A move of God in Jesse, West Virginia has left many wondering—how could any pastor promote seeker sensitive ministry?
This is what revival looks like. Surrendered hearts, Holy Fire, relentless worship. Intercession. Chains broken, healing happening, persistent people who are hungry for more.
Firebrands. Revivalists. Reformers. Revolutionaries.
Pursuing the face of God and His heart.
Different states, different intercessors, all coming together with one voice: a cry for the fire of God and revival to hit this land and shake the world.
May the flames of intercession never go out in Appalachia! ~Sarah
I'm back home in Branson, Missouri after a weekend of indescribable fire. I was somewhere near the middle of nowhere in Jesse, West Virginia, and I'm still trembling in my spirit. The anointing and stirring of the Holy Spirit is radiating through me. The power of God descended in that remarkable mountain revival town and many are testifying that their entire lives have been transformed. They can never go back to life or church as usual!
I experienced a church that actually had the guts to turn the Sunday service into a prayer meeting. I wrote about this in one of my most popular Charisma articles titled “5 Major Changes Coming to the Church.”
Sunday services being transitioned into prayer meetings was one of the major changes I addressed. It happened in West Virginia that morning.
I had the honor of ministering alongside the man, Pastor Jay Morgan, who craves God so deeply, that unbridled, uncontrolled fire on Sunday mornings is his only option. It was an amazing weekend at Appalachia Prayer Center Ministries which also featured Doug Abner, who was instrumental in a mighty move of God in Manchester, Kentucky. Read about that remarkable story in a Charisma News article HERE.
PRAYER-DRIVEN SUNDAY SERVICES
So how can we shift the Sunday service to a prayer-driven event? It's quite simple:
At the church in Jesse, the service started with intense intercession, followed by a couple powerful worship songs. People were dancing, waving banners and blowing shofars. They were ready.
Then, as the musicians played over the people, we moved into decrees and declarations for revival in the Appalachian states. People were at the altar crying out, dancing and groaning in the Spirit. More prophetic intercession for revival filled the atmosphere and then, at least two hours into the service, I brought a powerful and challenging message. I ministered for the next hour and a half. A life-changing altar time followed and then people very slowly and reluctantly started heading home at around 2:30pm. The presence of God in that unhurried Sunday morning service was simply indescribable. When the order of service is eliminated and you just don't care whether people like what's happening or not, God takes over and clocks disappear.
During the God explosion that Sunday morning, I asked the people, “Who would rather have a mix of prophetic worship, prayer, decrees and the freedom to hit your face on the carpet for an hour or two instead of an hour of predictable, karaoke style worship?” They all shouted! Yes!
Pastors, it's not hard to do this…AND it will cause the pretenders to finally leave your church. Those who are resistant to the depths of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural interruption to their comfort zones will leave, and you'll finally be able to advance toward an outpouring in great unity.
Pastor Jay transitioned his church from a seeker sensitive ministry to one that couldn't be more opposite. The spirit of intercession in that place is rare, and I believe it's a model that we need to pay attention to. I was wrecked watching that humble man of God lead the people as he was most definitely under the influence of some glorious new wine. The drunkenness was real and it was holy. He couldn't leave the sanctuary after the first night of the summit, and remained in God's presence there until 6am. When is the last time your pastor was so radically surrendered that he was saturated by God himself, fully drunk in the Holy Spirit? (I'm sure the religious crowd will be triggered by this question. That's okay. We need to provoke the resisters and invite them into the river!)
You can listen to the two messages from the summit in Jesse, West Virginia below, plus a raw podcast I recorded in my hotel room. I must warn you though, if you can't handle an aggressive, offensive message, you should skip them and go find some milk to drink.
SEEKER MINISTRY MUST COME TO AN END
The reason seeker style ministry seems valid to some pastors is simple: they are attempting to introduce people to God the same way they know him. It's a low level, relational, logical and mostly natural connection.
