Thursday, 11 June 2015

Surviving Separation from the Potters House Network of Churches

 “Reflections on a Separation from The Potters House Network of Churches”. 


Introduction:
I have been asked to share some of my reflections regarding the Jan 2015 separation from Potters House. Though at first unsure, thinking of the amount of pastors (and congregants) that have gone through their own separation from Potters House in the past, these reflections may be helpful for others in processing this journey.

The following list of 45 pastors no longer in the Potters House UK or churches shut down is not exhaustive and (does not include the amount of congregants that leave nor the multiple dozens of redirected pastors) is only from memory; however what it does show, is that statistically a significant number of current pastors will go through their own separation from Potters House within the next few years (when this post was written less than 3 years ago the number was 32 & has now grown to 45!).


Peter Bayerman – (Started Walthamstow - No Longer in PH);
David Vicary (Bury St Edmunds: Walthamstow - No Longer in PH);
John Galt (Bury St. Edmunds- No Longer in PH);
Dave Foster (Scotland churches shut down- No Longer in PH);
Neil Watts? (Started Cambridge - church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Trevor Bradshaw (Started Torquay - church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Jon Spurgeon (started Wembley church left PH - No Longer in PH);
Toks Odofin (Started Shepherds Bush, church left the fellowship- No Longer in PH);
Clement Okusi (started Croydon- No Longer in PH);
Kevin Brown (Dundee church shut down- No Longer in PH);
George Tafla (started Kilburn church shut down- No Longer in PH);
John Onelum (started Ealing; Manor Park church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Tony Ogunike; (- No Longer in PH)
Kelvin Roy-Palmer (started Tottenham; Ghana; Guyana; West Bromwich- No Longer in PH);
Kantz Mizra (Barry, Wales church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Craig Thomas (started Cardiff- No Longer in PH);
Everton Brown (started Watford- No Longer in PH);
Roy Hewitt (started Wandsworth- No Longer in PH);
Easton Wilson (started Bolton- No Longer in PH);
Jason Morris (started Wolverhampton- No Longer in PH);
Chris ? (started Woolwich- No Longer in PH);
Kodjo Abolou (Marseille church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Fola Oyediran (started Jos; Nigeria; & Dublin church - No Longer in PH);
Gary Taylor (Newcastle- No Longer in PH);
Michael Nicholau (Started Edmonton - church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Alex Amaku (Started Kilburn church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Nigel Davies (started Norwich- No Longer in PH);
Michael Lopez (Nottingham- No Longer in PH);
Jim Calhoun (sic) (Edinburgh church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Richard Tull (Started Merton &Clapham church - both shut down- No Longer in PH);
Topps Oluwatobi (Started Hackney - church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Andrew Martin (Brighton- No Longer in PH);
Clyde Planter (Bristol- No Longer in PH);
Emmanuel Okonkwo (Anthony Village Lagos; Nigeria- No Longer in PH),
Ashley Charles (Canterbury- No Longer in PH),
Paul Pritchard (Started Stockport church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Kosi Amesu (Manchester- No Longer in PH);
Yomi Oluwatobi (Liverpool- church shut down- No Longer in PH);
Juvencio Da Silva (Started Oldham church shut down);
Ephraim Morgan (Started Openshaw Manchester church shut down);
Christian Chukuwelu (Brighton- No Longer in PH);
Ben Baiden (Started Deptford - Church shut down);
George Oduro Mensah (Started Spelthorne - Church shut down);
Jonathon Beckford (Started Oxford Church shut down);
Luke Saunders (Started Crawley Church - Church shut down - No Longer in PH)


Freedom
When going through a separation from a heavy handed shepherding network, you can feel a tremendous sense of freedom and release from their standards and legalistic control. My wife & I were able to attend more Saturday evening restaurants, shows and family gatherings together in the first nine months out of PH then we did in the five years prior. The danger however, is that is in this ‘new found freedom’ you drop your guard, cross boundaries and enter into devastating sin. This is often, used by the network as an example of ‘look what happens when you leave PH’ to the extent there is an expectation that those who leave PH will fail.
Most have heard the adage do not throw out the baby out with the bathwater, but the challenge is recognising what is the bath water to be thrown away and what is the baby to be kept? PH do not allow TV’s, Cinemas, Beards, Alcohol, Brides to walk up the aisle on their wedding day, bible college, mixing with other churches and you have to sign contracts. Whilst most Churches do not have a TV or Cinema ban or contracts they may have views or standards on alcohol for example. The baby to be kept in Christianity will always be Prayer, Fasting, Bible reading, worship, and Evangelism.

