Loyalty 8: Signs of Disloyalty 5 – the Backstab

Image

This is the final posting on signs of disloyalty, but there will be a couple more posts on the concepts and the importance of loyalty coming up!  My name is Benjamin Conway, and I pastor the Tree of Life Church, and you are going to have a great time reading this blog!

So far we have looked at the signs of disloyalty, and found out that it starts small – with independence, then with some passivity, then criticisms, then it starts to leak out as the person becomes a church politician and tries to build a power base based entirely on criticism and negativity.  This is not pie in the sky – these things happen in businesses, in families, in churches all the time.  We need to be prepared and we need to be aware.  The Holy Spirit is a gentle dove, not an ostrich that puts its head in the sand and pretends problems are not there.  The reason we have to spot the signs of disloyalty – the subtle independence as someone doesn’t do your study, but their study; the passive person who suddenly drops off all the rotas, the person who “is only trying to help” but is just ripping down everything the people who are working are doing, and then the person mingling around the church during the teas on a Sunday letting everyone know they are not as happy as they used to be – is because disloyalty ends up with a backstab.

Just like a kettle that is getting warmer and starting to steam will eventually boil over, disloyalty that starts with passivity if not checked will end up with a backstab.

This is the final stage of disloyalty – you will be betrayed.  When the person gets enough of a power base they think they can do something about it, they will start to attack you openly.  There are three different ways this attack will come:

1.  An attack on your capability

2.  An attack on your character

3.  An attack on your credibility

The first one is about your ability to lead and run the church.  People will point out the mistakes you have made (if you are part of a successful, growing ministry you will have made mistakes, you will have taken risks some of which won’t have worked, you will have made mistakes.  That’s what people doing things do.  Passive people never made mistakes because they are risking nothing, doing nothing, reaching no-one, helping nobody, and doing no good for the kingdom), will harp on about money they feel was squandered because an outreach programme didn’t work, will claim that you no longer are capable of making good decisions.  This is how Absalom dealt with David – every time David acted as a mediator, 

The second attack that offended, religious people make is against your character.  They will tell you that you don’t pray enough, don’t read the Bible enough, that you don’t give enough, that you are unloving, that you are too mean, too harsh, too soft.  What generally happens is people find things about your personality and attack them as if they were a character flaw.  Character is about integrity, personality is about who we are.   It’s awesome that God creates everyone different – some people like comedies, others action films, other romance.  What happens is that when people want to assassinate the character of someone who has good character they attack their personality.  Some people are loud, others are quiet.  So if you are loud, they tear you apart for being abrupt, for being a party animal, too shallow, for being this and that.  If you are quiet, you are attacked for being timid, and too quiet, and not charismatic enough.  If you like a certain sport or TV programme you are called worldly, if you don’t watch sports or TV you are called a Pharisee in an ivory tower.

The third attack is your credibility.  People will just blatantly say you can’t do it – you can’t run the team, lead the church, get the ministry out of debt.  They won’t even offer evidence – they are not thinking logically they are boiling over with rage and they don’t want to have a discussion they want to have an argument.  They won’t accept any explanation for their behaviour and their opinions.

When people start making blatant attacks against your character and your personality – then everyone around has to make a choice to stay loyal or not.  This is when a church splits.  People follow the backstabber, others stay.  Others get so confused they drop out of church completely.  

If you haven’t spotted the signs before this point, and you are being backstabbed then you need to take urgent and rapid action to protect your heart and your future.  This is why we try and notice disloyalty and deal with it earlier!

But if it is at this late stage there are a number of steps you should take today:

1.  Remove the backstabber from all positions of leadership immediately.  You are not about to let this person keep having influence you give them.  In Scripture, pastors appoint elders not the other way around!

2.  Don’t get upset at people leaving – some of them were never with you in the first place.  Better you know that now.  Focus on those who stay.  Show them love, preach life and grace to them, help them walk in victory.  Keep going for their sake.

3.  Deal with bitterness.  Get rid of it.  Forgive the backstabber.  Love them to pieces.

4.  Don’t let them back into your inner sanctum of friends again.  Not after a significant amount of time and proving.  They can be welcome in the church if you feel comfortable, but keep a fence between you and them.  Don’t give them the bullets to shoot you with.

If you need any help dealing with backstabbers – or you have experience or wisdom you want to share please comment below!

Grace and peace,

Benjamin

 

Loyalty 7: Signs of Disloyalty 4: POLITICS!

Image

The next stage of disloyalty after turning critical is turning political.  Political people damage a church and need to be handled carefully and firmly.  You know when you are boiling a kettle, before it boils over you see and hear the steam escaping.  That is the political stage – it doesn’t boil over yet, but it will start to be noticeable.  Remember the Bible is clear: a bitter root is infectious (Hebrews 12.15).

It amazes me when someone comes to me and says “Do you know Brother X?  He is getting a little disheartened at church.”  I wonder why Brother X told that person, I wonder why that person didn’t challenge them, and I wonder why that person is telling me.  The answer is that people just before they betray a church get involved in church politics.  A church without politics is a church moving forward.  If you remember the previous stages (independence, passivity and criticism) of disloyalty and offense, you will remember that before the political stage, the person has stopped helping the church and is now looking for reasons to pick the church apart.  Because misery loves company, they are looking for ways to now influence other passive and independent and critical people and build a power base in the middle of your church.

