Or how it’s taken 30 years to get where I am today
This is the 2nd part if my talk on “Called, Trained, Commissioned”. Last month I looked at Called. This month is Trained.
The training phase of ministry is ongoing, it never ends. It’s part hidden (shared with 2 or 3 close friends/mentors) and part public (everyone is going to see what’s going on)
There are 2 aspects to the training phase – training in gift/ministry & development of character, and I’ll look at each of these
Training in gift/ministry
Gifts, by their very nature, are given. However they aren’t given fully formed, they need developing.
During the training period you start to learn about the about the gifts & ministries that God has put in you. To start with, you have to discover which ones they are!
Samuel and Isaiah knew fairly early on that they were to speak prophetically, but the ministry of Prophet developed over time
David probably knew he was anointed to be King, but leadership skills needed to be developed
Peter, Andrew, James & John new that they were called to be “Fishers of men”, but did they know what that meant? Probably not – it was a very strange phrase.
How do you discover what your gifts are and start to develop them?
Take training courses, even if you’re not sure what you’re actually doing. I’ve done courses on evangelism (I’m not an evangelist), pastoral (don’t have a pastoral bone in my body), teaching (can handle that) and prophetic (much more like it). Outside of church setting I’ve done leadership & management training, presentation skills, people management (not all that good at that). Don’t restrict yourself to only what the church is doing – there’s a lot of good stuff out there in the business world that can be applied to the Christian life.
Read books, Christian & secular, there’s good (and bad) in both
Be discipled by someone already moving in the gift(s)
Character development, fruit of the Spirit
John Paul Jackson says “Character more important than gifting – poor character will place a ceiling on the eventual impact of the gift”. For those old enough remember back to the American tele-evangelists in the 80’s, they had successful ministries but they fell into sin because of hidden character flaws. Unfortunately, we still see this happening today.
Some things that will happen
1. Expect opposition
David first came to serve Saul – 1 Samuel 16:21-23. Where he was “liked very much”
David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armour-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”
Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
However, through no fault of his own (apart perhaps of being too successful) Saul became jealous of him and tried to kill him, on numerous occasions 1Sam 18:10-11, 1 Sam 19:9-10
The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.
But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.
2. Expect support – even from unlikely places
David had an ally in Jonathan – Saul’s son. Jonathan looked out for him, and found out what was going on when David couldn’t.
Later David had a strong friendship with and the trust of a Philistine leader, Achish – read 1 Sam 29 for more info.
3. Your character will develop in Godly ways
David wouldn’t take the opportunities presented to him to kill Saul. He recognised that – although God had rejected Saul as king – Saul was God’s anointed.
1 Sam 24: 1-10
After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.
He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’S anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.
Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’S anointed.’
Me – amongst other things I had a mental stronghold to deal with
There were several occasions where I said or did something that upset someone, or they did something that really annoyed me. After this had happened a few times, I realised that I was reacting in a certain way – thinking “If that’s how they’re going to treat me, I’m never doing that again”
3 particular occasions come to mind. I brought a prophetic word for one of the leaders at my church. He didn’t like it and I was told that I hadn’t heard from God. The whole thing was handled badly and I remember thinking that I didn’t want to go through that again and to make sure I didn’t I wasn’t going to bring anything like that again. The other 2 were about leading one of our mid week house groups. Both times Mary & I were unceremoniously stripped of the leadership, the second time was particularly galling as we’d been told that we were going to lead this group even though I didn’t want to
Once I recognised what was happening here, I had to do something about it. I looked back at other occasions – not only in church – where this behaviour pattern had shown up and determined to change it, with God’s help. When I caught myself thinking “If that’s how they’re going to treat me, I’m never doing that again” I stopped myself, said sorry to God and looked for an opportunity to do whatever it was I was told off for – only this time, I’d work on getting it right. One of these was to take on leading one of our house groups again.
4. Your gift will show
Be encouraged – even if there’s no room made for you in your church situation, your gift will show somewhere
David’s leadership: Even though he was running for his life, his gift of leadership showed.
1 Sam 22:1-2
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered round him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
David didn’t try to recruit an army, but people gathered around him anyway
Me starting things: I’ve found over the years I’m good at starting things (I’m rubbish at finishing them – which is one reason I’m married to Mary!). Sometime around 1984-85 I knew I wanted to be involved with starting new churches. For various reasons I hadn’t been able to do that. At my church in Lutterworth I found that I wanted to start things – not just new churches, but worship only meetings, healing/ministry teams, etc. These were blocked so I found that I started other things outside of the church – some that probably I shouldn’t have gotten involved with like the Lutterworth Chamber of Commerce (which ended rather badly), new businesses (both mine and other peoples)and later I found that several things I’d tried to start in the church came later.
5. There will be times of pain, mistakes, failure & doubt but also times of joy & success
In business it’s generally accepted that we can learn more from failures & mistakes than successes. This is true (but not always recognised) in the church also
“The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.” Bishop William Connor Magee, (1868).
I’ve made mistakes in the way I’ve delivered prophetic words. If I hadn’t been corrected, I’d still be making those mistakes and messing other people up.
