Old Golfers Never Win!

 

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It’s a known rule of thumb that old golfers never win. And it’s borne out over time with statistics and so on. It’s not a rule that can never be broken, but it is amazing how often it is the young golfer that wins.

Now that doesn’t make sense does it? Surely the winner should be tbe golfer who has putted more, chipped more, knows the course better, has more experience. We are not talking about old golfers so old they can’t move the ball across the fairway!

So why does the younger golfer win?  What makes him take a stroke or two less than the older golfer?

The simple answer is inexperience. The older golfer knows the shot is difficult, knows what could go wrong if he takes the chance, and it makes him careful, cautious – it makes him play it safe. And the younger man who doesn’t have the experience has a go, and more often than not makes it. And overall, wins the game.

The younger player is ignorant of the dangers, or is just simply reckless and wild. That is why he wins.

What to win? Be more child-like. Take the shot, play the game, take the chances.

DOs and DON’Ts for travelling speakers!

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DO SAY “This church is lovely, I enjoyed the worship and the choir, your pastor is a great guy, thanks for inviting me”

DON’T SAY “My youth choir is bigger than your entire church! What are you doing?”

DO SAY “You have a great pastor in this church, you should commit to this church”

DON’T SAY “I am about to call your pastor out and prophesy over him”, because the subtext is “I am a great man of God, I am superior to your pastor”. Now, if you are the head of the network, or a spiritual father to the pastor, that’s different.

DO SAY “Thanks for having me”

DON’T SAY “I look forward to you all inviting me back”

DO SAY (in private to the pastor) “My airfare was £X, my travel was £X”

DON’T SAY “Time for me to receive my own offering everyone, dig deep!”

DO SAY “Your church has a conference coming up, you should go, it will be good”

DON’T SAY “My church has a conference coming up, you should go, it will be good”

DO SAY “Your church has a Bible College, that’s a good idea if you want to get to know the Word more”

DON’T SAY “My church has a Bible College that’s a good idea if you want to get to know the Word more”

DO SAY “I really appreciate being here today”

DON’T SAY “It’s a good thing I am here, you need me”

DO SAY “I’m off home now”

DON’T SAY “I’m planting a church across the road, you are all welcome this Sunday”

DO SAY “Let me encourage you with Word”

DON’T SAY “Let me correct you with the Word”

DO SAY “I can’t wait to invite your pastor to minister for me soon”

DON’T SAY “I can’t wait for your pastor to invite me again soon”

 

7 Ways to Enjoy Church More!

 

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  1. Bring Your Bible!  Then you can read what is being read from and ensure it is in your Bible.  It helps you learn and grow.
  2. Say “amen” and encourage your preacher – in appropriate moments!
  3. Participate in the worship, don’t spectate!  Lift your hands, clap and shout.  Dance!
  4. Arrive on time!
  5. Leave late.  Have a cup of tea,  chat to people, make some friends.  Take someone back to your house for lunch.
  6. Be aware of new people. Help them find their feet, answer their questions, love them!
  7. Say thanks to your pastor afterwards – it really does make a difference, I promise!

Leadership Lessons from David 04: Stick With What You Know!

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One of the most powerful lessons in David’s history is when he was face to face with King Saul discussing David going to fight Goliath. Saul wants David to go fight in his armour, and David refuses saying:

I cannot go with these, I haven’t tested them – 1 Sam. 17.38

This is a great leadership principle – don’t go with what you haven’t tested already! It’s amazing how many leaders will appoint a new, shiny external candidate and ignore the tried and tested people they have who have already proved their loyalty and wisdom over and over and over. I’ve had people storm out of the church because their degree or background was worth less to me than the loyalty and the faithfulness of the person I promoted over them. Their reaction verified my decision!

I made a decision a while back I will never appoint a pastor externally – if you can’t be with the Tree of Life and be fed, you don’t get to join the feeding team. That way we test people before we rely on them!

  • Don’t rely on a pastor you haven’t tested. It’s amazing how many people have left churches with pastors they know and know well, and gone off to end up nothing and nowhere. That’s bizarre behaviour, and it means you will lose a fight or two! If David hadn’t been able to say “I’m only off to war with what I know” Goliath would have knocked him too the moon!
  • Don’t enter business with people you haven’t tested. Again, this is more common in church because we don’t act wise sometimes. As Jesus said the children of the world can be wiser than us, especially where money is concerned, and the world knows that a fool and his cash are easily parted. Don’t do it. Test people – look for their track record. Don’t enter business into a field where you haven’t proven it works.
  • Don’t marry someone you haven’t tested. Men – I am talking to you. You act all Christian and wise, then some girl blinks at you, and you don’t care about who she has been with, her past record, her prayer life, it all goes out the window. Don’t be a fool!  A mysterious personality should not be attractive to you – it should be a warning sign. Take the time to find out!