Pastor – you have spent blood, sweat and tears building the church – don’t let a donkey rip it apart by playing politics.  It is easy done!  I found when our church was 5 people no one really wanted a power base, now we are larger people want a piece of the pie.  We have had people sneak off with our elders and offer them roles in their churches, ask for secret offerings for their businesses and secret investments into their stock, people holding secret prophetic meetings because we are not prophetic enough.  People will try anything to build their power base out of your ministry rather than go into all the world and make disciples!  And the way they do it is through church politics.

After the service, where everyone else is packing, serving, cleaning and counting, you wander around infecting people.  “The preacher went on too long today”, “too harsh”, “too soft”, “worship was a bit bland today”.  The politician wants power – they want the church to accommodate them and only them.  The favourite phrase of the politician is “a lot of people are saying that…”

This process could take a lot of time.  Absalom spent two years in the passive state, doing nothing in the kingdom, then suddenly became a politician (see 2 Sam. 15.3) visiting people that the king could not help and told them “it’s a pity the king has no time for you”, “it’s a pity he is not taking care of you.”  Politicians tell people what they want to hear: “David’s getting older, finding it tough to cope, just a figurehead…”

It happens in churches: “how did you find the service?  I thought it was dry today”, “as a faith church, you’d think there’d be some miracles today”, “our pastor works a little hard”.  It’s infectious.  They make their snide comments as a way to disparage other people from loyalty, to discourage them from serving.  To build their own power base.

A politician will go around the church seeking who they can devour… seeking who they can influence.  You need to teach your people how to resist politicians.  You need to resist them yourself! 

There are a number of ways to deal with politicians.  Here are three:

1. The North Wind Face

Read Proverbs 25.23.   It says that as the north wind drives away rain, an angry face can drive away criticism.  You can drive away small, infectious thoughts with one angry face.  You need a face that says “I am not going down that line”.   People start to come out with their political lines, give them the northwind face.  As a young man in a charismatic church I was sitting next to my house group leader, one of the kindest people I have ever met.  At the end of the service, the pastor – who had started the church in his house and taken it up to hundreds, took a second offering.  Being a Baptist boy, the idea of a second offering offended me and I started to get offended and disloyal.  I turned to my house group leader and said to her “what’s he taking a second offering for”.  My tone was critical, my question was disloyal.  Well, this lady looked at me and glared.  Her face said about 4 pages – and the largest type in the four pages was “who are you to ask such a question?”… her northwind face drove away all my critical attitude.  You need a face like that!

2. Fire Test

In Acts 28.3, a viper jumped out the fire and bit Paul.  How did the viper get in the fire?  The fire was made of sticks, and the viper in the cold would have been sleeping and looked similar to a stick.  It wasn’t until the fire started that its true nature was revealed.  Vipers look harmless until the fire starts!

Time is a good fire – test people with time.  Let’s you know who the snakes are.  Difficult circumstances is a good fire.  Change is a good fire – change some procedures and that will show you who is a snake in disguise as a stick.

Be wary of promoting or devoting to people who have never been in a fire – you don’t really know them.

3. Teaching Like This!

We need to explain to people that as they warm up that they are in danger of boiling over and let them know how to deal with this.  Let them know at the danger of offense is that it stops you dreaming big because it floods your thoughts with small thoughts.

Some people don’t like me teaching on loyalty.  Some pastors say not to do it, then they get stabbed in the back.  Let’s not sweep stuff under the carpet, let’s deal with this and create a place where people are free from politics and free from disloyal, offended, critical, passive, independent church politicians.

Making Great Relationships – A Key to Fulfilling Your Destiny

Image

Hi there, my name is Benjamin Conway and I am the pastor of Tree of Life Church, and the founder of the Tree of Life Network.  Every week I pen a Bible study for our elders to use in their homes to disciple and lead people into walking in their dreams.  This week I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to put the study online with the small group questions.  Hope you are blessed with this.  If this does help you, consider sharing it so others can also be inspired and challenged.

Poor relationships don’t destroy your walking in your dreams – your unwillingness or ignorance on how to deal with them does.  1 Cor. 15.33 says that “bad company corrupts good character.”  In terms of our dreams, there are people that help you dream big and people who don’t.  The bad crowd will corrupt you, and this word means to take away purity.  Your dreams are pure – they are holy and come from God and are just God’s voice to you.  Someone will come along and contaminate your dreams with one sentence: you can’t be called to that, you’ll never get over that, you can’t enjoy that, people from round here don’t achieve that.  Then suddenly all your mental energy is dealing with that 1 tiny thought rather than soaring with your dreams.

So how do we deal with this?  Obviously, we cannot lock ourselves away from the world.  Firstly, we must be very careful who we share our dreams with.

In Matthew 7.6 (read it), Jesus says don’t give the pure to the dogs.  Dogs in the culture of the Hebrews and Greeks represented impurity and a lack of cleanliness.  If you give a dog a bone, they will bite it.  If you give a dog your dream they will bite it.  Dogs are territorial, they are nice until you invade their space then they attack.  Having a big dream invades people’s space: they are psyching themselves up to enduring the next 30 years in the office, you are dreaming of launching your own company.  They are dreaming of surviving the world as a Christian, you are dreaming of going into nations and changing lives.  You invade their small territory when you share your big dream and you make them turn on you.

Jesus then says “don’t show your pearls off to swine”.  First dogs now pigs!  The problem with pigs and pearls is that pigs don’t know the value of anything.  They will trample your dreams because they don’t know the value of reading the Word, being in a strong church, living for God, ministering life, being the head and not the tail, confessing the Word.  So they will tear you apart.  Pigs only get what they can eat or roll in.  So they see a pearl they crush it – then they attack you for having something they see as worthless.