When those leaders have an authentic, supernatural, indescribable, all-consuming encounter with the Holy Spirit, it becomes laughable and fully impossible to ever lead a seeker sensitive church again.
I have proposed many times before, and I am doing so again—shut down the programs, quit focusing on visitor assimilation, give up the idol of church growth and eliminate everything that stands in the way of fervent, strategic and continual intercession. Our churches must become furnaces of Holy Spirit activity, supernatural houses of prayer and unapologetic champions of revival.
This shocking, shaking move of the Holy Spirit should be the norm for us as Believers.
We don't want anything invented, imagined or exaggerated. We are yearning for the weighty manifest presence of God to rock our churches again!
Pastors, it's up to you: do all you can to ensure everyone in your church is baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues! The groans of the Spirit can be silent no longer!
THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD
All you folks who are “super careful” and “discerning” regarding supernatural manifestations like falling out in the Spirit, shaking, etc,… it's clear that some of you aren't being honest.
Just admit that you don't like it. It irritates you when you see it happen. The thought of it happening to you freaks you out. Becoming undignified is not an option. My heart breaks for you.
Further, for those who say it's not God, that it's a demon, that it's another spirit…remember, if we ask for a fish, God won't give us a snake. And, I believe I remember people accusing Jesus of having a demon. I wouldn't want to be those people.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is one sin that puts you beyond the realm of possibility for forgiveness. What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? It's attributing a move of God to a demon. Of course, true Holy Spirit discernment is fully appropriate, but what many call discernment is little more than suspicious accusation in an attempt to control their spiritual experience and to limit others in theirs. Their eternities are at risk because of it.
When God moves powerfully and his undeniable, tangible presence, his anointing, his manifestation, hits you, and you can't stand, you are undone, you are wrecked, you are flowing with love and power, you can barely speak, you are shaking, groaning…would you really suggest that it's a demonic spirit that's behind it?
And, another question…WHO IN THE WORLD WOULDN'T WANT GOD TO ENCOUNTER THEM LIKE THAT? The answer: Only those who have not experienced God at that level or those who disbelieve that a supernatural, invisible God can manifest in people's lives.
God's glory is real! Millions of people have experienced it. Millions more have not. Tragically, many reject it. When asked to describe what it feels like to be overcome by the Holy Spirit, I received many replies. Here are some of them:
I shrunk to the ground on my knees with weeping unable to stand. It was glorious, light and heavy all at the same time. My skin felt like fire but it was beautiful.
It feels like I can’t stop shaking…
I felt like I went into a bubble. I could see but couldn’t really hear or process what all was going on around me. I was speaking in tongues and had never felt so much love in all my life.
It's almost like a cool fire burning right in the center of me.
This weekend, at the APC Summit, I had my first fully immersive experience in the spirit where I was entirely consumed. It kind of felt like sleeping, however from pictures and videos posted from throughout the Summit I was actually worshiping and waving flags. I could hear the Father roaring inside of my head. It was the most amazing experience of my entire existence.
I was just recently baptized in the Holy Spirit and I screamed and cried for an hour. It was one of the most supernatural experiences of my life!
After singing, praising & praying the Lord for a good while, Holy Spirit overwhelmed me. The fiery weight of His presence felt like sustained electric jolt, like touching an electric fence, just without the pain. I had to pull off the road, lay my seat back and allow Him to do His work. His presence felt like it washed over me again and again. I have no idea how long I was there really but was never the same afterwards.
And, I simply had to include the following testimony from Brittany. It's a bit long, but please read through it. It will absolutely rock you and drive you to tears of joy! It's true stories like this that keep me contending for freedom in people's lives! Wow!
