Kingsway Edited by Gerald Coates first published 1993
by the Editor of the book. (i.e. Not Me)
entitled ‘New Living Ministries’ which is a part of the Pioneer work. The main
church is based in the famous rock theatre, The Rainbow, on Seven Sisters Road
in North London. They are involved in a number of church-planting initiatives
in North London and have inroads into the Tamil community and are church
planting with them in France, Switzerland and New Zealand. Adrian is married to
Pauline and they have three children.
Breaking the Mould- Having
a Vision—Making It Happen
kind), placing the lid firmly on for your own protection, you should note that
the fleas will jump up and down until they bang their heads on the lid. At that
point they will reduce the height of their jump to a point just below the rim.
Fleas, apparently, don’t like bumping their heads. I am told that if you later
remove the lid, the fleas will continue to stay in the jar because they are
conditioned to believe in a lid.
try it. The point is they are conditioned. Most of us are conditioned by what
is around us. It encloses us, it limits us, it controls us. If we understood
what a big God we have, we would understand that he has taken the limits off
and we can jump out
the vicious circle
achieved in our church here in North London and often say things like, ‘If only
I had . . . then I could. . . It is foolish to look at what is and assume that
it has always been, or that everything floated down from heaven, ready made,
just for that pastor, team, leader, music director or whatever, to take charge
of and enjoy the fruits.
circle. It goes something like this. We do not have enough people; if we had
the right money we could get the people; we also lack resources. To some extent
that is often a correct conclusion, but somewhere those circles must be broken.
We have some choices to make, and the key to those choices is vision–not looking
at what is, but at what could be. Not looking at who you have with you, but at
what they are going to become. Not looking at the money you don’t have, but at
knowing how much you need to spend.
might break it at the financial point; you might break it at the resources
point; you might well break it at the point of people whom you do have and know
and who are willing to be with you to help.
people have what I call tunnel vision: they see what they want to see. They see
what they are conditioned to see, what logic tells them they should see. The
mind fills in the details. Almost like the fact that the action of the mind
prefers to compensate for the blind spot in the eye, filling in the details from
past experiences. We need to jump out of that mind-set. We need new thinking lateral
thinking. ‘Put on the mind of Christ,’ the Bible says. Dream dreams! Have a
Chickens could tell us a lot. A farmer once told me
that, as a child, a hen, firmly push its beak to the ground and then, with a
finger, draw a line in the farmyard dirt. The hen would watch from the right
eye the line being drawn nearer and nearer to its head. When the finger got to
the head, he would run the finger firmly across the chicken’s head so that it
really felt it, and then down the other side of the head. He then continued the
line along the dirt, which the hen watched with great suspicion with its left
eye. The hen could see a line with the right eye and a line with the left eye,
and it surely felt it go across its head. Then he would gently release his hold
on the chicken which would stay right there, tied to the floor. It could see
the rope with both eyes. The chicken had felt the rope over its head; it knew
it was tied down.
with our human eyes. We fail to see with vision that is clear. We can only see
the reason why we have not succeeded, the reason why we have been tied down,
the reason why we did not get the breaks.
dream, to have a vision and to plan the first steps. You will then discover
that the things that tied you down were actually illusions, and were only there
to limit you in what you need to do for the kingdom.
very simple. Again, I have not tried it, but will be glad to receive the
results of your research. I am told that you find a sturdy tree stump and tie
the elephant’s leg to it with a strong chain. You then put food for the
elephant just out of reach so that as he moves towards it the chain cuts harder
into his leg, creating considerable pain. After a few days, the elephant learns
that to try and reach the food simply causes tremendous pain and is
unachievable. You can then feed the elephant. You can change the chain for a
light rope that normally the elephant would snap, but the light rope will now
be sufficient to restrain your elephant.