So – who should you share your dreams with?  I believe everyone needs a mentor (or two), a peer (or some) and a mentee (or a dozen).  These three healthy relationships will give you a place to share your dreams, meditate your dreams, be challenged, inspired and encouraged and walk in your dreams.  Throughout the Bible, people had good healthy relationships: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy, Peter and John, James and John, Jesus and Peter.  Businesses around the world are copying mentorship but the idea comes right from the Bible.

Your success in life – is about walking down a path.  Easiest way to get somewhere is to follow someone who has been there.  That is what a mentor does – they are walking in their dreams and there is a significant overlap with their dreams and yours.  They will support your dream.  Proverbs 13.20 says that by “walking with the wise, you become wise” – so make sure your mentors are proven to be wise:  They have success in front of them.  They have dealt with enemies, they have killed the dream killers, navigated the difficult path and now they can impart wisdom to you.

This person may or may not be a friend – friends love your past, mentors love your future.  Friends overlook weaknesses, mentors challenge weaknesses.  Not cheerleader, but the coach. 

Avoid the DOGS and PIGS and get someone who can see further than you in your life.  The more awesome the mentor, the more awesome you can end up.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD MENTOR?

1. A person with a good track record- A track record clearly shows us what the person has achieved or accomplished. This does not mean that they will have a perfect track record, meaning they will have experienced failures and made mistakes. But the overall track record should show that they have maintained their character and integrity while producing results in their field or industry. Look at the track record of a person to determine if they are worth being mentored by or not.

2. A person who stretches you- The person who mentors you should cause you to break out of your normal routines and your comfort zone. They should stretch you toward new levels of success. Proverbs 27: 17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” The sharpening of your skills and abilities only happen when you have the right people (mentors) around you. Take time to see if your potential mentor is seeking and willing to be stretched themselves. This will determine if they would be a person who will stretch you and challeng your comfort zone.

3. A person who inspires you- It’s imperative to find a mentor whose actions and attitude inspires you to be and do better. They should believe in you and have your best interest in mind. While at the same time being able to challenge (being firm or tough about) your actions, thoughts, and motives. They should know how to inspire you and discipline you, depending on the situation. Be careful about picking your mentor because they will either lift you to a new level or prevent you from reaching your maximum effectiveness and potential.

HOW DO I GET A MENTOR?

You have to pay the price to get into their presence.  The more you are around them the more you learn.  Share your heart with them – share your mistakes with them.  Tell them your dreams – and where you can’t see the future!  Be fiscally generous with them.  Follow their wisdom.    A good mentor is a shelter in the storms of life – someone who supports your dream, isn’t territorial and knows the value of things.

DON’T SHORT CIRCUIT THE MENTOR RELATIONSHIP – this is a key to absolutely fulfilling your dreams.  When you have a dream, and start stepping out into that dream, the mentor will appear!

Simple principles:

  1. Don’t hate your mentor!  People who have been where you want to go can help you – but you have to listen and apply their wisdom, you have to admit you don’t know it all.  It’s like medicine that stings – but it will make you better!
  2. Go at their pace – even if you can’t!  People who push you to do more than you think you can (remember last session – monotony and hard work) can annoy you.  You are happy being lazy and mediocre – and someone comes along and says you can do more, be more, achieve more.  If you envy someone’s success let that drive you to follow them.  Not drive you to hate them or ignore them.
  3. You learn by mentor or by mistake!  The arrogant learn through mistakes, the humble learn by mentor – they know more than me, so I will absolutely take their advice.
  4. Third parties will hate this relationship.  It will drive the dogs and pigs mad!  They will do whatever they can to destroy it.  “You going to THAT church?!” “You hanging around with that old guy again?”  “Who do you think you are?”
  5. A good mentor will never force you to learn – Jesus didn’t and you can’t … if you don’t ask the question, it will never be answered!

PEERS

Jesus sent people out in twos.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  So you have peers – people with a similar calling and similar stage of life.  I have a couple of pastors up north – who I just love.  They are my peers.  Not mentors – they haven’t been where I haven’t, but they have been where I have.

A mentor shows you the path, a peer helps you enjoy the journey!  It’s the missing ingredient in your journey!  Find some people who know what you and have been where you have been.

The mentor chews you out for missing something obvious.  It’s good to have someone else who has been chewed out the same.  It’s great to know you are not alone.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

PEERS have to be careful too:

  1. Ambition and competition can kill a peer relationship.  Certain conversations you just don’t have: for example, about how successful you are because they are not your competition.  Never correct a peer – correct a mentee, never correct a peer.  The relationship is more important – you need all the peers you can get.
  2. It needs to be a low-maintenance relationship.  That’s one where you don’t talk for weeks, months and years and you just pick off exactly where you left off.  It just doesn’t work otherwise.  It has to be a “No demand” relationship.  The mentor is high demand he tells you to march, the peer helps you stop and smell the flowers.  The mentor tells you how far to go, a good peer reminds you of how far you have come.
  3. It needs to be an agenda-less relationship.  One of the relationships I had that I considered a peer has just fizzled out – not through lack of time but through lack of respect.  They just kept asking to preach at the church.  Again and again and again and again.  That lack of respect of a peer killed the relationship – don’t use a friendship to try and get something.  People know.

