- HUMILITY – you have to assume that you are not the only one who knows what is going on, in fact, you realize that there are people who know more than you
- COMPANIONSHIP – what we do as ministers leaves us very lonely. Having someone who we are like mentor and love us helps us no end, especially when what we are saying is controversial or radical
- OUR WIVES. Ministers live in two realms – they are supernatural beings and natural beings. When you are married to someone they see you being supernatural and see you being natural too. It concerns our wives when they realize all this glory is in a very cracked and earthy vessel. Especially when you consider that women are twice removed from the earth, being made from Adam’s rib. When you fellowship with spiritual fathers, and the woman sees that they too carry glory in cracked vessels, your marriage improves as that fear of being found out for being a earthy vessel melts away.
- HUMOUR. It’s great to be around someone who sees the world the same way you do, it means you have similar senses of humour. Life is hard, humour is precious.
- GOOD GROUND. You know that spiritual father of yours who loves you, promotes you, encourages you, challenges you. They are good ground – give to them today!
I had the joy of hearing Kenneth Hagin Jr about twenty years ago, and he told about how he was discouraged as a young Bible College student because all the churches he went to preach in complained he sounded like his father. His dad laughed and pointed out that you should absolutely should sound like your father!
I love that, you should sound like your father! And in ministry, God has provided for us 10,000 teachers but very few fathers, and it is good that you sound like your father. If you call a preacher your spiritual father then you should sound like them! You should be in alignment with them! God has provided you with a few fathers – maybe one or two or three. Your job is to recognize them, find them and grow up like them!
And I think that preachers are much healthier when they are part of the kingdom of God and have spiritual fathers. Timothy had Paul as a spiritual father, and the church at Ephesus was healthier for it.
Now I am not talking about joining some sort of hierarchy, I am not talking about paying $250 a month to call someone your spiritual father – I thought fathers took care of their children?! I am talking about having a relationship with someone through listening to them, learning from them, being discipled and moulded by them so you do not have to re-invent the wheel for yourself and that you do not have to make some dumb mistakes.
At the moment I have just heard a preacher I know tell an audience that he is a rare special preacher chosen for the last end times move. Trust me that will only lead to error, and having a spiritual father or two or three would be a lot more healthy. The truth is all preachers are special, and we all have a destiny, let’s stop comparing ourselves with others and compare with Jesus! Compared to Jesus we all have a way to go in purity, in heart-love, in wisdom and so on!
Do you want to be a great teacher in the body of Christ? There are loads around, find one you like and follow and learn and grow and be discipled and be fathers. You want to pastor a great church, there are many great churches out there – find the men who pastor them and learn from them!
Thoughts of being special and unique often keep people away from meeting mentors who will father them and raise them up into a great ministry. It’s pride. That’s what it is.
I have never met a man great in ministry who did not have a spiritual father or two – people who sowed into their life and inspired them, challenged them, and rebuked them! Never.
Every great evangelist has a great evangelist they are like. Every great pastor, every great teacher. Your greatest victories come from the people who you associate with and learn from and get DNA from.
Why does having a spiritual father in your life produce so much power?
- You are instantly humble. You are admitting you don’t know it all, and you are not God’s next great thing with no respect or honour to those who have gone before
- You cannot boast any more, you are just grateful for those who have impacted your life – you know without their voice you would be nowhere!
- You are going to be part of a generational link, because after what you have received there is no way you are not going to pass it onto the next generation.
It multiplies the impact of ministry on the world. You need a spiritual father or two or three!
It’s a known rule of thumb that old golfers never win. And it’s borne out over time with statistics and so on. It’s not a rule that can never be broken, but it is amazing how often it is the young golfer that wins.
Now that doesn’t make sense does it? Surely the winner should be tbe golfer who has putted more, chipped more, knows the course better, has more experience. We are not talking about old golfers so old they can’t move the ball across the fairway!
So why does the younger golfer win? What makes him take a stroke or two less than the older golfer?
The simple answer is inexperience. The older golfer knows the shot is difficult, knows what could go wrong if he takes the chance, and it makes him careful, cautious – it makes him play it safe. And the younger man who doesn’t have the experience has a go, and more often than not makes it. And overall, wins the game.
The younger player is ignorant of the dangers, or is just simply reckless and wild. That is why he wins.
What to win? Be more child-like. Take the shot, play the game, take the chances.
DO SAY “This church is lovely, I enjoyed the worship and the choir, your pastor is a great guy, thanks for inviting me”
DON’T SAY “My youth choir is bigger than your entire church! What are you doing?”
DO SAY “You have a great pastor in this church, you should commit to this church”
DON’T SAY “I am about to call your pastor out and prophesy over him”, because the subtext is “I am a great man of God, I am superior to your pastor”. Now, if you are the head of the network, or a spiritual father to the pastor, that’s different.
