Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Post Dealing with Leadership Issues

Below are four posts dealing with important issues around the subject of Leadership. I plan to post more. So if you are interested in this topic, keep a look-out for subsequent postings at this site.   
Thanks to all my friends who read my blog. I also invite you to visit my website to order my book. It is an excellent tool for understanding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I recommend it highly for personal reading, and for use in small groups or classes. It is also very good for laying a foundation in understanding the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.   ---Billy Long

My website:
Billy Long Ministries

My Other Blogs:
Out of the Box
His Presence With Us

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

LEADERSHIP SERIES: Leaders Need Listening Skills

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is a folly and shame to him.” Prov. 18:13

The failure to listen when someone comes with a problem or complaint.
Discipline yourself to listen. 

Do not interrupt the person before he has finished.  Let him share all that is in his heart.  People, need to "drain" themselves of what's on their mind and in their heart.  If you interrupt him before he finishes communicating his ideas, his mind will still be on his own issues and he will not hear or be able to listen to you.

It is easy to formulate answers before you listen to the question or the complaint. But even if you have revelation, even if you already understand, it is still important not to interrupt before the person has spoken all he needs to say.
To speak before a person has finished is to risk being guilty of presumption, error, misjudgment and condemnation.

Usually people do not go directly or immediately to the heart of the matter. They start at the periphery and work their way to the root issue. Therefore, if you answer too quickly, you are only dealing with peripheral aspects of the issue.
People become very frustrated if they feel you have not heard them or if you have not given them opportunity to share their heart.

When a leader speaks too quickly and forms a judgment without listening adequately, the person approaching him may become intimidated and close up.  He will become frustrated and withdraw feeling that he cannot talk.  The person may "drop the charges" but leave confused, questioning his own discernment, questioning what is reality--but still with an inner sense that things are not really resolved.

Pastors should listen because the person may have a valid criticism.

 A Pastor should develop the ability to make people feel comfortable and free to communicate.  Learn to help people open up and share their heart.

Be quick to hear, slow to speak.  Do not let your first response be to defend yourself or to attack the other.

After the person has said everything he has to say, then a leader should evaluate and make a response.

LEADERSHIP SERIES: Unhealthy Control of Communication

The issues highlighted below are principles I learned while serving “as referee” (and in some cases a participant) in a few church “fights” and were originally written with the intention of helping pastors understand some of the issues that get them into trouble. Initially I was reluctant to share these with a broader audience, but then realized that the principles are apropos to any discussion of healthy leadership. Many readers will identify with one or more of the problems discussed.

For every issue there is a flip side. There is always the “other side of the coin.” This “flip side” issue is especially true for some of the areas covered in this article. For example, pastors usually teach on gossip, and they legitimately try to prevent unhealthy and destructive communication within their community of believers. But my emphasis here is the other side of the issue, which is leadership’s unhealthy control of communication among members.

Control of communication among members
A typical dilemma for leadership is how to create an atmosphere of open and healthy communication while discouraging gossip and destructive talk. There is such a thing as the scorner and the gossip whose tongues can damage good fellowship, but even in a healthy group there are issues and concerns that need to be addressed from time to time. Leadership needs wisdom in this arena. Forbidding people to talk (restricting communication) can be a form of manipulation and a means of isolating people in order to control them. There are verses in the Bible that warn us of gossip and of the discord created by loose and uncontrolled tongues, but leaders have often used this principle to stifle necessary communication, and not allow people to have free communication among themselves when genuine concerns or controversial issues arise that should be scrutinized and honestly evaluated. People should be free to communicate openly on issues that arise within the group, and individuals should have the freedom to communicate their concerns and complaints. The problem here is that leaders often exhort people to not talk, while the leadership itself fails to provide a genuine, honest, realistic, and healthy platform to deal with the real issues.

Speaking the Truth in Love
The apostle Paul tells us we should “speak the truth in love.” With this statement he points out three operative principles that are necessary in healthy relationships. “To speak” means that people should communicate rather than suppressing real issues and concerns. It is not healthy to not speak. The error in leadership is that they often think that it is spiritual for people simply “to not speak.” And so they work at keeping people quiet rather than getting “all the cards on the table” and dealing with the realities, whatever they are. A wise man once told me that God gives us grace for reality not for pretend.

The second and third principles are to speak "truth" and to do so "in love." It is not hard to get people to speak, but it can be difficult to get them to do it in a godly manner. This is probably why leaders can be nervous about encouraging communication. The tongue can set the world on fire, but still, communication is necessary for a healthy community.

