Leon van Daele, Jim Lamont and Mike Hanchett are fathers of the faith in our fold. Recently at Connect Gauteng we got to ask them questions around ministry and how they’ve managed to stay so strong throughout the years. Here is a transcription of that.
Please note: you can download the audio of the Q&A at the link at the bottom of this article. If you would like a DVD of the Q&A, contact newDAY Church.
Question: I’m still a young guy and have been leading a church for 18 years. We want to finish well and want longevity in ministry. How have you done this? What did God say to you to that kept you where you ought to be?
Leon: It’s a wonderful privilege to be here. There’s lots to say with this question, but one of the first things to do is maintain the disciplines that God has given to us – those personal disciplines where you enjoy your fellowship with Christ. So many become shipwrecked because they don’t do this. As you get older you get busier and there is more pressure. You must sink yourself in the Word. Today the Word seems to be going on the backburner.
Also, look after your body. It’s one of the greatest physical gifts God’s given you. It’s the most complex thing known to man and there’s nothing like it. Yet we treat it so badly and abuse it so easily. We are to present it as a living sacrifice. Learn how to rest.
Jim: One of the things that motivates me and keeps me active is the understanding that God loves me. When you keep that revelation and truth as primary in your thinking and activities, the motivation to do what you do becomes easy.
He loves you. How much? Enough to die for us. We can serve him when this becomes primary. Why do we do this? Because he has called us. Why? We want to please him. Why? We love him. And that love comes from an understanding of where he delivered us from and where we stand today. We’re his children, He’s our father, so why would I not do everything I can to honour and please him and bless him?
That’s our responsibility. Our primary goal in life is to honour God. So bring people into the place where they understand how God loves them. That’s a focus for every believer and keeps their relationship healthy. Ask this question every day: how much does he love me? Well he died for me. Then you do what you do with gratitude and thankfulness and God will honour that.
Mike: I’ll reiterate what they said. In my life there’s been a passion to always obey God. There’s been this passion to hear God and not want to displease him at any time and in any way. That’s kept me sane and strong. I think that as we love Jesus with all our soul, heart, mind and strength, things fall in place.
God has given me long-term relationships and friendships. One day Dudley and I read an article of how Billy Graham’s team had been with him for over 42 years. I remember Dudley saying that it’s important how we finish together and how we finish well. That’s helped keep me strong.
Question: What advice would you give to a real wild and woolly young person who is starting out in their faith and seeing leadership on their lives, which has been confirmed by the Lord?
Jim: Anyone who feels a call from God should make sure they understand the Word of God. So they need some training. A young person needs to get some sort of education on the Word – whether through seminary or personal development – but we do need to know the Word to serve Him properly. We need to make this a primary thing. I’d encourage that young man to do some course, perhaps from home. That’s what we did and that equips you. But It’s more than knowing, it’s living it as well.
Mike: We’re all prophetic and one of the things that’s so important is what we see in 1 Samuel 3:21 – “…the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” God revealed Himself through His Word. You need the Word, no matter what aspect you’re going to go into. God is not interested in taming your wild woolliness as much as forming you into who he wants you to be.
Question: What advice can you give with ministry and marriage?
Leon: We must start with what God’s intention was. We get lost with all the opinions and courses and techniques on how to cope with the differences between male and female etc. These things are helpful but we need to go back to the beginning and see what God intended and work within that.
We make too much of the differences and difficulties and how we don’t understand each other, yet it’s our job to reconcile and put together what went wrong with sin. The reason why we can’t cope with the opposite sex is that we’re sinful. The flesh gets in the way. We want to do our own thing.
With reference to ministry, the first thing is to make sure that this relationship is a high priority. That we don’t compromise this relationship because of the demands of the ministry and everything else. We can’t put it above the ministry. It’s a balancing act. We must balance our ministry and home and family and marriage; this means there’s shifting change all the time and a shift of weight is required. We’ve got to be sensitive to those times when we need to give our lives. There’s a time when she needs everything we’ve got and times she can stand with us and we can give to the ministry.
Jim: I love my wife more today than when we got married and we’ve been married for 50 years. God’s call for marriage is that it increases; it develops and enlarges; it doesn’t deteriorate but gets better and better. But you have to work at it. It doesn’t happen without working at it.
Never go to sleep without telling her you love her. Even if you’ve had a disagreement. Make sure you deal with issues. Don’t let them last for weeks and days without communicating.
