The Power of Loyalty (part 3 -An Attitude of Consistency)

The word “consistency” is very important.  My wife, Amanda, a great Bible teacher, often says “Consistency is the key”.  It doesn’t matter what the lock is – consistency will open it.  Some of you might have watched the recent Doctor Who episode, where the Doctor punches a diamond wall by punching it again and again and again for billions of years.  Consistency will smash diamond!  Consistency creates a Grand Canyon. Consistency is the hallmark of any great ministry, of any great business, of any great life.

Today, as I am talking about the power of loyalty, I would like to say that one of the most powerful things you can do to change your life for the better is develop consistency towards the local church.

When you start a new church, the people who come are often the church hoppers.  They are coming to you because you are new, and when you stop being new they will leave.  What you need as a pastor to grow a great church is consistent people.

There are four levels of consistency, and you need to understand them and work on your heart to become a consistent person.

  1. Inconsistency
    1. Inconsistent people are your fair-weather friends.  This is the kind of person who is only consistent when things are going well.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is actually inconsistency!
    2. It’s amazing how many people were not my friend when I had 5 people in my living room, who now want to be my friend.  Are now happy to come minister at the church.  Are now happy to get to know me.  One denomination told me they wouldn’t not ordain me because I was too fanatic on healing, yet when I suddenly had a growing church wanted to ordain me.  I told them I was more fanatic about healing than I ever was, but that doesn’t matter now I guess!
    3. There are inconsistent people in every church.  They come when the church is doing well and you have a big name speaker and the church is flourishing.  The second there is conflict or crisis, they disappear.  You can never rely on these people.  These people think they are consistent and have no idea they are not!  If you are a pastor, you need to preach on this every so often and help these people see they are inconsistent.
  2. Situational Consistency
    1. The next level of consistency is people who are consistent within a certain situation.  If they are in your class at college, they will be a consistent friend.  As soon as college is over, you will never see them again.
    2. Some people are committed to local church because it fits their situation.  It is the closest church to the train station, to their house.  If another church opens up nearer, they will go there.  They will be utterly committed while they are with you, but the second the situation changes, they will be gone.
  3. Non-situational Consistency
    1. This is a great level of consistency.  It is not easily offended, it doesn’t matter if other churches are planted nearby, they still go.  Even if they moved an hour away from the church, they would still come.  They are committed to the house.  They are consistent people!
    2. If you have friends like this, they are friends indeed.  They are your friends no matter where they live, what you do, how often you get in touch.  You pick up the phone, and wow – it’s like the friendship picks up just where it left off.
  4. Covenantal Consistency
    1. The highest level of consistency is covenantal.  It is an unyielding, never leaving, never forsaking consistency.  You should absolutely have that in your marriage, and you should have a few friends that consistent to you.
    2. And if you are that consistent to your local church, life will go well for you!
    3. It means that happy times and unhappy times aren’t the issue, the issue is that you are consistent.

If you are a pastor, don’t promote people who only have situational consistency.  If you are in a church, think about your consistency.  If you are a human, do you have friends who are consistent.  Good friends are so important for your destiny.

The Power of Loyalty (part 2 – the Key to Reproduction)

Whatever you are doing if you can cover more ground you can achieve more.  If you are selling liquorice all-sorts, if you can open a second shop you will sell more!  If you can open shops all over the country, you will achieve a lot more.  If you can plant churches with your culture and your ethos across the nation you will achieve more.  It’s kind of simple, but a lot of people don’t realize this.

But here is the truth: you cannot plant more churches, open more liquorice shops if you don’t know how to recognize, develop, nurture and promote loyalty and build a culture of loyalty.

In the last post, we started by saying that loyalty starts at the top.  That’s so important.  You have to model loyalty to get a culture of loyalty.  So if you are a leader or aspirant leader, you have to be loyal to certain and specific people.  This is the number one thing you can do to build a culture of loyalty – be loyal.