Providing a Platform for Communication
I think it is interesting to note here that one real problem in leaders who have control issues is that they fail to provide a platform for individuals on their leadership teams to communicate their real concerns or talk about the real issues that bother them. One tool used in this form of manipulation is to plan such full agendas and organize the meetings so that the individual council members have no opportunity to “let their hair down” and share their hearts. It is possible for every member of a council or board to sit there with a shared concern over a particular issue but remain silent because the head of the group would not include or allow the topic in the agenda. The other aspect of this strategy is that leaders condemn individuals if they talk with each other individually outside the council. As a result the real concerns of people are never addressed in or outside the councils, and the consequences will be a continual stream of frustrated people who eventually leave the church.

The Openness of a Healthy Group
In an atmosphere where people are intimidated into silence they become unwilling or unable to speak up, and fail to discuss genuine or perceived issues that are important to them. This becomes a potential volcano waiting to erupt as frustrations develop over time. Unspoken and suppressed problems remain unresolved problems. They build up pressure and may eventually become explosive. Insecurity and lack of integrity create a closed atmosphere where people are afraid to talk. This is an unhealthy protectionism in leaders. It is based on a suspicion and distrust of people. It assumes they will always do the worst if they have access to facts and information. In a healthy group where there are integrity, life, and security, there will be an atmosphere of freedom and openness. People will be able to speak the truth in love, which aides in the growth of the individual and the group.

The tongue can “set things on fire,” but leadership needs to remember that some issues and problems are real. Leadership falls into serious trouble when it views the discussion of a problem as being in itself the problem. This is often an evasive action that diverts attention away from the real issues and causes the real concerns to not be addressed properly. When problems arise, they do not go away by suppressing them. Problems and complaints need to be faced and addressed. It is a mistake to evade people’s concerns and attack them for "talking.” If someone complains that there is a rattlesnake in the Sunday school, you need to at least check the room and make sure there is no snake hiding in a corner before you condemn the person for talking about it.

LEADERSHIP SERIES: Leaders and Manipulation

Manipulation in Leadership
Too often leaders are guilty of manipulation. Manipulation is unhealthy in any relationship and is a violation of trust. It involves the dishonest use of influence to get people to do what you want them to do and is an underhanded means of controlling people. Leaders use manipulation when they lack the ability to lead by inspiration, when they have ulterior or hidden motives, or when they are trying to get people to do what the individuals most likely would not do if they had access to all the facts. Manipulation involves giving partial truth and withholding information that would be necessary for others to make an objective decision. It means distributing information selectively, giving little twists to the facts, and sharing only that which would cause other people to respond favorably to the objectives being presented.

Diplomacy and Truth
Being diplomatic can “put a sweet face” on manipulation. Diplomacy in its positive sense refers to the ability to handle affairs in such a way as to arouse the least hostility, the ability to deal with people wisely in such a way as to stir up the least amount of conflict. This is consistent with proverbs wisdom which exhorts us to control our spirit, guard our tongue, and to speak wisely without stirring up unnecessary strife. This can be a good characteristic in leadership. However, we must also remember that diplomacy disassociated from truth becomes manipulation. A leader who is being diplomatic in his pursuit of peace must be careful lest he become less than honest in dealing with people. A lie that makes people feel better is still a lie. A leader must adhere to truth and reality in working with people. He should not stretch the truth, give half-truths, or lie in order to pacify or to get what he wants.

Manipulation: A Lack of Integrity, and a Lack of Faith
Manipulation in leadership represents a failure at honesty and sincerity. It is an absence of faith in the Sovereign God to accomplish His work by the Spirit of God. It is a lack of faith in God's ability to work in other people. It is also a failure to respect other people.
Godly leaders lead by influence, example, and truth, and not by manipulation. People follow good leaders because they trust them. Many people were offended by Jesus, but they were offended by truth. Jesus never lied or misled people to get them to do what He wanted. It is not God’s will that integrity be sacrificed for vision. If the vision is of God, then God will fulfill it in His time and in His way. When leaders have to sacrifice integrity to get people to “do the right thing” then the leaders are “off track.”

Leadership should always remember that obtaining objectives by the use of specious arguments (those which appear sound and correct without really being so) only create the illusion of success. Sooner or later reality will come to light and people will be upset.

