The Time Of Power is Now!
Watchword for 2017: "Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored;
Renew our days as of old." (Lamentations 5:21)

Monthly Archives: February 2011

By Tope Popoola

That you made it to this year is evidence that there is a purpose you will have to fulfill this year. It is a crucial year in many aspects; socially, politically and economically. As a nation, we will be electing a new set of leaders. Events in the year will definitely task our personal leadership capacities on various fronts. I pray that our current and soon to be elected leaders will also learn these lessons. It therefore becomes germane for me to share the following leadership lessons from the South African living legend Nelson Mandela. It was written by Doug Lawrence and I have merely adopted it because of its pertinence. Enjoy!

Courage is not the absence of fear—it is inspiring others to move beyond it.
Having worked with many leaders over the years, I’ve always been exceedingly aware that there are really only two kinds—those who appear to have everything in control and those who actually spend very little time controlling anything, because they’re too busy moving people forward by example.

Lead from the front—but don’t leave your base behind. One leader I know (inspired by Steve Jobs) always tells his students to, “Connect the dots, but don’t forget any of the dots that are behind you—they are just as important as the ones that are in front of you.” How many leaders do you know who focus all their attention on the future and completely forget about what got them to where they are. This is one of the most dangerous mistakes that a leader can make, and I have been both guilty of it, and the victim of it. You too! Admit it!

Lead from the back—and let others believe they are in front. Humility is at the core of good leadership. People are usually willing to follow someone who they believe has their back—someone more interested in them, than in themselves. I love the affirmation model. You can never affirm enough, and, no, you won’t spoil people by saying you think they’re wonderful! The more you are the affirmer, the more the affirmed will take the initiative and move the initiative forward. If this doesn’t work—move them on to someplace else—but, please, not to my church.

Know your enemy—and learn about his favorite sport. Remember the old saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing?” Well, the truth is that a little knowledge can be an exceptionally helpful thing. Here’s a short list of stuff you might want to know in order to undermine potentially negative relationships:

What’s your enemies’ favorite sport and how much do you know about that activity that might break up conversational deadlock? Mandela didn’t like Rugby, but he knew all about it because South African elitists and political enemies all seemed to love the game.

Keep your friends close—and your rivals even closer. I’m opposed to this kind of thinking, but have utilized it most of my life. If you don’t want to get run over by a big, honking SUV, run next to it—not in front of it!

Appearances matter—and remember to smile. Why is it that some leaders don’t think the rules apply to them? Well, in addition to blatant narcissism, leaders sometimes forget that they were given leadership, they didn’t just wake up having it one day. Earn respect by showing respect! Remember, it was others who placed you in charge. Dress and carry yourself as though you appreciate that fact.

Nothing is black or white. So, if things are really shades of gray, and you spend a lot of time there, does that mean you’re not a Christian? No, God gave us shades of gray so we would have real choices to make. He’s not a cosmic school teacher or traffic cop who is ready to slap our hand if we make a mistake. He came to earth because he expected us to make mistakes. Own those, and let the rest of it go.

Quitting is leading too. Would you be offended if I quoted Kenny Rogers here? You absolutely need to know when to “fold ‘em!” Here are some responses to leave conflicting projects. They might also tick people off, so be careful!

“I’m dropping out of this project because my skills don’t match your needs.”
“I’m going to bow out of this endeavor now because I personally believe this is not the time to pursue this agenda.”
“I’m going to turn down your request for help because, to be truthful, I don’t agree with your position on this matter.”

All of these sentences could be used to lead while excusing yourself from the folly of being in the wrong place at the wrong time simply by endorsement.

Well, I hope you find these lessons useful in your various leadership responsibilities this year.

By Tope Popoola

 

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. Proverbs 13:20

There are only two types of relationship in the real sense of the word. A relationship is either empowering you or disempowering you. There is no middle of the road. Consequently, not everyone that flows into your life qualifies for equal levels of attention. Some people only deserve a few minutes or even a few seconds. Assess the quality of relationships in your life right now in relation to the direction in which you are headed in life. How relevant are they? Use your answer to determine how much time you need to allocate to each relationship. Everyone wants to associate with success. As the cliché goes, success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. No man can succeed beyond the best relationships in his life.

TIME is your most valuable capital. It is also a non-replaceable asset. Spending a substantial chunk of it on people who are not in any way related to your life pursuit will cost you energy and bring emotional deficits. Some relationships are real energy drainers. Deliberately avoid such toxic intrusions into your life and destiny.

On the other hand, deliberately cultivate the company of people whose presence literally puts you on mental steroids. When in their company, your dreams come alive again and you leave with the feeling that in God, anything is possible. People in this category are not easy to come by in a world where negativity is the norm. They may be mentors or contemporaries but once you identify them, pay the price to service the relationship. Conversely, when even your mentors are no longer speaking the language of your destination, it is a sign that you probably need a change of alliances and input into your life.

Do everything you can to avoid the company of those who only speak the language of your frustration and deliberately court the company of those who speak the language of your destination. Whatever or whoever gives you instruction will also by implication, give you direction.

Allocate quality time to the most important relationships in your life. Never pursue success at the expense of your family life, especially your nuclear family. When everyone else leaves – as they sometimes do, they will be the ones left. Plan for time to be with your spouse and children. They must be seen and treated as stakeholders in your pursuit of purpose. If your immediate family is alien to your success, you are signing on for a miserable existence.

After many years of what seemed to have been a highly successful ministry with a broadcasting station, a hotel, schools and daily TV appearances, an erstwhile popular American televangelist Jim Baker found himself behind bars as a result of an act of indiscretion. After his release, he admitted, while addressing a Pastors’ meeting that it took his going to jail before he could spend one full day with his son!

Maintaining quality relationships and avoiding toxic ones like a plague requires deliberate skill. A whole chapter is dedicated to the subject of relationships in my book LIVING INTENTIONALLY. You should get a copy and read it well. The people-factor is an integral part of your success story. Mike Murdock once said that if God wants to bless you, He sends people. Conversely, when the devil wants to frustrate you, he sends people! You must be discerning enough to know whose purpose any relationship serves in your life, God’s or Satan’s.

Here is a guide to benchmark your current relationships against so you can be empowered to know what to do with the relationships you are involved in now.

