening cycle: they show up bearing the good news about Jesus, some encouraging things happen, some discouraging things, and then they get run out of town by an angry mob. Not the easiest way to wrap up a Young Life club, if you ask me.
Despite all this, they keep going and eventually end up in the city of Lystra, where their journey takes a turn for the worse. Instead of just chasing Paul out of town, the people stone and drag him outside the city thinking he was dead.
I’ve had many times in my journey as a Young Life leader when I felt so drained and discouraged—when ministry felt so frustrating and fruitless—that I thought I might as well be Paul in this story.
“I’ve taken one too many emotional and spiritual punches,” I thought in those moments. “There’s no way I’m going to keep going in this. Just leave me here laying in my pile of dust and failure and despair.”
But in those dark moments, Paul does the unthinkable. In one of the lowest possible moments of ministry, he gets up, dusts himself off, and goes back into the city. He does the very last thing I wanted to do when I was in those moments.
What it means for us is this: keep going. Keep chasing after young people in your city. Keep moving into their lives.
And when you reach the point when you feel like you can’t take any more rejection or frustration, when you plan the club that nobody shows up for, when the kid you’ve been praying desperately for won’t respond to you at all, when you feel lonely, when you feel like you’re the only one who cares…get up, dust yourself off, and go back in.
In Young Life, we’re great at being people who go. Let’s also be great at being people who keep going. A lot of times, that’s the much harder thing to do.
And another note about this story that I love: Lystra is the city where Timothy was from. I like to think that a young Timothy heard Paul talk about Jesus that day, saw people stone and drag him outside the city, then saw him come back again the next day—and that sparked Timothy’s faith.
So keep going, because there’s a Timothy in your city that needs you to keep chasing after them.