Last night was an epoch in my life, as well as in one of my favorite people’s, Joseph Gilchrist.

I became a Youth Pastor when I was 17 years old. There was no fanfare, no ceremony, no certificate. Simple a job to do and no one else to do it. I’ve read that the best leaders in life are the reluctant ones; and after preparing my first Bible study for a group of teens in Dryden, NY before I was even out of high school – thinking I had just presented everything I knew about the Bible the first night – I was definitely reluctant.

But God is faithful, as well as a rewarded of those who diligently seek him. Sometimes that reward is just enough to prepare your next Bible study. But it certainly extended on into the next 16 years of my life, affording my the opportunity to speak before audiences large and small, to counsel thousands of teens, parents, and other youth pastors, and to travel to nations. It is an honor I will never forget as the call shaped who I am today.

But two years ago, I felt the call changing.

The grace I had experienced previously – the energy, joy, and vision – was ebbing. And that’s when I knew a roll change was upon me.

The easy thing would have been to bail the moment I felt God calling me into a new season. Sadly, without good leadership around us, that’s what we tend to do. And I know far too many people who’ve done that, both as teenagers and as adults. I call it the rip cord mentality. It happens in companies, ministeries, marriages, and friendships. It’s selfish, and extremely destructive.

But anything worth doing is worth doing right. In our circles, we call it carrying the elephant.

It’s heavy.

It’s tiresome.

And sometimes it just plain sucks.

But if you can endure it, the results are incredible and well worth the price of admission.

Last night Joseph Gilchrist took my place. He’s grown up over the last 7 years in our youth ministry, so he knows the DNA; and he’s mentored under me for the last 2 years with the direct intention of replacing me. And that he has. Meanwhile I slide into a new role as Associate Pastor of New Life, supporting Pastor Kirk as his second in charge (a role I have mentored in for a good many years as well because he was willing to carry the elephant).

Josh Finley – lead pastor of Elim Gospel Church in Lima, NY – made the 3 hour drive at my request to surprise Joseph as guest speaker for his installation at 33 Live. He was joined by other surprised guests including Campus Target director Toby Cavanaugh. From start to finish the whole night was powerful, poignant, and set an incredible tone for the rest of Joseph’s ministry.

I couldn’t be more proud of Joseph if he were my own son. And there is a very real aspect to which he is a spiritual son.

Go and do more than I ever was able, Joseph. The call and anointing on your life are uniquely your own. Wear your own armor well and fight the good fight of faith. I’m behind you all the way. ch:





Photo courtesy of: @KaliLynnMusic


Mike Kim · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:13 pm

Beautiful. Congrats and huge thanks for showing a generation that transition and passing the baton can happen well. Well done!!

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:35 pm

    Thanks Mike. Means a lot. All for those yet to come…

Susan Tedeschi · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:19 pm

This was blessing to read and a great picture of how leaders should transition. Sadly, my husband and I were pushed away from the youth we raised up in the Lord and because we didn’t have good leaders to speak into to our lives, we left within 6 months and went to Florida to follow what we thought was God’s call. Nevertheless, it was a disaster and we came back within 10 months. We paid a heavy a price, lost everything, had no job and today many of those youth aren’t even walking with the Lord. We are still being restored because He is faithful and He still has a plan and uses all things.
Many blessings to you in your new journey CH!

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:38 pm

    Susan, my heart is so grieved to hear your story. And sadly it’s not all that uncommon. Healthy transitions do take a lot of time and energy. I pray you find yourselves in the place of usefulness again in a healthy body of Believers. Thanks for sharing (and your encouragement).

Len Flack · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:21 pm

Wow, that’s exciting! I love seeing pastors raised up in the context of the local church. God’s blessings on both of you as you each begin this new season of ministry!

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks so much Len. Your support means a lot. Love you man.

Lisa Bergren · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:23 pm

That’s so awesome, C. A beautiful example of how it’s supposed to go. Thanks for following the call and taking on a new breed of elephant. 🙂

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:39 pm

    Sometimes I feel like all we do is breed elephants here!


Katherine S. · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:38 pm

So good to hear. We were just talking about seasons of callings in ministry last night in our small group, that your heart doesn’t change but how you need to be receptive to what God is calling you to in that time. How we need to seek out whatever it is that God would have us to do. Here’s praying he equips you in your next season.

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks Katherine. Great points; sounds to me like you have a very healthy small group.

Stephanie Brown · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:42 pm

Chris, you blog like a novelist 😉 I think you are the only man alive who could make me emotional in a post. It is so beautiful to see God move through your life and your church, looking way back from your first Joshua Revolution conferences to now. Paying for Joseph and your youth, and for you as God takes you somewhere new. So blessed to see God work! 🙂

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:53 pm

    Awe – hey, now – what a compliment. I so appreciate that. You’re a gem.

    Thanks for your prayers.

