Jim Martenson is the lead pastor of North Park Community Church in Carmel, Indiana; yet I’ll forever remember him as “Bro. Jim” – my youth pastor at New England Baptist Church.
My teenage years were quite formative, as they are for anyone. That’s why who you place in charge of your church’s youth is not a decision to be taken lightly. Entering into my teenage years, I was a shy kid who never spoken unless spoken to, and maybe not even then. Yet, by the time I left for college, I was arrogant and outspoken. Ok, so maybe I over-corrected… God used Bro. Jim to being to transform me into the preacher/teacher I am today. I believe this transformation took place on three different levels.
First, I was purposefully placed into uncomfortable situations. I was terrified the first time Bro. Jim asked me to give a testimony at a youth activity when I was junior high. I wrote the whole thing out word-for-word and never looked up once. I sighed in relief when it was over, except that it was never over. I would be asked to do the same things several times again. And then there were those teenage soulwinning activities. Being dropped out of a 15 passenger van into the middle of the street to approach perfect strangers about the gospel was not exactly my cup of tea. Yet, Bro. Jim pushed me out that van more times than I can remember.
Second, as I began to come out of my shell, the man who helped me get there was also not afraid to send me right back if needed. In other words, he was more than willing to rebuke me. Many of you know that I have quite the sarcastic sense of humor and often have a habit of speaking before I think. This combination can get me into a lot of trouble. This combined with immaturity gave Bro. Jim many opportunities to call me out. And he did. Every time. He wasn’t afraid to knock me down a few notches. It was exactly what I needed and am thankful for it today.
Finally, Bro. Jim showed me how to serve the Lord by serving along with me. He allowed me to walk along side him and actually do the work of the ministry. This was one of the things that the Lord used to give me a desire to serve him in vocational ministry. Our youth group had fun games and activities, but we were also taught to minister to the needs of others. You taught us what it meant to be a servant.
Its been a long time since my teenage years, longer than I would care to admit. I think we both have taken different theological roads since those days. Yet, I will never forget the long chats we had in your office. I’ll never forget the love and concern you showed me everyday. Bro. Jim, thank you for making me uncomfortable and not allowing me to remain an introvert. Thank you for your loving, yet stern rebukes. Thank you for giving me a love for the ministry. Your ministry continues on through mine as I now work with youth. I hope some day my ministry will make you proud to have been my youth pastor.