Never spend quality time in a relationship where you do all the giving.
It wears you out.
Never spend quality time in a relationship where you do all the taking.
It devalues you.
Never spend quality time in a relationship that has no boundaries.
It compromises you.
Never spend quality time in a relationship that does not respect your values.
It frustrates you.
Never spend quality time in a relationship that is characterized by criticism and cynicism.
It corrodes you.
Never spend quality time in a relationship that has no value for time.
It kills the achiever in you.
Never spend time in a relationship that does not value grace in other people.
It dulls your insight.
Never spend time in a relationship that places charisma over character.
It grieves you.
Never spend quality time in a relationship that places pleasure above PURPOSE.
It derails you.
Never spend quality time in a relationship that is not characterized by the fear of God.
It will destroy you.

Exercise
Take an inventory of the FIVE best relationships in your life outside your immediate family. Find out the income profile and social status of each. Average it out. You will find out that you operate and earn at the level of whatever you get as the average. Think about that!

By Tope Popoola

 

F.E.A.R – False Evidence Appearing Real Fear has torment – 1 John 4:18 The man who is afraid to die is unwittingly forfeiting his patrimony – Yoruba proverb.

Welcome to the second half of 2010. I trust that the first half has been very eventful for you. May all your losses and defeats in the first half be reversed in the second half. God will make the bounce-back factor work in your favour. So much more can be accomplished in the second half that can dwarf every achievement of the first half.

The title of the series I begin today will no doubt raise questions in your mind. Can anyone really be afraid of success? Is there anyone on earth who does not want to succeed? Everyone I know wishes to succeed but I have found out that there is a world of difference between expressed desires and pursued aspirations.

As we begin the second half, what are your greatest fears? Are they new ones or carried over from the first half? If you do not get rid of, or go ahead in spite of them, you may not have any significantly different results at the end of the year. Trust me, trembling by the river-bank for fear of crocodiles and blaming everyone who did not build a bridge over the river when they should have will never guarantee your arrival on the other side.

Fear is arguably the most paralysing influences on human achievements. It is in fact the scourge of any significant achievement.

People ruled by fear will never see even the best of their intentions become decisions. The implication of this is a life of complacency and slothfulness borne out of the fact that, as long as the fear is not mastered – and can in fact be justified – nothing gets done!

Fear produces in us an aversion to risk that encourages us to be careful where and when we should be daring. An enviable life is epitomized by risks. The life of faith is a risk and it is very risky not to take risks! Great achievers will tell you that while they were doing the things that made them succeed, a great proportion of the time, their heart was in their mouth. It was not that they were not afraid, it was that they defied the fear and went ahead to do what they felt they needed to do! If the venture fails, they simply learn the lessons inherent in the experience and move ahead again until they succeed. Thomas Edison was an unrepentant risk-taker. It got so bad at a point that his financiers actually pulled the plug on him because they thought he was going too far with his “crazy” research projects. In spite of that, he went ahead and gave the world over 1000 patented inventions!

Let’s take a quick look at the common fears that we all experience at some point. Fear of death This happens especially if the venture will involve moving from one point to another. People who are victims of this always imagine themselves being involved in an accident even before they have embarked on the journey. When they hear of accidents along the route they would follow, it becomes their alibi for not venturing. Consequently, their sense of adventure is highly limited. They are like the man described in Proverbs 26:13 not wanting to leave the house because he is convinced there is a lion on the street waiting to destroy him! They will not be caught dead doing certain jobs that entail risks, no matter how mouth-watering the pay packet may be.

A friend of mine would never be caught dead in an airplane even if you bought him a first class ticket. The mere mention of flying makes him go on a creative imagination of air crashes and how no one usually survives it! To people like this, it is as if the fear of death is an insurance against death itself! Truth be told, death is a reality that will happen to all, young or old, whether or not you fear it. In accidents, many people have been known to die from fear-induced heart attacks than the actual accident itself!

The story is told of a king who signed a pact with death to the effect that whenever death would come calling in the village, he was to take away only those above the age of 90.

However, on death’s first visit after the pact, about ten people died who were far younger than the prescribed age. Incensed by deaths’ inability to respect an agreement, the king confronted him to know why he was such a terrible covenant breaker. To which death replied, “In accordance with our agreement, I only took one man who was 93 years old. Fear of my presence in town took the rest!”

Yours truly had cause to address the topic THE LEADERSHIP IMPERATIVE at the maiden edition of the monthly LEADERS AT LUNCH which held recently in Lagos. It was exciting speaking to Leaders representative of different spectra of society. If you are interested in being part of this monthly event that seeks to address critical issues on Leadership and its role in personal and national transformation, you can indicate by sending me an e-mail. I will be more than glad to supply details on how you can participate. We continue our discourse.

Apart from the fear of death discussed last week, we also have:

Fear of the unknown
I have no doubt you are familiar with the expression “The devil you know is better than the angel you do not know”. Well, I do not know anything good or desirable about any devil, even if you were next-door neighbours! People possessed of this type of fear would rather stay within the confines set by status quo. They are resolute establishmentarians for whom change is practically anathema. They have an idea or even a clear picture of a more desirable future but cannot take responsibility for the disciplines and risks necessary to access it. So even when present location or situation is not the ideal, they hesitate to move because they are constantly afraid of the unknown. The familiar is their own ideal. Such people would rather tread well-worn paths than chart a unique and unprecedented pathway.

Fear of people’s opinion
This is a product of a terrible self-esteem that only measures achievement from the binoculars of others. Victims of this type of fear, even when they have a conviction about a matter, routinely subject it to other people’s opinion because they so desperately need the validation that such people give. People in this situation hardly take the initiative for anything. Like rolling stone, they gather no moss. Even when an idea is so real, they would usually wait for someone else to blaze the trail before they attempt to make their own move. As a Trainer/Public Speaker, I have noticed that whenever people are asked to ask questions after a presentation, you find people looking around for the first person to raise his hand. As soon as someone has done so, you suddenly start seeing so many hands now wanting to ask questions.

To the man who is captive to others’ opinion, what is popular is more important than what is right! He would rather be popular than be relevant. He impresses more than he impacts. For him, image is everything. For this reason, he cannot take a stand for anything that puts him in opposition to the very people whose validation he so desperately seeks. He constantly seeks to be “politically correct” because he does not want anything that pitches him against other people. Even when he is right and has superior argument on his side, he cannot afford to fall out of favour with people.

Fear of failure
People who are under the grip of this dimension of fear have an aversion to venturing because they do not want to ever make a mistake. Result? They end up making nothing! They constantly live in the illusion of waiting for conditions to be perfect. They would rather wait to get it right than get it going.

