Tree of Life Blog

Engaging Culture with the wisdom and power of Christ!

On Protests, Riots and the Future of London

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Last night, very near where I grew up, near where I live there was a clash between protesters and the police.  Bins were torched, police were injured and there was a lot of shouting and a lot of noise.

The underlying issue of this protest is a young man who tragically has died shortly after being stopped by the police in Beckton. The protesters are concerned that the police beat him and injured him so severely that these injuries directly led to his death.

Now, I don’t know if that is true or not. And nor do you. 

I have not had good experiences with the police in my life, and that includes a five hour interview where the police lied to me on several occasions to pressure me into confessing to a crime I did not commit. But despite that my basic view is that most police are doing the best job they know how to do with the resources they have. I believe the inquest will bring out the key facts and in this political climate justice will be done.

I also have read in many of the papers that this young man’s family did not want people to do anything other than peacefully protest. I think that is what matters the most right now. They need our prayers and love and grace, more than anyone else in this situation. They have lost their son forever, an unimaginable pain. We should all pray for them to know the comfort of God that passes all understanding.

I believe many of those in this protest, those assaulting the police, those committing arson did not know the deceased or did not know him well. It seems to me that many young people in this nation are simply looking for a chance to rebel and to defy authority. The root of that goes back to their home life. If parents do not teach their children a respect for authority (I’m not talking about a blind unwavering submission to the state, I am well aware the state can be wrong – I’m talking about the deliberate destruction of council property and the assault of officers of the state), then people will not have  appropriate respect for authority. Some people are just looking for a chance to rebel. 

Rebellion is one of the works of the flesh that Paul tells us about, and contrasts with the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness and self-control. If we are Christians we must not allow the flesh to lead us, but the fruit of the Spirit. And in case you think that doing this makes us doormats, Paul tells us against the fruit of the Spirit there is no law. Or in other words nothing can stand against the fruit of the Spirit. When you operate like this, no bins get burned, no police get assaulted but lives are changed, and society is changed. The wrath of man cannot work the purposes of God! But the fruit of the Spirit can. 

Those of us who want a more equal society, a more godly, a more glorious society, wrapping up and hiding your face and torching a bin or two is not the way forward. Walking in love and gentleness, with the true strength of godly character… That will change the world because you are sowing a different kind of seed.

Now, let’s weigh in on a big part of this issue, and that is that the young man who sadly died was black, and the protesters last night were black. You might ask me how as a white man I can weigh on this, you might tell me that as I’ve never grown up as black, and I cannot speak into this. 

I would say I cannot avoid speaking into this. I am the pastor of one of the most genuinely multi-ethnic and multi-cultural churches in London. Join us on a Sunday morning and I guarantee the people around you will all be from different backgrounds and cultures.

I am also keenly aware that Jesus says one of the markers of end times is that nation will war against nation. The Greek word for nation is ethnos which is where we get our English word ethnic and ethnicity. Jesus Christ himself said that at the end of time there would be a huge amount of racism leading to fighting, and I believe him. This doesn’t make me defeated or fatalistic, rather it inspires me to continue to build a house of prayer for many ethnicities in the heart of east London, and raise up leaders of every nationality. I am building a church that I want to be heaven on earth, and I read that in heaven every tribe and tongue worship together.

So I believe I have a Biblical and God-given mandate to speak about this. And what I have to say may shock some, but please listen, think and consider.  And know this, I love all people and my heart is for you no matter your background.

This is how I see it today… Across London, the UK and also in the USA, the whole Black Lives Matter movement has become racist, it is judging people by the colour of their skin. It wants black lives to matter, but doesn’t seem to do anything to help black people, just rant and riot. In fact at the last riots a few years back, many black-owned businesses suffered.

I believe in equality. I believe in civil rights for all. I would like to think if I was a pastor in America in the 50s and 60s I would be leading the way in ending segregation, which is a terrible thing, no matter the cost to me and to my reputation and ministry. I’d like to believe I would have been that brave. I hate segregation, and I still hate the segregation on Sunday mornings across my city. Martin Luther King is one of my heroes. 

