Tree of Life Blog

Engaging Culture with the wisdom and power of Christ!

Monthly Archives: January 2014

5 Benefits of a Multi-Cultural, Multi-National, Multi-Ethnic Church!

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One of the greatest joys in my life is pastoring a church that has over 20 nationalities present in any given weekend.  That’s awesome. I think if you have a monocultural church in London you are doing something wrong.  I love the variety and the life that this exposes us to. Here are 5 of my favourite things about the Tree being multi-cultural:

5.  There are people clapping on every beat.  Maybe you have never noticed this but during the praise music, black people generally clap on the upbeat, and white people generally clap on the downbeat.  At the Tree we have every beat covered!  

4.  We find out about preachers that we would never have found about otherwise.  Ever heard of Stanley Ndovie?  Man, that guy can preach.  He is from Malawi, and I would never have known about him without people from our church from that awesome nation.  I would never have heard some of the amazing preachers from Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana or India without people from those nations introducing me to them.  In fact, a lot of European and American preachers who minister mainly to a particular ethnic group I would never have heard either.  That’s a great thing, because you are getting to help learn Scriptures that maybe you wouldn’t have looked at or who wouldn’t have looked at in a particular way.  These things are really important because…

3. The body of Christ is made up of different parts – just like your body.  If all you do is fellowship with people who look like you, who act like you, who grew up where you grew up and see things your way, then you never learn anything new.  You can’t get help when you meet help.  If you got a splinter in your foot, you would never be able to take it out with another foot – you need a hand to take that splinter out.  When you reach a problem you cannot solve, calling someone just like you will just add to the ignorance in the room.  I am so glad for the wisdom I have received on topics such as giving, prayer, integrity, passion, honour, discipleship, peace, healing from people who have come from a different culture and brought wisdom and life no Englishman could ever have taught me.

2. The food.  I love groundnut soup, fufu, jollof rice; I love daals and chili, I love food from all nations.  Our church pot-lucks are amazing!  Seriously… amazing!

1..  It’s a love tester.  It proves that our community and church are built on love.  If you only love those like you, you are just like a tax-collector said Jesus.  Really – if you cannot love someone who is different from you then you cannot really love anyone.  Racism comes from fear and pride – I’m better than you, and I think that your differences will detract from me.  The counter attitude to racism is gracism: I know we are equal in Christ, and I know your differences can benefit and bless me.  That’s the attitude we are cultivating in our church full of the nations.

Your Time is Limited

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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life” – Steve Jobs

Every one of us is a unique soul with a unique personality.  You were designed to be unique!

Listen: it’s ok to have preferences – it’s not right when Christianity tries to make people into clones – the Stepford Wives church!  Everyone dresses the same, walks the same – no, we are unique individuals.  In Genesis 10, at the Tower of Babel was built with bricks.  That’s how the world builds – everyone is shaped to be the same, fit in, fit together, become a clone.  But in Exodus 20.22, we are told not to build the altar of the Lord with cut stone – use the stones as they are.  God wants to use you as you are with your personality as you are!  Some stones are more loud, some more quiet – but God does not want to change your personality for you to be part of His kingdom. 

(Now there are some sins more tempting to loud people, some are more tempting to quiet people and you have to be aware of that in terms of your disposition – but having a unique personality is not a sin!)  You are who you are! 

All our life we spend so much effort trying to fit in, but God has made you to stand out.

 

3 Kinds of People Who Leave Your Church

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Where's the Exit?

 

 

Sometimes people leave your church!  Some leave quietly, suddenly skulking away; others leave with a song and a dance and with maximum drama slamming the door loudly on their way out making sure everyone and their dog knows exactly why they are leaving and why the glory has now departed from your fellowship.

Firstly, let’s establish that people leaving is not always bad.  Sending someone to plant a church would be a clear example of someone leaving and it being awesome.  But when someone who doesn’t give, spreads gossip, causes division finally decides they are going – that’s a blessing. A church of 70 with peace is better than a church of 700 with strife.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.  He is not telling the same parable three times, but talking about three people who all get lost for different reasons.  When someone leaves your church there are different reasons behind it and your response should be different based on the person.

1. The Distracted Person

Some people are like sheep – easily distracted.  Sheep get lost because they see something shiny or moving and wander over to it and lose the herd.  They wander off – going to a market one Sunday, dealing with a family crisis the next, then they just lose contact with the flock and each week they don’t go it gets harder to come back.

How to deal with people like that – go and get them back.  Go hunt them down and bring them back – they want to come back, they are just not sure how. 

2. The Offended Person

The coin was lost because the woman lost the coin.  Some people are lost because they get offended at someone else.  “That person wasn’t nice to me” – well, welcome to a church that is open to everyone, including you, including them.  It never ceases to amaze me how thin skinned Christians can be, getting offended over the songs sung, the attire of the preacher, the hair cut of the preacher – if there is a silly reason to get upset someone will.  And of course, let’s be honest sometimes things happen that are offensive – churches are populated by humans and sometimes we badly let people down.

Some people get upset and just vanish.  What to do?  Turn the house upside down, sweep the floor – find the reason and make it right with the person.  

3.  The Self-Willed Person

Some people fancy themselves as the lone wolf – they don’t need a pack; they want to do things their way, they don’t want to listen to the preached Word, just TV speakers (why?  because they can change channel if it upsets their theologies), some people don’t want to be around people they can’t control, some people want to come into the church and do church their way.  The worst thing a pastor can hear is “my last church used to…” as they immediately think “well go back there.”  

