A suffocating spirit was out for destruction as we were contending for revival.
I’ve waited fifteen years to write this article. I implore you to read every word.
As young church planters in one of America’s darkest regions, Amy and I along with our two oldest boys, who were little guys back in 2001, launched Revolution Church. The vision was intense and our passion was for revival that would launch in that strategic city and impact the nations.
Manitou Springs, Colorado is famous for its dark history and present liberal leanings. Rumor has it that Anton Levey wrote at least some of the Satanic Bible from his home there. It’s a quirky town at the base of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs. We started the church there in a 700 square foot office space and then quickly grew to a core of 25 people. We moved to our second of four ultimate locations, a 2000 square foot storefront right downtown Manitou Springs. It’s there where we met Janet (name changed for the sake of this article).
I’ll never forget the Sunday morning service as the sun shined brightly through the large plate glass windows in our small meeting place at the Arcade in Manitou Springs. Janet was a first-time guest, and she seemed to be attempting to engage during the service. Understand, at the time, Christians in Manitou Springs were few and far between, so it was not common to see Spirit-filled people visiting, unless they drove from Colorado Springs. In fact, I was invited to preach at a Manitou Springs festival the first year we were there. The organizer had no idea what he had done! In the middle of my fiery message, a bold declaration of the power and necessity of the blood of Jesus, a tall man in flowing garments stormed to the front and demanded equal time. This alternate religious, New Age leader was agitated by the anointing. It was uncommon in Manitou Springs and his turf was certainly being threatened.
At the end of the service I invited people to come forward to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Janet sprung from her seat and kneeled at the altar. I quickly realized she was not even saved.
After spending time with her, introducing Jesus to her and ministering to her, she boldly asked a question, “Do you ever pray for people in their homes?”
We agreed to meet at her townhouse that week to pray and encourage her. We had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into.
We arrived one evening, sat on the couch and prayed for Janet and her baby. It was an unusual moment for us as I felt little to no anointing. Something was hindering our prayers. Janet confided in us that she had dabbled in witchcraft and was ready to move on from it. I applauded her courage to break away from what I know is a very strong, seductive spirit. She repented of her involvement and we prayed some more. The breakthrough remained elusive. I asked her if she owned anything inappropriate that she should get rid of. She reluctantly admitted she did and disappeared upstairs to retrieve some items.
She emerged down the stairs with a T-shirt with some occult symbolism on it. She also held the witch’s handbook.
She surrendered these two pieces of occult paraphernalia to us, and we again prayed. I thought it would be easier to pray now that she had removed them from her life. I was wrong. Amy and I didn’t understand why it felt so dead in her home, but we had done all we knew to do. We encouraged her again and prepared to leave. She then asked us, “I’ve heard of anointing homes in oil. Do you do that?” I told her to find some Crisco.
We anointed doorways, windows and anywhere else we could dab some oil. After we finished anointing and praying downstairs, I led the way up the staircase. At the top of the stairs I saw a guest room and a bathroom. I also saw Janet’s room. I was not prepared for what happened next.
I stepped into her room and immediately could not breathe. It felt like I stepped into a swimming pool sideways. I was engulfed with a suffocating, heavy, evil presence. I stepped back outside her room. Relief.
I didn’t share my experience with Amy or Janet, but instead prayed through the guest room and bathroom. I then stepped back into Janet’s room. Crushing suffocation.
I attempted to pray in tongues, but there was absolutely no way I could. Every prayer fell dead to the ground.
I urgently asked Janet if there might be any additional items she should throw in the trash. She slowly, casually looked in her closet and pulled out a couple things and placed them on her bed. That didn’t work. I was gasping for air, but not only air, for the breath of the Holy Spirit! We needed God to move in that place, and quick!
I was very direct with her. I said, “Janet! I will not pray for you and you will not find freedom if you don’t immediately eliminate every single thing from your life that is impure!”
I was standing between her bed and the wall, next to her night stand. She placed several more items on her bed, but it was not helping. One final time, as I was ready to get out of there, I said, “There is something you are holding on to that is much more evil than anything you’ve surrendered so far. What is it? No more delay!”
She reluctantly glanced over to the night stand, inches from where I was, and pointed at something I had not noticed. She said, “Well, that’s where I perform my sacrifices.” I looked at a small altar with ashes all over it. Yes, that was it.
She ran down and grabbed a large, plastic trash bag. We renounced what was happening at that altar and threw it away. Immediately I could pray in the Spirit. The wind of the Spirit was refreshing beyond description. The fire in my prayer was a stark contrast to how debilitated I was previously.
Amy then began to pray with Janet and talk with her. I was praying in tongues and doing my best to hear what God was saying. God instructed me to ask Janet about demons visiting her room. God had given me incredibly precise revelation. I revealed to her that those demons require written documentation about her interactions with them. Her jaw dropped and her eyes spread open. She had never been more stunned at something someone said. I read her mail.
She went to the closet and pulled out a stack of at least 20 spiral notebooks. She said she had much more stored on her computer. She confessed that demons visit her every night and terrorize her. She is forced to write about their visits. That is why she invited us to her home. She wanted the demons to leave.
She put the notebooks and many additional things on her bed. Six trash bags of occult and witchcraft materials were taken to the dumpster.
JANET’S STRUGGLE CONTINUES
After that experience in Janet’s tiny townhouse, you’d imagine she would have gone on toward radical deliverance. Sadly, that didn’t happen, at least as far as we know. She disappeared. We aggressively searched for her and finally, after several weeks, did track her down. She would attend church occasionally, but would manifest demonically at times. She aggressively confronted my wife once and then ultimately vanished again. That was the last time we ever saw Janet, well, sort of. Janet was about to visit some people in their dreams.
HALLOWEEN SEASON IN MANITOU SPRINGS
October in Manitou Springs is always extremely volatile. Witchcraft is rampant and the atmosphere in that town is heavy. Creepy. Threatening. Also, it was my favorite time of the year. We knew we were called to contend against the darkness as we we were advancing toward revival.
Each year in Manitou Springs we’d prayer walk the city as we witnessed small fires in the foothills of the mountains ignite. The flames would dance as thought the mountains were alive. Witches were having their meetings, and we were having ours. We’d never consider hosting a harvest party or other event like that on Halloween. It was all out war, a spiritual war, and we had no option but to be alert, armed in the Spirit and on assignment. It was time for prayer.
The attack during October each year was intense. Three years in a row, precisely on October 31st, our oldest son was admitted to the hospital with a severe asthma attack. The suffocating spirit was assaulting him every October, until God gave us some revelation on how the enemy was assaulting us. We responded and the Halloween attacks on him then ceased.
In 2003, two years after we had planted Revolution Church, and quite some time since we’d seen Janet, Amy was pregnant with our third child. One night, in the middle of October, Amy shot up in bed, frantic, and woke me up.
She was shaking. She said she just had a horrifying, vivid dream of Janet wielding a large knife. She drove it into my wife’s stomach and killed our baby.
After praying we went back to sleep, shaken but confident that God was in control. The next morning we awoke and prepared for a scheduled church staff meeting at our home. At the beginning of the meeting, I asked our staff for prayer and started to mention Amy’s dream. I was interrupted by one of our staff members. She said, “Amy, I had a dream about you too last night. It was disturbing. I saw Janet with a knife. She stabbed you in your stomach and killed the baby.”
We were speechless. Another staff member was beside herself. She said, “I didn’t have a dream, but I had an vision about the exact scenario you both described!”
Later that day, a friend of Amy’s who had never met Janet or known anything about her called. She was upset. She didn’t want to scare Amy, but she had to share about a dream she had. “Amy, there was this girl (she went on to describe Janet’s unique appearance precisely), and I saw a large knife in her hand. She attacked you, stabbed you in the stomach and killed the baby!”
Amy and I proceeded to do literally everything we could. We prayed, of course. We stood in our authority. We had a powerful deliverance minister and his team conduct a spiritual house cleaning in our home. They reported it was the cleanest house they had ever been in.
A CHRISTMAS EVE TO FORGET
A couple of months passed, and we had shaken off the disturbances that October visited on our family. In fact, we were excited about a special doctor’s appointment on Christmas Eve. We were going to hopefully discover the sex of our baby!
I will never, for the rest of my life, forget what happened in the waiting room. Amy, our two sons and Amy’s parents were there as we waited our turn to meet with the sonographer. Our appointment was the last of the day and doctors, nurses and receptionists were scurrying around, closing up shop and preparing to head out to various holiday festivities. Joy was in the house!
Suddenly, I felt an extremely heavy, holy blanket of grace descend upon me. My emotional strength suddenly tripled at least. I was spiritually tuned in, sensitive, wondering why God had decided to strengthen me in that manner. I was about to find out.
“Amy Burton,” called the nurse. It was our turn.
Amy and her mom joined me in the ultrasound room. Amy laid back as we were all excited about seeing our wonderful, new baby. The sonographer placed the instrument on Amy’s belly, and instantly removed it.