Finally you need some MENTEES.  People you are helping grow.  You need to invest your life into people – yes, even you.  You know things other people do not know.   (If you want to do this in a church setting, we have a Leadership Course on Saturday 7th December at 9am-1am, let me know if you are interested).  You need to ask God for some wisdom as to who to invest in.  Some people you cannot ever help (people who don’t think they have a problem, people who think their problem is insurmountable, and people who think you are their problem).   Life isn’t about learning all you can – it’s also about serving and leading and learning.  So is church!  THERE IS A JOY IN SEEING SOMEONE ELSE STEP UP AND DO SOMETHING THEY HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE, or ACHIEVE RESULTS THEY HAVE NEVER ACHIEVED BEFORE – if you haven’t got involved in that joy before then you are missing out!  And these relationships help you realize your dreams.  Helping other people walk in their dreams is the big step to seeing your own dreams come true.  This is one of the reasons it is so important to be in Living Church.

QUESTIONS

  1. How can bad company affect your ability to dream?
    1. What kind of people was Jesus talking about when he talked about dogs and pigs?
    2. Have you ever suffered because you ignored Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 7.6?
    3. Why do you need a mentor in your life?  What makes a good mentor?  Who are your mentors?
    4. Why do you need peers?  Who makes a good peer?  Who are your peers?
    5. Why do you need mentees?  What makes good mentees?  Who are your mentees?
    6. Do you want us to agree with you for wisdom and boldness to find and cultivate healthy relationships?

 

Loyalty 6… Signs of Disloyalty 3: Criticism

Image

Hi there, my name is Benjamin Conway, and I am the pastor of Tree of Life Church in Dagenham.  We are currently looking at the topic of Loyalty – something you need to cultivate as a leader. 

As soon as someone gets to the passive stage of disloyalty (stage 2, as discussed here), you need to know that the next step is criticism.  It’s an easy step – someone gets to the stage where they are annoyed and offended to the point where they stop building the house, they are now in a position to start criticizing how the house is being built.

Someone quits the children’s ministry – not because God is leading them to a new opportunity, but because of offense.  Leave it a while because they will next start to subtly attack the children’s ministry:

“They don’t care for the kids anymore…”

“It’s too worldly…”

“It’s too religious”

“If I was still there, I would…”

They have now stopped building the wall and started ripping down the wall.  They have stopped living for the vision and started finding fault with the vision.  You can only move into the critical phase if you have first stopped working.  People on the team don’t rip the team apart – only the people who have left the team spectate and criticize the team!

When someone is critical you need to watch out – you have an explosion coming.  Now – you might not know that person is critical because they may take their criticisms elsewhere.  But you need to know that a critical person is hard to help.

At this stage, someone will ask “what about a legitimate criticism?”,  That’s a great question, and there are three simple ways to tell the difference between a legitimate criticism and a critical attitude that will lead to disloyalty.

1.  A genuine criticism can be resolved.  Let’s say you were round someone’s house and broke a lamp or something.  They may have genuine reason to criticize you.  But if you buy them a new lamp of equivalent value and style, then it has been resolved.  A critical attitude cannot be resolved.  The person is offended and nothing will make them happy.  You can try a few times but it won’t work.

2.  A genuine criticism is reasonable.  Other people can see it – if you are wise, you can hear the truth in it yourself.  A critical attitude is unreasonable.  A genuine criticism is that the sound quality at the back of the hall was not good today.  A critical attitude wants you to resign, the board to resign and all the elders to resign as they don’t have the right revelations.

3. A genuine criticism is constructive.  The person giving the criticism wants to help, wants to move things forward – they are looking for unity, restoration, progress and building.  A critical attitude is destructive – it wants to rip things apart, it wants to hurt, it wants the win.  Often people who are insecure end up in this stage quickly – the only way they can feel good about themselves is ensuring everyone else feels bad about themselves so they lay into people.

Dealing with this phase is difficult.  People are warm – they are getting hot and are ready to explode quickly and they move onto the political phase quickly.  We will discuss that next week, but let’s conclude this week with three steps to handle critical people in your church, business or camp:

1.  Don’t give them responsibility.  They have probably taken themselves out of any position that involves work in the passive stage, but now they will look for a position that involves responsibility over other performance but no actual work.  Don’t do it.  Don’t be pressured by it.  If someone explodes because you didn’t make them an elder, rejoice – they would have exploded AS an elder at some point and it’s good that didn’t happen.

2. Don’t let criticism from those with attitude get to you.  Don’t even respond to it.  You are not criticism led, you are Spirit led.  That’s a fact.  You should not even respond.  I don’t respond to emails that just tear down, I don’t respond to people who rip me apart and attack our church.  I don’t respond – not even one bit.  I don’t move, I don’t change what I am doing, I don’t fret about it, I don’t lose sleep over it.  Their behaviour is their responsibility.  Their attitude is their responsibility.  I am responsible before God to do what I am called to do.

(As an aside, Facebook is the best way to criticize me if you want to – it has a block button and everything.  It’s awesome!)

3.  Don’t fight fire with fire.  When someone comes at your with criticism, the temptation is point out that they are not all that.  It is a real temptation to tear them to pieces.  Don’t do it.  Bless those who curse you.

Loyalty 3: An Analysis of Loyalty

Image

To read part 1 of this series, click here.
To read part 2 of this series, click here.

So far, we have discussed how to stay loyal, how to engender loyalty and that loyalty truly is the number one component to a successful ministry.  Today we are going to focus on the quality of loyalty – what it looks like and how to recognize it.

The truth that everyone must realize is that if loyalty is one of the key ingredients of a successful life then loyalty will always always always be challenged and tested.  When your loyalty to someone is attacked or challenged or rocked, you need to consider what information you have, where it comes from and you also need to consider your own heart too.

Firstly, you must analyze the past.  Paul to Timothy “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1.6).  In other words, Paul said “Timmy, remember your gift comes from me and my ministry.”   Timothy was a young man in danger of deviating from his call and losing his destiny.  So Paul reminded him of the past.  You too need to consider your past.  Remember the things the Spirit has shown you.  Remember the people who prayed for you when your marriage was a mess, when you lost your job, when things looked bleak.  Most people are disloyal because they don’t think about the past. 