DO SAY “Thanks for having me”
DON’T SAY “I look forward to you all inviting me back”
DO SAY (in private to the pastor) “My airfare was £X, my travel was £X”
DON’T SAY “Time for me to receive my own offering everyone, dig deep!”
DO SAY “Your church has a conference coming up, you should go, it will be good”
DON’T SAY “My church has a conference coming up, you should go, it will be good”
DO SAY “Your church has a Bible College, that’s a good idea if you want to get to know the Word more”
DON’T SAY “My church has a Bible College that’s a good idea if you want to get to know the Word more”
DO SAY “I really appreciate being here today”
DON’T SAY “It’s a good thing I am here, you need me”
DO SAY “I’m off home now”
DON’T SAY “I’m planting a church across the road, you are all welcome this Sunday”
DO SAY “Let me encourage you with Word”
DON’T SAY “Let me correct you with the Word”
DO SAY “I can’t wait to invite your pastor to minister for me soon”
DON’T SAY “I can’t wait for your pastor to invite me again soon”
- Bring Your Bible! Then you can read what is being read from and ensure it is in your Bible. It helps you learn and grow.
- Say “amen” and encourage your preacher – in appropriate moments!
- Participate in the worship, don’t spectate! Lift your hands, clap and shout. Dance!
- Arrive on time!
- Leave late. Have a cup of tea, chat to people, make some friends. Take someone back to your house for lunch.
- Be aware of new people. Help them find their feet, answer their questions, love them!
- Say thanks to your pastor afterwards – it really does make a difference, I promise!
One of the most powerful lessons in David’s history is when he was face to face with King Saul discussing David going to fight Goliath. Saul wants David to go fight in his armour, and David refuses saying:
I cannot go with these, I haven’t tested them – 1 Sam. 17.38
This is a great leadership principle – don’t go with what you haven’t tested already! It’s amazing how many leaders will appoint a new, shiny external candidate and ignore the tried and tested people they have who have already proved their loyalty and wisdom over and over and over. I’ve had people storm out of the church because their degree or background was worth less to me than the loyalty and the faithfulness of the person I promoted over them. Their reaction verified my decision!
I made a decision a while back I will never appoint a pastor externally – if you can’t be with the Tree of Life and be fed, you don’t get to join the feeding team. That way we test people before we rely on them!
- Don’t rely on a pastor you haven’t tested. It’s amazing how many people have left churches with pastors they know and know well, and gone off to end up nothing and nowhere. That’s bizarre behaviour, and it means you will lose a fight or two! If David hadn’t been able to say “I’m only off to war with what I know” Goliath would have knocked him too the moon!
- Don’t enter business with people you haven’t tested. Again, this is more common in church because we don’t act wise sometimes. As Jesus said the children of the world can be wiser than us, especially where money is concerned, and the world knows that a fool and his cash are easily parted. Don’t do it. Test people – look for their track record. Don’t enter business into a field where you haven’t proven it works.
- Don’t marry someone you haven’t tested. Men – I am talking to you. You act all Christian and wise, then some girl blinks at you, and you don’t care about who she has been with, her past record, her prayer life, it all goes out the window. Don’t be a fool! A mysterious personality should not be attractive to you – it should be a warning sign. Take the time to find out!
I am very much like David in this regard. I want to know if what I am being taught and the tools I am being given work. When someone tells me how to pastor my church I want to see their church first, or what they are saying is just theory. When their church is twenty sad people, I don’t want their advice. When one of my sons is being taught “this is how you take a funeral service”, and the advice to me didn’t make any sense, I said to him “how many funerals has the teacher done” – or the advice isn’t tested.
When another son was being taught to live in a council house for the rest of his life at uni, I told him “did you ask the person teaching this where they lived?”. You have to test things. When someone tells me that, as they did today, that the Christian life is best lived going to 3 or 4 conferences a year and not going to local church on a weekly basis, I wanted to ask a few questions about his marriage and his children and his peace of mind because I wanted to see if this was tested.
Listen – this sounds a little facetious, but this is serious. Entering into business, your spiritual life, who you marry – all of these are vitally important things. And all of these things have giants in the way! Huge ugly ferocious giants. And if you are serious about beating these Goliaths, please do not go out and fight them in a way you haven’t tested. I don’t want you to be smooshed into paste, I want you to win. Learn this lesson!
No matter what you do in life – if you are successful certain people will hate you. In fact, the more you lead people into life, into wisdom, the more your ministry and life sets captives free the more people will hate you and the more obvious their hate will be.
David is starting to have a bit of confidence that in God he can defeat Goliath, and his brother finds out and instantly becomes a hater:
28 And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. 29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?30 And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner. (1 Samuel 17.28-30, KJV)
David was persecuted by his own family – and that is sadly not unusual for people who are leaders in the world, let alone the body of Christ. Eliab, clearly intimidated by David’s faith, starts to rip him apart just when he was about to face Goliath.
