Monday, December 19, 2011

Wishing you a Blessed Christmas

When I think of the first Christmas I have this image in my mind of shepherds tending to their flocks (probably because of all the Christmas shows I watched as a child seeing the shepherds arrive in Bethlehem).  We know from the Christmas story in the Gospels that as the Magi were passing through Jerusalem and spoke with Herod about this child who had been born “King of the Jews”, Herod asks the priests and teachers of the law, where the Christ was to be born.  They replied quoting the prophet Micah that he would come from Bethlehem – and out of there would come this ruler who was to be the shepherd of the people of Israel. 

In this short exchange we have Jesus described as King, Christ (or Messiah) and Shepherd.  As leaders who model ourselves off Jesus, do we pay enough attention to the shepherding responsibilities that we carry? 

In many ways we more easily accept the role of “king”, in that we know there needs to be someone in charge and calling the shots.  Even our role as “Messiah”, in the sense that we have the responsibility to lead people from their present situations into a better and more hope filled future is something that leaders are drawn to.  But it is as a shepherd that we have the greatest capacity to make a difference in the lives of those we lead. 

Jesus words that I learnt as a child in Sunday School ring in my ears, “My sheep hear my voice, and they know me and they follow me.”  Do those who you lead hear your voice, your voice of care and concern, your voice of guidance, your voice of protection?  Do they know you, and the desire that you have to look after their best interests?

An often quoted leadership saying is that you can assess how well you are leading when you turn around to see who is following you.  While this may be a little simplistic, the truth that we learn is that if we as leaders shepherd well, people will follow.  Shepherding well means that when we arrive at the destination God has given us, we will be there with a group of people who have shared the journey and been nurtured in ways of love and peace and compassion.

The team at Willow want to wish you and your families and your churches a blessed and hope filled Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our saviour.  We also hope that over the summer months you have the opportunity to rest, relax and refresh as we look forward to serving God in 2012. 

Andrew McCafferty
CEO, Willow Creek Australia

Monday, December 12, 2011

Change Your Mind Before Christmas

I confess: left to my own devices, I’m a crammer.

Maybe it started with a few exams in college; maybe it’s the natural tendency of my personality, maybe it is an occasional lack of maturity. Whatever the cause, pushing against those tendencies has become vital to my way of life, and especially to my way of leadership. I know what an out-of-control-busy schedule can do to my soul. Perhaps you can relate.

And at this time of year, the temptation to cram even more into an already full schedule escalates. The Christmas season adds not only ministry opportunities, but also the potential for financial stressors, volunteer and key partner recognition, family expectations, and more… It can fill our minds with distractions and worry.

Slowing down for “a long, ardent gaze at God” will not simply creep into my schedule. But this year, I’m making sure it finds a home there. I know from experience what frequent times of meditation—even small bits here and there—can do to improve the health of my soul. As it reads in the Psalms, “I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:12)

It’s been fascinating to learn that meditation not only helps our spiritual lives, it also actually changes our brains, which, in the end will change our minds. Here’s an excerpt from Huffington Post that discusses these findings:

“Quite literally, sustained meditation leads to something called neuroplasticity, which is defined as the brain’s ability to change, structurally and functionally, on the basis of environmental input.

For much of the last century, scientists believed that the brain essentially stopped changing after adulthood.

But research by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has shown that experienced meditators exhibit high levels of gamma wave activity and display an ability — continuing after the meditation session has ended — to not get stuck on a particular stimulus. That is, they’re automatically able to control their thoughts and reactiveness.” – Amanda Chan, Nov. 23, 2011.

Amazingly, this research shows how meditation changes your brain and can also change your mind.

Is it any wonder that scripture strongly commands us to meditate, and also points to the impact this will make on our minds and on our life? Consider the wisdom from Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

And in Isaiah 26:3 we see a connection between our minds and our peace;

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

Ultimately, the Spirit of God can govern our mind, which will yield life and peace. (Romans 8:6). So this Christmas, consider what difference opening your mind to God could achieve. What difference might that make in the kinds of decisions you make and relationships you build?

Through a focused effort in meditation on God as described in the definition above, you will open yourself up to exactly those kinds of changes in your brain that will allow God to move powerfully in your life.

