I am wrapping up this series today with a short post on discretion with your house. This is really important! Let’s jump straight into God’s Word:
12 Soon after this, Merodach-baladan, son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent Hezekiah his best wishes and a gift, for he had heard that Hezekiah had been very sick. 13 Hezekiah received the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked him, “What did those men want? Where were they from?”
Hezekiah replied, “They came from the distant land of Babylon.”
15 “What did they see in your palace?” Isaiah asked.
“They saw everything,” Hezekiah replied. “I showed them everything I own—all my royal treasuries.”
16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Listen to this message from the Lord: 17 The time is coming when everything in your palace—all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now—will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 18 Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.” (2 Kings 20.13-18 NLT)
Hezekiah messed up his life and his son’s lives because he showed off all his treasures to an enemy. Privacy and discretion are actually really important parts of ministry, and I know more than a few ministers who have missed opportunities for advancement and opened themselves up to attack by not showing proper discretion and keeping private things private. I am not saying keep secrets or mislead people, I am saying keep private things private!
Keep your house private. Don’t let just anyone wander in at any time. If you let people in your house, like Hezekiah did, someone may steal your treasure! Others will discuss what they saw in your house – the dishes not done, the clothes waiting to be washed. They didn’t think that the reason you were behind with housekeeping is that you were praying and counselling them and others over and over. Your house is not an extension of the church, not at all. And when visitors come over, they do not need access to the whole house. Keep parts exclusive! Maintain some privacy, don’t reveal all the treasures in your home! There is a devil and he will use people to come into your home and attack you – some people are jealous of you and will attack you. People will constantly evaluate how much money they think you have based on your possessions. Eglon, the king of Moab, let Ehud into his bedroom and Ehud took advantage of the invite and stabbed him to death!
You do not have to let people into your house without an appointment, sometimes, if the church does not have a permanent venue or office, meeting someone at a coffee shop or cafe is a much better option. You can eat with them and build a deeper fellowship, and you have the safety and accountability of being in public at all times.
In the Genesis song, Jesus He Knows Me, whenever Genesis perform it live, Phil Collins starts with a long drawn out offering for millions. The stereotype of a pastor behaving badly with money sadly has a lot of examples that back it up. We need to realize that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6.10) and that love of money doesn’t stop producing evil just because someone is a pastor or fivefold minister!
Misusing finances is one of the things that can cost you your ministry, indeed even just looking like you have misused the money can cost you your ministry! All ministers need to adopt certain attitudes and principles. You will no doubt be criticized anyway by somebody, especially if you have a lot of money – but you can minimize people speaking against you and protect yourself from damaging words.
Tithe and give big yourself. Never be a stingy pastor. Lead your people as a big giver. If you ask people to tithe and you do not tithe, you are a hypocrite and a con-man. You do not really believe in the tithe, you just want the tithes of other people. This sounds so obvious, but I know many pastors who do not tithe or give!
Do not take tithe or offering money. Don’t put it in your pocket, don’t take it into your house, don’t keep it “safe”. Do not count the offering yourself.
Do not count the money in public. Some immature people will just see a lot of money and not realize what it costs to run a big ministry. Other people – and I have seen this happen – will be tempted to rob the church!
If you get a large personal gift, please consider carefully if there are strings attached to it. Some people give to manipulate you to going their way. Not everyone, maybe not even most people, but it does happen. Do be aware!
Do not borrow, especially from someone in the church! Do not borrow from the church account. If you cannot pay it back, and until you pay it back, you have actually stolen from the church. Do NOT borrow money from people in your church, ever! Do not borrow their car, do not borrow their TV, do not borrow anything. They will lend you willingly, but ultimately you will go down in their estimation. Do not covet what anyone in your church has!
Be very secretive about your personal prayer requests for money. Do not use a prayer request to manipulate people to give to you personally!
NEVER act as a guarantor or such for anyone in your church. This is something people often ask – will you co-sign my loan, please pastor? Listen – if the bank which specializes in money says “this person is not good enough to lend money to”, then the bank is right. You are wrong if you co-sign that loan. You are going to end up paying that money at some point without fail. You may even end up in court! Proverbs 11.15 in the NLT says: There’s danger in putting up security for a stranger’s debt; it’s safer not to guarantee another person’s debt.
If someone in the church needs an emergency loan, give them a gift you can give, do not loan to them. That way if they pay it back, it’s just a nice bonus. When you lend money, and you want it back, you may find that person suddenly led “by the Spirit” to another church!
