Who Should Have the Good Report?

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Who Should Have the Good Report about Who?

A bishop then must…  have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Tim. 3.2, 7, KJV)

Today I want to look at a verse that a lot of us know, but I want to offer a slightly different understanding on it, that to me harmonizes better with Scripture, with Biblical Greek and with real life leadership:

I have traditionally been taught, and taught, that this verse means that if you are as a pastor about to appoint an elder that the elder should have a good report from the world. That the person’s boss, employees, family, last church, last mosque, community should have glowing reports about their attendance, character, chastity, capabilities and kindness. However, that has never sat well with me because at the end of the day, you cannot control what people outside the church say about you. You could have an employer who hates you because you are born again and go to church, you could have an employee who thinks you are a terrible boss because you make them accountable. My wife, Amanda, once met once of my former students in a social setting who told her I was the worst teacher they had ever had – the reason, I made them do work and told them off when they didn’t!

We live in a world where people are routinely falsely accused, where mob justice rules and people get cancelled for not agreeing with abortion and a homosexual lifestyle or whatever, it will eventually become impossible to find anyone “without” who has a good word to say anything about a genuine disciple of Christ.

Now, when I studied New Testament at Masters level, we did a lot of work on the genitive case in Greek (the case of possesion, normally marked and translated in English as “of”, for example “the armour of God”, “the faith of God”, “the fruit of the spirit”. It shows ownership. Now the genitive in Greek can often be read both ways, and we use our common sense to work out that is more likely that God owns armour than armour owns God! But in this case, we have a sentence that could mean:

A bishop must have a good report FROM them which are without. In other words, people outside the church should be giving him a good report and saying good things about him.

Or:

A bishop must have a good report ABOUT those which are without. In other words, the potential elder should be giving a good report about those who are without the church.

So which one do we choose? Firstly, the church has historically chosen the first one, which makes sense – if you have a traditional job interview you get references, and you use those references to decide if the person should get the job, so it makes sense you should do the same for a potential elder in the church. But the kingdom of God is upside down, and so let’s explore that it might be the other way around, that an elder must be the one giving the good report.

Firstly, this is something the potential elder has control over. They cannot control what is coming out of the mouths of others about them, they can definitely influence it by their behaviour, and I am not saying we shouldn’t be a good witness, but ultimately the report FROM those outside is outside of our control whether it is good or not. However, we can control whether we speak a good report or not, so that is something that we can be accountable for. Having worked in recruitment for a season, we soon find out references from others are often worthless due to bias and dishonesty, but finding out what someone says about their last place of employment – that can be enlightening!

Secondly, as Christians are not called to get a good report, we should in fact not be surprised when the world hates us (1 John 3.13) and Jesus said we are blessed when we are insulted and people say false things about us (Matthew 5.11). Not only is a good report from those without guaranteed for someone who is living for Jesus, getting a few bad ones is pretty much guaranteed.

Thirdly, when I read “good report”, I immediately am drawn to the account of Caleb and Joshua when they spied on the promised land. Moses was not concerned about what the Canaanites said about Caleb and Joshua, he didn’t find out if they were the best spies that had ever spied in the nation. He was looking for a good report from their mouth – we can take the land, we can win, we can overcome. Moses got an evil report (Numbers 14.37) from the other spies – they are giants, we can’t make it, we cannot win, we are going to lose, we will never walk in God’s promises. But Caleb and Joshua had a good report – we can take the land, there is so much fruit there, there is victory there.

As a pastor you need to be very concerned about two groups of people. Firstly, those who the world loves. Jesus said in Luke 6.26 that “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” We actually need to be very careful of people in our churches who have never had grief or persecution from the world, that can be a clue they are not actually living for Christ!