She said, “Wait here. I need to see if I can find a doctor before they all leave for the day.”
The next two minutes were spent in silence. Joy and gladness gave way to nerves.
The doctor finally arrived, took a quick look, and said, “I’m so sorry, your baby has died.”
WITCHCRAFT KILLED OUR CHILD
The next day was Christmas morning. We did all we could to make sure it was a wonderful one for our boys. We unwrapped gifts as we sat around the tree. Literally every single present I got for Amy was either maternity clothing or a gift for the baby. She carefully unwrapped each as her turn came and placed them in a pile to return to the store.
The following day we were in a hospital room, waiting for Amy to deliver Elizabeth Hope Burton.
As the labor inducement was quite a ways from taking effect, Amy said I could go to a late-night prayer meeting a few blocks away. My phone was kept on and I remained ready to rush back to the hospital at any moment. At that prayer meeting, God again strengthened me. Shortly after returning to the hospital at around midnight, we both met Elizabeth.
The doctor was shocked at the cause of death. It was a cord accident. Cord accidents aren’t unusual, but this particular one was. He said he’d never seen a cord wrapped five times around a baby’s neck. Elizabeth was suffocated to death. Witchcraft killed Elizabeth.
WE WRESTLE NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD
Amy and I bless Janet. We pray for her, wherever she may be. We don’t hold her accountable in any way. She was a hurting, lost young lady. She didn’t kill Elizabeth. Extremely vile, destructive, evil entities did. At the time, we did all we knew to do to help Janet. We also did all we knew to do to cancel the curse and to wage war against hateful, murderous evil spirits. We failed. We learned.
We lost six more babies after we lost Elizabeth, but we are so blessed to have three wonderful boys and two precious girls in the Burton family.
Amy has been a champion. She has ministered to those who have lost babies to stillbirth or miscarriage. She has cried with them, grieved with them, prayed with them and stood with them.
While our faith was hit, it was not shattered. We have learned over the years to war, to wrestle with the enemy and to contend with faith and passion. Life isn’t about some set of rules that Satan has to obey. He cheats. He hates. He does all he can to rip us to shreds, and he wastes no time finding just the best way to do that.
I know many of you who are reading this are already thinking about theological issues with my story. You might think Christians can’t be touched by witchcraft. You’d be wrong.
The slightest open door or lazy approach to intercession, or pride or even ignorance can give the enemy access. He doesn’t fight fair. He knows our weaknesses. In fact, some of you may be considering Job. He was upright, yet struck.
Understand, the blood of Jesus doesn’t grant us immunity. It grants us authority. We need to enroll in the school of the Spirit and learn how to battle. If we don’t fight, the fight will come to us. If we don’t engage, we will be hit.
I held off for fifteen years in writing this article because it’s not a happy story. But, I realized that so much of today’s church has become inauthentic by only highlighting that which makes us happy.
In order to win battles, and ultimately the war, we have to learn from struggles. We must understand the ferocity of the enemy. We need to be in the Word, in prayer and free from even the slightest sin or compromise.
The lesson we learned was not that we were steeped in sin. We weren’t. We were living holy lives as young though immature Jesus lovers. The lesson is that we must clearly understand that the enemy is ready to pounce, and that we must be ready.
HALLOWEEN IS EVIL—AND NO CHRISTIAN SHOULD PARTICIPATE AT ANY LEVEL
Witchcraft is permeating the atmosphere this and every October. It’s time to war, not party. Pastors, call solemn assemblies instead of holding harvest parties. This is an all hands on deck season.
I’ll leave you with some short bullet points that I posted to Facebook earlier today about Halloween. If you didn’t understand before why I so vehemently renounce this unholy day, you now should.
Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Joel 1:14
Eleven reasons Christians celebrate Halloween
- They don't believe witchcraft is a big deal.
- They wrongly think the way they celebrate doesn't involve witchcraft.
- They incorrectly assume Christians are immune to curses and the power of witchcraft.
- They can't imagine the thought of their kids missing out.
- They celebrated Halloween as children and conclude it didn't have any negative impact on them.
- They wrongly equate it with Christmas, which “also has pagan roots” yet is universally embraced by Christians.
- They believe it can be sanitized and Christianized.
- They believe it's a great opportunity to evangelize, but without exposing the darkness or revealing how wicked the holiday is.
- They have fallen for false-grace deception that allows them to be free and have fun no matter what.
- They haven't experienced the wonder and terror of the spirit realm.
- They lack discernment.
Trust me, you will never look at the Burton family the same way again. Have we no shame?
18 Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 (NIV)
A bunch of you out there have an aversion to enjoying life. You can probably blame a good, old fashioned religious spirit on that. God does want you to enjoy the life he died to give you. Of course, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. We should die daily and live in resurrection power. We should give and prosper.
Recently, Amy and I had the privilege of hosting a team of high school business class leaders at our escape room business, Escape Code, and our axe throwing business, The Axe Game in Branson, Missouri.
Something I thoroughly enjoy is introducing and sharing Kingdom principles and other bits of life-giving wisdom in the marketplace. I know the bulk of our success comes from our radical devotion to promoting godly standards and living with integrity in the workplace.
11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? Luke 16:11 (NIV)
We recently “enjoyed” the opportunity going through a state audit for our escape room business. After hours, and hours, weeks and weeks of hard work, they met with us in person. Of course, we were nervous, wondering if our math would match with theirs. They reported that, aside from some very minor miscalculations, everything matched up. They were actually quite surprised and impressed at our honesty and integrity. My wife handles the finances, and if a single penny doesn’t match up, she will work hard correcting the error. She will pay that penny. That is not an exaggeration.
After the high school students played one of our escape games, we had an opportunity to address the team of future business leaders and engage in a time of questions and answers. In addition to discussing the issues of extreme integrity and honor in the workplace, we encouraged them in a critical plan of action: develop multiple streams of income.
When I was in high school, the only obvious option after graduation was to go to college. The question every junior and senior was asked time and time again was, “Where are you going to college?” It was college or bust.
It would have been extremely valuable to know that there are many additional options in our big, wide world! Trade schools, alternative learning, business incubators, internships, various prosperous jobs that don't require college and many additional choices are out there.
If our God loves to function outside the box, which he absolutely does, limiting our future and our income to a single, predictable track just doesn’t make sense. We made it clear that, yes, many would obviously benefit from a college degree, and, of course, many professions require it. I most certainly want our future doctors to have every degree and certification they need to operate. My oldest son, Skylar, is currently attending Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee as he prepares for a career in law. College, and more, is a requirement for him.
However, whether college is or is not a part of one’s track toward success and prosperity, developing multiple streams of income is a valuable move. In my opinion, a non-negotiable one.
For instance, people often criticize pastors who are financially prosperous, presuming they are immoral, thieves or greedy, when in fact they may have wisely developed multiple streams of income. They are appropriately creating wealth according to biblical standards. They have bought and sold real estate, written books, built businesses, consulted or initiated any number of other ventures that create wealth for them and their family.
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth… Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)
Amy and I never want to rely on a single source of income—or rely solely on ourselves. We want to let God lead and develop new ventures through us understanding that businesses fail, people get fired, the economy can crash and tides can turn. On the positive side, we are entrepreneurial at heart, and we have a blast creating businesses and fresh income strategies. It’s fun!
We aren’t “rich,” but, then again, I believe we are. Our lives have been enriched in many ways. God has blessed us and we are thankful.
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV)
Over the years we’ve had many streams of income, most of them small, that have helped us grow financially.
In fact, when we leased space for The Axe Game earlier this year, two doors down from Escape Code, we also leased a storefront between the two businesses with plans to develop a third business at some point. It stands empty today as we give time to the praying and dreaming process. It is an exciting blank canvas for whatever big idea God drops into our spirit down the road.
5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5 (NIV)
A HILARIOUS NEW POTENTIAL INCOME SOURCE—GET READY TO LAUGH RIGHT AT ME!
The reason I’m writing this article isn’t to bring attention to what the Burton family is doing, but rather to share how God is working in us so as to encourage you to dream big and break free from the stranglehold of poverty and lack.
In fact, Amy and I along with the younger kids recently ventured into a new business that many would call “cringy,” but I call “cringy cool!” It’s called Toys of the Realm.
But wait, allow me to back up a few weeks first. Another video project preceded Toys of the Realm.
Amy and I have been gifted in some specific ways, including communication, creativity, graphic design and video production. We also love to travel and do it often. Anything from short day trips to business trips to ministry trips to actual vacations keep us on the move regularly.
While we are about ten years late to the game, we decided to launch a YouTube travel channel. Many who started years ago are enjoying very large monthly checks. Today, the competition is much greater, but we will not be deterred! We spent a few hundred dollars for some basic equipment and then launched out to create travel videos. It’s so much fun! As I walk around with my gimbal, recording anything from donuts at Hurt’s Donut Company, to rides at Silver Dollar City, to cave systems to food on the table of our our favorite restaurants, people wonder what we are doing. We explain that we are travel vloggers and then offer them a business card that directs them to the YouTube channel that will soon have the very content they are watching us record, possibly that very night.
