All Preaching is a Gamble!

Poker Hands: Slang You Need To Know - Blog

I was reading Mark 4 today, it’s a passage I go back to over and over. The sower sows the Word. And today, I saw something that I had never seen before. Something that I realized was true a long time ago from experience, but something I had never realized was in the Word!

It is this: preaching is a gamble. When I get up on a Sunday morning, when I go live on a Wednesday night, when I travel to a church as a guest speaker – even writing a blog like this, there are four different possible reactions:

  • The Pavement Reaction. Which is actually no reaction! Someone can be in church, hear a powerful message on forgiveness and still be just as bitter as when they walked in. Not an ounce of difference! Just as prickly, just as easily offended as before the seed is cast at them!
  • The Rocky Reaction. They get really excited about the message, they find you and tell you the message was the greatest ever, they are so passionate about what you said and the Scriptures you used, but in 48 hours it is like they never heard it at all. Their troubles caused them to forget the Word. Often they blame you for the Word not working, they can even start to hate you.
  • The Weeds Reaction. The Word starts to work in them, but ultimately “life” gets in the way, and the cares of the world and getting ahead in life, and keeping up with the Jones, and family and friends, and tiling the bathroom – all stops them keeping moving forward with God.
  • The Harvest Reaction. This is someone who hears the Word, keeps coming, becomes consistent, faithful, mature – you know they will be at church, you know they will keep short accounts with God and people, you know they will grow. They produce 30, 60 and 100 fold – they become leaders, champions, healed, blessed, they manifest favour. It’s a joy to pastor them.

Now here is what I realized today, I have zero control on how the Word is going to be received. I throw the Word to everyone and I have no idea. People surprise me. Sometimes people get offended who I thought would never get offended! Sometimes people get distracted by the most petty of worldly things that I never thought would let the Word inside them get choked. Sometimes people leave church for reasons that seem just foolish and immature, and they never go to church again, and it’s a shock. But also, sometimes people forgive and grow who I never thought would grasp the Word, people start to live for God from the most unlikely of backgrounds. The Word has the power to change anyone who will listen to it and deal with the rocks and weeds in their heart.

It’s a gamble every time you preach, but you preach your heart out, you sow the seed in every heart, you expect everyone to come to a point of being good ground, you realize that without fail some of the seed you sow will most definitely come to good ground, most definitely change lives and produce harvest. Then you leave the response to the people and their hearts, and let them decide what kind of soil they want to be, without trying to dominate, manipulate or intimidate them.

You are making a difference every time you preach – but you do not get to choose whose live you make the difference in. If you deal the cards often enough you will eventually get Aces. But you don’t get to decide where or when, so keep dealing – keep scattering the seed of the Word, keep speaking life, keep preaching truth. Don’t get upset when sometimes you roll a double one and someone doesn’t get it, love them and keep preaching, take another roll of the dice, take another go.

Keep speaking life, keep sharing the truths. Do not quit. Some sermons will be received better than others, some weeks you will “win” more than others, but keep going. If one in four produces 30 or 60 or 100 times return, if you keep going, eventually you will end up growing your church and ministry.

Dumb Things Leaders Do 05: Becoming Tight With Money

Miser - Wikipedia

One of the things I see so many leaders to is try and hold onto all the money and hold it as tight as they can. When they have nothing they can cope, but when money comes in, they start to trust in the money over trusting in God.

It is time for every single pastor in the UK to become bold with money. Stop being frugal, stop being tight, stop being tight, stop being afraid and be bold. Spend some money. Give away a lot of money. Do something bold with your money.

The people did not invest in your church and your ministry for you to have a savings account and get a penny or two interest. They invested in you as a visionary and dreamer and they expect you to take that money and change the world. Launch out!

If you are not accused of being stupid, careless or foolish with money you have not yet been bold enough. You have to decide you want to grow the church, you want to have fresh vision, you want to fuel giant big dreams. Stop playing it safe with money. Give big to world mission, give big salaries to people, hold a great big conference, invest in an international speaker.

I am not saying take a stupid risk, you as a leader should be able to discern, but if you have to choose between taking no risk and taking too big a risk – aim at falling on the side of too big a risk.

When your life is over your biggest regrets will be the chances you did not take. I know in the UK pastors are more guilty of sinning by what they do not do, not what they are doing! We need to step out. The reason so many churches in the UK are not growing, not increasing, not discipling is that they are afraid of taking faith risks. They are afraid of trusting God. They want big safe margins in the bank, they want big fat savings accounts.