Yet the Bible clearly indicates that those who wait for all conditions to be perfect will never get anything done. They will readily manufacture excuses for validating inaction and procrastination even when it is obvious that their fears are misplaced. Their favourite mantra is “I don’t’ want to do anything now until I know exactly what needs to be done. I can’t afford any mistakes”. They justify their inertia by an abundant repertoire of stories of failed ventures to assuage their own coward minds. They constantly invent disaster stories, market crashes, accidents, business failures etc. as their great excuse for not venturing.

Having identified these fears, I submit that they are actually nothing but the disguise worn by the real fear; the fear of success. The truth is that many people have withdrawn their own permission to succeed by the kind of mindset they have about success. They cannot bear to see themselves bear the responsibility of adopting the lifestyle and disciplines that go with success since they had in time past criticized those who had dared to take the risks involved in succeeding. If for instance, you had concluded that everyone who rides a nice car and lives in a fine house is either a drug-pusher or criminal, you have misguidedly and unwittingly edited yourself from that bracket of life especially if you have no plans to do any of those things you accuse them of.

Take a good look at yourself. Can you convince yourself that you truly deserve to succeed? The real issue in the fear of success is about this; What if it works? Strange but true. Many of us have lofty visions for the future but have withdrawn our permission to succeed because we cannot see ourselves differently from the way we are now! Everything is in our mind and by extension becomes our reality. Here are some of the debilitating beliefs that fuel our fear of success:

I don’t deserve to succeed beyond a level.
Who am I to aspire to the highest position in the organization? That’s only for dreamers. I’m a realist and I don’t fool myself.”
“I don’t ever see myself riding that kind of car” (even though in the inner recesses of your mind, you see yourself behind its steering!)
“There is nobody in my family or circle of friends that has experienced that level of achievement, so why should I be different?”
“As long as I can pay my bills and I don’t owe anyone, I’m content.”

These are some of the subtle, disempowering messages many of us feed our subconscious with on a regular basis. Before I had my first Mercedes Benz, I had always believed it was only for the stinking rich. But one day I convinced myself that if anyone could ride a Benz, so could I? So I went to borrow one from an associate. Without telling him what I needed it for, I simply took a drive around town just to experience the feeling. I loved it and from then on began to tell anyone who cared to listen about my next car, down to the colour even when I had no clue where the money would come from. My dream came true a few weeks thereafter.

‘Success attracts envy’
This thought gnaws at your very soul whenever a part of you wants to strive for the lofty heights in the labyrinths of your dreams especially if in time past you had treated with disdain, people who dared to attain those heights that your mind is now offering you. Shivers run down your spine because you are suddenly hit with the possible reality that this may be payback time? You cannot even bear to accommodate the thought. So you conclude, maybe it’s not worth it afterall!

‘Success exposes one to undue publicity and exposure’
To you, your present obscurity is a form of insurance against public scrutiny. You therefore convince yourself that being in the public eye is not for you. Who wants to hug the headlines and become subject of papparazzi gossip? Well wake up and smell the coffee, no one throws stones at a tree that has no fruits on it! If you recognize that your success is not just about you, you will recognize that this is too small a price to pay. No matter how much you hate publicity, if you are doing anything that touches the core of society at any significant level, people know about you. Even if you try to cover a fire, the smoke will betray its presence!

‘Success exposes one to early death’
This thought pattern convinces you to tread softly so you do not expose yourself to the risk of premature death from people who do not like your face (village witches!) or from the stress of success! Who wants to go through all those endless hours of travel? Too risky you conclude. Well it is better to live one day as a lion than to live 50 years as a dog!

‘You can’t succeed without being crooked’
This mindset is reinforced by the many stories of corporate disasters around us, especially when we find out that they were orchestrated by individuals we thought were the ultimate role models because of the values they projected. If people like that could be corrupted, do I stand a chance you ask?

Afterall, as the Yoruba would put it, behind every story of wealth are some murky, putrefying issues (Isale oro l’egbin)! The real interpretation of that proverb is that if you are going to succeed significantly, you will have to get your hands dirty (not soiled) through hard work and paying the price of applying yourself to certain time-tested principles. It has nothing to do with cutting corners and wrecking others to succeed.

‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’
This is the mindset that convinces you that the responsibilities attached to prominence are too numerous especially when you seem to be the lone island in an ocean of poverty. Siblings, family members, the larger community would suddenly swoop on you and start making demands ranging from what to eat to being the Chief Launcher at every public event. However, are these enough reasons for you not to aspire? How do you permanently conquer this terrible psychological Goliath that is nothing but a destiny saboteur?

Convince yourself that you deserve to succeed.
God’s original plan is for man to succeed. My definition of success is the progressive internalization and realization of God’s purpose for an individual. It’s not about a chain of cars or lots of real estate or the billions in the bank. Those are consequences. Purpose is the cause. If you can discover why you are on earth, and pursue it, your success is only a matter of time. If you make money and have all the big toys without defining your raison d’etre, the frustration of the acquisitions will kill you!

Align your God-inspired purpose with a vision and a compelling desire to make the world a better place for all.
Your discovered purpose is the platform of your significance. Imagine yourself solving problems for humanity with your unique peculiarities and skills. Think of lives being saved, people changed, communities developing, smiling faces, children having good education because of something you did. How does that make you feel?

Be comfortable with the reward of relevance.
The world delivers success to you as the reward for your contribution. The universe has been programmed to deliver rewards to you based on your input. Every day of your life, you are living in a harvest. Success is therefore not a pursuit. It is a reward for purposeful living! The only control you have over the degree of your success is limited to your decision to actualize your discovery and the price you are willing to pay to deploy it for greater good.

Be comfortable with people’s reaction.
Whether or not you succeed, people will still talk about you anyway. Your refusal to succeed doesn’t insulate you from the scourge of the mouth. The key issue is, is what they are saying true? If they accuse you of scandal, can the charge stick? To lead the orchestra, you must turn your back to the crowd and face the music. After a good performance, you can face them while they stand on their feet to applaud an excellent performance. It is ok to be envied, maligned as much as it is to be applauded. Don’t be conceited with the applause and don’t be distracted by the disdain. Just keep moving!

Be comfortable with loneliness.
When God gives you a picture of your destiny, He does not call a council meeting with all your family and friends in attendance! It’s just you and Him. Get used to the fact that those who did not see what you saw cannot be expected to do what you ought to do. Rejection is therefore part of the package. A man of purpose is like a mad man dancing to music that others around him cannot hear. When Paul had his Damascus road encounter in Acts 9, the people with him only heard “a voice (Paul’s I presume) but saw no man” even when two people – he and Jesus – had been speaking. You may be lonely, but you are not alone!

