Erika Croxford, Senior Pastor C3 People
Worship is the recognition that we were made to love Him, and that He has given us breath.
So what we do with that breath is our response, our worship, and our praise. Everything that breathes, shines, beats, sways, yields, grows, glistens, and spins was created to praise the Lord.
Psalm 100:4 (TPT)
‘You can pass through His OPEN gates with the password of praise. Come right into His presence with Thanksgiving. Come bring your thank offering to Him and affectionately bless His beautiful name! For the Lord is good and ALWAYS ready to receive you. He is so loving that it will amaze you –
so kind that it will astound you!’
Praise moves us through His gates to be with Him in His presence. It is so exciting to hear that His gates are not closed but open – thank you Jesus! Sometimes though, there is a great chasm in our lives. I would like to write about the in-between, the dichotomy of the now and the not-yet that a lot of us sit with.
I have learned (Lord, I hope so!) to praise while I wait. As people who love Jesus, we praise in the waiting, we choose to bless Him when we don’t fully understand it all.
When we praise, suddenly we move from a place of impossibility to an infinite amount of possibility.
You may have places of pain and pressure (my hand is up in relating to that), you may have things you’re waiting on; you have been waiting on that promise for a miracle and you’re right in the middle of it all.
When you are plagued by the quiet of disappointment, it takes discipline to make a sound of praise.
When there is silence around you, its very hard to open your mouth and praise, but you must because breaking the silence will silence the accuser like nothing else.
I have found that this kind of sound is untouchable. No dark power, demon or person can bring it down! Every time I imagine what untouchable praise would look like, I literally cannot help myself, a true hallelujah bubbles within me and I let it fly.
Praise, high praise, is bringing everything – all of it! Hiding nothing and not holding back. It is honest, not sad lamenting but authentic and true. You have to mean it to offer Him the sound of praise, you’ve got to really talk to Him. In these moments we can’t hide. Don’t hide. Do not hide. (I mean, we can but everyone will know it because even if it sounds right to the hearers’ ears, it will carry no authority.) Take it all; take everything to Jesus. It is in the hiding that we can find little parts of our heart left unchecked. It is in the pretending that we can allow the little foxes of rebellion to take residence there.
Oh man! It has become so clear to me that it’s my heart that He’s after, always and always, with a fierce love.
It’s a sacrifice. It’s an honest evaluation of where things are at, and laying down your human perspective. To trust will, at times, be a sacrifice for you and I. Sometimes what we offer up on that altar of obedience will be our will.
Today, in a moment where I chose to lay me down through tears and grit, I wrote this piece –
here I am
in the ashes
I lift my eyes
not part, but all the way to the high places where the air is clear and my
eagle eyes can see for miles to
the other side.
I slip off heavy clothing
and burn on the altar of praise
I am the bride of the mountain.
my fire heart
loving freedom and life more than anything
Thats it – when we praise, we find ourselves in His presence. Then we see more of Jesus in His beauty and His glory and we are changed, transformed to be more like Him, and that my friends, is true freedom.
I believe that there is a sound coming to us all. It is the sound of praise! There will be a rumbling in the people, and a yearning will grow within us for something solid and real, something honest and authentic. We, His people, will rise in a hallelujah, and it will be a war cry that silences the voice of shame and anxiety. The time of languishing is over; now is the time to sing.
To find out more about Ps Erika or C3 People, visit c3people.org.
Dave Gilpin, Senior Pastor Hope City Church
Quite a while ago, I double booked a date with Jen, and made a massive error telling her I’d cancel my other plans but it would be a bit of a sacrifice – and in classic Jenny Gilpin form she replied that if it was going to be such a sacrifice, then I could put dinner where the sun don’t shine!
I have a feeling it’s the same with God. We can be so full of complaints and find ourselves dragging our feet, thinking ‘Do I have to?’ I want to say on behalf of God, if it is going to be such a sacrifice, then you can place your obedience where the sun don’t shine!
God trades in love, and love trades in desire. If you have lost your desire then you’ve lost the ‘magic’ that started the whole thing. God is looking for a desire of Him that changes what you do from a demand to a delight.
