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5 Really Bad and 5 Really Good Reasons to Go to Bible College

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Really Bad Reasons to Go:

5. Because you are offended, frustrated or disappointed in the local church.  If you go to Bible College annoyed at church, angry at church, opposed to church, I guarantee you will not have a successful ministry after Bible College.  It’s that simple.  Bible College is designed to make you more effective and more utilitarian to the local church.  An increasing number of people are getting offended at local church for a whole host of reasons, and then running away to Bible school.  It helps them feel superior to other Christians who are working in the factory, looking after small children, serving the local church week after week.  That attitude will disqualify you from ministry sooner or later, and once it is seated in you it is really difficult to get out.

4.  Because you have no other options.  It is a truth that during an economic recession applications to Bible Colleges go up a significant amount.  The church needs leaders with a bit more passion for their ministry and their flock than “I had nothing better to do, so I decided to train as a minister…”

3.  Because you think there is money in the ministry.  There may be one day but going after the money is one sure way to ensure your ministry is so unbalanced you never get a large enough following to get any. 

2.  Because someone prophesied it over you.  Charismatics love to prophesy their own emotions and feeling over people.  There are at least a dozen churches in this country where I am been prophesied over that I will be the next pastor.  Er… no.  You cannot be prophesy led, you must be Spirit led.

1.  Because you hate the daily grind of work.  Here’s the brutal truth: if you can’t manage a secular job and church volunteering you should never expect anyone to do what you cannot do.  If you think Bible College is a key to a lazy, easy life you are wrong.  The world has enough lazy pastors, and the truth is that you will be ministering to people who are in the daily grind that you can’t handle.  That means you have no credibility.  Go to Bible College a champion in your work place!  Go for the right reasons!  Take the same overcomer attitude from the daily grind to college, don’t bring a loser attitude from the work world and assume college will work – it’s an attitude change you need first!  Some pastors get together on Monday mornings and discuss quitting because the weekend was so hard.  They discuss how hard pastoring is.  I was in a couple of groups like that on Facebook and so on, and I quit them all for two reasons: 1.  I never want to quit.  The reward is greater than any cost.  2. I don’t think I could ever with credibility get up on a Sunday and say I have the hardest job in the church.  There’s medical doctors and nurses, school teachers, people who work 12-15 hour shifts in factories, people who are in high-pressure sales environments.  I don’t have it hard, I just need to ensure I use the same faith to make it everyday that I preach about.  

5 Really Good Reasons to Go:

5.  You know that you are called to God to minister the Word of God to people and want to be effectively trained to teach and preach the Word to people.  You are not called to College, you are called to a ministry that requires college to prepare you for that ministry.  That way when college is wrapping up (you can’t stay forever) you don’t become a lost little wanderer, but you have a plan for advancing the kingdom and making disciples.

4.  You are a conqueror at life.  You are winning at work, winning with the family, winning financially and you know you have something valuable to offer people.  You have life and life in abundance and you want to share it.  You don’t want to leave your social network or your job because you have learned to love them both and invest your life into something with joy and peace.

3.  You are an integral part of the local church.  If you have learned how to serve in the local church as laity, you will understand the requirements and expectations of serving in the local church.  If you take on an existing church or plant a new church after college, you will succeed or fail because of volunteers.  The way some pastors treat volunteers and speak to volunteers it is clear they have never ever volunteers in a church.  I know one pastor who went to Bible College and was helping a church as part of his placement, then left college and got a secular job.  He immediately couldn’t juggle volunteering at the church with a part-time job, yet when an opening came the church took him on.  I would never take someone on for a paid role who couldn’t do something for free, because every paid role in a church has to be able to manage volunteers.  If you can’t be a volunteer, you can’t manage volunteers.  You don’t get it!  If you are a volunteer, an integral part of the local church then you can grasp what the volunteers you look after will be doing.  Then you are ready for Bible College.

