If you have not had a chance to meet Christi Johns yet, you should introduce yourself to her. She is our new Children’s Outreach Director. And she just finished the busiest season she will encounter in her job:

She survived Upward Basketball!


God almost always calls us out of our comfort zone and into an amazing adventure that is both uncomfortable and seemingly unattainable. Rarely has he left me in a place of comfort for an extended time. And every time I step out of what I think I should be doing to follow Him, I get a front row seat to seeing lives change, and Gods Kingdom grow.

Oswald Chambers words are so true, and his dependence on intimate oneness with Christ is what keeps me going back to his book, My Utmost for His Highest.


“When God gives you a clear determination of His will for you, all your striving to maintain that relationship by some particular method is completely unnecessary. All that is required is to live a natural life of absolute dependence on Jesus Christ.”


When God made it clear that He was calling me out of leading Upward, I was stunned. I had just spent the past 13 years toiling over this Ministry, cultivating it and caring for the team. It was finally at a place of sustainability, and it was thriving! In fact it was actually getting comfortable! Shamelessly, I doubted it could be sustained without my continued focus on it. God had to, in some ways, pry it out of my hands. And one of the ways He made it so clear that He had other things for me to do, was by bringing Christi to the scene. From the first interview, it was obvious that she was brought here by God for this season.

Her resume said she had all of the qualifications, but it was her determination to hear from God that convinced me that she was called. And over and over I have seen her fully depend on God when she came upon the seemingly impossible.

Upward has its share of obstacles, and conflict management is an asset that is absolutely necessary when encountering coaches, parents and participants as they grapple with the unique values, that it’s not always about the win! But no matter how good you are at helping people get past their stuff, it takes wisdom that comes from the Lord to enter that darkness. And each time Christi has stepped into those situations, she had spent time with Christ on the matter. Each decision that was made, was made after pursuing His will. I am blessed by her relentless desire to be in the center of Gods will.

Now, not only am I at complete peace in leaving Upward Basketball in her care, I can’t wait for the next season, to see her released in her gifting and calling. Again I am reminded of these words from Oswald Chambers:

“Many people today are pouring their lives out and working for Jesus Christ, but are not really walking with Him. One thing God constantly requires of us is a oneness with Jesus Christ.”

I don’t want to be pouring my life out, working for Christ, but not walking with Him. Had I held on to Upward, that’s exactly what would have happened. What are you holding on to? Is God asking you to let go of something you never thought you could let go of? I’m here to encourage you, that there is such freedom in letting Christ personally lead us to the season He has for us, making room for those He is calling to lead and serve for such a time as this. He is building His Church, He is changing lives and He is inviting us to participate with Him. And it’s never comfortable!


By Shane Heldman