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.
As a leader you should have energy – that goes without saying. You have to put in effort and life and oomph into getting things done. But one of the true blessings of leading is to be able to energize others and to energize those that you lead.
How can you give your church, community or business have more energy? There are a number of things you can do!
Put people in the right place. Don’t put someone in the position of deacon, or usher, or making the teas if they do not have the drive for it. You need people who give off energy for a thing then get them doing the thing! Help people find their sweet spots and the whole organization will have more energy! Now someone you think is just dull and unenergetic, they might just be in the wrong place. Putting them in the children’s ministry might suddenly unleash energy you (and they never knew they had). This is a skill and art form and you do get better at it. But think about where people are and where people could and should be.
Do not promote the leeches. Some people are not in the wrong place, they are wrong in every place. Their self-pity, their selfish ambition make them leeches of the energy of others. Again, recognizing these people is a skill. But think about who when they walk up to you at work or at church, you immediately brace yourself – that person is an energy leech and you are getting ready to have your ears talking off, to have to listen to whining and moaning, to be drained. Those people are not just leeching energy from you but from everyone around them. They need to be discipled and not working with you!
Promote the Champions. You know, the people who radiate energy, and energize others. The people who warm up a room just by being in it.
You have to realize that energy leechs are a real threat to any organization and they slow down everyone and everything. It stops people even wanting to move forward. Personally, you will be dealing with leeches every now and again as a leader, so ensure you have enough time in your schedule to spend time with the champions that refresh you and encourage you and lift you. You need time with your mentors, time with your friends, time with your peers. Jim Rohn says that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. So make sure you are being energized yourself – or you will never be able to energize anyone.
As anyone who understands physics knows, to accelerate anything requires the most energy. Make sure you rest well before a time of acceleration and make sure you help your people rest. That way you hit the ground determines everything! You need more people around with energy.
Another time you need a lot of energy is to remove a blockage. Sometimes things go wonky (very technical term) and you need to put them right. Sometimes a church stops growing or even starts shrinking, sometimes you hit an obstacle or bottle neck. To overcome that takes energy. You need to recognize these times. This last Sunday morning, someone said I was unusually quiet. I was – I was conserving my energy because in the evening I had a situation that may have required all my energy. It’s that simple. You cannot hit 100% speed all the time, it is impossible and you cannot do it. You need to know when to conserve energy and when to use it. You need to find a rhythm that works and produces fruit.
The good news is that energy multiplies. It is like the flu, once one person gets it, other people around them get it. Then the whole group is inspired and motivated and moves forward quickly.
You also need energy when it comes to solving problems. You might not get it right first time and might have to try again and again! Energy makes you more persistent. It makes you a force to be reckoned with, it helps other people start moving, it helps everything move forward. I see so many churches (that’s my field, pastoring) that are not moving forward. They are the same every week, some are even diminishing week by week – and the reason is that the lead pastor does not know how to energize people.
Learn how to energize yourself and then others. It will change everything.
The quickest way to get moody is to not sleep enough. A survery in the UK showed that people who do not sleep enough are seven times more likely to feel like life is overwhelming them and five times more likely to have feelings of loneliness. It stops you thinking and acting properly. Another study showed that not sleeping for 24 hours is the same as having blood alcohol content of 0.1%. That is drunk! That is illegal to drive drunk! If you are driving your people at a pace in which they cannot rest or sleep, you are not setting a good pace!
You need to sleep – you need rest – you need a break. How you rest, how you sleep, how you move slowly at the right times is very personal. How much sleep you need is personal. Some people can catnap, some can sleep in a car, some can sleep on a plane, some wake early, some don’t. It’s all different. But a short nap is one of the most powerful ways to improve your attitude and memory!
Did you know that Chelsea football team, along with several other Premier League teams, has a paid sleep trainer for the whole team. He makes sure the players’ rooms are the right temperature, helps them get to sleep and deal with things like jetlag and emotional pressure.
In addition to sleeping well, you need to rest. You need a holiday! You need to be like God – rest one day in seven, and then you – like the land of Israel – need time to be fallow. Not sowing, not reaping, not growing, not working, not rushing. Just reading. You need time in energy-saver mode! Now I know from personal experience that when you are pioneering something new a holiday can be terrifying. I really love what I do, and I am often reluctant to take a holiday – but I know how important they are. Holidays are great for rediscovering our dreams, our thoughts and our priorities. A lot of my best ideas for the church and my most precious times of prayer and wisdom have happened while I have been walking, at the gym, exploring Italy, or whatever. You need to realize that sitting at a desk for all the hours you have does not lead to great decisions always! A holiday is not an interrupting, it’s another thing you have to manage with your time. It’s a real thing – find your kind of holiday, find your rhythm of the year, find out what helps refresh you!