TPF! Travel Adventures is a fun, though time consuming, potential stream of income that we are taking very seriously. We understand that it may take anywhere from one to three years to see ad revenue from YouTube and our affiliate marketing to start trickling in. But, who knows, we may really need those paychecks at that time. We will be extremely thankful that we planned ahead and developed this stream of income.
27 Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. Proverbs 24:27 (NIV)
TOYS OF THE REALM—CRINGY COOL
Definition, CRINGY: Someone or something that makes you embarrassed to be a part of the human race. Usually classified by seeing something and feeling extremely embarrassed, throwing your head back and closing your eyes to block your view, and biting your lip to keep in your scream of utter disgust. ~Urban Dictionary
After Amy and I kept this next potential income stream a secret for the first four episodes, we decided it was time to let our pride go and let the world laugh with (at) us. I playfully posted this to Facebook last night:
I have to confess something… a hidden, secret part of my life.
You may never look at Amy or me the same way again…but it's time for the Burton family to come clean…
We can hear toys talk.
Yes, it's true. You might know me as a fiery preacher, an author and passionate revivalist… but, I couldn't keep this hidden part of our lives from you, our friends and family forever.
After you watch our first four videos about our wild adventures rescuing toys from the Toy Reaper, you are sure to lift an eyebrow, shake your head in wonder…and ask your kids to interpret just what is happening.
Some of you may start interceding for us. That's OK. We need it. If you could, say some prayers for the toys as well. They are in great danger.
The first video can be seen here…just don't say we didn't warn you: https://youtu.be/yz1Kt019KWE
The link to our channel where you can watch all four thrilling episodes is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMqwOHxpg5vWTxHbjGW5GYA
Be sure to SUBSCRIBE so you can watch the adventure unfold multiple times each week.
Please don't unfriend us. We need you now more than ever.
John and Amy Burton and family
It’s OK. Laugh. Amy and I have busted up laughing with tears in our eyes many times as we recorded and watched the final release of each episode. Definitely cringy…cool! So far, the toys have led us to castle ruins, through tunnels, into the woods and into a dungeon! How can that not be thrilling?
Here’s the kicker. This channel may never bring us a dime, or some day it may bring in a truck load of dimes, but it has introduced something to our family that is exponentially much more valuable—we are having the time of our lives, together, as a family! The memories are more precious than all the gold in the world. In fact, there’s something to having fun as little children:
15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:15-16 (NIV)
You can definitely laugh and cringe along with us. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun we are having with both of our channels. Recently Amy and I took a day trip to Lake of the Ozarks and recorded an episode about a monster in Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It was just good ole’ fun! We loved hanging together, coming up with story lines and just having fun on camera!
Amy is a brilliant story teller. She develops all of our themes and storylines for our escape rooms. After playing, guests are regularly amazed at the fact that she designed them herself. She’s amazing! Now, with our children’s focused channel, Toys of the Realm, she uses that gift in another way.
I’d strongly encourage you to watch, and cringe, and laugh HERE.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE
Another piece of advice we gave to the high schoolers was: do what you love. What causes you to come alive? Don’t base your career path on the amount of money it may provide. Discover your passion and have a blast discovering how you can turn that into a career!
How often do we hear stories of people who have climbed the ladder and gained a six-figure income, only to burn out, quit and turn a hobby, something they are passionate about, into a career? It happens every day.
I believe God puts passions inside of us, and often he enables us to turn those passions into wealth creating opportunities. Understand, when I say wealth, I’m not putting a gigantic number on it. Wealth is simply resource that enables us to live the life God has called us to, and to enrich others around us. Each stream of income may only bring in a few hundred dollars a month, but all together, they make it possible to pay the bills, give extravagantly and continue dreaming and developing new streams!
Of course, those of you who know me understand that I’m all about revival and ministering in power. Laying down our lives and surrendering all should be our devotion every day. Many are called to venture into costly, challenging ministry assignments that don’t pay much at all. Definitely do that with your whole heart!
However, I also believe we can still develop streams of income in the midst of ministry. When Amy and I were called to spend a season at The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, it would have been impossible if I hadn’t already developed sources of income that would sustain us. We eventually received a small stipend at IHOPKC as I first joined the graphic design team and then was asked to direct one of the four primary internships. That stipend was not nearly enough to sustain us. It took the other streams to make our ministry there possible. In fact, we were able to buy a house. There was no one single source of income that made that possible. Many streams (I believe we had developed seven separate small streams at that time) were required.
So, we were able to do what we loved, what we were called to do and support a growing family! After our season there, we moved to Detroit with no job, no new income opportunities and even nowhere to live. We drove our moving truck there, rented a place the next day, started a church, developed new income sources and watched ministry and finances develop together!
DON’T BE LAZY!
25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Matthew 25:25-27 (NIV)
Friend, many people are in lack because of this very parable. Look at how it continues:
28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. Matthew 25:28-29 (NIV)
Those who are lazy, those who don’t aggressively advance in their financial strategies will often find themselves losing ground while those who are prosperous and working hard will seem to gain with little effort.
While it’s true that doing what you love will result in a life where you don’t really work at all, as the saying goes, the truth is that you must work very hard. But if you choose your career and businesses wisely, the work will be enjoyable. While I understand that we may not see financial rewards from our two video endeavors for years, we are recording several times a week and I’m editing late into the night, several hours at a time, day after day. I love it!
However, it absolutely is work. Add that to running two extremely busy and demanding businesses, working often at those businesses personally to keep staff costs down, writing for Charisma and other publications, traveling for business and ministry, going to parent/teacher meetings, gymnastics and other soccer mom (and dad!) style responsibilities, and you have a lot of work!
This being said, as you work very hard, stay healthy, get rest and always know it’s God who brings increase, you will live in victory. A wrong heart will do you in. A right focus will bring great success. Your work and faithfulness will result in God ordering your steps.
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Proverbs 23:4 (NIV)
GUARD YOUR HEART
15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 (ESV)
The purpose of creating wealth is not for the sake of accumulating wealth. It takes a humble and zealous lover of Jesus to agree with the principle that God desires us to create wealth, and to have great resource to give extravagantly, while never, ever giving our heart to that wealth.
In fact, if you can’t grow financially and grow in Jesus at the same time, I’d strongly encourage you to do what the Rich Young Ruler was instructed to do. Give it all away! Your eternity is not worth a temporarily large bank account. It’s laughable that it would be.
So, guard your heart. Reject greed. Be a passionate, fervent lover of Jesus and allow the resources you develop to bring life to your family, to the church and to the Kingdom of God.
24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25 (NIV)
YOU CAN DO IT!
You absolutely have been given gifts and passions by God that can result in a joyful and very busy life that includes a strategic track toward financial prosperity.
God isn’t going to drop the money into your lap. The Parable of the Talents should be enough to shake us all out of that mirage. Not only has God given us the power to create wealth, he has given us the responsibility to do so!
I’d strongly encourage you to read a powerful article on the subject that I wrote recently titled: Why giving large percentages of our finances to the church might require disobedience to God.
Here’s an excerpt:
Successful entrepreneurs and business people will understand this principle easily. Their money is simply a tool. It’s used to expand their business, make investments and multiply their resources so they can have greater and greater impact.
Don’t ever look at a wealthy Christian in judgment. Many of them are doing exactly what God wants them to do. They aren't suppose to give everything to the poor or to the church. Their gift is much better used by multiplying resources and giving extravagantly year after year then by simply giving away what they have a single time. The result would be lack of resources and an inability to do what God has called them to do. If you have one million dollars, don’t give it all away. Multiply it and give millions and millions away.
If we give all we have to the church, or more than God has called us to, we won’t have enough to put to work for the sake of multiplication. We must give the correct amount and invest the correct amount to see the greatest Kingdom impact.
Kick into prayer. Develop strategies. Dream. Plan. Move. Risk.
Maybe God will call you to develop something that has the world laughing at you…as you laugh right on over to the bank. Your pastor and ministries all over the world will certainly appreciate the upward spike in your giving receipts as well.
Powerful strategies to eliminate templated, programmed church services
An Azusa Street report:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.”
It’s becoming less common for Christians to jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, excited about heading to church. Of course, many do still love their church experience. The worship environment is powerful, the vision is alive and the part they play causes them to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit coursing through them. However, sadly, if we were honest, we’d have to admit that many church services are much less powerful, less anointed and less impacting than we’d like. In fact, a church that looks anything like what was described in the above Azusa Street report can hardly be found.
There is a way to fix that. The end result is an atmosphere that’s placed in the Holy Spirit’s control. I’ll tell you this, it’s impossible to be bored when God moves. Impossible. It can’t happen. It’s possible to be provoked, irritated, offended or troubled, but not bored or disconnected. What this means is that, in many churches, God isn’t moving in real power. It may be hard to admit that, but we must if we want to prepare for revival and an outpouring that will make us say, “I can never do church the way I used to again.”
