How to Handle Life’s challenges

I used to think that life was this perfect world where everything went as planned. I would be married, have my own psychology office, and would have banked my first million by the age of 25. Well none of that happened. Actually, my road has been very rocky going from one challenge to the next. One thing I have learned is that no one is exempt from the challenges of life. Challenges in your finances, relationships, school, family, co-workers – no one is exempt.

Looking back, I realize that these challenges were opportunities of growth. You are probably thinking, “it is not that easy”. And honestly it’s not! However, the challenges of today are the training ground for the successes of tomorrow. As you go through these challenges, there are a few supplements you should have a dose of each day: prayer, praise and worship, and encouragement.


It’s through prayer that we receive answers, direction, and strategy for life. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are encouraged to pray continually – not that you are praying from sun up to sun down, but that you maintain constant communication with the source. Praying gets the focus off of you and onto the God who can do exceedingly and abundantly above all we can ask or imagine. Therefore, we seek God first, as an act of humble submission to Him and acknowledge Him as the source of the power that can change situations and alter circumstances.

Praise and Worship

Praise and worship is often thought of as the first 15 minutes of service, but it’s so much more than that. Both praise and worship should be apart of your daily lifestyle. Even while going through a rough time you can be reminded of His presence by listening to worship music, meditating on His goodness, and by having an attitude of thankfulness. Worship gets you into God’s presence, focusing on Him and not the situation. This is how we honor Him; not only with our song, but also with a life that says, “God, you are able!”


When facing a difficulty, it is important to have a community of support. No one can face the challenges of life on their own. It’s comforting to have someone stand in faith with you. One thing we always say at NCC is that we are “designed for community”. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 encourages us to build one another up. As we are building up one another in conversation, God may provide the answer we’re seeking. There have been many times where people have shared their testimony with me, and their words would be just what I needed to overcome that day.

We have real circumstances and a real enemy, but our God is also real and He is greater than every problem and any enemy. We must keep our eyes set on Him – the greater One. Through worship, prayer, and encouragement, our lives are transformed and our circumstances become opportunities.

About The Author

Joel Buckner
Worship Leader

Joel Buckner is a passionate singer, catalyst for change and desires to help people become the best version of themselves.

Interview on worship with Mark Batterson

Our lead pastor Mark Batterson sits down with our worship director Kurtis Parks, talking about worship and the role of a worship leader.

About The Author

Creating a culture of encouragement

James 3:5-6; 17-18

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell…..Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

I was tired. It was a good and excited kind of tired. We were cleaning up after a full three days of leading worship. We were a small team, so everything was always an "all hands on deck" situation. We stacked chairs, cleaned the green room, and busied ourselves with whatever it was that our college ministry had asked us to do. It was about to time to call it done and head home, so I was surprised by what happened next. My pastor called me away from the work, hugged me and began to encourage the gift of God in my life, reminding me that I had a calling for ministry and that I was created for a purpose. It was a short and sort of random moment, but something about it really impacted me.

Do you have a moment when someone said something uplifting at a time when you didn’t expect it? Isn’t it amazing how sticky and powerful words like that can be? Proverbs says that our tongues contain “the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21), which is no exaggeration considering that God’s words were the tools by which life and the universe were created. Words literally have the power of life in them. As people created in the image of God, think of the power contained in our words.. James 3 says, “by our words we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos...” On the other hand, we can use words to build others up and “treat each other with dignity and honor.” I don’t want to tear others down with my words; I want build other up. I want to be an encourager.

Encouragement drives us to be better pastors and leaders because choosing to encourage is choosing to notice. It forces me to shift how I perceive things and actively look for the things that I can build up in others instead of being distracted by mistakes or negative traits a person may be associated with. It forces me to look at people through grace’s lense and see people the way God sees them. Learning to encourage means learning to listen and watch. It makes me sensitive to recognize God’s activity in the lives of those around me and teaches me to be attentive to the individuals serving alongside me on ministry teams.

Here are a couple of ways I’ve been able to practice being an encourager to those who serve each weekend on our ministry teams at NCC:

1. Create intentional space where you can encourage.

In our team's mid week rehearsal I usually take time for people to share wins and prayer requests. This space allows us to speak into one another’s lives in front of the whole team, which can be truly affirming. An example might be "I've noticed you continue to serve diligently even though your role seems like it's non-essential, and I just want thank you for you serving faithfully and bringing your best each time you do."

2. Old fashioned pen and paper.

This can be a powerful way to encourage others. I’ve personally kept personal notes that others have written to me and look at them when I feel discouraged. At the start of each year, I think of a few influential people that have helped me grow in my faith and leadership and write them a note thanking them and encouraging the gift of God in their lives. Other times, I'll write someone a note when I feel like they might feel unseen or overlooked.