You also need to be concerned about people who have a bad report of their “outside”. The person who says “my work is terrible, my booss is awful, my last pastor was horrid to me, my husband hates me” is a person with a bad report about those without. You give a person that negative and that faithless a small group of people to disciple, I guarantee after the first meeting they will be telling you what is wrong with the people in the group, their mindset is negative, they are what the Scripture calls “fault finders”. These people fall into the condemnation of the devil – they end up becoming accusers of the brethren as well as accusers of those on the outside. You don’t need elders who do satan’s job for them!

No, you want to appoint elders who are Calebs and Joshuas, you want elders who give good reports – “I am doing great at work, there are no problems I cannot overcome, no people I cannot love, no situations I cannot prosper in”, “my last church? Well, I loved it and I served it, but I felt God wanted me to be in a church that teaches the complete work like you do, and I left well and decently”, “my family? We are doing well, I love my wife and children, we work out problems together, and we are walking forward together”. Those are the people you want as elders.

Pastors, when you are appointing elders – indeed in any situation where you are appointing leaders – yes, listen a little to what others say about them, but listen a lot more to what they say about others, that is the true key to discerning potential leaders.

Thriving in the Battle 07: The Battle Belongs to the United

group, people, holding, others wrists, holding hands, unity ...

Jesus once told the Pharisees that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12.25). I have seen more churches and ministries fail due to disunity more than anything else. For every venture to extend the kingdom of God on earth – a new church, a new evangelistic crusade, a new ministry, a new media to share the Word – there has to be unity. That unity should be this: we all want the same goal, and we will work together, loving each other, following one commander, walking in step.

Any army that is not in unity will never win a battle. Every church where the assistant pastor is trying to get his agenda sneaked in, and the congregation are pulling in ten different ways will never work successfully. The unity of the team and the loyalty of the church are essential for us to win battles.

One of the strongest armies in the world in terms of raw force was the Wehrmacht, but thank God they did not understand unity, and that helped the Allies win WWII. Jesus knows about unity too and prayed for it – “I pray for everyone who shall believe on me through their word (that’s you and me) that they all may be one as you, the Father are in me, and I am in you, that they may be one in us” (John 17.20). Jesus prayed for unity – so it must be important.

Every church needs to be in unity, the battle is too hard out there, the opposition to our faith, our hopes, our dreams is too big for us to have a church with infighting in it. You need unity because we are just one body – and our hearts should be as inseperable as one body. People do not act like they believe the church is a body, they leave offended, they leave upset, they walk off in the middle of something – with no revelation they are tearing a body apart. Separation from a local church is ripping a part of a body off – it is something that should never ever be done lightly. The casualness with which some people change churches is beyond me.

How easy would it be for you to walk out your church? As easy as someone removing your kidney? I am not saying it couldn’t be done, just that it should be done very very slowly, carefully, with a lot of planning. It is a difficult and complicated process. We have had pastors leave by email, elders just disappear and stop coming – and it has impacted the entire body of Christ. And heaven knows how it has affected and injured their souls. We must stay connected! We must develop connections with the essential people that God has given us – the kindred spirits we need to fulfil our ministry – and to enjoy our life. That is unity.

We all know Hitler started the Second World War, but if you look at the disunity in his army it was huge. His own people tried to assassinate him 42 times. I think they might be a record! That meant Hitler needed thousands of soldiers just to protect him, while Winston only had 2 bodyguards. Think about the wasted resources dealing with the disunity. The most famous plot against Hitler was in 1944, where they got a bomb and set it off. Hitler’s field marshal following the unsuccessful attempt committed suicide. The disunity impacted the armies ability to fight. Now when it is Nazis, we are glad they only managed to war for six years, but when we realize most new church plants do not last more than five years, that is a tragedy. Do you want to last six years or sixty years? Then learn to build unity into your church!