An Azusa Street report:
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
SEVEN SURE-FIRE STRATEGIES TO END BORING, PREDICTIABLE CHURCH SERVICES
1. Lead in lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues.
True Christian leaders will confidently, passionately and continually lead people in fervent and supernatural prayer. Lack of a powerful prayer emphasis on Sunday mornings is an indicator of a lack of a powerful prayer discipline throughout the week. When we are burning in intercession throughout the week, there is an explosion that simply must come on Sunday mornings and any other time the saints meet together.
Nurturing an atmosphere where everybody is praying in tongues and singing in the Spirit simply cannot disappoint. How easy would it be, in the midst of worship, to spend fifteen or twenty minutes pacing around the room, laying out at the altar or finding a place to pray in tongues with a zealous spirit? I recommend integrating this into every church service, understanding that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow the program for the rest of the day well of course.
In fact, it would be valuable to bring the worship team down off the platform on occasion during this part of the service so they can be free to let the groans and cries of their heart out. Often, worship team members find a comfort spot behind their instrument or microphone. You’d be sadly surprised at how many people who have been entrusted to lead us into the Holy of Holies don’t operate from a burning, overwhelming spirit of prayer.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:6 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Singing was sporadic and in a cappella or occasionally there would be singing in tongues. There were periods of extended silence. Attenders were occasionally slain in the Spirit.
2. Embrace a vibrant prophetic culture. Invite people to submit prophetic words during the service.
In order to stay right on track with the order of service and to ensure the focus of the day isn’t threatened, definitely do not promote a prophetic culture! Unfortunately, too many pastors have embraced that advice by eliminating or rejecting prophetic ministry on Sundays.
I’ve always believed one of the best ways to promote an absolutely electric church service is by allowing God to speak. When people are trained in the prophetic and are also given an outlet to reveal what God is desiring to communicate through them, the supernatural energy in the room spikes. I often wonder how many sermons have been delivered and how many church services have been conducted in such a way that God’s plan for the day was entirely missed.
As we effectively equip people in prophetic ministry, and facilitate an environment that affirms and promotes prophetic expression, God will blow through the saints and the atmosphere will shake under the weight of God’s Rhema word.
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers, who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve racking attitude of prayer and supplication.
3. Have open mic intercession. Invite people to pray 10-15 second prayers, to make decrees and to stir the atmosphere.
Praying in tongues corporately will naturally lead to some incredibly potent revelation stirring within the people. I believe it’s extremely valuable to invite people, in that Holy Spirit infused moment, to release that in the form of short prayers and decrees.
Simply open the microphone and watch the line grow as hungry, passionate saints of God prepare to lead the people in intercession, one after the other. Imagine twenty or thirty people or more shocking the atmosphere with Holy Spirit driven decrees! Not only is it powerful corporately, but it also empowers people individually to take ownership of what God is doing within. As they all respond to the impact of the Holy Spirit, they become stronger and the service will definitely be marked with fire.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
There was spontaneous preaching and altar calls for salvation, sanctification and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4. Invite people to make biblical declarations.
At another point during the service, open the microphone again. Invite people to release biblical declarations. The Word of God is alive, and when that sharp sword pierces the atmosphere as people read it and then call everyone to come into agreement with it, it will result in supernatural shockwaves.
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…in most services preaching consisted of Seymour opening a Bible and worshippers coming forward to preach or testify as they were led by the Holy Spirit.
5. Promote prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service.
It’s disappointing that prophetic expression such as art, dance and flagging are almost extinct in the church today. I suggest we allow the dancers to dance! There’s serious prophetic power when anointed people flag, paint, dance and contend in the Spirit.
Put up the easels and allow the artists to draw or paint. Provide whiteboards for people to write down prophetic words anytime during the service. Celebrate the dance and encourage the flaggers. God has given them important gifts and it’s a mistake to shut them out.
I know many pastors would argue that they can be undisciplined. They might steal attention as they exhibit their gifting during the service. My question would be, what have you done to guide and equip them? Have you invested in them by training in protocols and equipping in prophetic ministry? If not, you can’t blame them if they don’t know exactly how to respond when their God-given desire to function in ministry is stirring within.
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:20 (ESV)
6. Have prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom.
When’s the last time you saw someone vomit at the altar? Yeah, I know, that’s a funny question. I personally don’t prefer to clean up the mess! (I love that some pro-deliverance churches have “bucket brigades!”) The point is valid, however. When is the last time deliverance has happened on a Sunday morning?
The weight of God’s glory should be so intense that demons easily manifest and deliverance commences right there at the altar. I’ve had demons react in some intense ways in services I’ve been in. It’s actually a thrilling adventure, not something to be shut down for the sake of keeping nice, quiet and sanitized order. When we know who we are and the authority we walk in, deliverance is something we should all get excited about.
As we contend for deliverance, healing and freedom on Sunday mornings, the order of service will often have to be violated. I’d personally rather see people free than hear the prepared sermon or get out of the service on time.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Among first-hand accounts were reports of the blind having their sight restored, diseases cured instantly.
7. Expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit and don't shut them down when comfort levels are threatened.
How is it we can worship God, preach about God and gather together because of God but shut God out when he starts to interact in a supernatural way? Manifestations of the Holy Spirit should be expected. If God’s not moving, something is wrong!
I remember a meeting many years ago where God was moving in extremely intense power. People were absolutely rocked. God was touching people for at least two hours before the preaching even began. When the preacher was bringing the message, one lady was laughing and crying, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Some in attendance kept looking her way as God ministered to her. The preacher became agitated and said something like, “Can you not hear me? Should I have the sound crew turn my mic up? Pay attention. Do you really want me to shut down God’s ministry to that lady just because you can’t stay focused?”
That was a powerful moment indeed. One I’ve remembered for over two decades.
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Soon the crowds became very large and were full of people speaking in tongues, shouting, singing and moaning. Many people would continually shout throughout the meetings. Finally, the front porch collapsed, forcing the group to begin looking for a new meeting place. They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.
The attendees were often described as “Holy Rollers“, “Holy Jumpers”, “Tangled Tonguers” and “Holy Ghosters”. Reports were published throughout the U.S. and the world of the strange happenings in Los Angeles.
CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE BORING
While I’m not at all proposing that church should entertain us, I am saying that it’s just not possible to be bored in an environment where the Holy Spirit is moving, touching, engaging, healing, delivering, wrecking and encountering the people.
I’d challenge every pastor to initiate all seven of these strategies. The result will be a church on fire that draws in a hungry, passionate remnant that is ready to release the oracles of God…and shake the nations.
An Azusa Street report:
Christians from many traditions were critical, saying the movement was hyper-emotional, misused Scripture and lost focus on Christ by overemphasizing the Holy Spirit. Within a short time ministers were warning their congregations to stay away from the Azusa Street Mission.
Proud, well-dressed preachers came to “investigate”. Soon their high looks were replaced with wonder, then conviction comes, and very often you will find them in a short time wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children.
If I force myself to be entirely honest, sometimes tears flow during times of corporate worship, not out of gratitude, though the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf certainly moves me. If I dig deeper, look beyond the appropriate and expected emotional responses, there is something else, an emotion seemingly unsuitable and certainly disconcerting. It is a sense of abandonment.
We sing about it. We teach on it. We even paint lovely photos depicting it. It is the story of the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one.
While this is certainly great news for that one lost sheep (and the essence of the Gospel), I am often left feeling deserted, neglected.
You see, I am the ninety-nine.
We sing about it. We teach on it. We even paint lovely photos depicting it. It is the story of the prodigal son who was welcomed home with open arms.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15 20-32)
What an incredible parable depicting the love and forgiveness of the Father! He embraces, kisses, celebrates the one who returns home! Embarrassed by my own selfishness, I must admit I am jealous.
You see, I am the prodigal’s brother.
I was raised in a Christian home, said the sinner’s prayer at age four and by the time I reached my teens, I had responded to more altar calls than I could ever count. From my earliest memories, I had been within the Shepherd’s fold, lived within the Father’s house. “Must I stray in order to get His attention?” I have wondered. “Must I leave and return to be as valued as the prodigal?”
To answer these questions, let’s take a closer look at these stories. To whom was Jesus speaking?
“But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable….” (Luke 15:2)
Jesus was responding to the Pharisees, who through their strict observance of the law, hoped to achieve salvation. In their self-righteousness, they saw no need for a Savior. However, Romans tells us that all have sinned and that redemption comes only through Christ.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)
Once again, peering into my own heart, I recognize my need for a Savior. Even the selfishness, the pride and the jealousy have separated me from the Father. I repent. I come running back. He sees me, embraces me, celebrates me. I am undone. The tears come. This time, they are tears of gratitude.
