Dealing With Worry 01: What is Worry?

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Welcome to the Dream Academy. We are here to help you walk in your dreams through motivation, teaching, inspiration and challenge.

Today is #teachingtuesday, and we are going to start a series on dealing with worry. Worry is one of the biggest dream-killers that exists. You need to learn how to identify and deal with worry.

The English word worry actually has its roots in the word “strangle”, which is one of the most powerful descriptions of what worry does to you – it strangles the life out of you. It sucks the life and peace and joy out of you and stops you from moving forward and walking in your dreams.

Worry can easily become an obsession in your life – you look at a situation, a problem, a fear, and you obsess over it, you look at every aspect of it, you analyse every potential situation that could happen, and you end up making mountains out of molehills.

Worry is not just in your mind though, it starts to affect your body. You start to get hot-and-bothered, you start to feel sick. Even if the chances of something happening is next to nothing, we can still worry about it to the point that we cannot function. This is something we have to function.

Worry is a force of destruction. It will mess up your mind and body. It is not healthy. It is not something we should be permitting in your life.

One of the things I want to teach you about in this #teachingtuesday series is how to tell the difference between worry and faith. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will speak to us about something – for example, the Holy Spirit might tell you that one of your children is facing a problem. That’s not worry, that’s the witness of the Spirit. You have to listen to the Comforter when He tells you there is a problem, so you can bring the Word of God in prayer to that problem; and you have to realize that is not worry – worry never brings the Word of God into a situation and has no comfort. Some people are so anxious that even the witness of the Spirit is turned into worry by their mind, rather than turned into prayer in the Spirit.

The opposite of worry is hope. When you have hope, in God, in your ability to win, in your future, then you start to feel at ease. Sometimes hope and worry exist in our mind together at the same time, and that can be hard to deal with. We will spend some time learning how to control our thinking and deal with worry forever.

Now this is a simple introduction to the topic, and we will go in depth in the next few weeks in our dream academy. Consider this module 1. But the fact is some of you reading this cannot wait 4-8 weeks to learn more to deal with worry, because right now it is paralysing your mind. So let me give you the condensed version of how to deal with worry right now:

  1. Change what you are listening to. Words paint the pictures in your mind, so change what words you are hearing to change those pictures. Spend time listening to people who bring hope and life to you.
  2. The natural enemy of worry is love. The more you think about how much you are loved by God, by people, by friends and family, the more worry loses its ability to conquer you.
  3. A spoken word always beats a thought. When your thoughts lead you to a dark place, start talking light and life. Start saying how awesome you are, and how you are going to win and conquer and be a champion. Start speaking your dreams and you will walk in your dreams.

If you start to take that advice, you can deal with worry forever! But keep coming back and reading as we will unpack all this advice and give you some really practical help on how to deal with worry.

Role of the Pastor 3: To Divide Seas

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Part of your ministry as a pastor is to lead the people to green pastures and still waters.  You need to take your people out of the wilderness and into the land flowing with milk and honey, a land of abundance and peace.  This is part of being a shepherd to your people.  If you don’t have a destination, you don’t have a destiny.  The word “destin-y” means the path to your “destin-ation”.  At the Tree of Life Church, we talk about dreams, schemes and themes.  Dreams are our destination – where we are going.  Schemes are our plan to get there, and themes are the plan to take the next step.  We can’t sit down and dream, we have to dream while we walk.

However, sometimes leading people somewhere is hard for them.  There are obstacles in their way – wild seas that they cannot cross. As a pastor, you are called to be like Moses: “But you, lift up thy rod and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14.15 and 16).

Part of your role is to ensure the path to the promised land is visible and tangible to the people.  A true shepherd loves the sheep and wants the sheep to have abundance and success, and so they find out from God what actions make a way for people to get into the promised land.

You must learn how to make a way for people where there seems to be no way.  This could cover all sorts of things – once a man in our church said he was going to leave our church and find another one.  I asked why, and was there anything I could do to change his mind.  He told me no because his house was too far from our church.  So the next day, in the evening I jumped in my car and drove to his house.  I knocked on the door and when it opened I said “it’s not that far”.  By making that journey, he saw the journey wasn’t that far.  As a pastor, I made a way where he couldn’t see a way.  If you can visit them, they cannot think that their house is too far for them to come to you!  If people realize they are not too far for you to visit, they will feel safer at the church.

You need to split the seas that stop people from getting married in your church.  Don’t just look at someone all sad when they complain about their singleness – teach them how to find a marriage partner.  Teach them what kind of person to look for.  Teach them the warning signs that show they are about to marry a loser.  Help people notice one another in the church as well!

