On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Years ago, when I ran relays and low hurdles, I was always thankful for the device that made a quick start possible. The starting blocks were a valuable tool to spring forward and get that early lead. When it comes to revitalizing a struggling or declining church, I find it beneficial to have a clear and decisive starting point. Too often churches wait until the church is on life support before seeking “medical” attention for their malady. The congregation and the leadership need to begin the revitalization process while the church is alive and vibrant. Seeking to redefine and redesign the group should be accomplished when the church is healthy and has strong resources. “No one will ever arrive at their desired destination unless they first recognize there is a nobler place to be.” Start when you sense the fire is growing cold!

          I recommend every church to do an assessment of its mission and ministry effectiveness every year or two, just like you would ask a doctor to perform a physical to remain healthy and productive. The graph to the left reveals the crucial point for this evaluation process – during the height of the ministry and structure stages. You should redesign before the apex of the bell curve. Determine afresh why God planted your group in your locale. Preach on why God planned your church in this location and what the purpose was for its beginning. Then, ask yourself, “Are we still accomplishing that for which Christ Jesus planted us? Are we still living up to His calling in us?” If your answer to these questions is NO, then now is the time to start a renewal process. Get to it! Start now! Seek to make an eternal difference, even if the risk is high and the resistance is almost excruciating. Before the plateau stage is on the horizon, the church must begin redesigning the next three to five-year vision strategy. If the ministry is beginning to be mundane, NOW IS THE TIME! 

1. Start when the church family is desperate for the Power of God. Nothing positive will occur when the congregation no longer expects Almighty God to show up and show off! How big are your goals? How big is your God? Plan big with a big God and you will be surprised what God will do.

2. Start when the body is desperate for the Presence and Person of Christ. If the family feels the curse of Ichabod (1 Samuel 4:21 – “The Glory of the Lord has departed…”) is written on their church walls, they will cease inviting friends and family to join them in this slow death march. When the family of God is desperate for the presence and person of Christ, others will see and hear of their zeal and be more inclined to join their quest.

3. Start when the leadership is committed to obtaining the favor of God, more than the accolades of humanity. What is most important to you, pastor? Do you prefer to be empowered by a Holy God, or are you more enamored with the dreams of being in some other church where everything is hunky dory, or the pastor of a larger church or being sought after by a denominational agency? Jesus warned us about such things: (John 12:42-43) Flourish where you are planted for the honor and glory of the Vinedresser (John 15:1-11)! If you are not committed to the right-here-and-now, then let someone else take the reins and lead His Bride to the pastures He has prepared for them.

4. Start when the Congregation is Desperate for Something Different. Don’t change simply for the sake of change. Often when a church family sees that the church is struggling, it is past time for something to be done. But when the congregants are crying out for a change, it is time to storm the gates of the status quo and make the adjustments necessary to get the church back on track. If you are not committed to join them, then find a new set of tracks.

5. Start where you find the anointing and leadership of the Lord. Sometimes we find ourselves getting ahead of God. We may find in a Google search an answer that appears good and innovative, but is it God’s plan? Does our direction keep us focused on the best message ever proclaimed? Is the Gospel the source of our foundation? Do the lost people in our community see our love for God being displayed in our care and ministry for the people outside our church walls? Are we doing what Jesus would do if he were a physical member of the church we attend? If we are not living up to His example, then we need to renew our relationship to the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

6. Start when you are seeing bitterness, anger, apathy, defeat and despair. A negative, complaining and grumbling persona will destroy the church’s future opportunity for healing and revitalization. We need to have a CAN-DO attitude because we serve a WILL-DO God. If we gather together in harmony and unity (Matt. 18:20), desiring to do His Will, He will be there! Remember, we cannot be defeated when we are His! (2 Cor. 4:7-10)

7. Start when the members are beginning to be more concerned with maintaining the church facilities than reaching the lost souls of humanity. A passion for the lost is vital. We are not a museum; we are a ministry! Recognizing people are headed for a God-less eternity should instill a sense of urgency in the body of Christ; for such were we! The church must remain externally focused. Searching diligently for the lost sheep is the example Jesus gave us about His Shepherding Father. May we be known for leaving the building to rescue the perishing.

