Pastors don’t rule the city—but they can hinder God’s plans for it.
The pursuit of city wide revolution must no longer be resisted by the spiritual leaders.
I’m risking a lot by writing this article, but the grief in my heart is telling me it’s a risk that is well worth it.
I’m beyond disgusted, and I am going to reveal to you the source of that sickness that’s churning in my spirit in a moment. First, since I’m jumping way out on a limb in a way that will make it very easy for people to misunderstand my heart, I have to make some qualifying statements.
First, I am a radical, unapologetic lover and supporter of pastors and leaders. What many of them go through for the sake of the advance of the Kingdom is worthy of high honor. I am quick to defend a ‘wrong’ pastor against a ‘right’ congregant due to the fact that God has ordained them. God establishes all leadership. I absolutely love pastors!
Additionally, I embrace with great passion the local church, even in it’s yet to be renewed wineskin. We must commit to the ministry of the local body God has placed us in with great zeal.
For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. Psalm 69:9 (ESV)
Lastly, I understand how terribly an outsider can wreck havoc and bring destruction to a local body. We should guard our pulpit from wolves. I’ve been ravaged by wolves in ministry before and, trust me, the knee-jerk reaction is to reject anybody outside of my circle of trust.
However, it’s that last point that brings us to our current crisis. The gun-shy dog syndrome is causing pastors to be tentative at best and outright dismissive and cruel at worst toward God’s circuit riders that are on assignment in their city.
PASTORS DON’T RULE THE CITY
I continue to hear from people that God desires to use to impact a city, people who are outsiders but who carry key authority, messages and ordination to function with apostolic and prophetic strength in a region.
They are rejected, one after another. They are gossiped about. They are murmured about. They certainly aren’t celebrated, as they should be.
There was a particular well known evangelist that came to a city, and God was working wonders. The pastors were few in number at the meetings. The gossip and suspicion and rejection of this ministry was being whispered through the town. That makes me sick. I just can’t hold back anymore. You have to be kidding if you think God is going to bring revival to your city if you treat God’s messengers like this. It’s shameful.
Pastors, you have to get over it. When revival comes to your city, your ministry will be threatened. People may flock to the greater city meetings—and you should too. If I was asked whether it’s best to stay in position in our local church or to rush to an outpouring in the region, with grief I’d counsel the person to stay submitted in their local church. However, I’d probably leave with tears in my eyes and fire in my veins. The pastor of that church should never put that person in such a terrible position. They have to choose between the sudden and timely fire of God in the city or fulfilling their duties in their local church? The pastors should be shouting to everyone of his sheep, “Follow me to the pillar of fire!”
But, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Rejection is the norm. Evangelists know that in order to get the pastors on board they have to choose a neutral location such as a convention center. If they hold their meetings in a local church, other pastors won’t come. Again, this is disgusting. Shameful.
I’ve experienced this type of resistance myself. Many tears have been shed in the Burton family through the arrows of other ministers. And, by the way, the arrows that hurt aren’t only the ones that are clear, vicious attacks. It also hurts when other pastors in the city don’t encourage and visibly support the mission of revival. Rejection and resistance can be felt by God’s messengers. Silence is loud.
Such treatment is par for the course for prophetic and apostolic people especially. However, don’t worry. We signed up for this. It’s not about us.
It’s not about tending to the wounds of the prophets, but rather it’s about, once and for all, dealing with the rejection of God’s ministry through them.
1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel. Acts 14:1-7 (ESV)
Paul and Barnabas didn’t visit Iconium for a vacation. They were there to lay down their lives for the sake of God’s call on their lives. Instead of being celebrated, instead of leaders rallying around them, they were mistreated. In fact, the leaders tried to kill them—for delivering good news.
So, what did they do? They fled. They went to Lystra. A new chapter and a fresh start was upon them. What happened there? Paul was stoned.
19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. Acts 14:19-20 (ESV)
He was left for dead, but survived. While I don’t want to make it sound like the trials of God’s messengers in America today are at the same level of those that Paul experienced, or of those in other nations that have outlawed Christianity are experiencing today, I do want to offer a parallel. Today the religious leaders, those who don’t want their status quo touched by an outsider with another focus or level of authority or charisma, are attacking them through gossip and other forms of rejection. Often their credibility, their motives, their ministries are assaulted and threatened.
The attacks of supposed spiritual leaders can be relentless.
In fact, the ministry of Paul and Barnabas so incited the region, Jews from Antioch and Iconium actually followed them in order to defame them in their next city!
It would seem that the spiritual leaders, the pastors of today, presumed to rule their respective cities. They banded together and resisted with violence the messengers of God. However, I love how the story continues, without any pretension whatsoever:
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Acts 14:21-23 (ESV)
They would not be denied! They returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch! The spiritual leaders of the cities would not dictate whether they would advance the Kingdom of God there or not!
The desire of Paul and Barnabas certainly was to work together with the leaders of the Jews and Gentiles, and to be welcomed in with open arms so they could tend to the difficult assignment God had given them without any unnecessary resistance.
This is the passion of evangelists, prophets and others that God is raising up today to initiate reform in cities. They desire the pastors of the city to rally around them! Don’t be suspicious. Open your pulpits! Let them cast their vision for revival!
It pains me to say this—if pastors won’t honor those God is bringing to labor with them, there comes a time to either shake the dust off your feet and move on, or to power through without their support.
14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. Matthew 10:14-15 (ESV)
What would the Pensacola Revival have been without Steve Hill being received from the outside?
What would Toronto have been without Randy Clark?
Evan Roberts was rejected, and then the Welsh Revival broke out.
William Seymour’s message was rejected and the door to the building he was ministering in was padlocked—so he moved to 214 Bonnie Brae Street. After outgrowing that space, his next stop was Asuza Street.
Until pastors value the pursuit of a move of God in the region more than a move of God in their own local church, conflict, resistance and disunity will reign. Local churches are merely departments of the greater city church and MUST be in sync with what is going on at that level. If revival is being pursued, will doors be padlocked? What happens when the meetings are being held in a church other than yours? Will you still radically support it, lead the people there and honor those God is calling to give leadership to it? It continually grieves my heart when I hear about pastors who refuse to unite at a strategic level with other pastors. God will raise up a lay remnant if today's senior leaders can't lay down their own pursuits for the sake of the greater call in the region.
No, pastors don’t own the city. We must honor them and support them as they work tirelessly in the assignments God has given them. However, I’m done with the ridiculous rejection of people who are paying a great personal price to serve God among them. Visitors to town, people that have quit jobs and uprooted their families to contend for revival in a new place, those who have no friends in the city they are assigned to, those who feel alone and would love to be well received, should be celebrated and encouraged to move ahead with no resistance and with the zealous support of the town’s spiritual leaders.
And, yes, there’s an entirely different article that can be directed at the evangelists and prophets. If they can’t handle the heat, they should get out of the kitchen. But we’ll leave that article for another day.
For now, is it possible even to have revival at a city level? Will pastors finally embrace those who God has called to help facilitate an outpouring? Will they stop building their own little kingdoms for the sake of revival in their city? If not, it’s time to advance in humility and boldness, whether the pastors like it or not. If the pastors don’t yield, love and honor God’s messengers, there’s a remnant waiting to step into position, and their time may be soon upon us.