I don’t really want to teach on unity, just provoke you to believe for it and seek it and go and learn it, but I will give you two keys:

  1. If you want faithful people in your church, you have to be faithful to the people in the church. Unity starts at the head, with you being faithful to the church. Pastors suddenly feel called to the US of A, when they realize how much more money there is in the ministry there, and when the people think their pastor has itchy feet, it affects the whole body. You commit to your people, let them know you are here until death do you part or until Gabriel himself turns up with new orders, and that seed of unity will reap a harvest. In some denominational churches, people who have been in the church even just ten years have had 6 or 7 pastors, they don’t need to be told be faithful, they need to know that you are faithful to them.
  2. Be like Paul told the Philippians in 2.4, do not just look to your own interests, but the interests of others. This also starts with the head, don’t be like Saul and keep those marching for you from the honey. Learn to share the honey, learn to promote those working for you!

Thriving in the Battle 06: The Battle Belongs to the Adaptable

The 12 enemies of adaptability - Serious Scrum - Medium

I know how to be abased and I know how to abound… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Php. 4.12-13)

Paul was a flexible man – if he had nothing, he learned to extend the kingdom with nothing, if he had loads, he learned to use that loads to extend the kingdom. When you are adaptable, your enemy struggles to defeat you. Every problem he gives you, you adapt and give him a new problem.

Right now two huge things are happening in the UK – there is a pandemic, and there is a lockdown. People’s responses have been varied:

  • Some people have just froze, and are waiting for things to change back to normal. They are not extending the kingdom right now because they have not adapted.
  • Other people are angry, they are just going on social media and ranting about the government, furious at things they cannot change. They are not extending the kingdom right now because they have not adapted.
  • Other people are trying to add it all up and getting very confused, sharing all sorts of bizarre and foolish conspiracy theories and imagined cures and government plots. They are not extending the kingdom right now because they have not adapted.
  • Other people are accepting what they cannot change with serenity, and working out how to use modern technology to communicate, to share the good news, to creatively preach, to engage with people, taking the time to learn new skills, invest in themselves and adapt. They are extending the kingdom of God because they have adapted.

If you want to win a battle you have to learn to be adaptable. It’s that simple, we do not live in a perfect world, so to change it and reach people, we have to learn to adapt, to be flexible, to be able to handle new environments, to be able to fight in different circumstances. Otherwise all the devil has to do is change our circumstances slightly and we are defeated!

Adaptable people keep their jobs when industries change, adaptable people are the most important people to their bosses, adaptable people can handle the fact that our world is always changing. What is precious today is not going to be precious tomorrow – what will work today might not work tomorrow, so we need to be adaptable. If you cannot change quickly, you will one day wake up useless.

The British soldiers were defeated by the Americans in the War for Independence because the British were inflexible and could not adapt to fighting in America, their tactics worked well against the French, but not against the Americans. They lost due to lack of adaptability.

Here are some things I have seen Christians be inflexible over and lose out from discipling nations:

  • Society has changed so that Sunday morning is no longer church time for people. Churches that only have meetings Sundays at 10am without being flexible no longer help as many people as they could.
  • Churches that are inflexible with worship styles are not connecting with their communities.
  • Under 35s have changed – they will not be at your church until they have listened online, been on your website and your Facebook. If you are not there, they will never come. Be flexible and start using social media well!
  • I have been in meetings where the Holy Spirit wanted to do something but the obsession with the programme meant that it never happened, because the people are inflexible.

There are many other examples, feel free to start a discussion about the need to be adaptable below.

Thriving in the Battle 05: The Battle Belongs to the Efficient

Efficiency versus effectiveness: a media agency view | Opinions ...

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? (Luke 14.31, NIV)

All of us have to go to war to get the gospel out to all the nations.  In war, often the battle is won or lost on the basis of economics.  The American military call this the “economy of force”, you want to have all the power you can have on the battlefield, but you have to be as efficient as possible.  You have to exploit the people, the materials, the processes to get as much power on the battlefield for as little money as possible.

War is expensive – and whichever king ran out of money first would lose the battle, and Jesus knew it.  That’s why He is telling us in this parable to think of the cost.  Making disciples is a war, and it is expensive – it costs money to change the world.  And if you do not know how to be efficient in your spending you will not sustain the ministry – you will lose the battle.