  • You create a culture of loyalty by being loyal to the people who follow you.  Reward your followers for their faithfulness, if they are in trouble take their side.  Trust me – people are watching.  If you betray them in their time of trouble, they will betray you.  But if you don’t betray them, they will not betray you.
  • You create a culture of loyalty by being loyal to your superiors.  David never killed Saul.  He was loyal to Saul.  When people see that it changes how they treat you as their spiritual father.  Many years later, David did something very evil – he murdered Uriah.  Yet very few of his people were disloyal to him: they had learned the power of loyalty from David years before.
  • You create a culture of loyalty by being loyal to your friends.  You should have good friends who are peers – pastors if you are a pastor.  You should model good friendships with those people and show that friendship to people.
  • You need to be loyal to your spouse.  Marriage is hard work, let’s face it – everyone finds it hard work, even if it is worth it.  If you have a good marriage people automatically see you as a great leader.  If you use the self-control in your spirit and are loyal to your wife, you will be admired as a leader.
  • You need to be loyal to your own vision.  It’s amazing how many people expect others to be loyal to their vision but they won’t be loyal themselves!  If your vision is church planting, plant churches.  If it is soul winning, win souls.  Whatever it is – keep to it!  Your life will be better if you are  faithful to the heavenly calling.
  • Finally, you have to be loyal to God.  No matter who you are, God is smarter than you – listen to Him and do what He says!

The Power of Loyalty (part 1 – Loyalty Starts at the Top)

I want to talk some more this new year on this blog about loyalty.  I still believe loyalty and honour are the two missing ingredients in the modern day charismatic church and grace movement.  I believe if we grasped the power of loyalty and the power of honour then we would absolutely and totally see revival in Europe in our generation.

Today, just a simple introduction to the concept of loyalty by pondering the truth that loyalty must start from the top down.  I was trained in a denomination that when you finished Bible College it was most likely you ended up pastoring a small church of 30-40 people.  If you did well and the church didn’t split and no-one killed you, then in a couple of years they would promote you to a larger church.  So these small churches would often go through a different pastor every year or two.

One of my friends left Bible College and got given one of these churches.  On the first Sunday he preached on the need for commitment.  That’s important – you need to be committed.  He preached that you need to be committed to the church, to the pastor, to the vision of the pastor.  That’s all true.  That’s absolutely true.  But at the end of the service, one of the elders came to him and said: “I’ve been in this church for 40 years and you are the 25th pastor I have had.  I know I am committed, it’s you I am not convinced about!”.

You see we cannot preach about commitment if we are not committed.  We cannot preach about loyalty unless we are loyal.  One of my friends, another pastor, once asked me about why my leaders were so loyal to me and his leaders were not loyal.  I didn’t know what to do except praise my leaders (and we have great leaders in the Tree).  But a few weeks later I found out that he was planning to leave his church in 3 years and impress his denomination enough to get given a bigger church.  How can you be loyal to people who you know are leaving in 3 years?  On the other hand, the people in Dagenham Tree of Life know that to get me to leave you will need to kill me!

It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, that went down to the skirts. (Psalm 133.2)

Whatever is in the leader will be in the church eventually.  The starting point for commitment and loyalty is the head of the organization.  If the head is disloyal, the church will be.  That’s one of the main reasons loyalty is not part and parcel of the charismatic move in the UK because some pastors are unreasonable, some leaders are disloyal to their subordinates, some overseers are unkind.

If you don’t want your assistant pastors and elders to call you names, don’t call them names.  Treat them with honour and loyalty.  Be grateful to the people who come to your church.

People do not go to work for money, but for well-being.  Study after study has shown this – make your people feel important and appreciated.  Be loyal to your people!

Loyalty must work from the head down.

A number of years ago, when the church was still growing, I realized I had no other option but to pastor Tree of Life.  Other people were not speaking well of me, nobody else wanted to know me, the Pentecostal denominations had closed the door on me.  I only had Tree of Life.  I wondered if I was loyal or whether I was just only doing what I could do.

I asked the Lord to confirm that I was loyal to Tree of Life.  Within a few weeks I got a phone call from a church whose pastor had just left to the States suddenly and abandoned them.  They were a church of 300 when Tree of Life was only 30.  They offered me three times my salary, they offered me a house to live in for free, they offered to buy me a brand new car.  They had heard me on the radio and loved my preaching and really wanted me to take on the whole church.

It took me a couple of seconds to decide, but I made my decision.  Tree of Life comes first.  That is that.  In 2016, I have many plans to minister overseas – I am getting a lot of invites, but I am planning to be preaching in Tree of Life Dagenham 50 Sundays out of 52.  That’s called loyalty.  That means less income for me, less exposure, less variety.  But it means loyalty.  That is vital for me.

If I was not a pastor, I know some churches I would struggle to be in – because some pastors are not loyal, they are hirelings.  But when loyalty flows from the head, loyalty begats loyalty.