At the beginning of this year, I emptied out our savings account paying for two big crusades in Tanzania. I do not regret that. In May, I gave £10000 to Andrew Wommack Ministries from our account. I do not regret that.

For our annual summer conference in 2022 I have paid for a venue twice the size of any venue we have hired before. I do not regret that. I once paid £35000 just to hold one Sunday service! I do not regret that for one minute.

Never ever let the pocketbook take more importance than the people, never let the cash matter more than the congregation, never let the money matter more than the mission.

Get on your face before God and admit that you are too stupid to decide what to spend and what to give, find out what He wants you to do and do it without question. I am so tired of hearing guest speakers tell me “I wouldn’t have made budget for this trip without you”, or horror stories of how cheap and nasty their accommodation was, or going to preach in places myself in venues that are leaking, smelly and cheap. I am tired of seeing such amateur leaflets and weak situations. I am so fed up of people thinking a hundred pounds is a lot of money in church.

I think we need to radically change our approach. Give big, spend big, do big, dream big. Take great big offerings, and never be afraid, embarrassed or unready to receive an offering.

The bottom line is not how much money you have in the bank, it’s how many people you disciple, reach, help, encourage, lift up, save, heal, and love. That is the bottom line, nothing else.

A war is on in the churches in the UK right now – and the outcome needs to be without fail that we are bold with money, that we are bold in our giving, our spending, in our investing in people. In excellence.

There’s nothing wrong with saving, but do not trust it – there is an easy and small step from saving to hoarding. We must not be frugal, we must not become misers. We must not violate what Paul has taught us in 1 Tim. 6 to enjoy our money! And the greatest joy of money is using it to change lives.

Peter Drucker said that being efficient is doing things right, but to be effective you need to do the right things. So many churches are doing tiny things right when we need to be doing great big things.

TAKE RISKS with MONEY! Trust God. And if you are in a church, it’s not your job to protect the people from the spending of the ministers. It’s not your job to stop giving big, dreaming big and spending big happening in the church. You are not there to make sure the leaders have tiny little British visions. You want a church like that, go plant one. Do not join a growing, daring, loving church and try and reduce them down to your level of your immaturity.

I have seen several churches where one or two people have tried to hold the pastor hostage and stop them having faith and advancing the kingdom and taking the gospel to the nation. If that is you, get up in front of the people, share your vision and make the people excited to give and excited for you to spend, and if a couple of people keep holding you back, you may have to ask them to leave.

Listen, as someone who has planted eight churches in 11 years, pays for a dozen venues a month, has staff, has one of the largest TV ministries in the UK, and spend a lot of money – it is always better to raise more money than cut back spending on gospel advancement.

Now, of course, you need processes, you need to fund your vision, you need to save too, you need to not be lurching from crisis to crisis, and then have to lay off someone or cut back in a terrible way. You need to be handle seasons (you might need an open ear for a seven thin cows), but at the same time you need to be bold and strong and stop being a Scrooge. We must be full of faith when it comes to money. We must stop being miserly.

We must never be in a position where we cannot spend money to reach and disciple people. It breaks my heart when a conference is cancelled due to funding, or a conference cancels its ministry to the most precious people of all, children, due to lack of funding. It’s not a lack of funding, it is a lack of faith. It is a lack of respect for the Lord and His goodness.

Frugality in the things of the kingdom is ugly, presumptuous, and is holding back revival in our nation. I hope I have said this strongly enough. Pay money to learn how to raise money if you need. I am not talking about secular, ungodly, sleazy ways of fundraising, I am talking about being bold, building a donor base and learning how to lead people into the freedom and joy of tithing and giving generously to your church.

I think we need to go right back to basics and realize the Lord Himself is our provider! We belong to Jesus, He called us and He will provide when we are in a place called there. Get there and expect the ravens to come. Trust me – God’s dream for your life, your church, your ministry is bigger than yours. Start to trust. You need to set the example in your church and give generously personally and from the church fund. You need to stop arguing over pennies and start giving big! The way to balance saving, income, giving, spending is to save big, receive big, give big and spend big. Don’t spend on a credit card, but while you are waiting for more money dream big.

The truth is that being miserly and frugal is actually materialism. It is because you love money, you spend more than you need on things you don’t need and don’t spend on the kingdom. You save and save because you cannot handle in any way not having money or trusting the Lord.

Be bold! Make sure you are giving to other ministries to advance the gospel across the world, in places not where you are. Make sure you are investing in your church and dreaming big.

Grace and peace!

