Tree of Life Blog

Engaging Culture with the wisdom and power of Christ!

About Tree of Life Church

We are a growing network of growing churches, with services weekly in Dagenham, Guildford, Watford, Croydon, Brentwood and Dorset. We are also planting churches in Cambridge, Suffolk, West Midlands and Hemel. Find out more at www.tree.church, www.tree.church/youtube and www.tree.church/app.

How To Be Fruitful 01 Do What You Are Called

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If You Want to Get Called Back, Leave a Clear Phone Message | Speak Up For  Success

Every Christian has been called to do something by the Lord. That’s a simple truth but so many people do not realize this. Now if you were Jesus Christ and there were billions of people on the planet who do not know you would you just call the pastors to reach them, or would you call every single Christian to be part of a local church, call them all to grow, call them all to world mission? I know the answer, the Bible knows the answer, but do you know the answer? You are called.

Now the Bible says that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22.14). Many means lots of people. That includes you. But sadly, most Christians do not believe they are called. They think their pastor has to do it all for them, they think they are called to just sit down and listen to a TV ministry, they think they are called to just be unfruitful. No you are called! You are called to be fruitful, you are called to be part of a church, you are called to contribute, you are called to do something for God.

It’s true to say you are called to be healthy, you are called to be wealthy, you are called to live a great life on earth. When we teach on that, lots of people are interested. Many people like to hear teaching on God’s unconditional love… for them. They listen to sermon after sermon about how much God loves them, and sadly just that diet, that imbalanced diet, leaves those people starving for other nutrients, and leads to selfish and very unfruitful Christians. My job as a pastor is not just to feed you what you want, but to feed you what you need to be equipped to do the works of the ministry!

Keith Green used to a sing a song called Asleep in the Light that says “You don’t need to hear a call, you are already called”. That thought did not come from him, it comes from John’s gospel, where Jesus tells his disciples “you did not choose me, I have chosen you”. If you are a disciple of Jesus, He has already chosen you and called you to be fruitful. You should be fruitful. You should be making sacrifices in your life that involve doing something for the kingdom of God. It still amazes me to meet Christians who do nothing for Christ. They can’t even go to church if the pastor disagrees with them over one point, because their entire Christian life is not about the kingdom it is still all about them – their comfort, their ministry, their spotlight, their feelings, their this and that. You were only saved because Jesus did not care about His own comfort or prosperity or career or future or reputation, and got involved in the greatest act of grace in the universe. Then we call ourselves grace people, but never give up anything to help rescue anyone else ever! That’s not grace. That’s laziness and deception!

Not every call is like Paul the apostles involving Jesus knocking you off your horse. That can still happen and still does happen today, but some people will not get off their sofa unless that happens to them today. But God prefers to call with an inner witness, with the small, still voice, what I call the spiritual voice. You just see a need and something deep inside you is touched and compassion rises up inside you and you need to then step out and stop waiting for an angel to visit you! Your desires to help and love and show kindness does not come from satan or your flesh – that’s God!

In our eldership training, we start at 1 Timothy 3.1 which says if you desire to be an elder, you desire an excellent task. How do you become an elder in the church? It all starts with you wanting to become an elder in the church! It’s that simple. I have never been knocked off a horse, I have never been slammed to the ground, I have never looked Jesus in the flesh in the face. But I am 100% called to be a pastor. I know exactly what I am and what I am called to do.

What are you called to do? You might feel like a failure right now. Moses was, and God still called him. Moses said “who am I”, and God said “Called by me”. Of course you are unworthy for the call, and only the least self-aware people do not realize they are not worthy to be called. I know you are unworthy to change the world. You know you are unworthy to change the world. God knows you are unworthy to change the world. But God still called you. If you fail to accept the call of God because you are unworthy when God called me and a host of others equally if not more unworthy, you are missing out!

Another thing Moses said (in Exodus 4.1) was that when I speak people will not believe me. That’s how I felt when I started preaching, I felt that I was not credible, that people would never believe God spoke to me. I didn’t look like in my mind someone who God speaks to, someone who could help others, someone who could change the world. I don’t have anything special about me. But God still called me and God still uses me. God loves using people that are nothing special! If God can cause a donkey to give a prophetic word, He can use you.

Jeremiah did not think he could express himself well, he told God “I can’t preach, I’m just a child”. Some of us are called to share our faith and don’t think we can do it well. If you listen to some good preachers, who have been preaching for decades, you do start to think how can I ever speak like them! But God calls people who have never spoken to speak! God calls us to action!

Gideon was called and he was from the least family in the least clan. You can believe God has called you! God has called you to a specific purpose. Do what it takes to find it out. The first step is to stand up. Stop sitting around waiting for a talking donkey and start being the talking donkey! Stop waiting for an angel and be the angel. Stop waiting for a man of God and be a man of God! You are called.