I will never forget how inspired I was by Will Graham, pastor of Victory Church International, as I heard him preach for the first time in August 1998.  As I heard him preach about his vision of church planting and impacting Europe for the gospel and God’s unconditional love, and having conferences that invited the entire five fold.  I fell in love with the message and I will always honour the man.  That sermon is re-played in my mind again and again.  I remember that message.  Because of that I am loyal to Will- – he is always the first person I invite to our conferences.  What you remember determines your loyalty.  If you are disloyal it is often because you have forgotten where your gifts and vision came into flame and who helped you fan the flames.

A few years ago someone told me to be careful around a certain preacher because they lacked integrity.  I laughed and told them “you don’t realize that this person is my friend, we go back a long time.”  I am not going to listen to mindless gossip about my friends – it’s called loyalty.  How do I do it?  I remember how that person has helped me, counseled me, been there at 2am when I was falling apart.  Remember who stirred your gifts up!  Remember who imparted wisdom to you!

Secondly, you need to analyze the person.  Paul told TImothy: “continue in the things you have learned… knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim. 3.14).  When people invent seditious stories and slanderous reports, think carefully about what they are saying.  Analyze the person concerned and see if it makes sense.  Someone accused me of being in ministry for the money.   If you believed that you failed to use your brain: you failed to analyze!  I had a place in five different universities to study medicine, I had a lucrative career in the city, I was offered a phenomenal job writing computer code, I was offered a place on a think tank.  There are many different ways I could have earned more money than what I do right now.   I did not give up on several awesome careers to be counting people’s pennies and making a living that way for the money – I did it because of the call on my life.  A little analysis would show this to be obvious!

Paul told Timothy: “you know my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions…” (2 Tim. 3.10f).  It amazes me when people who know you personally are swayed by someone who doesn’t know you at all.  They forget your generosity, they forget your goodness, they forget the hours you spent loving them, praying for them, how much money you gave them, how you have put up with things over and over and fixate on a bit of gossip and end up being disloyal.  Loyalty comes from analysis, disloyalty comes from a carnal reaction.  Before being disloyal, stop, think, and think again.

Nearly every minister – in fact every person – I have heard negative things about when I finally got to know them I found they were nothing like the rumours.   Get to know people personally!

Thirdly, analyze the words you hear someone speaking.  “Hold fast the sound words, which you hast heard of me” (2 Tim. 1.13).  You must always double check what you hear a pastor preaching or anyone saying to you.  Is it accurate?  Is it Biblical?  Also think about what someone is saying now compared to what they used to say – some start off on the Bible then deviate and go onto some seriously weird teachings.  When a preacher defects from the Word, you should defect from that preacher.  When the church leaves the Word (and goes into barking, clucking, screaming, shaking and whatever), then leave that church!  We have to consider people: are they honest, are they gossips, are they critical, are they mean?  Analyze!  Consider!

Analyze the people bringing rumours and gossip – are they silly, mean people? Are they living for Christ, are they ministering with life and fruit?  If not, why listen to their gossip and rumours?  Why let unfruitful people stop you being fruitful?

The reason many people are unfruitful is because they don’t stop and analyze what is going on.  They forget people, they think wrong things because they are moved by rumours and so on.  The lie runs around the world before the truth is even dressed.  The weeds grow faster than the grass – but stand on the Word, analyze what is going on and make good choices.  That way leads to success.

For more information about Benjamin Conway, please visit our Facebook page.
For more information about Tree of Life Church, please visit our website.

Stay tuned for next week’s article where we develop the theme of loyalty more and discuss the Seeds of Disloyalty and how to recognize them.  That is going to really help pastors and leaders – please let them know about this blog!

 

 

Loyalty (part 2) Fully Persuaded

Image

Last week we discussed loyalty and how to maintain loyalty in a church or organization.  Today I want to continue that thought by discussing something called “fully persuaded”.   I think most people have realized that to be a leader means to be accused.   If you are in leadership, the only way to stop them talking about you is to quit leading – so get used to it.  You have to be able to handle accusation.

If you are part of an organization you have to also be able to handle accusations made at your leaders.  It is not without good reason that the Bible says not to entertain an accusation against an elder without two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5.19).  If there is just one lone voice against a leader, ignore it.  It’s that simple.

Jesus was accused of misleading people, teaching sedition, preventing people from paying taxes, claiming to be the king, being in league with satan.  I’m not sure many of us today would have become his follower in 1st century Israel.  Paul was accused of being a pestilent fellow, a source of strife, a disturber of the peace, an antinomian, a cult leader and attempting to desecrate the temple.

If you were working with Paul you would have to be fully persuaded about his integrity and character.  Otherwise those accusations would find a hook inside you and you would lose the benefits of Paul’s leadership.  Of course this is why leaders are falsely accused – to diminish their influence, and to ensure you fail to benefit from their influence.

Can you imagine working with Paul and at the back of your mind is the idea that he is a cult leader, that you are in a cult, that he really wanted to desecrate the temple?  It wouldn’t work.  You need to be fully persuaded that Paul is an apostle of God and the messenger of grace.

People say there is no smoke without fire, forgetting that some people in any organizations (sadly, especially churches) can be human smoke machines, puffing out smoke by the gallon with no fire necessary at all.   You need to be fully persuaded that you are in the right place with the right leadership!

So, let’s start by addressing leaders with some points, then we will address the led with some more points!