Dumb Things Leaders Do 04: Being Too Busy to Dream

63,724 Busy Illustrations & Clip Art - iStock

Is being busy the new religion of the modern age I wonder. We are moving so fast now – faster than ever before. There is so much to do! But what should our priorities be as Christian leaders – not doing, but rather thinking, dreaming, praying, listening, resting, planning.

We need to ensure that as leaders we are not moving so faster and doing so much that we miss out on dreaming big dreams, we miss out on fellowshipping with the Lord and walking with Him.

Right now we are going through a huge experiment as the human race. Never before have we been so connected – online – and that competes with our prayer life and our dreaming times. We rarely take the time to think about a situation from more than one angle!

Now one of the reasons we are so busy as Christian leaders is that we have good hearts – we want to help people, we want to be there for the people who need us, we want to go above and beyond people’s expectations. And then there is the bad example of lazy leaders which go to unfruitfulness.

However, being over-busy is just as bad as being under-busy! Sometimes we can do so much we never press pause and think – is this the best way to do this, is this the best way to achieve this, what will the future be like, does God want me to do this? THE BIG QUESTIONS are being pushed out because we are too busy to think and dream! That is a huge mistake many leaders make. They can be brilliant at the day to day, but to lead you need to have a dream of a better future. Nothing is more important to a leader than a dream of a better future. Nothing.

The problem is that a lot of Christian leaders were appointed to lead because they made good Marthas – they got the house tidy, they got the dinner ready, they got the Bible study notes photocopied (or uploaded and shared now), they got the job done. And the Martha inside us can be a bit noisy when we say – right now the most important thing is sitting at the feet of Jesus. As we sit at His feet, we start to think of all the things that must be done – that we must do. The reason we do not stay in His presence long enough to be transformed, to be inspired, to be directed and led from Heaven is not because we are too busy and that is just how it is – it is because deep down we do not prioritize this.

We think not doing the urgent and immediate will hurt others. No – not spending enough time with the Lord, enough time dreaming, enough time planning and developing strategies – will be what hurts others. Get this right in your mind. If you do not have a dream of a better future, your people will pick up on it and immediately being around you will demoralize them, not inspire them. Because you did not take the time to dream. You will not encourage others to set goals and dream, because you do not dream. This is vital we take the time to dream. Ultimately people will lose respect in your leadership if you do not have a dream.

You have to learn the skills of dreaming, receiving a dream from the Lord, dreaming big, letting the right people know the dream, communicating the dream, and inspiring people with the dream, and motivating people to share the dream. But you cannot do any of this without the dream.

If someone cannot create a vision for the future in the people – they are not a leader. That is stark, but true. This is the essential trait of leaders and we must take the time to dream. If all we deal with is what we can see and what is right now visible and in front of us, we are managing not leading, and we are not operating in faith.

Many churches, many ministries, are sadly over-managed and under-led. Ask the average person in the church or ministry what the dream is – and they will not have a clue. They do not have a bigger picture for a better future and that is a reflection on leadership.

I think everyone who becomes a pastor should be given a microscope and a telescope. The microscope to see things close up as they really are, but the telescope to see things that are far away! We need to have a telescope heart – things that are far away are coming, let’s get ready.

At our church in Dagenham, we have developed – because we are a kind and loving people – a habit of singing happy birthday to people and giving them cake on their birthday. The problem is now on average we have 3-4 birthdays every single week. And the church is growing. Time for a change, I have to get my telescope out and say – this won’t work for a church of 1000, time to shift gears. That’s a small example, but it is the kind of thing I am consistently doing – seeing the future, preparing people for leadership, preparing people for a bigger role. Because I am a leader. And because I set aside, in the middle of my business – and I am busier than most pastors – time to spend with the Lord, to communicate with Him, to listen to Him. I take the time to dream.

What to me is the sign of a good leader is an obsession with the future. We need to be dreaming of a better future – we need that divine restlessness in our hearts – how can it be better? What can change for the better… when you spend time with the Lord, you cannot help living like this.

The number one complaint people have about their last church when they come to Tree of Life is not about doctrine or grace, or anything on those lines, no they tell me “our church had no vision for the future, and people just drift away”. We cannot just focus on today, we must dream of a better tomorrow and take the time to do that.

I am writing this blog post in Albania, and it has been such a joy to be with Shayne Holesgrove – he has a huge dream for a better tomorrow, and it is bearing fruit. He takes the time to find out what God wants for his churches, ministries and groups. It is enjoyable to talk to him because this is the level of the communication.

Listen, I love doing things, I identify with Martha. I love checking things off on a list, I love getting things done, I love doing. I have to discipline myself to sit at His feet and hear from His heart what He wants me to do on planet earth. I have to be still and know that He is God, and so do you. Your primary responsibility as a Christian leader is to hear God speak. What does God want to do with you, through you and in you to make a better future? Are you Noah or Nehemiah? Are you Moses or Joshua? Are you Paul or Timothy today?