Get up, go to church this weekend, go to a small group, serve your church in some way, and start expecting your calling to manifest. I challenge you, it will change 2021 forever.

Ways to Show Honour 03 Alter

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This post was posted on this blog in error. It can be found on our leadership blog, now, www.benjaminconway.net.

Healing Truths 05: What Works

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Data - Can you be highly efficient and still be ineffective? | DQ Global

What works when it comes to healing is preaching healing. Preaching that everyone who believes can be healed. Faith cannot fail. If you preach the truth that anyone can be healed who believes, that healing is for all, that by His stripes we are healed, that Jesus wants you well people get healed. If you do not preach it, then you will never have it! If you do not go where it is preached, or preach it to yourself, you will never have it.

If you do go where it is preached, but then go somewhere else and hear the opposite, or go and preach the opposite to yourself, you will never have it. If you think “God heals some”, there will always be a little voice in your head telling you that you are not one of the ones that God wants to heal, and all faith evaporates.

So, settle this in your heart today: Jesus wants you well. You have a right to healing as much as you have a right to be saved! God is the Lord who heals you (Exodus 15.26) and God never lies, He said it, He said what He meant and He meant what He said. What God said is true.

I do not preach “Jesus wants you well” because it works. I preach it because it is true. But because it is true, it does work. It is the only message that works. To preach foolish lies about gifts passing away, healing passing away, healing only being for some – will never produce healings, will never work!

Let me say again something I never get tired of saying. Healing is part of the gospel, and we must preach it to all the nations! And because it is part of the gospel, healing is for all, and because it is for all, it is for you!

Healing Truths 04: Healing Means Healing

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What Is Redemption? Christian Meaning from the Bible

One of the most foolish lies that the church tells to negate the truth of healing is that somehow healing in the Bible is a spiritual thing rather than meaning physical healing. People read Scriptures like 1 Peter 2.24 which says “By His stripes you were healed” and then they say “Well, healing here means a spiritual thing, it’s allegorical and metaphorical, it means you are better in your emotions, a better person, it means you are going to heaven”. That is simply not true. It just does not bear witness with Scripture.

Sin and sickness are both tied together. They both entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned, and the good news is that the redemption of Jesus Christ set us free from both sin and sickness! Salvation from sin, and healing from sickness are both parts of the redemption of Jesus Christ. Both are included! We do not have to choose. Someone once yelled at me after preaching “The new birth is more important than getting your body healed!” I said “If I had to choose, I agree, but I don’t, we get it all”.

Complete salvation is a born again spirit, a renewed mind and a healed body. It would be incomplete for your spirit to be totally transformed and your body to be sick still, just like getting your body healed but staying spiritually dead is incomplete. I know which is better long-term, but you can have both. The work of Jesus provided both salvation for the spirit and healing for the body.

God wants your spirit to be regenerated and He wants your body to be healed. That is a complete redemption. Every Christian should be healthy in their body, that is God’s will for them. It’s a double provision, so have both parts of it.

The problem is the church has realized Jesus is their substitute for sin, becoming sin so they can be righteous, but they have not realized that in an identical manner, He is our substitute for sickness, becoming sick so we can be healed.

When you preach the gospel to the lost, you should preach both bits. You should tell the lost to receive Jesus as Saviour and as Healer. He is both. He can heal you from all the sicknesses and deliver you from all sin at the some moment, and you can get both benefits of salvation. I like meetings where people get saved and healed in the same moment! But let’s not call the salvation a healing, it’s not. They are different.

Jesus told a man sick with palsy – this meant he could not walk or move his legs or arms – He said “Cheer up, son, you are forgiven”. That’s good news, Jesus revealed Himself as Saviour. But the man did not then say “Praise God, I am forgiven, that is the true healing” and was then carried out. Because Jesus also said “Pick up your mat and walk” – that was the healing. That man was saved and healed on the same day! He got both, and you can have both.

Jesus actually said “Which is easier to say to the sick of the palsy, your sins are forgiven or to say arise, take up your bed and walk”. This man was told the truth – your sins are forgiven, he believed it and he received it. He was then told the truth – you can get up and walk – you are healed, he believed that and he received that too. If we only preach half a gospel, we only get half the results. If we preach that healing is salvation, we get one benefit – forgiveness. But we can preach salvation for the spirit and healing for the body and get both! That’s wiser. That’s the way Jesus did it and that is the way to do it.

Always tell people – you can be saved and healed by Jesus! As many as touched Him were made whole (Mark 6.56). That means healing in the body, not some sort of spooky restoration and having a slighty better day while still sick! Jesus wants you well.