Now one of the things Martin Luther King said is that his dream was that his sons would be judged “by the content of their character, not by the colour of their skin”. In other words, you can judge them, but not because they are black or white, but judge them as people, as individuals on the way they behave.

Sadly, people have forgotten about Martin Luther King. They have forgotten his Christian ideals of peaceful, non-violent protest, and they have forgotten his desire for all people to be judged on the content of their character. 

Some people now want a free pass in life because of the colour of their skin. There are universities where black students are now demanding spaces free from white students so they feel safe. That is racism. That is judging people by the colour of their skin. That is failing to judge people by the content of their character.

Of course black lives matter. Of course all lives matter. But the truth is, and I am telling you the truth because it is the truth that brings freedom, that you cannot control all black people, you cannot control all people. But the good news is that people cannot control you.

Listen to me. I want to change the way you think. I don’t know who is reading this, I don’t know your background, your religion, your ethnicity. But whoever you are, let me tell you something: your life matters.

Your life matters.

Stop, read that again. Then re-read it again. Your life matters. And that you can do something about. You can exercise self-control, you can walk in faith and love and kindness. You can be decent to the people around you. You can better yourself today, don’t rage against the system, but look in the mirror and tell yourself: I am a champion, my life matters. It matters so much I don’t need to torch a bin, or assault the police. I can walk in love, I can choose a higher path. I can build relationships with people different to me. I can walk in my dreams.

Nothing is holding you back.

Let’s pray for everyone involved in what went on last night, especially for this man’s family. But let’s in the in the midst of our surroundings let’s walk by faith, in love, let’s build a house of prayer for all ethnicities. Let’s judge ourselves by the content of our character and if something is lacking, let’s hit it head on and develop good, godly character.

If Jesus told the truth, race relations in big cities are going to get worse. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem. Let’s love one another. Let’s help Martin Luther King’s dream come true today. Your life matters, so go out there and make it matter.

Tree of Life Blog – Dream Team Coming Soon!

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Dear Blog reader,

Last night I had a really powerful time of prayer, and out of the blue, the Lord started speaking to me about my two blogs – treeoflifeblog.com and benjaminconway.net.  Up until now, treeoflifeblog.com was general teaching about church life and church ministry, and benjaminconway.net was about leadership training.  And there are many of you that are reading these blogs, and I generally update once a week, on a Tuesday, travel schedule permitting.

Well, benjaminconway.net will at the moment stay the same, but we are going to change treeoflifeblog.com so it is updated daily, starting this Monday.  The purpose of the blog will be to create a dream team – it will inspire you to dream, and challenge you to live the dream.

We are going to create a dream academy, that if you check in every day, you will find the keys you need to walk in your dreams.

Every Monday will be Motivation Monday, and I will give you some inspirational and motivating to help you take on the world.  Tuesday will be teaching Tuesday and be very similar to what was happening before.  Wednesday will be Wisdom Wednesday, a pithy and practical piece of life advice that you can put into practice and see results immediately.  On Future Thursday we will be sharing our personal devotional life and what God is saying to us about the future, specifically our futures.  On Feel Good Friday we will give you some good news that will get you ready for the weekend and for church, then on Selfie Saturday we will post some selfies of what we are doing for the day.

Finally on Support Sunday we will support you with what you are going through.  We want this blog to become more interactive and more a place you can come and find the resources you need to dream big and walk in those dreams.

Reasons to Pray in Tongues 02: Edification

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When you pray in tongues, you edify yourself.  In other words, you build yourself up.

Reasons to Pray in Tongues 01: The Battery

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When I pray in tongues I charge myself up, like a battery is charged up.

Pick Your Battles!

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One thing I have learned in 2017 is that you don’t need to show up at every argument you are invited to. You see conflict always takes your energy, your wisdom, your strength and your time away from dreaming, and dreaming big is what leads you into your destiny.