You see, I am the prodigal. I am the one.
Most presume my book Covens in the Church addresses witchcraft, curses and attacks against the church. They are correct, but they misunderstand just what type of witchcraft I’m dealing with until they read the book—and are shocked.
I deal with (among other things) those in the church who are spiritualizing their manipulation, control and rebellion by abandoning the local church, rejecting authority and church government and launching home churches without blessing or qualification. When birthed out of a heart that resists authority, home churches are little more than coven meetings. I have been a bold advocate for what many call the institutional church while shining the light of scrutiny on the exodus to house churches.
It’s important for all who read to understand I’m a staunch supporter of local church pastors and any movement that attempts to circumvent biblical government must be exposed and renounced.
I also want it to be clear that I actually do agree with many house church advocates on many points. They have legitimate disagreements with the way the local church is functioning today, and their issues have been largely ignored by pastors and those who are in leadership. Their evacuation out of the institutional church and into house churches may be the wrong move for some of the right reasons. There are serious issues to deal with, and pastors, it’s time to wake up and lead the church into the new wine skin.
The institutional church is at great risk of irrelevancy and extinction. However, I’m not convinced house churches are the best move if they develop at the expense or exclusion of the local church.
WHY ARE SO MANY REJECTING THE LOCAL CHURCH IN FAVOR OF HOUSE CHURCHES?
I asked a question on Facebook earlier today:
What are some reasons people are choosing home churches over the institutional church?
It didn’t take long for comments to start flooding in. It’s obvious to me that the anti-institutional church sentiment is unapologetic and passionate. The reasons they shared demand some analysis.
I should make it clear that there are most definitely house church movements, when rightly aligned in the government of the city church, that are biblically appropriate and full of fire and power. I’m not anti-house church. I’m anti-rebellion.
Before I get into the reasons people are leaving the church in favor of home churches, I wanted to share a reply that I just received from someone who read my Facebook post. It comes from a pastor’s wife. She gave me permission to publish it. As we continue through this local church/house church debate, let’s keep in mind just how precious God considers his pastors and leaders to be, and how many are laying down their lives for what God has called them to:
As a third generation pastor, who has seen both my parents and grandparents pour themselves out for the local church, selflessly giving and loving the body of Christ it saddens me to see so many abandon what so many paid such a steep price for in faithful service to the Lord. I get it. No church is perfect. Be it a home church or an “institutional“ church. Let me tell you though, it is not easy being a pastor in this day and age. Everyone has instant access to the greatest and best preachers and teachers out there via social media. I know for myself and my husband we are revivalists. We desire a move of God, and give space and place for the Lord to do what He desires. I see many people post online how they’d love to find churches that do that but then in real life we have people come in, decide it’s too steep a price, and go to an easy believeism church or someplace they can be hit and miss with no accountability. The reality is that for the presence and the glory of God to invade an atmosphere it’s because someone has paid a price for it. In intercession, fasting, years, faithfulness.
Just to be honest, as a pastors wife, sometimes reading these kinds of posts adds to the feeling of discouragement. ~Debra McBride
Here are ten reasons people are leaving the local church in favor of house churches:
They desire genuine community.
It’s true that people can get lost in a larger church, especially if they are gathering people together just an hour or two a week. The Sunday service typically doesn’t provide opportunity for people to authentically connect and develop relationships.
Those who are yearning for deeper friendships can feel their frustration grow every week as they shuffle into a row and sit through a programmed service, only to shuffle right back out and into the parking lot.
I agree that godly relationships are valuable, though I believe people’s frustration can be misplaced. I affirm the desire for relationships can be overwhelming, and loneliness can eat away at us if we don’t handle it rightly. However, the purpose of the church, the Ekklesia, is not mostly to make friends. It’s to gather together as Believers under apostolic leadership and vision to pray and prepare for Kingdom advance.
Relationships will never be developed on a Sunday morning. There’s no way. They aren’t supposed to. And, pastors, please abandon all attempts at trying to fit them in. The three-minute window you give people to walk around and greet one another is a sad and unnecessary attempt at nurturing togetherness. The right approach is to admit the Sunday services are meant for prayer, worship and apostolic instruction. The fellowship can happen at other times and in other places. Any attempt at fellowship on a Sunday morning is misguided.
For those disappointed because the pastor won’t connect closely with you, I have some news for you. Your pastor isn't supposed to be your best friend. He's probably not going to be your friend at all. He may rarely connect with you personally. It may never happen.
His job is to pray, study the Word and facilitate an atmosphere of intercession and equipping. His relational energy will be reserved for just a few, just as Jesus modeled. Those who are prone to rejection, or those who presume the church is supposed to be ultra-relational, will suffer in such environments.
I don’t know when it became the church’s job to become matchmaker, developing circles of friends and facilitating the relationship building process. If people want to hang out, let them connect in the prayer rooms and on the mission field and then head out for coffee or initiate a Bible study on their own time. It doesn’t have to be organized, and it shouldn’t distract from the greater mission.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the local church hosting small groups. They can be enriching and very good. The problem is when the living room instead of the prayer room becomes the glue that holds the church together. Relationships are actually critically important, but they can’t be the premier goal. The church has a much greater purpose. There’s a world to change. There’s revival to pursue. If people trusted that process, they would develop life-long friendships from the fox hole of ministry. The first church was birthed just like that.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1 (ESV)
They are tired of unnecessary hype, productions and programs.
Every few weeks it seems there’s a new project or ministry focus that is instituted just to prove the church is getting bigger and better, is alive and moving forward. People can see right through these attempts and, quite frankly, are tired of investing so much money, time and energy for such a small return. They have had enough of the “bigger is better” mindset and simply want to give themselves to simple, organic church life.
The stage productions, expensive programs, lights, smoke and Hollywood style video presentations might look good, but the house church crowd is rejecting them wholesale. The vision the pastor might have for such a ministry isn’t shared by them.
I’ll be the first to argue that we need to shut pretty much everything down and simply gather together to pray. Filling the calendar with ministries, groups, programs and other endeavors without clear vision and buy in from the people is simply not attractive or, in most cases, effective.
Pastors, it’s time to get back to the basics. It’s true that those who have been conditioned by media and today’s culture might reject the basics, but we aren’t here to pander to culture. We are here to shake the nations.
So, does this mean the pyrotechnics, media and high production value are inherently evil? Absolutely not. Those who are abandoning churches simply because a church has implemented such tactics need to re-evaluate their heart. It’s not okay to abandon ship just because you don’t appreciate this style of ministry, but I can’t deny that’s it’s your right to be troubled if the theatrics veer the ministry off it’s proper course.
I’ve often said that I despise hype and exaggeration. When we employ such psychological methods to project our efforts beyond where they actually are, we limit God to our own imagination. We get overly excited about what we can produce instead of allowing God to blow our minds!
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)
They want to be released to minister according to their giftings.
This argument is common. People are discouraged because they cannot function according to the gifting God has placed within them. They are chomping at the bit to be activated. They were created for a purpose, yet, so often in the local church, they are not released to move in their ministry.
As one who has planted and given senior leadership to churches for years, I’ll be the first to come to the defense of local church pastors. Just because you have a gift and calling does not mean you are ready to function in it in the church. There are a lot of broken, immature, untrained, prideful or simply weird people out there who should not be given a place in public ministry—until they have been made ready.
There is significant process involved in the ministry development incubator. If you aren’t willing to submit to authority and give yourself to the process, and allow significant time to pass as you die daily and gradually grow stronger, your ministry cannot be validated.
Many people are launching house churches because their ministry was not confirmed in the local church. This is where a lot of immature people are launching premature ministries. Their authorities have determined they are not ready, but they turn aside from that counsel and move out in childish rebellion—all in the name of spiritual freedom.
That being said, pastors, you must do a better job at equipping the saints. While there are many pastors and church leadership teams that excel at this, most don’t.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children… Ephesians 4:11-14 (ESV)
The church only goes as deep as the majority will allow.
The house church crowd is typically a spiritually hungry one. We can’t deny that most local churches simply don’t go deeper than the majority will allow. I’m not talking about seeker sensitive churches, I’m referring to Spirit-filled churches that promote exuberant worship and devotion to Jesus.
There are many churches like this that will just go so deep. There’s a limit. They know if they get as passionate and as supernaturally infused as the zealots in their midst, the majority will leave.
Pastors, you must wake up! Let the pretenders leave! It’s time to bring the fire, the shock and the awe back into the church! How can you fault people who desire to leave because they want to experience Jesus more than you do?
For those who are hungry for the deep, I won’t pull any punches. This alone is not a reason to leave a church and to start your own. You can go as deep in God as you want regardless of how far your church goes. I challenge you to burn hot, pray without ceasing, stimulate dreams and visions and raise the temperature of every atmosphere you walk into.
Will God eventually move you on to another church or to build a new ministry yourself? He most certainly may. Just make sure you handle the move with integrity and honor. If your current church is apathetic, you can be sure God will bring resolution one way or another without your intervention.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)
Being guilted into serving more, giving more and building the church.