Kim Gilhuly · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:51 pm

Thank you Christopher and Jenny for all that you have done over the years. Blessings to you and yours, you two rock. Annnnd. one of these days a really neat painting will arrive for you that hopefully will be a great and continuing reminder of what God is doing thru you both.

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 5:55 pm

    Thank you Kim. Your words mean a great deal.

    And a painting? Are you for real?!

Christian Fahey · 12 Jan ’12 at 6:20 pm

“But anything worth doing is worth doing right. In our circles, we call it carrying the elephant.” Sound metaphor. Good run CKH. Delighted to see both of you moving into more expanded expressions of your respective callings. Yeah.

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks Christian. It’s exciting and sobering, as you know all too well.

Beth · 12 Jan ’12 at 6:43 pm

I’ll never forget the day I walked up the ramp to the little stone church in Depauville and met the bald guy with the beautiful pregnant wife. You guys have helped change my life and I am thankful for the friendship, mentorship and leadership you have shared. Though it’s not going to end, 🙂 it wouldn’t have started if you weren’t called here. Someday, I might tell you and Jenny the story of why I started coming.
Looking forward to what God has planned next for 33live and for New Life.

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 8:35 pm

    Thanks Beth. It’s been a great journey indeed. Appreciate you very much, and thanks for your years of support. I’d love to hear that story!

Joel · 12 Jan ’12 at 9:17 pm

Appreciate you and Jenny a ton! Your hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. Countless lives have been affected, including my own. It is great to see a healthy transition, and exciting to think of 33live’s future under Joseph’s leadership. Love you both!

    Christopher Hopper · 12 Jan ’12 at 10:38 pm

    Wow my friend. Thank you for that encouragement. It means a lot.

Mary · 12 Jan ’12 at 11:31 pm

Absolutely awesome. You are wise beyond your years….I believe that comes from a spirit that is sensitive to the Lord’s and follows through with not only where He leads you but how He leads you.
I like the term “carry the elephant”. It’s a neat way to paint a picture for a trait that many of us,especially in todays world, lack: Perseverance.
Far too many are interested in only what THEY feel THEY have to do. We’re too quick to run the minute we feel that the “grace has been lifted”. But we do ourselves and others a disservice when we do for it is in these “sufferings” that we are being perfected. When we won’t endure, what we left behind is often left “undone” and we didn’t attain the very important growth that occurs WITHIN that difficult time of transition.
The anointing of the Holy Spirit is visible upon you like an aura and that comes from intimacy with, sensitivity to and obedience to the Spirit of the God. In that wisdom and revelation are birthed. From that many, self included, are blessed.
*Luke 16:10 (NASB)
10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
*Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

    Christopher Hopper · 13 Jan ’12 at 1:36 am

    You enriched this post greatly with your comments; thank you, Mary. And I do appreciate your encouragement. That means so much. Incredible men and women have poured into me; I’m grateful indeed.

Miriam Woodruff · 13 Jan ’12 at 2:20 am

Hey Ceek, Powerful post ! I have experienced the rip cord syndrome & then carried the elephant. AND you know we have bigger elephants here in Africa. Hahahaha Actually, your post hit home because I know from whence you came – and I love you Little Brother. Sept now you’re not so little – come & see what the Lord has done!!!!!!!!!!! I will see you soon. Hoping for March. “:0)

    Christopher Hopper · 13 Jan ’12 at 8:42 am

    Thank you Mir. Love you right back. You rock at African elephant carrying!

Matthew Drake · 13 Jan ’12 at 10:48 am

So awesome, so proud of both of you, SO wish I could have been there! Way to carry the elephant, way to ignore the rip cord. It’s so hard not to run when the strength begins to wane. Enjoy a season with fresh beginnings and abundant vision!

    Christopher Hopper · 13 Jan ’12 at 10:52 am

    Thanks Matthew. You’re awesome. Miss you muchly.

Vannell Berrien · 15 Jan ’12 at 6:53 pm

I’m a man, yet when I read this I cried….ok..ok…real men cry. I love both of you…but the service touched me personally…when I was ordained I didn’t get the words that joe got but I got them now. Thank you for inviting the Lead pastor from Elim….his words helped to heal my heart especially after the experiences that I’ve had in life…love ya ch…

    Christopher Hopper · 15 Jan ’12 at 11:41 pm

    Right on. Great comment V. Love and appreciate you guys like crazy.

Peter Harmych · 15 Jan ’12 at 9:55 pm

This post really blessed me Chris. God has been leading me through some transition over the past year or so as well…Good to see you able to transition into those things that He is leading you into…I’m sure as I continue to follow Him every day, He will lead me right into the middle of His will for me…Awesome stuff dude.

    Christopher Hopper · 15 Jan ’12 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks Peter. Your comment means a lot; and yes – he’s got you right where he wants you too. You rock.

Nate Cronk · 18 Jan ’12 at 2:44 am

That’s awesome man, you’re a great leader and Joseph is gonna kill it. Excited that my hometown is in good hands!!

    Christopher Hopper · 18 Jan ’12 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks Nate. Appreciate the encouragement as always.

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