Psalm 37:4 says, ‘take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.’
Why would God give you the desires of your heart, unless that is His will? It seems to me that the will of God is wrapped with the wrapping paper of desire.
God is crazy about your desires for a number of reasons.
1) It reveals love. Spontaneous presents are the best, because there was no need: just love.
2) It reveals worship. Real worship needs options: it needs to be something you choose, not something you choke on.
3) It reveals real excellence. After 33 years of marriage, if Jen repeatedly reminds me of a job that needs doing it moves from being a delight to a demand. If something is a demand, I will only do it half well, but if I do it out of delight, I will do it brilliantly.
There are five levels of our desires we need to get in touch with.
1) A Liking – An attraction, curiosity, inclination, soft spot or a fancy.
The mildest kind of desire.
2) An Inkling – A niggle, itch, restlessness or an unease.
You steamroll your inklings when you’re led too long by ‘I’ve got to.’ Come back to the inklings.
3) A Searching – A wanting, yearning, eagerness, excitement or an urge.
What you are currently desiring is possibly your future. Everything starts with a hunger.
4) A Hankering – A pining, craving, fervour or an aching.
There’s an unease in you that’s trying to push you out of your nest of predictability and comfort into the new pathway.
5) An Obsessing – A driven-ness, smitten-ness, infatuation, consuming or an addiction.
Level Five desires have led to most of the greatest breakthroughs in science and invention.
There are four layers of emotion we need to carve through before we reach the layer where our desires meet with God’s will.
The Four Layers of Emotion:
- Our Volatile Emotions
Anger, spite, hate, recklessness, rage, jealousy (mixed with the virtuous emotions of the fruits of the Spirit).
- Our Vulnerable Emotions
Anxiety, fearfulness, disappointment, sadness, loneliness, rejection, inferiority.
- Our Visionary Emotions
Desire to win, be significant, live for a higher cause, to make a mark.
- Our Victorious Emotions
Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Joy contains the impulses of your deepest desires.
To dig down into your deeper emotions in order to discover God’s will for your life, you need an altar. A rededication of your ambition to God, saying, ‘everything I have is yours’, and then refuse to be squeezed into the pattern of thinking in this world. Stop being overwhelmed by the top layer volatile emotions and dig down until you find the deep-seated emotions of peace and joy. That’s where your deep desires live.
To learn more about Dave Gilpin or Hope City Church, visit hopecity.church.
Jess Picken, Senior Pastor C3 Toronto
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
95% of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing… and the 5% of the time I think I know, I realize pretty quickly that I was wrong.
I have now been in ministry for over 10 years and, although I may “know” more and have experienced more, I still wake up every day with the thoughts, ‘What am I doing?’, ‘How are we going to get through this?’, ‘This is too much,’ and, ‘Jesus give me wisdom.’
In this world of social media, we have incredible access to hear many people share profound statements and revelations in preaches, panels, podcasts, posts, etc. This access is an unbelievable blessing, but if we’re not careful we can think these people “know what they’re doing” and disqualify ourselves.
I know because I’ve done it, way too many times. I may seem as though I “have it all together”, but trust me, I have no idea what I’m doing.
I’ve silenced my own voice for fear of not saying the right thing.
I’ve not reached out to someone for fear that I wouldn’t do it the “right way”.
I’ve not prayed for someone for fear of them not feeling God strongly enough.
I thought that I should know what I’m doing by now.
But the Bible is full of people who have no idea what they’re doing. I love Peter because not only did he say the wrong thing multiple times, which I can relate to, but he gives us a beautiful symbolic picture of how I believe we’re meant to live. Walking on water. Leading when he has no idea what he’s doing. Walking in a way that makes no sense. Walking in full dependence on Jesus.
Sam and I want to live our lives in such a way that we become more comfortable out on the water than in the boat. We want to be more comfortable in full dependence on Jesus and uncomfortable when we are depending on ourselves. More comfortable when things don’t make sense than when we have everything under control. When we feel like we’ve got too much control, we purposefully do something to put us back out on the water.