The first service Saturday was nothing like I had ever experienced, I danced, sang, waved a flag and ran all over the sanctuary. The most unabandoned worship I had ever done! Then all of a sudden as we are listening to our Pastor become overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit, drunk on the Spirit! We started to laugh, everyone! I mean everyone was laughing!! It was said after crying, being sad and angry for so long that laughter was the best medicine. Guess what? It was! Then we prayed and worshiped. A man named Jonathan came up to me, grabbed my hand and said, “that relationship that wasn’t supposed to happen, you have to let it go.” I had never once seen this man, talked to him, he did not know me and I did not know him!!! He was telling me what God wanted me to know! I crumbled to the floor and began to weep the tears that I had been holding onto for the fact I was so ashamed that I had been in a relationship with a woman.
Saturday night now was yet again another beast all it’s own!!!!! Hearing prophetic words over our state and the state of Kentucky. Listening to women speak of their states and becoming on fire for revival in our area! Then came John Burton. He was the wake up call I needed, yes I've only been going to church for 7 months, yes my past had always been something I held onto, yes I still have so much to learn. But I have learned so much from the short amount of time I listened to him. That’s why I bought the master collection because I want to fully submerge my life in Jesus. That’s why I also took on John’s challenge and the next 30 days will be nothing but worship music and I’m just cutting out TV all together unless it is faith based. Now onto Saturday night, once John was done speaking he asked if there was anyone that hadn’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues. I hadn’t, I went forward and honestly don’t remember too much from it other than screaming and crying for an hour! It was the most intense, supernatural experience of my life! When I finally did semi come to I was so intoxicated with the Holy Spirit that I could barely walk, I felt weightless and when I began to think about my life before that moment it’s like it’s a blur. Like it really didn’t happen, no anger, no sadness, NO pain!!!! I can think coherent thoughts and I’m so excited to tell my testimony so I can help others went through similar things and know that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel I was living in!
Sunday morning comes, we pray, we worship, we lay on our faces, we dance, we kneel, we intercede, we pray for each other. We listened to yet another word from John and then we prayed, we worshiped, we lay on our faces, we dance, we kneel, we intercede, we pray for each other!! You could tell that no one in the room wanted it to end. We had just spent the most amazing 4 days together in the presence of the Lord!!! Of course no one wanted it to end!
I figured up roughly 35 hours of worship, pray, given words, and interceding for me!!! It was the most exhausting, exciting, life changing, life altering event of my life! I couldn’t speak or barely move after it was over but if I had been told I could have 4 more days I would have jumped right in!!!! There was also so much more, so much more happen. I wish everyone could experience this!
But now that it is over we had to go back to “normal” life right?! NO!!! These past 2 days I have been just as on fire as it was this past weekend, we are forever changed! We are Firebrands! And guess what?!
The Summit NEVER ends for Firebrands!!! ~Brittany
As we have a resounding “yes” in our spirits, as Brittany and so many others do, for anything and everything that God wants to do in and through us, we will be eager participants in the pursuit of revival. God's glory will overwhelm us. The above testimonies cannot be refuted.
The supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit will displace a tepid, natural church experience. Ichabod will be replaced by kabod. Freedom will reign. Fire will rage. Intercession will pierce atmospheres. Holiness will become a cherished gift.
With holiness in mind, I delivered a challenge during a powerful time of ministry at the altar this weekend in West Virginia:
- Listen to no music but anointed worship music for the next 30 days.
- Watch no media with foul language, coarse jesting, sexual jokes, nudity, etc for the next 30 days.
I believe a commitment to holiness like that can launch revival. Many would argue that such a commitment should be obvious for any lover of Jesus, however it's extremely common for professing Christians to fill their lives with sitcoms, movies, YouTube videos, music and other media that is defiling, and they wonder why they aren't experiencing the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit.
NO MORE CHURCH GAMES
I burn with a critical message in this end time season. There is no more time for church games. There is a desperate need for awakening and activation, and I desire to be a part of that. However, I have no desire to leave my family and travel to various churches if those churches aren't ready for the deposit I'm called to leave. I'm done with nice Sunday services where the people resist the depths, are reluctant to contend and they are more interested in getting out on time than allowing the Holy Spirit to brood over them. I'm done.