Be comfortable with a new circle of friends.
There is nothing that more effectively edits your circle of relationships than the pursuit of a clearly defined destination. When you resolve to pursue purpose, you are also sending notice to those not relevant to the pursuit to exit your life. If you expect all your old friends to be comfortable with your new status, you joke! The good thing about that is that as you go along, you meet fellow travelers whose hearts are, like you, set on pilgrimage. They don’t speak like your old friends. These ones speak the language of your destination, not the language of your history or your frustration. Initially you may feel strange in their company but not to worry, if you stay around them long enough, you will get used to it.

Be comfortable with opposition.
The only thing that does not encounter opposition is a static object. The enemy is not after your reality but your destiny. The battle is over your future! When you choose to follow the destiny path, opposition will come with a disguise and a sign that says STOP WORK! Don’t oblige him! There is far too much involved!

Death is a universal reality.
Even if you wear an armour to bed, you will die one day. Physical death is the guaranteed end of all flesh whether you fail or succeed. Your ancestors died. Younger people than you die, even infants do. So why don’t you pack adventure into your life while it lasts? You have only one life to live. It’s not a rehearsal, you are on stage for a live performance and your audience is already seated waiting on your every move! Between now and when the curtains are drawn – and there is no room for an encore! – you are the one they came to watch!

How can you waste the applause that is waiting for you?

By Tope Popoola

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any… All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 1Corinthians 10:12/23 (KJV)

Not everything or everyone that demands your attention deserves to get it. Yes you heard me right. A life of significance is a life of priorities. We fail not so much because of the things we pursue but because of the things we refuse to neglect. Our lives are swamped by so many things that lay claim to deserving of a significant chunk of our time. The technology gizmos that come out of production lines these days all want to squeeze out a portion of the 24 hours that we have daily. It is interesting that the only claim that these gadgets make is that they were designed to make our lives easier. However, you and I know that the only significant thing they have done for the most part is to further complicate our hitherto simple lives!

Ipods, ipads, galaxy, mp3 players, tablet computers etc., have become more of a source of pain than gain. Cable TV now provides us over 200 channels of entertainment to choose from. How on earth did we survive without mobile phones? That contraption has become such a sometimes nauseating aspect of our contemporary reality that we do not even know when we should shut it down. Even important meetings – including private moments between couples – are routinely interrupted by nondescript phone calls.

How about the computer? The internet and other related gadgets have conspired to do more damage to our personalities than the ease they promise. For one, it has literally killed the attention span of our youth. Even in church services and classrooms, it is not unusual to see young people texting or updating their Facebook profile while the Pastor is totally engaged in the preaching of a life-transforming message or the teacher is busy making some vital points. We now relate through machines and gadgets. Our reasoning, even if not consciously, is that afterall, if we can communicate by sms, email, Blackberry and Twitter, why do we need personal relationships?

Chronic sleep disorders are on the increase because people stay awake all night making night calls or chatting online. Consequently, they spend their daytime moments acting grumpy and generally uncoordinated. According to the results of a survey, 42% of boys and 40% of girls involved in nocturnal technology gadget-related activity had chronic sleep disorders that impaired their concentration in school.

Considering all these, it would be an understatement that the attendant level of massive distraction can only be imagined.

Even if you had 36 hours to your day, you would still not be able to accomplish all you need to daily. In the light of this understanding, prioritised living is the answer. You must, like Paul the apostle, be able to distinguish between priorities and urgencies. You will be misunderstood and, called names when you start drawing the lines. But that is a small price to pay for your life to make progress.

Time is the number one capital you have to make an eternal impact. So learn to use it well and appropriately. The key to this is to master the art of intelligent neglect. All successful people do it. Brian Tracy calls it creative procrastination. According to him, in order to effectively set priorities, you must also set “posteriorities”. Priority has to do with something that you need to do more of and sooner while “posteriorities” are those things that can wait or not get done at all without any disservice to your destination.

Beam the searchlight on your life. Are there things you are presently doing less of but which are absolutely necessary in attaining your life goals? Focus more time attention on those. They are priority. Conversely, are there things you are doing now – not necessarily evil! – that do not significantly lead in the direction of your life destination? Learn to deliberately neglect, procrastinate on or completely avoid them. Cut down significantly on TV, films, and the obsession with technological gizmo and give the time saved to more productive activity.

Champions are not only known by what they are willing to deliberately pursue but also by what they deliberately forsake!

By Tope Popoola

 

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient… 1 Corinthians 10:23a …Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it. 1 Kings 20:39-40

A clearly defined vision is the compass that guides you to the desired destination. Vision is constant even when the strategy changes. The best of strategies only serve vision. The star that appeared to the wise men in Matthew 2 was designed to lead them to where Jesus was born. They were on track until they decided to veer off into the palace of King Herod for a courtesy call. And that momentary distraction proved very costly and brought national grief and the decimation of an entire generation of male children.

Intelligent neglect is about deliberately eliminating from your schedule, activities that do not contribute in any significant way to getting you to the defined destination.

Great footballers understand that you don’t win a match by focusing on the scoreboard. You win by focusing your shots and your eyes on the goalpost. The scoreboard has nothing to do with the outcome of the game.On the other hand, it is what happens between the ball and the goalpost that is reflected on the scoreboard.Goals affect the scoreboard, not vice versa.

Many destinies are buried in the graveyard of broken focus. Guard your focus jealously. On an average day, many activities compete for your attention. Some of them will appear urgent. But urgent doesn’t mean expedient. Only a life of priorities will help you determine which is which. Greatness is not only determined by what is done but also by what is deliberately left undone.

Distractions often come in attractive packages. Many young men in Joseph’s shoes would have jumped at the opportunity of an unholy romp in Mrs. Portiphar’s bed when she so willingly offered it. But not Joseph. By keeping his dream in view, he recognised the offer for what it was; attractive yet distractive!

Once upon a time, the tortoise was the butt of every animal’s jokes because of its slow pace. The dog’s jokes were particularly derisive and deliberately demeaning. Deciding that he would not take it anymore, the tortoise challenged the dog to a race. ‘What cheek!’, thought the dog as he initially shrugged off such possibility as the ranting of a demented fool. With the prize and the course determined and believing it had nothing to lose, the dog agreed.

