Taking the Next Step

joelby Joel Comiskey

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.



15 thoughts on “Taking the Next Step

  • Joel – I am always considering what God would have me do next… my trouble is separating my desires from His. Just saw a tweet today, “sometimes temptation comes in the form of an opportunity” which reminds me to be doubly sure I’m listening for God’s direction. Unfortunately this is often what stalls me from moving at all. Thanks for the prompting to take a step!

  • Great word, Mary Beth. Deciphering God’s will from our own is huge. And you’re also right in saying that just because that NEXT STEP looks like a great opportunity, it doesn’t mean it’s God’s will. I was asked to take a teaching position in a well-known seminar that would have brought stable wealth to me and my family BUT it would have also taken me out of the center of God’s will. I suppose there could have been a blog before the one I wrote about HOW DO TO DISCOVER THE NEXT STEP. . . . (that one will have to wait)

  • Joel,

    I was a bit concerned where your post was headed and am very glad you added, For some of you, this means staying the course you’re on right now and not jumping ship. Knowing that I know God’s purpose for my life and His direction for my ministry propels me to remain confident in His leading.

    Psalm 20:7 — “Some trust in chariots, some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God”.

    Romans 8:28 — “And we know [we are confident] that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

    Psalm 123:2 — (Amplified Bible) – “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, and as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy and loving-kindness for us.”

    Philippians 4:19 – “My God shall supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.”

    Psalm 34:6 – “When I was desperate, I called out, and GOD got me out of a tight spot.”

    Proverbs 3:5-8 – (The Message) — “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • Hey, Rick, I’m glad you were encouraged. I believe that God has set my present course for quite some time. STAYING THE COURSE is critical for me at this point, and it looks like you’re in the same boat. God will probably ask me to take a lot of little steps as I continue my current journey. . .

  • In a Tweet dated July 17th, William Paul Young (author of ‘The Shack’) wrote, “Was thinking: with God, it’s purpose but with us humans it too easily turns into agenda.”

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • In the midst of trying to determine where God is leading us, let’s not forget the two most important “things” we need to be doing–loving God with everything we have and loving those around us as we love ourselves.

  • Joel,

    This certainly speaks to where I am right now. Interestingly, a friend asked me just this weekend about just this very topic. And I readily confessed that I’ve spent my life trying to hide in a place where I feel secure and stable and predictable, but that God doesnt’ allow me to do that. Instead, He consistently rips me out of my comfort zone. It sounds brutal and agonizing. And while it is, on one hand, on the other hand, it’s at those times of obedience and full dependence on God (and sheer terror) that I feel fully alive and fully God’s.

    Thank you for this encouragement.

  • Hey, Sarah, thanks for your transparency about God’s work in your life to keep you from becoming comfortable in self. I think you have clearly spoken for the rest of us!! I know that’s what God has continually been doing in my own life. . .

  • Hi Joel. I am from Brazil and I have read your posts and your tweet. This message you wrote is so beautiful and truthful. I am graduated in psychology, my wife and I are members of Second Baptist Church in Joao Monlevade. All Sundays we pick kids up and take them to church. We love to take them to know Jesus. About taking the next step I have a doubt which has been with me for some time and it is if I should take a master degree or go to the USA and take a Theology course. I love American culture and have always dreamed to study,work and live there. I must take my next step 🙂

  • Joel,

    Our lives are made up of small steps, aren’t they? Ten years ago, with fear and trembling, I read my first poem to my friend, the English teacher. With her encouragement, I took another step, of submitting a poem to a contest. Winning a prize encouraged another step. From that first tiny step, God has led me along to writing prose published in national publications. And, then, a memoir. Yay, God, who leads us along, precept upon precept, line upon line.

  • Hi, Joel, Thank you for this very powerful article. My husband and I have really tried to follow the Lord step by step, and He has led us to some amazing places and to work with some amazing people. It hasn’t always been easy. And, yes, sometimes the next step means staying put but obeying right there what He asked us to do.
    My husband always says, “If you don’t have clarity about the future and the next step, go back to the last thing God asked you to do.” If we didn’t obey the previous prompting, it will be difficult to see the next step. And sometimes we don’t have clarity just because He hasn’t revealed it yet.
    Bless you, Joel, for your very encouraging and vital ministry.

  • Hi Joel,

    I have been through alot in my life time. But I am still going. I was born with a Disease called Crouzon’s Disease and Apert’s Syndrome. Facing surgeries, counseling, and etc. I have lost both of my parents and went through a divorce all at the sametime. I am not a counselor but I counsel with people. I am a born again Christian. I grew up in a Missionary Church. Then things started to happen. We believe that the Lord was calling us to go to another church which we did. But over time I was still facing surgeries along with everything else. Now that being said. I am 44 years old. And I still have the Disease it will never go away. Just gets worse and worse. I still have the Lord in my life. But I can’t go to church. I can’t sit for very long and I can’t stand for very long. So I listen to the preachers on tv as best as I can. But I still talk with my Lord everytime I get a chance. Joel, without my Lord and Savior I wouldn’t be here. I am a walking and talking testmony for Him. And yes, I do tell everybody that wants to listen to me talk about Him. He loves me and I love Him.

    Since I can’t go to church and can’t do alot of things. I still read my Bible or at least I try to. But I still have my daily long talks with my Lord. I believe that my calling is counseling on here. I have a website and a chat room on aol. And people come in into my chat room and we get to know each other. But one thing though they keep coming back and they have told me that this is one of the best rooms that they can share what’s on their minds. I just ask them if they can keep it clean no cussing, and no foul language I don’t want that in my chat room.

    I am searching for somebody to help me. I am wanting to write a book about my life along with my parents life too. I have before and after pictures of me before my first plastic surgery. I have a story to tell and I want to help people out there. Most of all I want people to know that there is a one true God and He is wonderful. It’s like the song says He is AWESOME GOD!!! I got to see His hands and His feet, His white robe, I got to hear His voice it’s like no other. I got to see the pearly gates the streets of gold the angels they were singing oh what a happy day that was. I just had this dream the night before my first plastic surgery. And on the second one I ask the Lord to please hold on to my hand so I can know He was there. Joel, He did. When I woke up my mom had touched my hand and my arm they were both sore. Because my Lord had to let me know He was there all the way through the surgery. And a month before my surgery one of many pasters that I knew this one was my favorite one he had passed away. But before he passed away he made a promise to me that he will be there. And the night before my surgery I told my mom that Otis (my Pastor) won’t be with me like he promised. Joel, wrong again he was there long with my Lord. The Lord took one hand and Otis took the other hand. So both arms and hands were very sore for awhile. See I have stories to tell and that’s why I want to write a book. I just don’t know how where to start where to end or anything like that. I need your prayer to help me so I can find somebody to help me. Send me a email, or information. I can’t pay anything because I only recieve 1 pay check a month. And that goes towards bills. I just have enough to live off of. But I am not complaining about that. I just want people to read what I have to say about our Lord and Savior. He is Awesome God!!

    I am sorry for giving you a ear full. I hope I get to hear from you soon. And most of all thank you for your time in reading my comment.

    Hugs and Prayers,

  • It’s exciting to see so many testifying that they have been taking the next step and God has continually shown HIMSELF faithful, and that’s my testimony as well. My hunger is to reach convergence, and I believe it’s yours as well. Tricia, I would recommend that you buy and read the book AIMING AT AMAZON. After reading that book, let me know what you think. I could then give you some otehr pointers to getting published.

  • Joel,

    The “Next Steps” Blog is a very important confirmation for many that have or will read it. We all need the encouragement to “go into our future” in unchartered waters.

    Blessings to all!


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