Today is my friend Nathan's birthday. Several months ago, Student Life asked for stories about how much youth ministers have meant to you, but I failed to take the time then to write what I am today. I first met Nathan at my home church in Leesville, LA. He was fresh out of SWBTS and seeking his first place of service. The deacon who prayed for Nathan in that first evening service struggled to remember his name and called him "Nat." I had no idea then as a child how much "Nat" would come to mean to me. The stories I could tell are many. The laughs we have shared are countless. But most of all the friendship has been priceless.
As a youth minister, Nathan cared about us not as a statistic but as a person. Living in a divorced and abusive home, I was grateful for Nathan's care and concern. Nathan planned the first Disciple Now I ever participated in. We had navy blue t-shirts with yellow writing that asked "Who's in Charge" with a big question mark on the front. Come to think of it, I owe many firsts to Nathan - he took me to my first LSU-Ole Miss game; he was the first person to teach me how to drive a standard; he was the first person to open my eyes to places such as Ridgecrest, Glorieta, and of course, six flags; my first date was at his house (after the movie we wanted to see was sold out); he was the fist person I called when my truck was stuck in the mud behind our church property; he was the first (and only) person who woke me up from a deep sleep one morning by yelling "Good Morning Vietnam;" he was present in Nashville when I preached my first sermon ever for M-Fuge; and he was the first person to introduce me to Sue Mac who was the first person to introduce me to Tara.
Nathan never failed to emphasize to us the basics of discipleship. He encouraged us to pursue accountability with one another. He honestly shared with me that I had the potential to either really make it or really blow it. He opened up his home for both Bible studies and for just fellowship. He attended my freshmen and JV football games. He taught me all I know about quick wit and smart come-backs. He taught me how to honk the horn at someone who is on your left, but then turn and wave to the right. My mom will tell you that Nathan taught me other things as well but she will have to write her own blog.
Through the years, the friendship has only grown deeper. He has been a faithful encourager in ministry. When my father died, he was one of my most precious counselors. When I got married, he was my best man. When I needed wisdom in making a purchase, he provided it. His road in ministry has not been without pain, but through it all, Nathan has modeled commitment to the Lord and His call on Nathan's life.
Nathan will most likely never be called by Relevant or Group or Lifeway or Morph and asked to contribute, but Nathan's faithfulness and fruitfulness will One Day be fully revealed. I cannot tell you the number of former students of his that are now serving in the ministry but the Lord can. I cannot tell you the number of times Nathan has ministered just through his presence and attendance but the Lord can. I cannot tell you how many conversations he has had with students or how many tears and laughs he's shared with them, but the Lord can.
When I think of Nathan, I never fail to say "thank you" to the Lord. At a time when I needed someone like Nathan the most, the Lord in His good providence brought our paths together and though our paths have separated at times they have never been far apart. I rejoice that now we are back in the same city and I have the joy of seeing my friend - like at lunch today or in walking into the hospital together a few weeks ago to minister to different people.
Father thank you for Nathan Fitts. Please continue to empower his ministry and may this chapter of service be the sweetest yet. Thank you for his birthday. Please bless him with many more happy and healthy days. Thank you also that because of Christ, death is not the final word that is spoken over both of our fathers. May the Gospel of Christ continue to advance in us and through us. Amen.