2. You have already conquered the majority of your life dramas.  Of course Bible College isn’t for perfect people.  I was not perfect when I went to college, and I haven’t found a perfect Bible College student yet.  But you shouldn’t be going to Bible College for discipleship, that’s what the local church is for.  You should be going to Bible College to prepare for ministry.  Bible College is actually a really intense time on you – as your ideas are challenged, money is tight, ambitions are dashed, disappointments happen – it’s a real bubble and a really tough time.  I know more couples who have divorced during Bible College than I can count, and that’s a tragedy.  If they had sorted out their marriage before Bible College rather than trying to use Bible College to paper over the cracks in their marriage those tragic situations would never have happened.  Go to Bible College with a strong marriage, without massive gaps in your integrity.

1.  You can see beyond college.  If you can’t see what is going to happen when you graduate, what sort of ministry you will do, what you might become.  Whether you are travelling teacher, a missionary, an assistant pastor, a church planter.  Plans can change, but if you cannot see beyond the horizon of college before you go, I question whether you have a call of God to go.  Your vision should be bigger than college BEFORE you go.

If you are a pastor, and people in your church are thinking of going to college, don’t be shy about asking these hard questions.  The world is desperately in need of Christian leaders with integrity, with passion, with ministry.  It is not in need of another couple divorced at Bible College, people finishing college and wandering around lonely as a cloud hoping someone will one day give them a ministry.  This is serious stuff, and needs to be considered.

Also, notice I haven’t mentioned instructions from God in this.  A lot of people think God is telling them something when it is just pizza from last night, or just the sheer excitement.  A good Bible College is a fine place to be, and because it is only Christians, and only people who are taking the things of God seriously, it can be a lot faster and a lot more exciting than local church.  That’s why some people want to stay there forever.  But the truth is that joining the fast lane of Bible College is only for a few years, and you need to be able to handle the slow lane of life and church.  Ministry is not about getting there first, it’s about taking as many people with you as possible.  If you don’t learn that before Bible College, I doubt you will learn it there.

 

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.

The Apostle Paul and Pastor Ben?

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Recently another pastor had a go at me (nothing new there!).  He had overheard me chatting to some people from the church and was very upset because the people called me “Ben”…

I said I couldn’t understand the problem as Ben is my name.  I’m just glad they are not calling me Scumbag!

But he was adamant: I need to insist on being called PastorBen, yes like one word! 😉

Meanwhile another pastor I know well with a church of 20ish has changed his title to ApostleJim.  He has all the business cards, the website and everything.

It has made me think about titles and offices quite a bit.  Why do people need the titles so much? Why does it matter? What does the Bible say about it all?

Starting with Scripture, there is NOT one single example in Scripture of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher EVER used as a title.

The phrase “the apostle Paul” is not in the Bible.  Go and take the time to try and find it if you don’t believe it.  Paul isn’t ashamed he is an apostle and will happily say Paul, an apostle.  But he never uses the word as a title, because it isn’t a title, it’s simply a job description.  No one in the Bible is apostle anything or pastor anyone.

Calling me Pastor Ben is about as logical as you being Taxi Driver Fred or Accountant Jeff.  It’s not a title, it is simply a description of what you do with your time and skills.

So why is it so widespread as a practise? Firstly I think it is because so many pastors are genuinely insecure and need a title.  Secondly, to exert unnecessary authority over people.  Finally, I believe that people use it as a short hand to influence.  Every pastor should be leading his (or her!) people forward but they should be doing that because people are confident that they have a God given vision and the character and resolve to see it happen.

In other words people should follow you because they trust you are going somewhere they want to be not because of your title.  In this status obsessed value based society the church needs to be like Jesus, not the world.

Website Design for Churches and Ministries

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A lot of people have commented favourably on our church website (www.treeoflifechurch.org.uk) and wondered who designed it for us.  The answer is that I designed it myself using a few software tools and a few frames that I have access to.  It is not a complex site, but it does its job and we have had hundreds of visitors from all over the world.