Teach people that they can find good marriage partners within the church, it brings great stability when people marry in the church. I’m not saying play Cupid, I’m not saying force people to get married, I’m certainly not saying prophesy marriage, or even promise a happy marriage.  Marriage is hard work, and if you force people to get married they will hate you!  But seriously, make a way – part some seas.

You need to part seas when it comes to finding work for people.   Teach your people how to find work, how to work hard, how to succeed in a job.  You also need to help people find work – if someone in the church is an employer, then talk to them about a sheep that needs some employment.  Sometimes the person you recommend will embarrass you, but don’t let that get in the way of you being a sea-splitter!  It’s not enough for you to preach about crossing seas, you have to make a way!

You need to part the seas of attendance.  You might have to change a meeting time or a rehearsal time for one person.  We just changed the dates of our summer conference for just a handful of people – it’s called being a sea-splitter.  The year before the conference wasn’t during the school holidays of every London borough and so certain people could not attend, and I failed in my sea-splitting ministry.  At the end of the conference, I vowed not again – and now I am embracing making a way for people to attend.  Make things convenient for people.  In London you have to start meetings a bit later because some people work later.  That is a sea splitter!

If you struggle with this: try having less meetings.  Meet your people on Sunday.  They are there anyway, so have your leader’s meetings, your deacon’s meetings and your children’s workers meetings on a Sunday after church rather than make people come out another time in the week.  Don’t make someone travel twice when they could travel once.  It took a while for me to see this clearly, I will admit, but this is part of your ministry as a pastor: make a way.  

Listen – people always make excuses.  Deal with them:

“Your church service is too long” – “How long is your favourite film?”

“The church is too far from my house” – “How long is your daily commute to work?”

“I don’t have shoes” – “I will buy you some shoes”

You need to part seas when it comes to growing up.  Everyone in your church needs to know there is a pathway forward for them growing up.  Teach them how to read the Bible for themselves, give them a place where they can ask questions, point them in the direction of good articles, good teachers, good books.  I am always giving books to my leaders – because I want them to grow.  I want people to see a clear path.  How to flow in the gifts, how to behave in church.  It all needs to be made clear.

You need to part seas when it comes to a place of significance.  Everyone in your church needs to know there is a clear path for them to be a significant part of the church.  Encourage people to join small groups, to serve on the rota and to give generously to the church.  Explain that doing these things makes the people pillars in the church – people who the church cannot do without.  And whenever people get saved and healed – they made it happen!

You need to part the seas of ministry as well.  Don’t hold onto the ministry too tightly.  Delegate.  Have a short mini-preach before the sermon so people can get used to standing up in front of people, give people small groups to run, let people preach in the satellite churches (and lead worship) so they can get used to what they are doing.  Make a way for people to enter into their ministerial dreams. We have invested so much in ensuring Charis Bible College London happens for example, not just because it’s great to have a Charis on the doorstep (hence, being a sea splitter for people who want to go to college) but so that the people who run the college are now walking in their dreams, being a sea splitter for them.

If you are a pastor, you are a sea splitter. Get used to it, and get doing it!

5 Ways to Grow Your Church in 2014

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I am currently – yes, on New Year’s Day – completing our church’s charity return for 2011-2012.  I am currently compiling data from December 2011, which is two whole years ago.  We are now running at 3 times as many people, 4 times as much income, and 5 times as many volunteers.  That’s not bad.  If we manage that again in the next 2 years, by December 2015 we will be a church just under 400, with more than enough money to purchase our own building.  

Do I think I can reach that target?  Actually, I think I can smash it.  I know a lot more about church growth than I did 2 years ago, and I will know a lot more in 2 years time.  So this post is for church leaders looking to see growth in their churches in 2014.  5 simple steps anyone can take that will almost guarantee an increase in people.

1.  Start Counting How Many People You Have in Church every Sunday.

Don’t guess, don’t estimate.  Count.  Get a clicker if you have to (you could get one here).  Most pastors never count and never record.  When you get the numbers put them in a database of some sort.  We use Elvanto which I wholeheartedly recommend, but you could use Excel, or even a big  A board.  Knowing the numbers makes it easy to measure and notice growth.  It’s amazing but as soon as you start counting, that act of focus brings growth.

I know people will say “it’s not all about numbers”.  That depends on what you are counting.  If you are counting people who need the love and life of Jesus inside their hearts then it is all about numbers.  Each number is a person, each person is a story.