Do what needs to be done today, of course. But not at the expense of what needs to be done for tomorrow. Put dream time into your schedule, turn your phone onto airplane mode and dream big. Sit at His feet and watch things change for the better.

Dumb Things Leaders Do 03 Trying to Make People Happy

People-pleasers always seek the approval of people around them

Isn’t it interesting that the Bible says that the fear of God is the start of wisdom but the fear of man is a trap (Proverbs 29.25). You cannot do both. You could equally say the fear of man is the end of all wisdom – trying to please everyone is dumb, and it is a dumb thing that sadly many leaders do.

Every single church in the world has people come who try and bully the pastor. They try and make the pastor feel guilty, feel afraid of them, try and make him keep them happy. That’s not the job of a pastor, or any leader. My job as a pastor is to keep God happy, I am truly dancing for an audience of one.

The larger a church gets, the harder it is. I remember being a youth pastor of a church of hundreds, I had to report to the senior pastor, I had to report to the board, the children pushed me to please them and keep them happy, the parents wanted things done a different way from all of those groups of people. The volunteers who worked for me had a different opinion on what made them happy and what I was expected to do. To live to please all of them would have been madness, and if I tried it ministry would become a burden not a joy.

The way to handle this is to spend more time alone with the Lord. Spend time finding out His will for your life and how He wants you to handle situations. You need to develop a spine that means you can tell someone in your church – no, that’s not how this is going to play out, this is not what is going to happen next, and your suggestion is not going to be followed. Godly people will understand!

You cannot serve two masters, so make Jesus your master and serve Him. There is only room for Him as the Lord of your life. You need to stop asking yourself “but what will (insert person or people here) think if I do that!”. You need to learn how to fear the Lord and honour Him above the voices and opinions of others. Either the fear of God will eradicate your fear of man, or your fear of man will stop you fearing God. You need to learn how to be motivated by Jesus only.

It’s easy to say, but it does require humility, devotion, tenacity, a thick-skin and some wisdom! It takes boldness to say something to a church or have a difficult conversation with someone difficult that might cause them to leave – and take a friend or two, and all their money with them! But we must be bold. We must do what the Lord says, and we must do it regardless. There will be persecution in this life – all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. We are here to serve Jesus and speak truth, not be as popular as possible. Paul said if I am trying to get men to approve of me, I would not be approved by God (Gal. 1.10).

I have had rich people make threats to me, I have had people refuse to tithe unless they were allowed in the band, I have had people tell me how unloving I was not to give them the pulpit and promote them, I have had more than my fair share of people making sure I know that my behaviour, my attitude, my actions are not pleasing to them, but I am not living for them, I am living for Jesus. I know what God has called me to do, what kind of church Tree of Life is supposed to be and I will take a very firm stand for that. It has cost me a lot, but the reward is always greater than the cost.

You cannot keep everyone happy and do what Jesus wants you to do – choose Jesus! Choose the Word. It is a real temptation because deep down we all liked being liked! It is hard to be constantly disrespected so we need to keep close to the Lord and know we are doing what He respects to stand. Spending time with the Lord makes us bold.

Some of you need to get set free from the opinions of others, and stop living in fear of their opinions and ask Jesus for the grace to hear His voice and His point of view above the noise of others. And be willing to be unpopular if it is doing His will His way.


Dumb Things Leaders Do 03 Believing the Songs Others Sing

David Vs. Goliath. Don't underestimate the underdog | by Rohith Salim |  Medium

After David killed Goliath, the ladies in Israel wrote a song for him, including the line “David killed his tens of thousands” (1 Sam. 18.7). That line is a blatant and total lie. David at this stage in his career had slain a grand total of one person! Now, granted it was a giant, but it was not tens of thousands. Not only that the song referred to Saul only killing thousands. Had David not had such a deep walk with the Lord, and had he not been a humble young man, that sort of tune could go straight to his head.

I see this today a lot. Someone receives an offering with a great offering message, or preaches one great sermon, has one well received post on Facebook or Instagram, or prays one inspiring prayer – and they now think they should be the new king! They now think they are ten times as good as the current leadership of the church or the business.

Pride is a difficult issue for leaders or aspirant leaders to deal with because it can go unrecognized and work in secret. Pride is our greatest enemy as leaders and to fail to be aware of it, and to expose it, confront it, fight it and beat it, and live a life of humility will destroy your leadership. Being proud, believing your own press reports – that is one of the dumbest things leaders do.