Never favour rich people in your church. I saw a guest speaker once in my church fawn over businessmen and doctors in the church. It made me want to vomit! Such relationships will be unstable.
Never ever ever ever ever ever ever charge for ministering to someone, for praying for someone or for prophesying over someone. Yes, it happens, it happens all over charismatic Christianity and it is wrong, wrong and more wrong!
Don’t ask people in your church how much they earn or own. That’s just rude and people will wonder why you ask.
Do not broadcast your salary and benefits publicly. People may get jealous, or angry! People may think a pastor should not have anything or earn anything.
Do not preach in a way that implies you need more money. You may gain short-term gifts and pity, but long-term you will lose respect and momentum.
I hope this helps every pastor win financially and avoid financial scandals.
Pastors are not the only ministers who behave badly – sometimes guest speakers do too. I have in the ten years I have been running the Tree of Life Family had guest speakers bring their own buckets and receive their own sneaky little offering, preach messages I told them not to preach, lied about other ministers to gain prominence, used my platform to correct my own ministers! So yes, sometimes they behave badly. Sometimes they are awesome in the pulpit, but outside they are difficult, make awkward requests (I mean utterly beyond the realm of reason) and are rude and ungainly. Now please – I don’t think the majority of guest speakers are like this, but some of you reading this will get invited somewhere at some point, so learn how to behave and make it as easy as possible for your host pastor!
We want you to be like the apostle Paul, a great travelling minister going to churches and bringing life and peace and revelation. We want you to be a blessing to every host pastor you visit, being of aware that you an ambassador of the kingdom of God!
Respect the church you have been invited to and the pastor who invited you. Say something nice about them – compliment the worship band, the choir, the pastor, the building. Compliment the people for coming. Do not get up there and say “hey, our worship band is bigger than your whole church”, do not criticize anything publicly. Now you have all heard of stories of big name speakers going into a church and saying something like “never sing that song again, it’s not faith, it’s not grace, it’s not good” – you are not them – don’t do that!
Don’t patronize the host pastor – you are not his spiritual superior, don’t bless him or give him a word unless you have that mentor relationship don’t do that.
DO NOT (notice the big capitals) invite yourself anywhere! There is nothing more off-putting to pastors than pushy people pushing for their pulpit. If you start off by being pushy, all pastors think you will be pushy when you are there. It is really off-putting.
Do not go where you think the money is. Do not demand money. Freely you have given, freely give (Matthew 10.8), so do not set a minimum honorarium! You are not a motivational speaker, you are a minister of the gospel.
Do not misuse your invite. I had a situation a while ago, a minister I knew asked if I would take a mission team from the USA to come to our church for a short-term mission. We have done similar things before with churches and Bible Colleges, but I had zero peace about this, like a scratching inside me. I know how to be led by the Spirit, so I checked it out. Turned out it was a church in the US planning to plant a church in London – and they were going to use this mission trip as a way of meeting our people to invite them to their new church they were planting. That is a hidden agenda, it is abusive, it is disingenuous! Do not be that person! Someone inviting you to their platform is a good thing, they are doing a good thing for you, and you are repaying evil for good which Biblically is something you should not do (Proverbs 17.13).
Make sure you have permission to:
Ask for partners. Never ask for partners without the host pastors permission. EVER!
Plug your para-church organization. For example, a Bible College or a mission trip. Never ever plug those things, putting people to leave a local church for a season, without explicit permission from the pastor.
Raise an offering. Most pastors will want to raise the offering for you. Never raise an offering without permission.
It is not wrong to ensure you are treated well, but do it graciously! It is fine to let people know what your expenses will be, especially if you do not know the church. I know visiting speakers who have travelled hundreds of miles, ministered 6 or 7 times in a weekend, and paid for their own hotel and expenses, and got under £100 in offerings. That wasn’t a small church that did that either. It is important to have those discussions up front. As a pastor, I always ask the question “Is there anything that you want to let me know you need when you come”. I like to pay for everything – hotel, food, etc. upfront and in some cases we even give our guest speakers some spending money.
Now, often if speakers fly from America, and they travel a lot – then they will have airmiles, favourite airlines and also it is often considerably cheaper to book from America. In those cases, I often ask the speaker if it is ok that they book their flights, and we reimburse them. Sometimes we will ask them to find flights and then purchase them.
Do not self-promote! The pastor has probably spent years building a congregation, feeding them week after week – they wouldn’t exist to have a guest speaker without that pastor! The pastor has no doubt promoted you and been favourable about you. Just being a guest speaker means people have more faith in you, less familiarity, more expectations of your ministry. Do not try and outshine the pastor or put them down for your own ego issues!
