Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Who are you?

When God first revealed himself to Moses, he introduced himself as 'I AM'. This was to signify his utter and complete self-sufficiency. This encounter with God took place when Moses found himself in a literal wilderness.

Recently I have been walking through a metaphorical wilderness. I have proactively pursued personal dreams and explored what a life of abundance looks like. I know God has promised that for my life and so I have risked with my heart and my resources in this pursuit. Yet it seemed at almost every turn on the journey all I've been met with is broken dreams and failed expectations. It begs the question, Is God not as good as He says He is?

Dwelling on that thought can be where I get stuck. I confess I have wrestled with that question for many years but through all the struggle there is one thing I am certain of, I just can't afford to judge God's character and nature through the lens of my circumstances.

He is a God of abundance and blessing and I know His ultimate plans for my life are to prosper me. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says "And God is able to make ALL grace abound to you, so that having ALL sufficiency in ALL things at ALL times, you may abound in every good work". What an incredible verse!! His heart is for us to have ALL things so I'm left wondering why I'm not walking in this abundance?

Now that I know the issue is not with God, I guess it must be with me!! I believe this past year of failed expectations and broken dreams is an opportunity for me to strengthen my identity in Christ. Perhaps the great 'I AM' actually wants me to recognise who I am!!

It's easy to see myself as a man of favour and abundance when that is my current outward experience but how do I see myself in seasons of lack and disappointment? Will who I am be shaken in the midst of these testing times? This is where the challenge lies for me.

The Apostle Paul learned a great lesson in life. He learned that he could rejoice whether he had plenty or whether he had nothing at all. True wealth is in knowing that while we may lose the whole world, if we gain Christ, our lives are rich.

So today I choose to recognise who God says I am, and refuse to have my identity shaped by my present circumstances. The reality is, I am a man of abundance and my identity and security lie not in the sum of my possessions or in my status but in the life giving power of Jesus Christ. Thank God for the richness of Christ.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Developing a compelling church vision and mission

Many churches have failed in casting good vision and have not fully understood their mission. Either that or the people have struggled to buy into the leaders vision and things have stagnated in our churches. Why is that? Would a compelling vision and mission actually lend towards the success of the church and provent apathy in our people? The following 5 keys are ways I believe we can hone in on what are mission and vision are for the church and how we can thrive as a whole family.

1. Defining your vision and mission
Every leader should have a clear mandate and we should never begin a mission without the end in mind. It’s important to realise that this does not mean you are putting God in a box or limiting Him, but rather this enhances our relationship and connection to Him while empowering you to do what you are called to do.
While vision and mission work in tandem they are of course not one and the same. A vision is what we can see in the future and a mission is what we can do to get what we want to see. Or another way of looking at it would be to defining what you want built (vision) and then defining the pathway(s) to fulfilment (mission).
Another key is learning to establish the stepping stones to get you towards your goal. Remembering that while you have people helping you to build your mandate, they probably have their own individual purposes and mandates. As a leader you will need to minister as much to their personal mandate as to their responsibility in fulfilling yours. Showing interest and empowering them in their own mandate will keep them interested in serving the big vision you have.

2. Developing the right motivation
All leadership is about people movement and not just geographically although sometimes that is the case but rather moving people developmentally. Motivation is the ability to get people to move forward. We need as leaders to figure out ways of creating incentives. In fact Bruce Wilkinson did a study of the entire scripture to see what God’s motivations were. His findings showed that in the Old Testament God motivated people primarily by reward. Secondarily by fear and ultimately or the least percentage wise by love. The interesting discovery he made was that his New Testament findings were the exact same. In other words God wired people to be motivated by reward. Especially in this generation, we as leaders need to think of different ways of motivating our people. In previous generations people were motivated by duty (“Do this because I said so”). Sometimes we can use stress, pressure, guilt or shame to try motivate our people but these are all poor motivators. We need to move from duty driven motivation to delight driven motivation. People need to have a ‘joy’ set before them that causes them to endure the cross of true discipleship. Helping people within our church fulfil their destiny is the way we can keep people motivated.

3. Mobilising and moving people
How do we actually move people? Sometimes people can feel so paralysed that it’s just easier to stay in the same place. We need to become great coaches as church leaders asking our people what they want to do. By helping them identify their personal goals, we can then make space for that to happen in our church.
When talking about movement we also need to establish a pace of movement. A church needs to be paced carefully so we can achieve the maximum output without burnout happening. This allows a church to have sustainability and scalability for the long term.