Here are some clues that you are dealing with pride:

  1. You cannot delegate. Of course you can’t – no one can do anything as well as you!
  2. You get very upset if you are corrected. Of course – no one is smarter than you or knows better than you.
  3. You get upset if circumstances are tough. Of course you do – your ego is based on what is around you. If a family or two leave your church, you get upset and get aggrevated as your identity is wrapped up in your ministry. This is wrapped up in our first part of this series, worshipping your ministry.
  4. Inattention to detail. Because you are so wonderful, you do not need to take the same care and attention as other people. You do not prepare for your talking because you are just that good, you come in late for church, you don’t need all the worship to be ready for the Word! You genuinely believe you are that good.
  5. No real mentors. You do not have older, more experienced people speaking into your life. If I find a pastor without mentors, or who pays lip service to mentors who live thousands of miles away and not asking them for advice, I know I am dealing with a proud person.
  6. You confuse capability with character. Just because you can do a task, does not mean you have the character to stand in that place.
  7. You cannot operate outside of the spotlight. You need to have an audience to perform.
  8. You do not care about other people’s feelings. Of course not, who are they compared to you. You relate everything back to yourself and your life, you cannot read any situation except how it affects you – you do not care how it affects the kingdom of God.
  9. You are impatient. I have found over the years that only those who are humble last long in leadership. The proud will soon find a reason to be slighted, to be insulted, and storm off to the next church, the next business, the next job. Leaders who last are humble. They are centred in Jesus so neither people or circumstances will move them.
  10. You are uncomfortable at the front. Humility is not being a wallflower, it is being where you need to be and doing what needs to be done. It is not a lack of confidence, it is a confidence not in our strength or power, but confidence in Jesus and His love and His goodness. When you think you are all that and everyone is looking at you, you now feel pressure to be all that!
  11. You are uncomfortable being yourself. True humility respects God’s way of making you – and you need to be honest about yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.
  12. You struggle to worship. You are unable to worship, because you don’t know all the glory belongs to God not us! You don’t love reminding yourself that it is all about Jesus, not you. You don’t love to know that it about what He has done, not what you are doing!

We are often in the church willing to overlook pride as long as tasks are being completed. That is unacceptable. We lavish praise on certain leaders, we sing the songs about how great they are – but every David needs not the ladies’ singing, but a godly Nathan in their life saying “You are the man”. If not, they are heading towards a fall!

The way out of this mess is to turn your eyes on Jesus, and stop thinking you are able to eclipse him.

For more teaching on ego, I have a YouTube video on Ego in Leadership that I know will help you:

Do not listen to the songs they sing about you, rather think about yourself with sober judgement and realize you need to live a life of humility!

Dumb Things Leaders Do 02 The Comparison Trap

Random] The grass looks greener on the other side? | by Mridu Bhatnagar |  Medium

One of the things leaders seem to do a lot is compare themselves to others. It’s what I call “The Comparison Trap”. It is amazing what people compare – attendance, offerings, salary, car, houses, responsibilities, miracles, fruitfulness, achievements, pulpits you preach for, anything it seems that can be compared is compared. This is not wise. In fact Scripture says this:

12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Cor. 10.12)

Comparing yourself to someone else is one of the most harmful things a leader can do. So why do we all do it – because it is part of the nature of our flesh! We need to learn to live above it, and walk in the spirit! The root of it all can be found in Jame’s epistle:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3.13-16, KJV)

Comparison comes from envy. You look at someone else and think – how is he the senior pastor, I can preach better than him, I can care about people better than him, I can disciple people better than him. It comes from selfish ambition – I want to be in that seat, preach from that pulpit and drive the car.

A lot of people who compare in the kingdom – look back at their lives, you will find they compared long before they entered the kingdom. They looked at their school friends – how did he get a girlfriend like that, how did he get those grades, how can he beat me at football? They looked at their work friends and thought similar things, and now they have brought that selfish ambition into the kingdom.

There is nothing wrong with ambition, but selfish ambition causes us to compare with others, and that is always foolish. Here are three symptoms you are in the comparison trap and need to get out:

  • You cannot rejoice with the success of others. Another pastor raises the dead, or has a fruitful meeting, or helps someone, and due to envy you cannot rejoice in them, you just compare yourself with them and wonder why it was not you.
  • You are now discontented with what God has called you to do. You are frustrate with where you are, and unhappy that you are not there.
  • This discontentment will start to cause a breakdown in communication between you and God, and eventually affect your family too.