Christians do not need to be sick. Stop tolerating sickness in your body and start being healed. Jesus bore your sicknesses as much as He bore your sin. He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses (Matthew 8.17). That is the truth, and that is the reality of it, and sicknesses means sicknesses, not some spiritual spooky voodoo! Jesus healed physically back then and He still heals physically today.

If Jesus carried your sicknesses, then we do not need to carry them. We do not need to be sick. He bore them so we do not need to bear them. If you are bearing them then it was useless for Jesus to bear them. Do not make the work of the cross useless, believe and receive that healing means healing.

The Scripture is so clear. Jesus bore your sicknesses. He carried them away and set you free from them. So you do not need to bear them.

I have heard it taught that Christians were redeemed from their sins but have to keep suffering their sicknesses, that God may want them healed or may want them sick. I have been taught God has definitely healed others, but maybe they were blessed, holy, had a higher purpose. It was a special mercy God rarely bestowed. None of that is Biblical. None of that makes sense. The problem is if you accept that you can never have simple faith in the Biblical truth that Jesus bore your sicknesses. Not just some people, everyone’s sicknesses – including yours – have been borne by Jesus at the cross.

Disease is evil. It destroys bodies, and Jesus bought that body with a price. It is not reasonable after Jesus bore all the sicknesses across the world to expect God to still want people to bear them. To quote F F Bosworth, to believe that is “utterly unlike God’s Word”. F F Bosworth also said:

When I ask people if they think it is God’s will to heal them, and they reply that they do not know whether it is or not, I then ask them if it is God’s will to keep His promise.

This is what we all must understand. Sickness is part of what Jesus redeems us from. Healing is not a synonym for having your sins forgiven, healing is Jesus Christ eradicating all sickness from your body. He has done it all at the cross, and all you need to do is believe it and receive it.

The real reason more people are not healed is a lack of teaching on this. It’s that simple. If no one ever preached Jesus bore our sins, then no one would ever be saved. And because so many people have never healed the truth of healing, that Jesus bore our sicknesses, there’s not that many people being healed. But that’s not us – we preach the truth of healing. Healing is simple, all you have to do is realize Jesus bore your sicknesses and carried your diseases.

If I got up in church one Sunday, aware there were lost people in the room and I preached “I am not sure if God wants to save you or not, He might do, but probably not. It is possible you are sinning for God’s glory to advance His kingdom, and maybe God is using your sin to discipline you and train you, stay in your sin until you realize God’s plan to save you maybe one day. The day of people getting saved is over now, as the Bible has been complete”. If I said such nonsense no one in the room would get saved. But that is the nonsense about healing preached from so many pulpits! No wonder some places never see a healing. It is easy to grasp why some are not healed today.

And salvation is not healing, healing is not salvation. But you can be saved and healed. Today! Right now. Because Jesus bore your sins and He bore your sicknesses.

Healing Truths 03: Why So Many Sick Christians

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The simple reason is this. There are many sick Christians today because they just do not have faith that Jesus wants them well. Faith comes by hearing the Word and many Christians do not hear day after day that Jesus wants them well. They have had discussions about their pain, they have monologued about their sickness, they have talked about their pain, their aches, their sicknesses. Speaking about sickness does not cause faith to come. Faith comes when we hear the Word. When we hear the truth. When we hear the truth, the truth brings freedom.

If we as Christians want to see people free from the bondage of sickness and disease we have to tell people the truth. God wants you well. Jesus wants you well. The will of Jesus Christ for every person, including you, is for you to be healed. That is the Word of God and that is the truth. Some Christians have never heard that, others have heard it and dismissed it and retreated into their religious traditions and foolish ideas about God that do not match with the Word.

Too many Christians sympathise with the sick. They empathize with their pains and their sob stories of sickness and disease. The sympathy becomes an implied insinuation that God’s will is for them to endure that sickness, to learn patience from it, to be drawn closer to the Lord through their suffering sickness and disease. That is not the Biblical approach. That is not the way Jesus does things. And because the church is ignoring the way Jesus dealt with sickness and supposing themselves to be kinder and smarter than Jesus doing it their own way, that is why so many Christians are still sick!

We need to right now declare absolute war on every form of sickness. Take your God-given authority over every disease in the name of Jesus. And we need to go and heal the sick and set those captive by sickness free!

The truth is clear and obvious. Healing is for all, Jesus wants you well. You never need to spend a second in doubt of God’s willingness to heal you. Does anyone who knows the Word ever doubt the will of Jesus is to save the most rotten and selfish human? Then how can anyone ever doubt the will of Jesus is to heal the most broken and diseased human?