5 THINGS LEADERS CAN DO TO MAKE IT EASY FOR THEIR PEOPLE TO BE FULLY PERSUADED

  1. Be open about finances.  You get a new car and someone asks “where did that come from?” Don’t reply “The Lord” – we all know that, but let people know where it came from.  Let people see that you are not skimming from the offerings.  Make sure that you are registered as a charity, and complete the appropriate paperwork to stay above board.  You don’t need to reveal where every penny is spent, but people should be aware of the broad strokes.  It makes it easier to persuade them and help them if you are accused.
  2. Be open about your vision.  A pastor recently wanted to work with me on an evangelism project.  I told him it wouldn’t work because we disagreed about too many core issues.  He lied to me about what he believed about Jesus and about the gifts of the Spirit and salvation to try and get me to work for him.  I listened to him preach and pointed out the dishonesty to him – what he preached was not what he told me he believed.  Why lie?  To get our church on board, to add some sort of weight to his campaign?  I don’t know.  But it is difficult to be persuaded to work with someone who is dishonest about their core values.  Let the church know what you are all about and where you see the church going.  Don’t tell someone “yes, we are going to have services like this” when you don’t want to.  People will see right through it.  Shout the vision, make it plain and let people decide if they are going to follow.  Presenting different visions to different people to keep them around will always bring DI-VISION!
  3. Be open in crisis times.  An elder in the church is being disruptive and rude – won’t teach what you ask, and starts insulting guest speakers and is insulting to other elders and their abilities.  When you remove that person from leadership, ensure people know it was done and why it was done.  Be open about the tough decisions you have to make, and be open as to why they are tough.  I’m not talking about gossip, I’m not talking about running someone down and getting your side of the story out.  I’m talking about being transparent about why you made certain choices.  Let people know that you have their best interests at heart.
  4. Have greater leaders than you that you are open with and honest with.  When people see that you are led too, that you are growing too, that you care about developing too, then they will trust you a lot more.  People care a lot less about knowing everything and attacking everything if they know there is a place that your struggles and your concerns are being shared and that they are being shared with someone who is wise and mature.
  5. Be open about your mistakes.  I’m not saying get in the pulpit and share every wrong selfish kill-em-all thought you ever had, I am saying that if you mess it up publically, apologize publically.  If you get shirty one Sunday before church, let people know that you did and that you know you did and that you are sorry.

It is hard in this day and age to cultivate loyalty but these steps will make it easier for people to follow you.

5 THINGS THE LED CAN DO TO HELP STAY FULLY PERSUADED AND LOYAL

  1. If the questions are too many, get out.  I am not saying here stay in a church when things are clearly dysfunctional.  Don’t do that.  If you cannot get answers or even feel that you will get them, then find somewhere else.  Get a new job or new church or whatever.
  2. Remember to stay loyal to the highest authority.  What does this mean – if your elder starts contradicting your pastor then go with the pastor and his call.  He founded and built the church.  If your branch manager is contradicting your regional manager, go with the regional manager.  If your pastor is contradicting Christ, Christ is the highest authority.  Stay with Him!  Paul said follow me as I follow Christ – that’s good advice for any leader: when they are not following Christ don’t follow them!  A good leader will say that as well.
  3. Do not withhold information from your leader.  If there is corruption going on, let people know.  If you knew sedition was going on and said nothing, you are disloyal.  Paul told the Corinthians “it is reported that there is fornication among you” (1 Corinthians 5.1) – it wasn’t a word of knowledge or a vision.  Someone told Paul the church was dysfunctional!  A good structure reports on things!  Good people let their leaders know what is going on.
  4. Base your loyalty on principles not emotions.  Most people operate in the emotional realm most of the time, and don’t operate on the basis of principle.  If you decide to be part of something you make that decision on information and principles and vision, not on the basis of emotion.  I know people who followed a youth pastor who split a church and started a new church across the road.  I asked why they would follow him when it was all clearly out of order.  They said “we know he has done wrong, but we feel sorry for him”.  I can’t think of a worse reason to be part of a church.   Those who joined Absalom’s church all died.  The angels who joined Lucifer Ministries International all became devils.  Be careful where you go and who you are loyal to.
  5. Be prepared to pay “The Loyalty Cost”.  Being loyal will cost you – friends, relationships, parties to go, and more.  Everything has a price – your salvation had a price but you didn’t have to pay it.  But every step you take in working out your great salvation will cost you.  Of course the good news is that the reward is greater than the price.  However, there is a cost to loyalty.  To be loyal to one person means you cannot be loyal to everyone.  To be loyal to one church means you cannot be loyal to every church.  I have friends I just can’t spend time with any more.  Why?  Because I am loyal to Jesus.  I am loyal to the Tree of Life Network.  Every relationship you are in either adds to you or diminishes you, and you can only choose so many.   When Moses decided to be loyal to God he lost access to the riches of Pharoah.  There are people I have lost access to their riches because I have decided to do the right thing.  Loyalty is expensive but it will always pay better than the cost.

Next week, we will look at the Analysis of Loyalty.  I hope you enjoyed this blog.  If you want to know more about Tree of Life Church, visit our website: www.treeoflifedagenham.com or follow us on Facebook.

 

The Reality Gap (part II: the danger of Idealism)

Ever been to a perfect church?  Ever heard a perfect sermon?  Ever been in a perfect time of worship?  Ever received a perfect offering?  Ever had a perfect leader’s meeting?

I doubt it.  