We’ve done this in different ways at different times. Sometimes we’ve given large amounts just to put ourselves back in the unknown. Not because God asked us to, but because we wanted to tangibly release control and put our full dependence back on Christ.
We don’t need to wait for Jesus to ask us. It’s an open invitation. We can make a decision to step out for Jesus without him having to ask. Jesus didn’t ask Peter to walk on water, Peter initiated. The invitation is always there so why not step out?
Maybe you’ve disqualified yourself like I had. Maybe you’re scared of the unknown. Maybe you’ve stepped out before and needed to be rescued so you’d prefer to not experience that again. Maybe you’ve stepped out before but what was unknown last week now makes sense so you’ve found yourself back in the boat without even realizing it.
Whatever the reason, can I encourage you to step out?
Step into the “Jesus I have no idea what I’m doing” zone.
Do the tangible thing; give that money to the church, step up into a greater serving capacity, ask that leader what advice they have for you and actually do it.
And if you are reading this thinking, ‘Jesus I have no idea what I’m doing,’ then keep doing it. Don’t stop! Keep your dependence on him and see how he continues to move in miraculous ways through your life.
To find out more about C3 Toronto, visit c3toronto.com.
Jake Sweetman, Senior Pastor C3 Los Angeles
One of the great tensions of leadership, perhaps especially Christian leadership, is the tension of how much weakness you feel you are permitted to show. Our flesh wants to be understood and to be empathized with, so in an effort to attain both these things, often times a leader can use transparency about their own pain and struggles to win the affections of people. The tension exists in using transparency to be helpful and relatable without crossing over the line into being cathartic and trying to gain sympathy.
We cross that line for all kinds of reasons, usually because we want to distract people from something that is not going well so we try to conjure up a mercy from people that probably wasn’t missing in the first place. When that line is crossed, I may well be prioritizing helping myself over helping the audience or congregation or group to which I am speaking. I’ve definitely been guilty of that.
A few years ago, during the most difficult trial I personally had walked through, which was quite long and drawn out, there were distinct moments when I chose to talk about certain elements of that in my messages. It wasn’t over the top. It wasn’t often. But I still knew in those moments that my own soul was looking to be fed from a table that would leave me wanting.
You can usually tell you are sitting at that table when your transparency casts an unsavory shadow over someone else rather than on yourself. The tension is there, and we all need the Holy Spirit to guide us in picking up and using the tool of transparency in our leadership.
That said, there is a well-known power in transparency amongst leaders, perhaps particularly so within a movement such as ours which is very relational. We know that transparency and vulnerability often win out over tough but insincere facades. We know that people identify themselves more with our weaknesses than they do with our strengths. And yet, speaking for myself, I still feel the inner war within me many times when I feel prompted to be transparent in a moment that would be so helpful. I suspect that you feel that too.
Whether it is in a staff meeting, on social media, or on your Sunday platform, it can be challenging to push through the worry of people’s perception of you in order to say something that removes your “God has not given me a spirit of fear but one of power” persona. However it is possible, even more likely, to be seen as having bold faith when you are vulnerable about your fears. It is possible, even more likely, to be respected when you admit you don’t have all the answers. My encouragement to each of us is to emerge victorious from the inner war and to choose the transparency that we know will be helpful.
Most recently I felt I had to do this with our church because of a move we made in one of our locations. We went from gathering 15 minutes outside the city to right in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. If that sounds like a small thing geographically, it was pretty huge psychologically. Honestly it has been amazing, and I’m so glad we took that step of faith. But right after having made the move, I felt very anxious and as though we’d made a giant mistake. Purely for brevity’s sake I won’t get into the reasons why, but they were certainly not grounded in fact, much less faith.
Suffice it to say, about a month after the move, one Sunday after (truly) an awesome day in church I posted up a photo on Instagram and shared in the caption about how uncomfortable, intimidated, and overwhelmed I was. The hugely positive response from so many people both on and off Instagram reminded me about the power of vulnerability yet again, and that people don’t need to know how fearless or strategic you are. They need to know how reliant on God you are, and what is transparency if not revealing exactly that?