How do we know salvation is for all? Because the Lord is the Lord who saves us. God loved us so much He gave us Jesus so whoever believes in Jesus can be saved (John 3.16, Romans 10.9-10). That is the truth and when it is preached, people believe and are saved.

How do we know healing is for all? Because the Lord is the Lord who heals us (Exodus 15.26). Tomorrow morning, that verse will still be in the Bible. He will still be the Lord our healer. He will never change, and there is no maybe about it. He heals all who believe.

Jesus said “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Matthew 9.29) so have some faith. Ask in faith, nothing wavering (James 1.6). That’s the truth of the matter – we need to ask in faith, we need to start believing that healing is ours and declaring it and acting on it. That is where the answer to this question lies. The will of God has not changed since Bible days, but a lot of tradition has caused a lot of people to doubt it!

Healing Truths 02: Jesus Wants Everyone Well

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The reason I can confidently say Jesus wants you well is I can read the Bible and it clearly teaches Jesus wants everyone well. One of the biggest lies in the modern church is the idea that healing was for the past, for the good old days, but not for today. Another lie in the modern church is that God wants some people healed but not others. Both of these lies build the same barrier in people’s hearts for healing – the uncertainty that God wants to heal everyone. Because if you do not realize the clear Biblical truth that God wants everyone well, you will always be unconvinced Jesus wants you well!

Nearly every Christian knows Jesus heals some people, but there is a lot of nonsense in the modern church that keeps people away from the clear truth of the Word – Jesus wants everyone well, and has provided healing for all.

It is really hard – if not impossible – to get your hopes up and have faith for anything that we do not know Jesus wants for us. To quote Kenneth Hagin, “we cannot have faith for anything unless we know the will of God in that area”. To make that quote specific to healing – we cannot have faith for healing unless we know God’s will is healing. When we know the will of God is healing for everyone, when it sinks in that healing is for us, it is easy to receive healing by faith! Easy! You have to realize healing is for all! You have to realize Jesus wants everyone well, and that He wants you well!

How can we know God’s will about anything? Well, if I had a will, and I died and you wanted to know what was in my will, there would only be one possible way to find out what was in my will, to find out what my will was. Only one way. To read the will!

If you want to know God’s will on any area, there is only one way – not circumstances, not conjecture, not what aunty thinks – you have to read His will.

Imagine a lady came to me after her husband died and said “Ben, my husband was very rich, I don’t know if he left me anything in his will, would you pray that I could somehow know what his will contained”. I would say “I am not going to pray for you, read the will. When you read the will you will find out”

People come to me in the New Covenant, after Jesus died, and say “Ben, Jesus is very powerful, I know He can heal me. I don’t know if His will is to heal me or not. I don’t know what is in His will. Pray for me to know His will.” I tell them “I am not going to pray for you, read the will. When you read the will you will find out”.

Another word for will is testament. Read the Testament! Read the New Testament, it is God’s last will and testament and shows you what His will is. Because the New Testament is God’s last will and testament, anything that comes after that contradicts the New Testament is a forgery. That preacher saying God doesn’t want you well, when Healing is in the will, is a forgery – that preacher is guilty of probate fraud!

If healing is in the will, then to say God’s will is not healing, is to try and change the will! You cannot change the will after the testator has died. Jesus died as the testator, left us everything in the New Testament, then He resurrected from the dead and is now not just the testator, He is the mediator of the will (Hebrews 9.15) and also our advocate (1 John 2.1-2) making sure we get everythign in the will! He is not some earthly advocate who might try and stitch us up and take some of our inheritance, He is going to make sure you get everything in the will. And healing is in the will.

Today, read the will of God. Read the four gospels and look at every time Jesus healed someone. Jesus is the expression of the will of the Father, and His life is a revelation of the love and will of God – Jesus was the living will of God, and He healed the sick and healed them all! When Jesus healed them all, He was revealing the will of God to every human.

There was a leper in Mark 1.40 who prayed for healing the way some people pray today “Lord, heal me, if it be your will”. That man did not know God’s will. He did not know what Jesus wanted. He had never read the will. The first thing Jesus did was deal with this uncertainty. Jesus said “I will”. Healing is not “if it be your will”, healing is God’s will. Healing is Jesus’ will. Jesus wants you well. He wants everyone well.

The leper said “If you want to, you can”. Jesus said “I want to”. The modern charismatic church says “If Jesus wants to heal, He will, Jesus if it be your will, heal this person”. And Jesus stands in the background, ignored, as He says over and over again “It is my will. I want you well. I want everyone well.” Jesus is not willing that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3.9) – that includes sickness and disease!

