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10 Reasons to Go To Church This Sunday (and every Sunday!)

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10.  Because in church you are equipped to do the works of ministry!  God wants you doing works of ministry – preaching the gospel, teaching the kingdom and healing the sick; and church is where He wants to teach and train you how to do that.

9. Because the church is a body and a body needs all its parts to relate to one another.

8. Because you need to set an example to your family that they need to develop a habit of regularly going to church.  We have had in-laws and outlaws and all sorts visit, and they would say “don’t go to church this Sunday, let the children spend time with us”.  We have never done that because we have trained and set an example to our children that church is vital to their Christian discipleship.

7. Because you need a storehouse to give to financially and invest in.

6. Because there is nothing like worshipping God with the people of God!

5. Because all those people you are witnessing to and winning to the Lord need somewhere to feed them and love them and nurture them.

4. Because you need a place where you can be consistent and stable.  Conferences are an awesome buzz, special services can do some good, Bible Colleges can get you a jump start in the Christian faith and life, but you will never have a consistent life of victory without being plugged into a church

3. Because God uses people to sharpen you like iron sharpens iron.  As you encounter people in the church – people with different views, different backgrounds, different experiences to yourself it sharpens you and makes you a more effective person.

2. Because if you get sick, fall out with your wife, lose your job, go through tough times – the TV evangelist won’t turn up at your house at 2am and pray with you and minister life to you.  Elders and the pastors will.

1, Because Jesus Christ said “I will build my church” and if you ever want to spend your life building with Jesus and not your own kingdom and own empire, you have to be involved in church. That’s not meeting a couple of guys down the pub and calling it church, it’s where there there is a genuine pastor, called of God, appointing elders and equipping the saints.  That’s church.  And Jesus is building it – so let’s get with His programme rather than trying to write our own.

Your Time is Limited

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

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

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

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

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

 

10 Ways to Destroy a Church

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10.  Never be willing to do anything to help.  See the church as a provider of a service, not a community you are part of.  Never step up to taking responsibility, always see yourself as a tenant not an owner!

9.  Expect everyone to notice you and what you contribute.  If they fail to notice you, get stroppy with them for being so selfish and not noticing all you do to make things happen.  If they still fail, withdraw from the group until someone contacts you and asks how you are and makes a big fuss over you.

8.  Always speak to the people you know.  Never speak to new people in case they find us friendly and then decide they want to hang around – then where would we be?

7.  Be very intolerant of people who don’t know how we do things around here.  Our unspoken dress code, our order of service, even how we make a cup of tea and coffee, where cables go at the end of the church.  Make sure these people are told in no uncertain terms that they have done something really foolish and that everyone thinks they look ridiculous.

6.  Make sure you put other people down and criticize their contributions, their ideas, their style.  Otherwise how else is anyone going to know how amazing you are?  Your candle will surely burn brighter if you blow everyone elses’ candles out. 

5.  Be unpunctual.  It’s only 5 minutes of your time – so don’t ever think that if 20 people are waiting for you to arrive that’s 100 minutes you have wasted.  it is important not to think of other people here, but only yourself – otherwise you might stop being selfish, arrive on time and actually contribute to moving things forward.

4. Always take on more than you cope with – and when you serve be like Martha – rush about, get upset at people not serving, get bitter and angry and then boom – you lose your relationship with the Lord, and make other people feel guilty.  It might not help the community grow, but it will make you feel better and superior too.  That’s what it’s all about – that’s the only reason to serve.

3. Look for things to criticize.  You will find them.  In any church, you will find them.  Make sure you don’t look at all the work the church is doing, all the exciting things that are happening, all the good that is being done.  Look for the crack in the wall, don’t praise God for the wall.  When your looking at the cracks, you don’t get inspired and challenged by the wall.  You don’t get excited by all the things happening in the building.  You keep focused on the cracks.  But the good news is that you get a reputation in the church as the crack expert.  When people want to know what is going wrong, they come to you.  You get a lot of admiration being the crack expert and the great news is this – it’s the easiest job in the church.  Getting involved in the building, mixing cement, laying bricks, working as a team – that’s too much like hard work.  No – watch the builders build, notice when they get it wrong and let others know (loudly).  That is an easy job and an easy pathway to making friends and having a following.  (NOTE: please don’t take the time to ever consider that if you choose this path all your friends are backstabbing gossips.  Just be glad that they are listening to you and feed your power base).

2.  Make sure you tip the church.  About £1 per service is about right, maybe £2 or £3 if the message is amazing.  That way you dull the feeling inside that you should contribute to the financial health of the church, and that giving to the church is part of being significant.  There are a whole bunch of internet sites, mostly written by people who don’t go to church about how the tithe is obsolete, giving to churches is wrong and you should keep your money and spend it on yourself.  Spend lots of time reading these sites in case you start giving significant amounts so the church can blaze forward and impact the world.  Every time the preacher gets a new suit or car, think all about your suits and cars that you don’t have and hold back on your giving.  Remember – it’s someone elses’ job!