4. Generating Momentum
Every church needs to get to a place where momentum is happening. Can we create movement that sustains movement. The goal with momentum is getting to such a high speed that it can carry itself for a bit so we don’t have to push it forward all the time. When we have momentum we don’t need to micromanage anymore. Having achievements and victories build upon each other create great momentum, whereas failure upon failure can kill momentum. Leaders need to be aware of this when planning. Also remembering that we are a family and sometimes superficial momentum can actually mean we lose momentum. We want to again cultivate something that is sustainable and long term. That is why culture is so instringacly attached to positive forward momentum.

5. Multiplying leaders and ministries
One of our primary mandates from God as people is to multiply. We see in Genesis the words “Be fruitful and multiply”. Sin entered but God’s redemption plan was still in place through the likes of Abraham having a son. The mandate hasn’t changed as Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples”. Multiplication has always been part of God’s plan! So how do we continue to raise up new ministers in our church? Perhaps we need to rethink the way we do church. Are we doing anything that shuts down gifted people in our congregation? We need to take risks as pastors and not panic when messes and mistakes happen. Parents raising children expect their children to make mistakes but it’s part and parcel of human development. For our people to develop we need to get comfortable with the idea that as we move forward mistakes will happen but the lasting fruit will make the journey worthwhile. Our goal should not just be to have children, but also to raise them!! Lets make our churches leadership incubators where people can grow up and thrive into everything God has created them to be.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Keys to building a thriving church

You may be a church leader who is asking the question 'why are we not seeing growth in our church or why is our church not thriving?'. Perhaps at one point in time you experienced great growth and then things began to stagnate. I believe the following 5 keys will help you see fruit and success in your church again.

1. Spiritual life
Taking time to foster and cultivate our spiritual lives individually as leaders is crucial. Corporate success begins and starts with us individually. How can we expect to have a thriving church if our own lives are not thriving. Spending time in the Word of God and letting truth impact our lives, even the more difficult and challenging scriptures can mould and shape us into being better people and leaders in our spheres of influence. Making sure we have regular focused prayer time. The Lords prayer gives a great framework for focused prayer and yet our prayer lives should not be separate to every other area of life. The goal should be whatever we are doing in life we should be in constant communion with Him.

2. Community
A thriving leader often can mean a thriving church and that begins in the home. How are we as leaders thriving in our home environments. If you are a single man or woman in leadership it is important to recognise the need for healthy community. Practical things to consider when setting yourself up for success are not living alone but living with housemates. Having great friends and disciplines are vital for singles in leadership. A good discipline may be to limit your time spent watching television for instance. Learning to use your time wisely will set you up for success in your present and in your future.

There can also be challenges for married couples in ministry. Ask yourself 'how am I doing with my spouse?' It can be easy for your marriage to take a back seat to all the other pressing issues and yet your ministry is first to your family. For those with children remember there is no higher ministry calling for you than that of your children. Include them in your life and ministry and don't use them as a trophy to show off how spiritual your family is. Some fall under the pressure of this but your children need to grow and mature in a guilt free environment so they don't later grow to resent the church and the Lord.

3. Lifestyle
You're lifestyle is a sure indicator of whats really important to you. It is of paramount importance that you recognise potential distractions and pit falls to you thriving in life. Healthy boundaries are important so that our lives are not compartmentalised between 'ministry' and 'our time'. Our goal is to live Kingdom lives and all our decisions to be ones that reflect Jesus. In everything we do in word or deed, it all belongs to Jesus! A good way of knowing if you have a compartmentalised lifestyle or not is by asking yourself the following question, 'Are you able to express the natural lifestyle of the Kingdom even if there is no ministry programme in place?'

Also some real practical ways you can thrive are to get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly. An unhealthy body can affect your overall lifestyle.

Your emotional health is also very important. Are you filled with anxiety and fear? What are you doing do cultivate fun in your life?

Finally many people can fall into the trap of making everything in life about ministry. Make sure you have some good hobbies which don't all relate to ways to reach the lost or potential sermons you could preach.

4. Destiny Synchronisation

You are unique and for this reason God has a unique calling and destiny on your life. It's really important that both you and the people you lead are synched up and doing the thing that you are wired to do and not something that your not called to do. Ask yourself 'Is this something that truly gives me life?'. Not everything you do is going to be fully life giving but the balance of time should be spent on life giving work. At least 2/3 of your life should be spent doing things that are life giving. If you are not spending most of your time doing life giving things, make a few adjustments and start investing in those areas of your life.