Read these words and realize this is the last will and testament of Jesus Christ:

Great multitudes followed him, and He healed them all (Matthew 12.15).

That is the living, moving, breathing will of God. Jesus Christ. He healed them all. And He has never changed. He is still the same yesterday, today and forever. Right now, His will is to heal you. His last will and testament for you includes your total healing. Jesus wants you well.

Healing Truths 01: Jesus Wants You Well

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Jesus Our Healer
Jesus Wants You Well!

I am the Lord who heals you – Exodus 15.26

If you are sick in your body today, I am going to tell you the truth today: Jesus wants you well. Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Universe, passionately wants you to be healed.

You have to be aware and convinced that Jesus wants you well to be able to receive your healing from God. If you do not realize Jesus wants you well, there will be doubt in your mind that you can be healed. As long as that doubt lives in your house, you cannot receive your healing by faith. We need faith to receive from God, we need to ask God for our healing in faith, without wavering, otherwise we have no grounds to think we will receive from God (James 1.6-7).

But once you are convinced Jesus wants you well, that sickness is not and never has been or will be God’s will or plan for you, then you will inevitably receive your healing. It is that simple and that clear.

Knowing what Jesus wants when it comes to healing is the basis for believing for your healing! Often people will say to me: Ben, I just don’t have the faith to receive my healing. My response is normally “Do you believe that Jesus does what He wants to do?” or “Do you believe Jesus keeps His promises?”. They tell me “yes, I believe that”, then I tell them they do have faith for healing, because faith is this simple. I believe Jesus wants me well! That is faith for healing in one sentence: I believe Jesus wants me well.

My spiritual great-grandfather is F F Bosworth, and he said this:

Do not doubt God. If you must doubt something, doubt your doubts, because they are unreliable but never doubt God or His Word.

Satan lies, Jesus never lies. I can show you all over the Bible from the Old Testament, from the New Testament, from the Psalms, from the Law, from the gospels, from the epistles, that Jesus wants you well. Your healing is declared in God’s Word, and it is true to say Jesus wants you well!

God announced to the world in Exodus 15.26 “I am the Lord who heals you”. Do you know He spoke that to over three million people, and all three million believed it, and all three million were healed? Every sick person in that crowd was made totally whole. Psalm 105.37 tells us about those people that “there was not one feeble person among their tribes”. Can you imagine three million people and not one diabetic, not one with cancer, not one deaf, not one blind? Not one weak, feeble, sick, not one with aches and pains, not one with sleeping difficulties, not one with migraines? That’s what the Bible tells us happened, and I believe the Bible!

Now, if Jesus did that for the nation of Israel under law, under the Old Testament, then how much more will He heal you under the New Covenant, the better covenant? You have been redeemed not by the blood of a lamb, but by the blood of the Lamb, living under grace and mercy? Jesus wants you well. He wants all of us well!

I want this truth to settle into your heart: Jesus wants you well. It’s as true as one plus one is two. Healing is for you! Healing is for you, because Jesus wants you well.

The will of Jesus, the will of God, is that every single person is healed. All you have to do is believe and receive! There is no maybe about this, there is not an “if” or a “but”, Jesus wants you well. God has no favourites, He wants you well!

We live in a world where sickness and disease ravage so many lives, medical science has achieved more than ever before but it still has not stopped sickness taking lives, ruining hope, destroying freedom. Disease is still around all over the world.

The saddest bit of that in my mind and heart is that there are still Christians affected by sickness and disease. This should not be. It is happening, Christians are dying of sickness, losing their freedom by sickness, being destroyed by disease while preachers are pontificating about why God has made them sick, when God makes no-one sick. Jesus makes no-one sick. Jesus wants you well! Jesus wants you well right now!

Sickness is not God teaching you a lesson as some ignorant people say. Sickness is not God chastising you or punishing you! Sickness is not God’s way of drawing you to Him, it is certainly not a gift to you for being so spiritual! Sickness is evil, a liar, a destroyer, a thief! It is an instrument of satan to steal from you. And the good news is that Christians do not have to be sick, any more than a Christian has to sin. It is always the will of Jesus, the desire of Jesus that you are well. Jesus wants you well!

The reason disease is still in the church is people just do not believe the simple truth that Jesus wants them well. In the Old Testament, three million people believed Jesus wanted them well and were all healed. That should be the normal in every church in the world!

The reason there were no feeble among them was that they all believed the Lord was their healer. They believed what God said. He is the Lord our healer. And they all got healed. God said it, they believed it, and they were healed.

The reason there are so many feeble, sick, unwell, infirm Christians today is that we do not believe Jesus wants us well. We do not believe He is the Lord who heals us. We heard it, but we ignored it, we filtered it through ungodly traditions and charismatic legalism, until we thought God doesn’t heal, and sickness is a blessing! It’s the same lie satan conned Adam and Eve with – has God really said, and does God really mean what He says!