Most people have zero idea how expensive it is to plant a church, how expensive evangelism is, how expensive starting a second church is, how expensive going on radio and TV are, how expensive it is to be a missionary.  Building a church is like building a supermarket in the middle of a war-torn nation and neither side wants you to open it.  Satan is the god of this world, and you are the ambassadors of Christ in this world – and to wage world, you have to defeat satan, and build and extend the kingdom.  So, a good king is always thinking about supply lines and how to extend the kingdom and make sure that things are still being paid for and you are making the most of your income to get the most power on the battlefield for your income.

When I started running conferences, I found out why so few churches in the UK are running conferences.  It is not because God has not called them to do, it because they cost money.  I have a friend ran a conference called Pentecost, and he said he almost renamed it “Plenty-Cost”, and I understand that.  We have to stand in faith to believe God for victory every step of the way financially, and make sure we are being efficient with the money too.   The conferences we have run in Tree of Life have brought heaven to earth.  We have seen the sick healed, we have seen people encounter God, we have seen people transformed. We have seen people get their marriages restored, learn how to flow in the gifts, move in the Spirit, live above the storms around them, get saved, get changed forever.  They have been remarkable.  But I have had to learn to be efficient with the finances and get the best deals possible to reach the most amount of people possible.

World War I cost a lot of money.  It cost a lot in terms of lives of soldiers, the trenches were dug at the cost of human lives for years.  The British produced a video saying “Damn the cost, we must win this war”, with over 9 million people dying from the war. That’s over 6000 people every day we were at war.  Nearly every family in the UK lost someone in the war, a father, a nephew, an uncle.  But some towns and villages lost every single adult male.  So those towns suddenly had no carpenters, no plumbers, no builders, no tradesmen at all – and no one to teach them to the younger generation.   The infrastructure wiped out many areas.

Another 15 million men came back from the war, but unable to work due to injuries. So that cost was also making an impact to the wider economy.  After the war, the economy was in a terrible state.  The cost was estimated at nearly 180 billion pounds, and the whole world entered into a global depression as we entered the twenties.  Inflation was changing the costs of things day by day, in Germany bread was priced in the billions of marks.  Four years of war led to decades of financial hardship.  War costs.  Whole cities also needed to be rebuilded.

War is expensive, and we need to treat ministry as the same.  We need to embrace the principle that Jesus taught us and count the cost – without doing so, you will not be doing ministry for long.  I know a number of ministries that have had to close down because they got too expensive to run.  You must learn to run your church or ministry as efficiently as possible.  I bet you can do everything you are doing right now more efficiently:

  • Going on TV is expensive, so find the most efficient way to do it
  • Running a conference is expensive, so find the most efficient way to do it
  • Planting a new church is expensive, so find the most efficient way to do it
  • Doing a big crusade is expensive, so find the most efficient way to do it
  • Going on radio is expensive, so find the most efficient way to do it
  • Writing a book is expensive, so find the most efficient way to do it
  • Running a Bible College is expensive, so find the most efficient way to do it

Do you know what will happen if you ignore me and do not make things more efficient in your church or ministry – I will tell you and not charge you a penny.  You will end up having to shut down ministries or churches you want to continue – not because you are not anointed or called, but because you are broke!

I have seen it – ministries are planting churches but then stop because planting is expensive.  Our nation sends people on two week holidays to paint a building and calls it missionary work – and they donate a Bible or two and call it world mission giving.  We need some people who are going to give up their lives to live in other nations, investing everything – but we need to count the cost because we need to pay for it!  There is more need for this than every before.  There are over 50 million extra people in Africa when David Livingstone went.  We have to do this.  We have to be efficient – if we send people over who can start farms and generate incomes that is one way.  One of the things that impresses me about Christopher Alam is how efficient he is with his crusades, spending far less than some other evangelists, some of whom if they want his longevity need to learn from him.