elephant has been conditioned to believe that moving his leg, if it is tied,
would cause him pain. So he has learned to move only in the area where the
slack would allow. Conditioned, controlled and tamed, the mighty elephant is
now limited. There is one thing, however, that will spoil the training of an
elephant. Should you have completed your training and then be unfortunate
enough to suffer a fire (one that comes towards your elephant), the fire would
enable the elephant to overcome the conditioning, overcome the pain, overcome
the fact that he knows he is tied, and he would break loose. The breaking loose
would mean that never again could you train him or condition him. You have lost
is by changing their thinking. ‘As a man thinks, so he is,’ says Proverbs 23:7
in effect. ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom 12:2). What we
think about ourselves, our situation, our upbringing, our God, is
all-important. ‘I am unable‘means you will not be able to. ‘I can’ means you
will. Paul says, ‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength’ (Phil
4:13), and he could!
fire changes the elephant and makes him free once again. The fire of the Holy
Spirit should burn into our minds and set us free. Maybe some of us speak in
tongues, but we somehow need the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn up the old
negatives—the disillusionment, conditioning, upbringing, old hurts, laziness,
worldliness, wrong conceptions of God—and free us to be visionaries who will
take action and change the world. This is how it happened in the Bible. I am
not trying out a new doctrine. Danny Moe, a Canadian friend of mine, takes
seminars for sales representatives for some very large companies. He told me
once that fewer than 1% of all groups (and he does seminars for Secular as well
as Christian organisations) have any goals, plan or vision of where they are
going or what they plan to be or do. A pastor of a church in North London spoke
to me at a Ministers’ Fratemal. When I asked him what his goals and aims were,
his answer was, ‘I am just waiting to be led. I do not plan anything. I just
want to see what God does.’ That sort of
nonsense showed in the life, or non-life, of his church! I am sure that God is
still willing to speak with us, guide us and redirect us, but there is a
broad-based plan in Scripture that offers scope for us to change the situation.
God is with us to do just that.
do we get started?
How do we change if we are visionless at the moment?
Where do you get dreams from?
word of God in order to gain understanding of who God is and what he is able to
do. Fill your mind with it. Fill your mind with the fact that he is a mighty
God, a God of miracles, a God of power, God who is love. Know that he is with
you, for you, plans for your success, is just waiting to be involved with your
work, and for you to be involved with his plans.
are asleep! Dreams without inhibition, unlimited dreams. Do not limit your
dreams by what your qualifications are, or what you don’t have, or what you may
or may not need, or what resources you lack. Dream as if you have them all.
begin to have a vision of the dreams fulfilled. See it, taste it, walk round
it, hear from God, tell him what you see.
short-term goals, medium-term goals—and say: ‘My goals take me there. My
long-term goal is to arrive.’ The goals must interlink. It is not usually
sensible to go south if your ultimate plan is to end up in the north. Write the
goals down. Review them regularly. Life is made up of choices and some things
have to be rejected in favour of others. Don’t get side-tracked and channelled
into the wrong direction from your goal. God is for you, so go for it! Remember
that destiny is a matter of choice not circumstance.
in their tracks (where dreams and visions may die), have a plan of where you
are going. You must have bite-size, achievable objectives. To put it another
way, the goal must be broken down into small pieces. What will you do tomorrow?
These composite part of your vision must have time limits. They must be
measurable. You might miss the time or not quite make the measurement, but if
it is not stated, then it is not measurable and you will hit nothing and go
nowhere. (Unless of course you are like the farmer who hit a bull’s eye every
time on his barn door. The only problem was, he painted the targets after he
had fired the bullets.)
to be reminded at this point that we are kingdom people, children of the
heavenly Father. We cannot regard what we do as simply employment, though we
may be employed. We cannot see it as just work, though we may have to work very
the vision, is ministry. That means you and your vision are not only working
something out, you are a gift to the church. Not a cheap copy that will break
down after a couple of uses, but a real valuable genuine article. What is
ministry? Where do we minister? It seems that many definitions of ministry have
a very narrow band—preaching, visiting, studying. There are some who would tag
other gifts to the church with that, such as teacher or pastor. From my own
perspective, it has been a great tragedy that many denominations see the
pastoral role as the main ministry and only pay lip service to the other
ministries. We need a philosophy of ministry that is broad based, enabling,
involving and one that will allow us to be inclusive of the whole church
have tried to work out a philosophy of ministry as follows:
To be an enabler— which usually means getting out
of the way to let the church work.