We have taken the I AM and turned Him into the I WAS! Three million people were healed at once in the Old Testament, you can be healed today under the New. Say it out loud “I believe Jesus wants me well. I believe He is the Lord who heals me”. Say it until it registers, until it moves you – and receive your healing!

A Good Work 03: Don’t Be A Lazy Elder

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Description of the painting by Alexei Venetsianov “Sleeping Shepherd”Description  picture - Venetsianov Alexey

When Peter wrote to the church, he was thinking very much of the elders. He told them that he wrote the letter “to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Peter 3.1). We need to be elders with a good memory! We need to remember what is important. Often people forget what is important. What is important for an elder?

  • Winning people to Jesus
  • Discipling people
  • Training people
  • Honouring your pastor
  • Being kind and sweet with people
  • Understanding people
  • Leading people to Sunday services
  • Leading people to conferences
  • Calling people
  • Winning people to the culture and philosophy of the church

Notice this list does not include:

  • Reaching out to goats and listening to all their complaints about the church
  • Sowing doubts in people’s minds about the church
  • Ensuring people are entertained
  • Playing power games
  • Sorting out the problems with pastor’s theology or praxis
  • Trying to get into the green room to meet your favourite guest speaker

You need to be doing the things that are important, and not be lazy. You might have worked a ten hour shift and be tired and want to rest and watch your soap opera, but maybe you feel a tugging to phone someone in your Living Church and make sure that they are sorted. They need your help! Maybe you feel that you can just miss Heal the Nations this year because you want to go on holiday and are tired of conferences, but if you do that then you are setting an example to the people in your living church. Every conference I notice the elders who come to the conference are the people who bring the most people from them Living Churches. Our conferences are life changing with miracles, great teaching and remarkable worship and exceptional pastoring. You need to be at them, and you need to set an example. That is good eldering and it is hard work.

One of the biggest problems in the UK is lazy pastors and lazy elders. People who cannot knuckle down and do the monotonous, wearying, work of loving people, making disciples, helping people. People who stop the gossip, put the effort into maintaining their role and their Living Church, and serving and living to honour the pastor that made them an elder and worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ and His goodness and grace!

A Good Work 02: The Character of an Elder

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What Your Invisible Leadership Badge Reveals About You ...

The Scripture is clear, pastors appoint elders, and do to it the other way around is just unbiblical! I have done a lot of training with pastors and showed them how to appoint elders, but I have not done – outside of our training new elders – training and teaching to everyone about what sort of qualifications a good pastor should be looking for in a potential elder. The truth is that what really matters is character. Far far far far far far far far far more than capability! God can develop capability as you go, but you cannot develop character as you go, you have to develop it before you are put in the position of elder.

So many people I meet want to be an elder to be in the spotlight, but actually you should want to be an elder to help others. I watched a Bible study recently, and one person wanted to dominate the room, they always wanted their voice heard, they were determined to be the most important person in the room. And they could speak, they were capable and confident, but I will never make that person an elder because they lack character. Good character encourages others to speak, helps serve others, lifts others rather than just self-promotes all the time. So, let’s look at what the Bible says about character and elders. Paul told Timothy as the pastor he had to appoint elders in Ephesus and he told him what sort of people to look for, and everything Paul said was to do with character not capability:

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Tim. 3.1-7. NIV)

Now to be an overseer is the same thing as an elder. They are the same task. Notice the pastor is given the job of appointing the overseers and it is up to the pastor to determine the character of the elder. If a pastor is not sure, I will always tell them, then don’t appoint, leave it six months and see what happens. But let’s break down this list of character essentials for eldership:

  1. Above reproach. This means nothing sticks to you. I know some people if you told me they did x and y, I would laugh in your face. Those people have proved to me again and again they are just not like that. Those are the kind of people I want as elders. Some people you could tell me they did this and that, and my first thought would be, they probably did. Those are the kind of people I – and the whole church – does not want as elders.
  2. Faithful to his wife. It’s a sad truth some people use local church as an excuse to avoid working on their marriage, Your first church is your family and if your wife is not happy, I don’t want to put you in charge of a small group. That’s just honest talk. This includes sexual fidelity, but it is so much more! Your wife should be appreciated and honoured by you, and it should be obvious to everyone. People notice these things, and if your wife is always hassled and harried, and you are gliding around looking after all the other ladies in the church (and the men) – it’s not going to help anyone to give you an position of eldership!
  3. Temperate. This means not over the top in anything. In the way you look, act, respond – are you over the top, or are you able to move forward at a consistent and steady pace. Always appoint tortoises as elders, not hares!
  4. Self-Controlled. Some people need to be “controlled”, you need to constantly be reminding them to come to church, you need to remind them to not take too long when they take a 3 minute offering and take 10 minutes. You need to remind them not to dominate a discussion, you need to remind them to pray, to give, to spend time with their families. Those people are not yet ready for leadership, they have not learned to control themselves.
  5. Respectable. This means literally “able to put things in order”. Is the person doing well at work, is their house in order, are the basics in their life in order? Do they turn up at church on time? Are they able to submit to other elders when they are not an elder? Do they respect the order of the church service, or do they yell out in the middle of a service? Do they get upset at the lowest level of hurt? Do they tell you to your face if they have a problem, or do they call someone else in tears and gossip and slander you? Those people are not elder material. We have some people in Tree of Life who are running their secret little Bible studies, their secret WhatsApp groups, their secret meetings, teaching what they want, what some other church or para-church ministry wants, and that is totally out of order. I let those things continue because I am not in control of someone’s life and choices, but I will never appoint those people as elders as they absolutely do not understand order. They are not respectable.
  6. Hospitable. Can they open their house and make people feel welcome.
  7. Able to Teach. Some people will tell me this is not a character issue but capability. No, all the items in this are character. You see the truth is in terms of capability running a house group and leading a Bible study does not take too much capability, it does take character. This is not preaching on a Sunday, it is small group teaching, discipling – those are the teaching an elder should be doing. Will the elder teach the study they are given, or will they try and put their own spin on it? Will they say “well pastor said this, but actually that…” – people like that have zero character and should not be in your leadership team and should not be discipling others until they deal with their immaturity and character issues that mean they cannot teach!
  8. Not given to drunkenness. The more your leadership influence grows, the less you should be seen with a drink in your hand. Tree of Life Church is not a “dry” church, but you should know and maintain your limits!
  9. Not Violent. This word means someone who loves fighting, and loves a fight. The word is similar in root to “smite”. We have some people who just want a fight. They want someone to bring some legalism into their meeting so they can show off their theological strength and “smite” them with the Word. They are always arguing about doctrine all the time. I do not put those people in charge of others!
  10. Gentle. The Greek word is epieikes, one of the most beautiful words in any language. It is different to directly translate into English, it means to be appropriately peaceful, to be fair, to be kind, to use the right amount of strength. Some people I can talk directly to, some I have to hold back and say things a lot more softly. That art is gentleness and that is an issue of character that if you do not develop you will never be a successful leader of people.
  11. Not Quarrelsome. This is a bad translation in the NIV if you want my honest opinion. The Greek means someone who is aware they are not invincible. I heard someone translate it once as “unmacho” which is actually spot on! If you want to be considered a leader, you have to be aware you are not perfect, you are not invincible, you are not the paragon of life showing all the plebs the way forward. We are all human, and we lead from a shared sense that we all need to keep learning, growing and develop. It stops you lording it over others or being utterly unreasonable. A lack of this quality is what leads pastors to make people bow before them, have personal offers every Sunday for themselves, their wife and their cat. It is what leads pastors who have been removed from ministry for moral failure join the church down the road, tell everyone they used to be a pastor and have a lot of experience as a pastor, but omit to tell everyone why they are not a pastor anymore. It’s all about building a persona rather than building a person! Do not embrace that quality. Be the first to own your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I am not saying let it all hang out with everyone, that’s not wise, but just a healthy awareness of your lack of invincibility is vital!
  12. Not a Lover of Money. Never ever see any ministry as a way to gain financially. If you do not tithe you are not fit for any church leadership. If you do not know how to give generously, you do not have the faith to believe that you can disciple and help people. It’s that simple. Be free from the love of money, do whatever it takes to get free!0
  13. Mange his own family. Again, no family is perfect, but I look to see if someone’s children honour them and love them. If not, why would I want to give that person more “children” to help. If a person cannot listen to their children talk about how tough their day at school was, how can they be a good listener to a young Christian talking about how tough their day at church or work was?
  14. Not a recent convert. It’s not about years, it’s about character. Has this person been through enough experiences as a Christian to help others. I think this means anyone who has recently changed their mind about something. Someone who has been a Christian forty years but just last month got baptized in the Holy Spirit or realized the complete work of the cross, is a recent convert. They have not processed their new views and ideas enough to be able to help others yet!
  15. Not vulnerable to conceit. This word is the Greek word for a vapour or cloud. It means to be puffed up and inflated with pride to the point where you cannot see any more! There is an old English translation of the Bible that translates this word as “beclouded” – surrounded with a cloud of stupid trust in your own brilliance. That kind of person thinks they should be an elder because they are so brilliant, but they will never listen to the pastor, they will argue with the pastor, they will cause strife. They will if allowed to continue start arguing with the pastor, correcting him in private to other people, trying to build their power-base within the church. They will be like the false mother in Solomon’s issue – they will cut the church up just to own a dead half of it and not care one iota about the people being hurt as long as they get a powerbase, and they will think they earned the powerbase because they are so awesome.
  16. Good reputation of outsiders. I don’t translate this good reputation WITH outsiders, but OF. I don’t really care what your last church or employer says about you – who are they and what do they know? But I do care what you say about them. If you constantly tell me your last church was terrible, that’s on you, that’s your perspective. You will leave us soon telling the next church how terrible we are. You need to be positive about every situation and community you are in. You need eyes of faith. If you are critical of every other group you have been in, you will criticise the Tree soon. Best if I don’t platform you doing that.