2. Throw a party.

We did this in September 2013 and it added 10 people a week to our Sunday morning services!  We just had a bring your friends to church party.  We did our best worship, I preached my best message (also the first in a series to bring people back in next week), and we had our best smilers on the doors.  Also the children’s church had a party as well, and in the service I raffled off a whole bunch of prizes.  It was a lot of fun.

It was our busiest service of the year, even Duane Sheriff and Wendell Parr did not attract the crowds that free food did.  After church we bought all the children in the service a happy meal (all 33!), and had a bring your own food but bring loads buffet after for the adults.  We just chatted and enjoyed fellowship.  That’s a simple thing to do and it works.  We are doing it again Feb 2014 and Easter 2014 and September 2014 and Christmas 2014.  Why?  It works.

3. Advertise.

We have had people come to Tree of LIfe this year due to billboards, newspaper adverts, leaflet drops and all sorts.  People criticise adverts and word-of-mouth is ALWAYS better, but it does bring people in and new people NO-ONE in the church know bring a real buzz to a Sunday assuming your church is disciples and loves new people… which brings me to point 4…

4. Create a Culture of Welcome

You can’t welcome everyone unless your church is less than 20.  Now we are running 130+ a Sunday (I know that because I counted see!), I don’t even know if anyone is new or not – it’s too many people.  So you train people to be welcoming, you have procedures to help and welcome people, you let everyone know we are family and we are expecting guests.

First impressions matter

5. Have a decent and up-to-date website and Facebook page.  No one under 35 will come to your church without going to your website and your Facebook page.  If they have animations from 15 years ago and are inviting people to a Carol Service in 2009, those people have made their mind up about you before they even go.  If you cannot do this pay someone to do the website (if you need a guy, I have a guy) and find someone in your church under 30 and ask them to set up a church Facebook page.  

There you have it.  It won’t solve all your problems but it’s a good kick up the backside to your church that will help you be all you can be in 2014

Making Great Relationships – A Key to Fulfilling Your Destiny

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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 4: Recognizing Seeds of Disloyalty I

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It is difficult to tell who will be loyal and who will stab you into the back.  Sometimes someone will swear blind they don’t know then go on to be your best leader (like Peter), others you give all the jobs to and they then are the ones who betray you (Judas).  However, there are clues and one of the first clues is what I refer to as an independent attitude.

An independent attitude never seems to fit in with the group.  They might be a little upset at the leader, they might be annoyed at someone in the group, or just generally upset with the way the group does things.  They might have started out keen but there is something different going on now: an independent attitude has taken root.

It’s a subtle first sign to a betrayal, but it is as real as can be and you need to be able to spot it.  It could manifest in a number of ways: the pastor of a church could say “let’s all fast this Wednesday” and the person fasts Tuesday.  That sounds minor but let me tell you this: always be careful around people who take no notice of the calendar or the clock. 

This week it was independence day in Uganda.  They celebrated, we didn’t here in England.  Why?  Because we are a different nation.  We don’t follow each others’ calendars and clocks.  When people are part of the same group, they follow the same calendar.  It’s a really simple way to notice who is loyal and who is not.  Not following the calendar: it’s not a big deal, but it is the first step down a slippery slope that ends with you getting a knife to the back!

I am not against being independent and I am not against people having an independent attitude, the issue is that when you want to be part of something bigger than yourself – which is the only way to find true significance – you have to join in in such a way that you flow with the group, the church, the business, the organization.  You can’t play by your own rules and join in the big game. 

At our church, a big big part of our culture is what we call Living Churches.  They are groups that meet in the evening for a couple of hours in houses – we have 10 of these groups meeting every week and groups every weeknight.  So most weeknights I am out visiting and encouraging the groups.  I run two myself, my wife runs two, and when we are in we consider that time to be very precious family time.  So I don’t do much evening visits with people.  Some people get upset – they want me to be there for them in the evenings but they never go to a Living Church.  They are not flowing with our church.  They are not getting involved in something bigger than themselves.  An independent attitude.

It’s harder to be involved in something bigger than yourselves.  It is much harder than you can imagine.  At Tree of Life Dagenham we often have up to twenty people serving in the main service – children’s ministry, making teas, ushering, etc.  We all meet at 9am and pray for 10-15 minutes – that way we are serving like Mary out of our intimacy with the Lord, not like Martha.  It takes effort to be there for 9am, but if you can’t follow the group calendar or clock you have an independent attitude, and that leads (eventually) to disloyalty.