To have the broadest possible vision. I would see
that as the local church being involved in every angle and aspect of human
happening—-worship, praise, evangelism, education, business, medicine. politics
and social concern.
To have a vision broad enough to allow me to
incorporate other people’s vision into my vision making it our vision, and to
help them exercise their ministry in the widest possible way.
To seek to obey the biblical injunction to pass on
to faithful men that which I have learned, that they in turn pass it on (2 Tim
2:2), and to allow that participation across the whole ministry. I do not
imagine that I will always be the preacher, teacher or whatever, or that the
team around me will always be doing what they are doing. They must be passers-on
and developers of others. To seek to
have structures that teach the church and then the community at large to bring
forth facets of ministry, so that care takes place for the whole church.
To seek to be expansionist in every area of church
activity. Remember that evil is expansionist and therefore the kingdom needs to
be as well.
To continually find other people’s ministries and
develop them. I do not mean that you must adopt my philosophy of ministry, but
you do need one. Many do not have one. They are going through the motions of a
tradition, or they have a job, or they have never taken the trouble to define
what they are about. Think it through, define it and go for it! If you are not
planning to hit something, then most likely you won’t! This may put some off
because of the ‘hard work’ factor.
God blessed us in many ways. We spent considerable time showing people around
the numerous facilities. Most of the people we showed around were church
leaders of various ilk. The reaction concerning what God had done usually came
in three forms:
Those who regarded me, or the team, or both, as
something unique, specially used of God, a one-off. This is not a compliment
because we are very ordinary people. Usually visitors said, ‘If I had your . .
. and named some aspect of our church’s talents, ministry or plant as if it had
fallen down from heaven. It did not. It took battles, disappointments,
despondency, misunderstandings, stickability, faith in God and sheer hard work.
second group, who perhaps were a little more honest, looked around and said,
‘Oh, it’s great, but it looks like hard work to me. I would not want to cope
with so much.’ Sadly, that group seemed to be the largest.
The third group, and by far the smallest, looked
and said, ‘I can see what God has done for you. He can do similar things in my
church town/area. I am going to become the catalyst for change in my sphere of
in challenging what is. It is only as some do, in God, what has not been done
before that others will follow. I don’t think it is wrong to want some of the
good things God has done for others. They are my chance to know him more, to
enter into a deeper relationship and to experience his working. I noticed that
Jesus called busy people in the New Testament to follow him. He did not call those
who were sitting around doing nothing. I think work can be great fun,
especially when it is kingdom work.
believe leadership must set goals so that visions do not become a one-man show,
or just personal vision. Their vision must be something the whole church can
see and go for. I often go into other churches and I am told what the vision of
the church is. Sadly many times there isn’t one. Worse still, people often say
to me, ‘Tell our pastor what is going on in your fellowship so some of it can
go on here.’ It is not as simple as that. Many pastors don’t want to hear or
know! It is possible to have a people-led revolution, but it is usually bloody,
hurtful and often does not succeed. Much better if a leadership has vision,
translates it into goals and persuades others to own those goals.
with what I believe was a vision from God, or word from the Lord—a goal. It was
to become a church that is an effective visible voice for him in our area of North
East London, with at least 3,000 people coming together for celebrations. We
have not arrived there yet, but if you had asked people in our fellowship, one
year later, ‘What is the goal of the church?