Different people will take different amounts of time to process leaving a network like PH; some say it took them several years to readjust to balanced biblical living. For us the most challenging part was the first ninety days but gradually we began to heal and readjust to our new paradigm.

What to do?
Maintain boundaries and resist temptation, but generally unless something obviously needs to be changed immediately proceed slowly, give it at least six – twelve months before making major changes. For example we have not had a TV in our home for twenty years and though we have been out of the network for a year now we still do not have one (yet).


Faith
When you become a part of a church network, it invariably shapes your thinking & worldview, especially if you are ‘saved’ in it. You buy into their ethos and vision. In fact these might have been the very qualities that attracted you to them in the first place.

However the danger with this is that your Christian worldview may be limited or even distorted by your context. In other words you must believe that God is bigger, wider, deeper, higher and more accurate than you or your networks theological viewpoint. Ephesians 3:20 (TLB) says this: Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of-- infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. 

If your faith is confined only to the perspective of your network, then should you be separated from that network, your faith may struggle to adapt, especially if some (erroneously) equate separation from a network as separation from Christ, the will of God or the Church universal (Matthew 16:18).

This means you must have a reservoir of scripture and theological understanding upon which you can draw upon to help you move towards your God ordained destiny and future. You must know that your destiny is never limited to a network or leader but like Joseph and David, is bound up in the bundle of the living with God himself (Genesis 37-50; 1st Samuel 25:29).

What to do?
You must cultivate a broader viewpoint of Christianity, which requires you connecting with perspectives & people beyond your network. This may involve you reading other authors and perspectives than those espoused by your network. For others this may involve biblical courses and education (many can be done online). I obtained University degrees in theology whilst pastoring full time, which enabled me to get a broader perspective.

You do not need formal theological education to pastor successfully, but one of the things formal education does is teach you is to ‘ask’ and ‘answer’ questions’ about what you believe (1st Peter 3:15). Many controlling networks do not like people to ask questions or to think independently and this can lead to accusations of rebellion and independence.

Finances
When you become part of a network invariably your finances become entwined in it, by virtue of your giving into the vision of the network via tithes, offerings, pledges, love offerings, world evangelism, mission, conferences, etc. For example, many sincere congregants and pastors have made huge financial sacrifices in supporting their network.

Another way your finances are entwined in a network is if you are receiving your main income from the network by virtue of your role as a pastor, evangelist, or staff member. Pastors have families to feed and bills to pay like everyone else. Now being separated from the network becomes more than just a theological issue but one of economic survival, especially the older you get (Luke 16:3-9).

Ministers have been known to stay in a network they strongly disagreed with purely for financial reasons to the point of even compromising their conscience before God (Acts 23:1).

What to do?
You must be a good steward and develop income streams outside of the influence of your network. In Genesis 2:10-14 God puts Adam in the Garden of Eden. His job was to maintain the garden, yet God provided four streams (Pishon, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates) to help him to do it. This meant that if one stream dried up, there were other streams that enabled God’s work to continue.

Many of the national leaders that I have spoken to, have shared with me some of the multiple investments and income streams they had made over the years (Proverbs 10:5).


Friends
When you become a part of a network invariably over time your friendships become concentrated on those within the network. You become gradually disconnected from relationships outside of the network (especially those that are unsaved), because you become absorbed by the culture and work ethic of the network.

Should you then become disconnected from the network, you may also find yourself disconnected from those very same friendships. In other words you need to be aware than many of your current and closest relationships in the network are conditional upon you remaining in the network. It is not uncommon for long term friends who were best men and bridesmaids at each other’s weddings to be shunned later because of being separated from the network.

It often surprises and shocks people to find that what they considered to be genuine lifelong friendships and alliances are lost when they are no longer part of the network. Often the refrain is ‘righteousness over relationships’ (thank God he does not think this way otherwise we would be righteously punished for our sins, John 3:16). This becomes even more difficult when the separated one is painted negatively by the network.