So that is a short overview on the character necessary to be an elder in a healthy Biblical church. It also says that if you desire to be an elder, you desire to disciple people, you desire to help people, you are desiring a noble task. So it’s good you want to be an elder, but to be an elder quit vying for position, quit trying to hog the spotlight and start developing your character. That is what will open the door to helping others and that is what will mean that when you do start eldering, you will be a blessing and not a curse!

A Good Work 01: What is an Elder?

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The Ubuntu Stratagem

In terms of the world, an elder is someone older than you, wiser than you, and with access to knowledge and abilities that you do not have. In terms of a tribe or village, the elders will be those people whose experience and consistency give them a voice.

In church, you do not automatically become an elder because you have managed to survive a long time. The is a Biblical model for appointing elders, there is a Biblical character essential for elders, and there are Biblical tasks for elders to do.

The first thing that must be understood in a local church that desires to be healthy and based on the Bible is that elders are appointed by pastors, not the other way around. In a number of churches the elders hire and fire pastors, and then the church is committee led. The elders are then either appointed by elders or appointed by the vote of the congregation. which means the most carnal and useless and unfruitful people in the entire church are choosing who should feed them. That’s as dumb as asking a three year old to choose what to have for dinner every night or when to go to bed or bath!

We had a lady in one of her churches who was convinced she was an elder in the church because she had contacted a para-church ministry which sold her a certificate saying she was an elder. It only cost £800, and she thought she was an elder. She was not because you cannot buy an eldership, you can only be appointed by a pastor. If you are an “elder” but have not been appointed by a pastor you are no more an elder than you are a helicopter. Stop believing and acting in ways that are not in the Bible. You might have got 98% of your church voting you into being an elder, that does not make you one.

Other times people have thought being an elder is transferrable, they were an elder in their last church, so they think they can be in Tree of Life. No, it doesn’t work like that. We don’t do things the way the church down the road does things. That’s not fair on them or us to give us the right to appoint people elders and then they go to other churches as elders. That could easily be abused and misused! It’s not God’s plan.

You go a church you are not an elder unless the pastor says you are. If he is a wise, godly pastor who cares about the Bible, he will know what an elder should look like, how an elder should behave and what an elder should be doing. We will look at that in other posts in this series, but today we need to settle on the fact that pastors appoint elders, not the other way around. There is no other way to be an elder.

Acts 14.23 tells us that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in the church. Notice elders were appointed – not selected, not elected, not voted in, not chosen by the throwing of lots, no one was asked their age. To be Biblical elders must be appointed. Now there is a difference here between elders and pastors! Some people think elders and pastors are the same, but that is not Biblical, although there is an overlap being their roles. A pastor, according to Ephesians 4.11, is appointed and chosen by Jesus Christ, not men. Men can recognize that appointment of Jesus, but men cannot appoint a pastor. Only Jesus can! But elders are appointed by men – specifically pastors.

Paul told Titus, a pastor, that his job was to set things in order and appoint elders (Titus 1.5). A good pastor will be known for setting things in order and appointing elders. Timothy took on the church at Ephesus where Paul had previously appointed elders when functioning as the pastor there, but Timothy was clearly told he could remove elders from their position and had the authority as the pastor to tell the elders what to teach. If an elder cannot teach what the pastor tells them to teach, they have zero business being an elder in that church.

Jesus chooses and appoints someone as a pastor then called them to a place to gather a flock and feed that flock. The verification of that calling is that people actually gather to them. A pastor needs people in his church who the church knows are godly people, with consistent character, with a track record of morality, with a desire and passion for discipling others. He needs people to share the task of discipling people and raising them up into maturity. Those people are the elders, and only the pastors can and should be appointing them.

That is the introduction to the role of the elder, in the next post we will look at a few of the character requirements.

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