Watch the video & read the article: Confessions of a Frustrated Revivalist
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Luke 12:49-50 (ESV)
If Jesus is distressed I think we should be as well. I am. I’m frustrated. I’m angry.
I’m 46 years old and have greater clarity than ever in my life—I am running out of time. The pursuit for city-wide revival has never been more intense for me, yet the window of opportunity as far as my role is concerned won’t be open forever.
In fact, I fully realize that the firestorm I’m so fervently pursuing for our nation may arrive after I’m gone from my physical body. I think of people like David Wilkerson and Leonard Ravenhill, modern day heroes who gave their lives for revival. They both left the earth before that which they were so passionate about manifested. Their work, however, shall not be in vain! I believe there is an army that God is making ready—a people who live for little else other than fanning the flames of legitimate, nation shaking revival.
While I understand spiritual labor in the here and now may not result in an outpouring until much later, I am nonetheless in a constant state of healthy frustration. My estimate is that many other revivalists are as well. The driver of the frustration is that any city in any nation could experience historic revival in a matter of months if only the response and the focus were correct. That reality haunts me.
Before you presume that any attitude of frustration is inappropriate, jump into the Bible and experience the expressive emotions of David and many others. The circumstances varied, but the frustration and anger were passionate.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:19-24 (ESV)
6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. Nehemiah 5:6 (ESV)
34 So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame. 1 Samuel 20:34 (KJV)
I propose we need a movement of angry, frustrated saints who have had enough! Frustration without action leads to despair. Frustration plus action equals revolution! A righteous anger must rise up (there is an unrighteous anger the Bible warns us about) against every hindrance to God’s plans for revival in our generation. It’s time to contend for the fire to ignite before we finish our race on the earth!
Church cultures & movements that aren’t revival focused
It’s astonishing to me how rare it is to find churches that are radically invested in nurturing a powerful culture of revival. I really want you to hear me on this. The way you receive what I am communicating is critical. In no way am I dismissing or discounting the value of Christians who aren’t focused in this way—but, I am sounding the alarm. Focuses that don’t lead to or support revival will not be empowered or sustainable.
In fact, some of my favorite movements and streams can be a source of frustration at times. Let’s take the prayer movement, for example. I am a card carrying member of the prayer movement! The power of even the most simple prayer is enough to move an entire mountain, and that truth must be taught and modeled day and night all over the world. It’s that important. The frustration comes when the prayer is too often devoid of a fiery, other worldly explosion out of our spirits. I believe there are certainly times to soak in God’s presence, and I do that often when I’m alone with the Lord. However, to have a corporate prayer movement that doesn’t have that continual unction and the smell of fire is a movement that will fall short of the goal of revival.
We must return to gathering together in God’s raging presence, and during every church service or special event, breathe fire, fan the flames, awaken the sleepers and call the lost and lukewarm to repentance. No more sweet, happy services with sing-a-longs and nice teachings that give us a little extra knowledge. We must encounter God when we gather and cry out with groans for him to move in our city!
We need to see churches and movements that are intense and fervent, focusing on the fire of the Holy Spirit and with an atmosphere that is so hot that every lost soul that comes near it hits their knees and repents. In fact, a 2 Chronicles 7 church would be perfect:
1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)
Can you imaging that happening at every service? I can. That’s why I’m frustrated.
A Focus on benefits
Is it not possible to gather hungry people to meetings without letting them know what’s in it for them? I’m frustrated—no, I’m angered—that today’s church has become so self-centered that we have traded in our mantles of prophet for those of salespeople, convincing they to buy what we are selling. Unless promises of healings, personal prophetic ministry, entertainment or other supposed values are given, the people will not show. I’m angry that exalting Jesus is not a sufficient enough of a reason for the masses to gather. This has to change. It’s about him, not us.
This self-centered attitude manifests in all areas of church and life. What if we didn’t give money to the storehouse for the sake of receiving more back? I’ve told people during the offering time that I can’t guarantee that they will be immediately financially blessed as a result of their giving—but those who receive their money will be. That should be enough to bring in millions of dollars! But, no, without promise of personal gain offerings tend to be quite small.