To find out more about C3 Los Angeles, visit c3losangeles.com.
Senior Pastor C3 Church Hong Kong
My favourite Chinese saying, since we moved to Hong Kong to plant C3 Church Hong Kong, is the phrase “Add Oil 加油.”
It’s a Cantonese expression of encouragement, often heard during sporting events, before exams or said to those going through challenging times.
But what I love most about this Chinese saying is the spiritual connotation. And in a city like Hong Kong that relies so heavily on logic, education, and money for its success, it reminds me of Zechariah 4:6, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord.
You see, in the early years of moving to Hong Kong, the complexities of the city with its myriad of challenges, cultural differences and superstitions left me frustrated and often discouraged. But when I stopped trying to fix the situation or person and simply “added oil” by saying, “Lord I cannot, but You can,” I found His grace in abundant supply.
As a pastor and leader, “Add Oil” to me is a reminder that my education and finances (my might and power) are sorely limited, and I need the fresh, daily grace of the Holy Spirit. He is willing and able to supply all I need, and more!
I’ve discovered the less I’ve relied upon and trusted in my abilities and more so in Jesus and His finished work on the Cross, the more peace, wisdom, and strength I’ve received. But it doesn’t mean that I sit back and do nothing. In fact, the revelation that it’s “by His Spirit” causes me to want to excel even more! Though in all I do, I don’t strive and stress because I trust His Oil has been added to bring all that is lacking.
For me, the tangible expression of adding oil means that I use Anointing Oil every day.
I anoint my head (for wisdom), my lips (for preaching) and my hands (for healing the sick). It’s a physical element I can use to release my faith in Christ’s healing power, provision, and favour. But more importantly, it’s a way for me to be Christ-conscious on a daily basis and passionately believe in what He purchased for me. I know that as I do, those I lead also become Christ-conscious and passionately believe. The more I wholeheartedly rely upon Christ, the more our congregation also wholeheartedly relies upon Him and in turn, they see first-hand the compounding power of God’s goodness and grace in their lives.
As a pastor, there is nothing more beautiful than seeing people receive a personal revelation that God loves them, desires them to prosper and is willing they be healed and whole. I’ve discovered it’s a liberating way to live and lead. But what’s even more beautiful is seeing our church also discover the same way of living.
So, whatever church you happen to pastor, area you lead, or job you work in, I pray that this year will be one of fresh oil for you. A year where you “add His Oil” to your life and all that you do. A rest-full and stress-less year of the abundant grace, health, prosperity, and favour of Jesus!
To find out more about C3 Church Hong Kong, visit www.c3church.hk.
Senior Pastor C3 Church Amsterdam and Almere
Procrastination is very expensive.
When we delay our decisions, we have to think over again, and that takes time and emotional energy. Procrastinate again, and now you are expending more time and energy thinking it through a third time. The ‘do it now’ person will have made three decisions, or taken three actions, in the time we have taken one.
Of course, some decisions really do need more thorough consideration than others. But we know when we are procrastinating and when we really do need more information to make an informed decision. There is a difference.
Procrastination can be expensive because we miss the deal. If we acted when our instinct told us that we should ‘snap it up now’, or ‘make that call now’ we could have won that deal, or made that investment at the start of its climb, or… the list goes on.
This can also be a false pressure on us to invest now, which we need to be careful of. Valuable research does need to be done, but we must discern the difference between irrational pressure, procrastination and a ‘do it now’ moment.
I try to live by a ‘do it now’ approach with emails, text messages and, in fact, all forms of communication. Why put a name on a list of people you mean to call when you can call them now? Why delay answering that email, when later you will need to re-read it, re-think it and still need to reply, taking twice the amount of time. You’ve read it, so reply now.
Now, let’s be honest, you can’t do everything NOW. That becomes a spontaneous life in which there is no order and the urgent trumps the important. So this is how I handle that dilemma:
I divide up my day. In each section of the day I apply the ‘do it now’ principle.