There are 50 Ways to Leave Your Church (part 6 – The Fellowship of the Offended)

Bob Yandian said the number one reason people leave churches is offended.  The problem you need to be very aware of is that being offended is more contagious than the common cold.   You will catch it if you hang around with offended people.  It’s that simple.

Here is a situation I have seen play out more times than I can care to count:  someone in church leadership gets offended.  They are probably called to plant a church or lead a church, but they cannot wait until they are fully baked and prepared for the task, so they run off half-baked, offended.

Because they are not ready and don’t have the skills necessary to start and pastor a church, then they rip apart their home church to build theirs.  They start a church across the road, with a similar name, and try and persuade everyone (especially those with money for *some* reason) to leave the old church and join their new, wonderful church.  (For more reasons on why people act like this, click here).

Now here is how it plays out: like attracts like, and so the offended people in the original church leave the original church and join the new church.

The pastor of the original church is upset and shocked – income is down, the building looks empty on a Sunday, worry sets in about who else might leave, and people have lost good friends.  But if he steps back and keeps his heart clean,  then he will realize the offended person has actually done him a huge favour.  He has cleaned the church from those who didn’t want to be there, and left an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit can move freely and where revival can flow.

The pastor of the new church on the other hand has just created what I call “the fellowship of the offended”.  This is the church you don’t want to be in.  They don’t define themselves by their dream, their vision, their future, their goals, their wisdom.  They define themselves by what they are not, why they left, what is wrong with the other church, what is wrong with *all* other churches.  They won’t preach Christ crucified, they will preach “Crucify him!”.

I remember many years ago being part of a great church.  I loved that church, both my wife and I were there every week, we tithed, we served in different departments, we invested our lives into it and were watching people get saved and healed all the time.  It was the greatest learning and preparation of my life – far more so than Bible College.  One morning I was due to get up about 5am to go to work, and the Holy Spirit woke me up twenty minutes before my alarm.  There was a powerful sense of the presence of the Lord and the Holy Spirit kept saying to me “Stay faithful to [the name of the church], stay faithful to [the name of the pastor]!”.  The Holy Spirit spoke those words to me over and over.

While commuting to work I was confused, I couldn’t understand why the Holy Spirit would tell me to do something that I was doing anyway and absolutely loved doing.

Then within two weeks, the church split violently.   Many people left, including many leaders.  It was a tough time for the church.  Some of the new things and new churches starting looked really exciting and really cool.  They looked like a lot of fun, and new is always tempting!  But I followed the advice of the Holy Spirit and stayed where I was doing what I was doing.

The church was reduced to about 1/3 of what it was.  Many of my close friends left.  People who I respected left and moved on.  It all happened very quickly indeed.  It was a difficult time.  I didn’t know what I know now about honour and offense and the two kinds of wisdom (again click here), but I did know the Holy Spirit had given me a specific instruction and I was not going to disobey that under any circumstances.  And I didn’t, I didn’t just stay faithful, I gave more, attended more, loved more, served more.  Our pastor’s preaching got better and better, more powerful, more human.  I learned so much in that time from him.  That’s where I started to learn about the power of honour and loyalty.

That’s where I started to learn about the truth that you never abandon a leader under attack – that’s where you learn the most wisdom from them, from following them under fire.  I am so glad I stayed.

And those who left, many – not all, but I reckon most – joined other churches that ended up being the fellowship of the offended.  Some are still meeting over ten years later, still criticizing their old church, still teaching their petty disagreements, still hating and still being offended.

Let me teach you how to spot a fellowship of the offended, and then tell you why you need to avoid them like crazy!

  1. Somewhere in the preaching they will mention the previous church and why it is a terrible place and the pastor is a bad teacher.  In the more polite versions, it will be “my old church” but seen as nearly everyone there used to go there, everyone will know what is meant.  In the more offended versions, it will be named, the pastor will be named, and the church will be mocked.
  2. The leaders will try to please everyone.  This is something quite crazy – the whole point of leadership is making decisions that some people will not like.  I have made many decisions that offend someone!  If two people are having a fight, my peacemaking will either upset one, upset the other, or upset both.  If it doesn’t, they wouldn’t need a peacemaker!  Good leaders aren’t afraid to make hard choices.  David made hard choices, but Absalom found those who didn’t like those choices and stoked the fires of offenses.  These churches are founded by Absalom – a politician who will say anything to reach anyone.
  3. The church will be in competition with the old church.  They will be comparing numbers, celebrating when someone changes sides, have similar programmes with similar sounding names, conferences at the same time – they will run up direct competition.  Beating the old church will be more fun than extending the kingdom.
  4. The church will be very superficial.  These are people who are not fellowshipping around a revelation of Christ and Him crucified, they are people fellowshipping around their mutual hatred and animosity of the old place.  You can’t build deep relationships on hate, so expect the relationships to be shallow and therefore superficial.  Expect things to look good – people to be well-dressed and well-turned-out – but don’t expect things to be that good under the surface.
  5. Expect a genuine fear of the same thing happening again.  People plan for what they can imagine.  If you have ripped a church apart to get pole position, you can imagine that happening to you.  So the church will have numerous safeguards to prevent anyone splitting the church.  For example, the church may be all young people, because older, wiser people might be seen as a threat.  A lot of preaching might be based on loyalty and so on.  The preaching might be against all the other churches, not just the old one.