Ministers who go to India or Africa, or even London, with their five star hotels, and their private jets, their hundred members of staff who travel with them – they do not come back often!  It costs too much!

If we learn how to be efficient we can do more for God.  Notice I am not saying cheap – we need to beware false economies, and buying cheap things that need replacing, or doing things in a way that is just ugly.  But I believe we can all be more efficient, and that will give us longevity in ministry.

If you do not follow this principle, one day your Bible College will close.  You might disbelieve that, but I am not a novice, I have seen a lot come and go.  You will not be able to write another book, have another conference, travel overseas again, or whatever it is.  Fail to learn this principle and you will stop your ministry before it even starts.  Don’t be that person!

 

 

 

 

 

Thriving in the Battle 04: Peace is Temporary!

The Economist explains - Who takes America to war? | The Economist ...

Again, I am not talking about the peace of God or the peace we have with God – those are going to last forever.  If you are born again, there is never a moment that you do not have peace with God -it will never run out and never end.

No, I mean in this life you will never have long unbroken seasons of peace and ease if you are extending the kingdom. You will get some, but you need to make sure you use some of that time to prepare for war.

Look at 1 Kings 20:

22 Afterward the prophet said to King Ahab, “Get ready for another attack. Begin making plans now, for the king of Aram will come back next spring.”

23 After their defeat, Ben-hadad’s officers said to him, “The Israelite gods are gods of the hills; that is why they won. But we can beat them easily on the plains. 24 Only this time replace the kings with field commanders! 25 Recruit another army like the one you lost. Give us the same number of horses, chariots, and men, and we will fight against them on the plains. There’s no doubt that we will beat them.” So King Ben-hadad did as they suggested.

26 The following spring he called up the Aramean army and marched out against Israel, this time at Aphek. 27 Israel then mustered its army, set up supply lines, and marched out for battle. But the Israelite army looked like two little flocks of goats in comparison to the vast Aramean forces that filled the countryside!

28 Then the man of God went to the king of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says: The Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the hills and not of the plains.’ So I will defeat this vast army for you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

Ahab was in a time of peace, but the prophet came to him and said “Get ready for another attack” and within a year another huge attack came.  That prophetic word – get ready for another attack – needs to be one we all take seriously.  I am not saying start naming and claiming attacks or persecution, I am not saying become a doom and gloom merchant.  I am saying – you will be attacked again, do not get complacent.

If you have a ministry, a church, friends, a family, money, a business – and it is reflecting the glory of God on earth, satan hates it.  And you need to be aware he wants to do it harm.  One of the reasons Hitler was so successful in murdering millions of people is that no-one was combat ready.  Everyone was expecting peace after WWI, so the idea that something worse would happen was not on anyone’s mind.  People were not ready, so they were vulnerable.

Germany was reseatching weapons, Poland was enjoying peace.  It should have also been preparing weapons.  The Polish army send cavalry out to fight tanks!  Men on horseback!  They lost that fight really quickly.  You need to be prepared for evil to come!  You need to be ready.  Take care you do not fall.

Prepare for war, the devil is ridiculously wicked and evil, and he is defeated, but you still have to make sure you ar not one of the people he can devour.  The large churches in London are the story of pastors not ready for combat – pastors put in jail, pastors divorced, pastors having homosexual affairs.  Satan hates churches in London – do not think Tree will not be slandered and lied about, do not think our key leaders will not be tempted in different ways. Let’s be ready for war!  Let’s prepare in peacetime by feeding on the Word, sharpening the sword of the Spirit and getting ready for a remarkable victory.

Grace and peace!  And victory!