I address this awakening in my books, specifically The Coming Church. I encourage you to grab it. Even better, The Master Collection gets you all of my books, several eBooks, over 100 audio teachings and more. Get equipped in fire!
I’m so glad I bought the whole collection of John Burton's books and audio recordings!!! They are blowing my mind! ~Brittany
Pastors, train your people to groan in the Spirit. Turn Sundays into prayer meetings. Blaze the trail toward revival. A quick, shallow, predictable sermon just won't cut it. A little worship and a nice prayer is laughable. Cultivate services where people never want to leave! Where are the revivalists? The intercessors?
I'm done with church as usual. I have no desire to minister in dead churches, unless they are ready for awakening. So, yes, I'll go where God says go. I'm thankful beyond words that a door opened to link arms with fiery zealots in West Virginia. “Normal church” is over and I have no desire to come to your region to preach if you are still trying to prop up an old wine skin.
Where is my tribe? Where are the burning ones? I'm ready to find those pillars of revival fire and contend together for an outpouring. If you are hungry for this, get ready. God is about to blow up your church. If you'd like, book me and I'll serve your church with passion.
Preaching to the saints? You need to understand that many of them are not safe—if they are saved at all.
“Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:25 (ESV)
The call of church leadership is not to confirm someone's salvation, but rather to challenge it. We need the fear and trembling to reverberate through our spirits night and day that only wrestling with our salvation can produce.
Jonathan Edwards brought his bold, fearful message to the church, to the saints:
The wrath of God burns against them; their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared; the fire is made ready; the furnace is now hot; ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth under them.
The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. ~Jonathan Edwards
I understand that many who read this will wholeheartedly disagree with my conclusions. They are either adherents of eternal security doctrine or some form of unstable, unbiblical or fully false-grace ideologies. Instead of tossing this article aside or attacking the viewpoint, I challenge you to humbly, soberly take it in and ask God to impact you, to shake you regarding this very serious topic.
As you might have guessed I believe that it's not only possible to surrender one's position in Christ, but I'm convinced it's common. Entire churches, many of them “Spirit-filled,” are fully lost while others are filled with people who have never had their relationship with Jesus challenged, and are as lost as the wicked of the world—yet they don't know it.
It's from this position that I am shining the light on possibly the greatest epidemic regarding the issue of salvation in the construct of the church today. Pastors commonly presume those who are faithful attenders, givers and friends in their churches to be saved. It's a given. It's obvious. It's settled. If they are raising their hands, dancing at the alters, serving in ministry, leading small groups or involving themselves in other activities, then, of course, they are true followers of Jesus, right? Not always. In fact, the salvation journey is one of endurance, and it's extremely easy to pull back, to slip up, to become casual or to lose faith.
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. Matthew 24:12-13 (ESV)
Many in the church are simply not saved. They are following Jesus in an unsaved condition, all while the pastor is sharing messages on how to be successful in Christ, how to prosper, how much Jesus loves them and the benefits of the Kingdom—a kingdom they are not a part of.
Where are the gut-wrenching holiness messages? What happened to assaulting sin and compromise from the pulpit? Where is the weighty presence of the Holy Spirit that results in tearful repentance and an eager rejection of wickedness?
Pastors, do you realize that a large portion of your church is very possibly involved in pornography on a regular basis? Lust drives them. Many others are absolutely okay with filling their lives with movies, television and other media that is filled with filth. F-bombs, nudity and absolute evil is consumed day after day without the slightest conviction of the Holy Spirit. This puts their salvation at risk. To presume they are safe and destined for Heaven is to be blinded and duped. It's utter foolishness.
You've made it easy for them to fit right in on Sunday mornings, after a night of debauchery, to sing songs of worship and to blend right into the fellowship. You've convinced them that all is well and Heaven is their home, when the reality is that, absent legitimate repentance, they will be tormented in Hell forever.