A holiday can make you come back and work a lot faster, and keep up a better pace overall, and be more fruitful. You have a holiday – and like sleep refreshes you over night, a break is like a big long sleep. When you have a good holiday, you will be better when you come back, a better leader, a better worker, a more fruitful saint.
The answer to the old question “how do you eat an elephant” is one bite at a time. Which means some tasks are just big tasks and just take time. Building a church, setting up a new business, losing weight, changing the direction of a church. All of these tasks take time. But if your job is eating an elephant, then don’t just settle and decide “well, it has to take time” – maybe you can shave some seconds off the eating, and do it quicker.
Maybe you can persuade other people to help you eat it. However long it takes to eat an elephant, it will take less time if the eating task is shared. If you raise up other people to help, and build community, things will always take less time. It might be that there is someone around you that is an exceptionally fast eater and loves elephant! Give that task to them!
Maybe you can practise eating and become a quicker eater. Maybe you can learn some new skills and techniques that let you eat quicker. What can you learn about your task, who can you learn it from?
Maybe you can eat more than one part at a time! When we started Guildford as our second church, something amazing happened – we started learning how to pastor twice as fast as before! We had twice the problems, twice the situations, twice the pace! Everything doubled and it was a time of great acceleration for us – instead of there being a miracle in one church, we could have a miracle in two. Instead of dealing with some new guests, we had double the number of new guests. Now, we have a family of churches and they are all growing. We are learning so much. If we had waited to “finish” Dagenham, get a building, build a large team, have a million pound turnover before starting our second church, then we would still be moving at a slower pace there. If you are waiting for the test market and testing and learning for too long, other markets will get away from you. And what if you could learn from all the other markets.
Maybe you need to develop more discipline and eat when you don’t feel like eating. So many people just do what they feel like. You will not always feel like working, like serving others, like exercising. You will not always be motivated. You have to develop the character to do things out of a sense of discipline and routine, not out of motivation. While some people are hunting motivation, a disciplined person can change the world without feeling like it..
Work out what actions and times and styles are best for eating and get more ate! Have a sense of reflection about your pace-setting and running things, and work out what works best and do more of that. You should be measuring things and putting more energy, staff, effort and money into the things that work the best for you!
You are the leader, you should be the one deciding how long a task should take, and how fast it should be done. One of the main tasks of leadership is to set priorities. What things need to urgently be “eaten” and what things can be left to tomorrow, next week, next year – or indeed never have to be done. If your task is to eat an elephant, probably best not to have a cheeseburger and chips beforehand. Sometimes we cannot do the things we should be doing because we cannot stop doing things that just do not matter.
You need to be unafraid of failure. You have to develop a sense of persistence. You need to continually remind yourself of your dream and vision. You need to work on your team and make sure they can handle the pace. You need to inspire people to work together.
Do these things and you will win! You will complete every task, and it will be awesome!
1% faster is the difference between being first at the Tour de France and 76th. That’s a big difference. A small increment can change a lot of things.
From 1945 to 1954 the world record for running one mile was 4 minutes and 1 second. It seems impossible until Roger Bannister decided it was not! He got specially designed lighter shoes, he started training in a number of different ways, and he broke the 4 minute mile in 1954. Within six weeks, several others had managed it. You see when you speed things up, others are inspired and challenged by that!
Now what does that mean for your church – if you could do twenty things in your church or ministry (or business) 1% better, your whole church would be 20% better. A small increment can change everything, a small step forward can be a giant leap forward!
Two years ago Google changed the shade of their toolbar to a shade that was fractionally lighter, but it increased how many people clicked and it increased their income significantly. A minor change can have a big effect. We are living in a generation where we want to have grand, dramatic gestures that play out on Facebook and Instagram and get views, but really what we need is to just increase our pace slightly, and move slightly faster, and inspire our people to do it. Greg Mohr stopped calling visitors to his church “visitors” and started calling them “guests”. That is a minor change, it takes very little effort to start that change and have your team of ushers and leaders do that – but it meant a lot more people who came to his church stayed and were discipled. A small change often is more achieveable and more fruitful than a grand gesture.
Success in life is not linear. You get 1% more excitement, you get a lot more than 1% more results. Interest is compounded over time! Growth will always in ministry start off slower than you want, but over time if you keep setting the right pace, it will be more growth than you expected or dreamed of (Ephesians 3.20 is still true!). Making a small change is less exciting than winning the lottery or being the next GOD TV sensation, but it is what is going to produce lasting fruit, sustainable fruit and help your people think and grow and be discipled.
I am currently planting churches far sooner than most people think it should be done. There are recommendations on the size of the mother church, and so on, but the way I am doing it, all of our people from the early days of Tree of Life have experience of a family of churches, going to conferences together, sharing pastors and leadership, sharing wisdom, praying for each other. That has been invaluable over lockdown but it is invaluable at any time. That is the power of small increments, small steps forward. Now to do this you need discipline, you need to be making disciples, you need to be raising up people who will say “guests” rather than “visitor”, you do not need ushers who are going to say what they like when they like. You need people who see the bigger picture.