Listen – there are some people who will never, ever have any confidence in you and your ability to succeed. They want to tear you apart, criticize you, attack you, make you feel small and put you down.
And how do we handle these people? There are two ditches we can fall into, and I have fallen into both in my lifetime:
- We can fall into the ditch of letting them get under our skin, we start to see ourselves through their eyes rather than God’s eyes, and we start to see ourselves as arrogant, as a failure, as this and that. Then we just give up on our dreams.
- Or, we can fall into the ditch of seeing these people as our enemy, and taking the stone meant for Goliath and sinking it into their heads. No – these people are our family, our church and we do not attack our own, no matter how negative and faithless and disrespectful they are to us.
So what is the correct path, avoiding these ditches – it can be seen in David’s perfect reaction to Eliab – “he turned from him”. The only way to deal with haters is to walk on. It’s that simple. It is a skill, and it is not easy, but all of us need to learn to walk on from the people who hate us.
There are many people who have many evil thoughts about me. The more our ministry grows, the more people there are who have these thoughts. There are people who in their houses will gladly gossip and slander me. They hate me in their hearts, even though on the outside they can profess to love me and love Tree of Life. Now these people are the minority, but I am letting you they exist, because when your haters come I want you to know you are in good company.
You need to have radar for the hypocritical haters – and walk away. Learn to fellowship with the people who believe in you, who are on your side, and who flow with you. Don’t fight to fellowship with people who don’t care about you and your dreams.
Some churches have struggled because they don’t respect businessmen, other churches have struggled because they don’t respect evangelists or prophets, or whatever. Attend a church where you can be in ministry and not despised! Some churches will never respect poor people, and don’t welcome them.
Some churches in London will never promote people from a certain culture, background, tribe or whatever. I love our church, we have over thirty nationalities every weekend, and our leadership team is remarkably diverse – married, single, black, white, old, young – it’s all in there. We love people! Some of our pastors are salaried, others are volunteers and both are vital to a healthy church!
When people are judging your heart, and thinking they know why you are doing what you are doing, never get into an argument with them, and never let their words define you – rather walk away and find someone else. There will be someone else. Trust me – I have so many people who appreciate me, love me, would take a bullet for me. People I would never have met if I was still fighting or fleeing from Eliab. Just walk on, and expect the next person to be better.
Before David became King of the nation of Israel, he had a very remarkable CV. He was a shepherd, a musician for the king, a servant, an errand boy, the sandwich deliverer, and armour carrier. Notice – he was never a politician or soldier. God trained him to be king through exceptionally menial, boring jobs! And God still trains Christians for great jobs, to run businesses and great businesses through boring, menial jobs!
Do NOT shy away from boring jobs!
Nearly all great people trained doing boring jobs. They served in the lowest levels of society. In church, I have been the chair-setter-outter, the cleaner, the usher, and so on. All of them have helped me be a better leader.
The best leaders are those who have been the best followers!
The best way to be a reasonable king is to have been an armour carrier! You don’t give impossible commands, you understand the job, you know the implications of what you say.
Learn to not hate boring tasks. Jeremiah was sent by God to watch the potter at work, and the potter span the clay around over and over and over and over, round and round and round. It was boring, but each revolution changes the clay slightly until it isn’t a lump anymore it is a vessel.
God wants to do the same with us today. Let him! Don’t run away from boring jobs!
In my general blog for church life, I am currently doing a series on Samson, a man who is strong and weak. As I was flicking through the Old Testament looking at his life, I flicked to a passage on David which says “And he died in a good old age, full of days, riches and honour, and Solomon ruled in his place” (1 Chr. 29.28), and I thought – that’s how I want to go – full of days, riches and honour. In fact, the most powerful part of the legacy of David in this verse is Solomon. It’s amazing how many successes are not real success because they have never raised up a successor.
I don’t want to be one of those pastors who when you hear his name you think of the scandal. I want to be someone who has much fruit and finishes my course!
And David wasn’t perfect, in many ways he messed up as bad as Samson, but he got through it because he had learned some things Samson never did. So for all you pastors and leaders out there, I want to do a series on some of the things David learned.
And let’s start at the beginning, David was the youngest of seven brothers, and he was the shepherd of the family. He began by looking after the family sheep – a lowly and small job, but David started there and was faithful there.
It is my experience that fewer and fewer people want to start a ministry in a small way. People don’t even know how to start small. They want to rip another church apart to get people into their church. They find a pastor who is building, and break his legs to steal some of his church, because they hate the days of small beginnings.
Through deceit and dishonour, they rip a church in two to gather a following for themselves and use those people to start their own ministry.