I'm talking about elders and worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, ushers, children's ministry workers and faithful attenders. Many of these people are entertaining themselves with evil, fully devoid of discernment and convinced that God is unconcerned about their lifestyles.
ONE: Preach Hellfire and Holiness
“The Christian world is in a dead sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.” ~George Whitefield
It's nonsensical to teach the joys and blessings of the Kingdom to people who are foreigners, who are not truly adopted sons and daughters of the King. We have “Rich Young Rulers” filling our pews, except instead of alerting them to their unsaved condition, they are confirmed as legitimate followers of Jesus.
Those who are perverse, sleeping, unconcerned and driven by their flesh must have a shock come to their system! The fire from Heaven must consume them, but it's rare for a pastor to release that fire from the pulpit today. It's too risky. It's too costly.
Their eternal blood will be on the pastor's hands due to the failure to bring their rebellion and apathy to light. We need bold, confrontational messages today that strike us, break us and sear our flesh.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 (NKJV)
After a sermon in Lyme, Connecticut, “many had their countenances changed; their thoughts seemed to trouble them, so that the joints of their loins were loosed, and their knees smote one against another. Great numbers cried out aloud in the anguish of their souls. Several stout men fell as though a cannon had been discharged, and a ball had made its way through their hearts.” (http://www1.cbn.com/spirituallife/a-great-awakening-stirs-the-colonies)
TWO: Cultivate an Atmosphere of Holy Spirit Fire
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (ESV)
Every meeting should be driven by the raging fire of the Holy Spirit. Cultivating a culture where bold, deep groans of intercession and praying in tongues is normal will have a clear result: those who are uncomfortable with an encounter with a very Holy Spirit will either repent or run.
I have often counseled pastors to bring this type of focus to their staff and leadership. Gather them to pray in tongues together for an hour a day and watch what happens. Staff members who are not on board with the vision, who are manipulative, who are functioning in Christian witchcraft and those who are gossips or resisters will be identified very quickly. When the Holy Spirit is present in such a deliberate and powerful way, impurities will be exposed. I also propose this type of environment be nurtured for the entire church body.
I heard in a message at church this morning that in the Assemblies of God, a historic movement that was shaped by revival and Pentecost, only 22% of people in their churches today have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. How can this be?
Without this baptism of fire, oh my, the hope of living holy, obedient and fiery lives for Jesus is greatly and negatively impacted.
They are unable to build themselves up in the faith:
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude 1:20 (NKJV)
They are unable to pray the mysteries of God:
2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2 (ESV)
They are unable to overcome their limited understanding when praying:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 (ESV)
Those who don't live, walk and pray in the Spirit are disadvantaged significantly. This is why it's crucial for all Believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to pray and groan in tongues daily! Doing so develops intimacy with Jesus. The prophetic in our lives intensifies. So do dreams and visions. Many will receive other gifts such as words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, faith and more. And, most definitely, when the Holy Spirit is moving, the unholy won't be able to remain.
THREE: Revise How You Lead and What You Teach
The issue of salvation should be front and center week after week in the church. I'm not talking about simply giving the lost an opportunity to get saved. I'm referring to the sobering responsibility to lead the saints toward a successful transition into eternity.
Never presume someone is saved. Never confirm to them that they are. In fact, I never presume myself to be safe. It infuriates some that I would ever suggest that I or they may not retain our salvation. The great falling away will be very great. Enduring to the end is an intense and challenging call. Working out our salvation is a fearful thing.
Teach on holiness. Call people into obedience to the Word. Refute unbiblical grace theologies. Target the spirit of the age that has infiltrated so many in our churches. Expose the darkness of the media and entertainment that is being devoured by professing Christians without any concern whatsoever.
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)
29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:29-31 (ESV)
FOUR: Embrace Biblical Church Discipline
When is the last time you heard about someone being barred from the church for violations of Scripture that demand such action?