Flow with the conference you have been invited to. Most conferences have a theme – don’t cross it, don’t try and do something different. If you have been invited to do a miracle service, do it and bring some miracles. If you have been asked to teach in a day session, don’t turn it into a miracle service. There is one evangelist I will never invite back because he cannot flow with anyone else or any other service. All the best to him, but I like conferences where we walk in step with each other.
Do not build relationships with people from the church behind the pastor’s back. That is outrageous. If you are invited to a family of churches, do not build relationships with the other pastors behind the senior pastors back. Treat the invitee as the mayor of that area, do not go there without his permission, do not contact the people from there without his permission.
Promote the host ministry, not your ministry. Let the Lord promote you! When you have finished preaching and ministering, the church you visited should be better off because of it, not divided, not struggling. The pastor should not have to address your strange teaching or odd behaviour or overly controlling comments If people feel hated, or condemned, you haven’t done your job. You are there to uplift that church.
You can judge whether you did a good job very easily – if you never get an invite back, you didn’t.
Finally, invite the people who invite you to your ministry. You are not the only one with revelations! Invite them too!
And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee (1 Cor. 12.21 KJV)
One of the places you are going to have to relate to other ministers is when you invite them to come and minister at one of your churches or conferences. As much as you can, build a good relationship with guest speakers, loving and honouring them. Firstly, you need guest speakers! You cannot equip the church all by yourself. Secondly, guest speakers speak to each other. If you treat one of them badly, you will suddenly find no one wants to come and speak for you! Some people ask me why I have such great guest speakers. Well, I never really know why they come in the first place, but I do know why they come back, and this is why:
Guest speakers are just that – guests. And we need to treat them like honoured guests and honour them during their time with us.
Invite them to a meeting you know people will attend. Do not invite a guest speaker to a early morning prayer meeting or youth service! Invite them to the big service! If they are coming to your conference, give them the best session of the conference!
Be there – unless you absolutely cannot be there. If you are building a new relationship with the guest speaker, be there even if you absolutely cannot be there!
Introduce the speaker yourself, do not delegate that task. Ever.
Find out how your guest wants to be introduced. They are the guest, treat them like one. If they prefer “Prophet Smith”, don’t get up and introduce “Pastor Smith”.
Find out how to pronounce their name properly (this is something I am terrible at, growing up in Scotland has given me a very strange grasp of how names are pronounced).
Use the proper and correct name of their church and/ or ministry.
You will not be able to get on well with all guest speakers. Some of them genuinely do not like people, some of them just do not like you. Some will be your new best friends, others will not. Some ministers just will never come to you no matter how much you invite them. None of this is a problem. Start to work out what speakers you like and appreciate and ask your pastors and elders which speakers they would have back – the answers might surprise you. Now don’t just go by what they say, but you should listen and know what they think.
If the guest speaker is senior to you – older than you, more experienced in ministry than you, has a larger ministry than you then give them freedom to minister. Do not call them forward for you to minister over them. A lot of young immature “prophets” love to make a name for themselves and link themselves to larger ministries by giving them a prophetic word. No, let the Bible stand that the lesser is blessed by the greater (Hebrews 7.7). If you are in the presence of a great minister, shut your mouth and listen and learn.
Avoid inter-church politics. There can be rivalry in the town, and don’t invite a speaker to cause grief to another pastor. We had a minister contact us with a very powerful healing ministry who wanted to come to us, but we found out that another local church had just ended the relationship with them. This speaker actually asked me to go to the car park of the other church and leaflet the cars. I refused, I will not deliberately cause strife! Don’t join a ministerial gang in your area – cliques of ministers who go around attacking others!
Some guest speakers are far from perfect. John wrote about a man called Diotrephes who loved to have pre-eminence. Some guest speakers want to be honoured far above their station. They insist on the best restaurants, the best offerings. You will soon notice their lobbying for lordship over you, pre-eminence over you, they will not be serving you or your people. They are dictators building their ministry out of your people. If you are uncomfortable, do not let the minister appeal for partners or attempt to draw people away from you. Stand up for your people! Sometimes you need to be gracious during the event, then make a note – that one is not getting invited back. Sometimes it is like the X-Factor, you never know what someone is really like until you see them off-stage. Then you know, do not invite back!