8. Start on your knees. This is where Jesus began the walk to the Cross. It is the primary starting point! The source of empowerment for Him, for the church and for every revitalization process is the same. Power is spelled P-R-A-Y-E-R!

Isn’t intriguing that the disciples asked Jesus early in His ministry to teach them to pray? They didn’t ask for training in healing, exorcising of demons, multiplying of bread and fish, or the ability to walk on water. They asked, “Lord, teach us to pray…” Prayer is the faucet that opens the pipeline to the blessings of God. If we pray, we can move mountains. If we pray, we can stand strong when the storms rage and when we pray, we capture the eyes, ears and heart of our Heavenly Father. Prayer changes me!

9. Start when you are absolutely convinced the process, the race and the finish are not up to you. Revitalization and renewal are not about the leader, the congregants or the community. It is about obedience to the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and our Great Savior, King Jesus. The process is to get His Bride ready for His return. To assist her in adorning herself with the fullness of the Spirit and being a co-laborer with her in proclaiming the Gospel to the nations. Revitalization is REVIVAL! If it does not lead us to revival, then it is not revitalization – it is merely a Band-Aid on a dead body!

What is coming next in the life of the church?

Remote Pastors? I really doubt it! The sheep will never agree to having a shepherd who is not physically present to watch over them, feed them and meet their every need (PS – a pastor’s job is to equip, not feed). Sheep prefer the shepherd to be their own personal servant. They often act and respond in a manner that shouts – “This is my shepherd; I cannot live and move and have my being without him!” They look to the pastor for sustenance, safety, and guidance, but this is the role of the Great Shepherd. We can never replace the Great Shepherd; we are simply His representative and ambassador. I think it is safe to say that the shepherd will never be replaced by a robot or a digital image. Nope, no remote pastors!

Remote Staff? Not likely either, but some pastors of large tier churches feel this has already happened. The youth pastor and the youth are all the way across campus in a separate building, having separate worship, hearing age-specific messages and focused on separate goals. When the staff are allowed to lead in ways that are not compatible or complementary to the mission and vision of the entire church body, conflict is brewing. The church family needs unified leadership and willing compliance to the plans of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit. We need equippers and disciplers to prepare the church for the next generation.

Remote members? Hum? This adaptation has been altering our congregations for the last two years and it is continuing to happen even as I write. We see members who prefer attending church via laptop or tv, drinking coffee in their pajamas while listening to the sermon, and feeling free to take a bathroom break without the embarrassment of others judging their movement during the message. They like sending in their tithe and fulfilling their monetary obligation. For some, this is their way of satisfying God. For others it is a method for offering adoration to our Lord. Still for others, it is like offering indulgences hoping to gain a plot in heaven. But what is lost when members log in remotely all the time? Fellowship, relationships, pooled wisdom in Bible Study classes, a symphony of voices raised in adoration to our Great God and Father, the sharing of what God is doing in the lives of other believers, and the adrenaline of celebrating the transformation of a lost wanderer into an adopted child of the Heavenly Kingdom.

But wait! I believe remote services should be a continual part of the church’s ministry, maybe forever. The main purpose is for reaching those who are yet-to-be-saved! It is for those who are sick, shut in, the “not-yet-comfortable returnees,” and those around the globe.  Jesus knew that “remote only” is not THE BEST option, that is why He sent us the Holy Spirit, but if being remote reaches the lost and glorifies our Lord, then maybe we should hang on to it until He says it’s okay to stop!

THE MUSCLE OF BABY STEPS

Ben and Erin Napier are hosts of the HGTV show, “Hometown.” They have taken the dreams of a small-town revitalization by storm. The Laurel Mercantile (owned by the Napiers) even has a collector’s mug with the phrase, “We have the POWER to do this.” This phrase was devised by the series director during their first summer of filming in the sweltering heat of southern Mississippi. This axiom is applicable to revitalization in general. Revitalization is a process of many exciting and rewarding BABY STEPS!

