Thriving in the Battle 11: You Must Protect Information

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We Must Learn to Control Our Tongues To Win Battles!

In every battle, there is information that if known by the enemy, could change the outcome of that battle. It is important that, while still maintaining an open and honest culture, we do not give our enemies the bullets to shoot us with. It’s not about being secretive, it’s about being careful and keeping private things private.

I have always been a very open person and that has occasionally got me into trouble, as I have given information to disloyal people who used that information to attack me and try and destroy me. You need to make sure that information that is vital to battle-succcess is not handed out to people who will just use it to destroy you.

Now as Christians, you might tell me – look, Ben, having secrets sounds a little unbiblical, a little immoral, that doesn’t sound right at all! And I hear you – there is a great value in being open, honest and having integrity.

However, telling some people some information is not open, not honest and not integrity, it is just gossip, it is giving away state secrets, it is giving people who want to shoot you bullets.

Jesus Christ deliberately withheld information from the Pharisees. He taught in parables to make sure certain people were not aware of what he was saying. The Pharisees in the end murdered Jesus in cold-blood, they were enemies, they should not have been told everything! When a war is going on, there are definite reasons for not giving all the information to all the people all the time.

Certain people are looking to use information to hurt you and hinder your ministry and obstruct your church. You do not owe them information, you do not have to tell them anything. I have people regularly email me who have maybe seen me on Tree of Life TV once, or used to go to the church, demanding to know what I think about A, B, or C. I am not going to tell them my opinions – that is called casting your pearls before swine. If they want to know they can turn up at the Tree and listen to me preach!

Let me say it again: when there are people who want to destroy you, you do not have to tell all the people all the information all the time. Secrets are not evil, in fact the Bible says the exact opposite.

There are three things which according to the Bible if you do not keep secret, you are a fool, a moron, a stupid person. Here they are:

  1. All Your Opinions

    A fool utters all his mind, but a wise man keeps it in until afterward (Proverbs 29.11)

    You see you might have some opinions on a topic that taken out of context will cause people to attack you or despise you or think less of you. You do not have to give your opinion on anything! There are issues that are irrelevant to the good news that divide your church, if you start sharing those regularly, you could divide your church on something that does not matter.

    Not that long ago there was a Christian book that I could see was dividing the church, people had very strong views one way and the other about the content of this book. Some thought it was virtually word for word from heaven, others thought it was from hell. I deliberately have not read it, have no opinion on it, and haven’t spoke about it. Why? I am not a fool, it won’t help anyone get to still waters or green grass. Better to keep that private. Someone will use it against me.

    I don’t recommend TV programmes or films, because someone will watch a movie I recommend – and there will be a small scene that is inappropriate that I just missed out on or forgot about, and suddenly, I am recommending my church watch unsuitable scenes! You do not have to tell everyone all your mind all the time! It is not smart to do that.

    When the Black Lives Matter protests were happening in London, I did not make a comment for three weeks, because I was only to comment on it in the context of the gospel. And what, in terms of me as a pastor discipling people, concerns me about both sides of the rhetoric in this subject area, is people are cursing themselves and speaking negatively over their own future, and words have so much power, we much learn to speak carefully and positively about our future. I had people who have left our church wanted me to say certain things – why? To shoot me down. I do not have to reveal my whole mind. You being a great disciple of Jesus does not depend on it.

  2. All Your Revelations

    Paul saw heaven, and heard things he could not share with people. I have no idea what he encountered, he didn’t share it, but you do not have to share with people all your revelations all the time. Paul actually says that it was unlawful to share what he had heard. Sometimes I am preaching in a church that does not understand grace, and I cannot choke them, that would be against the law of love – so I give people a spoonful of grace and faith, and help feed them. We do not have to share all the revelations all the time. Did you know the Father is keeping a big revelation from Jesus? (read Mark 13.32 if you don’t believe me). The Father has a revelation that will change the world, but He hasn’t told a single human, a single angel and not even Jesus! That’s staggering. Some things are not only permissible to keep secret, it is better to keep them secret.

  3. Other People’s Failings

    We are not gossips, and we should not be talking about others behind their back – even if it is true! People who gossip about your failings in private are disloyal to you and will destroy your church. I am not talking about earth shattering church destroying sins, but your humanity, your weaknesses, your infirmities should be kept quiet by those around you.