Failure to be faithful to the scriptural mandate to enact church discipline has resulted in compromised churches and a generation of people who are absolutely convinced they are saved, all while they are moving closer and closer to the fires of Hell.
Today unmarried men and women are living together, and they head to church together, hand in hand, each week, greeted by hugs and smiles. People who are consuming porn on Saturday are leading ministries on Sunday.
God is clear. We must purge those from among us who are sexually immoral, greedy or idolaters. We can't even eat with them.
In fact, turning them over to Satan is God's prescription in certain situations.
4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 1 Corinthians 5:4-6 (ESV)
We have entire churches that have been compromised because they are refusing to follow biblical church discipline protocols. This is extremely serious.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)
In fact, it's not only sexual immorality or drunkenness or greed that we need to deal with. Check this out:
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (ESV)
Those who are idle, lazy, not being productive as God has called them to be should be avoided as well. Why did I include this last verse? Well, first because it's in the Word. Second because I wanted to highlight just how serious God is about obedience and how we should respond to those who are in rebellion. Again, it's very serious.
Of course, when they are ready to repent, we run to them with open arms and welcome them back home!
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (ESV)
So much focus is put on evangelism and people getting saved, while so little is put on staying saved. Failure in consecration and sanctification absolutely can impact justification.
Pastors, it's time to bring this issue front and center, and leave it there. Many under your care are in trouble. They are dying or dead spiritually and you haven't even noticed. That may be because your church culture is dead and they simply don't stand out. Or, it may be that your theology is off and that you believe salvation is easy and permanent. False-grace may have infected your ministry. You may have failed in the call to preach on the holiness of God. Hell and eternity may not be focuses as they should be.
I implore you to allow God to wreck you. Ask him to put the people in the church on your heart and intercede for them. Confront them. Challenge them. Awaken them. Eternity draws near.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘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, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 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. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV)
The church has been duped by a wicked and crafty culture.
The world is boldly and unapologetically preaching it's version of truth to the church, demanding compliance, and it has successfully caused change in theologies, church mission statements and a large segment of the body of Christ. In fact, the spirit of the age is working hard at redefining love in the minds of many Christians. Anything short of tolerance and everything smelling of judgment are branded as pure and utter hatred. Again, Christians by the millions are falling for the deception and the fiery unction of the Holy Spirit has been shut down in their lives.
I'll make the point of this article clear:
God still judges today and we desperately need his loving judgment. We also need preachers, prophets and Christians everywhere to rise up with fire in their veins and a steel rod in their backs and confront sin, renounce wickedness and expose the darkness in the land.
WE NEED JUDGMENT IN AMERICA TODAY
I've written on this topic before, yet it seems the church is slipping further and deeper into the tainted theology the world is promoting today. The no judgment zone is expanding and anybody who violates it is immediately renounced.
Can you imagine parenting without any form of judgment? It's ridiculous to consider. Can you imagine a workplace without any repercussions for violating company rules? How about a government with no judges and no judgments? It would result in anarchy and absolute disinterest in justice as the thugs run free. On the contrary, we celebrate justice and are thankful when rapists, killers, shoplifters and reckless drivers must stand before a judge and be held accountable for their crimes. Yet, many in the church are tragically renouncing justice (judgment) in the context of our modern Christian experience.
We can trust God's judgment. We need him to make wrong things right. Our nation is spiraling out of control. We must not take his demands lightly, and the fear of the Lord must strike the church and our nation again.
I wrote an article titled, “Revival or Judgment: Is God About To Move Positively Or Negatively?” for Charisma Magazine several years ago. Check this out:
“Then the trees of the forest will ring out before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever” (1 Chr. 16:33-34).
We should be singing for joy regarding His judgment!