I’ve proposed that we hold an event called, “Come and Die.” A solemn assembly for those who are ready to surrender all no matter what the personal benefits are. We have too many Rich Young Rulers who will only follow Jesus if they can see the benefit.
21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:21-22 (ESV)
Evangelism has been compromised by this method of church growth as well. Instead of telling people how great their life is going to be when they follow Jesus, we need to tell them they are hopeless, lost in darkness and infected by sin. We need to let them know that there is a God who is worthy of their surrender! He is worthy of their worship! It’s not about their blessing as much as it is about God’s glory!
Does this mean we never talk about the benefits of the Kingdom? Of course not. But, if I can be frank, I’m sick of it removing the focus from our glorious King.
Shock about hard preaching
When did we as Americans become so thin skinned? Political correctness and hyper-sensitivity to anything that’s not ultra sappy is neutering our nation and our churches.
You have to hear me on this point. I just can’t understand how some consider messages that I preach, or stances that I take to be hard or excessively challenging. Have we become so desensitized to truth, and so comfortable with sweet, encouraging messages that anything that calls us higher is too intense? It’s madness!
I am actually convicted often of my own tendency to hold back, to soften sharp truth for the supposed benefit of the hearers. I feel God pulling on me continually to be more, not less, intense as I deliver critical alarms and calls to repentance.
Consider this portion of a parable. This is not sweet, encouraging teaching! It’s a demand for action!
47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. Luke 12:47-48 (ESV)
I’m begging preachers to finally say something worth listening to! Again, if I can be direct, if I hear another message that affirms people in their apathy, their casual approach, their passivity and their sin I think I’m going to vomit. I’m crying out for true prophetic voices to rattle the nations and to rebuke the resistant! I honestly can’t believe good Christian people shut their ears to messages like this in favor of those that have no cost or expectations attached to them. This is unacceptable! This is why we must aggressively alert people to the signs and seasons!
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Luke 12:54-56 (ESV)
Pay close attention—those who are zealous for God and who are yearning to go deep in Jesus will always celebrate when direct, hard and costly messages are preached. They won’t reject them. They will respond to them immediately and shout for others to do the same.
One discerning person once told me the reason some people reject my messages as confrontational or too hard is simple—my messages, no matter the subject matter, have an unapologetic call to action attached to them. People would rather hear a word that they can easily forget or quietly reject, or, better yet, a word that lets them know how much the preacher affirms them! The focus is on feeling good and responding at their own pace instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to stare through their souls demanding an immediate and extreme change be made.
Please, God, give us a generation of unapologetic, raging, passionate, burning preachers like Leonard Ravenhill again.
Surrender to culture and schedules
Revival requires full immersion. Every Christian must invest extreme amounts of time, energy and money. There’s no other way around it. If we want revival we are going to have to be available virtually non-stop, day after day. I just don’t understand how any other activity compares to gathering together with others every day to contend in fervent prayer for revival. Why are other things given preference? Why are secular things given preference? It’s nonsensical.
Many people are interested in revival. Few are invested.
Can you imagine doing anything else in life after revival actually breaks out? We’ll get a few hours of sleep each night just to make room to be in the presence of God with others for hours every single day. But now, before revival breaks out, when the laborers are most needed, almost everything else is more important.
It’s embarrassing for our nation to model such a pathetic church culture. When I was in Haiti over a thousand people walked to the church every single night, many of them for two hours. There was no air-conditioning. It was not comfortable. But, they had nothing better to do! They were hungry for Jesus and they showed up. They responded to the call of their pastor. They were instant. They were expectant.
4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business… Matthew 22:4-5 (ESV)
It’s almost impossible to find a church that has Sunday morning and Sunday evening, not to mention Wednesday evening, services. In fact, Sunday morning services have been cut down to just an hour or two long. What in the world are we doing church? Instead of boldly leading change in the culture the church is being driven by culture!