If you’re looking for next steps:
- Practice ten to fifteen minutes of silent meditation each day.
- Ignore the tendency to be strategic or intentional—and please please don’t cram anything else in!!
- The only “end” is to still and quiet your soul (like Psalm 131:2), and to consider/meditate/focus on God.
- Learn about A Leader’s Soul, 7 week online learning course.

Mindy Caliguire (@mindycaliguire)
Transformation Ministry Team, Willow Creek Association
Founder, SoulCare (a Spiritual Formation Ministry)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Coping with December Pressure

I have a love/hate relationship with the month of December. My birthday falls near the middle of the month and Christmas falls near the end so those occasions should make the month of December a banner month, right? Senior Pastors know better. December is easily the most pressure packed month of the year. Teaching fresh material every December is a herculean challenge. Extra time is always needed for celebrating the staff, honoring the volunteers, raising year-end funds, and being even more available than usual for pastoring the church and community. And then there is your family- your spouse and kids and grandkids and extended family. Neglect them and well, you know… So, each year there are the 2 things that I make sure I do to recharge and stay grounded. The first is prayer. 

Out of desperation I started a new practice decades ago. On the first Monday in December I take my Bible and journal to a place that offers solitude. My prayer is the same each year: “God, please help me get this Christmas right…or at least a little better all around than I did last Christmas.” Then I start journaling about whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I start with making sure I’m learning from mistakes of previous holiday seasons. Other times I begin by reviewing what I got right the year before. But regardless of where I start, God always speaks to me.

I specifically remember the year that God whispered to me to stop pretending to my wife and children about what my schedule was going to be in December. Ever the optimist, I would joyfully announce that I was going to be around more this December than last year. Then reality would strike. Almost every year I spend December 26 apologizing to my family for not keeping my word about my schedule. 

This all changed with a whisper on a Monday. 

God said, “Why not tell your family the truth? Why not simply explain to them that December is the most intense month of the year for pastors and despite the flurry of activity in the first three weeks of the month you will all get sweet revenge the final week of the month.” Sweet revenge! 

The second strategy I have for staying grounded in December is replenishment (aka: Sweet revenge!). My children, who were young at the time, loved that term. Our family would scheme, plot and plan what we could do as a family that would make the chaos of the first 3 weeks fade. For over 25 years, the Hybels family packs up to go somewhere on Christmas Day and we aren’t seen around Barrington until the first of January. 

These “sweet revenge” travel days have been a lifesaver for our family. We cook meals together, jog together and watch sunsets together. On Old Years Night, we all list the top 10 blessings from the previous year. By the time the ball drops in Times Square we are all good with God, the church and each other. The deeper point in revealing all of this is that the idea came from a humble prayer for help from God on a Monday morning in early December decades ago.

Other years God has whispered other directions to me that gave me new ways to cope with the intensity of December pressures. Nothing has been more valuable to me than the first Monday of December, alone with God, armed with a Bible, a journal and an earnest prayer to get this Christmas Season a bit more right than last year.

By: Bill Hybels (@BillHybels)
Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
Chairman of the Board, Willow Creek Association

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So tell me… Why am I doing this?

How many unfinished projects do you have around your home or office? A book you began to read but haven’t yet finished or a DVD you purchased but still haven't watched? How easily our initial enthusiasm gives way to the pressures and demands of everyday life. It’s not that we don’t want to do it; it’s just the time and priority factor.

Volunteers often start well too! They sign up and are keen to serve. After a while it gets harder as the initial excitement of something new passes and other demands begin to press in. We all know that we could not do ministry without volunteers, yet we also know that each volunteer has their own reasons for serving and these reasons determine the level to which they get involved. Recruiting is one step, but retaining and developing volunteers is something totally different. Volunteers usually need continued inspiration; they need to know that what they bring to the min istry really matters.

I want my volunteers to be connected not only in body but in heart and mind too. You can easily tell the difference between a volunteer who is totally engaged compared with a volunteer who just turns up to serve. They both do the job but only one moves our ministry forward.

We are more likely to engage in activities where we feel like we are making a real difference however it may not be easy for a volunteer to identify the difference they have made, especially if their role is more administrative or repetitive. It is the role of a leader to paint the big picture, telling the story of where we have come from, reminding everyone how they have contributed to the journey and inspiring them that “we are going forward together.”

