As a child, I romanticized the idea of being a “Christian hero.” I imagined the thrill of adventure and the satisfaction of changing the world—but I never envisioned the hardship, discomfort, pain, and spiritual attack that comes when you take a stand for righteousness. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties, deep in the fray of full-time Christian ministry, fighting fervently for souls, that I begin to really understand the battle that comes with kingdom work.
When Eric and I stepped out, young and idealistic, into Christian ministry, we got hit—and hit hard. It felt kind of like taking a baseball bat and hitting a hornet’s nest—only to realize that our feet were stuck in concrete so that we couldn’t run from the angry insects that were now coming at us with a vengeance. We were attacked on all sides by both seen and unseen forces. Discouragement, disillusionment, and confusion came at us from every angle. Even though we were strong Christians and had a vibrant relationship with Christ, we had not been prepared for the battle we had entered. And though we were making an impact upon the world and fulfilling the call God had placed upon our lives, for many years, we did so with a limp—reeling from the serious battle wounds we collected on a daily basis. We began to recognize why God took Moses to the back-side of the desert for forty years—to break, prepare, and refine him before launching him into his role as Israel’s leader. We began to better understand why God led the apostle Paul into a set apart season in Arabia before sending him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. And why even Jesus spent thirty years preparing spiritually for His public ministry.
E.M. Bounds wrote, “It takes twenty years to write a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make a man.” God sometimes desires to take us through a season of intensive spiritual preparation and equipping before launching us into the ultimate calling He has placed upon our lives. Maybe it’s not forty years like Moses, or thirty years like Christ. But often there is a need for a set apart season, where an unshakable spiritual foundation can be laid in our lives before we enter the intensive fray of full-time missions or ministry work. It’s kind of like boot camp for the soul, before a soldier enters the actual war.
After we “hit the hornet’s nest” early in our ministry, God had to take Eric and I through a spiritual boot camp of sorts. He had to show us all that was missing from our spiritual armory, and equip us to be victorious in the battle for His Truth. We took a season of our lives to step back from intensive ministry and learn to truly grasp vital aspects of the Gospel life, such as wrestling prayer, spiritual disciplines, tensile strength, daily intimacy with Christ, true faith, self-sacrifice, and inner holiness—at a deeper level than we’d ever known before. And when we entered back into the ministry He had called us to, there was a completely different outcome. No longer were we pummeled by defeat and discouragement. Rather, we were strong, valiant, and triumphant—truly equipped for the work He had called us to. We were able to enter the fray with a spiritual swagger rather than a spiritual limp.
Because of how life-changing this set apart season was for us, we became passionate about helping other Christian leaders (or future leaders) do the same. We established Ellerslie for the purpose of providing future Christian leaders with a set apart season of Biblical training, spiritual equipping, and practical preparation for world-changing work for Christ. A season at Ellerslie is like boot-camp for the soul, becoming spiritually fit for the battle. It’s a chance to avoid the spiritual burn-out and mediocrity that can all too easily creep into the life of a Christian minister, missionary, or lay person.
Amy Carmichael wrote about the formation of her ministry to temple children in India, in her book Gold Cord. It took her years to find like-minded men and women that truly possessed the spiritual strength that was needed for such a high calling. Time and time again, people would come onto the field to join her work—idealistic and filled with dreams of being a Christian hero. But all too often, they were not truly prepared for the battle, and after a few months or years, the romance faded, the burn-out set-in, and they limped away in defeat.
Eric and I have heard similar stories from modern-day missionaries and ministers. They are longing for valiant Christian men and women to come alongside them in kingdom work—men and women who have the Gospel DNA embedded into their souls, their outlook, and their daily decisions; those who have truly been prepared for the intensity of the battle for souls and Truth.
Whether God has called you to the mission fields of Africa, Haiti, or Main Street USA—whether you are called to fight for the soul of one little child or rescue millions of people—He desires to equip and prepare you for the sacred calling He has placed upon your life. I can say with confidence that if Eric and I had not allowed God to take us through a set apart season where we became truly rooted and grounded in His Word and in the Gospel life, we would not be in ministry today. It was what gave us the strength to go the distance in Christian ministry.
If you are passionate about changing the world for Christ, prayerfully consider a set apart season of spiritual training, grasping the life-changing power of the Gospel, cultivating intimacy with Christ, and falling in love with the Word of God. You’ll never regret the time you spend being made strong in order to be poured out for Him.
And if you are looking for a place to begin your set apart season of spiritual training and preparation for Christian “hero work,” I encourage you to prayerfully consider a season at Ellerslie. Becoming strong to be poured out for His glory. Being built by Him into a true world-changer, able to withstand the winds and rain and emerge from the storm in perfect peace.
That’s the way that God prepare us for the battle—if only we will take the time to let Him