Does this happen in the Bible?  Yes!  Absolutely, Joab was David’s right hand man.  To use modern terms, he was the assistant pastor.  But it is clear throughout Scripture he was there doing his thing, not David’s thing.  David was a man of peace, but Joab was a task man – he missed David’s attitude and heart and went on doing his own thing.  He didn’t understand David’s vision, David’s behaviour, David’s grace – and in a fit of offense did things his own way.

Pastor Joab was nodding in the staff meeting, but went out the door and did what he wanted.  He never left David’s ministry – he enjoyed the benefits of being in the ministry but never submitted to the vision.

For example, in 2 Sam. 18.5, David is explicit to everyone: show grace and gentleness to Absalom.  Forgive him for his rebellion.  That was David’s way.

In 2 Sam. 18.12-14, Joab kills Absalom to protect David.  It looks loyal.  It looks fanatical.  But he is doing it his way, not David’s way.  This is an independent attitude – it is in the organization but doesn’t care about how the organization does things.  Worship leaders who play songs that are not on the churches’ white list, assistant pastors who preach crosswise to the pastor when he is out of church, ushers who welcome people and then tell them the latest gossip, elders who run the Living Church how they want and teach what they want the way they want.  It’s an independent attitude – and people who have one will never manage to be part of something bigger than themselves, and therefore are never significant.

An independent attitude is only a few steps away from stabbing you in the back.   In 2 Sam. 12.28 Joab tells David unless you get off your backside and do what I want then I will name this town after myself.  That is one of the biggest hallmarks of an independent attitude – people with one want a name for themselves.  I remember a worship leader who wanted to lead worship but leave before the sermon started.  Forget that!  That’s an infectious attitude.  I’d rather turn the CD player on.

I’ve seen this attitude lead to branch pastors renaming the church and making it their church, I’ve seen this attitude leading elders to turn house groups into their own personal church. 

(Incidentally, that’s why some pastors hate branch churches and small groups – they are so concerned about a Joab taking over, but let me say that the rewards are always more than the risk.  Always always disciple people and release them.  For every Judas stabbing you in the back you get 11 good guys.  Ok, so one of them might always stick their foot in their mouth, two of them might be sons of thunder, one of them might be the poster boy for doubting but as you disciple and release they will work miracles and build the kingdom.  It’s worth far more than the pain of one betrayal!)

Always beware of people with independent spirits.  People who don’t follow your calendar and clock.  Church starts at 10am and they substitute that for their own personal arrival time.  Conference is August 6th-9th, but they go on holiday then even though they have known about it for a year.  People who want to name things after themselves – they run their own small group programme rather than plugging into yours.

I’m not saying any of these things are wrong, but if you keep seeing signs of independence that is not a person who is with you.  Until the signs change, don’t promote that person.  It will save you pain, it will save you loss, it will save your dreams.

For more teaching on this subject, please see our website: www.treeoflifedagenham.com/dream-killers.html

Loyalty 3: An Analysis of Loyalty

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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

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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.

 

Loyalty (part 1)

One of the most important keys in living a successful life is learning the principles behind loyalty. We live in a generation which has largely forgotten the principles of loyalty – and therefore has forgotten the keys to qualification to success.  In a day in which people denigrate local churches, rebel against legitimate authority and hate being led; it is important to grasp loyalty.

Loyalty is the number one qualification to minister. An immature person believes that gifting is the door opener to ministry, but that is not true. When you mature, you discover that faithful and loyal people are the best leaders. An immature person would think that being a nice guy makes for the best pastor, that being a skilful orator makes for the best preacher. But the Scripture could not be more clear:

IT IS REQUIRED IN STEWARDS, THAT A MAN BE FOUND FAITHFUL (LOYAL) (1 Corinthians 4.2).

The pastors in the Tree of Life Church network are not promoted for their good looks, friendly nature or preaching gifts. They are promoted because they are loyal. Loyal people are the best gifts a church can have.

Jesus said that you will know you are His disciples not by gifting or anointing but by love. Loyalty is a form of love – and people are attracted to loyal people. Church people are not blind. They are not deaf. They can tell if you are discordant. They can feel if you are disloyal. If the water is murky – the sheep will not go near it. And then you are frustrated that you are not moving forward in ministry, but you don’t know there is no crocodile in the waters unless they are still waters.

There are several manifestations of disloyalty but the main one is criticism. Disloyalty leads to you noticing and magnifying faults. In the church you find fault with the preaching, with the order of service, with the building, with the systems, with the people, with the structure of the church.