Thriving in Battle 03: Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Keeping my eye on the prize

1 Cor. 15.58 tells us that we need to be steadfast and unmoveable!  You see one of the worst things that happens in war, when there is a pandemic, when there is a lockdown, when there is a Goliath, when there is financial pressure, when there is pain, when there is war is that we lose sight of our dream.  That’s not healthy, because we cannot move in the right directions.  If your dream is to plant healthy churches, keep planting no matter the opposition, if your dream is to make it in business keep walking that way even in war.

You must keep putting energy into your dream, not all into your opponents.  Whenever armies go to war, they are given clear cut objectives, the army of God is not an exception to this – God is giving us clear goals to achieve.  And our main goal, for all of us, should be to extend the kingdom through evangelism and discipleship and helping people and reaching out to people and teaching people about the goodness of Jesus.  We need a whole new generation of pastors who like Paul are “determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2.2).  That’s the only way to get through the battles, preach Jesus!  Preach the cross, preach the resurrection.

The problem with many Christians is their main aim in life is a happy marriage, or a new car, or a load of money, or a breakthrough in this or that area.  Nothing wrong with those, but seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you – seek the things and make them the goal and you get no kingdom and no things.

Our aim is to go into all the world and make disciples.  Most of the church has stopped seeking the kingdom and gone straight to the things, and that will not get you through tough times!

Whenever you go through war, keep your eye on the prize!  We are not beating the air, but running and fighting to win something!

Thriving in Battle 02: Take Things By Force

TAKE IT BY FORCE! – THE WORD SEED EVANGELISTIC MINISTRY

Matthew 11.12 says that from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.

Some things have to be taken by force.  Not because God does not want us to have them – in fact, we know it is the Father’s pleasure and joy to give us the kingdom (Luke 12.32), but because there is always resistance in this world to you walking in your dreams and goals, especially when those dreams and goals extend the kingdom of Heaven.  The people of earth and their structures fundamentally do not want to be ruled by heaven, and the god of this world hates you and wants to destroy you, so to bring the kingdom of God about on this world we need to be violent and use some force!

The Greek word for violent here is biastes and it means people who are strong, forceful and eager and enthusiastic.  To change the world needs some eagerness, some enthusiasm – it cannot be done by wet kippers, it needs people with some backbone, some drive, some presence, some vision, some violence!

In 1 Peter 5.8 we all know the devil is compared to a roaring lion, but Peter also in that verse calls him our adversary.  That means he wants to make your life adverse!  He is defeated with a crushed head, and all he has is a roar, but that doesn’t mean you can just walk on by and make it, you need some fight inside you.  Satan hates your dreams!  He hates especially your kingdom dreams so you have to walk in some faith, you are going to have to have a word with yourself when you feel like quitting and keep going, you are going to have to have some discipline, some fervour, some heat about you to win and conquer and extend the kingdom.

And what I want you all to realize is that as much as the devil is your adversary, we are his.  Whenever we do something, we are hacking apart his kingdom.  When we pray in tongues, we are dismantling his kingdom of discouragement and encouraging ourselves.  When you phone another Christian and tell them you love them and you encourage them, you are destroying his kingdom of strife and discouragement.  When you win someone to Jesus, that’s one less person for satan.  We are going to harm the devil today, and every day.

I love reading about David in the Bible – he had drive, he had vision, he had eagerness and enthusiasm.  He wanted to rule from Jerusalem, Saul didn’t want to change, but David wanted a giant new headquarters for his nation that he was king over.  I love that kind of drive.  There was one small problem – the Jebusites lived in Jerusalem.  So David attacked them and beat them and took the city by force.  God never handed the city of Jerusalem over to His people on a plate, David had to get in there and fight for it.

You are not going to be handed your dreams on a plate, you are going to have to seize some things through force.  There are people like the Jebusites who do not want you walking in your dreams:

David and all the Israelites marched to Jerusalem (that is, Jebus). The Jebusites who lived there said to David, “You will not get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.

David had said, “Whoever leads the attack on the Jebusites will become commander-in-chief.” Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, and so he received the command.

