A Belated Thank-you to My Youth Pastor

My high school youth pastor recently surprised me with a text. I’m thrilled at the connection after many years.

Since I’m so old, I imagine he’s in his eighties by now. In responding to that initial text, I began thinking about how much I owe him.

Put another way, if you’re reading this, it includes how much you owe him because I wouldn’t be writing this without a man named Ken Hyde. I would never have made it past those first couple of years as a planter without the lessons he taught.

“Teen Tun-up Time

Ken made the Bible come alive to me with a tool with a corny-sounding name, Teen Tune-up Time. It was a small journal clad in red vinyl. There were a few verses to read each day, followed by a set series of questions.

I mostly went through the motions until I hit Psalm 37. I read, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will grant you the desires of your heart,” as “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will grant you the 1952 MG of your heart. At age 14, I was already in love with English sports cars (no one had warned me about the lousy electrical systems).

I began reading, praying and journaling. I was hooked, which led to whatever I later gleaned from scripture.

And, I got the car. Though I was grossly disappointed along the way. About four years into all of this, the young man that owned it showed up at church with a new set of wheels, sending me into a tailspin.

But, God tends to keep his word.

I later discovered that he had heard rumors of me coveting the MG and had left it sitting on blocks in his mother’s garage till I was old enough to buy it. Thank you, Jon! And thank you, Lord!

Preacher Overkill

Along the way, someone pulled me into giving a ten-minute devotion to about a hundred of my peers. I must have been all of 15 years old.

So, I put on my special, loud, bassy preacher voice, stretched to full height and launched into the talk with many artificial arm gestures. Ken later pulled me aside with, “Ralph, if you ever speak to an audience, just talk normally. Be the same person in the pulpit as you are in your everyday life.”

Good advice!

I learned to speak naturally, which may not have made me much of an exciting speaker. However, it did make it easier for those I discipled to think, “If he can do that, pretty much anybody can.”

There probably wouldn’t be as many churches multiplied from those I led had I been either the artificial nut I aspired to so long ago or a more charismatic speaker.

Chalk up two wins for Ken.

Courage That Cost His Job

The third gift was that of courage to stand up to wrongdoing.

They took a busload of us to a “youth rally” in a town about 60 miles from home. They also made a mistake when they let several of us off the bus to roam the town a couple of hours before the rally.

We soon encountered the police while busily burning holes in a road with an emergency flair one kid stole as we departed the bus.

The rest of the day was uneventful. The ride home wasn’t.

A couple of my friends began firing cans of soda at cars on the freeway. This was before we had aluminum cans—those things were made of steel.

About 40 miles from home, Ken warned them that another can out the window would get them a long walk home. They tested his will and lost.

Though they were our friends, this left a couple of us praying that they wouldn’t hitch a ride and pass the bus while mocking Ken for the discipline. They caught a ride, but much later.

The following morning at church, those two and the rest of our little group agreed that Ken had done the right thing. My two friends respected him rather than resent him for kicking them off the bus. It was the first time I had seen one of these guys show respect for any kind of authority since we met at age six.

Chalk up another win for Ken.

Their parents disagreed. Two weeks later, Ken suddenly got a call to a church of thirty people in a tiny town along with a forced bivocational pastorate. We were all convinced this was in retaliation for our friends being removed from that bus.

Ken showed courage when he tossed the sons of two of the more powerful families in the church off the bus. He taught me to stand for the right without regard to cost.

The man changed several lives for the better on that costly bus ride.

My words to Ken Hyde in our text exchange were, “You shaped my devotion to the word, my Bible-teaching style and my attitudes toward courage. I’m ever grateful, and those three events kept Hope Chapel from becoming just another small church. They are three of about a dozen pillars under my life. Thank you!”

Of course, each of these events reflected a character quality in Ken. I’m ever grateful that he chose to invest those qualities in a young kid who lacked confidence in himself. What he gave to several of us got reproduced many times over. Ken Hyde made disciples. He’s a hero to me!

You’ll find more on this kind of leadership at https://www.ralphmoore.net/when-youre-too-busy-to-personally-make-disciples/

So who’s your hero?

Who invested in you when you may not have felt you were worth it? Got any stories that we’d like to hear? I’d be grateful if you’d take the time to tell us in the comments box.