On the eve of the race, the tortoise had strategically positioned some juicy bones at select locations on the route. He was careful enough to place the juiciest of them all a few meters before the finish line. Came the day of the race and all the animals had gathered to see the strange spectacle of how literally speaking, the tail was going to wag the dog! The excitement was fever-pitch. The dog took off full throttle while the crowd roared as the tortoise seemed to barely move. He simply maintained a steady pace.

A few meters into the race, the dog smelt something very attractive. He paused and looked behind him. The tortoise was not even within view yet. ‘Well’, he reasoned, ‘a little refreshment would not be out of place.’ So he stopped to eat. When he looked up and saw that the tortoise was close, he took off again at full speed. After about another 300 meters, he perceived the smell again. Looking back and not seeing the tortoise, he said to himself; ‘This was never a contest anyway, just fun!’ So he stopped and ate.

The routine continued until he got to the final bone which had been specially garnished and strategically positioned within view of the finish line. The aroma was overpowering. Since the end was only one trot away, a bite wouldn’t hurt. Halfway through the meal, he was so full, he could hardly move. Convinced that a little snooze would not be out of place, he promptly fell asleep and did not notice the tortoise stroll by to finish the race. The thunderous applause of an excited and surprised crowd roused the dog from its prize-snatching slumber! He learnt the lesson.

Say ‘No’ to non-essentials so you can say ‘Yes’ to the essentials. Be comfortable with the fact that you cannot solve everyone’s problem, you cannot go everywhere, you do not know all things and you cannot do all things!

If you could, you would be a contender for the position of God! He is the only one who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Believe me. He is better at it than anyone else!

Tope Popoola

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not embarrassed or ashamed in each other’s presence.– Genesis 2:25(AMP)Once upon a time, a little boy and his sister went to spend their holiday with their grandparents. One day, the boy decided to take a walk through the large expanse of woodland on the farm. He was given a slingshot to play with while out in the woods. He practised several times; but he never hit the target. Discouraged by the futility of his many attempts, he headed back for dinner. On the way, he saw Grandma’s pet duck.

Without really expecting to hit it, he let the slingshot fly. Unfortunately, the shot hit the duck square in the head and killed it instantly. He was shocked and grieved! In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the wood pile. What he did not know was that his sister, Sally, was watching it all but she said nothing.

After lunch the next day, Grandma said, ‘Sally, come and let’s wash the dishes’ But Sally said, ‘Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen.’ Then she moved close to him and whispered to his ears, “Remember the duck?’ So Johnny did the dishes. Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, ‘Johnny can go with you but I need Sally to help with supper.’ Sally just smiled and said, ‘Well there is no reason why I cannot go Grandma because Johnny told me he wanted to help with supper’ Again she leaned close to Johnny and whispered, ‘Remember the duck?’ So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s; he finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma bent down, gave him a hug and said, ‘Sweetheart, I know. I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing, but because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.’

Lesson? Those who don’t want skeletons should not bother to even have cupboards! Transparency is a virtue that is largely missing in every facet of our national life. I have heard of several cases of one spouse embarking on a project without the knowledge of the other. Husbands keep secrets that wives dare not know about. Ditto wives. Parents hide things from their children and of course children religiously do all they can to keep many chapters of their lives hidden from possible scrutiny by their parents. I have come across several cases of people who have children out of wedlock without the knowledge of their spouse. Imagine a situation where a woman’s son was staying with her mother and grew up to call the real mother ‘Auntie’. He was a teenager before the Mum’s husband found out. As you read this, ask yourself, ‘What about me; does my spouse not yet know?’ It is instructive to note however that whatever areas of our lives lack transparency become veritable tools for blackmail. Blackmailers thrive on secrets.

More often than not, many of our attempts at cover-up are nothing but fig-leaf therapy. Recall Adam and Eve in Eden after the Fall? We keep secrets because we do not want to take responsibility for possible consequences when the truth is known.

Life becomes easier for both the follower and the leader where there is transparency. Why for instance has our National Assembly been foot-dragging on the Freedom of Information Bill? Afterall, truth requires no defence. Transparency fears no discovery and experiences no surprises. What you see is what you get. To my mind, it is because there is so much rot in the system that the rest of us must not know about! As a Yoruba proverb indicates, whatever we discuss and request that no one else must hear about it is nothing but a tissue of falsehood!

As a nation, we find ourselves in this precarious position because our leaders have been largely clever by half with issues of governance. If governance is predicated on honesty and transparency, identifying with policies would not be a problem because there will be TRUST.

As a boss, can you TRULLY tell your subordinates how you got to the top? Can those you mentor replicate your success using the same strategies you shared with them? Or is there another story behind the story? The web of falsehood is like a never-ending maze. Better not to enter it than to try and get out once in. Only lies need support systems. Once you tell one, you will have to creatively construct others to back it up.

If you want to achieve sustainable success, live your life as an open book and you will have less explanations to make!

By Tope Popoola

 

In everything, give thanks…1 Thessalonians 5:18a
I thank all those who sent me messages of goodwill on my birthday last week. I actually spent the day speaking at the end-of-year thanksgiving and get-together of a corporate organization. Although it was work, it was also fun.

As the year draws to a close, most of us have a habit of taking stock of our progress in the course of the year. Unfortunately, in taking stock, many of us also get stuck in the paralysis of analysis. It is common to spend more time ruminating on what we could not achieve rather than what we did. We maul our own psyches in a self-immolating census and analysis of what we lost rather than express gratitude for what we have left. This is the time of the year when worship centres are filled with different types of people whose major reason for coming is to pray for last minute miracles and a recovery of lost ground.

There is nothing wrong with that except for the fact that oftimes, in doing that, people routinely forget the very many things that they accomplished in the year and so, forget to be grateful to God and to all who made those things happen.

No matter how bad things may have been, if you are still alive and healthy, you have more things left than anything you might have thought you lost. Your gratitude for what is left is based on your having an understanding of the fact that the potential for your future breakthrough is not in what you lost but in what you have left.

Inability to hope is the signature tune of the dead. What this means is that as long as there is life, hope can be your pilot to restoration. The tragedy that I see playing out every day is that of people who walk around with a semblance of life but who in reality are walking corpses, not because of a physical affliction but because they have lost the capacity to hope. A clear vision of a preferred future and its uncharted possibilities is all you need to inspire hope. But hope alone is not enough. It must be empowered by FAITH. My other spelling for faith is W.O.R.K.