I divide my day by matching energy levels with tasks that need to be done. So for me, I have to generate a lot of content – leadership training, preaching, writing; I also have a high need to be planning and strategising. All these activities require deep and uninterrupted thought. This is best done right at the start of a day. Administration and meetings: these I generally do in the afternoon.
So that blog I’ve been meaning to write but keep delaying gets done now, because I have a section of my day for that. In the middle of the day if I give half an hour to emails, I read and reply straight away – I can because I have sectioned off time for that. I don’t open an email or a text until I can reply ‘now’ – but because I allow time for it – I am responding to communication within a few hours (generally speaking).
Steve, how do you find time for that? I do it now! I have saved hours of thinking time each week by doing it now, so that I can do it now! For those who procrastinate, or 2nd touch an item of work, you have at least doubled the time you spend on something.
“I’ll do that later.” Why do we put certain things off? Often its because we think motivation must come before action. But that is not true; often action comes before motivation.
If we get the action started now, the wheels of momentum begin to turn, which is highly motivating. It is generally the starting of something that is the hardest. So start now.
Now, I have far from mastered this topic. It is all too easy to get distracted in those deep-thought moments. But we have to note that these interruptions can cost you up to half an hour trying to get back the flow you had. So the fact remains … ‘do it now’ is the principle to live by, and stay in, whenever you can!
Why don’t you try putting it into action now?
Further reading: if you find making decisions difficult here is a good blog for you – Fear of better options is the reason you can’t make decisions.
To find out more about Steve & Lizby Warren and their churches, C3 Amsterdam and Almere, head to yourc3.church/en.
C3 Vive Church Senior Pastor
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
There are many kinds of leaders on the earth today, but the best leaders are the ones that have learned how to lead themselves above leading others. Proverbs 4 sets a guard in place: a guard that we are to put over our own hearts. No leader can do this for another leader. Every leader must place this guard over their own heart. Why? Because our hearts (not our talents or brilliant strategic minds) will direct the course of our lives. In fact, I would go so far as saying that our hearts will determine our leadership capacity – how many people we will influence. Our heart has the power to determine where we are going to be in 20 years and in 50 year’s time. It is best that we get a picture of WHO we want to be in the future, today.
Setting a guard in place over our heart as a leader is essential. We lead people. People will be people. Christianity is about heart expansion; it’s not about heart contraction. Yet sadly, for lack of a TOUGH GUARD, I’ve seen more heart contraction that heart expansion. I have watched so many people start out in leadership with a heart to save the world but when the reality of ministry set in, their tender heart became tough for lack of implementing a strong guard. It’s my personal number one battle every day as a leader.
If we aren’t careful, we can become TOUGH where we need to be TENDER and TENDER where we need to be TOUGH.
David is one of the greatest examples of TOUGH and TENDER as a leader! He was probably the TOUGHEST leader Israel had, the Giant slayer who reproduced Giant Slayers. Yet more than a warrior, He was known as a worshipper and a man after God’s own heart.
2 Samuel chapter 11 speaks of David abandoning his position on the battlefield to stay home from war. When kings normally went, he stayed. We don’t know WHY David stayed home. We only know that David had fought some battles, and maybe there was some fatigue. We don’t know. But we do know that in a season when David was meant to be TOUGH, he was TENDER, which led him to the rooftop where he sees Bathsheba!
When we mistake the TOUGH and the TENDER in the wrong setting and season, it leads to trouble. Here we see David with a TENDER GUARD instead of a TOUGH GUARD. Let me tell you about the dangers of a TENDER GUARD.
Every year my husband Adam and I celebrate our anniversary with a getaway. This past year, for our 16th anniversary, Hawaii was our oasis! If you know my husband, he LOVES his Bonneville Triumph motorcycle! And second to riding solo really fast, he likes to throw me on the back for adventure rides together too. On this last trip, we discovered that you do not need to wear helmets in Hawaii. Adam was excited about this concept, and to be honest, it sounded like a romantic idea in theory. Wind in our hair and sun on our faces as we glided around the island. There was such a sense of liberation evoked in the idea of such freedom.