Godly leadership requires reality and spiritual substance in those who lead. People of spiritual depth, integrity, and truth do not have to manipulate. They are willing to trust God to inspire people to do the right thing, and they are willing to let the vision fail rather than use the enemy's methods to get the job done.         -----Billy Long

LEADERSHIP SERIES: Receiving the One God Sends

Receiving the One God Sends
I witnessed the ministry of Allen Arrowood and Leland Davis on many occasions. Both of these men moved in a very wonderful prophetic gift, and both of them usually gave supernatural words from the Lord to many individuals in the churches where they spoke. In keeping with their particular ministry, both of these men of God made it a point to tell their host pastors not to share personal information with them about the church or individuals in the church. Too much personal information tended to hinder their ability to objectively hear the voice of the Holy Spirit when prophetic words were being given.
On one particular occasion Allen Arrowood was guest speaker for a congregation in which a group of people had turned sour toward the pastor and had been pressuring him to resign and leave. Leading up to this meeting the pastor told Allen nothing of the current distress and did not update him on the condition of the congregation. Allen, therefore, entered the meeting without any prejudice or priming and simply flowed with the leading of the Holy Spirit as he spoke to the church that evening. He gave words to only a few individuals, but gave a powerful message to the entire congregation. He did not realize at the time that his whole sermon was a prophetic word to the church.
Allen’s scripture text for that evening was taken from the following verses:
“And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.”  Matthew 10: 14
“He who receives you, receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. …”  Matthew 10:40
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! Behold! Your house is left to you desolate, and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is HE who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Luke 13: 34-35

The pastor, upon hearing these verses, knew immediately this was a word straight from God to his congregation. He was amazed how it so accurately described the current condition of the church. He also knew that the disgruntled people in the crowd would not hear it, but would think the pastor had primed Allen ahead of time by informing him of attitudes that had recently developed within the congregation. The prophet, however, had been told nothing. And without realizing it, he was simply giving a word from the Holy Spirit that was tailor-made for this particular church.
When the service was over, Allen went to the pastor and expressed his disappointment at not ministering to individuals as he was normally accustomed to do. The pastor however expressed his own amazement at the sermon and confirmed that the message, powerfully inspired by the Holy Spirit, was the very word that needed to be spoken.

I was in that meeting. I knew the people, and I heard the message. It was from the Lord for that church, and reminded me of the examples in the first three chapters of Revelation in which Jesus gives specific words to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor. To each one He said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” But sadly, not all have ears to hear.

The main points of the word given that night were as follows:
We must receive (welcome) the one God sends to us, and say,“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
If you receive the messenger, you receive the Lord. To reject the messenger is to reject the Lord.
Stoning God’s messengers brings desolation. Your house is left desolate until you can bless the one God sends.
If you reject the messenger, you won’t see the Lord in your situation.
When God sends His servants, there is a reward upon them to leave with you. It can be a blessing or it can be judgment. You’ve got the power to shut up heaven against yourself or open heaven to yourself. You have the power to choose.
 It is up to you, based on how you receive the messenger. Don’t be quick to turn a deaf ear.

Some final thoughts:
The message is clear. We must receive and listen to sincere and genuine servants of God sent by Him to minister to us. But also, we know there are immature leaders who lack wisdom and corrupt leaders who lack integrity. How do we respond to them? How do we recognize and protect ourselves from them? The rebellious person will use corrupt leadership as an excuse to flout all leadership. The humble child of God will conduct himself graciously toward good leaders and will speak the truth in love with a humble spirit when dealing with bad leadership. I would like to share more about this in the days ahead.       ----Billy Long

Tuesday, January 2, 2018



This post and the one below it share some glimpses into the spiritual realm unseen to the natural eye. I have written these articles to encourage Christians to be at peace knowing there is a glorious and wonderful eternity awaiting us beyond the veil of this flesh. My second purpose is to awaken the unbeliever to the realities of the spiritual realm and to the fact that each person must face eternity and give an account to God.
I pray these testimonies will have an effect even upon even those hard hearts who have had no desire, curiosity, or hunger to know God. I am sure that those whose hearts are inclined and open will be stirred knowing the spiritual realm is real and the risen Lord Jesus is calling them to a relationship with Him where there can be joy unspeakable and full of glory.
I encourage the reader to read this article and then scroll down to read the second one. Both contain some very interesting stories. ---Billy Long

Dow Robinson worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico and translated the Bible into the Aztec language.  In the course of his work there he discipled an Aztec named Sebastian Vasquez who became an apostle to the Aztecs and planted many churches among them. Sebastian and his wife Lupe loved and cared for an 8 year old daughter who was mentally disabled. Dow shared the story of how Jesus came to Lupe one night in a dream or vision and said, “Do you have a daughter named Naomi?” Lupe responded, “Yes, Lord, of course I do.” He asked her the same question three times, and then said, “Come and see her.”
Lupe went and saw Naomi seated at a table with the Lord. The child was mature, happy, and talking with Jesus. From this Lupe knew that Jesus was going to take Naomi to be with Him. The child died the next day. Though sad, the parents were at peace knowing their child was in heaven and they will see her again someday.