          Ben and Erin started a small, grass-roots movement to assist Laurel’s downtown in regaining its former beauty and vibrancy. What they started has become a booming trend! It didn’t happen overnight, but with a series of small, incremental improvements, their efforts provided enough momentum to transform and improve the quality of life for years to come. In the world of small towns and Main Street renovations this is known as “incrementalism.” Incrementalism is not flashy and not always immediately rewarding. It requires numerous small changes that need to take place over a period of time. Some are well-received, and others are totally rejected, but like the domino effect, a chain reaction is set in motion, and the beauty of the plan brings about something new, exciting, and desirable to replicate. This is the MUSCLE of Baby Steps! 

          Every child begins walking with small, baby steps. Some steps lead to excitement, applause, and the joy of making it from one spot to another. Others end up on their face with embarrassment and a painful “booboo.” So how can we as revitalizers help a church work through the process with the least amount of pain and bloodshed? Neil Armstrong said it best on that monumental day of July 20, 1969, from the surface of the moon – “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” His words have been repeated thousands of times and the message still rings clear – the first steps maybe small, but the journey beyond can be gigantic. We start by taking a small step and we press on for the health and effectiveness of the entire congregation. Our baby steps can lead to a thriving church and a transformed community.

          The first steps can be a bit mundane and laborious. Consider how many times a baby who is learning to walk, gets picked up, set precariously on their wobbly legs, and told, “Come to papa or mama?” This must be exasperating for the infant! But this is where we all start. The Change Readiness Assessment determines if the pastor is the one to lead the process and if he has the trust of the congregation. Will they follow him into battle? Second, unpacking the process helps the congregation and leaders to determine where their church is on the congregational lifecycle bell curve. This can be unpleasant and even embarrassing. Here is where the measurement tools are laid out for display and the timeline is presented. At this stage I usually lose the commitment of a majority of churches. They have forgotten how long it took for them to get into the pit from which they now feel trapped. We begin by having the pastor preach on the Biblical rationale for the revitalization process and start praying about the candidates for a Future Vision Team.

          Now that we have begun toddling along, we introduce the revitalization specialist. He shares the process with the entire membership, presents the church health survey and begins congregational and leadership interviews. Next, before compiling the data needed for the church report, are observations and evaluations of the facilities, property, parking, signage, technology, security, documents, ministries, committees, teams, events, plans, etc. Only after thorough inspection will the weakest areas be exposed. The reason for such intense examination is that the specialist does not want to be considered a liar or manipulator of the church’s leadership. The revelations of this stage are from the church members and interviews with people in the community.

          Now, with all the facts in hand, the specialist presents the report – the survey, church member interviews, demographics, observations, evaluations, and community interviews are presented to the staff just prior to the Church Conference Weekend. During this retreat, the report is submitted, and the congregation hears the “what and why” of their survey responses. They hear what makes a church healthy and barriers to church health. Then, they break up into smaller groups and dream, declare their ministry values, uncover the areas of greatest church need and present their greatest hopes and deepest concerns for the future of their church family. We come back together to synthesize their findings and ponder the ideas that would break down the barriers to a thriving and exciting ministry in their local church. The Conference Weekend is often the time I see members become aware of the depth of their decline and hear testimonies of a craving to re-ignite the fire and mission that once drove the church into the community and the world. This step is the “one giant leap for mankind.” When the congregation embraces a fresh zeal for the lost and becomes broken over their own apathy, revival is only one more baby step ahead!

          Next, we examine and secure the players who will make up the Future Vision Team. By use of a Personality Inventory and Spiritual Gifts assessment we can locate a balanced and harmonious team; this is performed by the specialist in conjunction with the pastor. After securing a covenant by each team member, the team is ready for training. We deal with the biblical rationale for a revitalization team, the difference between a purpose-driven and values-driven philosophy of ministry, strategic planning molded together with intentional implementation and a receptivity to the responses of the Church Conference Weekend. These findings and suggestions become the marching orders for the Future Vision Team. The team learns to use the Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis to evaluate the bulk of the church’s activity/ministry. Every ministry is evaluated, and adjustments are offered to those who lead these ministries. The church needs to know how to do more, with less, in this present culture. Priorities are determined and goals are set using the SMART goals plan (Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). Measurement tools and checkpoints are clarified and the persons who will champion each of the goals is assigned during the training sessions. Any church conflict must be addressed before or during this stage. Adding some equipping courses to the weekly schedule of the church should be considered at this juncture as well (mentoring; coaching; discipleship training and potential worker training, etc.).

