Now, I’ll be the first one to admit that confrontation isn’t pleasant. I don’t like it because I want to be liked. I want people to accept me and consider me their friend. But, right after I moved to Wilson, I discovered that being liked was not the same as being effective in ministry. It happened in our travel bus when I was the youth pastor.
I was the hip new youth pastor who had a great new understanding on how to reach kids. You tolerated everything and confronted almost nothing to communicate love. So when the kids in the youth group prevailed upon their naive leader to leave the lights off in the bus when we went on evening trips to prove that I trusted them. I caved. I knew better. I understood human nature. but I still caved.
About half-way through the trip, though, one of the sponsors told me: “You need to walk to the back of the bus and see what’s going on. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. We won’t go into what I found, but let me just say it obliterated my faith in human nature. I walked to the front and told Donald Walston: “Turn on the lights!” and from that instant they stayed on. I discovered two things that night: First of all, the unwillingness to confront says a lot about my own needs. I wanted others to like me and I didn’t want to appear to be judgmental. I was wrong in that. Obedience on my part meant that I had to be willing to risk misunderstanding and disapproval. Second, refusing to confront caused the whole group to follow those leading in the wrong direction. The funny thing about that whole incident was that, in an effort to be liked, I was risking the spiritual growth of the whole group, and, while they might have claimed to like me, I am quite sure that they did not respect me.
Things began to change. There were still some kids who were begging for confrontation and, as much as I didn’t like to do it, I began to confront them. I remember on one occasion taking the top three ringleaders who were taking us in the wrong direction, calling them over to the side where the rest could not hear, but they could see, and just letting them know exactly what I was expecting. You could have even said I was angry. After that was over, I still remember one of the other teenagers coming up to me and saying: “We’re so glad you did that!”