It took two years and a lot of heartache to turn the corner. I was the youth pastor of Peace Church and I was leading a group of teens who were being led in the wrong direction. When I first came here, there were a group of kids who were pretty much running things in the wrong direction. Every trip we took in the old travel bus, they were there, standing in the aisleway influencing kids to make the wrong kind of choices and picking on others. Everytime we returned from a trip, I’d hear of things that went on that should not have happened. I was frustrated, the sponsors were frustrated and the kids themselves were frustrated.
I remember one incident where a group of our guys got off the bus at McDonalds in Bryson City and started talking junk to some of the local teenagers. Most of you have heard that story so I won’t repeat it, but suffice it to say that we ended up having to hightail it out of town because some of our great teenagers could keep their mouths shut.
That was the turning point. When we got home from that trip we started a “discrimination” policy. Some kids were banned from going on trips. Others could only go if their parents went with them. I still remember speaking to the teens in Sunday School one Sunday and challenging some of the other kids in the group to step up and begin to lead. That’s when guys like David Manning and Stephen Shimel began to step up and take our group in another direction. And now those same guys are deacons in this church. You know what? I don’t know if that would have happened had we not began to discriminate.
Now, I must tell you, those were not easy choices, but they were necessary ones. And they are some of the same kinds of choices you must make if you are to become a great believer.