          Finally, the Vision Team and the pastor set the goals, proclaim the vision, encourage engagement in the revitalization process and motivate the leaders to perform ministries and events with the values and goals discovered in the Weekend Retreat and Vision Team training. Innovative technology, security procedures and safety protocols should be developed and incorporated by those who function within these roles. Church documents need to be reviewed and adjusted to align with the new values and strategies, and committees and teams should be renovated to assist in adhering to and acting in agreement with the new paradigm.

          We, as followers of Christ, must not make the baby steps about theology or methodology only. We need to be displaying a willing receptivity to the Holy Spirit and immediate obedience to His voice and movement. Some of these strategies may appear worldly or elementary, but baby steps look easy until you walk in the shoes of those who are new to the family of God and those who are yet-to-be-reached. In business, the axiom is, “think like a customer.” In the church, the strategy should be, “how can we effectively answer the question: ‘What must I do to be saved!’” These are the baby steps most important for the health of the church!

Watch Out, the Road is Full of Potholes

          As a Revitalizer, we can find a plethora of examples of renewal in the Word of God. It’s wonderful when the Lord reveals these models of wisdom that can help shape and mold our character and attitudes. I wish I would consistently and constantly assimilate their traits into my daily living! Here are my favorite biblical examples. Ones who have stood firm during the tsunamis of life and responded in righteousness. Nehemiah is my man for strategy and prayer; Enoch, my model for an intimate relationship with the Father; Ittai, (one of David’s commanders) is my symbol of steadfastness and loyalty, Job is a mirror, reflecting perseverance and faithfulness, when all seems horrible, and Jesus is my preeminent model of obedience, holiness, and righteousness. For these giants, I am eternally grateful!

          In this world, I have encountered spiritual leaders who have come under unwarranted attack from church members while striving to guide their church to health and fitness. Why would any church member not want their church to be productive and effective for the Kingdom of God? Could it be they are not really one of us, or could it be that they can’t bear the thought of “their church” changing? Or maybe it’s simply that they are uninformed about what the Bible says about the health and growth of His Bride? Whatever possesses them to be a barrier, the leader often ends up the target of their refusal to submit to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

          So, let’s examine the determination and grit that a successful revitalizer must possess. First, what does the term “perseverance” mean? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” Perseverance is needed for our spiritual success as well as our success in human life. It is a command from God! In Revelation 3:7-8 and 10, He expects us to persevere. How do we do it? Well, we cannot in our own power and intellect. We must have God’s spirit living and working in us. That’s the only way we can endure.

          A person who has perseverance endures no matter what the trials or how much suffering or grief he or she may go through. It’s from the root word meaning “to remain under.” What does that mean? It means a person would be willing to remain under trials, if necessary, and to honor and glorify the Lord. By enduring such trials, they learn the lessons only trials teach. We need to view barriers and potholes as part of God’s plan. I found personally that when my church was struggling, so was I. They were mirroring the leader’s lack of energy and passion.

          Job, when confronted by his wife about his trial, said, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” Job 2:9 (NASB) Making adjustments in a struggling or declining congregation has never been easy and during a revitalization process it is no more palatable. The process can expose flaws, weaknesses, and failures, but it can also present the congregation with checkpoints for the church to be able to see when the congregation and the leadership are moving forward. This gives a view toward a brighter future.

          How can a congregation and its leaders endure and proceed in the face of scrutiny, opposition, or desertion?

          1. Be absolutely certain you are following Christ’s plan (not your own). Paul states in Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We have persistent steadfastness, not because we are invincible, tough and wise, but because we have the power and anointing of the Spirit of God within us. When we are weak, He will exchange His strength for our weakness!

          Another way to say it is found in 2 Timothy 1:12 (NKJV).For this reason, I also suffer these things; nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” If you are absolutely persuaded that you are the leader to walk the church through revitalization and you are certain the direction is His, then stand up, speak boldly, and invite your church family to follow your voice!

