Arise and shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you! – Isaiah 60.1
One of the things that marks the end of our age is shining Christians and shining pastors. I am telling you that in the UK there are pastors about to do things they have never done before. They are going to shine brighter than they ever have before. You will accomplish things tomorrow that today only seem like a wild dream, an impossibility, a hope of what you wish you could be.
In the last days, there will be a great darkness all over the earth (Isa. 60.2), but we are going to shine. We are not going to embrace the darkness around us, we are going to shine. We are going to shine as evil multiplies.
This is what separates a carnal prophet from a spiritual prophet! A carnal prophet can see the dead, dry bones and they get upset and they shout at the bones “you are so dry and dead”. A spiritual prophet sees the same dry bones but speaks life and abundance and glory!
We do not need to be spiritual to see the darkness falling on the planet. Lies, deceit, sexual immorality, all levels of foolishness in our society. The dangers of socialism and the foolishness of churches abandoning the truths of Scripture are everywhere and very obvious. But if you are spiritual you will also see that the glory is rising. Miracles are happening! Great churches are growing! Good things are happening! It is in the darkness that God builds His greatest darkness. It is the soil of death and pain that the Tree of Life grows in!
It is the time of shining stars. Ask the Lord what changes you have to make to be one!
Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem. (Zechariah 1.17)
I am telling you now that there is coming a release of prosperity to local churches. Up until now churches have struggled with prosperity while para-church ministries have gone from glory to glory on their finances. Those days are changing – it is time for there to be food in the house of the Lord. Churches with big building programmes, big feeding problems, churches giving millions to world mission! Churches changing the world. Wealthy churches. Loaded churches. Churches with the money to seriously help people in need.
It takes a lot of money to change the world. But that money is coming. The phrase Zion in the Old Testament is a coded reference to the church – the prosperity is coming to the church!
God has released money into the hands of the church before and it has been terribly misused. But I am telling you that God can bring one person into your church and one person in one offering will give you enough to pay for the entire new building. You will be able to build overseas, invest in church planting around the world. One of the hallmarks of the church moving forward will be unparalleled prosperity.
The future is bright. You are going to have enough money to do all that God has called you to do in even your wildest dreams! That poverty mindset is being dissolved and all that remains will be an ability to expect money, give away money, invest money and dominate and control the money and make it serve the kingdom of God!
The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly. (Isaiah 60.22, NIV)
Stop expecting your end to be determined by your beginning. That is not how God operates. Look at this Scripture in Isaiah – the least of you will become a thousand. That means someone can begin with a tiny church and end up with a mega-church. Not only does it mean it CAN happen, it means it SHOULD happen, it is GOD’S WILL that it happens.
Pastor, are you the least church in your town. Do you go to pastor’s conferences and people are talking about budgets and staff and what is going on, and you are nervous to admit you could fit your church in a telephone box? You are a candidate to pastor 1000! That’s what the Word says.
Well, we have been six people for the last twenty years and we are now 5, because Betty went to glory. How can you say we will be 1000? You see God doesn’t operate on what things have been for the last few years! God operates by faith. Your church is where it is today not because of where you have been, but where your faith has been!
Where your church will be tomorrow will be where your faith is today. You could believe that things will never change, things will never get better. You could embrace the lies and deceit of satan and believe God wants you to have no influence, that you are on the shelf, that it is God’s plan and purpose for you to pastor a nice, small church.
Or you could repent of despising the day of small beginnings. You could start dreaming of a 1000. You could get a 1000 of something and put it in a box on your desk and every day remind yourself and talk to yourself that you are going to be the pastor of a 1000 people, because Isaiah said so, and he is smarter than you, he is smarter than some pastor telling you how tough it will be, or some muppet saying in your nation you cannot grow big churches. No – they can’t because they have no faith. But you are going to be different. Starting today. Dispel every myth, and start to believe, declare and dream of a thousand.
It’s time for you to have a thousand tongues to sing!
God is good and your future is awesome. I am so tired of speaking to negative and small-minded pastors. If you are a leader in any sense of the word, the best thing you can do for the people you lead is dream big. The bigger you dream, the more positive you will be, the more influence you will have and the more people will be drawn to you. So I am going to give you some Scriptures that will give you a real expectation for a glorious future. The Word of God is true, and what it says is true. I want to really aim these posts at pastors and inspire them to dream a bit bigger. The next pastor who tries to ignore all of the Bible, all of the teaching of Jesus, and all of logic and sense and tell me God wants their church to be small needs to get back into the Word and actually believe it!