I am very much like David in this regard. I want to know if what I am being taught and the tools I am being given work. When someone tells me how to pastor my church I want to see their church first, or what they are saying is just theory.  When their church is twenty sad people, I don’t want their advice. When one of my sons is being taught “this is how you take a funeral service”, and the advice to me didn’t make any sense, I said to him “how many funerals has the teacher done” – or the advice isn’t tested.

When another son was being taught to live in a council house for the rest of his life at uni, I told him “did you ask the person teaching this where they lived?”.  You have to test things. When someone tells me that, as they did today, that the Christian life is best lived going to 3 or 4 conferences a year and not going to local church on a weekly basis, I wanted to ask a few questions about his marriage and his children and his peace of mind because I wanted to see if this was tested.

Listen – this sounds a little facetious, but this is serious. Entering into business, your spiritual life, who you marry – all of these are vitally important things. And all of these things have giants in the way!  Huge ugly ferocious giants. And if you are serious about beating these Goliaths, please do not go out and fight them in a way you haven’t tested. I don’t want you to be smooshed into paste, I want you to win. Learn this lesson!

Leadership Lessons from David 03: Leave the Haters Alone

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No matter what you do in life – if you are successful certain people will hate you. In fact, the more you lead people into life, into wisdom, the more your ministry and life sets captives free the more people will hate you and the more obvious their hate will be.

David is starting to have a bit of confidence that in God he can defeat Goliath, and his brother finds out and instantly becomes a hater:

28 And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. 29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?30 And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner. (1 Samuel 17.28-30, KJV)

David was persecuted by his own family – and that is sadly not unusual for people who are leaders in the world, let alone the body of Christ. Eliab, clearly intimidated by David’s faith, starts to rip him apart just when he was about to face Goliath.

Listen – there are some people who will never, ever have any confidence in you and your ability to succeed.  They want to tear you apart, criticize you, attack you, make you feel small and put you down.

And how do we handle these people?  There are two ditches we can fall into, and I have fallen into both in my lifetime:

  • We can fall into the ditch of letting them get under our skin, we start to see ourselves through their eyes rather than God’s eyes, and we start to see ourselves as arrogant, as a failure, as this and that.  Then we just give up on our dreams.
  • Or, we can fall into the ditch of seeing these people as our enemy, and taking the stone meant for Goliath and sinking it into their heads. No – these people are our family, our church and we do not attack our own, no matter how negative and faithless and disrespectful they are to us.

So what is the correct path, avoiding these ditches – it can be seen in David’s perfect reaction to Eliab – “he turned from him”. The only way to deal with haters is to walk on.  It’s that simple. It is a skill, and it is not easy, but all of us need to learn to walk on from the people who hate us.

There are many people who have many evil thoughts about me. The more our ministry grows, the more people there are who have these thoughts. There are people who in their houses will gladly gossip and slander me. They hate me in their hearts, even though on the outside they can profess to love me and love Tree of Life.  Now these people are the minority, but I am letting you they exist, because when your haters come I want you to know you are in good company.

You need to have radar for the hypocritical haters – and walk away. Learn to fellowship with the people who believe in you, who are on your side, and who flow with you. Don’t fight to fellowship with people who don’t care about you and your dreams.

Some churches have struggled because they don’t respect businessmen, other churches have struggled because they don’t respect evangelists or prophets, or whatever. Attend a church where you can be in ministry and not despised! Some churches will never respect poor people, and don’t welcome them.

Some churches in London will never promote people from a certain culture, background, tribe or whatever. I love our church, we have over thirty nationalities every weekend, and our leadership team is remarkably diverse – married, single, black, white, old, young – it’s all in there.  We love people!  Some of our pastors are salaried, others are volunteers and both are vital to a healthy church!

When people are judging your heart, and thinking they know why you are doing what you are doing, never get into an argument with them, and never let their words define you – rather walk away and find someone else.  There will be someone else. Trust me – I have so many people who appreciate me, love me, would take a bullet for me. People I would never have met if I was still fighting or fleeing from Eliab. Just walk on, and expect the next person to be better.

Selah!

Leadership Lessons from David 02: Boring is Building

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Before David became King of the nation of Israel, he had a very remarkable CV. He was a shepherd, a musician for the king, a servant, an errand boy, the sandwich deliverer, and armour carrier. Notice – he was never a politician or soldier. God trained him to be king through exceptionally menial, boring jobs!  And God still trains Christians for great jobs, to run businesses and great businesses through boring, menial jobs!