Volunteers can see that we are interested in their personal development, and their ideas, when we share with them the “next steps” they can take to grow in their leadership. Giving unqualified praise, eg “You are great!”, without saying what you’ve noticed that makes you think that way, is shallow praise and really does not impact the volunteer much at all. Also, take care not to communicate gratitude in such a way that volunteers are left with the impression that their serving is a one way street. Yes we are grateful for their service, however the opportunity to serve through our ministry to kids also does much to enrich them as Christ followers.

This time of the year people are often re-evaluating their volunteering, deciding if they will serve again next year. While the year -end is a good time to “take a break”, sadly some volunteers do not intend to return in the new year. As leaders we need to give our volunteers an extra dose of inspiration at this time, casting the vision and reminding them why we must keep giving our best to our kids. I find this one of the most critical times in the rhythm of our ministry.

So, don’t wait until the new year to honour volunteers; build on the momentum that is already there. Celebrate!! Throw a part y for your volunteers. (Find someone else to set up or clean up!!) Talk about the things you have done together, the tough times where you stood together. Celebrate by telling stories of the kids who have grown in their faith, developed new skills and discovered something fresh about themselves.

Give your volunteers opportunity to share their stories and experiences and explore their dreams. Identify all the different serving opportunities that exist in your ministry and let people indicate where they would most like to serve next year. When you have the right person serving in the right place their impact will be unstoppable!!

Make it a Win - Win - Win situation!

Our ministry wins when we have passionate, inspired volunteers.

Our volunteers win when they are growing and learning on the journey.

Our kids win when they have significant others coming alongside them, sharing with them, encouraging them and demonstrating a real life, genuine faith story.

Margaret Spicer
Children and Families Pastor

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bed and a Table, a Chair and a Lamp

Room preparers.  The Old and New Testament is full of stories of people who practiced hospitality.  In 2 Kings 4:9-10 there is a story of a well-to-do woman of Shunem who offered the prophet Elisha hospitality.  “She said to her husband, I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God.  Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him.  Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”

Likewise in Romans 12:13 Paul instructs believers “to pursue or practice hospitality.”  He urged the believers to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed them.”  (Romans 15:7) 

Hospitality was a way of life fundamental to Christian identity.  Its mysteries and riches are revealed most fully when it is practiced.  I believe that it is a gift from God to be counted among those who cultivate ‘room preparedness’. 

In Biblical times untold amounts of ministry had been done because people (no matter their status in life) availed themselves to others and practiced hospitality.  Room preparers offered their space without fan fare or expecting praise simply because it was the natural thing to do.  The Gospel spread, churches grew in strength and number – all because ‘room preparers’ expectantly waited for a guest in need.

This ancient practice is being replicated today in order to advance Kingdom efforts for churches, conferences, non-profit business, the arts, etc. 

Today, Joy Along The Journey, a Christian Hospitality Network, is one example of contemporary practitioners of hospitality.  Providing hospitality has its challenges, but Joy Along The Journey was borne out of a ministry in a local church.  Its mission is to safely and securely connect hospitable Christians with Christians who travel – usually for ministry purposes. 

As Christine Pohl states in her book Making Room, “In God’s remarkable economy as we make room for hospitality, more room becomes available to us for life, hope and grace.”  The most potent setting for hospitality, she adds, is in the overlap of private and public space; hospitality flourishes at the intersection of the personal, intimate characteristics of the home and the transforming expectations of the church.  Practioners view hospitality as a sacred practice and find God is especially present in guest/host relationships.  There is a mutual blessing in hospitality.

Everyday Christians who recover this lost art will find untold joy in welcoming and being welcomed by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and it all simply starts with a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp.

Karen Frisella

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gains And Losses

It started a long time ago. First it was keys. Later it was glasses. Once or twice it has been the car. I get a new phone and spend a week (or three) apologising as I cut people off mid-call or accidentally dial them 15 times. I signed up for twitter and linkedin and haven’t worked out what and how to make use of them… yet.

