The Power of Consistency: Interview with Ken Hester

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KenHesterInterview

 

As a part of the REFlections Interview Series, I’m honored to present an interview that speaks to the successes and challenges of ministry and our life of faith in Christ. As one of the emerging voices in our generation, Ken Hester has proven through word and deed that his faith in God is real! Ken is the campus pastor at Elevation Church, overseeing the Gaston campus in Gastonia, North Carolina. I became acquainted with Ken about 6 years ago when he was the College Pastor at Crossroads Fellowship in Raleigh, North Carolina. Presently, as an Elevation Church campus pastor, Ken shared some of the lessons he’s learned along the way.

It’s my prayer that this interview blesses you like it blessed me. Thank you Ken for sharing!

KEY – RF: Ryan Faison | KH: Ken Hester

 

RF: If I had to describe Ken Hester, how would you want me to describe you?

KH: A passionate leader. I’m not afraid of change (and I could be accused of embracing too much of it)! I like fun stuff and I’m certainly a thrill seeker. I’m a husband. This year on June 2nd, my wife and I will celebrate 8 years of marriage. I’m a coach. I’ve enjoyed my experiences as a basketball coach over the years and even thought it would be my career. I’m a pastor. As a thrill-seeker, it is awesome that every weekend, GOD WINS! Jesus is #1 on the scoreboard! There’s salvations and baptisms every week. This is my greatest joy.

 

RF: In this season of your life, what is the most rewarding?

KH: Rewarding for me is that my staff, leaders and volunteers feel cared for. I find my reward in the great consistency rather than the great moments. We often times celebrate the moment rather than the consistency. Christ celebrates the consistency. In the NBA Playoffs, Derrick Rose hit a major shot but lost the playoffs. It may be SportsCenter moment, but we may dismiss the team’s consistent effort. The same thing applies to our spiritual life. When I see a congregation consistent in giving, serving and loving, this is my greatest reward.

 

“Christ celebrates the consistency!”

– Pastor Ken Hester

 

RF: Consistency is important to you. How do you value this in your life?

KH: I value it but working on the discipline of consistency. I tried to find a formula for devotion before God. What I realized that for me its one Scripture (maybe two), praying specifically that God reveals Himself in that Scripture, worship in my car (blasting worship in my car for 20-30 minutes), praying on my way home. I realized over the years that it’s not about a formula, but a relationship. I desire to be consistent in that area of my life.

 

RF: What would you say to someone who is focused on “formulas”?

KH: It’s about how God is stretching your faith, not a set formula. Too often, our culture is focused on calculated risk. Faith is “I’m jumping out an airplane and I don’t have a parachute but I know God will catch me!” I’m encouraged by a couple of folks in our apprenticeship program. One apprentice moved from South Africa to serve in Gastonia, North Carolina to be a part of what God is doing. That faith inspires my faith. Another couple just recently got married and moved from Sacramento, California to serve here at Elevation. This is the faith that is demonstrated in the Bible. I need to be challenged in faith. I encourage others to look for everyday faith. If God did it before, He can do it again! 

 

RF: What’s the most challenging area of your life?

KH: One of the most challenging areas on my life (and my wife) is regarding family. We are beginning to share more and more about it with others. We’re been trying to start a family for five years. To say its been a struggle is an understatement. You get a monthly reminder that God has not chosen you to have a family yet. What have you tried for five years and still not seeing fruit from? Not many things. If you go to school for years, you received a degree. We’ve been trying to have a family for five years and haven’t seen that reward yet. It challenges our faith. We’re mad and hopeful. An array of emotions. What’s challenging for us is to remember that God’s promises never return void. When all you see is void — it can be a direct challenge to your faith. We’re reminded of Abraham. I hope I don’t have to wait 35+ years (lol), but we trust in God’s promise to have a family. We can’t see it now, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

 

“When all you see is void — it can be a direct challenge to your faith.”

– Pastor Ken Hester

 

RF: How do you minister to your wife during this challenging season?

KH: Supporting my wife in the small things makes the difference. It’s not only about extravagant gifts. It’s praying for my wife when she’s not aware I’m doing so. Doing little things around the house that relieve pressure. When we are battling, we are in this together. My wife’s not battling infertility – we are battling infertility. It’s a team effort. We are in this together.

 

RF: In the midst of your own challenge and the challenges your church faces everyday, how do you encourage them not to get discouraged when promises come to pass in someone else’s life but you’re still waiting?

KH: I’m always reminded of Pastor Steven’s (Furtick) words: “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel!” The highlight reel is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, etc. But, what are others struggling with that they don’t want you to see? They may have a child, or a spouse, or blessed with a job that you think that you want, but they also have behind-the-scenes. They just haven’t told you about it. If you were to go through my social media platform, you would not know the struggles. Even on a campus level — people see the moments, but not the struggles. It’s death by comparison. Don’t be discouraged by a post that doesn’t tell the whole story. If someone receives a blessing, celebrate it! It’s their blessing, not yours. The comparison game is a slippery slope. Focus on what gives you joy and write them out. You’ll be surprised — you have more joys than struggles. We tend to focus more on the struggles than the joys.

 

“Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.”

– Pastor Steven Furtick (quoted by Pastor Ken Hester)

 

RF: What brings you joy being a part of Elevation Church family?

KH: I want to thank Pastor Steven for the opportunity to serve. I appreciate the passion and consistency in pursuing the vision of people far away from God being raised to life in Christ! Pastor Steven has shared with all the campus pastors that this is not his vision, but our vision. As the Gaston campus, it is Elevation but its own feel and identity. It is a joy to see the growth and the love of God shared throughout all the campuses.

 

RF: Where do you see your campus going in a year?