Now if you are reading this and think “Hey, I am in this trap, how do I get out, I want to be back in the joy I have with Jesus, and the contentment of doing what He wants me to do”, then how do you do it?

Well, I would start by taking responsibility for your attitude. It’s your fault and it’s sin. So confess it, repent of it, and I would tell those around you.. Tell the person you are jealous of if you know them and ask for them to pray for you.

Then, to move forward, learn contentment with where you are, and what you are doing, and what God is doing for you. Be grateful for your place in the body.

So many leaders compare, it is frightening. The ministry can be a lonely place full of people with selfish ambition, envy and a competitive spirit. I go to some pastor’s conference and they immediately want to know our income, our salary, our headcount on a Sunday, all of it – just to compare with me. Don’t compare yourself with someone else, compare yourself with where you could be – with what you dream of doing. I do not have the same calling as you, the same gifts and the same personality – you cannot be me as well as I am me, but no one can be you better than you, so compare yourself with yourself!

I am not saying sit on your backside and go here I am, this is all I could be. No, you can improve and grow – but into a better you, not another someone-not-you. No two snowflakes are alike, no two leaves are alike, and no two ministries and callings are alike. I am going to be the best Ben Conway in the world – I am unique, and I am glad I am not like you. I am glad you do not have the mix of callings, wisdom, personality and desires I have. You could never do what I do. So don’t try, find out what you are called to do and do it.

Be yourself – everyone else is taken. A lot of you know that at a crucial point of being called to ministry, Peter actually asked Jesus “what about John”. Jesus basically replied – that’s none of your business. Do not enter the comparison trap – Peter and John both had very different ministries, gifts, personalities and destinies. But I am glad my Bible has 1 Peter and 1 John and both are a real blessing to me.

Comparing is you saying “God, I am unhappy with you, and how you made me”. Never do that. Be who you are designed to be, and be the best one. Maybe someone else is seeing huge harvests right now. Rejoice with them, and get ready for your harvest. I am assuming you have seed in the ground, of course!

I hope if this is a mistake you are making, a foolish thing you are doing that you repent. That you change, that you deal with it. That you learn not to be so vain, so selfish, so foolish. Life is not about you – it’s about Jesus. And I hope that you find out how to be the best you you can be and have the most fruitful life above all you can ask or imagine.

Dumb Things Leaders Do 01 Making Ministry Your Idol

IDOLATRY: Money, Family, Sex, Sports, Guns and Power | VirtueOnline – The  Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism

I want to do a short series on the kind of mistakes leaders make, the dumb things leaders do. I thought I would start with the dumbest thing any Christian leader can do, and sadly, it’s something almost all of us have done. We make ministry an idol. We make ministry our god, and displace Jesus of Nazareth. 1 John 5.21 tells us to keep ourselves from idols, and sadly, ministering to and serving others can easily become an idol. The NLT says to keep away from anything that might take the place of God in your heart. That is what we need to do.

We get so busy doing ministry, we forget to spend time with the Lord, we forget to spend time worshipping, fellowshipping, listening, learning, reading and feeding the Word of God. As the leader then loses their sweet walk with Jesus, ministry becomes the centre of their thoughts, their love, their time, their everything. That is a terrible place to be in.

Some signs that we have replaced Jesus in the number one place in our hearts with our ministry:

  • We are never sitting down listening to another preacher. We go to the conference, soar in, do our bit and soar out again. We never listen to a CD of anyone else.
  • We cannot delegate to others well
  • We cannot and do not worship, we find people to help and things to do during the worship part of the service.
  • We get obsessed with results and lose our joy and gratitude
  • We are not “there” when we are with our spouses and children.
  • We have this sense of always running on the fumes, just constantly giving and never receiving.
  • We becoming uncorrectable. When people tell us the mistake we are making, it cannot get through to us

Ministry is awesome, it really is. Being chosen by Jesus Christ of Nazareth to feed His sheep and help His people is a true honour and a glorious thing. But ministry cannot meet your needs – only Jesus can. I have seen more than one minister minister because when people appreciate them it meets a deep need for appreciation. Other people have the need to be in control, the need to be in charge, the need to be needed. John Maxwell once said “People who need people cannot lead people”. All of us, especially leaders, need to turn to Jesus for our acceptance, our love, our sense of worth, not our ministry. Or else you will fail as a leader, you will become either a spineless people-please or go the other way and become an angry prophet, convinced of your own press releases and utterly unteachable or changeable.

We need to have Jesus in the highest place in our heart, not our ministry. We need to look to Jesus for our place of rest, not our ministry. We need to get our identity from Jesus, not our ministry, not what we do.