House church people generally are more interested in Kingdom activity than the local church. They are more passionate about God’s expression among a people in a region than a local ministry. They are tired of building a single man’s kingdom by giving and serving and enhancing that local church instead of investing in the advance of the Kingdom of God.
Again, as one who has been involved in the church for decades, I understand. There’s so much pressure today to grow big ministries, to be successful and to keep everybody active and on task. Leaders want people to take ownership. In our American culture we are individualistic and laser focused on whatever project we deem most beneficial to us. The problem? There is much more that needs our focus than a single local church.
I believe it’s healthy and important for people to have a home church while also engaging at a high level in other local churches, ministries and Kingdom activities. When I was giving leadership to churches, I would strongly encourage people to frequent other ministries in addition to our own. Investing in the city church is more important than the local church.
I started this message by mentioning my book Covens in the Church. That book as directed at those who wrongly abandon assignments for the sake of pursuing their own spiritual endeavors. This point requires I highlight the follow up book titled, Pharaoh in the Church. This book was written to pastors who are so focused on building their own ministry that the people are wrongly used, expected to continually serve, give and sacrifice for that never ending project.
In the words of Brian Ming, “God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.”
Pastors, right or wrong, this is another reason people are leaving your church for the more efficient, simple and authentic house church.
The power of God isn’t there.
I’ll admit that I’ve been to some small group meetings that are electric! The Holy Spirit was blowing through that living room or office space like a wind and a fire! When you gather people who are all likeminded and hungry for Jesus, you can’t help but to see God respond.
I’ve been to local church meetings like this too, but they are rare. How often do you leave an institutional church remarking about how powerfully and supernaturally the Holy Spirit moved? Some of you reading this are truly blessed, and you’d respond by saying, “Nearly every Sunday!” Most would have to honestly admit that it’s extremely uncommon or nonexistent.
Understand, I’m not talking about a great worship experience or an encouraging message. I mean, when is the last time the supernatural presence of God flooded the place to such an extreme that people were trembling, crying, and laying out all over the place? This should be the norm for the church. Pastors, until you can steward this call and facilitate a white-hot atmosphere of Holy Spirit power, it will be easy for people to be disappointed in your church.
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)
Services are predictable, overly structured and polished.
People who are hungry for authentic encounter with Jesus are done with perfectly orchestrated worship sets and precisely ordered services. House churches offer an opportunity to ditch the set lists and eliminate the clocks in favor of spontaneous, unpredictable and untimed worship, prayer and teaching along with a fervent pursuit of an ever increasing tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.
Instead of the spit and shine, they long for the messy, unpredictable, uncontrollable move of God that simply won’t allow for manmade organization.
How often are the people in the pews crying out for the pastors to get out of the way and to let the Holy Spirit move? It’s time we admit that our messages really aren’t that great, and our worship sets aren’t that special. Let’s move aside, hit our knees and let the Holy Spirit run our services! I’ll tell you this, when it happens, people won’t be frustrated and disappointed, fleeing the church, they’ll be flooding out from wherever they are to the place where the fire is burning!
The truth is it can be easier to fan the flames of revival in a small house church than in a local church simply because local churches aren’t typically focused on the remnant. They want the bigger crowds and are willing to compromise to ensure the people stay connected. Those in house churches aren’t focused on numbers or on drawing the seeker. They simply want God. Period. They have no order of service. They pray. They cry out. They minister to God and to each other.
While I acknowledge this reality, my belief is that we need to see such a remnant focus in the local church! I believe apostolic hubs, houses of prayer and house churches have emerged because local churches have abdicated their responsibilities to be centers of prayer and Kingdom advance. They have become fully local to the detriment of the city vision. Prayer has taken a back seat because most resist such a devotion.
I love houses of prayer, apostolic hubs, para-church ministries and even healthy, rightly aligned house churches. I also love the local church and am campaigning for it to break out of the old, tired and predictable in favor of a Holy Spirit who cannot be controlled.
13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ …Matthew 21:13 (ESV)
Pastors who are functioning out of ability, creativity or charisma instead of anointing.
Stage shows seem to be overtaking much of the church today. Instead of contending for hours in the prayer rooms, pastors are often functioning from their creativity and charisma. The anointing simply isn’t intense. They haven’t been branded by the fire that can only be found at the altars.
How rare it is to see the man or woman of God trembling behind the pulpit after emerging from an encounter with almighty God in the prayer room.
Leonard Ravenhill said, “Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen.”
People can see right through pastors who are operating out of gifting instead of anointing. It’s leaves a very bad taste in their spirits. They want to be led by people who are continually encountering Jesus, people who aren’t so confident in their giftings that they simply put together “creative” programs, conferences, sermon series and whatever else they can orchestrate.
That being said, house church friends, I challenge you to re-read the appeal from Debra at the beginning of this article. Have enough compassion for God’s leaders that you don’t rise up in pride, determined to be more spiritually driven then they are. In fact, I bet most house church people are no more spiritually devoted than most local church pastors.
17 pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)
A lack of focus on the greater church.
House church folks don’t like to be limited in their church experience. They don’t value, and actually devalue, the demand many pastors have to commit fully and only to their specific local church. It stinks of personal kingdom building instead of truly being Kingdom minded.
As I said above, we need to encourage people to invest in a variety of churches and ministries in our region. In fact, pastors should be very active in supporting other churches and ministries. Lead the people in your church to conferences, prayer events, special church meetings, revival services and strategic Kingdom happenings in the region.
House churches can easily become equally unhealthy when they become inward focused and disconnected from the greater city church. In fact, many, many house churches regularly fall into this trap.
Out of one side of their mouth they confess to being “Kingdom focused” while on the contrary they never visit and lock arms with other local churches, ministries or functions in the region.
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes… Acts 2:46 (ESV)
They are plain bored with the old wine skin.
Church as we know it is done. This is the driving message behind my book The Coming Church. I’ve preached about this, written about this and led movements with this in mind. The old wine skin must give way to the new. The house church, for many, seems to be a logical step out of the old and into the new.
The reality is that the new wine skin looks nothing like anything we see in local or house churches.
However, one key component that many house church enthusiasts may not be too excited about in the new wine skin is: authority. The government of God will be firmly established and the five-fold ministry will be foundational. No longer can people just do as they please presuming that God is their only authority. We will function within Kingdom government, and we must acknowledge the various leaders in the region.
22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:22 (ESV)
HOUSE CHURCH OR LOCAL CHURCH?
Both. Neither. Actually it’s the city church we should be advancing. Local churches are important as larger groups of people lock in to contend for revival and advance the Kingdom. Smaller churches that are more keenly focused will exist in homes along side the rest of the church of the city. Apostles, prophets and other leaders will serve with sobriety and boldness.
The key is having pure motives, honoring all and being faithful to the calling and the process God has given you to steward whether it’s in a local church, house church, apostolic hub, house of prayer or other community of faith.
We all want revival, or, rather, we all think we want revival. We crave God’s presence. We want the fire. But, let’s all be challenged. When the fire comes, will we honestly allow it to consume us? Will we stay devoted, humble and surrendered? Or will we rise up in pride, dissatisfied with the way things are unfolding and move out in rebellion to start an alternate, individualistic, isolated, coven in the church?
I’m burning with messages to shake nations…I’m ready to travel again!
I’ve been mostly off the road for the last one plus years waiting on the Lord to refresh and direct into my next season. Amy and I have been, and continue to be, working hard developing our two businesses in Branson, Missouri. We are having a blast and are also excited about connecting with some of you.
As I am going to protect my fragile balance with family, business and ministry, I won’t be able to accept every invitation. That being said, let’s see what God might do.
If you would like to invite me to your church or event, submit a booking request HERE.
In the mean time, check out my numerous articles, books and videos on my site at www.burton.tv.
I pray you are rocked by the fire of the Holy Spirit!
Many are working hard to attract the wrong crowd on Sunday—and the result is an Ichabod church.
We soon won’t be able to define going to church the way we do now. God is coming to reform, to crush structures of old for what is to be introduced very soon. Our call isn’t to stand strong until the shift comes, it’s to prophetically sound the alarm and awaken those at risk! God is coming! The force from Heaven, the celestial asteroid, is going to impact the Church, and most pastors and people will resist with everything that’s within them. Man-made support systems will be removed. People’s financial and relational structures will be threatened by this strange new spiritual invasion. The human wisdom and natural common sense that have been involved in the development of the current church structure will not be usable in the new. Those who walk by sight are in danger. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
I've met countless pastors and others who say they are focused on revival, but who are misguided on exactly what it is. Their focus is on attracting people to the church, on people getting “saved” and on other church growth strategies.
The problem? The foundational pursuit of revival has nothing to do with church growth or the lost. It has everything to do with the church awakening, contending in intercession and attracting the fire of the Holy Spirit.