    I like to say it like this, using the analogy of a restaurant: some conversations should only happen in the kitchen.

    Loose lips can sink ships. Make sure the ship of your church is not one of them!

Thriving in the Battle 10: The Battle Belongs to the Ruthless

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Saul was a terrible king for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons is that he did not deal with the Amalekites with a stubborn ruthlessness. He spared the king and the best of the sheep and the oxen (1 Sam. 15.8-9). The Amalekites were evil and harassed and attacked Israel for years, they attacked them in the wilderness, in the promised land – everywhere. God had given Saul a very clear instruction – wipe out the Amalekites. Saul only partially obeyed.

God was not impressed that Saul only partially obeyed. He lost that battle, because he was kind to satan. We cannot be kind to satan, we have to be ruthless with satan. Now in the New Covenant, we must be kind to people, but there are times to even be ruthless with people and insist they shape up or leave your church or business or organization.

But at no time can we be kind to satan! I have seen pastors lose their churches because they have been kind to satan. I have seen pastors see their church ripped in two because they were being kind to disloyal, wicked people. They show mercy to people who have not changed and show no fruit of repentance and let them assault their church over and over. Some pastors are desperate to be even kinder than God is!

God was not kind to the Amalekites – they were trying to rip his people about and hurt them, and God was not going to put up with that. Satan is not about to be kind to you – he will rip your church apart, he will find your weakness and exploit that, he will lie about you, he will be happy to hit you at your weakest, most tired and most vulnerable. Satan will do anything to make you do what he wants.

You are making a huge mistake if you are trying to be kind to satan! And yet, it happens often. Let me give you, as a leader, three scenarios in which you are being kind to satan:

  1. Men leaders, you are being too kind to satan when you are not ruthless with the way you relate to the opposite sex. Do not leave traces of certain relationships in your life. If a woman even hints at being inappropriate with you, do not give them a second chance. They can be counselled by someone else. I mean no texting, no WhatsApping, no calling them, no Facebooking them, no going out for lunch with them. Be wise, there is a war on for you! Satan wants to destroy you! Do not be gentle with women like that. Do not be kind. I was once working at a church and some of my team (women) complained to the senior pastor and said “I was standoffish”. He wisely said “That’s a good thing, a worse thing would be he was not standoffish”.
  2. Do not be kind to satan by platforming your accusers. Oh there will always be people who accuse you, but do not platform them. Remove them as elders, take them off the rota, do not let them receive an offering, do not let them have access to your corporate social media accounts.
  3. When people leave your church offended and attack you as they leave, do not let them just walk back through the door as though nothing has happened. They will come back and rip you apart from within, they are bored at the lack of damage they can cause from outside, they are annoyed people are loyal to you and love you, and they think that coming back in will be the best way to attack you. Do not bring them back on staff, back into leadership, back into anything. Move really really slowly and watch the fruit. If they complain about it, you let them know that you are protecting your people.
  4. Do not trust people who have a habit of lying to you. I am not saying be unkind to the person, but you do not have to trust what they say. That is being kinder than Jesus!

Pray about every situation, every situation is different and when people fall they should be restored, but when people suddenly join satan’s team, you will have to be ruthless – you will have to be strong, you will have to stand for truth and stand for what you through the grace of God have built.

Thriving in the Battle 09: The Battle Belongs to the Discerning

The Wily Work of the Gibeonites - The Scriptorium Daily

Most of you reading this will be familiar with what is probably Joshua’s biggest mistake as a general and leader. If not, you can read it in Joshua 9. Essentially the Gibeonites deceived Joshua into thinking they did not live in the promised land and make a peace treaty with him based on deception. They pretended to be Joshua’s friends when in reality they were his enemies.

I have seen whole churches fail because the lead pastor could not tell the difference between a friend and an enemy. Joshua was deceived because he did not do a little bit of praying and a little bit of thinking, and therefore had no discernment on an issue in which he should have had discernment on. You must pray about the people around you. I am not saying create a culture of fear and suspicion, I am just saying before embarking on a major project with anyone or putting a responsibility on someone, you as a leader should be discerning.