1.  Never, ever be disciplined about going.  It’s been a busy weekend?  Skip church on Sunday.  Stay in bed.  Play a board game with your children – tell yourself that you are doing it for them (don’t consider that you are training them to skip church when you are tired, and that might not be a good habit to instill in a child).  It’s been a hard day at work?  Don’t go to Living Church.  They won’t miss you.  You can read the Bible yourself (don’t consider that you never do during those times).  You don’t need fellowship to advice.  Go when you feel like – and tell yourself it what Jesus wants.  Again, there are loads of websites written by people about how church is institutional, sets you back in your Christian faith and a whole host of other things.  Start to see church as an optional extra that fits into your life, not the bedrock of your Christian life.  

Imagination

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Pastor Benjamin Conway, lead pastor of Tree of Life Church and founder of the Tree of Life Network, shows here how to use your imagination to enter fully into God’s dream and your dream for your life. This message is inspiring and challenging and will let you be all you can be!

Seven thoughts about what happened in Woolwich

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The family of Lee Rigby thought he was safe.   He wasn’t on the front line, but home on leave in England’s capital.  It turns out that his killers were raised in Romford and Harold Hill, both places I know well.

But how should Christians respond to such a vicious attack, how should Londoners act today and tomorrow, and what is Christ’s response to this.

I don’t have all the answers, and even in a blog post I don’t have the space to even share all my thoughts, but I want to give a framework that might help people respond in a Christian way.

Firstly, it is not wrong to feel strong  emotions.  Clearly the true grief in this situation is with the family of the bereaved, but as people who recognise the streets and the scenery of the attack it is ok to feel anguish,  angry, fear and grief.  God is compassion and compassion expresses itself in emotions.  Someone might feel they hope the murderers are hacked to pieces, that’s a form of compassion for the bereaved.  Calling those who are angry and emotional unChristian is not helpful.   Let the emotions surface and deal with them as they arise.  That doesn’t mean getting  emotional in any situation  is acceptable or that any action can be justified by emotion, but that emotions are just part of any human response and they need to be acknowledged, admitted and allowed. 

Secondly, this should not be seen as a racial event.  London is a melting pot of ethnicity and has been for years.  The EDF and other groups will seek to use this issue to stereotype and blame “aliens” and immigrants.  The two young men were British born, with a Nigerian heritage.   They went to primary school and secondary school in Havering.  This transcends their culture.  This is not an ethnically charged incident.   It wasn’t done in the name of race.  We should at this time be doing everything in our power to strengthen community links and build a truly international church in the capital where every tribe and tongue meets together. 

Thirdly, the answer to the question was it terrorism.  After a lot of consideration, I have to conclude that it was terrorist behaviour.  Knife crime among people in that age bracket is horrendous and evil, but this something else.   Not just due to the viciousness and premeditated nature of the act, but that it was filmed and designed for people to see it.   It was planned to cause terror which is why I consider it was a terrorist act.   It seems likely that we will find out that these young  men were not linked to any terrorist groups, but acting independently.  That is truly chilling.   No one turned them, they just became offended at western culture and society to the point they decided to not just threaten it but desecrate it.   This was a terror attack and the best way to be the head and not the tail is to not give in to terror.   I have bought a Help for heroes tshirt because I want to honour the people who gave their life or health for this nation and to show I am not scared of anyone.  For a Christian, we need to remember God is with us always.

Fourthly, don’t respond in anger.  Feeling  anger is one thing, responding in anger is another thing.  Calm down.   Consider.   Pray.  The best response to a vicious foe is to refuse to be distracted.   Keep being a disciple.  Keep healing  the sick,  keeping living the faith, keep walking in love and freedom and miracles.

Fifthly, let’s not abandon our armed forces.  Some people may have other views on the legitimacy of war in the middle east, but it is a fact that soldiers are out there.  Pray for them.  Believe God for their best.  Speak Psalm 91 over them.   If soldiers are attacked in peacetime on our shores, we need to remember who we are and speak life and peace to them.   We need to be faith filled not feat filled. 

Sixthly, the young men who did this are not unique.   They grew up in our schools, they hung around with our children, they went to our parties, we watched them grow up.  There are other people, other young men – although they may be black,  Asian or white –  it is more than probable they will be men.  Keep your eyes peeled for people who are disaffected, disassociated and disillusioned.   Offer them company, encouragement, help.   Ask and consider what your church is doing for young people and see if you can’t get involved.   If you have noticed someone and they concern you, God allowed you to notice…  Reach out to them! Show them love, show them grace.