Raised from the Dead
The spiritual realm is real. There are many, including some friends of mine, whose experiences prove there is more to life than what we see with our eyes and touch with our physical senses. I am sharing some of these testimonies in the paragraphs below.
H A Baker was a missionary to China from 1919 to 1950. In his book Visions Beyond the Veil he tells of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that fell upon the children of his mission’s orphanage in China. The children saw visions of heaven, hell, demons, and angels.  I recently read the book Heaven Is For Real, written by a pastor about the experiences of his pre-school son who was taken to heaven and back during a surgery in which the child almost died. The testimonies in these books are amazing.

I have an acquaintance in Charleston, SC who was struck by lightning in his yard and was technically dead. His spirit left his body and was lifted into the air above his house. From there he looked down and saw his body being placed into an EMS vehicle, and his wife standing in the yard asking the Lord not to take her husband. He saw heaven, Jesus, and family members who were there. He was overwhelmed by the beauty, peace, love, and wonders of it all, and did not want to leave. Jesus told him he had to return, and suddenly he was back in his body. He tells how he was upset and depressed for a couple years because he had to return. Then realized he needed to rejoice and share his wonderful testimony.

I have a friend in California named Marvin Ford who died of a heart attack and lay in the hospital dead for 30 minutes. His spirit left his body, and from above he could see the doctor and people gathered around his body. He was suddenly in the presence of the Lord and saw the overwhelming and inexpressible beauty of heaven. The Lord showed him many things during that visit. Then he looked down and saw his pastor entering the hospital to pray for God to raise him up. “Uh oh, Lord," he said, “here comes trouble.” He knew he had to return but did not want to. Nevertheless, the pastor prayed and God sent Marvin back. This was the beginning of a preaching ministry that has taken him around the world.
I had a professor in college who died and was raised from the dead when prayed for by this same pastor.

A Near-Death experience During Surgery
Below are excerpts from a letter sent to me my by good friend Ashur Cordes from Minnesota. He tells of his near-death experience that occurred during surgery in which the doctors did not expect him to survive. A Christian nurse on duty told the family, “The only thing that will save him now is prayer.” So the family went into the intensive care area and prayed. They called on friends around the world to pray. Then Ashur had a miracle. His spirit left his body and he saw the Lord right there with him, and he saw heaven in the distance.
He was so amazed that the Lord was right there like a brother hugging him and healing him.  Feeling he did not deserve to be in the Lord's presence, he asked, "What about my sins?’ The Lord’s response was, "I took care of that on the cross." The answer was explained by John 3:16. For God SO LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
Ashur then saw what appeared to be a stream of crystal clear water flowing from the Lord to his body along with a golden light that surround his bed. Suddenly he was healed.
There are medical records that verify and confirm his condition and recovery.

Ashur later spoke with a Christian friend in Fargo who was not at the hospital but who had prayed in his home about 10 miles away.  Ashur in his vision actually heard his friend praying and a week later was able to quote the prayer back to his friend word for word. He also heard the prayers of others around the world praying for him. He describes it this way: “I was very aware of prayers flooding in for me. I heard those prayers. Then I heard the Lord's order that the prayers be answered. And those prayers were in His mighty and kind hands, and HE directed them into my heart while I watched from 8 feet above my bed. I was healed.”

 “It did not feel like death.”
Lonnie, another one of my Christian friends, was in a hospital bed and close to death. He could feel himself slipping away and knew he was one moment away from eternity. God’s incomprehensible love and inexpressible peace were so real that he actually wanted to go on and be with the Lord. He very profoundly described his experience in this way: “It did not feel like death.”  He experienced the reality of the Apostle Paul’s word that death has lost its sting, and the grave has lost its victory…and that victory is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
The thing that shone brightest to my friends who came so close to death was the incomprehensible greatness of God's love and the awesome efficacy of the blood of Jesus and the cross of Christ. God really loves us and wants us to be at peace in Him.