That is what a “fellowship of the offended” looks like, and the bad news is that if you join one you join them all the way.  I have met people who are offended at another church they have never been to and offended at pastors they have never met because they imbibe the atmosphere of a fellowship of the offended.  This is what will happen if you to one of these places:

  1. The attitude of the offended will rub off on you.  The company you keep corrupts your character.  It’s that simple.  It’s stupid to be offended, but it’s even more stupid to be offended at what people did to someone else!  Don’t fellowship with the offended.
  2. The church may grow.  There’s a lot of offended people looking for a home.  It will not extend the kingdom though, what you will not here are testimonies of people with changed lives, restored marriages and healings.  You will hear testimonies of people who are now free from the horrible church down the road – which let’s face it, isn’t much of a testimony now!
  3. The church will split again. It’s almost inevitable – the foundation and the constant mental state of the people attracts more splits.
  4. Nobody will grow.  Jesus told us that we cannot have a harvest in our life with the weeds still in the ground.  One of the weeds (see Mark 4) is the offenses that we take.  It stops harvests in our life.  The power to attract unparalleled success and the power to hate those who have wronged you cannot both dwell in your heart. You have to choose.

If you are in a church that is splitting, don’t run off with the fellowship of the offended.  You may later decide that you should leave your church (see the rest of this series for wisdom on that one), but don’t leave to go to a split, find a healthy church planted by a healthy person to go to.




What I Would Do If I was in a Local Church (and not the pastor)

I say what *would* I do, but actually it is what I did do.  I had four children yet was never late, my eldest son was born Wednesday I was in church with my wife and him on the Sunday after.  I have always valued local church.  When I lived in Ipswich, the only Sunday I ever missed local church was the Sunday I was kidnapped.

In Wales, I used to work until 4am, walk home, get home 5am and still be in the 10am service.  I used to get my wife to dig me in the ribs if I fell asleep!

I love church.  If you love Jesus (the head), you must love the church (the body).  How could you love the head of someone and not the body?

So if I was in local church today, and not a pastor, here is what I would do:

  • I’d be there.  I’m not stupid – I know you can’t get fed once a month and have that sustain you.  I’d be in every service, every event, every conference my local church organized.  You would never wonder if I would be there, I would be there.  And ten minutes before any meeting started.  If I was on time, I would be late.  I would know I couldn’t come to church once a month or every other week and get the fellowship I need to keep warm to God.
  • I would realize that my number one role in the church would be that of a healthy Christian.  I would be planted in the church, I would not get offended at anything anyone said or did – you wouldn’t catch me being so thin skinned that singing the wrong song made me leave!  A student at university doesn’t study geography on day one, then physics, then medicine, then law.  They get in a programme and stick.  I would stick at my church.  I would know how important it was to be planted to be stable because I have read Psalm 92.12-13.
  • I would support my church financially.  I would tithe without even thinking.  I would see my giving as vital in spreading the good news and keeping the church that I benefit from so much going.  I would allow Jesus to be the Lord of my finances by giving into the local church.  I would give offerings at every service, and tithe every month.
  • I would make all my talents and gifts available to the local church.  I am very good with computers, I’d happily work on the church website.  I’d be available to help where needed.  I’d be an usher on a regular basis, and probably teach the children and youth too.  I’d do anything the leadership asked to be honest.
  • I would love my pastor (check out 1 Thess. 5.12-13) – I would know him and love him.  I would also pray for him on a daily basis (1 Thess. 5.25).  Seeing me walk into the room would make him happy!

I’ve been in several churches, and I have tried my hardest to be this person.  It’s how I would still do it today.