Thank God for where you are. Many people didn’t make it that far. Whatever you have achieved, some people have done more. Conversely, whatever you have lost, some people have lost more. You are neither the best nor the worst. You are just you, created with your unique destiny and attendant experiences. No matter how bad you think things are with you, just keep in mind that what you call your present circumstance of frustration is someone else’s highest level of aspiration. What you currently call lack is someone else’s dream of abundance. So, roll up your sleeves. Stand with your head lifted up and dare to dream again. Like Joseph, your accomplishments in the area of dreams may be the key to your desired breakthrough.

However you must, like Joseph, take responsibility to develop the corresponding capacity to interpret them. Every time you ask God for a miracle, you have just asked for RESPONSIBILITY. I do not know of any miracle in the Bible that did not require the input of man. If your prayer for a particular type of car is answered, you have to take up responsibility for its maintenance.

In taking stock therefore, spend more time being grateful. Think of the many dangers –seen and unseen – that God delivered you from. Think of the several attempts by the environment and your health to keep you incapacitated. Yet you are still here.

Only the living dream. On my own part, I have chosen to keep the bright side up. Did you have disappointments and a whole load of things you could not get done. You have company in yours truly. But I am full of gratitude to God even for the things I could not do.

You know why? Whatever God withholds from you was probably never meant for you for several reasons viz: time, capacity, experience, consequences, etc. At the appropriate time, God can be trusted to make all things beautiful!

I thank God for the gift of life and sound health that has made the writing of this column possible in the last three years uninterrupted! Tasking no doubt, considering the fact that one is not a full-time journalist. But His grace has made it possible I want to also thank all of you who have made the writing worth my while. Your encouraging comments and your loyal readership have made it fun for me every step of the way. And thanks to the Tribune for the platform…

By David Church

 

You have probably seen articles with titles like this before. Every leader has a few good thoughts about increasing the attendance of their church on a given Sunday or about growing the overall attendance of their church. If you happen to lack for idea’s there are all kinds great idea’s in books and magazines, on blogs and on websites, but I will leave that to you. I want to take you back to the book of Acts and investigate what caused such tremendous growth amongst the first century church.
The Bible says in;

Acts 2:42-47
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

The final verse of Acts, chapter two, ends with two phrases that really catch my attention:

  • Having favor with all the people.
  • The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

The last phrase ,"added daily to the church", is our goal, yet it cannot be accomplished without first having, " favor with people." You will never grow your church unless you have favor with people. You will never win people to Christ unless you first win peoples favor. One of the reasons that Jesus was so successful and had so many people following Him was because He had favor with man.

Luke 2:52
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Jesus had favor with God and with man. The Greek word for favor is ‘charis’, which simply means gratitude. To have favor with people is for people to feel grateful to you for something you have done. In the simplest of terms, you gain favor with people by the way you treat them and the way that you love them. If you love people, you will win them!

People were grateful to Jesus because He cared for them, loved them, fed them and healed them. In order for your church to grow, people must feel grateful for what you are doing for them through the ministries of your church.

In this text there are five things that these very first Christians did that give us a clear and concise blueprint for consistent growth in our churches. In each of these efforts, I believe that the church gained favor with the people.

1. They Continued in the Apostles Doctrine.

The scripture is abundantly clear that there is only one truth. The Apostles had that truth. As the church progressed, there were many false prophets that began to rise up and teach other doctrines. Paul wrote of this in;

Gal 1:6-9
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

One of the things that caused tremendous growth in the early church is, "they continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine." The Apostles and the early leaders of the church did not go running after other doctrines. The loved this truth and eventually died for it. They guarded this truth, yet they shared this truth. The lived this truth and they preached this truth. Although we live in a different time, I believe that people still want to know the truth. People do not like to be lied to. Programs are great, but what people really need is the Truth.

When people understand that you hold nothing back, when they understand that you will tell them the whole Truth, they will see that you really do care for their souls. People will drive for miles to hear a preacher who feeds them with Truth. Ultimately it is the Truth that saves people, when people begin to see and understand that, there is nothing that will stop them from coming to your church. Paul stated in;

Acts 20:27-31
27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

People will be grateful for a pastor and a church that does not shun to declare the whole counsel of God to them. People will be grateful for a pastor who compassionately warns them of following false prophets. You will gain their favor, and ultimately you will grow your church by continuing in the Apostles doctrine.

2. They fellowshipped and broke bread together.

How do you feel when you are invited to dinner at somebody’s home? Are you grateful for their friendship? Do you want to return the favor? Of course you do. So I could say then, that they have gained your gratitude or favor.

One of the easiest ways to gain favor with somebody is to invite them over for dinner, or take them out for dinner. Break bread with them. Fellowship with them. You can grow your church by simply having more fellowship together. It is as easy as that, yet because we are so busy, we fail in this effort over and over again. Don’t let that happen in your church, make time for fellowship. Jesus gained favor with publicans and sinners when he sat down to eat dinner with them.

Mark 2:15
15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.

The scripture states that many began to follow Jesus because he sat down and ate dinner with them. It can’t get much easier than that. Fellowship, Fellowship, Fellowship, you can’t have too much. It is a key to growth. Show me a church that is fellowshipping together and I will show you a church that is growing.

As a pastor, you must find ways to keep the fellowship going. Care groups, friendship groups, prayer groups, youth functions….whatever causes fellowship to happen is great. Be the example and lead your church in fellowship with one another. People will follow you if you do.

3. They Prayed together.

It goes without saying that there is nothing that can replace prayer. We all need our alone time in prayer with God, but we must also pray corporately. There is nothing like a good old fashioned prayer meeting. Getting together with one another and interceding for their needs. When you bind together and truly pray for someone’s needs, that person becomes so grateful to you. You will win that person’s favor in no time at all if you continue to show them that kind of compassion.

I had the privilege of attending one of the Tuesday night prayer meetings at Brooklyn Tabernacle back in 1990. Since that time their prayer meetings have become legendary. Many have heard of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, but what really built that church was their Tuesday night prayer meetings.

What I experienced wasn’t a church service, it wasn’t a typical prayer meeting. It was something that I will never forget. From the first moment that I witnessed the crowd, I couldn’t believe there were so many there for prayer meeting. There were over two thousand people in attendance. When we call our prayer meetings, we are lucky if twenty percent of the church shows up. As I searched for a seat in the balcony area, (when was the last time you had to search for a seat at a prayer meeting) I noticed a very large group of people in the choir loft. I figured these were the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. That would explain why so many people were present, they had come to hear this famous choir. Yet as I sat there and observed, the only people that sang where a group of praise singers. The people in the choir loft were not singing, they were praying. At one point, as Pastor Cymbala led in prayer, those in the choir loft came out and started praying over the lives of those in the sanctuary. They were weeping and crying and praying the will of God over every person in the building.