Many people do not tell the truth to leaders. I was talking to a pastor friend of mine a few months ago – he was not part of Tree, he is the senior pastor of several churches like I am, and I knew one of his leaders was being deceitful because that leader had contacted me and said some things that were clearly wrong. The other pastor said to me “they never acted like that to me” – and they didn’t, because he was the leader and sometimes people lie to leaders! Sometimes people deceive leaders to gain favour and position, and we need to be aware of that. I know someone who got a job with a major ministry because of a CV that had blatant outright lies on it! These things do happen, we need to be diligent!

Lies are the most surefire sign that someone is working with satan. Jesus told us that satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8.44) and when there are lies in any church or organization, satan will always have a place in that church or organization. When there is deception and lies, there satan is, causing trouble! If you are a pastor, a leader, an elder, be very very careful about telling lies – you step into satan’s fatherhood when you do!

It is a tragedy to see how many pastors and travelling ministries lie. I went to a meeting with a American minister in London, and the room seated 5000. Although the room was mainly full, it was not packed full, and not utterly full. What a surprise I had when I read the man’s prayer letter the following month to find that there were 15000 people crammed into the room every single night, and every night at least 5000 people were getting born again. That is just a total lie. There was no truth in that statement at all. That man is siding with the father of lies by allowing that to be printed!

So, the first category of people that you must discern to win every battle is you – discern when and where you are tempted to lie and deceive, and deal with your heart. Ensure lying and deception are not part of your ministry.

The second category of people that you must discern to win your battles is those close to you. Again, do not become the next Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher, but just be aware sometimes an innocent face hides a guilty heart. Be aware if someone tells you something that you know not to be true. The Bible does not have soft, kind, sweet words for those who lie. Some people are experts at lying, and just because they go to church, that doesn’t change things. I have known pastors who can look you in the eye and tell you something that is utterly not true. I had a pastor recently tell me another minister had asked him personally to check up on me, and I said “really, shall I call him and ask him?”, and it turned out to be a lie that was made up so that minister could get some information from me that he wanted. Expert liars are difficult even for the trained to detect. All politicians can lie to a certain degree, Hitler’s lies caused millions to die. His chief of staff, Hess, said that if you tell a big enough lie frequently enough people will believe it.

Why did the Germans invade Poland? Because Hitler lied and told the German people over and over again that Poland was about to invade. The average German soldier thought he was acting in self-defence because he was lied to over and over. Hitler told the Germans that Britain was looking to invade, and that they must be attacked, he just made things up.

Today, in the UK, the media tell all sorts of lies, the BBC deliberately stirring up police investigations of innocent figures like Cliff Richard to deflect questions from their ignoring the clear danger of the evil Jimmy Saville. If you get your facts from the secular media, you are one of the most deceived people there can be!

We have to be discerning if we want to win the war and make disciples of all nations.

Here are some warning signs that as a pastor you should listen to and contemplate before appointing someone to leadership:

  • They expect others to behave in ways they do not. To assume they are immune from the same expectations as others, they have lied to themselves and are probably fairly good at lying.
  • They do not want any accountability. They do not want you to look out for them or confront them ever.
  • They have favourites and it is obvious to everyone
  • They are saying one thing to some people, and something else to others
  • They are not making disciples. They are not investing themselves into people.
  • They will try and make you feel guilty.
  • They are vague about things they should be specific on

And what can you do about it as a leader, if someone lies to you:

  1. Keep your heart clean. Don’t take it personally, get angry, get carnal. You should deal with it, but not until you understand this has impacted you and you are acting as a pastor, not as a furious wronged person!
  2. Speak directly and clearly to the person who has lied. Now, you do not want to attack the person, but you want to address the behaviour. Focus on the person, not the behaviour. “What you have said here, does not match what you have said to this person, and does not help our church walk in love and transparency with each other” is better than “you are a liar!”. If you say someone is a liar, you will put their back up. If you confront the behaviour and explain you expected better, you are walking in love, expecting and hoping the best. Your goal should be a resolution at this point.
  3. Do something to back up your words. Speak to someone first – pastors should never shoot the gun until you have tried to talk someone down! Now, here is the truth you should know – the person may accept your words but then get upset at the action. But you cannot allow someone who is lying to run a small group, for example. They need a time off to heal and change and fall in love with the truth. That action may really upset someone, but you need to be firm as well as kind.
  4. Make Sure Everything that is Redemptive. Your goal is to have the situation in the rear view mirror as soon as possible. If the person accepts your words and actions, move forward. Do not get emotionally attached, and learn to forgive. People may have to do things to rebuild trust, but as a spiritual leader your job is always to restore people (Gal. 6.1).

