Making Great Relationships – A Key to Fulfilling Your Destiny

Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT MAKES A GOOD MENTOR?

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

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

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

HOW DO I GET A MENTOR?

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

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

Simple principles:

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

PEERS

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

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

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

PEERS have to be careful too:

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

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

QUESTIONS

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

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Overcoming the Mundane (or: Ministry can be boring, get over it!)

 

One of the things that happens when you become a pastor or leader, especially when you go full time, is that the things of God can become mundane.  When you see the sick healed every weekend, the novelty wears off.   When you do church every week, and a couple of new people come every week, and the church is growing every week – it can get a bit mundane.  It becomes normative, and what is normative is rarely exciting any more.

Even sharing the Word of grace and seeing lives changed and transformed becomes “the day job”.  

I used to see that feeling as something to avoid at all times – and I think that is the attitude most charismatics have.  So they try and make things novel all the time, always looking for the new thing, the new fix, the new source of revelation.  That is why you have churches going loony tunes over angel feathers, tiny diamonds appearing out of “nowhere” – even though people have been caught time and time again planting these things.  This is why there are fads like barking like a dog and having gold teeth (give me gold in the bank, Lord – not in my mouth).  That is why the drunken like crazy dimension of the grace movement is so attractive to people.  People get bored so easily.

That is why some grace teachers are now bringing the most outlandish “revelations” to people.  When they first taught the complete work it was so radical and so fresh as people suddenly realized their entire lives were built on the foundation of the sand of their effort, their blood, their tears, their sweat.  Then they found out they could build on the rock of His effort, His blood, His tears and His sweat.  They found the rest of the Lord and their lives were dramatically changed.

Once people are on that foundation – there isn’t much more dramatic change.  You are just building, one brick at a time.  An understanding of grace here, a key of how to apply it to marriage there, a piece of wisdom on how to worship: it’s all brick by brick, line upon line, precept upon precept.  It’s the lifelong task of seeing total life transformation by the renewing of the mind. 

And that process is repetitive, and it can often seem very mundane.  That is why our flesh seeks to replace that process with livelier, more sensational processes like getting zapped by the latest speaker on the circuit, getting drunk on the glory, getting high on the Most High, barking like a dog and clucking like a chicken, and having a burn night where you shout at God all through the night.  All of those processes have two things in common: they are sensational and they bypass the seed of the Word of God.

If you bypass the seed, you then totally bypass the harvest.  It’s that simple.  There is no life transformation except by a regular diet of the Word.  When we come to a Celebration service, it should be to get equipped.

As a leader, as a pastor, your job in life is to equip people to do the works of ministry.  You cannot do this without teaching the Word.  You cannot do this without sowing the seed of the Word into their hearts.  The people might be after something sensational (which, by the way is a direct synonym for carnal.  Both mean to be driven by what you see and feel), but you have to be the leader and give them something real, not something that is phoney.  You need to give hope, not hype; life not just stimulation (Onan died for doing that in the Old Testament, that’s a preaching illustration of the dangers of stimulating the church without providing seed if ever there was one – I dare you to preach it!); and something that works on Monday not something that simply takes their mind off Monday.

You have to lead.  Don’t make your service this weekend “never a dull moment” – get the Word into people, make declarations, lift your voice and teach the Word.

In Jeremiah 18, Jeremiah is told by God to go to the potter’s house (it’s in verse 1-3), and watch the potter make a pot with the potter’s wheel.  For those of you who are city dwellers (and who haven’t seen Ghost), the potter’s wheel is simply a small table that rotates in a circle.  You put a lump of clay on the wheel and spin it around again and again and again and again.  Every time you spin the clay around you make small changes to it, until it eventually takes shape as a vessel that has use.

That is our task this weekend, to take the people coming to our services and spin them around that wheel and see their lives take shape.  It might not be exciting or dynamic – it might be, don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is absolutely life changing – but it is the way to build a church, it is the way to live your life.

Don’t get upset if you feel that you are going around in circles – every time you spin around you are learning a little, growing a little, changing a little, developing a little.  Don’t run from the mundane, overcome it by embracing it and using it to shape your life and shape the lives of the people around you.