I wept and watched as the people in the balcony prayed individually, in pairs, in small groups, and also corporately. From about 5 pm when the doors first opened, to about 11 pm when the last person left there were people praying for the needs of their community. What an amazing experience it was. Is it any wonder that Brooklyn Tabernacle has gained favor with the people of New York City, and the entire world for that matter?

Our churches have to get back to praying together just like they did in the first century. God has always intended that His house be a house of prayer for all people. Brooklyn Tabernacle is a house of prayer. We need to turn our churches into houses of prayer.

Isa 56:7
7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

2 Chronicles 7:14-16
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.

Do people recognize your church as a church that prays? When people come into your church, do they immediately feel the presence of God? They should. They should always remember your church as the church that prays, and the church where God answers. There is nothing that will gain favor with people like answered prayers. Your prayer meetings will grow, your church will grow, and people will spread the word wherever they go.

4. They sold their possessions and goods for those in need.

Everyone who calls themselves a Christian is called to provide for those in need! That is what Jesus did when He walked amongst us, and that is what we should do. In fact, if we want to make it to heaven, it is a requirement. Jesus had to explain this to His disciples one day. The passage is found in;

Matt 25:42-46
42 For I was an hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

The reason God requires this of us is because we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and we are called to love one another as God has loved us!

Matt 22:39
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

John 15:12-13
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

There is an underlying principle of love and compassion at work in this part of ministry. Would you feed yourself if you were hungry? Of course you would. Would you sell a piece of your own property if you and your family were in need of finances? Of course you would. Would God do the same? Of course He would. So we can do no less for others than what we would do for ourselves or what God would do for us. The scripture also says;

John 13:35
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

This is how all men will know we are Christians. This is how your community will recognize that your church is a "True Church". They will know by the love that you show to your community. A church that gives to the needy will be recognized in your city as a loving, caring, and compassionate church. The entire city will become grateful to you. When the time comes that they need a church, they will remember your church because your church was the church that helped one of their family members, your church was the church that visited their aunt in the hospital.

Every church must be involved in the ministry of benevolence. Start a food pantry. Offer free dinners to the homeless on a regular basis. Purchase shoes for those who need them. Start a prison ministry. Visit the sick. Have a block party in an inner city area where you can give gifts to those who might never receive any from their own families. Find some way to give back to the community. Let your city know that you are there to make a difference in the lives of those in need. Your city will be forever grateful to you for doing so.

5. They continued with one accord at the Temple every day.

There are two messages that I get out of this passage of scripture. The first is consistency. We all know that simply being consistent in our efforts will bring success. A little bit here and a little bit there. Don’t change when everyone else is changing. Keep at it every day. Take up your cross every day.

Acts 5:42
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

Luke 9:23
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

The second message that I get out of this passage is this; The fact that they went to the Temple every day, tells me that the Temple was open to the public every day. A church that has its doors open for guests and members every day is a church that has something going on. People will come to a church that has something going on.The bible states that we ought to gather ourselves together more and more as we see that day approaching;

Heb 10:25
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

There is no doubt that the day of the Lord is quickly approaching, yet it seems that we are meeting fewer times a week than we ever have before. The first century church had success in part by meeting in one accord at the Temple every day. I know that is not feasible in our society. We all have jobs and commitments that pull us away every day. I am not saying that we have to have a service every day, we don’t need to have an organized event every day, but what we do need is a church that is available to our community every day.

It wouldn’t be difficult for the church doors to be open every day for prayer, for fellowship, for bible study, for basic the needs of the community. Sometimes they just want to know that you are there, that is what causes favor in people. That makes a huge difference. A church that has its doors open every day is a church that has something happening. People will go where it is happening. People go where the action is.

Have you ever wondered why Catholic churches get so many members? A large part of their success is in their availability to the community every day. The priests are available every day. In fact, a Priest is required to perform at least one mass every day, even if no one else is there. It is one of the vows he takes upon his ordination. Their doors are open all the time. With the doors of the church open every day, it is easier for people to go in and talk to a priest on a weekday when the crowds are smaller. This gives the people are closer connection to their leader and causes them to feel grateful for the time that he spent with them.

Why can’t our doors be open more than they are? Why can’t we be available more than we are? It wouldn’t be that difficult. I believe that people would be very grateful for the effort. Remember gratefulness is favor, and favor will bring great growth to your church.

Acts 2:47
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved

By David Church

 

Acts 2:42-47 KJV
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

1. A Praying Church

The first century church continued in prayer. The fact that it continued means that it had previously started. These people had been praying long before the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in the book of Acts.

Acts 1:14 KJV14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Before the church ever experienced growth there was prayer. Corporate and unified prayer. This was the foundation of what happened in Acts chapter two. Prayer is the most basic and necessary requirement of any church. Prayer is the foundation upon which everything else is built. A praying church is a church that is ready and waiting to do whatever God desires to do amongst them.

2 Chron 7:14-15 KJV14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.
Show me a praying church, and I will show you a growing church.

2. A Church that Preaches Truth.

John 8:31 KJV31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

The first century church continued in the doctrine. Only by continuing in the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles do we become disciples of Christ. The truth is what saves us, the truth is what sets us free from sin. The truth must be preached at all costs. When anything other than the truth of God’s Word is preached it is impossible for true growth to occur. These kinds of churches may draw large crowds, but the people cannot become disciples because they have not continued in the Word. True growth can only occur where Truth is preached.

3. A Church that Fellowships.

The first century church continued in fellowship. People need fellowship. People know when others really care about them. A church that is truly reaching out to others is a growing church. Don’t wait for fellowship to happen on its own. Fellowship must happen intentionally. Every church must have some type of fellowship or care ministry that is intentionally reaching out to others for the purpose of friendship and unity in the body.Jesus fellowshipped with publicans, sinners, harlots and many others. Jesus did so intentionally, He went out of his way to do so. When He did, it often caused a revival in that city or town.
Fellowship will bring growth.

