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:

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!

You Are Not Smarter than Jesus 04: Know People By Their Fruit

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Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? – Matthew 7.16

Jesus was very clear – you know people according to their fruit. The business world gets this point – it hires people who have evidence that they can do the job that is at hand. In other words, they know people by their fruit. If a good businessman had a choice between hiring a lovely person who needed the money or a person who can do the job well, they will choose the person who can do the job well. That’s a fact!

We need to have the same kind of acumen, be a bit more like Jesus, and stop offering jobs to people and stop trusting people just because they are nice, or they have some friends in common with us, or because they have been at the church a while, or because their parents are awesome, or because they went to this Bible College or the other.

We have to look at fruit.  And fruit is always like the seed!  A true pastor brings forth pastors into the world, a true teacher raises up teachers, and so on – just like rabbits have baby rabbits and sharks have baby sharks!

It amazes me how many people look for a mentor but never look for the fruit. The amount of people who have wanted to mentor me, but they are pastoring churches of 30-50 people, have never planted a church, have never pastored and have less fruit that we do – trust me, they can be my friends, I love them, but I won’t let them step into that role because it’s by fruit we know them.

But they have been Christians 40 years and pastors 30 years? It isn’t by the rings in the middle you know them, it’s the fruit!

A young man I know from years ago wanted to go to Bible College. I asked why because I believe in doing things on purpose, and he said to plant a church. I said make sure you choose a Bible College where some of the staff have planted churches, where people are brought in to the speak to the students who have planted churches. He went to a Bible College where no one has planted a church and they don’t get church planters in front of the people. He went because they had this kind of accreditation and that kind of reputation and so on and so forth. He thought he knew more than Jesus! Jesus said go by fruit! Now this young man is no longer even going to church.

You put fruitless people into your mentorship, then you end up fruitless!

And pastors and leader – don’t take someone on who has no fruit!  Don’t put someone into a position leading a church who has no fruit leading a small group. Don’t put people into place who don’t line up with 1 Tim. 3. Don’t waste your time mollycoddling people who don’t bear fruit. Don’t hire your mate, hire someone fruitful.

Don’t buy books that are just theory, buy them from people who have done it. Don’t have any more seminars and conferences from people who are swimming in the shallow end, but those who have launched out into the deep and done it!