Horizontal vs. vertical relationship
Please make sure you read this closely and don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I absolutely believe God is fully in favor of people developing life-giving relationships with other people. It would be foolish to try to deny that. In fact, we need to see even greater community develop where unity and love are modeled to the world.
The frustration I’m dealing with has to do with priority. I have known some of the most intense lovers of Jesus experience setbacks because their desire for human interaction was more immediate than simply loving, serving and enjoying Jesus. They have pulled back from churches when they couldn’t connect with others, even if the opportunity to connect with God was there. This wrecks me!
Because of this, churches have lessened the emphasis on a vertical focus and majored on connecting people horizontally. Dysfunction follows.
I’m not unsympathetic to this issue. I understand how alone one can feel when attending a new church. However, we must power through that and keep in mind the very reason we are in the church service—to minister to God. It’s not mostly about making friends or finding a place to fit.
Even churches that reject the concept of church as a social club have erred on the side of a horizontal, social focus. If they don’t, people will leave, so they presume.
Though God is very much pro-relationship between people, he will never allow that to get in the way of our focus on him.
51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53 (ESV)
59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:59-62 (ESV)
I suppose I just wish we could all gather together and, without the need to know everybody’s name and an interesting fact about their life, simply hit our face and worship! Pray! Contend! Grow! The rest will come in time.
Too many churches have gained people and lost the Holy Spirit. They have connected people to each other as a priority and God is the next one in line, yearning for their attention.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26 (ESV)
Please, pastor, lets do away with prayer meetings. Develop a prayer culture.
10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 11 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16:10-11 (ESV)
18 praying at all times in the Spirit… Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)
It’s rare to find a church that actually has prayer as the main thing. Sure, they have prayer meetings—in a side room, at a time when most of the people aren’t in the building.
I was speaking in a church in Lakeland, Florida recently and I absolutely loved that their pre-service prayer was actually taking place in the sanctuary all the way up until the worship team started playing at 10am! Go figure! Prayer in the sanctuary!
17 …My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer… Mark 11:17 (KJV)
If every single person in the church doesn’t participate in fervent, corporate prayer, if it isn’t a primary reason they attend the church, if their face doesn’t light up when intercession goes up, something in that church is terribly broken. We should be disturbed. Alarms should be sounding. The house of prayer is prayerless!
This is a major issue, much more serious than we realize. Prayerless churches are easily at risk of being labeled Ichabod.
21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22 (ESV)
Having a church full of Christians who don’t pray would be like hiring bank tellers who can’t count money, a radio DJ who refuses to talk, a mechanic who can’t change spark plugs or a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer who can’t swim. A church that has people who aren’t burning in fervent prayer simply does not make sense.
Jesus was frustrated with prayerlessness in the church as well:
37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Mark 14:37 (ESV)
To say I’m frustrated with such an extreme de-emphasis of prayer in the church today would be an extreme understatement. I’m indignant that more people aren’t rebuking that system and calling the remnant Believers to a lifestyle of solemn assemblies. We must have bold, prophetic voices in the church again. The church that doesn’t pray cannot be considered a church.
My own issues
Night time is my time to ponder and pray. Lately I have been growing extremely frustrated with my own condition. I am crying out for God to deliver the hard, sharp word to me. Rattle me! I don’t want there to be the slightest measure of unbelief, resistance to Him, pride or anything else that would hinder my walk with Jesus. Search my heart oh Lord!
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)
I am craving more than any other time in my life rapid growth and a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit. Anything less than explosive passion, a life of miracles and great faith is unacceptable!
God is longsuffering, but I don’t want him to suffer long. My desire is to grow at his pace, not mine. Am I doing okay? Sure. But I was not born to do okay! You and I were born to dominate! We are to take dominion! We are to heal the sick and raise the dead! Anything less would be tragic.
So, yes, I’m frustrated. But, it’s a frustration that will not lead to despair. There’s action involved. It’s time for a revolution. It’s time to act—right now.