10% would have said, ‘A congregation of 3,000,’ If you ask that question now, 90% would give
you the same answer.
best thing to start with is what you have got. Too many people claim they are
going to do ‘so and so’ when God sends the person with ‘such and such’ a gift
or talent to the church. They will do it when finances are right, or, worse
still, when the church is right.
gives the increase
need to learn from the two little ones who were late for school. One said,
‘Let’s stop and pray that the bus will be late.’ The other one said, ‘No, let‘s
run and pray.’ It seems to me that God wants to do a great deal with the little
we do have. We need to see and be willing to use the little we have if we want
God to move for us. God’s miracles always seem to have a human element in the
Bible. Here are three examples to demonstrate what I mean.
starving Elijah of the starving widow. ‘Nothing,’ was the first reply. The
second reply was, ‘Except some oil and meal.’ ‘Bake it and give it to God,’ was
the answer. God gives the increase (see 1 Kings 17:7-16).
asked of the widow who says her children will be sold into slavery. ‘Nothing,’
was the first reply. The second reply was ‘Except a little oil.’ ‘Go and
collect vessels and use your oil,’ said Elisha. God gives the increase (see 2
the disciples. ‘How?’ they asked. ‘What have you got?’ asked Jesus. ‘Nothing,’
was the first reply. ‘Five loaves and two fishes,’ was the second reply. God
gives the increase (see Matthew 14:1S—21).
ask many leaders, ‘What have you got?’ The reply is often that they have
nothing. Because my eyes are adjusted to seeing, I go to their churches and see
talents of music, witnessing, service and caring, and I long to have them say
to God, ‘I have these and I “give them to you. I will use them. I will start.’
Then they will see God give the increase.
Having started— continue. So often we want to give up
because it is hard, it is not what we expected, we were misunderstood, it is a
pressure, those we trusted have left. But in the end is not just yet. The story
is not finished, the climb is not over. Stay with it. Don’t cancel, don’t close,
don’t sell. Invest instead. Don’t call it a day, don’t give up. Stay in there
and God will give you the increase. Sow liberally and reap the harvest. There
are lots of great starters, a few good continuers, even fewer finishers. Be one
of the few finishers. Finish what God has called you to do.
essential ingredient—real friends. Friends who will support you. Friends who
will understand you when you are hard to understand. Friends who are real
enough to tell you when you are wrong. Friends who will be with you when nothing
particular is happening. Friends who will stand with you when it seems the sky
has caved in. It will take time to earn such friends. They will need
cultivating. Enjoy meals together, work together, play together. They will help
you and you will help them become all that you both need to be in the body of
way forward is a lack of neatness. Yes, I did say ‘lack’. People who have
everything sewn up have usually stopped church. Those who have everything in
neat tidy committees are not going anywhere. People who want every ‘i’ dotted
and every ‘t’ crossed before they start out will probably never leave home. Our
Western minds like the tidy approach, everything in its place. We think
structures, and of course we need structures to make us function, but they
don’t always have to be as tidy as we think!
pastor visiting my church one day said, ‘It is so untidy, more like a circus.’
like circuses,’ was my reply.
I know what it is at the moment, but it is also like a kaleidoscope,
continually changing. The holder is stable but that is all. We change things
around to meet the changing needs and doors of opportunity. I am very
suspicious of neat answers, neat churches. Long live the ragged edge! Long live
anomalies! Long live exceptions!
dangerous to become too introspective. When I was a little boy my mother
allowed me to plant some seeds in the garden. Every day I went along and dug
them up to see how they were doing. They didn’t do very well! We must not do
that with ourselves, nor with that part of the work that God has entrusted to
us, but we do need to look back.
need to look back to what we were before God saved us.
to remember that rough diamond and observe some of the polish now beginning to
show. We need to remind ourselves that a life once wasted is now bringing forth
fruit. We can go forward. We can conquer. We can be more than conquerors—never
mind the toil, never mind the hard work, God is worth it! When you do look back
and see those things, it will make you want to rejoice. I believe that God
wants us to rejoice in him. Be glad in the Lord, even if there is nothing else
to be glad in. But there is, for we can be glad in what we have accomplished.
journey. Life in knowing God and
learning His ways is also a journey of developing relationships. Some of what I wrote in 1993 are still
principals that I would find useful and would want to encourage. In terms of the way I would now use the word
‘church’ and other areas like Kingdom
and what that means then I would have to say that my relationship with God has
developed me and changed my thinking; If
you want to know how and more you would need to ask me. My email is email@example.com