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 6: Training

Part of your role is training the sheep.  You will be loved for feeding them, and hated for training them.  You are responsible for training the sheep to embrace and understand the culture of your church, how to behave at church, and how to live the Christian life.  The worst pastors are the pastors that let anything go – their churches are not safe places to be.  Things will get out of line if you just leave them to their own devices.  That is a fact!

Paul asked the Christians in Corinth this pertinent question: “Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (2 Cor. 4.21).  Most of the time you come to the sheep in love and with meekness, but there are times you have to lay down the law.

You have to purge certain tendencies and ideas out of your church.  If your sheep think you are a weak leader, then you will be exploited by your church, and taken for a ride more than once.

Many years ago, I was at a church once where the pastor called a young man to the front of the church.  It was a mid-week meeting, and I didn’t really know the church.  I thought they were going to honour the guy in some way, and to be honest, the guy looked like he did too.  But the pastor said “This young man is a thief and a liar, he has conned several people in the church by doing this and that.  Look at him, and do not be conned by him.  He has seduced several ladies in the church and blackmailed them and stolen from them.”  I was stunned, but the church applauded – they knew people that had been hurt by this man, and who had lost property to his con.  There as a young man, I learned the power of strong leadership to protect the sheep. You cannot let people come to your church and just do whatever they want. 

I was once physically removing a young man from a youth meeting for continually making sexually offensive comments to the young ladies, I was the youth pastor in that church.  The senior pastor saw me doing it and told me to be a bit more gentle.  When I explained what the young man had done, the senior pastor told me to be a little more rough!

1 Cor. 5.6-7 is clear: Know ye not that a little leaven leaventh the whole lump?  Purge out therefore the old leaven.  This is so important – people will corrupt people.  Negative, whining, complaining people will infect people.  You need to train your people to reject gossip and reject whining, and reject negativity.  

To some people in your church you need to be strong, and tell them that their behaviour was disappointing, was destructive, that was not healthy behaviour.  You need to have a statement of culture that you can refer to and let people know “this is not how we do things around here”.  In doing this, you do not humiliate people.  You don’t tell people off in public unless their behaviour is destructive and they have been warned privately several times (as happened in both above illustrations) – you don’t humiliate people.  Sometimes you have to be hard with people, but you never have to be harsh.

“Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out, yea, strife and reproach shall cease” (Proverbs 22.10).  Sometimes you have to correct people right out the church.  But when you do, strife and reproach stop and it is the greatest feeling on the planet.  Some people just need to leave the church, their presence is nothing but disruptive and unhelpful.  It is that simple sometimes!

But for most people, training is a much more positive experience.  Correction is one side of training, but discipleship is the other side. Three things your church should have to help train people:

1. An obvious path of training.

2. An obvious place of training.

3. An obvious reward to training.

An obvious path to training means that let’s say someone gets saved in your church, or comes from another church, they should know immediately what to do if they want to be discipled.  For us in the Tree, it’s join a small group.  We also have a 5 week course called Vision and Values where we explain our vision and values to people and that ends with us making sure that we open to door for people to be discipled.  For me, the three main areas of discipleship for new Christians or Christians that aren’t growing are: how to read the Bible yourself, how to flow in the gifts of the Spirit and how to relate to a local church – so we do training on all of that.  The courses are offered as often as we can – ideally I’d like to offer them about twice as much as we do, but that’s ongoing development of the church.

An obvious place of training is that people know where they can go if they need help.  Again at the Tree that’s our small groups – the Living Churches.  You go there and you are trained, and taught the Word and encouraged.  You can receive prayer if you need and you will grow.  Any problems and the elder running the group can help or get help.

Finally rewards for training – people like to be noticed and acknowledged, so we celebrate training, we have a pathway for becoming an elder and we have a way into serving and helping and significance in the church.  People need to feel that they are growing.

Keep a strong handle on the church, and make sure that you are making disciples.

5 Things I Want to Tell Everyone About to Pastor

5.  Work hard.  Don’t be that guy who is last to church, preaches, let’s everyone else take the slack, ducks out early.  Seriously – just don’t.  People will tell you pastoring is hard work, and it is – but don’t become a prima donna.  Get in there and help set up the sound desk, stay late and talk to everyone, even Mrs Jones who you are convinced is going senile, be at the prayer meeting first, learn how to set the church alarm system.  Just get involved.  Serve teas and coffees.  If you are joining a team in a larger church, don’t be the slacker.  Be the hard worker.  

4. Don’t be quick to accept a church that need a pastor.  Churches between 30-70 people are cats.  They are just like cats: they will wander to you, wander away from you, they will be independent.  Do some investigation – I know you want to preach, but that’s only 1 or 2 hours a week, and you have a lot more hours to fill and the kind of church it is will make a massive difference.  If they have run off the last 3 pastors in less than 2 years, you will be gone in two years.  You are not that good, No one is that good.  Find somewhere else.

3.  Your greatest asset in the church will be the dear old saints who have been walking with the Lord thirty or forty years, draw from their wisdom, find out their secrets about life in the Word and following Christ.  Your greatest liability in the church will be the dear old saints who have been not walking with the Lord thirty or forty years.  Enjoy!

2. Don’t let them mistreat your wife.  Never ever ever let them mistreat your wife.  Or children.  You will be in a greenhouse and people will be looking.  They can look, but if they throw stones, ensure they have no responsibility or future in the church until they can respect your family as an extension of you.

1. Don’t work too hard.  Pick a day of the week (I find Fridays best as it means I hit that weekend refreshed) and turn the phone off, turn the interwebs off, and enjoy.  Let nothing interrupt that day off.  If you want to read, read; if you want to watch a DVD, watch a DVD.  Go out for lunch, don’t cook.  Have a day off every week and rest.

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

Loyalty 8: Signs of Disloyalty 5 – the Backstab

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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!

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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

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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 6… Signs of Disloyalty 3: Criticism

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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 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!