We can all agree the Spirit of God is alive and well, even in a culture that seems to be rapidly headed in a different direction. What would it be like for us as individuals and leaders of organizations to be able to tap into the living Spirit? Chris Hodges is the lead pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. In 17 years, by the movement of the Spirit, Church of the Highlands has grown to a church of 70,000 people on 17 campuses with 17 more campuses in area prisons. When Chris is asked how this kind of growth is happening, he shares about a “holy momentum” into which Highlands taps (Hodges 2016).
For Chris, momentum is defined simply as a series of small successful completions. Almost like a series of falling dominoes, each small successful completion is captured in the moment intentionally, with a plan to use that event or success as a way to celebrate God. More than 160 times in the Bible the Lord commands us to remember what He has done. God knew we are people who quickly forget. By capturing that faithfulness of God, we have a means of reminding ourselves of the work of God. Church of the Highlands never stops talking about momentum and plans to build on it every day.
The Scripture records many examples of the Lord’s instruction for us to capture His movements in our lives. In the early chapters of Joshua, the people of Israel are eager to cross into the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. The swollen Jordan River seems impassable as the Lord instructs the Levite priests to carry the Ark into the floodwaters. As their feet enter the water, the Lord blocks the river upstream and the whole nation crosses into the land. Our knowledge of this familiar story often stops at that point, but the next couple of verses are designed to inform the people of God about the momentum plan God has for us. The Lord told the Israelites to capture the moment by going back into the riverbed and getting 12 large stones, so they might remember the moment.
Those muddy stones also call us to remember God’s faithfulness. After all, like them, our lives were also overwhelmed with filth and buried in the mud, never seeing the light of day—until Someone came from above and pulled us out of our mess. Our legacy, like that of the 12 stones, is to be a reminder to all who see us of the faithfulness of God, who washed us clean and has raised us up for His glory.
Capture, Package, Celebrate
Capturing, packaging, and celebrating successes are the three core strategies used by the Church of the Highlands to build on the Spirit’s momentum (Hodges 2016). These strategies help us to remember what God has done and share it with our school and outside communities, to invite them into the exciting work that God is doing through our school and Christian education.
Let’s go back again to the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River in Joshua 4, when God commanded them to go back into the river bottom to pull out 12 stones, one for each tribe. This was an exact picture of “capturing” a moment of God’s faithfulness and power. The analogy in a school setting might be using various kinds of media to capture the great things that your students, faculty, and families are doing.
There is certainly a time and place for glossy video productions, but it’s hard to produce them on a regular (let alone daily) basis. The reality today is that at any school event or even throughout the school day, you have dozens if not hundreds of budding amateur photographers and videographers (students and staff) roaming your campus with high-powered recording devices (cell phones). Why not invite them to steward that technology and the opportunity well, to capture the things that God is doing in and through your school? You can do that through daily video submissions (or competitions), vlogs, interviews with the “student on the street,” and so forth.
Focusing on capturing successes tends to motivate others. At Tree of Life Christian Schools, teams of volunteers and staff endeavor to capture every indication of the Lord’s work. All of these can be “river stones” that point to God’s daily but miraculous and grace-filled work in your school.
It almost sounds sacrilegious to talk about packaging the Spirit’s movement, as if He is some kind of product to be wrapped up. But capturing what the Lord does without an accompanying mechanism to reveal and explain it to others tends to stop His intended momentum. In order to effectively tell His story, intentional efforts must be made to gather it into a powerful format for it to be shared. Capturing without packaging makes the capture a waste of time and resources. The marriage of the “capture” with the “package” highlights the glory of God.
If the stones in Joshua 4 would have been collected but not arranged in any particular order, then the miracle would have ended with lives of those who lived it. Random stones lying alongside the river tell no story. God ordered both the moment capture, “get the stones,” and the moment packaging, “arrange them into an altar.” It is as if the stones were empowered for Kingdom use in their packaging. When the Lord is at work in our midst we need to make every effort to not only record His work, but also assemble it in such a way that others can see it and be blessed.
Jesus’ institution of communion on the night of His arrest provides another insightful example. With so many things pulling at Him, Jesus took the time, not only to have a last supper with His disciples, but also to create a lasting supper with His followers for many generations. In capturing that moment He revealed His soon-coming sacrifice to His disciples. In packaging the moment, He shared it with the church as a way for us to connect with His sacrifice as we reflect on our own journey with Him. Two thousand years later we continue to be deeply moved by the bread and the wine. Just as He intended, His momentum continues.
In our places of work, school, or church the same principles apply. When our communicators package that success for a broader audience the impact is multiplied. Social media offers an abundance of opportunities for us to thrive as we message good work to others. Staff members have the packaging function as part of their job descriptions—all for the glory of God and the good of the school.
God loves to celebrate. He instituted seven annual sacred feasts in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 23:1–2 (NIV), “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” Consider the Passover Feast, where each year the Israelites set aside a day that included significant preparations for a weeklong celebration focused on God’s miraculous deliverance of them from slavery in Egypt. Thousands of years later, that feast—and the work of God captured and packaged, and therefore effectively communicated, within it—is still being celebrated.
Returning to Joshua 4, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, God instructed them to capture the moment by gathering 12 stones from the river bottom and assemble (package) them into an altar. But God’s next instructions explained the reason for this: “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’….you shall [tell them]….So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:6–7, NASB).
God truly loves celebration. It stands to reason then that the Spirit of God actively moves in the midst of His people’s celebration of Him. In fact, capturing the work of the Lord and then packaging it for the Body of Christ to see, sets up incredible opportunities for the people of God to celebrate Him and His goodness. It’s important to think through how your school celebrates God’s work. What opportunities do you regularly provide for your school and larger communities to see the goodness of God’s work throughout the year that have been captured and packaged? Consider spending some time with your team thinking through how to celebrate God’s goodness not just at the end of the year, but intentionally throughout the year.
Building on God’s Momentum
Building momentum based on what the Spirit is doing in your school involves capturing the moment and packaging it into a story, so that God can be celebrated by all those who can hear. Leaders wisely invest in doing so as they communicate to both internal and external audiences. In the Christian community, the positive momentum increases exponentially because the Spirit of God is moving and the God of the universe loves to celebrate and be celebrated. Christian schools would wisely dedicate significant resources to capturing, packaging, and celebrating the work of God in our midst.
Reference & Suggested Resources
Hodges, C. 2013. Fresh Air: Trading Stale Spiritual Obligation for a Life-Altering, Energizing, Experience-It-Everyday Relationship with God. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum.
—. 2016, April. Presentation to the Association of Related Churches (ARC) Conference. Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, Alabama.
—. 2017. The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm and Love Well in a Culture of Compromise. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
—. 2019. What’s Next?: The Journey to Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Purpose, and Make a Difference. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
About the Author
Todd R. Marrah, PhD, is superintendent of Tree of Life Christian Schools and president of Tree of Life Christian Ministries. He also serves as executive pastor at Rock City Church, one of the fastest growing churches in the U.S., on the board of the Columbus Dream Center and on the board of the Association of Christian Schools International. Dr. Marrah’s experience as a middle and high school teacher, and a middle and high school principal—combined with more than 25 years of pastoral ministry as a children’s pastor, youth pastor, preaching pastor, and executive pastor—provides unique insights into issues facing education and the church. Dr. Marrah frequently speaks at churches and Christian schools on a variety of topics including leadership, strategic planning, spiritual formation, and Christian parenting. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Originally published June 2019