Let’s look at Isaiah 2.2-3.
2 In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
There is a word here for the future. The future will have churches in it that are like giant mountains. Massive, mega churches, powerful churches that cannot be moved, that attract whole nations to them, that attract people from many different nations. They will be noted by:
How Established they Are. They will be strong and led well. There are a lot of churches today that will go anywhere at the slightest knock. The media says “this church is doing well” and then all the churches copy them. The media says “put this mark on your Facebook or you are a racist” and the churches fall over each other to put the most hashtags on their social media. A lot of churches are knocked about by every wind of doctrine, even the slightest breeze. But we are going to see more and more mountain churches in the last days, churches that will not be moved. Churches that the worldly culture will not move, churches that promises of government money will not move, churches that someone leaving because they speak the truth will not move, churches that are strong, and no one can manipulate them or intimidate them. Mountain churches!
Nations streaming to them. So much of what goes on in countries with large multi-racial communities is churches that are mono-cultural. It’s not the way God wants it. The future is going to include big churches that have people from so many nations. It’s going to be glorious, we all need each other, we can all learn from each other.
People saying “let’s go” – they will be evangelistic. People will be so excited about their church, they will not be able to help themselves from inviting people and bringing people. There will be so many salvations, healings, miracles, changed lives, that people will not be able to keep quiet about their faith! The frozen mouths of Christians will get de-thawed when their church is so glorious!
There will be teaching about the way of the Lord. Church will not just be an 8-minute encouragement each week, but they will be serious about discipleship. There will be teaching all the time on all sorts of media. Churches will run so much discipleship that many Bible Colleges will just lose their appeal because they were never supposed to exist in the first place – the church will take its place, the place that Jesus always intended it to have, to make disciples of the nations. Churches will have courses in the morning, the afternoon, the evening. Teaching will be broadcast from these mountain churches all the time, and it won’t be cold classroom teaching disassociated from real life, it will be real mentoring and discipleship that involves dealing with real people. It’s going to be remarkable!
People will desire to walk in the paths of the Lord. One of the hallmarks of these mountain churches that are going to come up out of nowhere is that the people just love walking with the Lord. The days of book of Acts will be here again where people devoted themselves to the work of the Lord. Some pastors will not be able to cope as they have been so used to doing people’s devotion for them, and have spent years herding goats and suddenly they will be surrounded by sheep hungry for green pastures and still waters. It’s going to be glorious.
And the Word will go out from there. There will be so much evangelism in these mountain churches. Sometimes they will send dozens, even hundreds of people, at once into foreign nations to plant a church, and start larger than most of the churches already in that area, and just start a stir that will shake whole cities for the Lord!
That’s going to be a whole lot of glorious churches. I believe with all my heart I am going to be part of this. And I believe if you believe it too, you will see it too. If you get it in your heart and start dreaming, you will start seeing it on the outside.
For test one, click here. For test two, click here.
If you want to enter the kingdom of God and do things God’s way, there will always be trouble and pressure (Acts 14.23). If you want the fire, you need to be able to handle the heat, and if you want to live in the kingdom of God – you will have to learn how to deal with trouble. Sadly, people who can be loyal with distance and time and pass the test of remoteness and the test of continuance, can then fail the test of trouble.
When you work in an organization, when you go to a church – trouble can come from unlikely places. You might be asked to move departments, you might be given an instruction you do not like. Your pastor might be publicly criticized. You could be going through a tough time and feel it is the churches fault. You could be passed over for a position you believed God was giving you. That is trouble. And trouble can test our loyalty.
Firstly, let me tell every leader reading this – do not be afraid of trouble. You have to learn to embrace a life of trouble and overcome trouble, not avoid it. Trouble makes you focus on God, trouble makes you more of a success. Learn how to win over trouble, not run from trouble. Now that doesn’t mean you deliberately choose trouble – but you don’t run from it either. Trouble can bring the best out of you!
Do you want more people to come to your church? Then welcome trouble. People love being around a fighter. Being in the fire makes you shine more! When you fall into diverse temptations, count it all joy (James 1.2-3).