There Are 50 Ways To Leave Your Church (part 5 The Two Levels of Wisdom)

A lot of people don’t grasp there are two levels of wisdom.  I call them practical wisdom and honour wisdom.  Practical wisdom involves the nuts and bolts of how to do something, what to do and how to do it well.

Honour wisdom on the other hand answers the two most important questions in the universe: why are you doing what you are doing, and who are you doing it for (or to!).

Recently, a pastor came to visit me.  He had a call from God to start a church, and because I run a growing network of growing churches, he came to me for, in his words, some wisdom on how to grow church.

I had never met him before, but I guessed that what he wanted was practical wisdom.  And that’s good – we need practical wisdom.  We need to know what forms of advertising work best, we need to know how to pace a service, how to appoint leaders, what to preach on, how to build a good sermon series, and so on.  That is all really really important.

But it is the lower level of wisdom.  You can get all the practical wisdom right and still be wrong.  There is a higher level of wisdom – honour wisdom.

So I spent time talking to this guy: he was the assistant pastor of a church of about 300 people.  He was the 2i/c in the church, and was very popular and respected.  People enjoyed his ministry.  He felt that he had learned all he could from the senior pastor and it was now time to launch out on his own.

That’s all very reasonable – it is practical and wise.  I could have a really profitable session coaching him on how to advertise, how to find a building, how to craft a website, how to use Facebook, you name it – we could talk about it and it would have all been good stuff.

But it would have been lower level wisdom.  I want to teach and impart that but it doesn’t work without the higher level wisdom: without honour wisdom.  Honour wisdom is the ancient wisdom that is found in the holy Scriptures, the principles underlying the entire universe.   This is the wisdom from above, first pure then peaceable.

I asked the man two simple questions that would instantly show if he had any honour-wisdom at all:

  1. Does your senior pastor know you are planning to launch out?
  2. Where are you going to launch out to in relation to the church you are in now?

The answers revealed the man had no honour-wisdom at all.  His senior pastor had no idea what he was planning, it was all secret, all in the dark!  His intention was for the pastor to find out probably about three weeks after he had left and started the new church.  His second answer was that he was going to plant a new church in the same town, and in the same area as the church he was in now.

I told this man clearly: that’s not a church plant, that’s a church split.  You are going to rip another man’s building apart to build yours!  And not just any man, but your spiritual father – the man who gave you a platform to speak on, the man who helped you get in the ministry, the man who is teaching you and imparting to you.  The man who saw goodness in you.  He is your father in the faith and your father in the field.

Now the ancient wisdom says this:

Honour your father and mother, for this is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and you live long in the land – Ephesians 6.2-3

In other words, if you fail to honour your fathers it will not go well with you and you will not live long in the land.  This is the wisdom of the Scripture, and it has been proven true over hundreds and thousands of years.  The people who give you life, who believe in you, who raise you, who nurture you – if you act in a way that dishonours them, then it will not go well with you.  It’s not that God is out to get you or blasts you, it’s simply that the universe is built on inviolable laws and this is one of them.

I explained this to the man and told him he had two tasks he had to perform – firstly, to sit down with his senior pastor face to face and explain his plans and where he felt he was going to end up.  That discussion should be face to face, and if the man is to be a pastor he should have the character to have that conversation face to face!  Otherwise he is a fool.  To operate in the darkness is to operate without honour.

Secondly, he had to plant a church about fifty miles away from the church where he was.  He had to make it impossible for people to follow him out, so he was not ripping the church apart.

I also said a third thing – when he starts the new church he should give financially to the church he was from.  That giving is honour giving – it sets a weight and a level on the church he had come from, and honoured the pastor who trained him and loved him.

He never did approach the senior pastor, he left and planted a church about 10 miles away, I think there are 4 people there every week.  He will not progress because he has failed to appreciate the deep wisdom in the universe, revealed to us in Scripture.

It’s generally not more practical wisdom you need when you leave a church, it’s honour-wisdom.  You need to talk to people with respect and honour, you need to operate in the light, you need to not rip apart a building that has been your greenhouse, and you need to not rip apart a man who has been your father.  Not for their sake, they will keep going no matter what, but for yours.

Whatever you are planning to do, leave with honour.  I have never left a church without being up front and open, discussed it with the leadership and left with their blessing.  Never.  That is one of the key reasons Tree of Life Church is successful and overcomes many obstacles, because I have learned the deep truths of honour-wisdom.

Yes answer the questions how and what, that is important.  But the more important questions are why and who.  Never forget that.