Finally, the solution to every problem I our nation, in our city is not prayer and fasting, is not politics, is not any of that.   Paul said I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1.16).   The power of God to save London is only found in the gospel.  We need not to change the structures so much as change people’s hearts one person at a time by telling them the good news.  Islam and Christian religion look very similar.  Serve God, do this to get into heaven.  We need to distance ourselves from religious Christianity and come back to the good news of a God who became sin with our sin so we could enjoy righteousness, peace and joy.  His righteousness. His peace.  HIS JOY.  Because of what He has done, not because what we have done.  That is the message that changes and melts hard hearts.   That is the message th at turned the Jewish terrorist Saul into the proclaimer of God’s grace, Paul.  That is the message that will change the hearts of the disaffected, the angry and the frustrated today.

The Good Shepherd and the Hireling

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John 10.11-15:

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 

Many people reading this will know the Greek word for shepherd is poimen, which is also translated pastor as well.  Whenever you read the word shepherd you can translate pastor, whenever you read the word pastor you can substitute shepherd.  A pastor is a shepherd of men, just like an evangelist is a fisher of men.

But how do you tell if the pastor of a church is a good shepherd or a hireling?  Some pastors are quite definitely just in it for the money – it sounds crazy to those of us who know we could make a  considerable amount more money doing other things, but it is nevertheless a fact.  Some pastors are just in it for themselves and their career and their reputation.  Can we tell?

1. A good pastor lays down his life for the flock.  The implication here is whole life – not just 3-5 years.  If you want to know if your pastor is committed to shepherding the flock, ask him where he was 3-5 years ago and find out where he intends to be 3-5 years time.  If he is a hireling, he is probably already looking at the next step up – looking to get a bigger (and better?) church and get a promotion for putting up with you.  Good pastors stay with their flocks for decades.  They get a bigger church by growing bigger people.

A while back, when the Tree of Life Network was just one church and I wasn’t even earning a salary but working as a part-time postman to get some money in while pastoring, a church phoned me up.  They were a local church who needed a new pastor – and they were going to pay me twice what Royal Mail did, give me a company car and a manse to live in.  They were after me.  They phoned regularly.  Trust me – there was a moment I was tempted, but it really was just a moment.  My destiny is not determined by a company car, but by the will of God and my call is to the Tree of Life and the Network.  I will leave Tree of Life in a coffin and not before and not until!

I had a pastor recently ask how to get elders as committed as ours, I said the only way I know is to ensure the elders know that I am committed to them.  If they have served at the church for 30 years and you are the seventh pastor that they know – and they know you will be gone in 3 years, don’t expect them to cheer every time you want to change things!

2. The hireling does not own the sheep

Now I am not a fan of heavy shepherding – you know when the pastor micro-manages the life of the flock and tells them when to holiday and so on and so forth.  Not my scene at all, and that is not what I mean here.  What I mean is that there is a link between the pastor and the sheep that transcends other relationships.  You were the one who led them to the Lord, or you were the one who got them healed or baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Your teaching got them on fire, your teaching restored their marriage and healed their mind.  You own them in the sense that they are loyal to you.  

The only way to have that happen is to go beyond what is normal and expected.  Hirelings do what is expected – they turn up at meetings, but they are not the first to arrive or last to leave.  I am the first to arrive on Sunday and the last to leave.  This week I have attended 4 Living Churches and the weekend will involve 3 meetings and evangelism – and I lead from the front.  Hirelings often lead from the back – they will not turn up at the prayer meeting, not be at the outreach.  They like the sermon bit because that is where they get the ego-massage, but they aren’t interested in people, just crowds.  

If your pastor is the last to arrive, first to leave; if they are never at small groups and never involved in people’s lives – they may be a hireling.  If your pastor knows the people in the church (obviously dependent on church size how well they know people) and they are loyal to him then stick around, there probably will end up being a reason for you to be loyal.

3. HIrelings run from the wolf

They are more concerned about their comfort, their lives, their reputation than your problems, your life and your best.  Recently someone was very rude and hostile to a couple in our church, I was stunned at how strongly I felt about this situation and how firmly I spoke to the individual concerned.  The Lord showed me that I was acting like a good shepherd because I was not concerned about politics and keeping this person happy, I was concerned about protecting the sheep.

Pastors who when the going gets tough go to the golf course, or change church, then maybe they are not the shepherd you are looking for.  Pastoral ministry is tough, I don’t doubt it I know it – but tough times call for tough people who stand up to wolves and stand them down.  When sickness attacks your body you need someone around who can deal with that sickness, not someone singing Doris Day.