Many years ago, I began to view the Church as being much broader than my insular sphere. This brought me into relationships with people that were outside of my network. This became critical when I was at my lowest ebb, because many of these friends (outside of the network) stood by me and my family, for which I am grateful for.

What to do?
You must build and cultivate relationships beyond the control and influence of your network. Proverbs 18:1 says A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.

Family
One of the common things upon joining a network is that you want your family to also be a part of that network. There are many instances where whole families have joined a network through an initial family member joining. However when there is a separation one of the early causalities can be family relationships. Stories abound of marriages, and families divided over network loyalty. One network founding leader even refused to attend the funeral of his daughter who had left the network along with her husband many years prior.

Unfortunately it is becoming more and more common for leaders tol target the wife of a man who wants to leave. Many times wives will have most of their friends & relationships in the network. This can be taken advantage of by the network.

In 1 Timothy 3:1-5 the order is not ministry first, it is family first. It is family that qualifies you for ministry:
1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)

This is a fundamental posturing of your life in relation to family and family relationships are not to be trivialised.

What to do?
View your family as a divine priority, spend time with them and do not neglect them.

Forgiveness
Being separated from a network can be painful. For some it is one of the most devastating and traumatic experiences of life. As a result you can feel betrayed, bitter & violated. Therefore one has to intentionally work at guarding ones heart. Proverbs 4:23 says: Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. 


Now this is not an excuse to tell those who have been hurt or violated ‘get over it’….. I believe God hears and heeds the bitter cries of his people (Exodus 3:9). In 1 Samuel 1:10 it was Hannah’s bitterness of soul that led her to cry out to God. This led to her vow of faith in dedicating her not yet conceived baby son Samuel to God.

Forgiving others does not mean you are letting people get away with it or ignoring the fact that you may have been treated unfairly. What is does mean is that you trust God who sees the bigger picture, whilst also knowing that our relationships are both vertical and horizontal. Jesus is clear that unforgiveness towards our fellow man hinders our relationship with Him (Matthew 6:15; Genesis 50:20).

What to do? 
Pray for and forgive those you feel have hurt you.

Facts
When separations occur there are often many sides and perspectives to the whys and hows of what happened. As people try to process whatever limited information they have, facts will be misunderstood, exaggerated and unfortunately twisted.

As Christians we are people of truth, often for us (at least for me) truth is black and white. So when we hear things that are not true (especially negativity about us) we want to set the record straight. Proverbs 18:17 says: Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight (TLB).

The problem is, you cannot respond to every inaccurate story or account. If you do, you are likely to end up frustrated emotionally and spiritually drained in the process. There is a place for recording your views and your side of the story, but once you have done that and made it available for those who need to hear it, then you must leave it!

This has been a challenge for me, because as those who have debated me know, I like to get my point across. And it has been a great lesson in learning to shut up! In Matthew 27:12-14 (TLB) we read of how Jesus responded to the many accusations against him

12 But when the chief priests and other Jewish leaders made their many accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.
13 "Don't you hear what they are saying?" Pilate demanded.
14 But Jesus said nothing, much to the governor's surprise.

What to do?
Examine your own heart, motives and actions, where have you erred? With integrity state your side of the story as clearly as possible, to the relevant parties and leave it to God to vindicate you.

Psalms 26:1(NKJ) Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the LORD; I shall not slip. 

Conclusion
Separating from a church network can be painful and traumatic, but it is survivable! You need to know that there is life, joy, purpose and destiny in Christ Jesus beyond any organisation.

My prayer is that those who find themselves going through a similar painful situation will come out of it with their relationship with Jesus Christ and their family stronger than ever, knowing their best years are ahead of them.

Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

Shalom.......

Monday, 8 June 2015

Culture: Judging right & Wrong.

Culture has changed how we view right & wrong.

"Increasingly, we don’t want to judge others for anything, even if what they’re doing is destructive. But is being non-judgmental the same as granting tacit approval, even support?"

Monday, 1 June 2015



Christian Entertainment

AW. Tozer - wrote these words in 1955: For centuries the church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was-a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven.

Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. Many churches these days have become little more than poor theatres where fifth-rate "producers" peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defence of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.