I grunt when I get up off the ground. I danced all night at the U2 concert and spent days recovering. I spend all night writing something and need two days to get the fuzz (and caffeine) out of my head. I am now 50.

Michael (my husband) and I started into ministry life in our twenties. We had tons of energy, loads of passion and determination to follow the Spirit at any cost. We experienced the best and the worst of ministry in those first decades.

People coming to Christ, beautiful encounters with God, growth and engagement with our community.  And we experienced criticisms, demands, betrayals and accusations. We were lonely and we were surrounded by beautiful people. We were rich in so many ways and yet trusting God for money for bills and survival. What a rollercoaster.

As we farewell youth and head into mid life (which I read ends at 67 now) it is on the wings of experience.

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

Yes, I have traded a little agility of mind and body for great hope that grows. Time following Jesus deepens the knowledge that God is great. We have gained our own story of his faithfulness.

To you guys and girls just starting out: It’s a good life with God and his people, so persevere.

To those of you going through the battles right now, your perseverance will build character. You will find a deep seated hope filling your heart. An understanding - that God is great, and that God is faithful. We are companioned and enfolded by him in everything. Yep, everything.

The losses of age? They are greatly overshadowed by a deepening joy and hope that my words can’t give justice to.

God is so faithful.

Monica O’Neil
Vose Leadership

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sharpened by the Grind: Part 1

My dad loved pocket knives. He could put a razor’s edge on the blade of his knife with the precision of a master. I knew the blade was sharp when he would confidently roll up the sleeve of his shirt and shave a patch of hair off his arm. With a pleased look on his face he would say, “That should do it.” Even though I watched him numerous times, I could take the same knife and whit rock and quickly put a dull edge on the blade. No use to roll up my sleeve- no hair would be in danger. How could he place the grind of metal and rock together and always sharpen the blade? But as for me, I would always grind it dull. 

This analogy makes me wonder, how do you stay at the grind of ministry day after day and have it sharpen you rather than dull you? 

I served as the senior pastor of a church for over forty years and had the opportunity of seeing the ministry grow from slightly over one hundred in attendance to around four thousand on the weekend. That was a long grind! However, there was a time that I did not do any better at the grind of ministry than I did with sharpening a knife. As our church was booming with growth, I was also being stretched too thin. During one of my talks I realized that I could not continue. I walked off the stage in the middle of my message and a friend drove me home because I was a complete basket case. I had allowed the grind to finally bring me to a complete and dull halt. I was not aware of my dull condition until it ended in a deep, debilitating, depression.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

FOLLOW ME: What's Next For You?

Images-28 There is nothing more difficult to gauge or measure than spiritual growth. However, we must do our best to try. After conducting the REVEAL survey with over 6000 of their own church members and another 300 people who had left their church within the previous year, Willow Creek started involving other churches in the research. Specifically, they surveyed 80,000 people in 200 congregations. The focus this time was extended to include research into what people really want from their church, the barriers they face, and what draws them closer to Christ.

Many insights emerged including one of the top answers to the questions “What’s the most important thing you want from your church?” as being ”Challenge me to grow and take the next step in my spiritual life.”

Interested in an Australian Pastor's opinion of REVEAL? Pastor Mark Conner from Melbourne's CityLife Church has blogged some in-depth reviews and thoughts...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Follow the GLS

We invite you to Follow the GLS on the Willow Creek Association blog:

You will find great stories, videos and pictures just in from GLS sites around the world. 

Please pray…cheer…be inspired!  As you read the stories, please spread the word with your friends by sharing on facebook, email & twitter. 

We would be honored to have you add comments to encourage our partners around the world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Show the World How You See the Summit

Summit 2011 Concept
Since 1995, we’ve heard stories and seen creative artwork that depicts your experience with The Global Leadership Summit. So as we celebrate another great season, we’re intentionally inviting you to submit your creativity through our first international t-shirt design contest.

Based on a recommendation from Summit faculty alum, Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms Shoes, we are hosting a crowd-sourcing design contest with 99designs, Tuesday October 18th – Friday, October 28th

Use your creativity—visuals or words—to help depict what the Summit has meant to you. What image comes to mind when you think of this worldwide movement? Is there one visual or a collage of photos? Is there a word or a phrase that best describes your experience? If you’re not a designer, please comment below and share your story to aid the brainstorming process. 