Let me tell you, it was all that at 40 miles an hour, but at 75 miles an hour I suddenly wanted my helmet back. I was rudely awakened to the revelation that what felt like inanimate objects (like sand or dirt) striking my face were actually bugs, as one got stuck flapping in my lip gloss. With my arms tightly wrapped around Adam, I was forced to try swiping my face on the back of his neck to remove it. And while tree canopies lined the streets and the sun peeked through magically, all at once a stick snaps in the wind descending on us at full speed, only for my husband to move his head out of the way for it to slice my cheek open.
It sounds romantic to be unguarded and to just be free, exposing your heart to everything. But do you REALLY want to expose your heart to everything?
It doesn’t make sense to GUARD what’s TENDER with something that’s TENDER! That’s called being UNGUARDED.
David knew how to have a TOUGH GUARD in the context of war, because when David would go to battle he went guarded with armour. For David, being in battle was the safest place to be. It was when David pulled himself from the battle – when he retired himself – that we see he was most susceptible to the enemy!
He became TOUGH where he needed to be TENDER, because he was TENDER where he needed to be TOUGH.
It does need to be said that you have to keep a TENDER heart and a TOUGH guard to lead right! There is no record of a single Psalm written by David from that rooftop moment to the time Nathan speaks to David to address the state of his heart. Why? Because when David talked to God he sang, he wrote hymns, and he played his harp. You have to be tender to write hymns. He wasn’t talking to God. David did not pen one Psalm in this whole time!
The longer I lead and the more people I oversee, the more I realise the importance of my responsibility to GUARD. It’s MY offensive weapon to take ground, and it’s MY strategy for expansion. Leading requires a guard on our minds, because thinking whatever we want isn’t going to help us in life. It requires having a guard on our will, because getting everything we want in life isn’t going to get us where God needs us to be. And it means saving parameters on our feelings and our emotions, because feelings should never be allowed to lead. Can I implore you today to protect the tenderness of your heart? We need leaders with tender hearts and tough guards.
To find out more about C3 Vive Church, visit vivechurch.org.
Senior Pastor C3 Church Ryde and C3 Reach
Rarely do we get a full picture of where our journey with Jesus will take us, but in C3 we are blessed to have leaders, Ps Phil and Chris, who live and model a life of prayer. It’s their prayerful, steady walk with Jesus that has paved the way for C3 across the globe. It’s prayer that has carried Cathie and I to places we never imagined or dreamed about.
We never dreamed we’d stand in a C3 Church in Baghdad, or sleep and eat in the house of our church planters in Iraq, or have a friend who was once the head of a Mosque for radicals who persecuted the church. It’s beyond the imagined and undeniably the work of the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen churches planted in Syria, where Christ’s name has been actively targeted for destruction. I’ve seen churches planted where Christ’s name has never been heard at all. Every moment, every victory, reminds me of the reality of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
What an honour to be given the responsibility to stand in the midst of men and women who proclaim Christ even in the face of death. What a privilege to be a carrier of the C3 culture to our church planters – a culture they love because it is so freeing to them.
This year has had so many highlights:
Our church plant in Cairo has itself planted 4 more locations, creating a combined membership of well over 1200, despite being in the midst of much persecution.
In Baghdad the building is completely packed, with more and more people coming to faith in Christ. On my last trip there earlier this year, we baptised 16 former Islamic radicals and every one of them came out of the water speaking in tongues.
We saw our Iraqi pastor and his 17-year-old daughter translate the New Testament into a dialect that represents 6 million people who have never heard the name of Christ.
Recently we have seen another 3 churches planted in Kyrgyzstan, 3 in Tajikistan, and several weeks ago we sent our first church planters into Iran.
My favourite highlight is not about “the many” but “the one.” I was invited to share a meal with the relatives of one of our pastors in Iraq. The same relatives had tried to kill our pastor several times. Still, our pastor was so full of love for them, that he organised for me to go with him to share about Jesus in their village. The presence and peace of God filled that village – so much so, that those family ties were restored. The elder leader of our pastor’s family was so happy to receive us, that he set out a banquet in our honour.
The message we carry has power to bring peace to all people everywhere. That’s why the vision of C3 to carry Jesus and His presence into all the world is so important. People need Jesus to bring peace to their hearts.
