I first met him when we moved to Panama City to serve as youth pastor. He was in the ninth grade and trying to find his way through the avenues life placed before him. He came from a solid family, and immediately we made a connection. The youth group was small in the beginning but soon grew in size and influence. The senior pastor had a vested interest in seeing the youth group grow since he had two children in the ministry, and he supported and encouraged the various stages of development along the way. One of the trends in the early nineties was for youth groups to have a band on Wednesday nights for a time of worship. The youth group didn't have an already established band, but there were three guys who were interested and who started getting together to play around with some music. At best, the beginning was rocky. They started with songs that they enjoyed, but as you can imagine, Proud Mary was not quite the song that fit with the strategy we were implementing in the youth ministry. I know. It's shocking really, but the strategy was taking us somewhere different. Eventually, the guys began to learn other songs, and we were on our way. In the beginning, my young friend stayed very much in the background, but before too long, he took a leadership role in the group along with a couple of others, and soon we had a band that gave us something to attract students to what God was doing in our midst.
Leadership in the band was not the only place where this teen flourished. He had one of those personalities that drew people to him and to whatever he was doing. We had a small group of guys that met for Bible study weekly, hoping to spur some growth in the lives of the young men. We struggled at times with focus, but we plugged along with positive results over time. Even with the struggles that accompany teenage boys moving along the spiritual continuum, God was at work in this young man's life in ways that would reveal themselves in years to come. One of the joys of ministry is being able to find opportunities to spend time with those who are open to the Spirit's leadership in their lives. Of course, with this joy comes the challenge of balancing time between those who are open to the Spirit and those who are apathetic to the same Spirit. Sometimes there is not enough time or energy to go around, and I can't say I always got it right.
The young diamond in the rough Christ was molding continued to grow into a well rounded young man. His parents encouraged him to pursue his own interests, and he did so with passion. When he was interested in something, he went after it with reckless abandon. Let me pause for a reality check because, like other pastors I have mentioned, this young man was not perfect. None of us are to be completely honest. As I mentioned, his parents encouraged him to pursue his own interests. Math was not one of those interests. We spent many hours navigating quadratic equations and equilateral triangles, and he came out on the positive side, yet math still never was a highlight of his high school career. (If that's the worst I can think of, I suppose we weren't in too bad of shape, right?) Girls, on the other hand, seemed to be something he was interested in, and he was quite the ladies man - in a good way. Guitar was a passion that could never be questioned. He took his guitar every where he went, and any chance he got, he played. One certainty was clear. If he put his mind to it, the Lord was going to develop it into something good.
The Lord was not just working on skills in this young man. The Lord was also working on his heart. I watched him interact with others, some of whom were not always the most popular to be around. I saw his heart for his family and how he interacted with them when he didn't know people were watching. After graduating high school, he decided that he would work for a summer camp in his home town, and suddenly the Lord began to bring everything into focus. As hard as it is to believe, math wasn't part of God's eternal plan for this eager college student. His life was not to be bound to equations and proofs. Confession would bear witness to the fact that sometimes we (meaning I) can focus on some things that really are not of eternal significance, and we (meaning I) have to be reminded that God was in charge long before and long after we (it really is easier to say we .... makes the sting spread a little wider) came on the scene. I would like to say that slope-intercept somehow played into being able to surf or that exponents helped him lead a small group Bible study for exponential Kingdom growth, but I would be pushing the envelope way too much to try. Instead, God used the time at this summer camp to channel his interest in people, ministry, worship, and yes even girls into the plan God had been working on all along. During this summer, God brought a Godly young woman into his life who became his bride and supporter in ministry. God began to expand his thoughts for his future, and eventually he ended up as a youth pastor at a church in the city where he was attending college. Years spent as a youth pastor were good to him as his pastor recognized his heart for ministry and his passion for seeing people grow to be like Christ. He began to have opportunities to lead worship from time to time, and gradually God's plan became crystal clear.
Today this young man serves as a worship pastor for a church in South Carolina. He and his amazing family have embraced God's call and are enjoying the fruitful blessing of ministry. Recently I was able to spend some time with them. We had dinner together, and I got to know their children a little better. What a refreshment to see this young man now a dad loving his wife and kids with the same passion that I had witnessed during his growing up years being directed toward a Kingdom focus. We spent some time talking about ministry and about his heart to see people encounter God on a weekly basis in a way that created more of a desire for them to encounter God on a daily basis. We talked about the struggle between creating a worship experience of excellence and one that is mere performance, and the Lord brought tremendous encouragement as the reality of the Spirit's work became clear. Praise God for young men like Jeremy Daniel Lloyd who have surrendered themselves to Christ and have recognized that we do the best we can to create excellent experiences, and then we trust the Spirit to do the work. We don't have to conjure up the Spirit of God. He is active when we are submitted to Him. (Could I at least say that I did see a set he designed for the platform where he leads worship, and I am pretty sure that he had to use designs, shapes, measurements and some angles to get it to fit in place? Maybe math had some influence after all???)
Seriously, once again, I am challenged to be more like Christ because of what He is doing through a Pastor I know. During this final week of Pastor Appreciation Month, I pray that Jeremy and Whitney Lloyd are being showered with the fullness of spiritual blessings that pour out from heavenly places. Scripture says, "Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example ...." Thanks, Jeremy, for taking the scripture seriously. Be encouraged, my friend.