Nothing done on earth is perfect.  You might as well admit it as the evidence is totally in your face screaming at you.  However, many Christians are looking for a perfect church or a perfect service or perfect sermon.  The problem is that the search is futile.  It is absolutely futile.  And because you are always looking at the ideal you will never engage with the real.

I know so many Christians who don’t go to church because it’s not the perfect church, they don’t go to a mid-week group because it isn’t perfect, they won’t teach a certain study because it is not perfect, they won’t serve in a particular department because it is not perfect.

Pastors can be the same.  They never delegate their leadership because the other person won’t do it as well as them (what a guy preaching the first week ever isn’t a good as someone with 10 years experience and 5 years training?! Duh!) even though they know they need to start delegating and raising leaders.  They get upset about a time of worship because it wasn’t swinging off the chandeliers.

There are three main problems with idealism:

1. You ignore the real.  You are waiting for the perfect guitarist to join your worship group, you will miss the guy who is practising really hard, full of life and full of energy and wants to serve and honour you and the church.  Now, I’m not saying appoint the guy who doesn’t turn up at practice, turns up late, runs down the church but loves their ministry, and generally isn’t a team player and lacks the character of Christ.  That’s just bad leadership!  But don’t let the perfect blind you to the good and improving right in front of your nose.  

Remember when doing this that gifting and ability is always easier to develop than character.  Put character first when choosing leaders.  There are 16 qualifications for leaders in 1 Tim. 3, and only one of them is about gifting and ability.  Loyalty to the church and to you, a passion for Christ, a heart for evangelism and discipleship – you cannot beat those in any volunteer!

2.  Idealism paralyses you.  If you are waiting for the best time to do something, YOU WILL NEVER DO IT.  I know so many people called to plant churches waiting for the right circumstances.  It will never come, just start.  Don’t strike when the iron is hot, keep striking until the iron IS hot.  Then strike some more.  Do it, do it, do it.  That’s how you start a church.  Right now, Tree of Life Network is starting a food bank.  We don’t have a building, things are going on right now, it’s not the perfect time, but if I wait for a perfect time I will be waiting forever.  Don’t wait for the ideal time, wait for a good time and do it.  Even do it in a bad time – God is bigger than the times!

3. Idealism causes you to become negative.  You hear a sermon with 99 good points but all you think about is the 1 point you don’t agree with.  You go to a church with 99 things you agree with but all you can focus on is the 1 thing you don’t like.  Idealism means you can never sweat the small stuff.  

Now I know everything should be Biblical but the truth is that no two of us agree 100% on anything.  Some things are no negotiable but other things are really not a big deal, even with the non-negotiables, we can endure a lot of give and take if we know someone is real and we know their hearts and we know they are for us.  People come to me after church sometimes and tell me what I said wrong, and what I said they didn’t agree with.  Other people get healed, get their marriages restored, get filled with the Spirit and get lifted and encouraged.  They chose to focus on the bits that lifted them.

Beware the dangers of idealism.  Sometimes it can take you away from interacting with and engaging with reality.

 

The Reality Gap (part I: what is the Reality Gap)

Image

 

HI there,

I’m Benjamin Conway, and I am the pastor of Tree of Life Church – we meet currently in three locations across England every Sunday and we are looking to increase that rapidly!

This is our blog for leaders and church leaders.  Our blog on church life is called www.treeoflifeblog.com and you are more than welcome to swing over there and check it out.  Our network website is www.treeoflifechurch.org.uk and you can find out what is going on there!

Today I want to look at one of the things that will knock you out as a leader every time if you are not aware it is coming: I call it the Reality Gap.

Basically, the reality gap is this: nothing is quite as you imagined it; nothing is perfect; no-one is perfect; there is no perfect church; no perfect service; no perfect leader; no perfect guest speaker; nothing is perfect.

There is always a big gap between the reality and the dream.  And nowhere is that gap first realized than when you start something new.  I have had a dream to build a 3000 strong mega-church in England since I was first saved in 1996.  And when that dream was just inside my head, it was easy to believe in a mega-church.  Now I have a church of 150 in London, that reality can obscure and frustrate the dream.  I have to remind myself that I am now closer to seeing my dream fulfilled than I have ever been.

You might have a vision to start a Bible College with 150 students and 10 sign up.  Guess what?  You are closer to that vision than you have ever been.  You might have a vision to start a business that makes a million pounds and you make £4.50.  Guess what – that’s the closest you have been so far! 

Don’t let the gap between your dream and reality stop you dreaming.  NEVER let the reality gap knock you for six.  As Andrew Wommack (wisely) says: “Better to aim for the stars and hit the moon, than aim for nothing and hit nothing.”

It’s better to have a dream of winning 100 people to Christ and winning 20 than dream of winning none and completing it!  It’s better to have a dream of being out of debt by the end of 2013 and end up paying 1/2 your debt off, than doing and dreaming nothing and being more in debt than when you started.  It’s better to aim at losing 30lbs and losing 10lbs than aiming at nothing and being even podgier than when you started!

And because of the nature of ministry, we are especially vulnerable to the reality gap knocking us out and discouraging us to the point of quitting.

We launch out into the deep, expecting revival and thousands of salvations.  Instead its 5 people sitting in a living room.  You hire a hall and no one comes, and then you still have to pay the bills.  You appoint an elder then find out they never stop arguing with their wife.  You have chosen some beautiful songs for worship to have the band murder them, bury them, and exhume them and murder them a second time.  You invite a glorious guest speaker, they treat you like a second class citizen, no one comes but the chosen frozen, the people who do come tell you how much they hate your church, and then they leave with your people…

It’s hard when these things happen.  But the truth is that there will always be a reality gap.  The nature of pastoral ministry is that pastors often see the world in black and white, when it isn’t like that at all.