4. Hirelings don’t know the sheep

I heard recently about a pastor who for a season had to get a secular job.  He was still at the church but when he was working he refused to serve in the church in anyway because it was too hard for him to juggle his work life and church life.  He is now not doing the secular job, but is in full time ministry in that church.

It is going to be very difficult for that man to have a successful pastoral ministry because he hasn’t got a clue what the sheep go through.  In the Tree of Life Network, 15-20% of our church each week serves in some way – making the teas, doing the children’s work, ushering, cleaning up, running Living Churches, and a whole host more.  And all of those people have jobs, families and commitments on top of that.  I know what that feels like, but this pastor doesn’t.  He doesn’t know the sheep – He blew a wonderful opportunity to stand in the shoes of the lay preacher, the Sunday school worker and the ushers and the small group leaders. 

As pastors we need to make sure we know the sheep – we understand how hard it is to live in this world and work 9-5.  I pastor in London, and in London people work longer than anywhere else in Europe.  It would be irresponsible to have late night meetings night after night – people have lives as well.  I know that because I have worked in the city.  I know the sheep.  

I am not saying you need to know everything about someone or experienced all their problems to minister to them, but I am saying people need to know you are credible and you are authentic and you know where they are coming from and that you have walked in their shoes in some measure.

5. The Good Shepherd is known by the sheep

I get wound up so much by celebrity pastors.  You know, they leave the limo engine running while they run into the church to preach (missing the worship, showing obviously that they are better than you – you need the songs, they just glide in) then run out again without getting any contact with people, and if anyone does come near them then their bodyguards will stop you getting too near.

Peter’s words in his letter resonate so much with me.  He says in 1 Pet. 5.1 that he is a fellow-elder with the other elders.  That means Peter still ran small groups and discipled people!  He was the apostle Peter, who raised the dead and preached to 1000s.  Yet, he never lost touch of the small group and he let people know who he was.  He shared his life with people. 

You can’t share your life with everyone, but you can run a small group.  You can share your life. I’ve been tempted to give up my group from time to time I can assure you, but actually it is the most grounding experience of my week, and some of the greatest ministry I have ever done is in that group.  I have raised leaders in that group, I have made disciples in that group.  I never want to give it up.

But the cost of that is that people know me.  They know I am not perfect.  They know I am not the best person in the world for hoovering  the floor, they know my children don’t ALWAY do what they are told 100% of the time.  They see me at home, they see me – not the stage performance of the preacher.

Any good shepherd has people who know him.  People from the flock.  Bible College told me not to make friends in the congregation – they were wrong.  That’s a great recipe for becoming a hireling, but not how to imitate the Good Pastor and be a good pastor.

Celebration Church and Living Church

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In Matthew 16.18 Jesus himself said “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Think about that – the church is Jesus’ idea and His plan and has His promise of divine protection and guaranteed victory against hell.

If you want to be in the place you can be confident of guaranteed victory against hell, then plug into and get planted into a church! Hebrews 10.25 says not to forsake or give up assembling together.

Now how we should assemble is the issue I want to think about today: because I believe a healthy church should provide 7 things for a Christian who assembles with them:

1. A place where they are inspired by a huge vision (Pro. 29.18)
2. A place where they can worship in unity (Eph. 5.18ff)
3. A place where they can be equipped by effective preaching (Eph. 4.11ff)
4. A place where they can be loved for who they are (John 13.34)
5. A place where they can serve both practically and spiritually (Php. 2.1-4, Acts. 20.35)
6. A place where they can be corrected if they are missing it (2 Tim. 3.16)
7. A place where they can be discipled and become a leader themselves (Matt. 28.19, Luke 6.39-40)

Most churches do not provide a healthy balance of all these elements.

Large theatre style churches provide 1-3, often based around 2 or 3. People will go to these churches just for the worship or the preacher. That’s fine for a season, but for real Christian growth you need more!

Family based or tribal based churches will provide 4, 5 and 6 – and if the face fits and you have the right surname will help you with 7.

Just watching a TV church might just provide 3, if it is the right preacher. But nothing else.

Most traditional churches will provide 2, 4 and 5.

But a healthy growing church must concentrate on supplying all 7. Whether any given individual will receive all 7 is their choice (people are as integral to a healthy church as they choose to be), but the church should be providing them.

As far as I can see, the only way to provide all seven is by having two very different church gatherings each week. The Celebration Church provides 1-3, the Living Church meets in houses in the week and provides 4-7.

Your destiny is to be a powerhouse, a person of influence, a changer of nations, a healer of the sick, a destroyer of the devil, a discipler of nations. Where you go to church is far too important to be left to chance, or habit, or geography. Find a church that will provide what you need and get integrated. Some people just want a worship service but I am committed to providing for people who want to be world changers.

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