Then step up to get involved with the design of the 2012 Summit international t-shirt concept:
1. Share. Please help us connect with artists and creative-types by emailing, tweeting, facebooking, and blogging about this opportunity.

2. Design. This is your chance to show the world how you see and experience TGLS. Submit your t-shirt design at You’ll need to create an account and then search The Global Leadership Summit for contest specifics. To sweeten the deal, prize money will be awarded, including complimentary tickets for 4 to the Summit 2012.

3. Vote. Check back at 99designs each day for updates and to help choose your favorite t-shirt design. Who knows how we might be giving away t-shirts in the coming months?! 

Here are a few of the words that our Summit team lives by (if it helps inspire you!), and be sure to check our Facebook page for stories from leaders around the world:
The Global leadership Summit exists to transform Christian Leaders around the world with an injection of vision, skill development, and inspiration for the sake of the local church.

The Global Leadership Summit has become a unique two-day leadership development event that is unashamedly Christ-centered, intellectually challenging, and results-oriented, with a diverse faculty line-up that will create disequilibrium for the sake of transformation in the Church.

In 2011 over 160,000 people will share this experience in over 400 cities around the world. 

Lead Where You Are has become our rally cry to inspire leaders in all sectors to serve others for the sake of the local church.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for helping us spread the word! 

The winning design will be announced on Tuesday, November 1

Beth Dahlenburg (@Bethd5)
Executive Director of Marketing

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

4 Leadership Best Practices for Pastors

I receive several sailing magazines each month pertaining to sailboat racing. Sailing has been a recreational passion of mine for a long time. Recently I read an issue that had six articles on how to how to win races. I counted up all of the recommendations from each article about how to win sailboat races. There were 35 recommendations. Unfortunately, a list that long doesn’t help me because it’s just too overwhelming. I would like someone to say, here are four recommendations that are super important and if you do these, you’ll vastly improve.

Sometimes the same kind of thought process happens to me when I think about leadership. When I read Michael Feiner’s book on the 50 facets of leadership I thought, “50, wow—that’s a little intimidating”. John Maxwell did the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and sold millions of copies. Thank God he whittled the list from 50 down to 21. Jack Welch wrote Winning, and he boils the list of 21 down to eight basics. But that had to be hard just boiling it down to eight. 

And so, in a bold moment, I’m going to share four leadership points that are on my ‘must do’ list for church leaders. As I interact with pastors around the world, I often am asked questions about the facets of leadership. If I had to say—above all things—do these four recommendations when you get back to your church, I think the points below make the highest impact.

 1. Keep the vision clear. Proverbs 29:18 says—without a vision the people perish. Great leaders attend to every single detail with regard to a vision talk. When a vision lands in the hearts of people in the church, people start soaring in their spirits because there’s a vision in the church worth investing in, praying for, giving toward.

2. Get people engaged. Nehemiah 4:6 says—and all the people worked with all their hearts. Imagine that for a moment, every single person you’re leading working with all his or her heart. What we have to understand here is the difference between someone who passively agrees to an exciting vision and someone who buys in and has an owning stake in that vision.

3. Make your gatherings memorable. Another way of saying it, create great church services. Work so hard to make your gatherings memorable that your people wouldn’t think of missing them. Acts 2:43 says—everyone kept feeling a sense of awe. Awe as in holy transcendent moments where the awareness of the presence of God is palpable. 

4. Pace yourself for the long haul. The key verse here is 1 Corinthians 9:25—Run in such a way as to win the prize. I’d like to finish the race with a family that loves to be together, and with friends that I can belly laugh with, and still stand in front of Jesus who finished His race (and had the toughest assignment of all).

Leaders, we need you. The local church is the hope of the world, and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders. We can’t lose a single one of you from your race. So I plead with you, pace yourself for the long haul. I pray that through our leadership and the leadership of others the church will reach her full potential in this world.

Bill Hybels (@BillHybels)
Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
Chairman of the Board, Willow Creek Association

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tough Callings

When the question is asked of Christians about treasured verses of Scripture, there are some that come up on a frequent basis.  Jeremiah 29:11 is one of these; “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I wonder sometimes when people quote this verse whether they just grab hold of the sentiment, or whether they truly understand it through the life of Jeremiah the prophet.