Now we are realizing that there are a great deal of churches and ministries that require a web presence and would love to set up a website both for their members to check what is going on, and for evangelism purposes.  However, they are put off by the cost of several hundreds of pounds if not thousands for a website designer, and also many Christians want their websites designed by a Christian.  So, we are offering a website design facility for churches and ministries and missionaries. I have a degree in Applied Computing and know enough about design to ensure the website is functional, and my wife has a degree in Art and will ensure that it looks stylish and attractive.

Our cost will be a flat fee of £149 for a website of up to 10 pages (with a £10 fee for every additional page on top of this) , and then a monthly charge of £10 per month if you want the website updated with new articles and information and dates and times every month.  If you want the website updated every week, then a monthly charge of £30 will be in play.  If you only want your website updated every three months or six months or a year, then £10 is the charge for every time you want the website altered or additional information added.  All you have to do is tell me what information you want on your website and I will place it on the internet for you.  I can also place Google Ads on your site to raise revenue and help ensure that your website is easily found in google search. (for up to date pricings see www.mattan.co.uk)
This is not going to be an all-singing all-dancing website – it is going to have the information you need on it in a crisp and clean format that people can read and easily navigate around.  If you have your own sitename, then I can work with that, if you want us to register a web address for you (for example mychurch.org.uk or myministry.net) then obviously you will have to pay for that.  But these costs are normally very inexpensive – for example treeoflifechurch.org.uk costs us less than £5 per year!  I will set that all up for you according to your wishes as part of the design.  You will have final veto on anything.  I can place audio and video tracks on your website, and a whole host of widgets (visitor counter, online gospel presentations, a Bible verse function among many others)

If you need copy written (such as descriptions of your activities) then we are happy to do that for you as well.  I have been a professional proof reader before, worked with a couple of universities checking essays and have written the back of the CD sermons for a major ministry – not to mention have written a book and preach every Sunday – so I know how to craft words.

If this is a facility that your church is looking for and something that you think will help extend your ministry, then please either email me on ben@treeoflifechurch.org.uk or leave a comment on this post with a contact number or email (posts are private until I read them and veto them, so I can get your number and it won’t ever be public!).  I can email you some of the other websites I have designed for other churches and ministries so you can see the finished product.

My background is a mixture of Baptist and Pentecostal, but I have experience with many different denominations and streams within the Body of Christ, and am happy to design a website that reflects your theological and ministerial emphases.
I look forward to hearing from you, and I hope I can help,

Regards,

Benjamin Conway

Church Update for Sunday 28th June – All Welcome!

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Our next service is 3-5pm on Sunday 28th June.

Our monthly theme for our preaching and teaching for June is “Hope” and Benjamin is going to finish the series of 4 talks by talking about “Hope and Glory”.  In addition, Andy is going to do some teaching on the power of the prayer of agreement and we are going to agree for specific success during our healing crusade.  During the week, Ben is going to summarize the message and put it on the blog.

We do not put our address on the web for security reasons, but if you contact us we will be more than happy to give you directions and answer any questions you have.  We will be worshipping the Lord and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us as we do in any cell meeting.

We will be resuming meetings in the Fulwell Cross Library in August of this year, and in the summer are having a “Wonderful News” Gospel Crusade.  Watch this space for further details, or if you cannot wait, please feel free to email us: info@treeoflifechurch.org.uk

God’s Will For Your Life

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Heard a very powerful illustration in church today.   The pastor told a story about a farmer who used to shoot the side of his barn with a rifle.

Someone came to see him and was amazed at how great a shot the farmer was.  Every single shot in the side of the barn was in the middle of a bull’s eye.

The farmer then revealed the secret of his accuracy: he would shoot the barn first, then paint the bull’s eye around where the bullet hit.

The pastor said that that is hw most Christians determine God’s will.  They let circumstances take them wherever and then declare it must be God’s will because it is what happened.

He said we need to spend time with the Lord before we face our circumstances, because we need to know our destination before we step out because you cannot determine the will of God by what happens.

A very powerful illustration of a very powerful truth.

Selah!

Ben

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