I have been in trouble more times than I can think. I have been stabbed in the back from people who I thought were loyal, I’ve had people in high places in other ministries try and rip the Tree of Life Church apart, I have other pastors lie about me in blatant ways. I have been hurt from places I never thought possible. And I am not the only one – God is not really concerned that trouble comes to us, that people offend us. What God is concerned about is will we choose to live by faith in His Word, will we be merciful, will we choose to love above our hurts and offense? Will we get bitter, will we be loyal? That is what matters.
It is so important we always maintain a sweet spirit. We have to learn to be sweet in a bitter world! When trouble comes to your finances, do not yield and give up. Do not complain or murmur and do not steal! Do not stop tithing in the financial storm – be loyal to God and the pastor who is feeding you so well.
When trouble comces to your marriage, do not walk out the door. Fight for a happy, blessed, sweet marriage. The world is full of failed marriages, but someone who has passed the test of trouble and is still happily married – that person is attractive. Everyone has trouble in their marriage at some point. You need to get some determination and overcome!
What you have been through tells me you are loyal. The certificate of someone who has survived trouble and thrived in the storm, and walked through the other side not even smelling of smoke – that is worth more than the graduation certificate from any Bible College anywhere in the world.
When Paul wanted to show the church who he was – he told them about the trouble he had faced. The trouble you beat tells a story of your loyalty! Be wary of people who have never been through trouble – because until someone has, you have zero idea how they will behave during trouble. It’s that simple!
I pray that no matter what trouble we go through, we will continue to be loyal to the Lord and the people He has placed us with!
The second test of loyalty is the test of continuation (the first test is the test of remoteness, which you can read about here). What this means is this: there are not many people in the world who can be loyal over a long period of time.
The Galatians did not take long to be disloyal to Paul and the gospel he preached to them:
I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ (Galatian 1.6)
I get shocked sometimes how quickly people change their minds and change what they were yesterday very committed to. They have failed the test of continuation – can you continue to be loyal over a period of time? Some people can become disloyal shockingly quickly. They are one day 100% behind you – they think you are greatest thing since Martin Luther, but then one event happens that causes them to have a minor disagreement with you and suddenly they are gone. Suddenly and rapidly! It’s amazing. Other people go a bit longer, but as time goes on, they disappear too, they are unable to continue in their loyalty.
There is a remarkable incident in John 6, which when Andrew Wommack preached at the UK pastor’s conference this year (2020), he said it was the highlight of Jesus’ life and ministry and one of the most important things Jesus did. But I want to focus on the people around and look at what they did. One day Jesus was preaching in a synagogue, and He preached something that people did not immediately understand:
53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.(John 6.53-59 NLT)
Jesus was preaching and he preached something that people did not get straight away. Some people thought he was literally asking people to feast on His body and drink His blood. But before the sermon even came, things happened:
66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”(John 6.66-69)
So after being a disciple of Jesus, one sermon they didn’t understand, one sermon they didn’t agree with – they just turned away and deserted him. These people did not pass the test of continuation. This is one of the reasons you must never appoint a new person to a position of leadership – disciples can one day disappear. You need people to pass the test of continuation.
Some people will desert quickly, but other people will be disloyal in a different way, which John then mentions:
70 Then Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who would later betray him. (John 6.70-71)
Judas did not walk out the door, but he betrayed Jesus probably around two years later. He was described by Jesus as a devil, but He still hung around for over a year at minimum. Jesus knew even then that over time, later, Judas would betray him. Some people betray early, shockingly early, others over time, but it is the same problem – they do not continue. They do not pass the test of continuation. To be loyal, you have to stick with something. There are so many people not in ministry today because they did not stick with integrity, they did not stick with the pastor God had given them to be faithful and loyal to, they did not stick with God’s leading, they did not stick with the small group God gave them to lead, they did not stick with ushering every week, they did not stick with Bible reading and prayer. There are people who are not successful financially because they did not stick with their idea. They did not pass the test of continuance.
I want you to consider yourself. Will you pass the test of time? Will you be there when everyone else turns their back on someone? Will you preach what the Father tells you to preach even if people walk out on you? Will you last in the ministry? Will you last serving? How long will it be for you to be in the second chair before you organize a coup in your church to take control, and become the next Absalom? Will you be a disciple who turns their back the first time a sermon doesn’t go your way? Will you be a devil inside and stick around a couple of years until you think your betrayal will change everything for you and get you promoted? Or will you be the person in it for the long haul? What will you be?
