Going for Gold

  • 22 February 2018
  • Randy Wollf

Gold medalMy parents taught me to go for gold. They weren’t necessarily thinking of an Olympic gold medal, but they encouraged me to always try my best in everything that I did. For them, and for me today, going for gold means trying my very best.

The concept of going for gold is one reason why I love watching the Olympics. I get excited when athletes from my country do well, but I’m also impressed by the incredible dedication of all Olympic athletes. They have made many sacrifices to get to the level necessary to compete at the Olympic level. They are committed to going for gold. 

I tried my best as a young hockey player. Some seasons were better than others, but one year I received my team’s “Most Valuable Player” award.

I tried my best as a seminary student and ended up winning my one and only gold medal – the Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence.

Of course, doing my best sometimes resulted in failure, or at least not meeting the expectations I had for myself.

Those of us with perfectionistic tendencies sometimes think that we need to be perfect or almost perfect in all that we do. That’s impossible and places an unbearable burden on us that will often lead to discouragement and a sense of defeat. What I have found more helpful is to think about achieving excellence, which I define as doing our best with the resources at our disposal. When I pursue excellence, I’m going for gold.

Several years ago, our family visited Barkerville, BC, the main town in the Cariboo Gold Rush during the 1860s. We even did some gold panning at the restored historic site and picked up some souvenir gold flakes. Just like other gold rushes, some people gave up everything they had to try to find gold. Their obsession was known as gold fever.

I would suggest that going for gold in life is ultimately not about gold fever; it’s about God fever. It’s giving up everything to follow God and His purposes for our lives.

The Apostle Paul had God fever. He chose to focus all his energies on running the race of life well, so that he would receive the prize, the gold medal if you will, that God awards to those who are faithful to Him (Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8). He summed up his desire to please His Lord in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26:

Trained by Life's Challenges

  • 25 January 2018
  • Randy Wollf

Mature spiritual leadership is forged in the crucible of difficult conversations, the pressure of conflicted relationships, the pain of setbacks, and dark nights of the soul. — Peter Scazzero

The school of hard knocks has a way of teaching us deep lessons. 

James encourages us to be joyful when we encounter difficulties. The reason: the testing of our faith produces endurance, which leads to spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4).

Peter shares the same view. He says that trials refine our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Paul reminds us that "our light and momentary troubles" are producing eternal benefits that far outweigh the discomfort of the moment (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Yet, how do we respond well to life's challenges? The writer of Hebrews encourages us to endure hardship as discipline (Hebrews 12:7). It's important to recognize that the writer is not saying that all hardship is discipline; he's simply asking us to view it in that way—to see difficulty as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I like to golf. I'm not the best golfer in the world—a fact that was clearly demonstrated during one of our annual Wollf Golf Tournaments. One of the tee boxes had foot-high hedges that stretched for about 20 feet along either side. I promptly drove my first ball into one of those hedges. It was embarrassing, but those ball-sucking hedges were not done with me yet. I drove five balls into their clutches. As I went to retrieve my fifth ball (now lying 10 shots and not even off the tee yet), my dad and brother overhead me muttering, "What is God trying to teach me?"  

Even though I can't remember how deeply I was pondering the question at the time, it's not a bad question to ask both on and off the golf course.

The writer of Hebrews goes on to talk about our loving Father who disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. It's a painful process. Yet, it can produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

We are trained by life when we humbly respond to both painful and pleasant circumstance and earnestly seek to learn God's lessons from both. This often requires prayerful processing guided by Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom of supportive confidants.

I am told that Caribbean pine trees routinely withstand fierce hurricanes, long periods of drought, and even fire. But one thing they cannot tolerate is cultivation. In a well-kept yard with plenty of water and fertilizer, they often die.

We need adversity to grow stronger in Christ.

As Helen Keller testified:

How to Develop a Strategic Approach to Discipleship

  • 31 October 2017
  • Randy Wollf

In my experience as a pastor and in my interactions with other church leaders, I know that churches sometimes struggle with how to make disciples most effectively. Approaches that worked well in the past may not be as effective today. 

In this blog, we will look at a holistic process for making disciples that involves churches growing in 11 key areas. This strategic pathway of discipleship attempts to integrate a biblical understanding of discipleship with an understanding of contemporary culture. Obviously, some elements may be more important in a particular context while other elements not included in this list may need to be considered.

1. Prayer Saturation 

Prayer permeates disciple-making churches. How can we grow a culture of prayer—a culture in which God delights to work deeply in peoples' lives? Here are nine suggestions I have for how churches can grow in prayer

2. Loving Christ-Centred Community 

Discipleship occurs best in deep communities where people lovingly practice life-on-life discipleship. What can leaders do to develop this kind of intimacy? I believe leaders need to create opportunities for people to develop and grow disciple-making relationships and then model how this is done. Here are 8 characteristics the flow from a Christ-centred community.  

3. Growth Orientation 

When everything in the church is geared toward helping people take next steps, growth becomes normative and expected. Discipleship can flourish in this kind of growth-oriented environment (click here to read how leaders can foster a growth mindset).