I hope this post helps you, and again – I am not interested in creating a culture of suspicion, just making sure you use your discernment and win plenty of battles and lead your church into victory and making disciples and changing the world.

Thriving in the Battle 08: The Battle Belongs to the Certain

Double Minded | We Appreciate you Spiritual Content with a purpose

I am sure all of you know that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. One of the times in which we cannot afford to be unstable in all our ways is when we are facing conflict and trying to get the Word of God out to the nations!

If you are a leader, you are going to have to take decisions. One of the reasons we are not seeing mega-churches in the UK is that some pastors seem to find it really difficult to make decisions. You must learn how to make decisions and then do it – make some decisions.

It is not easy having an indecisive leader. Now I am not saying be impatient, no a good decision should take time – find out the relevant information, consult with the relevant people, discuss the implications with those who will face them. When the right time comes you will, as a leader, have to make your mind up.

Now why is it British people (and others) find it hard to make decisions.

  1. We are historically a practical people – but that means a lot of inertia when it comes to taking steps forward. We often have not thought things through and then cannot decide because our plans are uninformed.
  2. We are afraid of upsetting people. Whatever direction you steer, someone will wish you had turned the other way. You need to have a revelation that you are going somewhere, so stop being double minded and steer somewhere. What are you going to do, hit the brakes in the middle of the M25? That’s foolish. You might as well go somewhere you are leading!

In war, not committing to a decision and being double minded can kill you. Hitler lost WWII because he was incapable of making decisions. Hitler invaded Poland in the 1st Sept 1939, and England then sent armies to France to help fight Germany. But after beating Poland so quickly, Germany invaded Belgium and Holland. The Germans were easily able to beat the English and pushed them right back to the sea at Dunkirk. The British Army was now trapped, and was about to be wiped out and Hitler would have won Europe.

Thankfully, that is not what happened. A miracle, on the par of the Red Sea parting, happened. Hitler did not make a decision, his armies asked to attack, but Hitler could not decide. He didn’t know whether to wipe out the British Army or not. While he was making his mind up, the entire army was rescued and escaped across the sea. Where eventually they re-attacked and defeated Hitler. That cost Germany the whole of the second world war.

I believe that the confusion surrounding Hitler’s indecision that day was supernatural, and from God. But I also believe the indecision among pastors today is also supernatural, but from satan. I have had pastors come to me and told me their assistant pastor has impregnated three ladies in the church, and what is my advice? They need to fire the assistant. I have had pastors tell me about how certain people in their church are holding the whole church to ransom, blackmailing the pastor, stealing money from the church, and a host of other things – they need to be decisively removed from the church.

I had to make the decision last month to remove someone from the church. This person had acted in a way that was hurting people in the church, disrupting services, and giving false prophetic words that were confusing. They also had started to try and disciple people in the church and divide the church, telling people that I was not spiritual for a number of reasons.

This was not a decision I made lightly, I prayed, I sought the wisdom of pastor friends and mentors, I spoke to several people in the church, I even spoke to the previous pastor. I fasted and prayed. I then contacted the person on three occasions asking them to change their behaviour, pointing out the behaviour I needed to see change for that person to stay at the church. Finally, when they said “I will do whatever I think God wants, and I will ignore any instructions from you and any leader in the church”, I knew I had to make a decision, our church would be healthier and safer without this person, so I removed them from the church., Was I concerned what people thought? Yes! Would I rather be pragmatic and just let it play itself out? Yes! But I am the leader, it is my job to lead people to safe ground and I had to make a decision. Listen to me leaders – a disloyal, rebellious person is an emergency and you must make a decision. As an African once told me, the best place to kill a snake is when it is an egg. I was aware if I did not take this chance to deal with this situation, it would grow and become harder to deal with.

I know people who have had the chance to enter the ministry and did not take it, and it gets harder to then make that decision. They sit down next to me at conferences and say “I was called to plant a church in such and such a year”, I say “that’s awesome, how is the church doing”, oh I never did it. Why not? They could not make a decision. Pastor, your church can grow if you make good decisions!