Your marriage is the key and strength from which you minister out of. You minister to many married people, so how can you do that if you’re not living it? You must make it a primary responsibility. Be what you talk to others about. Work at it. Don’t let it be anything less than perfect.
Mike: Your marriage can only get better. It’s so important that our wives have a heart for what God has called us to do – that they understand our call and they’re willing to go and do anything. I can say with confidence that my wife has gone wherever the Lord has led us. We’ve lived on three continents, six nations and three States in the U.S. It didn’t matter if we were away from our parents and families as our parents raised us with an attitude of being open handed with doing the will of God and the important things. It’s great that new technology keeps us connected. It’s that constant relationship and being on the same page together in what God has for you to do.
Question: In your journey of faith, has there been something that sticks out as being one of the most challenging things you’ve had to face that tested your faith? Through that challenge, what did God reveal to you? What was the outcome and how did it strengthen you?
Mike: There was a time when I was sure I heard God say something – I was absolutely positive, it was confirmed in several ways – but then it didn’t go the way I thought it would. Sometimes that’s difficult to walk through. But now as a I look at where I’ve come as a result of it, it all worked together for my good. I have to always believe that what God declared is true and that all things work together for my good.
Even in the midst of difficult times and things not working the way you want them to, I know I’m here today because of obedience. It was Him bringing me to a place of utter dependence on Him. In that He has been ever faithful.
Jim: A year ago I was in hospital because I had a heart problem. When I went through the MRI they said my main artery was blocked and they were going to put a stent in there. Some of the guys from the church came to pray for me and the next day they took me through the MRI again. Then before the surgery the doctor said it’s clear. He said, “I know you’re a pastor. Either God healed you or this machine isn’t working right. But the machine doesn’t fail, so I’ve got to accept your God healed you.”
Those things that happen to you personally enable you to have the confidence in praying for others and bring healing into the lives of the people in your community. Please, those of you who lead churches, don’t forget to pray for your people. Pray for them at night, during the day, wherever you are. Cover them with prayer.
Leon: One of the greatest challenges to my faith was when I was 19. I was in Central Africa and had no church background and no access to anything Christian. But I had been to a mission school for a year and was taught that when you want to follow Christ it’s all or nothing, you must lay down your life and follow him.
I wandered around unsure about that. At 19 God met me in a secluded place and challenged me with that and worked me through the various possibilities of my life. One was that if He were to call me somewhere where I couldn’t have a car, would I still go? That probably doesn’t mean much to you but with a motoring background that was very serious for me. Then He asked me what I would do if I can’t have a wife – and that was even worse!
So we worked through various things. The point is, I fought the battle there and laid down my life. I took up the cross and followed him. Subsequent to that there have been many situations where I’ve been challenged to do the same, but it’s so much easier when you’ve gone through that crisis.
I think that this is missing in many teachings today – it’s fundamental to Christian life, growth and the ministry. The flesh always wants to be on top and do its own thing. The daily laying down and taking up the cross is important. The daily act of following Him because He is going somewhere, He is marching through history with a great mission on this planet, is important.
Everything God has told us to do seemed difficult, inconvenient and worse than the previous situation. That initial submission, that initial laying down, enabled me to continually sacrifice and lay down my life. That was my greatest challenge and it has affected my entire life and everything God has done with me.
Question: You’ve seen a lot of different emphasis in terms of style, doctrine, expression and what the church devotes its energy to. After seeing all those things, what would you say we should hold onto loosely and what should we hold onto tightly?
Jim: Ephesians 4 says that leaders have the responsibility to bring the people to maturity. That’s our job and responsibility. What does that mean? That they know the Word, have faith in God, understand the difficulties of life and can overcome them because they have that relationship and intimacy with God.
God has put this in my heart for us as leaders: that we must bring his people to maturity. Since God spoke to me about that, everything I do has to have that core. When people have that dependant relationship with God it brings peace to their home and life and they can walk through the difficulties of living.
In leadership that’s your job. Focus and make sure you don’t neglect to bring your people to maturity – that they know the Word and operate in faith; that they can trust in difficult times, as they’re mature enough to know that God will answer prayer and work in their lives.
God gave me an analogy one day. My daughter was looking for a babysitter and I said I’d get her one and she said no, she wants to find someone who knows the Lord and won’t take care of her children for money but take care of her children because they love them. That spoke to me in volumes – God will give us people if we look after them. And how do we look after them? We bring them to maturity and help them to walk in their own faith and relationship with God.