5. Mentoring
We all need mentors in our lives. Listening and learning from other leaders is crucial to our development. Even ones we disagree with can actually stretch us and help us grow and refine who we are. The greatest leaders recognise that they never stop learning. Having older brothers, sisters and spiritual parents keeps us accountable and doesn't allow room for pride to creep in. The old way of viewing mentorship was that of having one key mentor in your life whereas in the modern age we have whats known as constellation mentorship. This means we have many mentors and resources speaking into our lives to help us grow.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to have a thriving church but there is a great likelihood that with success in these five areas, it will spill over to your ministry and church life too. John 10:10 says that Jesus came that they may have life and life abundant and my prayer for you as you read this post is that in every area of life by the power of the Holy Spirit, you experience life abundant.

Leadership styles

We often view leadership through the worlds broken lense of 'the senior person' or the one 'in charge' and yet it's important to remember that true leadership has very little to do with titles and positions but everything to do with function and fruit. There are so many resources available to us today to help us discover what kind of a leader we are. Resources such as the Myres Briggs test and the strength finders test can be very useful tools in helping us hone in on our leadership style and yet we must remember that human psychology can get us so far but the best framework for leadership can be found in the Word of God and the example of Christ.

In Ephesians 4:11 we can see some of the gifts that were given from Christ to the church and again it was never purposed to exalt the gifts in people but to exalt the gift giver. In fact the real emphasis should not be placed on verse 11 but rather on verse 12 where we see the purpose of the gifts being given... "to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up".

So what are these gifts of Christ given to the church? In verse 11 it says some in the church are to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. It's important to recognise that Jesus was all of these things and we all reflect different parts of his personality. So lets look at these distinct gifting's and explore why each are significant for the body today.

Apostles in the church look different to the Apostles in scripture and while todays apostles are significant and crucial to a healthy church they do not carry the same weight as those ordained by Jesus or who wrote scripture. Apostles are builders and if you have an apostolic calling the first question you need to ask yourself is 'what are you called to build?'. For the advancement of the church we need your gifting and yet there are some things that apostles need to be aware of that could hinder them from progress. Apostolic people can often be so driven to perform or achieve that they can prioritise the work and lose their peace along the way. They can also lose sight of their need for other people and it's important for them to remember that in order to achieve success, they need to recognise their need for the other gifting's too.

Prophetic people are usually very intuitive and creative. Because Prophetic people are often thinking outside the box sometimes the people you are leading may find it difficult to follow you. It's vital therefore for prophetic people to surround themselves with people with other gifting's such as pastors and apostles so they can be somewhat grounded in their ministry. The prophetic gift can be very evident in the market place through people who are on the cutting edge of innovation and/or research development. As prophetic people we need to be very careful that our passion for justice does not make us self righteous and alienate ourselves from people and lessening our impact.

Evangelists tend to be extremely positive. They love the good news!! You have an incredible ability to propel people forward which can be of huge benefit both in the church and in the market place. You are wired to want to see change. You're boldness can often trigger people in the wrong way and yet we as the church need your boldness and need to recognise the gift of God on your life. Something to be aware of as an evangelist is that sometimes your boldness can stretch people too far and you can make people feel embarrassed and not cared for.

The pastor means shepherd and your primary focus is on people and you are driven by compassion. You don't want to see anyone left out and you love to see people cared for and walking in healing. You have a strong emphasis on inner healing and pastors make great counsellors and mentors. You create an environment for people to thrive and yet you are not the main driving force of the church. The mistake we can often make in the church is to over emphasise the role of the pastor in the church and forget that its not all just about care for the flock and community focused but that there is also a mandate given to advance the Kingdom on earth.

You care about truths, facts and accuracy and yet the goal is not the expression of information but to see real transformation. In a postmodern day your gift is crucial to the body of Christ. Pastors can sometimes fudge the truth because of their focus on people and so they in particular need your gift. It's important to recognise potential downfalls if you are a teacher. Pride can rob teachers of their influence as sometimes they can be condescending and appear to be 'know it alls'. Humility in your teaching is of paramount importance for you to have the greatest impact in your leadership.