On behalf of all our church planters, I want to thank you for praying for them. They love being known as C3, because for them, C3 is their family and they are not alone.
Ps Richard Green
To find out more about Ps Richard and C3 Reach, visit c3churchryde.com.au.
Regional Director C3 Pacific
A few years ago, my friend Jake Sweetman at C3 LA tweeted, “Ministry. Thick skin. Soft heart.”
Sometimes the most profound of ideas are disguised by their pith.
The nature of Christian ministry requires from its practitioners both a thick skin and a soft heart, in approximately equal measure – respectively, good measures.
Of course, everybody understands (and demands) the latter requirement. Of what use would a hard-hearted Christian minister be? Ministry is compared to tending sheep for good reason and the ‘under shepherds of Christ’ must demonstrate a kind of tenderness and compassion that reflects well and truly on ‘the Chief Shepherd’ Himself, Jesus Christ.
But why ‘thick skin’?
I assure you, every Christian minister knows.
I recently sat with a group of friends and read out some of the more ‘critical’ correspondence that I have received in my time as a pastor. They were amused (as some of it is tragically outlandish) and shocked (as some of it is just unequivocally nasty). For sure, some of it is well-meaning. However, much of it is just plain malicious. When you add the more constant tide of analysis and criticism that you are subjected to as a pastor to these occasional, Tsunami-like waves of abuse, then you’ll begin to see why ‘thick skin’ is, unfortunately, an absolute must in Christian ministry. This is to say nothing yet of spiritual attack, nor of the personal toll of constantly sharing the weight of the burdens and crises of people that you genuinely love and care about. Being a pastor is hard.
It’s usually at about this point that somebody will raise the failings of a pastor – perhaps a public figure that fell from grace or a pastor from their own life that let them down in some way. Look, I get it. That sucks. But your pastor (and I hope you have one) is not that guy (or that gal). Your pastors are probably people who love Jesus and who want to serve Him and also you, despite their imperfections. They are probably trying their best and could probably do with more support and encouragement (and remuneration- but that’s another piece).
Now, I am all for pastors being subject to analysis and criticism – so long as it is fair. But often, it’s just not. Fair criticism is helpful, especially when it is tempered with the same sort of ‘soft-heartedness’ that you’d expect from your pastors. Oh, how I have richly benefited from well-aimed, well-timed and well-delivered critique. (And I can forgive a person with the right spirit for missing the mark on any (or all) of those three). The problem is that the pastor is a prime target for the hypocrite with a log in his/her eye and an axe to grind – which can lead to pastors with deep wounds and brave faces.
And so, thick skin. Better to develop callouses than to live from wound to wound, right?
The only problem then, is the ‘soft heart’ bit. Because it’s hard to confine the callousing to the skin. The callousing will inevitably make a play for one’s heart and when the heart of the shepherd is hardened, the sheep lose some (or all) of what God gave them their pastors to be.
Is this what we want?
Are we happy with ‘thick skin’ being a requirement for the pastor?
If not, how do we need to change?
In the mean time, I have two things to say in closing. One to the flock. The other, to the shepherds.
To the flock:
Look after your pastors. They look after you. You look after them. That’s the way that it is supposed to be.
So often, churches are terrible at looking after their pastors. They just flog them to death and then they wonder why they die. That’s why Paul writes to Timothy, reminding him (and us) that Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.”
Traditionally that scripture has been used to remind the church of their responsibility to pay their pastors a generous wage. That is most obviously what Paul is saying. But there is so much more to ‘not muzzling the ox’ than just paying your pastors a generous wage. There is a whole culture of honour, love, care and support for pastors that yields great benefits in the communities in which it is implemented.
If you look after the ox, it’ll tread more grain and for longer.
To the shepherds:
We need ‘thick skin and a soft heart’. How do we maintain this?
I love what Erwin McManus says on this: “Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it passes through the filter of Scripture.”
If we humbly submit the criticism to God’s Word and it passes through, we ought to repent from the heart, lest our heart is calloused through an unwillingness to repent.