Do NOT shy away from boring jobs!

Nearly all great people trained doing boring jobs. They served in the lowest levels of society. In church, I have been the chair-setter-outter, the cleaner, the usher, and so on. All of them have helped me be a better leader.

The best leaders are those who have been the best followers!

The best way to be a reasonable king is to have been an armour carrier! You don’t give impossible commands, you understand the job, you know the implications of what you say.

Learn to not hate boring tasks.  Jeremiah was sent by God to watch the potter at work, and the potter span the clay around over and over and over and over, round and round and round. It was boring, but each revolution changes the clay slightly until it isn’t a lump anymore it is a vessel.

God wants to do the same with us today. Let him!  Don’t run away from boring jobs!

Leadership Lessons from David 01: It Doesn’t Matter Where You Start!

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In my general blog for church life, I am currently doing a series on Samson, a man who is strong and weak. As I was flicking through the Old Testament looking at his life, I flicked to a passage on David which says “And he died in a good old age, full of days, riches and honour, and Solomon ruled in his place” (1 Chr. 29.28), and I thought – that’s how I want to go – full of days, riches and honour. In fact, the most powerful part of the legacy of David in this verse is Solomon. It’s amazing how many successes are not real success because they have never raised up a successor.

I don’t want to be one of those pastors who when you hear his name you think of the scandal. I want to be someone who has much fruit and finishes my course!

And David wasn’t perfect, in many ways he messed up as bad as Samson, but he got through it because he had learned some things Samson never did. So for all you pastors and leaders out there, I want to do a series on some of the things David learned.

And let’s start at the beginning, David was the youngest of seven brothers, and he was the shepherd of the family. He began by looking after the family sheep – a lowly and small job, but David started there and was faithful there.

It is my experience that fewer and fewer people want to start a ministry in a small way.  People don’t even know how to start small. They want to rip another church apart to get people into their church. They find a pastor who is building, and break his legs to steal some of his church, because they hate the days of small beginnings.

Through deceit and dishonour, they rip a church in two to gather a following for themselves and use those people to start their own ministry.

Sometimes people have been disparaging of Tree of Life Church because some of our satellite churches are very small indeed. I realize that these people do not know how to start something out of nothing. They don’t know how to begin a church. They don’t know that the entire network for 6 months was a church of 3-5 people!

Do not be afraid of small beginnings, rather trust God to promote you!

While looking after the sheep, David had two encounters – one with a bear and one with a lion.  Learning to fight tough battles in the small, seemingly insignificant church of his father’s sheep, taught David how to fight for the nation! When you have preached several hundred times to 12 people, you will be fine preaching to 100 or 1000 or 10000. You have learned!

I have preached all over the world, to small groups and large groups, to hostile groups and to friendly groups, to places I have been cheers and places I have been jeered. Learning this in small settings has been invaluable. Now I am on one of the largest Christian TV stations in my nation, speaking to possibly hundreds of thousands of people weekly. That’s ok with me – I have spoke to 3 over and over and over until I know how to speak.

But people today all want to be in a rush to succeed. Whether it is the assistant pastor who rips a church in two to get his crowd, or the Bible College student who hangs around the Bible College hoping to be offered to share to the class or teach a class rather than go into all the world and make a disciple or two, or the people who email me every single week asking to preach in our church – they want to get there quickly, and haven’t learned this foundational lesson from David.  Serve where you are, minister where you are, never be afraid to start small.

Don’t be in a rush to get there. Better to make a mistake in a small group than a huge group. Better to misspend a thousand pounds than a hundred thousand. Small is a necessary stage in the kingdom (and in business too). Jesus said you have to be faithful in small things to get big things, and you have to be faithful in another man’s stuff to get your own stuff (Luke 16.10-12). Most people don’t seem to believe that any more – but David did. He looked after those sheep like they were millions and like they were all his. And that was the key to his promotion.

You might be in the school of Small Starts today. Your class today might be “Treating Other People’s Ministry as Well As You Want Your Ministry to Be Treated”, your class might be “Turning up on time and preparing a great Bible study for 10 people, while you really want to preach to a thousand, but still preparing it just as well for the ten”.  Well, go to school then! Take the class. You won’t be at school forever, your graduation will come, your kingship will manifest one day. I believe in you! Enjoy the training, as one day it will end.

