Gary Black and a Fat Vineyard Youth Pastor

I was a young Vineyard youth pastor with a growing youth group and a healthy speaking ministry in the works.  The Lord was changing young people’s lives and in powerful ways.  Kids were set free from drug abuse, neo satanism, sexual brokenness and any other number of horrible issues.  Myself and the people I worked with at the Quad Cities Vineyard were doing the best we could to provide a genuine alternative to the despair and hopelessness so many of the youth of the Quad Cities were experiencing.  We had a weekly service with between 60 and 100 young people where people regularly made commitments to Jesus with a bunch a mostly healthy, reproducing YOUTH lead cell groups.  Jesus was very present.  I say it often and I am not joking when I say that God moved and ministered in spite of myself.

Around 1997 anyone in the Charismatic or Third wave friendly world knew the buzz around Rock the Nations and what eventually became Prayer Storm.  To make a long story short many of my leaders began to get quite involved in the ministry of RTN.  (Please excuse me if I use the Rock the Nations and/or Prayer Storm interchangeably. My research assistant is on vacation.)  RTN was so cool.  They would have these weekend long bashes that were full of the Holy Spirit and young people who were being moved to lay down their dreams and entire life to Jesus.  It was infectious.

When I first started bringing the kids in my youth group to RTN events I really thought they were cool.  But I  was a religious bigot and was a bit peeved that they didn’t seem to use the same words or phrases that I used and that I was taught about in the Vineyard.  After one Prayer Storm event in Colorado Springs I brought a whole bunch of kids to the event and God really showed up for a period of days.  I know people whose lives were completely changed over that week.

During one event I began to judge what the Lord was doing in my kids and through Gary and the Prayer Storm team.  THEY DID NOTHING WRONG AT ALL.  But I judged them nonetheless.  Great things were being done in the heart of my kids and seeds of service to the Lord were being planted in their hearts.  I somehow just thought that I knew how to lead kids better.  It also bothered me that the movement wasn’t based in the “local church”-that was an excuse I made and told myself many times when any of my ‘leader” type kids would begin to get involved in anything that smelled para church at all.  Just for the record I believe the local church is the tool that God has chosen to change the world and proclaim the gospel.  But all of this was in my mind.  The bottom line was that I had judged the work of the Holy Spirit and I needed to repent and I felt that I should apologize in person to Gary.

There was really no way that I could apologize to him at the event.  For one thing I was just beginning to process what was happening in my own heart and secondly running a youth event with world recognized speakers and more than a thousand young people seemed to take most of Gary’s time. 🙂  So I drove back to the Quad Cities but I couldn’t shake the fact that I needed to repent and apologize to Gary.  I gave Gary a call and just briefly explained what I was wanting to do.  He explained that he was more than happy to meet with me but he had a killer travel schedule coming up and I really didn’t want to wait to get this off of my chest.  I ended up  driving non stop to Gary’s office from western Iowa to Colorado Springs. WOW!  What a drive…I began to think “Man, you should have just waited because this drive is way too long!”  Thankfully, I kept driving.

I was a bit apprehensive about my meeting with Gary.  What was I supposed to say?  Here is was a successful youth pastor and a denominational strategist on his way to apologize to a guy for judging how the Lord had moved through him to minister to my kids.  It all just seemed so strange and I knew it was going to be hard to do-to actually say what I needed to say to Gary.  But I checked in to my Roadway Inn room and got a couple hours of sleep.  Finally it was time to meet Gary.  I showered up and went around the block to his office.  We went out to lunch or to coffee I cannot remember but this was the obligatory social foreplay…Gary knew I had something to say and I wanted to say it.  We drove back to the office and I repented.  I confessed all that I  had thought about Gary and the jealousy I felt toward him because of the influence he had on the kids in my youth group.   I remember it was a sweet time.  Gary and his intern prayed and prophesied over me and my young son (who was not with me at the time).

I was so accepted and felt so loved.  It has been a long road since that day years ago but  I will never forget the graciousness in which Gary accepted my apology and was more concerned with the fact that I had to drive back to Iowa than he was about anything I had or hadn’t said.  Gary and I have remained friends via the web for years.  A little business here, a few jokes there but always a concern for people and what they knew about Jesus…this is what we shared and still do!

When I heard the news about MRB my heart broke for my friend Gary!  But God is faithful and loves a family like the Black family that just continues to say YES to what they sense He is saying to do.  I have no doubt that MRB’s death is just the beginning…the beginning of people having an eternity changing experience with Jesus.  Jesus is the one who never messed up, never had secrets He was ashamed to share He was  A PERFECT MAN!  A perfect man that longs to know you and love you just as you are!  Come Lord Jesus!

Some things have changed….I am not a pastor anymore and not as fat! 🙂