John Paul Jackson talks about when he started bringing prophetic words – he told people what they were doing wrong. He found that there were many places inviting him to come and speak but very few ever invited him back! One day someone came alongside and told him people already know what their sin is, what they need is hope that there’s a way out. He changed how he prophesied after that, people were blessed and his ministry grew
There are no mature gifts at birth. People learning to use their gifts are like babies & young children. They make mistakes, they make messes that someone else has to clear up. It’s strange, but church leaders seem to recognise this for most gifs & ministries, but not the prophetic – why do leaders expect the prophetic people to get it right all the time?
6. Allow God to speak to you about your call
For a long time I thought my Isaiah 6 moment was to do with getting my life sorted out with God. But somehow it wouldn’t go away.
In 1999 some things had gone horribly wrong with my relationship with some people and we considered leaving Lutterworth. Mary and I were on holiday and we spent a lot of the week walking up and down beaches asking why we were still at Lutterworth. It came back to knowing God had called us here but hadn’t given us permission to leave. We had to tough it out. Good job too, I would have missed a decade of opportunities to grow & develop
In November 2000 someone brought a prophetic word to me about something apostolic in my life – it was very vague, very new. I parked it. I wasn’t even sure quite what Apostolic was. What I’d seen of Apostolic ministry seemed to be for a very highly chosen few – something that I couldn’t even aspire to.
Over the next couple of years I started to read more in the bible about what the Apostles did. I then had the opportunity to spend some time with Dave Richards (he provided the Apostolic oversight to my church) and quizzed him on the apostolic ministry within Salt & Light – I couldn’t see how it matched up to the apostolic ministry in the New Testament. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t really get any satisfactory answers.
In 2007 God started taking to me about apostolic again. I found some books on the subject (there’s very little written). At the same time I was doing a Masters degree and for part of it we looked at our Belbin team roles. My tutor said I got the 3rd highest scores on shaper & plant – task-focused, ideas, major issues and the only person who he’d ever seen with a perfect zero completer finisher (just confirmed what I already knew!)
In 2009 I was at the CLAN bible week in Scotland. One of the seminars was Leadership is Apostolic. There’s far too much to go into (the recording is probably still available from CLAN http://www.clangathering.org.uk), but the speaker gave a different perspective on apostolic as a gift rather than the Ephesians 4 ministry of apostle. It was a bit like comparing someone who is prophetic with someone who is a Prophet (or pastoral with Pastor). He described the characteristics of someone with an apostolic gift and I was just nodding & saying “that’s me, that’s me”
Someone asked what do these people do if they can’t minister in a church setting. He answered they do it in business, home, school, family life (your gift will show) and gave some examples. One in particular was starting new businesses and helping others to start new businesses. At this point I was getting very excited. He asked “Who would you think of in business who might have an apostolic gift/ministry?” Almost as one we shouted “Richard Branson”
That evening I was praying about this and God very clearly said that my Isaiah 6 moment was this calling – to be a person who starts things and encourages others to start things – an apostolic (with a small a) gift
A couple of weeks later at the last Ashburnham camp, Mary & I spoke to Mark Mumford and Ben Rook about the church plant into Leicester. God was opening up my calling.
In 2010 at our “Transform” bible camp someone was talking about Joshua crossing the Jordan to take possession of the land that had been promised to the Israelites. I very clearly heard God saying this was my Jordan moment – moving into what God had promised for me
However – these calls are never left unchallenged by the devil. I was talking to Peter Vincent one evening and some things came up which made me go back and re-examine motives for leaving Lutterworth and being part of this church planting team. Also at this time, Mary still had some doubts about whether we should be involved – mostly down to doubting my motives (which is – perhaps – I had to re-examine them)
In February 2011 Mary & I went to the Salt & Light leaders conference in Oxford. It was here that this was all confirmed to Mary through a late night conversation in bed when we both really needed to sleep (where I realised I’d never told Mary about my “Jordan moment” the previous summer) and the re-enacting of the crossing of the Jordan the following morning.
7. A warning: many called, few chosen.
In Mat 22:14 Jesus says “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Or in other versions “Many are called, few are chosen”.
I puzzled about this for ages until God showed me something – this is in reference to a parable where the king calls people to a wedding banquet and many refuse to come.
You can disqualify yourself from your call.
It happens – let’s look at Gideon
Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The LORD said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.”
Seems like God was getting rid of men from the army. But let’s look at those who left
1st – those who “trembled with fear”. They were frightened or scared of what was coming. Perhaps some who were only there because they thought they had to be also left.
2nd – those who were unprepared. Those who kneeled down weren’t ready for battle, they weren’t prepared for any emergency that might arise.
Some lessons to learn:
Do not seek to destroy God’s appointed leadership – even if they are out to destroy you. I don’t mean physically kill – but spiritually destroy or restrain you.
Don’t just answer the call because you think you should do – it may not be your call!
Learn your trade – learn the skills you will need to move in your calling
Let God develop your character – he will put you into situations where character issues – whatever they are – will need dealing with
Listen to God – He will reveal more about your call as time progresses
The training phase:
- Is the most difficult of the three stages.
- Is long and arduous.
- Never ends.
Next month – Commissioned