I first heard the term "Challenge Spike" in a talk I was hearing Bill Hybels give. He used the term to refer to an era of unique ministerial/personal challenge in his ministry. As I’ve been reflecting on ministry at HOCC, it occurs to me that I’ve had some…even in the brief time I’ve been here.

The first was year one, when I figured out where all the land mines were. We were short on staff, and so I was doing all administration, preaching two services plus bible class, plus a midweek service. We also had our first child, two months after we arrived at Highland Oaks.

The second was year when power was when elders and ministers go through their "mutual testing" phase. This is natural, and tends to happen years 2-3 of any ministry. It ain’t fun though…but we weathered it and went forth stronger than we were before.

The third was October 2006 – August 2007. This spike was based on good ole ministerial hard work. It includes our recent capital campaign, the construction phase, the launching of a new campus, the hiring of new staff, the attempt to finish a DMin degree, and beginning to preach at both campuses each Sunday.

It occurs to me that none of these could have been avoided. Everyone has to be the new kid on the block, and make lots of awkward moves that help them figure out how things work–what should stay and what might need renovation. The mutual testing phase happens in nearly every long-term relationship I can think of–marriage, parenting, ministry, etc.

Challenge spikes of the third variety are actually avoidable. By simply not tackling big challenges, or by remaining in a situation in which one doesn’t have the freedom to do such, one can avoid labor pain that extends beyond the norm. It’s well worth the effort for things that genuinely bless God, people, and are consistent with the reign of God in the world.

On occasion, I’ll have a conversation with a staff member whose tongue is dragging on the ground from good ole labor. Almost without fail, we end it thankful that we’re at a place where there’s enough going on to make our tongues drag. That’s why many people go into ministry in the first place…they want to be in the middle of what God’s doing through the local church all the time. Challenge spikes or not…ministry should be "done" in the vortex of God’s activity.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…what is the most challenging part of ministry for you?