I have found that most people who have a reputation for being contentious do not think they are contentious, rather they think they are honest, up front people who “tell it like it is”. In fact, they take great pride in being the person who tells everyone as it is. What is really happening is that they are copying someone in their childhood, often mum or dad, who would get their own way through making others scared, what we call intimidation. They are following a pattern, and are sadly blind to the relationships and wisdom they lose out on by doing so.

Nothing hurts a church more than a contentious leader. Nothing hurts a family more than a contentious parent, and nothing hurts a business more than contentious employees. When a person in a church cannot get along with others, the whole church feels it. When a person at work cannot get along with others, thousands of pounds or more can easily be lost as projects get delays, other employees feel they have to give their tuppence worth and every situation slows down and focus is lost from the main goal.

Now does the Bible have some wisdom for us in dealing with contentious people? Yes, it does and it is really clear:

17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. (Romans 16.17-18, NLT)i

I take the Bible very seriously, and I take these verses as seriously as anything in Paul’s letters. When people are divise and teach things against righteousness by faith, and obedience from faith, when people teach inclusionism, universalism, preterism, licentiousness and anything else contrary to sound doctrine, I just walk away.

I know so many people who have joined the band wagon in teaching that Christians do not need to be part of a local church. It’s heresy of the worst kind, and it is divisive. People like that I don’t even walk up to anymore, I just walk past.  I might nod or say hello, but I have nothing to do with them. I have too much to do to be distracted!

Do you realize one of the most powerful principles in the entire universe is the principle of agreement? One of the greatest powers in the universe is the power of two people in agreement.  Contentious people are trying to disrupt that power, and you don’t need that. If someone writes me a letter telling me one of my mentors is corrupt, it goes in the bin. I don’t have time for that garbage, and I know where it goes. If someone comes to me and starts trying to tell me that you don’t need to believe to be saved, I will be walking away. Sometimes you can help someone like that, more often than not you cannot.

One of the things that people will do if they are divisive is they will get involved in things that are none of their business. They need to read Proverbs 26.17 (I’m not quoting it, go look it up!), and they enjoy it – they love disputes, they thrive on conflict, and look for a reason to disagree with you.

We had Terri Savelle Foy preaching in Dagenham last Sunday, and she was amazing. One of the things she exhorted the church to do was to stop complaining and start giving thanks, in fact she said you cannot be a success unless you are grateful. Ingratitude is often the root of divisiveness, people try and divide churches because they forgot to say thank you.  People literally sitting in a kitchen that one of our pastors built and insulting him to their family. Someone is texting another one of our pastors and telling them they have done a bad job and don’t care using a phone that the same pastor bought for them! Ingratitude, that then leads to divisiveness – sorry, I don’t feel like coming to church this week, and suddenly that person is gone. Listen that can destroy a church plant in one month, it can kill a healthy “mature” church in six months. I’ve seen churches go from growing to dying because of one ungrateful person.

We need the boldness to stop any conversation rooted in divisiveness:

  • I’m not going to that church any more, it hurt me so bad.
  • I don’t think you should give to that church
  • I don’t reckon it’s a good idea to listen to that pastor anymore
  • He’s just not feeding me anymore

Anyone comes to you with this kind of negative, church-splitting, ungrateful talk, you have my permissive to talk over them and say “God is good, let’s thank God for His goodness, let’s get excited about a turnaround, let’s get to church this weekend!”  Be bold and be strong! It’s a fire, and you can pour water all over their hellfire stuff – go for it!

Don’t let the atmosphere around you be ungrateful and negative – change it!  Speak life!

Did you know more missionaries leave the mission field – not because of money, not because of getting sick or hating the culture – no, it’s because of personal disputes with other missionaries. People who love Jesus so much they move to another nation to share the gospel – and they have to come home because of petty fighting and an atmosphere of ingratitude.