Mike: For me, its important to ask what God is saying at this time. That’s the criteria and priority. I’ve seen many people write books on their success and I’ve seen many trying to apply the formulas of the book into their lives and church and it didn’t work. Find out what God is saying to you through your church and do that with all your heart. Then you’ll be doing what God wants you to do.
Everywhere I travel I find one of the biggest dilemmas within the church, and I think this is the most important thing in my mind, is people do not understand how God speaks to them. They don’t recognise his voice, so they’re looking for someone else to tell them what to do.
Leon: What to hold loosely? I would say methods, cultures of how things are done – how the existing culture is managed and brought into line with the Kingdom. Our communication. The music. Those things change. But what we cannot compromise on is this: the King must be central. Never let that go. Keep that central in everything that’s done as it’s so easy for him to be moved aside.
Secondly, the mission. We’re here for a purpose otherwise our Father would take us on (he loves us too much). Keep the entire Kingdom mission on this planet central and don’t compromise on it. Massage that culture through the church. Do it from the beginning – our current church is a new church plant and they’re building a base church from the ground up, because the mission is being massaged in from the beginning.
Thirdly, the priority that God has to bring his children into maturity. I feel so often we compromise that. We want numbers and ministry and God’s presence and power. But God’s main programme for the individual, from cradle to grave, is to work the nature and character of Jesus into an individual’s life.
That’s why when you’re old and in your 70’s and 80’s, and you think you’re redundant, our Father is still busy shaping and molding you. Put that into the lives of people – God’s concern is to grow them into His fullness. There’s nothing in the New Testament about growing churches in numbers – it mentions certain numbers and growth, but there’s no injunction on how to increase the numbers. But there’s plenty about bringing God’s people into the fullness and stature of Christ.
Ephesians 4 has to do with that. It’s not primarily about the translocal team, although it’s there and it’s wonderful. It has to do with the steps of bringing people into the fullness of the stature of Christ, so they don’t get blown around by every doctrine and don’t get caught in the craftiness of men, which is out there on TV and every advert etc.
I can say more but we must not compromise on these three things.
Mike: Hold the people loosely. They’re not your people. These are God’s people.
I remember an illustration of Leon’s: treat God’s people like they’re a ship. When they come in, scrape off the barnacles, outfit them if need be, repaint them, service them with water and food and when they sail off wave goodbye because they’re God’s people. If we remember that God’s people are God’s people, We’ll see many more long-lasting relationships in the Kingdom as well.
Question: When you’re going through hard times and have those moments of doubt in the ministry; when your faith is being questioned and you’re asking questions yourself (lying on your bed at night); how is it in those seasons that you pull through?
Leon: Get out of bed! It’s in the darkness when your mind tunes into the wavelengths of the enemy. Then it really becomes dark. Get up and begin to worship and praise God!
We must live in the Spirit not the flesh. Our vision must continue to be on the greater things in the spiritual realm and what God is about. We live by faith. Because if we live in the flesh and by sight it just pulls us to pieces. The most powerful thing to bring us on track is that we must know God’s Word and where to turn. We must know how to open a hard copy when the iPad is flat! We must be able to find the scriptures we’ve underlined that represent God’s dealings with us.
I started reading the Bible over 54 years ago and I can turn to some of those scriptures today. This is a principle: I read the same verses for years and God’s Spirit always fires them up in me again. We have to get out of the flesh and into the Spirit and see what we’re doing in terms of what God is doing. See the bigger picture and see his mission on this planet. Otherwise we get negative. In line with that, as you get older, don’t become cynical.
Jim: For me, how I operate, is I pull out Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Whatever you’re going through God can cause it to be for your good. Trouble can bring us to a place of faithfulness, when you’re more dependent on God, where you’re on your knees and praying. And when the result comes you’re more connected with God again. He causes all things to work together for good. And He’s called you and all of us. So we must be people of faith and, in the difficult times, faith is what will see you through – faith in His ability, desire and His willingness to support you and bring you through it.
Mike: At a Bible college where I was, there was a dear old godly woman who used to say, “Sometimes you must rebuke the enemy by putting your hand on your forehead and encourage yourself in the Lord.” Sometimes, that’s what it takes. We were going through one particular hard time – a lot of it was misunderstanding and the enemy plays on that – but I never got into the pulpit with unforgiveness in my heart and sometimes I had to work with things or walk for hours and worship and break through. You need to do that daily. The hard times get easier because this becomes a lifestyle. Love to worship, be in His presence, and He always encourages.
Question: How do you handle conflict in the ministry?