I want you all to make the choice that you are going to be a continuer. Someone who continues. I want you to be faithful until your last breath and you go and stand before Jesus and He says “Good and faithful servant”. Do what it takes to develop staying power!
There are a lot of metals in the world, some of them are a very golden colour. In many parts of the world, the main way to test if a metal is real gold is to put it through a very hot fire. Fire will make all the other metals discoloured but it will make gold shine even brighter. It does not discolour in the heat.
You see without a test it is impossible to tell the fake from the real. And over time every Christian will go through tests that reveal whether their loyalty and faithfuless to God, to the Father, to the Son, to their church, to their discipleship, to their mentors and leaders, is true loyalty or fake loyalty.
When I entered the ministry, my loyalty has been tested over and over. There have been times where if I was not really born again, not really baptized in the Holy Spirit, not really walking in love, not really called by God, not really a man of faith, it would have been exposed in a huge way! My commitment to the local church has been tested. My commitment to my heavenly calling has been tested. My commitment to the men and women who have fathered and mentored me has been tested severely. So, I want to alert you as a leader and as a Christian – you will be tested. And there are three main tests that test your loyalty. Your elders will be tested on whether they are loyal to you. If you plant other churches and form a network of churches, your spiritual sons and daughters will be tested on whether they are loyal to you!
The Test of Remoteness
The first test is the test of remoteness. Because people are human and people are limited to one place at a time, a leader cannot be with everyone at once. If you, like me, are running several churches, you cannot be in all of them at all the time. Paul could not be in every church he planted at once. So, he wrote to the Galatian church and said this: Isn’t it better to seek excellence and integrity always, and not just only when I’m with you? (Gal. 4.18, TPT). Every business leader has to face this test of remoteness when he opens another branch or office. There are many people who do not work hard unless the manager is physically there. This is why many businesses cannot expand. Many pastors cannot plant a second church because the first church does not have the people who will maintain and be excellent when the pastor is away.
If you are working for someone else, I promise you that remoteness will test your loyalty one day. When the boss, the senior pastor, the manager, the dad, the leader, whatever is away at some point you will consider “out of sight, out of mind” – you will think, I can do it my way, I can slack off, I can ignore instructions because they are not here. It is so important for your life success to be disciplined and excellent and have integrity even when the leader is away. People who pass the remoteness test can go and plant churches and open offices in other nations! They will make sure the ministry still has the same flavour, the same attitudes, the same excellence and the same integrity. It’s not an easy test to pass, so you need to work out how you can obey Galatians 4.18.
I currently run six churches across the UK, I am planting another five. I cannot be present in all those places – but I have people who are loyal to me, whether I am nearby, or remote.
I have been to churches where the pastor is away for ten minutes, and someone is being sarcastic and patronizing to him. I have been in businesses where as soon as the boss is out the office productivity drops to nearly zero. You cannot be that person. You cannot just praise someone and follow them when they are not remote. You have to be loyal. If you are not loyal, you will never be promoted, you will never have your own ministry, your own business.
I judge people by what they do when I am not there! Read Gal. 4.18 in the Message: It is a good thing to be ardent in doing good, but not just when I am in your presence. Can’t you continue the same concern for both my person and my message when I am away from you that you had when I was with you? We need to embody this verse!
There was a man in my life who when he was around me was loyal to the point of flattery – he would always praise me. “Ben, I am absolutely committed to you”, “Ben, you are my spiritual father”, “Ben, you are so good to me, you are loyal to me, you honour me, you open doors for me”. But when I was not around, suddenly I would hear “did you hear what this person said about you”, “did you hear what they said, do not go back and help this person again”. People always tell me when people are disloyal, and they will always tell the people you are disloyal to! You will not get away with that kind of inconsistency to the Word of God and the principles of God’s Word for long! This person failed the remoteness test, and his ministry is not fruitful today. As soon as I confronted him on what he was saying behind my back, he disappeared and will not contact me today.
Loyality is not what you do when someone is around. Loyalty is you being ardent in doing good, even when someone is remote. Without that sort of loyalty, denominations cannot grow, missionaries cannot go overseas, ministries cannot open new offices. Learn to develop a life that embodies Gal. 4.18. Here is that verse again, from the NKJV: But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.
Next time, we will look at the second test. The test of continuation.