If the guest speaker is junior to you, with a smaller ministry, less experience and so on, then show them some respect. Don’t call them “son” or “junior”, give them a decent respectable offering and make sure you use their title if that is their preference. Make sure your church know that you are backing this person! If they mess up, generally it’s less because they are trying to lord it over you and more because of inexperience in discretion, in handling money and so on. Do not correct them in public, have a quiet word with them in private.
Always follow up when someone comes: thank them in person, and give them an honorarium that is generous for your church size. If you have to save up a few weeks or months to invite someone, do it. I have over and over, and I get the best guest speakers in the world.
Welcome the guest speaker from their point of entry. If they are coming from overseas meet them at the airport. Do not expect someone to make their own way from around a foreign nation! Never ever do that. That’s terrible advice. Do not send a junior minister to meet someone, you make sure they are met by someone of the same level and ilk. If they are the senior pastor, you as the senior pastor of the inviting church go and pick them up. Hire a decent car if you have to, do not drive them around in a banger with the windows missing! If you have to delegate, delegate to the most important person in your ministry.
Often I have actually driven a guest speaker to the next location as the pastor has not realized how important it is to come and get them. If they are preaching somewhere else, I will go and listen to them in a context where I am not the pastor, then drive them back to our church. You learn a lot driving some speakers around (some just want to sit and rest, be mindful of that) and besides it is just good manners. Do not delegate that to someone who works in admin or a volunteer!
In the church, have a seat so that the visiting speaker is going to sit near you. Keep an eye on them so the more “flaky” Christians do not dominate their time after the service.
If the visiting minister has brought his wife, family, or other staff, publically identify them and acknowledge them. Never disregard anyone’s associate – what if they end up being the next Elisha!
Treat the visiting pastor’s wife well. For goodness sake, she is a very important person. Even if only because she will be the one deciding if her husband comes back to your church!
Give your guest speaker time! Do not invite someone from overseas who flies 8 hours to your church to speak for 15 minutes. Get a grip! Give them an hour!
When you introduce your guest speaker – be excited. Do not introduce them as the next apostle Paul or any other flattery, but just genuine excitement about them, and let the church know you are excited to be there and listen. I often hold up my notebook when I introduce a guest speaker and let my people know I am going to be sitting down and taking notes today. That helps them take this very seriously.
Be clear and direct with your guest speakers. If you want them to make an altar call, tell them. If they wrote a great book and you want them to speak on it, ask them. One of our best online guest speaker sessions this year of lockdown was Bob Yandian speaking on end-times. I was listening to him preach to his people on end-times and I asked him directly “would you be willing to share some of this with our people” and he was happy to. There is nothing wrong with doing that, and it helps guest speakers to know they are genuinely helping your people. Do not surprise your guest! Let them know everything in advance, let them know they will be taken care of. If a minister likes a topic well enough to write a whole book on it, trust me they will normally enjoy speaking about it.
Get them a box of treats for their room. Find out what they like and make sure it is there for them.
Discuss finances and other requirements beforehand! You need to know how much money they expect, you need to know how they expect to arrive at your meeting and leave your meeting, you need to know what kind of accommodation they expect. If you are a smaller church, let the speaker know, let them know honestly what you can afford, and let the speaker make a decision whether to come anyway or not. Be upfront, honest and direct.
Expenses may surprise you – it is expensive to travel and speak. When I travel to Europe for example, I might fly fairly cheaply, but I may have to get an Uber to the airport for a very early flight, even spend a night at the airport hotel to be there early enough. I know ministers who have flown to the UK, travelled around churches and Bible Colleges and not made enough to fly back without using their ministry savings. That is a very bad reflection of our nation! I never want a minister to return from the UK with more debt!
A good honorarium should include both expenses covered and a blessing for the minister. They should be more blessed from coming to you than if they didn’t! Take into account the rank and seniority of the minister, their relationship with you, and so on. Ministers who are fathers to you personally should be especially honoured. Also, let the honorarium take into account the number of days a person ministers. A gift for a single Sunday morning should not be the same as a four or five day conference! Give the offering in person, and to the correct person in person by the senior pastor.
You should not take a long time to get that money to the person. I know churches that just completely forgot to give! We had a situation once where a cheque written to an American ministry took over three months to clear, so now I do not write cheques, I use PayPal or BACS internationally. I want them to have that money before they even get on the plane! It is decent to give them a Thank You card too!
Do not leave the visiting speaker at the mercy of your least dignified people! Escort them from the meeting and help them yourself to get to where they are going next.
(My next post will put the shoe on the other foot and give keys to be a good guest speaker).