Jim: Forgiveness is a major aspect of being a Christian. Whether they forgive us or not is not the issue. We forgive them. Then you’re set free from the burden of that and the pain.
It’s the same in your relationships at home. Forgive and get on. Forgiveness is something every believer must operate in throughout their life. You’re always going to be oppressed and attacked by something. Don’t be bitter and angry about that, you’ll be worse off. God said we must forgive so we must do it. Do it quickly and you’ll live in peace.
Leon: When you’re opposed, you have to be convinced of your call as a leader and absolutely confident of the authority God’s given you. This is so we don’t compromise or give in. When we lead our churches the enemy will use every possible avenue to gain control and manipulate the leadership – to make us back down and compromise.
That can come through some of the finest people of the church, sometimes pillars in our church. It’ll come through the intercessory group (if you have one – just disintegrate that); it’ll come through prophetic ministry; it’ll come from people who are trying to get in and find a platform for their ministry. We must be confident in our call and the authority we have that’s borne out of that call, because the authority we exercise without that either becomes too democratic (and we abdicate for the sake of peace) or dictatorial and heavy handed.
Which side we swing depends on our personalities. The answer is the middle road – where we have confidence in our call and authority and operate out of that.
When we’re opposed it’s important for us to weigh up what the opposition is and what the purpose is behind it. There are times when we must agree to disagree and go our different ways, because we can’t walk together, but to live and let live and not impose our own views on others.
But, when leading a church, do not allow anyone to manipulate you under any conditions. So, when conflict comes, we need to resolve it and talk through the conflict. Often it comes with criticism, and thank God someone has the guts to do it. There’s a good thing there. Go to God and if there’s value in it, put it right. If not, disregard it.
When pressure and conflict comes – and opposition – you stay free and keep your church free. That is one of our biggest problems. The world is full of churches where preachers have compromised the truth to keep people happy; they’ve given in to those that oppose them, and so we have so many doctrines of demons. Every man is a theologian on the Internet so he can have his own blog and his own theology and we must be careful. We must stand our ground in conflict, with love and gentleness but without compromising. And if it cannot be resolved then forgive and agree to disagree.
Question: Could the three of you share a testimony of what God has done recently? Something of the delight of God in your life that caused you to reciprocate in terms of your love for God?
Jim: For me, God touched me and healed my body. One of the things we have to live with is the ongoing revelation (this is very important) of the love of God. That’ll see you through everything – through tragedy, everything. That strengthens me and encourages me and enables me and helps in every way for me to do what I’m supposed to so.
When I get older, how do I do it? At the moment I’m struggling with forgetfulness, but you’ve got to understand that God has plans and purposes for us and that revelation of His love for us must never fail, even in hard times.
Mike: God’s been doing some incredible things lately and I’m overwhelmed that I get the privilege to be a part of it. Ephesians 2:10 says that God has prepared works in advance for us to do and sometimes these ‘works’ happen in unexpected ways. Ways you don’t anticipate.
Recently I was outside Mexico City and ministering to leaders there. I saw a man being prayed for and I went over and touched him. He fell down and I didn’t think much more of it and carried on. But after a while he got up and started screaming at the top of his voice. So I asked the interpreter what was going on and he explained that the guy was blind but now can see!
We’ll be amazed to see what God does with and through us. When we realise that it’s got nothing to do with us, He’s prepared it in advance, we will see more. And then we’ll have an appetite stirred to see more and more and be more pleasing to Him so we can see what He has for us.
Leon: Some years back, God told me about learning to identify seasons – learning to know the season you’re in and how to live in that season. Tyrone picked it up and applied it to church planting and the condition of churches. There are seasons for churches. If we can identify the season we can understand the reason behind it and how to adjust for that season.
With that, recently I moved into another season. Both Jim and I celebrated our new three-quarters-of-a-century season. God spoke to me about the season. I was standing in the moonlight talking to God… but I may shock some of you – you remember this when you get older – God said to me, “I don’t need you, I don’t need you at all.” That’s a bit of a shock when you think God has been needing you through all the years! He said, “What I give you to do is a privilege because I love you. Now shut up and get out of my way and don’t interfere with what I’m doing with the younger generation. Come alongside them.”
I’ve had to learn something of the skill of not climbing in and doing it myself, but coming alongside and learning how to withdraw and pull back and encourage; how to get out of the way so God can finish His work with the younger generation to fulfil their purposes in God. We can mess it up as the older ones if we keep getting in God’s way.
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