I once had a series of emails from an individual who did not want to be part of a church body.  He did not want an organized church.  I told him to find a church with less than 5 people because otherwise there needs to be organization.  Even a family with a child is organized!  He told me to be more like a certain church.  I said if he liked that church so much he should go there, he pointed out it didn’t exist anymore.  It didn’t – there was a coup and the church split every which way possible.  Not really a good model for going on!

Some people leave because they want their inheritance, they want to walk in their dreams and they know they are not.  But rather than admit they have flaws they need to work on in community, that they need the help of the church, that they need discipling, they blame you for withholding their inheritance from them, storm off, demand their way and leave.

Listen carefully: don’t go chasing people like that.  Wait until they are eating the pig food then they will come back.  If they don’t come back, you are better off without them.  If you after them, it will engender strife and waste your time.  

Let them come to their senses.  It’s a waiting game, and it’s hard, but it is the only way to deal with the self-willed.  Save your hunting energy for the lost sheep

This is Your Year!

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Today, God has given you a gift.  A gift that He has given everyone on the planet.  A gift of time.  A gift of 365 days.  Although the charismatic prophets will be telling you this is the year of this and that – breakthrough, financial release, the wealthy place, the abundant return – and the cheers will go up from the people who believe that changing calendars leads to a fresh anointing – it’s simply not the case.  This year is a gift to you and it’s up to you what it is.

It can be the year of breakthrough – if you renew your mind.

It can be the year of the financial release – if you get some financial wisdom and give generously and in faith and love

It can be the year of the abundant harvest – if you sow the abundant seed

At Tree of Life Dagenham we are calling this year “The Year of Identity” – but that’s not because God is going to give us an identity in 2014.  Christ gave us all an identity as the righteousness of God when He died and rose again on the cross – He welcomed us into the family of God and now our identity is linked eternally with His.  All we are doing is choosing to focus on it, preach on it, sing about it, study it, enjoy it and watch it manifest in our lives as our souls line up with our spirits.  It’s going to be really exciting.  

In Watford we are calling this year “The Year of Healing” but that’s not because God suddenly decided – hey, I’ve got a new calendar, let’s heal some folk.  No – all healing was accomplished 2000 years ago when Christ bore our sicknesses and diseases.  It’s not by this year you were healed, it’s by His stripes you were healed.

In Guildford we are calling this year – well certainly the first half of it because we are going to nail this in less than a year – Crossing Over.  We are going from fort to castle – we are growing into what God has prepared for us.  But it’s not that God hasn’t prepared a land of promises for us – it’s just that this is the year we are going to embrace it and enjoy it by focusing on it and renewing our minds to it.

So – this is your year.  It is what you choose it to be.  It will be the harvest of the seeds you sow.  So, I want to on this first day of the new year give you five kinds of good seeds that you could sow this year and mean that you will enjoy an abundant harvest:

1.  The seed of YOUR WORDS.  Jesus said the sower sowed the WORD.  If you want a good harvest you have to learn to speak good.  This is a challenge for this year: get 10 Scriptures that sum up what you want from God – healing, finances, and so on.  Personalize them – if it says “My God shall supply all your needs” you turn it into “My God shall supply all MY needs”, if it says “By His stripes you were healed”, turn it into “By His stripes I am healed”.  Repeat them every morning and every night.  That one action alone will totally change 2014 for you.

2.Financial seed.  If you don’t tithe, start tithing this year. Not because you have to or because God is going to get to but because you believe God’s Word and it says that if you give it will be given to you pressed down shaken together running over …. and you know that you can give more generously than a dead man under law.  Try it and see the results.  In April, we are running a 90 day tithing challenge – tithe for 3 months consistently – if you are not blown away by the change then your money back.  That’s how much I believe in this.  If you do tithe, think of something outrageous to give and believe that God supplies seed to the sower.

3. The seed of time.  What you do is what you become good at doing.  Want to become better at playing the guitar – put some time in.  Want to become better at being a friend – put the time in.  Want to become better at preaching – put the time in.  Want to become better at knowing God’s Word – put some time in.  What you invest time in will flourish.  What you ignore and neglect will wither and die.  Today, choose what you want to cultivate in 2014.  You cannot do everything  – so decide what is important.  We go on and on about being well rounded, but a squash ball is well rounded but if you needed surgery you wouldn’t want the surgeon using a squash ball, you would want a blade that is not well rounded but sharp.  You have a choice in life, well rounded or sharp.  Sharp is more useful and more valuable.  Focus on what you want to do and invest time in that.

4. The seed of “NO”.  I honestly believe “no” is the single most anointed word in the world.  It has the powerful to release destiny, set you free, give you a future.  An extra doughnut is saying “eat me”.  No.  A friend wants to gossip about the pastor.  No.  A guy starts to come on to you when you are married.  No.  All sorts of negative thoughts are trying to nest in your head.  Your flesh will want to have a pity party – tell it no.  Often our lives are a mess not because of what we are not doing, but because we are doing too much and are too busy.  Churches fail because they have too many meetings, businesses fail because they are trying to do too many things.  Stop being swept away – find out your destiny and say no to everything else.

5. The seed of love.  This is the seed that often produces the quickest harvest.  Try smiling at someone – they almost always instantly smile back.  Go and take someone out to the shops and buy them some new shoes.  Go and buy someone some flowers, some shopping, a new computer game.  Go and mow someone’s lawn.  Right now phone the first single mother who comes to mind and offer to babysit one night this week and let her go out.  Pay her to babysit her child.  Let’s decide to try and outdo each other in being the most loving people on earth this year.  

Sow those seed and this will be the year of harvest.  Don’t sow them and it’s still the year of harvest.  It’s just 100 times nothing is still nothing.

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