3. Build other people up behind their backs.

Here’s the sort of “talking behind your back” you want to actually hear about. I don’t want to be known as someone who talks badly about people behind their back. When people hear that I’ve been talking about them, I want them to hear about how big of a fan I am of them! It’s one of those small things that has big relational pay off down the road. It’s also a great way to lead other people in encouragement.

4. Unsolicited texts and emails

This an easy one that only takes two minutes out of your day to accomplish. They don’t have to be long or detailed. A short message that says something like “Grateful for you and how you use your gifts for the kingdom of God,” goes a long way. You can never send too many of these! I try to send one or two encouraging texts or emails a day.

If you need a room demolished, give anyone a sledgehammer and they can get it done. But the same isn’t true if you need that room remodeled. You can’t simply hand someone tools and blueprints expecting a construction job to happen. Tearing down is easy; it’s the construction work that takes expertise and training. Perhaps the same is true with our words. It’s easy to be destructive. Choosing to build and encourage others demands character and faith. Let’s choose to be encouragers.

4 ways to find your authentic sound

At the beginning of this year I had the opportunity to go hear Bishop TD Jakes speak to a group of leaders. During his talk, Bishop Jakes said something that resonated with me - “There has never been or will ever be another person on this planet like you.” That one line changed my perspective on life. For so long I found myself comparing my life others, not realizing that who I am is good enough. As I begin to understand this, I’ve started to see my true authentic self come to surface. Authenticity is a challenge not only in my life but also across many worship platforms in America. So often we’re eager to emulate the latest sound, compare ourselves to the church down the street, or keep up with what’s popular, that we lose sight of the reason for doing what we do.

How do you begin to find your authentic sound? Here are 4 ways to begin:

1. What’s your church DNA?

From charismatic, to liturgical, every church has a significant background that’s a unique fingerprint of your ministry. Understanding your church’s DNA will help cultivate an authentic style and sound connecting worship with the pastor and congregation. The worship team should be a conduit, connecting the vision, mission and call of the church.

2. Rehearsal

We can say that this is one of the most important times! Rehearsals are the breeding ground for excellence, new ideas and creating unity. A strong rehearsal means less stress during the worship set, allowing your team the freedom to be authentic in your leading. It also opens the door for more prayer time, laughter and growing together as a team. We all can use a great laugh!

3. What you have will work!

So what you don’t have the latest gadgets or 17 guitar players! The instrumentation and voices you have will do the job. It just takes a little more creativity to come up with a sound that works for you. Don’t limit yourself to the way the song you’re doing is recorded. There is a sound in your team that’s going to bring freedom to so many people!

4. Depend on the Holy Spirit

One thing I have been reminding my teams of lately is that the Holy Spirit is the minister and we are the vessels. It keeps the focus off of us and on Him. Who better to know what authentic sound God called us to than the Holy Spirit. Develop a daily relationship with Him in your quiet times, listening for instruction and guidance.

Worship is a two-way conversation between the Father and His children, as we offer up our authentic worship that He alone deserves. I think He smiles and says “that’s what I have been waiting for”. There is a sound that you, your worship team and church carry that has never been or will ever be heard on this planet like yours, pray on it, pursue it, and be authentic!

About The Author

Joel Buckner
Worship Leader

Joel Buckner is a passionate singer, catalyst for change and desires to help people become the best version of themselves.

​ADEVENT: Celebration & Redemption - Jesus

Shadows of a coming savior flickered through the Jewish scriptures for more than a millennia.

In Genesis 3, God proclaims that the offspring of woman will bruise Satan’s head. In 2 Samuel 7, he promises David his descendants will reign forever, and the prophet Isaiah waxes poetic about the coming of the Christ.

This anticipation reached a fever pitch on the eve of Jesus’ birth. The Jews were eagerly expecting a savior to come at any moment to free them from Roman oppression.

The stage was set for the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, but he came unexpectedly, not as a military hero who would overthrow imperial rule and re-establish Jewish independence. Rather he came as the suffering servant, the baby born amongst the barn animals to a teenage girl.

Yet he comes as the redeemer, the restorer, the one who heals the hurting, frees the captives, and establishes a spiritual kingdom where the law is love.

While his mission was not what was expected, his impact far exceeded what had been anticipated. And so we respond to the realization of a dream deferred with celebration.

We celebrate because this is the beginning of our redemption, the renewal of our relationship with God, because the one destined since time immemorial has arrived and because his arrival signals our salvation.

This week—this Christmas—revel in Emmanuel, God’s presence among us. Repeat the sounding joy that unto us is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Echo the angels in proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

About The Author

Will Johnston

Will served on staff at NCC for 8 years as NCC's small groups pastor. He and his lovely wife Rachel recently relocated to Placentia in sunny southern California, and he is currently working on his first book.

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