In summary, it is important in our churches to recognise that everyone is unique and has different styles of leadership. None is greater than the other as all styles in one way or another reflect the leadership of Christ. Learning to work together appreciating the gift of God in one another will see the most fruit in our churches as we lead and advance the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Father forgive them

Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

Have you ever found it difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you? Hurt is a real thing and we all experience it in one measure or another. How exactly can you forgive someone who has done the unthinkable? Surely some things are just unforgivable right?

I have been journeying through the process of forgiveness for a number of years now. It all became real for me two years ago as I went through a painful break up with my girlfriend. I moved to America to start a new chapter in life with nervous excitement but eagerness to launch into the unknown and get to know Adriane better. Things had been moving pretty fast in our relationship and I couldn't believe how blessed I was in finding someone who made me feel so appreciated and loved.

Four days after arriving in Redding California it all came to a crashing end! We sat next to her neighbours pool and as she began to share her feelings, I knew where the conversation was going. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and honestly I can't even remember what was said in that meeting, remembering only that we both wanted to stay in contact. Unfortunately we never did and although I tried, I rarely heard from Adriane again.

Throughout this time I was attending a ministry school in California. I was extremely depressed and yet through being present at this school, I was able to connect with God in deeper ways than I ever had before. I had noticed the roots of bitterness grow deep within me as time passed without hearing from Adriane and it was much easier to hate her than forgive her. Thankfully throughout most the year I didn't harbour any feelings of hatred towards her and did genuinely want the best for her or so I thought. God spoke directly into my situation through some of my assigned reading. I read the Supernatural power of forgiveness by Jason Vallotton. On reading how he learned to forgive after going through a far worse situation than mine, I decided it was time to end the pity party and move on with my life. Unfortunately my feelings of hurt were slow to get the memo and it has been a much longer process than I expected. I was shocked by his story and didn't understand how he could forgive in what seemed like an unforgivable situation.

Outwardly I had forgiven Adriane and even acted in ways to see her succeed. I knew that un-forgiveness would only destroy me and so I was very keen to do everything possible to bless her. Yet inwardly my thoughts were filled with resentment and self pity. I wondered how she could treat me so badly? I thought she was cold and nasty in how she dealt with the break up. One of the last things she said to me was that she struggled not to hate me. I actually revealed in the fact that she had said this because I knew the hatred she felt would ultimately destroy her and not me. Does this sound like forgiveness to you? Outwardly I was telling people how great she was and that I didn't harbour resentment towards her but inwardly my heart was darkened towards her. I was lying to myself through the whole first year. Proverbs 26:24 says "Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbours deceit in his heart".

The problem is I didn't know how to truly forgive her.

This morning I read the account of Jesus death. The bloodied and beaten, nailed and naked Saviour of the world hanging on a cross. He was without sin, coming to rescue humanity from the clutches of hell and what did we do? We crucified him. Such injustice. I guess I had always seen Jesus' sacrifice as a physical sacrifice and never recognised the emotional anguish of the cross. Isaiah says he was despised and rejected a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. He was completely misunderstood. He came to bring life and the people who he came to deliver, killed him. The emotional suffering he felt must have been tremendous and yet he said Father forgive them. What a powerful prayer!

I thought forgiving Adriane would result in a process of reconciliation. Unfortunately we never had reconciliation which left me wondering where to go from there and how I could continually chose forgiveness. My forgiveness hinged on a positive outcome. Jesus came to bring the ministry of reconciliation and yet I couldn't find a formula for reconciling my broken relationship.

Yesterday as I pondered through this I realised that Jesus came with a message of reconciliation and yet people still had a choice. They could still reject him and turn away and many did. Not everyone was reconciled through the cross and through Jesus prayer of forgiveness. It was available to all but not everyone chose it. Reconciliation is the message we bring but not always the end result of forgiveness.

There may come a day when I reconcile with the people I have fractured relationships with but I need to remember too that that day may also never come. Jesus forgave freely regardless of the outcome and I need to continue to do likewise. Today once again I chose the path of forgiveness and bless those who Christ died to reconcile to himself.

The process of Breakthrough

"Your breakthrough is coming"... "This is the year of breakthrough"... "You have a breakers anointing".. Whoa that's so cool!! At least it sounds cool but I haven't the slightest idea what that really means. It all sounds wonderful and I have said yes and amen to each and every one of these prayers, prophesies and encouragements in my last 2 years attending ministry school in Bethel church. Through many disappointments and discouragements in my time here, I held on to that promise that breakthrough was coming. The bigger the disappointment and heartache, the bigger the breakthrough that I would receive. This has been my philosophy and way to remain hopeful through difficulty. However I was beginning to get disillusioned. It was all promises with little or no fulfilment. I was reaching for the mountaintop when I was still hanging out in the valley.