You expect a perfect worship service, but it just wasn’t that good.  Well – please keep in mind it wasn’t that bad either.  You leave the pulpit upset that it didn’t set the world on fire, but if it warmed a handful of people – celebrate what has happened.

You spend hundreds of pounds advertising in the local paper and only three new people came – and two of them were weirdos!  Rejoice in that – it was worth it!  

I know you have a big dream – I have one too – but I tell you the truth, the most surefire way to kill any dream is to fail to celebrate every step towards it, to fail to enjoy an imperfect execution of a God idea.  At the end of the day, we are all very much human and any church and any business will inevitably reflect that.

If you don’t grasp the reality gap, you will get angry at people who you feel are not progressing quickly enough.  That will come across in all your relationships with people, and cause all sorts of problems.

So please, please take the time to understand what a reality gap is, and take the time to adjust accordingly.

Next week, we’ll look into this more and examine the danger of idealism.

Grace and peace,

Benjamin

Planning Your Preaching (Benjamin Conway)

Planning Your Preaching!

preaching%20(1)

One of the things that I often get asked is “how can I preach better?” or “how can I preach with a better response or better results?”  The fact is that preaching the gospel is the power of God – that’s how people get saved, get healed, get transformed.  Preaching is one of the single most effective uses of your time as a pastor and leader.  It’s that simple.  There is a move in some churches today to denigrate preaching and to minimise it’s power – some people are maxing their preach time to 8 minutes.  Wow!  If you want to be soaked in the Word I believe you should take at least 45 minutes.  I preach over an hour nearly every single week because I know it’s the Word of God that lifts and transforms and builds people up.

A lot of people spend a lot of energy and effort into planning the sermon, and absolutely that is correct, but planning a single sermon is great if you are a travelling evangelist, but for pastors you need to be planning more than one week in advance.

Firstly, as the lead pastor of a church, realise that you will always be and always should be in charge of the preaching in your church.  I have been to churches (and even pastored one) where the eldership or the deaconate were in charge of the preaching calendar, the rota of speakers.  One church I know pastored a council worker to come and “preach” about how awful his wife was for divorcing him.  No!   The lead pastor of the church is in charge of the preaching.  Absolutely, ridiculously in charge of the preaching.  No one gets to preach in the pulpit unless you give the say so.  It’s that simple.  The lead pastor is the shepherd of the flock and is the guardian of the sheep.

I take that approach in Tree of Life Church.  If I ask someone to preach, I am more than happy to ask them to preach on whatever I want, I am happy to ask for their notes before they preach.  Obviously with guest speakers like Arthur Meintjes who I have heard again and again and trust to bring a complete work message, I give a lot more latitude but to a new preacher within the church, I am ridiculously careful.  Why?  Because I am accountable before God regarding what is spoken at the church.

All preaching must be brought into the bigger picture of the church.  At Tree of Life Church our bigger picture is to “inspire people to dream, to challenge people to live the dream”, so I (Benjamin Conway) have to look at my preaching every week and ask myself – am I inspiring people to dream?  Am I challenging people to live the dream?  If not, chuck it in the bin as it is not helping the Tree fulfil God’s will.

So, preparation has a massive role to play: not just preparing the message, but preparing it to fit in with the bigger picture.  Then there is the theme for the season: what are we doing as a church right now?  So at the moment (May 2013) at Tree of Life Church we are hammering home the truth that there is a lot of deception in a lot of the church and that a great deal of this deception is basically obscuring the cross of Christ.  So, every sermon preached in May will be about deception and every sermon preaching in June will be about the complete work.

You need a preaching calendar.  You need to include important dates (not just Christmas and Easter, but Valentine’s Day, New Years’ Eve and September.  When the schools return after summer, lots of people come back to church and you need a powerful series to get them energised for church).  You must have a preaching calendar.  You must not just get in the pulpit and “allow the Spirit to lead you” – it will lead to the same message week after week and your church will have no direction.

I have already penned our preaching calendar for 2014.  Our theme is “Identity” and we have 12 months in which we are going to learn about our identity as reborn human beings.  Our summer conference for 2014 is sub-titled “We are Jesus on the earth!” and will be about our identity as the image of God on earth.  In August our worship leaders are going to find songs that fit in with our identity.  Our leadership conference will be grounded in identity.

Identity inspires people to dream, so the theme of the year fits perfectly with the overall dream of the church.  This planning is so important because to fail to plan is to plan to fail: so many charismatics just give us a piece of their mind when preaching – sort of a stream of consciousness from the pulpit.  It doesn’t help.

Then when planning the month around the monthly theme, I consider what the Bible says about the monthly theme and then consider what I want the people to know.  Good teaching should give information that people don’t have and press people to make a decision they haven’t made before.  So, for example, next Sunday morning, I am preaching on how it is deception to believe that you can have a harvest without a seed.  The information I am going to give people is show them all the different ways Christians try and get a harvest without a seed, and the decision I want people to make is to sow a seed into the kingdom (not necessarily money, but an action of faith and love).  Now I know that, putting the sermon together is much easier.

Not only that there is continuity from week to week.  If another person in the church preaches, they get to know the calendar and have to fit in with it.

Any questions about preaching or sermon preparation?  Please ask them below, I will answer all of them as best I could.

(Benjamin Conway preaches 3 times nearly every weekend, in Watford, Guildford and Dagenham.  Every month over 2000 people download or stream one f his sermons online from their church website, www.treeoflifedagenham.com.  These messages are free of charge because God’s Word is free of charge.)