The teenager years, may be the most important, not in formative learning, but in practical application and imitation.
Young people imitate many many things.
When I was a teenager I wanted to be Burt Reynolds in the movie Hooper, saw it eleven times at the theater, bought a horse, started jumping out of airplanes, out of trees, driving crazy, stuff like that.
We imitate all throughout our life and especially as teens.
One that I have tried to imitate in my life is my former Youth Pastor and Associate Pastor, Reverend Eddie Roland.
Now deceased, Mr. Roland possibly had the greatest impact upon my life from a spiritual application.
My family joined the First Baptist Church of Stockbridge when I was roughly twelve and I stayed under his care until I was roughly twenty one.
During that time, he loved patiently and prayed fervently.
When we wanted to start a christian rock band back in the late 70’s, he guided us through the starting of Wind of Praise. (It was a conservative Baptist church. That was about as funky as we were going to be able to get for a name.)
Also during those years, he had tacos after church on Sunday at his house. He knew some of us were somewhere making out, but he kept us out of trouble.
I came to the Haloween party at the church my senior year of high school dressed as Alice Cooper, including a rubber snake. It was during the “Welcome To My Nighmare” era. The costume did not go over as well as I would have liked but me and the snake got to stay.
I remember when I was younger on an Orlando trip, there was an incident, a minor incident, where a group of us youth were admiring how and where a passing bird had defecated on a really nice car. It was funny. However, I chose a word of profanity to describe what I had seen, not knowing, that right behind me…was…Mr. Roland.
He took a group of us to see the Eagles at the Omni during the Hotel California tour. We knew that during a certain point of the song Hotel California, Don Henley, lead singer and drummer was going to use God’s name in vain in the lyrics.
We knew that if and when that happened we would be marched out as a group and would not see the rest of the show. So, one of the group, I want to believe it was Rudy Hamilton, but I may be wrong, but, the plan was for them to get right beside Mr. Roland right before that part of the song came up and when it got to that line, Rudy would whistle as loud as he could right into Mr. Roland’s ear.
It worked. We got to see the whole show.
He did not get mad when a group of us went one afternoon to a youth detention center to play as a band, and due to an error in judgement on my part, I totaled out the truck of the Chairman of the Board of Deacons by running a stop sign and almost killed the other passenger.
However, that night, we went to Sunday night service and snuck out early to head downtown to see Kenny Loggins live at the Fox Theater., It was after the concert that I went to the hospital and found out I had basically displaced my collar bone in the wreck. I have a knot to this day.
There were many “situations” that occurred, that I was involved in, that could have brought dire consequences to us and possibly to the church at times and certainly would have reflected upon him.
His hair was totally silver and I am responsible for over half of those.
He is gone now.
I never heard him say a negative word about another human being.
He went with me to get my sister out of school the morning my father passed away.
He defended us starting a band in the church and the louder we got the more grief he took.
He ministered to us patiently.
I watched him get hit by the steamroller of religion and live to talk about it.
He never used the word, “disappointed” that I can ever remember.
He did tell me one time that I had broken his heart.
And then somewhere around 1981ish the leaders of our youth group went to join the youth ministry of the new cool church.
And because of the life that we were trying to imitate in Mr. Roland he trained several of us to help lead one of the largest youth ministries in the nation at that time. He trained us for someone else’s ministry.
Being a youth pastor is an incredibly difficult task, yet he did it with grace and dignity, and poured grace and dignity into us.
“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7
Thank you Mr. Roland.