Some people sadly make idols of their spiritual leaders – they put a Bible teacher or TV minister in the place of Jesus Christ, and that is idolatry. But, if the leader is a good leader – then they will lead that person to lean on Jesus rather than them. They will consistently point to Jesus and lead people to the Chief Shepherd. But when a leader idolizes himself, then who can lead them out of it? It’s not easy! And it will lead to pain. If you are a Christian leader and you have enough humility and self-awareness to realize you are idolizing ministry and gaining your strength and identity from what you do, not who you are – then it is time to fix it.

  • First of all, realize it is an issue and repent before God. Tell Him honestly what the issues are and start to ask the Lord for wisdom. Turn to the Lord!
  • Second of all, make sure you are praying and in the Word not just to prepare sermons, but to feed yourself. Start to spend time with the Lord just because! If you need to take time off from ministry, take that time off, it’s important. If you think the world will fall apart if you rest, that is a sign of how back the problem is.
  • Thirdly, make sure you have ministers in your life who have gone further than you speaking into your life and ministering to you. Regularly press pause on life and learn from others.

Create a Better Future for Others 05: Unveil God’s Will to People

UNVEILED — ReyNaz Church

If you are a leader of people, especially in a church context, one of the questions that many people will ask you is this: why am I here? They may re-phrase it, what is my purpose, what has God called me to do, what should I do for the rest of my life. But is all comes back to this: what is God’s will for my life?

Hopefully you have asked those questions yourself and you are serving God’s people and in ministry because you are aware that you are called by God and that it is God’s will for you to be doing this. It is good to be able to answer that question yourself, but you have to be able to help others’ find their answers too.

It’s great to be able to tell people (truthfully – because this is how God has designed it) that they can do something great with their life, that God has designed them to be champions, that they can create something on planet earth that is both unique and worthwhile. But people will still want to know – well, that’s great, but what exactly has God called me to do?

We all start off with remarkable potential, some of us are blessed with great parents and teachers who have given us divine principles from a very early age. We are then fed a wealth of information what other people have discovered and we can find out – hey, I excel at this, I enjoy this, I don’t like this, I want to do something like this when I am older. And then we use that information to do something. But we can learn spiritual principles too and start doing something spiritual – and find out what is not just a job we can do and enjoy – but God’s will for our life – that life is the best life of all.

It is not our job as spiritual leaders to tell people what God’s will for their life is. It is not our job to tell people what job to take, what career path to follow, who to marry, where to live. It is our job to raise their thinking so they are seeking the Lord and His kingdom first so that they answer these questions according to the Spirit, not the flesh. People can find a success in the world using their fleshly strength, but it will always fade. We need more than success in life, we need significance, and that only comes when we are plugging into the Lord.

We need to teach people:

  • To seek the Lord’s will first. Do not marry the first pretty girl (or guy) that comes along, but use Biblical principles. Is this person a believer, are they plugged into local church, do they tithe? Help people see the principles that must be asked before making big decisions. People will move house to towns with no good church for a payrise, because money is their God not Jesus! Help people put Jesus first!
  • To learn to hear God, firstly in His Word, then by the Spirit of God. We need to train people to not move outside of God’s peace.
  • To reject carnal expectations. What God has called someone to do, might not be what daddy wants them to do, it might not be the image that has been pushed on them all their life.
  • Help people dream big. God’s plan for our lives is big, it’s exclusive, it’s unique, it’s grand, it’s impressive. When people start thinking thoughts like that, they are much more likely to encounter God’s dream for their life.
  • Help people hold earthly things lightly. In Heaven, there is no reward for the most Facebook likes, the biggest car, or any of the things we use to imagine we are successful in the world. What makes us a success is learning to live above those measurements and measure ourselves by God’s kingdom.
  • Teach people be themselves. I don’t mean act on every impulse you have, no matter how attention seeking, petty or foolish. I mean you find out who you really are, what you are designed to do, and walk in victory. There is unique brilliance inside all of us. There is something inside you that makes you special, weighty, mature, a life-changer. Find out what that is, and get involved with it.
  • Teach people that wherever they are on their journey, they are never too big to serve. Do this by example and by precept.
  • Finally help people see that life is not all about themselves, it is about helping and serving others, it is about walking in victory so that you can share the rewards of that victory with others. Help people get their vision beyond the end of their own nose and they will learn so much wisdom.

Create a Better Future for Others 04: Teach People to Dream

You're Teaching me to Dream Again | His Name, His Renown

We are in the middle of a series on how to make a better future for others. In the first post, I outlined six things that every leader needs to get involved in to help others have a better future. In the second post, I said we need to first take care of ourselves, and in the last post, I talked about unleashing the dreams inside others.