Sometimes people have been disparaging of Tree of Life Church because some of our satellite churches are very small indeed. I realize that these people do not know how to start something out of nothing. They don’t know how to begin a church. They don’t know that the entire network for 6 months was a church of 3-5 people!
Do not be afraid of small beginnings, rather trust God to promote you!
While looking after the sheep, David had two encounters – one with a bear and one with a lion. Learning to fight tough battles in the small, seemingly insignificant church of his father’s sheep, taught David how to fight for the nation! When you have preached several hundred times to 12 people, you will be fine preaching to 100 or 1000 or 10000. You have learned!
I have preached all over the world, to small groups and large groups, to hostile groups and to friendly groups, to places I have been cheers and places I have been jeered. Learning this in small settings has been invaluable. Now I am on one of the largest Christian TV stations in my nation, speaking to possibly hundreds of thousands of people weekly. That’s ok with me – I have spoke to 3 over and over and over until I know how to speak.
But people today all want to be in a rush to succeed. Whether it is the assistant pastor who rips a church in two to get his crowd, or the Bible College student who hangs around the Bible College hoping to be offered to share to the class or teach a class rather than go into all the world and make a disciple or two, or the people who email me every single week asking to preach in our church – they want to get there quickly, and haven’t learned this foundational lesson from David. Serve where you are, minister where you are, never be afraid to start small.
Don’t be in a rush to get there. Better to make a mistake in a small group than a huge group. Better to misspend a thousand pounds than a hundred thousand. Small is a necessary stage in the kingdom (and in business too). Jesus said you have to be faithful in small things to get big things, and you have to be faithful in another man’s stuff to get your own stuff (Luke 16.10-12). Most people don’t seem to believe that any more – but David did. He looked after those sheep like they were millions and like they were all his. And that was the key to his promotion.
You might be in the school of Small Starts today. Your class today might be “Treating Other People’s Ministry as Well As You Want Your Ministry to Be Treated”, your class might be “Turning up on time and preparing a great Bible study for 10 people, while you really want to preach to a thousand, but still preparing it just as well for the ten”. Well, go to school then! Take the class. You won’t be at school forever, your graduation will come, your kingship will manifest one day. I believe in you! Enjoy the training, as one day it will end.
I love guest speakers. It’s a chance for me to rest and enjoy a faith-building message from another ministry, it’s a chance for our people to hear the gospel of the kingdom framed in a different way, it’s a chance for our people to hear a specialist with a specific message or gift, and finally, it’s a chance for people who have never heard of our church find us because of a guest speaker’s mailing list.
However, I have seen several churches ripped to pieces by guest speakers who have ulterior motives, generally a hobby-horse, or to build their mailing list, or just plain to get money and not care how ethically or righteously it comes. We have had a couple of near misses ourselves, and I have learned a few lessons about inviting speakers.
- DO invite people who you know and who you benefit from hearing. If they don’t feed you, they won’t feed your people. It’s that simple. All the speakers that come to Tree of Life Church are people who feed me.
- DO invite people who you trust and feel comfortable dealing with. If you don’t feel right corresponding with and inviting them, then it won’t feel right when they come. Some of the best guest speakers at Tree of Life now are dear friends of mine, and I love them and they love me, and it’s great – but of course that doesn’t happen overnight!
- DO openly ask if the speaker has a rider or any requests. That conversation should be started by the church – you as the pastor should take the initiative and have that conversation before the speaker arrives. It can be a little embarrassing but man up and do it!
- DO talk about financing the speaker beforehand – and DO pay your speaker well. If you don’t know how much to pay speakers, speak to other pastors of churches your size. I have always overpaid what I have heard the market rate is, because I don’t think you can put a price on a great speaker. Save up beforehand if you have to. The idea of letting someone speak and benefiting from that and not honouring them financially is utterly unbiblical and utterly unChristian. You should be giving an honorarium that fits the speaker and your church.
- DO honour your speaker when they are with you – give them enough time to minister, let them flow with their gift, and enjoy their company. Let them feel welcome.
- DO ensure if the minister has product they are given a place to sell it and that people are encouraged to purchase.
- DO use your speaker where he is at their best. Don’t ask an evangelist to speak on end-times, let them evangelise! Craft the experience around the dominant gift of the speaker.
- DON’T let your speaker advertise for sign ups to their mailing list from your people. They are not there to build their mailing list, they are there to feed your people. You are providing a good honorarium
- DON’T let your speaker take his own offering. That’s for you to do and your people to do.
- DON’T let your speaker prophecy judgement and doom and gloom over you and your people! Shut that down immediately.
- DON’T let your speaker advertise their events at other churches. Come on now! That’s just rude.
- DON’T let your speaker stumble around – let there be someone who lets him know when to arrive, where they are staying and so on and so forth. Use some empathy!
- DON’T ever forget to say thanks. Send a thank you card after they have come, and express your appreciation.