Listen to me, I could say a lot more about this, but my finishing point is this: conflict is not created by an issue. It is created by a person:

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. (Proverbs 26.20, ESV)

Agreement makes the devil run away, it leads us into life and abundance, companionship, happiness and the manifest presence of God. So get the division out, pick your battles.

The Power of an Accuser 07: The Association of Accusation

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When you are accused the people around you are accused as well. If a pastor is accused, the whole church is polluted with that accusation. If one church is accused in a network, then the whole network can be polluted with that accusation. Let me say it like this: accusations quickly spread to those associated with you.

Want to be my associate pastor? Part of the job description will be to be accused of the same things I am. Don’t expect to be the clean, holy one in the network! We all get accused, and it’s generally the same thing.  You aren’t greater than us, you aren’t greater than Jesus – if he was accused, you will be too!

So whenever you associate with a group, realize you will be accused with the same things they are. When a Word of Faith guest speaker comes to Tree of Life, I get the same horrible emails all the word of faith guys get. When a grace speaker comes to Tree of Life, I get the same vicious letters all the grace guys get. Dave Duell, my dearest mentor for many years had his own unique set of accusers, and trust me they aimed some of their lies at me.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just a thing, and I am just telling you to get used to it. It’s part of the price you pay to be part of something bigger than yourself.

I had some vicious accusations a few years ago, real nasty stuff. There was no truth behind them at all, but a couple of pastors I was mentoring distanced themselves for me. They couldn’t handle the association of accusation. They said their churches wouldn’t grow if they were tied to me. Now, we are running in 7 locations, with hundreds of people, one of the largest TV ministries in the United Kingdom, and their churches are still the same size.  They missed out on a powerful association because the price was too much.  I know people who would come and meet Dave Duell when he came to England, but they wanted me to keep it a secret, they didn’t want to deal with the accusations.  I believe the theological term is wimp!

You have to realize that to be part of something bigger than yourself, to have a great mentor, to gain great wisdom, you must always be prepared to be accused the way they are.

How was Peter accused – you’ve been with Jesus haven’t you Peter. You are one of them (Luke 22.58). And Peter couldn’t handle that and lied like a dog – No, I am not one of them!  Sometimes that pressure is intense, but stand up to your accusers, stand up for your church, your network, your friends!

I respect ministers who while under the pressure of accusation, stand up and still minister the Word and the Spirit and bring grace and wisdom and inspiration to people. Peter quit because a young girl accused him of being with Jesus!  Just the accusations Jesus endured for years and Peter didn’t last 24 hours.

Perhaps some people have avoided being my disciple because of the accusations against me don’t know how strong I am to handle them, perhaps they wouldn’t last 24 hours under the same accusation.  Perhaps God is calling you to a certain church or ministry and you know that you will be accused going there, but you maybe need to develop a backbone?

The Power of Accusations 06: The Foolish Wisdom of an Accuser

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Accusers can sound wise.  They will tell you that you have not been loving, that you have not behaved as a pastor should, that you are running a cult, that you are arrogant, that you are not grace, that you are demonic, that so on and so forth.

Now, here is something I want you to see – their wisdom will never, ever be from the Word of God! You will get some great non-biblical quotes in the letter they write you, you will get some great word definitions, you will get some great proverbs but you won’t get Proverbs!

Now to the average person these cleverly worded arguments can sound very convincing, but if you look closely you will see there is never any Biblical basis to what they are saying.  They have no Scriptures for statements they make that seem very authoritative. bu there is no Scripture to give it any authority.

Which Bible verse says it is wrong to appoint elders on the basis of character, not some philosophical idea of grace?  Which Bible verse says a pastor must drop everything they are doing to pray for your son, your parents, your cousin because you feel it is necessary?

Whatever the accusation, and however it comes, look for the Biblical basis behind it – you won’t find it. You will find some worldly wisdom, but not godly wisdom, not the wisdom of the Word.

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