The lost didn't show up in the Upper Room. Marginal followers of Jesus were repelled by the Upper Room.
Revival isn't marked by a full house. Revival starts in a room that reveals the remnant. The revival that erupted in that roomful of remnants resulted in explosive church growth and Kingdom advance.
Premature church growth will result in a multiplication of lukewarm, dead and dying people who have no idea what it feels like to have tongues of fire igniting over top of them.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Acts 2:1-3 (ESV)
VISITORS SHOULD BE SHAKEN BY WHAT THEY SEE IN THE CHURCH.
The pure Christian message of surrender, repentance, holiness, intercession and rescuing souls from Hell has been replaced by a self-centered gospel that boldly affirms a focus on benefits without cost, on personal gain without sacrifice, on freedom without consecration. The Church has been unapologetically and boldly focused on how to have faith to receive while forsaking the call to have faith to give. The spirit of the age infiltrated churches long ago—and now, all too often, that demonic spirit is the primary counselor. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
It’s time self-focused, semi-interested people are no longer given the opportunity to demand what they are looking for in a church. It’s time to close up the welcome centers and put away the welcome gifts. When presented with the unmistakable burning only a supernatural church can offer, their decision to stay or leave will be immediate. I’ve often said that one indicator of the Holy Spirit moving in power is that bystanders will do one of two things. They will either marvel or they will mock.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
When naturally minded people walk into a furnace of intercession, a place that is electric with supernatural activity, they should be radically unsettled, yet so many church assimilation teams today attempt to make the environment as familiar and comfortable as possible.
I’ve often heard pastors admit they hide the pre-service prayer (for those who have pre-service prayer at all!) in a side room instead of filling the sanctuary with groans of intercession because they don’t want to freak out the soon-arriving visitors. I’ve heard that many, many times and I was grieved every time. There are a few legitimate reasons why prayer might not work in the sanctuary prior to the service in some churches, but that’s not one of them. If we are attempting to introduce people into the wonder of a supernatural encounter with Jesus, why would we, at the same time, work so hard at shielding their eyes? I propose bringing the fire and the groan right into the heart of the Sunday service! Those who remain will be the laborers you need to fulfill your mission.
Many years ago, when I first started Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, I worked hard at assimilating visitors. I would excitedly connect with them and share just how much they would enjoy making our church their new home. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling like a used-car salesman; dirty; compromised. My strategy grieved my spirit. The truth was that our atmosphere and our vision were called by God to be driven by intercession and marked by a strong prophetic emphasis. The messages were intense. Revolution Church was not designed for those who would be marginally committed (as no church is}. The “Sunday go to meeting” Christians would, by choice, not remain for long.
The reality was, that by attempting to attract those types of people, I was compromising the vision. The church needed the remnant who would lock in and pray, who would contend for revival and who would endure with great strength. A large group of non-remnant people would be a distraction. Years would be lost. Lives would be at risk. Eternities would be in danger.
So, I shifted. I started literally trying to scare people away from our church.
To the dismay of those who simply want to hear a little worship and listen to good (and short) teaching, services will become more like prayer meetings. This is one of the most critical and most upsetting shifts that will come–and it must come now. Today, most of the energy church leadership teams expend is usually on attracting and keeping visitors instead of training and engaging intercessors. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
A CHURCH ON FIRE
America doesn’t need another bed-and-breakfast church that comforts our flesh (our natural desires). Our nation needs a Church with a volatile atmosphere that explodes, burns human flesh and shocks our culture. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
I knew we were called to lead a church on fire, and that just wasn’t possible with tepid, resistant, lukewarm people.
1 …I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die… Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
I was confident that, if I clearly shared the wild, costly, other-worldly vision that God had given us, and how people at our church were called to invest into that vision, that those who would not be interested in such a lifestyle would not return. Understand, my invitation for them to run with us was genuine. Our door was wide open. When I say “I tried to scare them away” I mean I was simply authentic. I stripped off the suit of a salesman and shared my raw, passionate dream of God to advance with a team of zealots for Jesus. Such an invitation was all I needed to see who was deeply hungry for revival and who was not. I would do my best to help those people connect in another local church. I’d give them the names of some churches they might enjoy. While I truly wanted the very best for them, it always broke my heart when they decided against adopting a lifestyle of intercession and revival. That lifestyle is not for a specialized few. It’s for all.
This resulted in a confidence that those who remained were, in most cases, part of our remnant, firebrands who would dig in and assimilate with our tribe of revivalists.
When you spend energy attracting the mildly committed, you compromise your entire vision. Simply, you need soldiers to become equipped and ready to lay down their lives and fight for the freedom of souls in the region.
I believe it’s core to the mission of the church to give opportunity for people to clearly evaluate their commitment and to give room for them to leave. The intensity of the truth demands it. We must call people out of a natural life and into the supernatural, out of a casual place and into radical surrender.
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:63-67 (ESV)
Understand, similar to the way Jesus ministered in the above passage along with other key examples in Scripture, the Upper Room served as a filter. It filtered out those who weren’t radically devoted. Most were repelled by the call to pray. The agenda did not change in the hopes of assimilating more people. The disciples loved them as they went their way…and then they turned the world upside down with the few who remained as a result. What filters do you have in your church, pastor, to call people to a transparent, genuine place of soul searching and decision? You must start and continue with an Upper Room atmosphere and an offensive, flesh-crushing Gospel message.
It’s important to remember that the Ekklesia, the church gathering, was not designed for the lost. So many pastors get derailed on this point alone. The church is a house of prayer for all nations. The predominant church activity should be white hot intercession with tongues of fire atop everyone, with groans filling the atmosphere. It’s a remnant ministry. This call is for all who call themselves Christian.
If you build a church with people who won’t devote themselves to the prayer room, you build your church with those who are disinterested at best and lukewarm at worst. Your church will be a low-water-level church. It will be a place where the fire can’t rage. It will be naturally familiar with distant, elusive, marginally supernatural dreams. Pipe dreams.
Christians who aren’t invested in fervent, supernatural prayer will be enticed by the natural familiarity of Ichabod churches (where the glory has departed). ~The Coming Church, John Burton
WHAT ABOUT THE SEEKERS?
A question I hear from very good-hearted people is this: What do we do with people who are seeking? Do we just turn them away?
We absolutely don’t turn them away! We invite them into the furnace. We do not turn down the fire. We turn it up! Those who are hungry for God must not be introduced to a tepid, natural environment with an image of God that looks just like themselves. Reveal the glory of our mysterious, fiery, living God and watch them collapse to their knees in desperation!
However, as I have stated already, many will choose to leave at the sight of something so alien and costly. That’s a choice they themselves have a right to make.
Again, we must faithfully reveal the cost of following Jesus. We don’t come on our terms. We come on God’s. Too many are interested in warming their flesh by the fire instead of their flesh being consumed by the fire.
23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:23-30 (ESV)
Many will turn away sad. Even the most devoted will feel the severity of a life devoted to Jesus. They will cry out, “Then who can be saved?” That tension will result in a church that is sober and on fire and something that true seekers will give themselves to. Pretenders will certainly go away sad as the remnant church is revealed.
My lifelong commitment in ministry is this: I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry.
That commitment requires everything I do to have the smell of smoke. In fact, pastors, one reason even the most devoted people aren’t coming to your prayer meetings is simple—they are dead, humanistic and boring. They are logically driven. They are simply a rehashing of what the natural mind can discern. As someone who comes alive in prophetic, prayer-fueled environments, I aggressively avoid powerless prayer meetings that are driven by lists of needs and human understanding. I don’t want my soul activated. I want my spirit to burn! I think tired, powerless petition-driven prayer meetings can do more damage than good much of the time. Do your prayer meetings have the smell of smoke? Are tongues of fire resting on everybody? If not, don’t be surprised when the even the most devoted disciples are no-shows.
We need a church on fire today more than ever. The lost are being introduced into lukewarm, natural, Ichabod religion instead of a supernatural shaking that can only come from the Great I Am. They are convinced they are saved as they are assimilated into a community of likeminded quasi-spiritual people who would love to see God manifest in their natural realm—yet have no interest in manifesting in the spiritual realm where the Holy Spirit broods.
My challenge to pastors is simple. Risk everything. Allow your church to dwindle, if necessary, to a few remnant people who will live, pray, walk and advance in the Spirit. The world is waiting for them.
You can download a free chapter and order The Coming Church by John Burton at www.burton.tv/resources.
Proclaim the message of intercession and revival to the nations!
Six new T-shirt designs are NOW AVAILABLE!
Head on over to www.cofithreads.com and check them out!
COFI Threads Revival & Prayer Wear – A product of Carriers of Fire International, the ministry of John Burton. Shop for Christian shirts with bold, unapologetic messages of fire!
Check out our new site redesign and a new store where you can purchase books, ebooks, media and apparel!