It hasn't been all terrible. I have had moments that I can point to and say, that was a great day or I really shone in that moment. It just has often felt like a slow slog and not a significant breakthrough. I recently began to question why it always seemed like a battle for me and never an easy victory.

I came to realise that I needed a mindset shift. I stopped wondering how God would launch me to the mountaintop experience of breakthrough and started to seek him out in the valley. I discovered that it's often in our most broken and vulnerable place that we receive our breakthrough. I was looking for a moment in time that would make everything great. Make me feel like I was winning and thriving in life and yet God wanted to meet me in the valley. My definition of breakthrough being a 'one moment in time event' was keeping me locked in a perpetual state of disappointment and I needed to change.

So what am I saying? I started to see my story of breakthrough as a process and journey. God can bring transformation in a moment. Look at Saul' radical transformation but often change is a process. I stumbled upon a scripture in Deuteronomy that God highlighted to me this week. Deuteronomy 7:22 says 'The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.'

Wow!! Their enemies were driven out before them little by little. It wasn't a huge moment in time of deliverance or breakthrough but a process. The second part of the verse explains why that was so. Eliminating them all at once would have resulted in the wild animals multiplying against them.

What a perspective shift! It is Gods kindness towards me that he has released breakthrough in small pieces. He knows my heart more than I do. I wanted to be air dropped onto the mountaintop but he wanted to walk by my side out of the valley as we journey together to the top. He is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). He meets us in our pain and walks us out to freedom. This has become my story of redemption. It's beautiful, full of Gods kindness and nearness. It may not have happened in the way I expected but as I embraced Gods goodness in my pain, he surprised me with his glory and transformed me. Giving God my pain and watching him create in me something beautiful has been my greatest success story. Now that is breakthrough!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Reception

List! 'Tis the morning hours in Glory.
A shadow through the mists doth now appear-
A troop of angels sweeping down in greeting.
A "Welcome Home" rings out with joyous cheer!

A traveler from the earth is now arriving;
A mighty welcome's ringing in the skies!
The trumpets of a host are now resounding
A welcome to the life that never dies.

Who is the victor whom the angels welcome?
What mighty deeds of valour have been done?
What is the meaning of these shouts of triumph?
Why welcome this soul as a mighty one?

She's but a woman, frail and slight and tender,
No special mark of dignity she bears:
Only the Christ light from her face doth glisten:
Only the white robe of a saint she wears.

She's but a soul redeemed through the blood of Jesus.
Hers but a life of sacrifice and care;
Yet with her welcome all the heaven's ringing,
And on her brow a victor's crown she bears.

How come she thus from sin's benighting thraldom,
The grace and purity of heaven to obtain?
Only through Him Who gave His life in ransom,
Cleansing the soul from every spot and stain.

See! As you gaze upon her face so radiant,
'Tis but the beauty of her Lord you see;
Only the image of His life resplendent;
Only the mirror of His life is she.

See with what signs of joy they bear her onward;
How that the heavens ring with glad acclaim!
What is the shout they raise while soaring upward?
"Welcome! Thrice welcome, thou, in Jesus' Name!"

Rest in the mansion by thy Lord prepared thee,
Out of the loving deed which thou hast done,
Furnished through thoughts and acts which have portrayed Me,
Unto a lost world as their Christ alone.

Hear how thy heavenly harp is ringing!
Touched are its strings with hands by thee unseen.
Note that the music of thine own creating
Heaven's melodies in hearts where sin has been.

See how the atmosphere with love is laden,
And that with brightness all the landscape gleams!
Know 'tis the gladness and the joy of heaven
Shed now by rescued souls in radiant beams.

Oh, that here on earth we may learn the lesson
That Christ enthroned on our hearts while here,
Fits and prepares the soul for heaven,
Making us like Him both there and here.

Doing the simple and homely duties
Just as our Christ on earth has done,
Seeking alone that the Christ's own beauties
In every heart should be caused to bloom.

Showing all men that the blood of Jesus
Cleanses our hearts from all sin below,
And that the life of the Christ within us
Transforms the soul till as pure as snow.

When we thus come to the dark cold river,
No night, no darkness, no death is there,
Only great joy that at last the Giver
Grants us anew of His life to share.

Given to John G Lake
in Tongues and Interpretation
while in Africa