Let me make something clear right up front—judgment isn't the result of an evil God doing evil things. Judgment is a vehicle used by a loving God to positively impact those who will respond (though the impact will certainly be negative for the rebellious). Judgment is an act of deep love. It has to be, as God is love just as He is the Judge. He doesn't lay down love when He moves in judgment and He doesn't forsake justice when He pours out His love.
We as end-time Christians should be ardent supporters of God's judgment, of His act of love.
Many who have a distorted view of biblical grace have adopted an unbiblical “God is always in a good mood” mindset, diminishing him to a passive, disconnected and nonchalant personal buddy instead of a good yet fearful Master. They have created a mythical image of a god that is more appealing and less severe than the Lord truly is.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18 (ESV)
If you continue reading in Romans chapter one, you will see God's judgment in action:
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:28 (ESV)
If that isn't judgment in the New Covenant, I don't know what is. What follows reveals God's severity against sin as well.
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 (ESV)
AN EASILY OFFENDED PEOPLE ARE MUZZLING THE PREACHERS AND PROPHETS
Today's society has gone mad. It takes little more than a sideways glance to trigger people and send them crying and accusing and attacking. The #nojudgment hashtag is a warning to all who engage with today's social media posts to step cautiously in conversation and to avoid sharing personal and biblical convictions. They'd rather remain imprisoned to their passions than be confronted with truth.
It's time for the preachers to preach again! We must rip into the vile behaviors and paradigms that are destroying our nation and infecting the church. Today's Christians have become so timid in response to the demonic indoctrination of the world that they refuse to stand boldly against sin out of fear of being branded as haters, judgmental or religious. They have become psychologists and sociologists instead of piercing mouthpieces of God, attempting to soften their delivery from a place of overreaching sympathy instead of simply preaching truth and calling sin what it is—sin.
I want to encourage you to follow The Activist Mommy. She is fearlessly, humbly and powerfully standing against the putrid wickedness in our nation. When our preachers go silent, thank God we have “mommies” like Elizabeth Johnston who will rise up with conviction, passion and anointing. What God has judged as good and evil is clearly being revealed through this woman of God.
We need to understand that God is still a righteous judge, and it's our job as Christians to reveal this reality to the world. We absolutely need hellfire preachers again! His wrath remains on the lost, and they are in grave danger, yet we have been muzzled, paralyzed, unable to speak, disallowed from pointing this truth out to them. We are haters if we do.
Yes, we need hell fire preaching in the church again.
It's also true that God is longsuffering, but only He knows how long his suffering will be. The full force of his wrath will be released one day, and many lesser though terrible judgments will come before that happens. ~Is It Time For Hellfire Preaching Again, John Burton
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36 (ESV)
Ephesians 2:3 also clearly communicates that the lost are children of wrath. God's wrath remains on the lost. His judgment remains on both the lost and the saints.
When we see culture diving deeper into wickedness, we must understand this is God's judgment in action. In Romans we see God giving people up to the lusts of their flesh. He gave them up to dishonorable passions. He ultimately gave them up to a debased mind. This is judgment.
Further, God's judgment isn't restricted to the world. It actually begins in the church. While true Christians (who are much fewer in number than professing Christians) are not under God's wrath, we are all subject to his judgment. The two are not one in the same.
We must have burning prophets arise who will fearlessly call out professing Christians who are dabbling casually in sin. It is wisdom to embrace God's judgment. It's foolishness to minimize it, or worse, to reject it as no longer in effect.
Today, a large percentage of professing Christians (and pastors) regularly view pornography (per a Barna report). The statistics are astounding. Many more watch movies and television with inappropriate language, sexual innuendos, nudity and other debauchery without even the slightest concern. This is not a sick and twisted world I'm referring to, it's a sick and twisted church, and the preachers have gone silent. These people are at risk of judgment, and they must be warned.
I'll never forget the time a pastor told me that foul language doesn't bother him. F-bombs and other filth are no big deal to him. I felt sick and angered, and I wondered just when it became more important to consider what's a big deal to him instead of what's a big deal to God. We must see God's judgment come to the church, and fast.