You will also need a lot of patience. Dyson made 5126 vacuum cleaners that did not work. It was model 5127 that worked and made him a multi-millionaire. Persistence and patience are what win! Model those values yourself and impart them to your leaders and you will be able to say “hey, we can change this part of our ministry” – we can do this slightly better – make the changes and watch the growth explode!
Part of your job as a leader is to speed it up when it needs speeding up. That is something we must have the skills to do. Some people, maybe most people, will go too slow when doing something essential and if we perceive something is going too slow we need to pace set as leaders. Most humans are not good at setting their own pace – they go too fast or too slow, mostly too slow. We need to work out the right speed as leaders, and prepare our people to go at that pace too.
The most important skill in speeding up the pace for a task in your organization is empathy. You have to be able to understand what pace the people around you are going and what speed they would actually be more comfortable going. A super-dooper speeder-upper understands that pace is done by people, so he learns about the people.
Now, he does not take the pace from other churches, other people, other businesses, but from what the Lord is showing him and what the people can do. But if you are needing to change, refocus or handle a problem pace is so important.
When the lockdown started I knew I had to get my people online. I had to get the Word of God into them, I had to get them hearing notices because they were not getting a notice sheet anymore, I had to get them out of panic and walking forward at a dignified pace. I needed to speed some things up for people. You need to speed up some processes!
Amazon Prime can deliver anything you want in the UK next day! So when your team takes three weeks to reply to an enquiry about whether your church is online, you have failed that person in their mind. They are comparing you not just to other churches, but to other companies, and other experiences they have had! If another church had a more streamlined website they might have gone there.
One of the biggest hindrances to the pace of change in any environment, but maybe in a particular way so big in most churches is the history of the group – “this is the way we have always done it”. There are people in your church whose minds must be changed for you to progress, and that can take time. You can go too fast, but often we are going too slow and need to speed things up. I believe nearly every church in the UK should be growing faster, not slower. You need to speed up the pace and inject that faster pace into your people! Be fast, but not harried and hurried! People need your message, they need you to contact them, they need you to have some pace about you. When lockdown started, our team called over a thousand people, at least eight hungred of them twice. I did not make many calls, I was working on technology, I was writing messages, I was sending emails, but as the leader I set the pace for those calls and injected some life into volunteers to get them done. I praised publicly those doing loads, I shared stories on our social media and in sermons about successes, and I increased the pace because that task was essential and time-sensitive. When you have time-sensitive tasks, you need to set the pace.
The only thing that should stop you moving faster is your integrity. Growing responsibly is important too! You should also pause to plan, and pay attention to details. This is all part of setting the pace. If the pause button is pressed, you as the leader should be tbe one pressing it. If something is working, you should be disseminating what is working and letting people know and celebrate that win. If something is not working, you should be stopping it and quickly. These are times you need to set the pace.
You need your empathy to know what pace people can handle as well. To be a good pace-setter you need to understand the speed your people can be fruitful and not harried. You need to up the pace, but not so much that people cannot have a healthy life-balance. There’s not really a right or wrong answer to this, you need to know that some people are superstars and can do a lot more than you might think possible. There is one volunteer in our church who does so much, and is at the top of his game in business. I have often asked his wife – do you see your husband enough, because if not, I will take church responsibilties off him, but he really is that fast! Other people if I put that workload on them as volunteers it would be unkind of me. You need to understand people to be able to set a pace. It is that simple.
I like being around superfast people – people who can see what needs to be done, people who can set a pace, people who can move things forward. But I am empathetic enough to know not everyone is like that. I am not being judgemental here, I am just remind you that people are not all the same. Some people take a while to catch on, but when they do they will be the most loyal people you have. You cannot burn them out at a pace that for someone else would be fine. Move things faster, and let those people handle things that are less time-sensitive.
In the Bible, there are two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos is straightforward time, the hours, days, months and years as they pass. Kairos is an appointed time for something – the moment where things have to be done. We all have kairos moments given to us by God’s grace, our job is to recognize them and get the pace going. If you change things too quickly, no one will ever agree and you will cause resentment. If you change things too slowly you will not be able to do anything of value. You have to learn how to set the pace.
In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he said that timing is one of the keys to having a great company. It’s also vital to a great church. You need to know when things are changing and respond in the right timing, you need to know when things are an urgent threat, you need to know what to do. It’s not a question of going at one speed or another, it’s going at the right speed because things are changing.
If it is a time of slow, go slow, let the people rest and heal. In a time of fast, set the pace and make sure people know why it needs to be done fast. Big changes with no time sensitive nature, you can take them slowly. You need to develop this skill.
Next week, I will give you some very solid and practical advice to speed things up just slightly. You would be amazed how much a small increase of pace can change everything.