2010 was not the best time for me to start a church, it wasn’t convenient, I was on a great rise on my career, earning good money, but I made a decision. If I hadn’t started Tree of Life when I did, I would have missed so many opportunities. I certainly could not have started it today if I had not done it then. Make a decision, do what God calls you to do. Break that satanic confusion and reach out in faith!

If you are the leader, take the wheel! Pray, fast, study, listen to godly mentors, then make a decision. Do not be double minded.

Honest Talks with Pastors 01: Some People Do Not Get Healed

The last time I tried to do an honest talks with pastors series, I was tarred and feathered from the first post. I dared suggest to pastors not to instantly promote someone in their church just because they have been to Bible College. Most Bible College graduates have a great knowledge of the Word, but they do not know how to serve and function in local church – especially if they have not even been to local church while at college. Well that through the cat among the pigeons, I can tell you. I ended up deleting the post rather than offend our weak brothers in the faith. Maybe I will return to that thought soon enough, but the last two weeks I have had three conversations about dealing with the situation in churches when someone is not healed. One conversation was regarding a pastor who lost over half his church because someone is not healed. We have see people die of sickness at the Tree, but we haven’t lost people when it happened – we are a growing church.

Now I am talking pastor to pastor here, I don’t mind if an elder is reading this, or a new-born Christian, or a teacher or prophet or evangelist, I love the whole body of Christ and all the ministries, in the next month I have two teachers speaking to my people, two evangelists and one prophet, so I love the fivefold. However, pastoring is not the same. The average Bible teacher or evangelist can go to church A, pray for twenty people, and maybe let’s say they are batting a good average, and ten are healed. That’s a good service! So the most dramatic two or three testimonies are written down and put in the folder. The next week the Bible teacher is in a new church, let’s say getting the same results. Within a month he has a dozen great healing testimonies that will bless anyone.

Meanwhile, back in church A, the pastor is getting grief because “why is that person healed and this person not healed?” Those questions are asked. We have to, by the nature of our ministry, get up in front of the same people over and over again, and we have to get involved with those people, we cannot be deaf to that question. So how do we answer it?

I am going to assume – before I give you five keys that will help you answer this – that you know that Jesus bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases (Matt. 8.17), and that by the stripes of Jesus we are healed (1 Peter 2.24). I am not about to start telling you to tell people God did it, that God is behind it. We know that we have a reception problem not a transmission problem!

But in the light of that truth that healing is for all, what do we say when someone is not healed? When what we read in the Word does not manifest. It might be a long term ailment, it might be someone actually dies of a sickness before their time. What do you say and do?

  • Point Our That Although We Have Lost a Battle We Have not Lost the War

If someone dies of sickness before the age of 70 or 80, they have lost a battle. They have somehow not believed the Word and not received the healing that was freely theirs at the cross. That is the truth of God’s Word. Now, I do not think it is wrong for us to admit that we have lost a battle. I wouldn’t put the responsibility on the person who died, even if I knew their declarations, their expectations and their actions were all doubt and unbelief.

There was a man in unbelief in Jesus’ day (Matthew 17) and the discples could not heal his son. Jesus healed the son, so we know what God’s will was – healing. God’s will is always healing. When the disciples asked the Lord why they couldn’t bring healing to the boy, Jesus said it was because of the disciples’ unbelief. When someone in our church dies of sickness, that is not the time to point the finger at the individual, it is time to realize we are all together in this. It is our corporate unbelief that has let this happen. And we all need to shoulder responsibility, not to be condemned, not be beat up – but to refocus on the Word. Maybe this shows you as a church you need to study some more, do some more studies on healing, hold a healing conference. Get that Bible teacher in for a few days.

We all share in the victories, we all need to share in the defeats too. And realize we need to all continue to deal with unbelief to create a culture and atmosphere where healings are common place.

  • Lean Into the Problem Not Away from It

Do not hide from the issue or sweep it under the carpet, that is no way to run a church, and will always lead to problems. Things in the dark get worse not better. Hold everything up to the light. If you are ignorant as to why that person died, admit it. Tell the people you do not know. Tell the people what you do know – you know God is good, you know God is the healer, you know God never breaks His Word. You know the reason no miracles happen is unbelief, and you know we never condemn people, we train them, we speak life over them, we love.