If we humbly submit the criticism to God’s Word and the ‘fiery darts are quenched’, keep it well away from your heart. Don’t let your heart by hardened through offence.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews 12:1-3
To find out more about C3 Pacific, visit www.facebook.com/c3pacific.
Lead Pastor C3 Revolution Church
C3 Revolution Church in Centurion is three years old this year, and it’s been a crazy good adventure. We’re just over 150 people and launching an extension location. People will say, “Oh you’re so bold and have so much faith,” but they don’t know how as pastors you often want to pee your pants. You proclaim, “This is the ground God wants us to take,” but deep inside you’re thinking, “Oh God, I hope this is you.” Faith is spelled R-I-S-K. If we truly believe He is good, then doing the impossible becomes natural.
Taking scary leaps of faith into the unknown has become the way of things for me, my wife, and our two children. When God asked us to leave our home in South Africa for Perth, we left everything behind to learn from our pastors, Claude and Carolyn Carrello, and then plant a church in a location God had not yet disclosed to us. Living in Perth was great! So much easier than the struggle against poverty and crime in South Africa. We found a comfortable place to serve and grow, and a church family at C3 Church Rockingham who loved us as much as we loved them.
A year and a half after arriving in Perth, God spoke clearly to us: we were to plant a church back in South Africa. This was not the news we had wanted. It seems following God did not necessarily mean we would get to live in the safety and comfort we desired. We were very reluctant to go back, but we did. It was scary and difficult and necessary. Before a seed can grow, it must fall to the ground and die. Our ambitions of starting a church in a comfortable and safe environment had to be laid to rest in the greater consuming desire to please the Lord in whatever we do.
Once we put aside our own plans and ambitions, things began to happen. Our steady growth over the past three years has been a journey of stepping out in faith where He leads, and never giving up no matter what the cost of serving Him might be.
Trusting God is not a matter of comfort or ease. It is a matter of relationship. When He asks us to do the impossible, it does not seem like too big of an ask because we know His character. God is good. He is better than we think so we need to change the way we think!
This year has been incredible. We’ve had almost a hundred salvations in the last eight months. We’ve seen weekly healings where an average of 90% of ailments are healed when we pray for people to experience God’s love and goodness, and we’re aiming for 100%.
The Lord challenged me to believe in His promise and His goodness – that He has paid for the healing of every sickness, ailment, and disease. Last week I stopped at a store and saw a lady limping past me. Instantly I knew the Lord wanted to heal her and show her how much He loves her. I asked her if I could pray for her. Although sceptical, the lady allowed me to pray for her. Her foot was sprained & she was in a lot of pain. I watched her face light up as she tried to use her foot and realised the pain was gone.
Ministry isn’t just a line at the altar in church! It’s everywhere we go. People want Jesus. He is crazy good. When you encounter His presence, you change! At a time when we could easily be overwhelmed by the challenges we face, the Lord asks us to go even further and do even more. We are determined to revolutionise the way church happens in our city. Our focus must be to bring His kingdom in our city, and to do that we stare disabilities, sickness, broken bodies, and tortured souls in the face without flinching and proclaim His will and victory.
Pastors and leaders: fall in love with Jesus and dare for the impossible. It’s in our DNA. We need to stop insulting God with small thinking and safe living. We can no longer drop the standard of scripture to justify our unbelief. You are a children of God. You are world-changers! You are revolutionaries. You are heroes of the faith. We encourage you, do not be afraid to step boldly into unknown territory where God is leading.
Mark 16: 17 says that these miracles and signs will accompany those who believe: They will drive out demons in the power of Jesus’ name, speak in tongues, be supernaturally protected from snakes and drinking anything poisonous, and they will lay hands on the sick and heal them.
When we go into the world to preach the good news, following where Jesus leads no matter what fears and uncertainties we must face, we will display these signs and bring His kingdom into each situation. They key is that it takes faith. “Those who believe.” Be courageous enough to believe the promises He has given you. The price may be high, but the rewards are immeasurably sweet.
To find out more about C3 Revolution Church, visit revolutionchurch.co.za.