          Okay, here’s one more peg to hang your hat on: Galatians 6:9 (NLT)So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Don’t give up, sit down or shut up if you certain of His calling and direction.

          2. Accept suffering as God’s way of guiding our ideas and opinions so we see the best option – His plan! The fruit that grows on the outside of a tree and is exposed to the abuse of weather is always the sweetest, because it receives the most sun. Are you allowing the Son to shine on your situation or are you trying to stay in the shade of comfort and convenience?

          James 1:2-6a (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.

          3. Walk in faith, God is for you and with you! Perseverance is when we keep coming back, and we never give up. Keep trying, keep knocking and, finally, the door will open. Stay the course (let me rephrase that – “Stay His course”)! 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (NKJV)But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

          4. Don’t give up! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said this, “Perseverance is a great element of success, if you knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you’re sure to wake up somebody.” If God is with you, stay in there for the duration. Keep the faith, charge with courage, be tenacious and run with stamina.

          His goals are just ahead. They are well within reach. No church knows how much time it has left. Most everything has a shelf-life. Sooner or later our best intentions come to an end. Where will your best efforts, your greatest adventures and your most zealous passions lead you? Why would we want to consider accepting failure when He is with us? Many before us have worked too hard, for too many years to let the legacy and the mission of the church fade away into obscurity.

          5. Don’t be afraid of those who oppose you! Ezekiel 3:9 (NKJV)Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead (the conspicuous part of our head that discloses our direction); do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” If you are on track, following God’s design, they are not opposing you; they are opposing Him! Remember, “stay on course even if the road is loaded with potholes.”

          Nehemiah faced opposition, but he prayed, developed a plan, sold the people on the purpose for the new walls, consistently pointed them to the goal ahead, and reminded them that The Lord would be with them and give them the victory. The walls were rebuilt, safety and security were regained, and it was all done super-fast – just 52 days! Let us keep our eyes on the prize and hold fast to our energy source, which is found in our Savior, the King of kings? We won’t be disappointed at the results! Focus on the goal, not on the potholes!

Secrets to a Happy and Healthy Leader

I find it perplexing today that many people would have us believe they are an expert on just about anything and every topic. Pseudo-experts write new books every year concerning the latest and greatest ways to get ahead or make millions. People approach me regularly for advice or coaching supposing I have all the answers to their problems. Some think they can tell others what they should be doing in their lives, while their life’s secret is – their situation is a mess and they can’t even see it. The Bible said it would be this way! And, some leaders are so busy picking at the speck in another leader’s eye, that they can’t even see the railroad tie that is protruding from their own. The Word of God says that God gives GRACE to the humble and resists the PROUD! (1 Peter 5:15).

          Jesus showed us the way to be first in the kingdom of God, and first in our own families, AND He did it with a basin, a towel, and water. We are to get off our arrogant, self-centered high horse and get down into the filth of a dirty floor and wash each other’s feet. Yes, shepherds often smell like sheep stuff when they are working closely with them. Ever get a little stink on you? If not, why not?

          I’m not necessarily saying you should practice literal foot-washing, unless God impresses you to do so, but I am talking about setting aside your pride, your wants, your plans, and your feelings so that others around you would have the chance to flourish and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus, because you and I are expected to model the Biblical principles of humility and selflessness.

          No one in our homes will grow to embrace Godly character or a healthy self-image without us each individually living out the life of Christ to our wives, our husbands, our children, our parents or our friends. People MUST see Jesus in us!

          We have reared five children and I would love to tout their absolute perfection to every command of the Lord, BUT I would be lying! The one thing that made a huge difference in our 43 years of marriage and almost 40 years of parenting is this – consistent unity of parental leadership. When I speak, the kids knew that mom would not overturn my words. When she made a declaration, they knew I would not cave to their tears or pleading. We were always ONE. Sure, there were times when we had bedroom powwows over our response, but when the door opened, the words they heard were consistent and unified.

          With that foundation in mind, I hope you will receive the following with sincere evaluation, knowing all adjustments require love and challenge.

