Friday, November 27, 2009

Faith & Values Feature: Don't Let Negativity Define You

Editor's Note: I wrote this article during the summer of 2007, while employed with GateHouse Plus, then a division of GateHouse Media. The article was designed as a Faith & Values feature which could be used by any of the newspapers within the GateHouse Media newspaper chain. 

I dug it out of the "archives" at the request of a friend, who used the idea of a complaint free world in a Thanksgiving sermon.


A ripple that will change the world is how the Rev. Will Bowen describes what is happening  at his  church.

What began as a life-lesson for members of his Kansas City congregation about living a complaint-free  life has now spread into all 50 states and more than 60 countries.

Bowen’s church, Christ Church Unity, is now known far and wide as the “Complaint Free Church.”

The initiative began small. Bowen ordered 500 purple “complaint-free” rubber wristbands — modeled after the yellow “livestrong” bands  Lance Armstrong pioneered as a symbol of the fight against cancer.

On July 23, 2006, during a sermon series based on Edwene Gaines’ book “The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity: A Simple Guide to Unlimited Abundance,” Bowen encouraged his congregation to consider living a complaint-free life.

During the message, he presented them with a challenge — wear the band as a reminder not to  complain. As a tangible symbol, participants would begin wearing it on one wrist. Each time they caught themselves complaining, the band would be switched to the opposite arm.

The goal, Bowen explained, would be to go 21 consecutive days without having to switch the band to the other arm.

Initially, Bowen ordered 500 bands, which were immediately distributed to church members and their friends.

Church officials then purchased an additional 1,000 bands, with fears they would meet the needs and have several left over.

Then the church began to receive regional and national exposure concerning the initiative.

After a story appeared in the Kansas City Star, other national stories followed, including published accounts in the Los Angeles Times and People Magazine.
Television audiences with the Today Show and Oprah also learned about the program.

Because of those stories and others, the church had processed requests for more than 5.6 million bands by early summer.

“I knew on July 23 [2006] it would be a ripple that traveled around the world,” Bowen said. “We talked about being the epicenter of a huge movement. We knew this would touch lives around the world.”

The church does not charge for the bands.

“This is our gift to the consciousness of the world,” Bowen said. “We’re not saying people have to do this… But we want to [be available for] people who have a desire to change.”

Three shifts of volunteers spend several hours each week filling requests for bands.

“We have lots of people who have stepped up, who want to touch and bless each bracelet which goes out,” Bowen said. “This is a quality idea and God is supporting it.”

Approximately 90 percent of Bowen’s church has attempted to complete the 21-day challenge. Of those individuals, at least two-thirds have gone on to be complaint-free.

Bowen said it took him three months to go complaint-free for 21 days. The average person, he has found, takes seven months to break the habit.

“I still complain, but it’s rare,” he said. “I’m a far happier, sanguine person since completing [the challenge].”

He said people often experience improvements to their mental, physical and spiritual health.

One man reported that his migraines diminished while living complaint-free.

“It’s transformed his work relationships and his family relationships,” Bowen said.

Another person reported that the effort helped her reduce the pain she suffered related to a chronic condition.

Bowen and his congregation are now working towards sponsoring a “Complaint-Free” day similar to the “Great American Smoke Out.”

They are proposing people spend the day before Thanksgiving complaint-free. This would place a greater emphasis the next day on gratitude, Bowen explained.

He hopes members of the U.S. Congress will pass a declaration to officially commemorate the day.

Bowen believes great things will happen in the world if people replace complaints with positive thoughts.

He plans to detail more about living complaint-free this fall with the release of his book “Complaint-Free World,” published by Doubleday.

For more information, or to order complaint free bands, visit http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org. To learn  more about Bowden's ministry visit CCUnityKC.org.

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