At the Global Leadership Summit this year, Bill Hybels spoke about Jeremiah’s tough calling.  For those who are called to leadership, there is probably a desire that lurks under the surface that people will recognize the good job that we do and affirm us and occasionally applaud us, or even reward us for the success that is being achieved.  But this wasn’t Jeremiah’s story. 

Jeremiah came from a land owning family and his early life was probably one of favour and ease.  But that all changed when God called him as his prophet to reveal the sins of the people and explain the reason for the impending disaster that was to by destruction by the Babylonian army, followed by captivity.  His was a tough calling.  God said to him, “Attack you they will, overcome you they can’t.”  He was attacked by his own brothers, beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death and thrown in a cistern by Judah’s officials.  This isn’t a role description too many of us would put our hands up for.

If we read on in Jeremiah 29, just two verses later, God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  The challenge for us as leaders, as it was for Jeremiah, is to look beyond our circumstances, to the promises that God has given us.  The promise that he gave Jeremiah was not one of material gain, or fame or even personal security.  The promise to Jeremiah, and the promise to us, is that we will find God.  Our reward is not something, but someone.

So can I encourage those who are either experiencing a tough calling, or sense God’s leading into a tough ministry, that his promise to Jeremiah is a promise for us as well – we will find God there.

If you will miss out on attending the GLS this year, then you can still be inspired and challenged through the Team Edition DVD.  It will be available for purchase at Willow Creek from early November.

Andrew McCafferty

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hospitality Ministry - The Welcoming Church

Have you ever thought of starting a Hospitality Ministry in your church? Karen Frisella directed the Hospitality Ministry for the Willow Creek Association for over ten years, and is the Founder of Joy Along the Journey, a Christian Host Home Network.

She recently shared some thoughts on her blog about the value of hospitality and how to be a welcoming church.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pain and Suffering

In a recent Willow Creek Association monthly webcast, 2011 Global Leadership Summit Speaker John Dickson explored the contrasts between the views of pain and suffering between different world faiths and Christianity. We thought it was worth sharing... 

Enjoy and feel free to pass it on! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Truly Powerful Place

In the last couple of weeks I joined a gym.  It’s a good gym, lots of equipment, not too busy and the staff are friendly.  I like going there.  But when I’m working out it hurts.  As I’m trying to lift heavier weights or run faster for longer my body hurts.  As I’m pushing myself and my body I get to a point where I just can’t lift any more or run any longer. 

At the time this doesn’t feel so great.  But it has long term benefits.  See the next time I go to the gym I can lift a little bit more and run a little bit longer.  Being pushed to my limits in the gym, even though at the time sucks, benefits me in the long run.

As I’ve been reflecting on this I’ve realised that this is what being a Christian is like a lot of the time.  This is what being a missionary to your local community is like.  Over the last three or four years I’ve experienced a lot of hard things in life and ministry.  At the time, I haven’t liked it.  I’ve wondered why these things are happening to me.  I’ve whinged and complained and wondered if God was there.  I’ve tried as hard as I can to see things happen or change and I’ve reached the end of my power and ability.

This whole experience has taught me two very important lessons.  Firstly, it shouldn’t surprise us when life as a Christian gets hard.  Jesus said in Luke 9:23 that, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  We are promised to have full and abundant life, but not easy, stress free, perfect life with Jesus.

Secondly, it is only when we’ve reached the end of our ability that we truly open the door for God to start working through us.  Think about it.  If my life as a Christian is easy; If I find it easy to be a missionary to my community or easy to run my youth ministry or church then I’m unlikely to run to God and rely on Him to work and grow his church.  If I go around thinking I’m awesome, that everything I do turns to gold, then there isn’t space in my heart for God to get the glory he deserves.  We plant and water but it is God who gives the growth (1 Cor 3:6-7).

So I’m now glad for the hard things in my life, just like I’m glad to lift weights that are too heavy for me.  For it’s when we are struggling and realise we cannot do it on our own that we get the most benefit and are in a truly powerful place.

Chris BowditchYouth Minister
Holy Trinity Anglican Church