KH: We’re believing God for 3,000 people. Right now, we are averaging 1,100. If God did it once, He can do it again. If I see in Acts 2:41, it can happen now. It is not out of the realm of God’s perspective. It will take work, prep, innovation, creativity, people and prayer. I want our campus to align with God’s will in every way.

 

“If God can do it before, He can do it again!”

– Pastor Ken Hester

 

RF: Last question Ken. If you could talk to younger Ken, what would you say?

KH: I would probably say — don’t make too many plans for yourself because God will change them. I went to school to be a basketball coach. I was one. I won 5 championships. I was successful (or what I thought was successful). As I look back, I learned so much in coaching that informs how I pastor and serve people. I think I would be a bit more generic and leave room for God to change my plans. Let God change your plans! I was stubborn especially since I was up for an Athletic Coordinator job. But, they went in another direction. Three days later, I received a notification from the Senior Pastor of my church inviting me to be the College Pastor. The rest is history. Let God change your plans. It’s my prayer that sharing the struggles helps others see that God has a plan for your life and He will accomplish it through you.

 

ABOUT KEN

Ken Hester is the campus pastor at Elevation Church Gaston. An innovative and proven leader, Pastor Ken leads along with a team of devoted Christ-followers at Elevation Gaston to see people far away from God being raised to life in Christ. Ken studied Sports Administration from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He is married to the love of his life, Ashley Hester.

Bittersweet: The Intersection of Joy and Pain

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Bittersweet

Public Voice of Joy: “I’m so happy for you!!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Lord, did you forget about me?”

Public Voice of Joy: “Look at God opening doors for you!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Yeah..while He is closing doors on me!”

Public Voice of Joy: “God is answering your prayers! Praise God!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Did God even hear my cry last night?”

Have you ever had the voices of joy and pain collide? This collision is the internal intersection of being genuinely happy and grievously sad at the same time. How in the world could you be happy for someone’s blessing and at the same time, question if you’ve been forgotten? You’ll often hear “It’s their season — yours is coming!” or “If God can do it for them, He can do it for you!”. If by any chance you cannot fully embrace these catch phrases, watch out! You may be charged with the villainous term that has seem to catch fire in our culture today: YOU’RE A HATER! 

Despite the accusations or the title we desperately try to run from, here’s the truth: We all have dealt with the intersection of joy and pain called BITTERSWEET. This intersection causes you to pause with joy for how God works in the lives of those around you. But, this intersection also wrestles with the feeling of insignificance, doubt, worry and the nagging feeling of being forgotten. The very thing you’re praying about someone else may receive (and at times, without praying for it). What do you do? 

1. ACKNOWLEDGE Your Stop At the Bittersweet Intersection

Too often, we deny our feelings of being happy for someone and being disappointed about our state of affairs. How could we ever feel that way (we might ask ourselves)? You’re supposed to be mature and rise above it all. How could be so self-centered and selfish? Before cracking down too hard on yourself, the acknowledgment of being disappointed about where you are or what you have is real. Yes, thank God for what He’s provided. But, it doesn’t mean that you are satisfied. The best course of action is to at least acknowledge that your feelings are legitimate. The denial causes greater harm than good.

2. CHOOSE To Follow Sweet Over Bitter

After your acknowledgment of these dual feelings, it’s time to make a choice. Will I wallow in what hasn’t come in my life or will I celebrate what has come in the lives of others? When you genuinely celebrate God’s favor in someone’s life, you are celebrating God! You are acknowledging who He is and His ability to turn situations around. It’s not just about the person — God is watching how you praise Him. Will you be mad or angry because what you prayed for didn’t come your way? Or will you worship God because you had the opportunity to see how He blesses in real time? It’s a choice we all have to make.

I want to encourage you to choose sweet over bitter. The “sweet” road leads you to celebrate others, cast off the victim mentality and gives you a freedom from the burden of despair. But, let me warn you — it will not feel good at first. Our human nature desperately wants to gratify our own desires. Philippians 2:4 tells us:

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (NLT)

When you take the “sweet” road, it drains the frustration of unmet desires and focuses on the sovereignty of God’s timing. It draws your attention on the greater things God is doing around you and the character He is forming in you. It takes a mature person to choose sweet over bitter. It is common to be bitter. Reject the common — be unique. Find joy in another’s blessing!

3. RESIST The Temptation To Compare

The dialogue between the voice of joy and the voice of pain will typically land in the area of comparison. This territory is dangerous because it is comparing your unique story to someone else’s story. It’s considering timelines, scope, and benefits. It doesn’t even fully consider the private struggles, issues and pressure that comes along with blessing. Although the temptation is great to question God of why it appears like He has forgotten you, consider that He always remembers and knows you well (even more than you know you). Could it be that what you’re praying for is not bad but not good right now? Could it be that what you think is a blessing could turn out to be a curse that you cannot bear? Could it be that what appears good on the outside has the potential to drain your life on the inside?

Rising above the temptation to compare aids in your pursuit of genuinely thanking God for others, their provisions and God’s plan for their life. In turn, your response to another’s blessing is the precursor to the blessed responses you will receive when your request is granted.

We live in a time when some people feed off of others hate and jealousy. They find strength in another’s weakness. They take great pleasure in another’s demise in the midst of their success. It’s tragic and shameful. But, you don’t have to contribute to this destructive pattern. Celebrate the Giver of all good things and who He gives it to! Acknowledge where you are, choose the “sweet” road over the bitter one, and on your journey, resist the temptation to compare what you have to another. You will discover a life rich with promise of what’s to come and joy for what has already been done!

Let’s pray for one another that we can love and support each other on this journey of faith. – RF