Today, I want to show you how to teach others to dream. This is essential for building a better future for people – you have not just to urge them to dream, but teach them how to dream. People in our world do not know how to dream, they do not know how to use their imagination. Many Christians are still nervous to use their imaginations.

Whenever we counsel people, teach people, pastor people we must help them use their imagination better. Dealing with a poor person, teach them how to dream of having stuff. Dealing with a sick person, teach them to dream of being healed. (Want a bigger church? Dream!)

How Can We Teach People to Dream?

This is what we need to teach people so they can dream big and walk in their dreams:

  • Do Not Stop Dreaming until You are Filled with Joy. If your dreams do not fill you with joy, you are not dreaming enough. If you are not more excited by your dreams than you are depressed by your circumstances, you are spending too much time thinking about your circumstances and far far too little time dreaming. Do not be afraid to tell people to dream more.
  • Replay your dreams daily. This has to become something you do daily to make it work. You eat daily, you sleep daily, you should be praying and reading your Bible daily. For dreaming to work it must be daily – your circumstances assault your mind daily, you need to force your mind to see new, positive images daily.
  • Every Sense Should be Used in Your Dreaming. What can you see? What can you hear? What does your new car smell like? What does being able to move freely look like? Be aggressive in making your dreams as vivid as possible.
  • Act like the dream will come to pass. You must start adding some works to your faith. Act like your dream is so, rejoice like it is so, give like it is so, love like it is so.
  • Make Your Dreams as Specific as Possible. Dreaming of preaching to hundreds and thousands of people? Where in the world? What venue? Dream as specific as possible. Dreaming of a new car? What kind of car? Teach people to dream specific dreams.

Train your people to dream. That is essential to help your people have a glorious future.

Create a Better Future for Others 03: Unleash the Dreams that Others Have

Revisiting Disney: Sleeping Beauty

We are talking about creating a better future for others. It’s so important as leaders that we lead people to a better future. In our last post we talked about self-development. It’s so important you work on yourself! Now, let’s learn how to work on others!

Everyone you meet has a dream. Deep inside them, they are creative and confident, they want to make the world a better place, they want to help people. They want to have healthy friendships, they want to be heroes, they want to produce. It is your job as a leader to unleash those dreams. To connect people to hope, to encourage them to verbalize what is inside their heart, to bring them refreshments in the middle of storms, to challenge them to keep going when they are walking through the valley of death. You need to help people realize they are unlimited in their potential, full of life, one spririt with Christ and that they can win every battle.

You are the Prince Charming that has to kiss the Sleeping Beauty of their dreams and wake them up! You have four tasks to help do this:

Keep Working on Yourself. In our last post, I said that, and here is the joy of it – as you start to work on yourself and bear fruit, people will like you, respect you and eventually want to be like you. That makes it easier to influence them, easier to encourage them in their dreams. You are walking in your dreams, that makes people confident that you can help them walk in their dreams. When people watch you beat Goliath, then they are confident you can train them! It’s so important you keep sweet with the Lord, constantly learning and developing.

Identify the Identity Leaks. All people have identity leaks. They hear that they are righteous, they hear that they are blessed, and they start to get it, but they have identity leaks. An old “friend” who always puts them down, a situation that makes them revert back to their old mind, a trigger for their past and weakness. Help give them Scriptures to meditate on, help them use their imagination to see who they really are, to start to dream bigger, and to plug those leaks.

Speak Words of Life over them and get them to speak them over themselves. Every good leader must bless their people. One of the differences between a teacher and a father is that a teacher teaches the lesson to the student, but the father speaking blessings over the son. The father wants the son to pass! You should want the people in your church to succeed. Speak life over them, and train them to speak life over themselves. Train them to make declaration of life, of being blessed, of walking in victory.

Stretch People by moving them from their comfort zones. People need to be able to see beyond their horizon. They need to know they are not turkeys, they are eagles, but that is not enough – you also have to push them to fly. Sometimes you have to throw people out of the nest into the sky. Sometimes you have to push them off a cliff and go “fly” – you have to stretch people to soar. You have to demand to the best of your ability, and as sweetly as you can, push people to dream larger than what they see right now.

That stretching hurts people – they have to give up the views that they grew up with all their life and that will cause strife with their tribe, as they give up the grounded, limited views and develop life-giving views that give power and life! People can lose friends, can fail, can fall apart, but you keep stretching them, keep speaking over them, keep plugging the identity leaks and above all keep working on yourself.