But do not ignore the problem. Be the shepherd and lead your people into green pastures and still waters. Still waters are clear waters. Make things clear to people.

I am not saying expose someone’s nakedness – if you know someone did not have faith for healing, don’t tell everyone the issues. Tell your leaders what you know if you need to – but just keep reminding the people that God is good.

If someone has died, preach on heaven. Let them know that person is with Jesus and happier than they have ever been. We might have lost a battle and lost a precious friend and relative twenty years before we should have, but in a billion years from now, no one will care, it will be so minor compared to the eternity we will share with Jesus.

But do not ignore the problem, get up and face it head on. If you need to, and if there is a ground swell of confusion in your church, if people are saying “well it must be God’s will that person is sick or died”, you need to get your leadership team together, make sure they all know what the Bible teaches on healing, and make sure if they are asked, they are all singing the same song.

  • Do Not Let People Compare

Someone will blame you, and they will compare you to another minister. Nearly always a travelling minister, because they just have never considered the dynamics of travelling ministry. I already said above why it is different for pastors, and that is just it – pastoring has the greatest cost and greatest reward of all the fivefold ministries. Someone will mention a big healing conference, but they probably in that conference by statistics have a lower percentage of healings than you in the local church. They will mention another pastor who never buried a church member while pastoring, and fail to mention his church was only 10 people and he only pastored for a few years.

You are a pastor, and do not let people compare. A lot of what happens to a pastor is what I call “uncle syndrome”. Children love their uncles, they want to ride in Uncle’s car, they get excited when Uncle gives them a bar of chocolate or a fiver. But dad loves those children, cares for them, looks after them, gives them everything they have, but they go crazy for uncle. Christians love their travelling ministries and conference speakers, and often – especially when things go wrong – they will start to praise their uncles and ignore their fathers. I always say “they buy you the CDs of the speakers they wished you sounded like and the shirts of the speakers they wished you looked like” – and if you haven’t encountered this yet, pastor, it’s only a matter of time!

So, there is a time for teaching on the role of a pastor and why local church is so important, but maybe during a time of mourning it isn’t the right time, but store it up for later, but at the moment you might want to remind your people that “We love (Bible teacher), we love (guest evangelist), we love (other pastor), we love (that bloke off the telly) but God, for better, or for worse, has put us together as family, and we need to support each other right now, rather than get someone else in”. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you – “hey, can you just help encourage people that God is still good, and still loves us all, even though we clearly lost this one”.

  • Speak the Truth in Love

The truth is clear – God’s Word promises all who believe healing. We are healed by grace through faith. We also know when someone fails to receive their healing the “by grace” is never in question, the “by faith” is. Maybe someone never accepted their healing was complete, maybe their imagination never got in on the faith and they never saw themselves healed, maybe their faith never had corresponding actions. But how we communicate that is paramount. We must speak the truth in love.

What does the truth in love look like in situations like these? There are three elements:

  1. It is kind, as kind as it needs to be but still communicate its messages. Say it gently, softly, with open arms and an open heart.
  2. It is patient. It takes its time and speaks at the right time. You get that kind of patience from fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit and being led by His peace.
  3. Finally, it is human. Don’t do this over WhatsApp or from the pulpit, sit down with people face to face and tell them the truth.
  • Play the Long Game

As a pastor you are there for the long-term. The pastor who continually moves to bigger churches and plays the denominational game is not a pastor, they are a hireling. You are going to be with these people for a long term. Resist the urge to sweep this under the carpet, mumble something about the mystery of God’s will and tell your people that you never know what God will do. Make sure that in all your kindness, love and pastoral care, people know that healing is always turned on and always there for anyone.

We have seen situations where someone has died, but because we did not compromise the Word, within weeks or months someone is healed of the same condition. We did not let unbelief have a voice, and we did not make excuses. That way when satan attacked again, we could stand and having done all stand.

Be the good shepherd, lay down your life for the sheep. One of the ways you will do that is give up your right to be understood all the time, to be the nice guy all the time. You have to lead your people forward and into truth, and we are in a world of war, and sometimes we have casualties. We need to mourn with those who mourn and at the same time stand on the Word. No other minister has to do both like pastors do, but it can be done.