Why Take the Risk?
It is very sad to be “without hope and without God in the world,” but it is even more grievous to face an everlasting eternity without the Lord. There are many who do not believe in God, and they assume that death is the end and everyone at death enters some sort of oblivion. There can be no comfort or peace in this ideology since, if true, it would mean the eternal loss of all we love, and gives no hope for anything beyond this current life, which is so short and in itself holds so much suffering.
There are also those who believe there is a God, but who do not aggressively seek to know Him. They take the risk that God grades on the curve. They think, “I have been a good person. My good outweighs my bad, and so I’ll make it into heaven because I am a good person.” The problem with this is that the scripture makes it very clear we are not saved by our works or our own righteousness, but only by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and by his grace (unmeritedd favor) and by faith rather than good works. The problem with the “I am a good person” approach is that it leaves a person unsure and simply not really knowing, and with no real peace. The person who makes a firm commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord is the one who faces death with true peace, hope, and certainty.

Live in Peace, Rest in Peace
Will Durrant in his volumes on world history gives a vivid account of the difference between the pagan Romans and the persecuted Christians of that era. It was said of Christians that their lives consisted of persecutions above ground and prayers below ground. Here are some very profound quotes from Durrant:
“In the catacombs below Rome Christian graves tell the terrible tale. Heads were found severed from the body, ribs and shoulder blades broken, and bones often calcined from fire…But despite the awful story of persecution, note the inscriptions on the Christians’ graves."

"Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace.”

"Lawrence to his sweetest son, borne away of angels."

“Victorious in peace and in Christ.”

“Being called away, he went in peace.”

Pagan Epitaphs
But look at the contrast in the Roman pagan epitaphs:

"Live for the present hour, since we are sure of nothing else."

"I lift my hands against the gods who took me away at the age of 20 though I had done no harm."

"Once I was not. Now I am not. I know nothing about it.”

"Traveler, curse me not as you pass, for I am in darkness and cannot answer."

Our assurance in Christ
It is a fearful thing to face eternity without God. Knowing these spiritual realities we should cry out to God to know Him and serve Him, and to intercede for our loved ones.  I pray daily for my family, friends, and others on my prayer list. I cry to God for their salvation and for them to know Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The greatest grief for me would be to stand by the coffin of a loved one without full assurance of his or her relationship with Jesus.
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."  Romans 5: 1-2.

 “Lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner (Christ) has entered for us…”  Hebrews 6: 18-19.

The Hard Heart

Mr. Clarence was the elderly patriarch of a family who lived not far from my childhood home. His wife was godly woman, but he never attended church or professed to be a Christian (at least not to my knowledge). He ran a small country store in the Longs community, and was famous for “stretching the truth” by telling some unsuspecting customer that a perfectly healthy neighbor had “passed away” that morning or the day before. My grandmother once answered the door to find a sad old gentleman standing there giving his condolences regarding my grandfather’s supposed death. Mr. Clarence had told the gentleman that “old man Tharon Hardee was dead” and buried.
“Mrs.Eva,” he said with a sad look, “I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am to hear about Mr.Tharon’s passing.” About that time my grandfather, alive and well, came to the door to greet the startled gentleman.
Mr Clarence’s favorite target was a particular neighbor living not far from his store. He would often tell folks that Mr Faircloth had died that morning. I stopped by his store one day for a drink and a snack. As I walked in he met me with sad eyes and said, “Son, did you know that old man Faircloth died this morning?” Without a moment’s pause I responded, “What! Again?” Mr. Clarence burst out laughing. He appreciated my quick response, and seemed to like me after that.
Years later when he was an elderly man in his 80s, my mother and I visited him when he was recuperating from a heart attack. “Mr. Clarence,” I asked, “when you had your heart attack, did you call the preacher to come pray for you?”
“Hell, no!” he replied emphatically and without hesitation, “I thought I was dying. I called the doctor!”
As far as I know, he maintained that disposition right up until the day no doctor could save him.
The human heart can harden to the point that it is “cold” and seared. This is a sad state. One man, when asked if he wanted to give his life to Jesus, responded that all his family was in hell and that he “just as well go be with them” there. He was sincere in his callousness. He seemed to have no fear or concern regarding eternity and his place in it. I should also mention that this man was one of Mr Clarence's sons.
But we must all stand before God to give account. It is appointed unto man once to die, and after death the judgment. I pray that everyone reading this post will have given his or her life to Jesus Christ, and will begin this new year with a heart soft before the Lord and filled with the peace of God.
“For God so loved the world that HE gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16