4. A Church that Serves the Needy in the Community.

Serving the needy in your community accomplishes three important things:

  • It meets the need of hurting people
  • It shows the Love of God to your community. (this is the second greatest commandment)
  • It brings name recognition and exposure to your church

God requires that we reach out to the hurting of our communities;

 

Matt 25:40 KJV40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

5. Unity of Worship and Praise

We can worship and praise God all day long on our own, but there is something different about corporate praise. Something amazing that happens when a group of believers gather together to honour God with their praise and worship.

Matt 18:20 KJV20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Ps 22:3 KJV3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitant the praises of Israel.

God inhabits the praises of His people. It is as if the presence of God is multiplied. His Spirit comes down to dwell amongst us, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Guests can sense that liberty and anointing in your service, and it will draw them back to your church.

2 Cor 3:17 KJV17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

6. A Church that has Anointed one Able Leadership

The Bible states, "they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine." It was through the anointed and able leadership of the Apostles that the first century church grew. The Apostles had been with Jesus. They had learned the doctrine directly from Him. They had a vision of what Jesus desired for His church, and they imparted that vision to the people.
Prov 29:18 KJV18 Where there is no vision, the people perish:

7. A Church that is Happy.

The first century church had "gladness and singleness of heart."

One thing people always notice when they visit a church is the countenance of the people. Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they friendly? Ask any person who has visited numerous churches and they can tell you if a church has it going on or not by how happy the people are. During the reign of King Solomon, many of the Kings of surrounding kingdoms desired to sit down with Solomon to investigate what brought so much success to His Kingdom. One such monarch, the Queen of Sheba, came to prove Solomon with hard questions. She had heard how great the Kingdom of Solomon was, but she wanted to see it for herself. This is what she found out;

1 Kings 10:6-8 KJV6 And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. 7 Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. 8 Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.

What convinced the Queen of Sheba more than the wisdom, more than the wealth and more than the fame of Solomon, was the happiness of his men and his servants. There was joy in the kingdom of Israel. She did not believe any of the reports until she saw the happiness of the people. The same is true in your church. People will come and check it out for themselves, but until they see the happiness of the people in your church, they will not believe. They need to see the joy of the Lord on your people’s faces.

By Fred Childs

Risk taking is an essential ingredient in ministry in the Kingdom of God. Most Bible heroes were risk takers. Jesus was a risk taker.

Risk taking at times needs to be bold and calculated. Other times require spontaneity.

The paradox is that in the realm of organized religion, institutional thinking, and even in many local churches risk-taking is non-existent. It is frowned upon.

Most American Christians have never taken a risk. Most of them stay within familiar boundaries their whole lifetime. Most of the men worked one or two jobs, lived in the same home, retired, and attended the same church their whole lifetime. They were/are stable, solid, dependable people.

The pastor before me was here 49 years. The church is 94 years old. I am the 4th pastor.

  • That is stability
  • But stability can make it hard to take risks

So here I am . . . a risk taker.

I have taken bold, very bold risks in life and ministry as I have stepped out on faith to follow God’s will. I have given away a fortune, literally. My wife has given all of her furniture away 3 times. We have moved over 20 times. We have wept as we have left family, friends, and security time and again to do the will of God. God knew we would do it, so He called us to do it, and we did it. We will do it again. I have a history of bold risk-taking decisions. I am willing.

I only mention those things to validate that I am one of those who is willing to take risks in order to advance the Kingdom of God.

In environments where conformity and uniformity are stressed so highly those among us who take risk become easy prey. You will be misunderstood, mislabelled, misrepresented, ostracized, and so forth. You will be targeted by the non-risk taker . . . the settler.

Risk takers are needed . . . perhaps more than ever. You won’t be comfortable running with the pack or settling in walled environments. You will always be looking ahead over the horizon. Pioneers are needed in this environment of today just as they were in the early days of our nation.

There are many differences between pioneers and settlers. Settlers wait until the pioneers have blazed the trails and fought the battles. The voice crying, "Is it safe out there?" is the settler. The voice calling back, "Sure, it is safe now" is the pioneer.

God is shaking this world. Uncertainty and fear is in the air. If God challenges you in the future to do something abnormal . . . take the risk. Be true to whom you are and don’t compromise your integrity. Non-risk takers will strip your integrity away and if you let them they will never let you be who God wants you to be. I once taught a seminar in Detroit to a group of business people. The CEO’s, Presidents, and Vice-Presidents of 27 major companies were there. Ford Motor Company hosted the event, and their top officials were there. I took a risk. As I was concluding my session on "How to do Administrative Continuous Improvement," I told them that their greatest challenge was their own intestinal fortitude to continue the process once all the present improvements and dollar savings were accomplished. Three CEO’s told me later that was the clincher for them that let them know I was real. On another occasion, I fired my pastor’s son-in-law because I knew it had to be done and nobody else would do it.

These were risk. I would do each again. I will take risks again when I know it is the right thing to do. I am admonishing you to do the same.

Risk taking will be required to transition the Church to meet the challenges of tomorrow. None of us know those challenges, but they are coming rapidly. I encourage you when the time comes to rise up, do it, don’t fear it, be willing and take risks as necessary. Don’t force God to have to go around you to find someone who is willing to take risks for Him that He has positioned you to take.

After all, is there really even a real risk involved when stepping out on faith to fulfill the will of God? No . . . there is no risk. The risk is when you do not step out on faith and you refuse to do something God has asked you to do. It could be because of:

  • Little faith
  • Fear
  • Being too settled
  • Being influenced by non-risk taking peers.

Examples of risk-taking:

  • Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac
  • Noah
  • Elijah against Ahab and Jezebel’s 850 false prophets
  • Elijah with the cloud the size of a man’s hand
  • David against Goliath
  • Jonah
  • Queen Esther
  • Peter with the lame man at the Gate Beautiful

Faith and foolishness looks similar at a glance. We see some take bold steps and succeed. Others, and the result is a bust. What is the difference? It can not be judged in a window of time. Often the longer the dry period, development… The greater result. We get frustrated when we judge our result by others. Some are faith driven, others are just restless souls. No doubt movement brings things to the surface, however restless is more a product of flesh than faith. It is easy for us to spiritualize our steps. The test of time will reveal our work. Look at a church full of solid, dependable people and judge the end result and you know faith was involved. Apostolic churches with solid people is not a work of flesh. Time has a way, like wind, of removing the details.

It is easy for us to spiritualize our journey. It is easy for someone who never exercises faith to discount the actions of those that do over time. Be encouraged . . . others will discount the actions of someone exercising faith. We cannot over analyze what God is asking of us. Obedience is just following direction.