David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. He built up the city around it, from the terraces  to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city. (1 Chr. 11.4-8 NIV)

Look at what the Jebusites said “You will not get in here”.  I bet you have heard that about your dreams, your healing, your ministry, your future, your prosperity before.  I bet someone has said to you “You will not get in there”.  You need some eagerness that when they say “You will not get in here”, it doesn’t discourage you, it fires you up, it puts you on attack mode.  It makes you go “yes, I am getting in there”.

On VE Day last week, it amazed me the hate I saw for Winston Churchill on social media.  I mean jaw droppingly stunned by the vitriol on there for someone who saved our nation.  There were nations in Europe appeasing Hitler, they had no eagerness for the battle, no force, no backbone.  But Churchill said:

We shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.  That is the resolve of his majesty’s government, every man of us.  That is the will of Parliament and the will of the nation.  The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in both cause and need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strenght.  Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of the Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender.

That is biastes, that is force, that is strength, that is enthusiasm.  Never give up, never surrender.  That is the attitude that so many in our generation, and sadly so many Christians do not have, which leaves the church vulnerable to attack.  Pastors – part of your calling is to defend the church God has called you build, elders – your calling is to defend your pastor and defend the church.  And Christian, you have to defend the pastor, the elders and the church.  And we need to do it in a way that is full of life and force and strength.  If you think nothing bad can happen to a church, you are very immature and inexperienced!  You are going to be attacked.  Your church will be attacked.  Satan hates your fruit.  Satan will come at your church with nice looking people in nice looking suits.  He is wicked, heartless, merciless and he wants to destroy the church.  So we need some drive!

You have to put on your armour and fight.  Once you build the church you cannot then sleep.  Nehemiah knew this, he divided the population into workers and fighters, there will be those who leave a church and try to knock it over before they do to make themselves feel better about their carnal decision to leave, there will be those who pretend to be something they are not to get power they would never otherwise have, there are those you are just disloyal, those who are Absaloms in the house of David, those who are ignorant, those who just love accusing people more than walking with Jesus.

When it is time for battle, gentle, nice, kind behaviour is not enough.  Homosexuality is actively invading the church of Jesus Christ, and we love people, and we show kindness to peopel, but we have to come against ideas that are perverse and destructive, and affect the whole church.   Grace people have become so complacent in their grace they do not want to go and change the world – they are happy in their grace and some do not even go to church.  Those people are utterly ignorant of the battle we are in.  The church must be defended against secularism and unspiritual teachings.  We must not become a centre of nice talks!

The power of the Holy Spirit is for witnessing.  To win people to Jesus.  That is what Jesus said in Acts 1 and He is right and anyone who disagrees is wrong.   The mission of the church is to win people to Jesus, to show people the truth about Jesus.  It is not to be the happiest people, the most excited by petty things people, in the nicest places in the world.  We need to go to the outcasts, the dying people, the lost and share Jesus with them.   There is something safe about living in the wilderness, but right now God is speaking to you and to me, and like He spoke to Joshua thousands of years ago, He is saying “Get up and cross over, go to the land I have given you”.  It is time for us to take new ground, invade new lands, plant new churches, reach new people, disciple new people, change more lives, hurt satan more – but that will take a fight.  It is much easier to enjoy where you are than advance the kingdom!  But it is a good fight, so put a smile on your face, get eager, get enthusiastic and start advancing.  We are going to change cities!

You cannot do that with two hymns and a chorus.  You cannot so that with a sing song, you need some faith, you need some boldness. I love worship, I am not criticising worship, but our worship should be an encounter with the glory and goodness of Christ that inspires us to share Him with others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thriving in Battles 01: Get Used to Confusion

BritishBattles.com analysing and documenting British Battles from ...

Isaiah tells us that “every battle of the warrior is with confused noise” (Isaiah 9.5).  In the middle of war, things are confusing, they look confusing, they sound confusing.  As Christians we are in a battle to change this world, so you will have to get used to things being confusing.