 

 

Dos and Don’ts When Inviting A Guest Speaker

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I love guest speakers. It’s a chance for me to rest and enjoy a faith-building message from another ministry, it’s a chance for our people to hear the gospel of the kingdom framed in a different way, it’s a chance for our people to hear a specialist with a specific message or gift, and finally, it’s a chance for people who have never heard of our church find us because of a guest speaker’s mailing list.

However, I have seen several churches ripped to pieces by guest speakers who have ulterior motives, generally a hobby-horse, or to build their mailing list, or just plain to get money and not care how ethically or righteously it comes. We have had a couple of near misses ourselves, and I have learned a few lessons about inviting speakers.

  • DO invite people who you know and who you benefit from hearing. If they don’t feed you, they won’t feed your people. It’s that simple. All the speakers that come to Tree of Life Church are people who feed me.
  • DO invite people who you trust and feel comfortable dealing with.  If you don’t feel right corresponding with and inviting them, then it won’t feel right when they come. Some of the best guest speakers at Tree of Life now are dear friends of mine, and I love them and they love me, and it’s great – but of course that doesn’t happen overnight!
  • DO openly ask if the speaker has a rider or any requests.  That conversation should be started by the church – you as the pastor should take the initiative and have that conversation before the speaker arrives. It can be a little embarrassing but man up and do it!
  • DO talk about financing the speaker beforehand – and DO pay your speaker well. If you don’t know how much to pay speakers, speak to other pastors of churches your size. I have always overpaid what I have heard the market rate is, because I don’t think you can put a price on a great speaker. Save up beforehand if you have to. The idea of letting someone speak and benefiting from that and not honouring them financially is utterly unbiblical and utterly unChristian. You should be giving an honorarium that fits the speaker and your church.
  • DO honour your speaker when they are with you – give them enough time to minister, let them flow with their gift, and enjoy their company. Let them feel welcome.
  • DO ensure if the minister has product they are given a place to sell it and that people are encouraged to purchase.
  • DO use your speaker where he is at their best. Don’t ask an evangelist to speak on end-times, let them evangelise! Craft the experience around the dominant gift of the speaker.
  • DON’T let your speaker advertise for sign ups to their mailing list from your people. They are not there to build their mailing list, they are there to feed your people. You are providing a good honorarium
  • DON’T let your speaker take his own offering. That’s for you to do and your people to do.
  • DON’T let your speaker prophecy judgement and doom and gloom over you and your people!  Shut that down immediately.
  • DON’T let your speaker advertise their events at other churches. Come on now!  That’s just rude.
  • DON’T let your speaker stumble around – let there be someone who lets him know when to arrive, where they are staying and so on and so forth. Use some empathy!
  • DON’T ever forget to say thanks.  Send a thank you card after they have come, and express your appreciation.

 

 

You Are Not Smarter than Jesus 06: You Can’t Force People to Do What You Want

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Amazing how many people think they can just run rough-shod over the wills of other people. Someone once said about our church that their first surprise was that I don’t use fear and guilt to control the church, but their second surprise was that I was impossible to control with fear and guilt.

A lot of pastors can be controlled through fear and guilt – start to suggest “call yourself a pastor”, start to tell them you are leaving and taking your tithe money with you, start to bully them a little. I take a different approach – don’t like it, there is the door. I will not tolerate that kind of behaviour because it is all about controlling and stealing what is not yours.

We need to all realize whether we are pastors or laity that the fruit of the spirit is self-control, not other control. We have enough on our plate without trying to change others or control others. I am not the Facebook police, the food police or the fashion police, and nor are you. Just learn where your limits end.

Somebody recently tried to give me a piece of their mind – I wasn’t that interested to be honest so I walked away. They said to me “I have freedom of speech”, I said “True, but I also have freedom of listening, goodbye”. I don’t have to fill my mind with the rubbish in other people’s mouths, and nor do you!

Now, I normally teach on this from the point of view of the people who are being controlled and give tips on how to not be controlled by others, and that is vital teaching. The first time I taught on this in our church I got a standing ovation, which is not a normal event I can tell you! People were set free. (if you want to get a listen and need help in that area: http://www.treeoflifeguildford.com/building-fences.html)

But today I want to give 4 simple pieces of advice to stop you crossing over your limits and being a controlling person:

  1. Learn to live and let live.  Learn that not everything is your business, and learn to – as the Bible teaches – mind your own business. Ask yourself before speaking – is this my business. If not, shut your big mouth!
  2. Learn to speak directly. A lot of indirect talk is there to control people.
  3. Learn to never build your ego in the responses and actions of others. Pastors manipulate their flock to turn up at events because their ego is in the numbers. I am not against numbers or counting, but I believe strongly that you should be resting in God’s love for you which is the same whether 2 people or 200 or 2million turn up.
  4. Learn to respect the word “no”. Listen for it, and when you hear it respond to it. No means no, not “persuade me”, “push me” or “press me”. Learn to respect the quietest “no” of others, don’t make them force their way.