Check out some of the reviews from books including The Coming Church, 20 Elements of Revival and The Terror of Hell:
Very inspiring! John is a man on fire! And he is starting fires everywhere he goes. ~Larry
This is a book that is challenging and awe inspiring! A must read for every pastor! The time for revival is now!! ~Gilbert
“Every member of every ministry in every denomination should be required to read this book!” ~Mae
My world has been rocked..I am on my knees trembling and yet I am in the complete comfort of the Holy Spirit. How amazing is that! People get ready! ~Hal
All ten of my full length books in printed and ebook format are available for order RIGHT NOW at www.burton.tv/store!
T-SHIRTS ARE COMING VERY SOON AS WELL!
Additionally, a BRAND NEW bundle is available now: eBook Collection Volume 1!
Save over $30 compared to purchasing individually!
John has written countless articles for national publications like Charisma Magazine, and he has compiled some of the most powerful in the eBook Collection Volume 1.
- Contending for Revival in a Culture of Positivity
- Defeating Absalom
- Eight Clear Reasons Revival is Not as Near as it Could Be
- Five Reasons Not to Leave a Church
- Operation Babel
- Orphans No More
- Prophecy Games
- Revival Games
- Shock Christianity
- Sweet Failure
- The Great Love Deception
- The Salvation Equation
- Their Freedom is Your Mission
- Three Dangerous Churches
CHECK OUT OUR REFRESHED WEBSITE AT WWW.BURTON.TV!
ORDER NOW AT WWW.BURTON.TV/STORE!
Are you in one of the groups of Christians that will be quick to renounce Jesus? You might be shocked.
Few can argue that we are experiencing a falling away right now. Many are surrendering wholehearted passion for Jesus for other more immediately satisfying, carnal pursuits. Our culture is growing darker by the day.
However, as great as the falling away is today, it cannot compare to what the Bible calls the apostasy, or the great falling away. This will be a far reaching rebellion against God and an abandonment of truth.
3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (ESV)
The Bible makes it clear that legitimate followers of Jesus will, during a time of great pressure, fall away.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:9-14 (ESV)
I’ve often wondered just how easy it will be to renounce Jesus when the pressure intensifies in the End Times. After all, it’s easy for many to excuse apathy, carnality, prayerlessness and other dangerous spiritual lifestyle choices. The ferocity of Satan will be experienced at levels never before fathomed. I believe it will be the norm, not the exception, for Christians to embrace the Beast.
15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. Revelation 13:15-18 (ESV)
YOUR END TIME THEOLOGY DOESN’T MATTER
Well, actually, end time theology matters a lot. To adopt a position that it’s not important and that it will all just pan out in the end, as I hear so many preachers say, will put you and those you influence into serious eternal jeopardy. I firmly believe churches must regularly teach on eschatology and must facilitate a culture that keeps it at the forefront. The life of the church must be driven by the truth that Jesus is returning and that we must be prepared for our role during that key season.
What I meant by saying your end time theology doesn’t matter is that we will all have equal opportunity to reject Jesus—or to go deeper with greater devotion into his love—regardless of when Jesus returns. While the events of the Tribulation, which I personally believe all Christians will experience, will make it extremely easy to reject God, we will all have the chance to fall into deception, rebellion, carelessness and a carnal lifestyle.
9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Revelation 14:9-11 (ESV)
While I believe we will have a clear, specific opportunity to either take a physical mark or reject it (which will seal our eternal fate), the truth remains that we can align with the Beast now. We can befriend him and adopt his philosophies and his attributes, either overtly or subtly. For most, it’s subtle. They remain convinced they are saved, secure and a follower of Jesus while living in great deception.
GROUPS THAT WILL EASILY RENOUNCE JESUS WHEN THE PRESSURE INTENSIFIES
My wife and I attended a stage production that left my spirit troubled. It was a fictional presentation of events during the Tribulation. A family was living in a prison camp during the reign of the antichrist, doing their best to survive day to day, wondering if they might ever escape, or die at the hands of their enemies.
During one scene, a soldier offered to make a deal with the patriarch of the family. If he signed a decree renouncing Jesus, they could all immediately go free. The soldier then left, giving them time to consider the offer. The father was at the end of himself. He wanted desperately to save his family, and every other attempt had failed. What happened next was grieving.
Sitting at the table with the document and a pen in front of him, he told his family he was going to sign it. He picked up the pen, but his daughter stopped him. She made it clear that it wasn’t worth it to trade his soul for a few more weeks, months or years of life on the earth. Dying was better than eternal damnation. So far so good.
But then, the father, in an important teaching moment in the production said something to the effect of, “Daughter, this is just a piece of paper. It doesn’t matter if I sign it or not. Nothing could ever affect the reality that Jesus lives in my heart and yours.” That’s where the grief hit me. Yes, signing the paper, taking the mark, abandoning truth, taking the easy way out absolutely does affect our eternities.
The Bible directly reveals that those who do so will drink the wine of God’s wrath. (Revelation 14:10)
So, it’s clear there are Christians who believe that their lifestyles and decisions won’t impact their eternities. Here are some groups to consider:
THOSE WHO SUBSCRIBE TO ETERNAL SECURITY
It was obvious to me that the writer of the play that we watched was most probably part of one of the many mainline denominations that affirm the doctrine of eternal security.
I so appreciate what many of the godly men and women in these particular movements bring to the Kingdom. However, this one belief can do deep damage to Christendom, leading millions astray. It will be extremely easy, just as we saw in the End Time production, to wrongly assume that our actions have no impact on our eternal standing. The truth is that we are only safe if we conquer, overcome and endure to the end.
5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5 (ESV)
THOSE WHO AFFIRM FALSE-GRACE DOCTRINE
I’ve written on false-grace dangers often, and won’t add to it here, except to say that the number of people at risk of renouncing Jesus is rapidly increasing due to this movement. If all of our sins are forgiven past, present and future, then taking the mark of the Beast is a non-issue. In fact, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, sexual immorality, unforgiveness and any number of other sins won’t impact our eternity if we believe in God’s grace as taught by these teachers.
The deception is so dangerous as personal action and responsibility are removed entirely from the picture. The truth is that our actions absolutely do impact our eternity.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
THOSE WHO AREN’T ON FIRE FOR JESUS
A raging, burning passion for Jesus is non-negotiable. In fact, it’s crazy that anyone would ever have to broach this topic. We are either on fire for Jesus or we are lukewarm, or possible cold and dead. Period. To endure the End Times, we must have an anointing radiating out of us. We need to be so intimate with Jesus that our love of him could never be sacrificed for temporal relief. Those who refuse to take the mark of the Beast will be radically in love and on fire for Jesus.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)
THOSE WHO DON’T HAVE A LIFESTYLE OF PRAYER
A prayerless Christian is really a confounding concept. An oxymoron. Sadly, most Christians, it seems, are nearly prayerless. In fact, most churches are as well. We must be living, walking and praying in the Spirit, night and day if we hope to survive the coming pressure. You’ll remember Jesus warning his disciples to stay awake and pray so they don’t fall into temptation. Do you know what temptation Jesus was referring to? Rejecting Jesus, as they did when the pressure increased and Jesus was taken away for crucifixion.
41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (ESV)
THOSE WHO DON’T LIVE HOLY LIVES
Christians who excuse away foul language, nudity and other immorality in movies, television and other media are setting themselves up for an eternity separated from Jesus. They are convinced that embracing certain sins won’t have any impact in their lives on earth or their eternities, therefore, taking the mark will be an easy decision for them. Surely God doesn’t really care about this the way some Christians might argue, right? Wrong.
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)
THOSE WHO ARE OFFENDED AND REBELLIOUS TO AUTHORITY
If you are easily offended, especially by those who are in authority, you are setting yourself up for a great fall. The antichrist will be the authority you have been looking for, giving you want you want—for a time. It’s critical to learn now how to love well, how to forgive and how to honor authority that God puts in your life. If you think authorities in your life are unfair now, just wait until the end comes. Jesus will be giving leadership in a way that many will deem unfair. Will you have learned how to submit to unfair authority and how to trust God’s leadership in your life? It’s absolutely mandatory that you do.
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1-2 (ESV)
THOSE WHO ARE NOT CONNECTED IN A LOCAL CHURCH
We will need each other more than ever as the pressure intensifies. The church will certainly look much different during the Tribulation than it does now, but one truth will remain—we will be together.
We must learn how to lock arms and contend together if we hope to survive in the end. The Bible gives us this instruction, especially as the Day draws near.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
There are other groups that are at risk of falling away. Many of them, in fact. There are some obvious ones that I haven’t addressed here such as seeker sensitive churches and those who don’t affirm the gifts of the Spirit. There are some that are not as obvious too. Those who have adopted pre-Trib rapture theology, Preterists and others are at greater risk as well. But, don’t let this become an argument about the timing of end time events. This is about attitudes and decisions and belief systems that impact us at any point on the timeline.
We must be ready. Jesus is coming again soon. That is one point we must simply have to agree on.