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Taking the Next Step

by Joel Comiskey

Summer 2009

Last June, I taught a D.Min cell church course with Ralph Neighbour for Golden Gate Seminary (right after the symposium). During the last half-hour, Ralph Neighbour’s firstborn son, Ralph, asked me to speak from my heart and give some final words to the eleven present. I shared with them what God had shown me the night before in my devotions about taking the next step. “Take the next step,” I told them. “Often the next step brings us into new territory, difficulties, and sometimes stretches us beyond our own limits. But we’ll never become all that God wants us to be unless we take the next step.”

The night before I had reflected back on my own journey. I looked back on each new step in my life and ministry. For example, it was a big step to become a missionary in Ecuador. But then it was another big step to become a cell church leader while a missionary in Ecuador. I was rocking the boat of my denomination by my writing, speaking in seminars, and transitioning the flagship church in Ecuador to cell ministry. Then there was the step of leaving Ecuador to establish my ministry in the United States. I remembered how painful it was to leave Ecuador, relearn the North American culture, and then start coaching pastors–a completely new ministry for me. Some of those pastors left in frustration because I really didn’t know what I was doing. But while taking the next step, I learned how to coach. God was perfecting a new, important ministry while I was crying out in emotional agony. As I looked back at God’s work in my own life, I was challenged to continue taking new steps in ministry. I realized that I had to continually be moving forward with God.

Dr. Robert Clinton of Fuller Seminary has studied the lives of 1000s of leaders and discovered that many leaders never reach their full potential because they fail to take the next step. They end up stagnating. Some of these leaders become hindered by structures that impede the full blossoming of their lives, ministries, and talents. They fail to reach what Clinton calls “convergence.” Other leaders, according to Clinton, keep on stepping out and enter a wonderful convergence of fruit, lasting legacy, and powerful ministry.

Taking the next step often means stepping out into the unknown. Scripture says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country” (Hebrews 11: 8-9). Abraham became all God wanted him to be as he stepped out into the unknown.

My 18 year old daughter, Sarah, is an example of stepping out. On August 12, she will take the step to live one year in Texas. She will study at the Honor Academy, which is part of Teen Mania Ministry. She felt God called her to do this last March in Sacramento at an Acquire the Fire event (Teen Mania). In the “flesh” we don’t want her to go, nor does she want to go! Yet, she knows she must take the next step in her life to follow God wholeheartedly.And so do we, even though it will be painful to see her go.

My encouragement to you is to take the next step in your life and ministry. Enter into the unknown with God. He’ll be right by your side. For some of you, this means staying the same course you’re on right now and not jumping ship. You are in that “unknown country” at this moment. For others, it means stepping outside your comfort zone and taking the next step for God, wherever that might lead you. Let’s commit ourselves not to take the soft road, the easy way out. Let’s keep on taking the next step, wherever that might lead.