It’s that simple. Of course, other people should not be stopping you doing what God said, so the constant obstacles and “no” people, respect their no, but then stop building with them and find others who want to build with you. Selah!

 

 

You Are Not Smarter than Jesus 05: You Cannot Exalt Yourself

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For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted – Matthew 23.12

One of the things that frightens me when I deal with some pastors is the high levels of selfish ambition and the remarkable self-promotion. When I meet a group of guys, I expect a bit of alpha male behaviour, where the question “what do you do for a living” really means “do you earn less or more than me, where are we on the pecking order, who is the alpha and who is not”.

But when you meet pastors and the first question is “how many people are you running”, then you realize quickly it’s not to pray for you, to support you or to encourage you, or give you advice, but it is the same behaviour – “do you have less or more people than me, are you above me or below me in the pecking order, who is the alpha and who is not”.

It doesn’t sit well with me at all, and my normal answer to that question is “there are 150000 people in Barking and Dagenham (my borough) that don’t go to church.  That’s the number that I pray about, that keeps me up at night, that keeps me walking with God”.

When you try and exalt yourself, you will fail. You will be humbled – when you humble yourself it is called humility, but when you are humbled by external people and circumstances it is called humiliation. You could say “if you try and self-promote yourself and your ministry, you will end up humiliated”. Now it’s not God who humiliates you, He is love and love never humiliates others, but it is one of the binding principles of the universe that if you try and exalt yourself, you will fall flat on your face and people will – sadly – laugh at you.

I am amazed at the shamelessness of some pastors who want the top seat and do not care who they step on to get there. Don’t be that guy, it won’t end well.  What do I mean in practical terms?

  • Don’t hassle pastors for a pulpit.  The door will open at the right time, not when it is pushed hard by your selfish ambition
  • Don’t shoot up, shoot down. When you are at a pastor’s conference, stop trying to impress the speakers and the bigwigs, but get your hands dirty – pay for someone else’s room, help someone, take someone younger than you in ministry out for lunch and love them. Don’t be too big for the little jobs, don’t try and wangle your way onto the stage.  If you are invited to speak, keep to time and don’t distract. I’ve had enough of MCs who immediately after a powerful message by a great preacher feel it is their right and duty to add a fifteen-thirty minute epilogue to the message. I’m genuinely not interested, and the root of it is selfish ambition
  • Stop having discussions about numbers with people. I don’t share how many we are running except in internal meetings now, and I don’t share our income except in internal meetings.

Instead, humble yourself. Be humble, be gracious, be kind. Take the lower seat, step down – trust that God will seriously promote you like crazy when the time is right!  God is into exalting people and your time will come, but God wants it to happen in a way that only He gets the glory for it. I am telling you, God has a plan to promote you, and you need to trust that plan and that ridiculous favour on your life.

What does true humility look like?

  • Ask 3 questions to every pastor for everyone you answer. Genuinely care about how other people are doing.
  • Don’t try and push something across a bridge that is not strong enough for it. Sometimes I get strangers try and prophesy over me at a conference. I didn’t come for a stranger’s prophetic word – I came to be influenced and inspired and challenged by the conference. I know that sometimes a stranger can bring a great word, and sometimes if the person doesn’t know the situation it can bring great authenticity to the prophecy, but in my experience it generally generates more heat than light, because the word is not given in humility and grace, but in trying to establish a pecking order (ooh, I gave him a prophesy! can really be an insecure arrogance).  These are some of the amazing prophecies I have received in the last couple of years:
    • Shut down all your churches and go to Bible College (what again?  I’ve been for 6 years!)
    • Stop travelling across the world, it will make you ill (I didn’t receive that, and never will.  God told me to travel, and I ain’t getting ill)
    • God wants you to slow down (why? is my pace making you look bad?  Come on now!)
    • You are fat because you are greedy and selfish and your ministry will never succeed (this was after I had lost over 8 stone in a year, and I am still gradually losing weight!)
    • All of these words came from the insecurity and ambition of the prophecier and unfortunately that kind of thing brings humiliation as the people who know me try not to laugh!
  • Finally, the best way to humble yourself is to focus on who you are in Christ, the more you realize who you are, the less you have to prove yourself to others. It’s when you are scared God won’t promote you, then you feel you have to steady the ark. Don’t be that guy!