Right now there is no rulebook for how to handle a pandemic, how to pastor under a lockdown, so we have to go back to the fundamentals – love people, bless people, help people.  But in the battle, there is noise and confusion, and we have to get used to it.  Reinhard Bonnke used to say “do not wait for the iron to be hot to strike, but keep striking the iron enough it will get hot”.  In other words, if we wait for perfect circumstances before we start sharing the gospel, helping people, loving people, making disicples we will be waiting a very very long time.  No, we have to move into the middle of the battle, and to do that well, to be a successful you have to be happy around confusing noises.

In the middle of a battle, things are not safe.  There are dangers and risks.  There is confusion, people are bewildered, people are scared, people are dying, people are sad, people are in agony, people are lost with no hope.  Guess what?  You want to be a leader – that is where you need to be.  God wants to use you as a leader to influence people to His Word and His love and His grace.  There are ideas in our nation – philosophies and doctrines and confusions that are stopping people living in victory, stopping people receiving their healing, stopping people enjoying peace, stopping people enjoying the unconditional love of God – even keeping people from heaven.

We have an enemy who hates you, hates the Word, hates grace, and hates the kingdom of God.  And that means that we need to battle!  We do not need to fight people, but we need to fight for people.  Jesus was repeated attacked, and repeatedly in the middle of battles.  He was surrounded by confusing noises – the yelling of demons, the hatred and envy of the Pharisees, the deceit of Judas, the fear of the Romans, the doubts of Thomas, the mourning of Jairus’ family, the crowd screaming to crucify him.  Jesus was surrounded by confusing noises all his life, and your life will not be different.  Even as a toddler, the devil tried to murder Jesus and he was surrouned by the confusing noise of grieving mothers across the whole nation.

If you want to do what God has called you to do, I want you to have no doubt or confusion about this truth: you will be surrounded by confusing noises as long as you are on earth.  The devil is evil, wicked, spiteful and has no mercy.  All true ministry is in the midst of battle.

It is not surrounded by peaceful noises, not calm.  The peace is inside you, the still waters are inside you, the peace of God is in your heart.  But all around will be loud noises.  You need to learn to have the peace inside you while there is no peace around you.  It is fine for the ship to be in the midst of the sea, but do not let the sea into the ship!  If you want peace and calm around you, best you do not go for God with all your heart:

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3.12)

When you are ministering to the church, I guarantee you will have some strife around, some confusion around – the sound can be very disorientating.  It can bring stress to you, it can make you scared.  You hear about domestic violence, you hear about people backstabbing others with no honour, you encounter people with no peace, lost, broken, who believe the most bizarre lies.  You need to learn to operate in those conditions and still be at peace on the inside and still calmly speak the truth in love.

You have to get used to confusing noise being around you.  You have to be comfortable surrounded by danger.  You have to be happy in the atmosphere of war.

A pastor’s wife I know once asked her husband “when will we have a normal life?”  The answer is never;  Not in this life.  You are in the midst of a battle for this nation and this generation, you better get used to confusing noises.

As a church, as a people, as a Christian we have to take new ground.  We have to be salt and light to this world.  We have to bring truth to the lost and hurting.  We have to go over Jordan and take the promises that God has given us.  We have to stand up to Goliath, and face him down.  You think things were quiet for David that day?  He had Psalm 23 in his heart, but he wasn’t surrounded by peace and quiet – he was surrounded by the cowardice of his own nations, the arrogance of his own family, the envy and foolishness of his own king, the death threats of Goliath, the jeers from his own side and the other side’s enemy.  But David had learned to have faith and peace in the midst of the battle, and he knew that if he didn’t go and didn’t respond and didn’t fight that so many others would stay trapped, would stay oppressed.  So he stood up and in the midst of confusing noise, he did what he needed to do.

We need to have that same faith, that same song resonating in our heart, and we nee dto walk in the midst of the confusing noise and do everything God has called us to do.