Just like Miriam became critical of Moses: it was by following Moses she got free from Egypt. It was by following Moses she was no longer a slave. It was by Moses that she was redeemed. But now all she could see was Moses’ faults and flaws. She spoke out publicly about Moses’ marriage. She criticised him out loud. Disloyalty has a voice.

“And Miriam spoke against Moses” (Numbers 12.1)

Disloyal people are like eagles’ looking for faults. Scrutinizing the church to find fault. They create an atmosphere that can break a church into pieces. Disloyalty can destroy a church faster than anything else.  If people are insecure and aren’t comfortable in a place, they will rather than look at themselves and challenge themselves will look for someone to blame.  That happens a lot in churches – if you are pastor, don’t beat yourself up over it.  Don’t try and please everyone – that’s called the number one way to ensure you never have a church over 100.  People will always threaten to leave if you take their ministry away, change to songs they don’t like, or lead them forward.

Your point of view depends on your viewpoint. If you are looking for faults you will find them. If you are looking with critical eyes you will always find something to criticise. If you look with loving eyes, you will always find something to love.

Absalom could only see the deficiencies of David’s kingship. But the problem was in his eyes. 

Doctors make oaths to respect their teachers, but people in churches sometimes get a little success and a little promotion and forget who loved them there, who helped them there, who taught them what they know. The deception of disloyalty is that it makes people think they don’t need leadership anymore, that they don’t need help, that God’s structures don’t work because of a small problem in the system.

Our goal in the Tree of Life Church is to create a culture of loyalty. That we all have a reverence and genuine love for leadership. That we grasp what it takes to move forward as the body of Christ.

So, how can we develop that culture. Here are three simple keys that will help you develop a culture of loyalty:

1. The NORTH WIND face

“The north wind drives away rain; so does an angry face drive away a biting tongue” (Proverbs 25.23)

The first key is when you hear someone biting, someone running down the church, the leaders, the people, the building, the service: give them a facial expression that shuts them up. Show someone clearly you are not interested in their gossip and their conversation. This will deter most of the problem straight away. This will create a culture of loyalty and unity. If people realize disloyal talk is not welcome, then they will cease from it.

Sometimes disloyal talk is about flattering you to put someone else down. Don’t fall for it. “Oh the only reason I am at this church is because of you” is nice to hear but it will puff you up and divide the church. Give them a withering look. It works!

They said of David he killed his tens of thousands when he had only killed one. Don’t fall for your own press! 

Gossip is a KILLER.  We still haven’t accepted it, we still don’t believe it.  We happily roast people for dinner and happy go out for coffee and feast on the bones of our colleagues, family and church members.

2. Don’t go somewhere your heart isn’t in

If you are in a church, especially if in leadership, and your heart isn’t in it, remove your body as well. It helps! You can’t change a church from within, you can only split it!

“A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENS THE WHOLE LUMP” (1 Cor. 5.6)

One disgruntled elder can pollute the whole church. Never manipulate people to stay in your Living Church, in your group, in the Tree of Life if their heart is gone. Let them go. It’s that simple.

Some pastors are too soft to remove disloyal, grumbling, divisive people. They don’t protect the sheep from being polluted. 

I’m not talking about leaving because you are having a carnal fit.  People do that to churches all the time.  I’m talking about you know the vision isn’t your vision but you are there to “help” the leadership.  Get over yourself – God has a place for you where you will fit in – it won’t be perfect but it will be real.  Most people don’t leave when their visions clash, but hold on until they are well and truly offended, storm off and never go to church again.  Get a grip – harness those emotions and realize who you are!

3. Set fire to some stuff

In Acts 28 they built a fire, and a snake came out of the fire when it was lit. They picked up a snake thinking it was a harmless stick. But when the fire came the snake jumped out.

Some people look lovely and harmless and wonderful, but when fire comes you find out they are snakes. You change a procedure, ban a certain song, don’t let them lead something the way they want to and they bite. Trials and difficulties reveal people’s nature. The truth is that anyone who wants to do God’s will ends up getting bitten – it happened to Jesus, to Paul, to all people. 

Do not be in a hurry to promote people. Try not promoting them – try taking their responsibilities away from them for a while. That kind of fire reveals people’s hearts. If they were disloyal because you didn’t promote them, rejoice – they would have taken the position and used it as a platform to be disloyal.

A person’s reaction to change is a revelation of their character.

These THREE things will help all of us walk in the unity that God has for us. There is a lot in this post, but if you take it to heart it will lift you and help you be all you can be.

 

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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)

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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