SEVEN SECRETS TO A HAPPY AND HEALTHY FAMILY LEADER

  1. Security and Faithfulness – our spouses and our children should never, ever have to wonder about our faithfulness to one another. They should be at peace with the covenant we have made between God and our spouse.  When a warning light goes on, don’t smash it out or unscrew the bulb – deal with the problem and make a choice to overcome it by the power of God.
  2. Communication – Many great marriage experts have already exhausted this topic. Communication is the essential to a healthy relationship, whether marital or social. During difficult times, it is absolutely vital not to do or say anything that will close the spirit of others. Keep the lines of communication open and honest!
  3. Courtship/Dating beyond the Ring – Don’t become lazy and sloppy! Keep the fire alive! Remember how you use to act in the presence of your now present spouse? Remember how you dressed? Remember how you smelled? Remember? Never lose the challenge of loving one another in the same way Christ loves you. Put on your best for the one who holds your heart!
  4. Warming Up the Iron – women are like an iron; men are like a light bulb. Men, take the time men to engage your wife in intimate conversation and intimate caressing before you sizzle! Make sure your mate receives as much or more enjoyment out of a sexual encounter as you do. Respect each other! Don’t push. Our purpose is to be the fulfiller for the needs and voids in our spouses’ heart and mind.
  5. Spend time to make lasting memories/moments – Camping has always been a memory-maker for us. Some good; some bad; some funny and some just plain grotesque.  Places like Golden Gate Canyon State Park; Lake Mineral Wells State Park; Kerrville-Schreiner State Park hold special memories.  Canoeing with my wife. Yes, I got cocky and overturned the canoe to her chagrin. My oldest son who bent back the van door when backing the van out of the garage (you gotta shut the door first). Kids who pounded on the van with a hammer, thinking they were helping me work on it. Cut fingers; stitches; a broken jaw; a broken arm; and the list goes on. Trying times, but precious memories!
  6. Keep the Cup Full – Give each other constant and consistent encouragement and care. What if they were taken from you today? Have you done everything you know you ought to, so they would know, without question, how valuable they are to you?
  7. The True Source of Love– don’t look for fulfillment in a house, a car, clothes, a job or even in people alone. Fulfillment is only found in Christ! Help your family to experience the fullness of Christ’s presence and love in their spirit and life. Your spouse and your children, and now grandchildren, should always find peace and security in your love for them.

          I have read and heard numerous testimonies of how persons in a crisis or traumatic experience found strength and healing in the consistent compassion of their spouse or family. My mind goes to people like Joni Eareckson Tada (a quadriplegic resulting from a diving accident); Clebe McClary (Vietnam veteran who lost an arm, an eye, and most the of the use of his good hand); Dave Roever (Black Beret Vietnam veteran who had a phosphorous grenade explode in his hand – 14 months in the hospital and 15 major surgeries); and the list goes on.

          All of these chose to let God give joy for sorrow; healing for pain; and to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3)

          It isn’t wrong to avoid painful situations whenever possible, but it is wrong to deny problems, ignore them, or try to explain them away. Don’t get me wrong here; I am not implying that God causes trials (James 1:13), nor am I saying that we ought to help others suffer trials so they can gain from the experience (Romans 6:1-2).  God can and does take the lousy stuff that happens to us and uses it for our good (Romans 8:28). I love how Job put it, when answering his wife’s comment, “Curse God and die.”

Job 2:10 (NKJV)Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” And the writer adds – In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

          Life is messy and often unfair, and families will have differences of opinion and even arguments at times. What makes the difference between a life of victory and a life of misery is how we respond to what life throws at us. Avoid negativity and refuse to allow bitterness to dwell in your life. Be positive, encouraging, and care for others more than you care for yourself.

          Where are you? Exchange your spirit of heaviness for a garment of praise. Relinquish any anger or frustration you are having with your spouse or children and let God give you peace and joy. Wage the war against our enemy, not against one another!

          It is never easy to “welcome” trials as “friends,” but they can train, shape and mold us to become Christ-like. Accept each trial as an opportunity to grow and each other as that “shaping-agent” for our good! Be the leader who has a healthy, stable home and you will be much more likely to become the revitalizer who can help churches to have a healthy, thriving future.