We need preachers to reveal clearly what the Word of God judges as holy and unholy, as truth and error. Those who practice sin are in serious trouble as the judgment of God hangs over them. Without a preacher, how will they hear, and respond, and repent?
2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.
3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:2-4 (ESV)
Everywhere I go I hear people desperately crying out for the end of church as we know it. They can't deny that the Spirit of God is creating a disturbance, a dissatisfaction and a yearning for brand new wine.
Pastors, please hear me. The Spirit-driven remnant that God is uniquely awakening to an end-time role will not be able to function in anything less than a raging furnace of intercession and extreme Holy Spirit activity in the church. No longer can you silence the zealots or smirk at the eccentric. These are your emerging end-time warriors.
I have people write me from all around the world, pleading for assistance in finding this type of church where they live. They have been aggressively searching for vibrant churches marked by supernatural revelation. Church as usual doesn't only disappoint them, it deeply disturbs them.
MARKS OF REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
Pastors will be given to insane amounts of prayer throughout the week, and they will be supernaturally alert night and day. The result will be leadership that's marked by the incense of the Holy Spirit. Every decision, every service and every message will be branded by the active, Rhema revelation of the Spirit of God.
Dreams and visions will be normal among the church staff and members alike. The entire culture of the church will be driven by this critical communication of God.
Fueled by Intercession
The only way to develop and sustain an revelation driven church is to first develop and sustain a furnace of intercession. A large portion of the teaching must be devoted to supernatural, prophetic prayer. People tend to blank out when they are presented with the call to prayer, and the way to meet that reaction is by teaching continually on prayer.
People need to understand how to pray, why to pray, how to yield to the Holy Spirit, how to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the power of praying in tongues, how to steward prophetic revelation, how to pray the Scriptures, how to develop intimacy with Jesus, governing with authority and much, much more.
Then, a culture of raging, expressive, authoritative night and day prayer must overtake the whole of the church. People who don't pray as a primary call must be challenged and given continual opportunities to jump on board and legislate in the Spirit as God has called them to. A governmental body like this will wield great weapons against the spirit of the age and will walk in extremely powerful authority.
Understand, this culture must flow from the primary Sunday service. There is absolutely no way to develop a culture of prayer if it's relegated to off nights in a side room. It's time for hours of prophetic prayer to flood the Sunday morning sanctuaries week after week. Those who aren't interested in such a relationship with Jesus will leave—and your remnant will be revealed.
Unpredictable and Spontaneous
The days of predictable, scheduled, ordered church services must come to an end. We have become so enamored with human order in the church that Holy Spirit, biblical order is completely rejected.
When the primary service becomes a prayer meeting, with other expressions following, you simply cannot maintain an order of service. Any attempt to do so is laughable.
Revelation driven church services will commence with a roar of supernatural intercession as anointed, prayer-fueled musicians and singers play and sing over the people. It won't be unusual for this to last for an hour or two—or more. It will be common to turn the screens that display the lyrics off, as the people shift to mostly praying and singing in the Spirit. The Christian karaoke will come to an end.
From this furnace of worship and intercession, leadership will release oracles and give prophetic messages that will be right in step with what the Holy Spirit is doing in that moment. There will be a Holy Spirit orchestrated “dance” where prayer, worship, decrees, declarations, instruction, healing, deliverance and prophetic revelation will fill the room.
It will be impossible for any human to keep up, or to give any leadership whatsoever, if they aren't wildly devoted to holiness and a life of never-ending intercession. They won't be able to discern or keep up with what God is doing in the room, and they will attempt to grab the reigns and to do what is naturally familiar to them, quenching the Holy Spirit in the process.
I believe many would admit there is a deep grieving in their spirits when churches become focused and driven to grow the church numerically. Understand, numeric growth, when done rightly, can be healthy. We see in Scripture that God added to the church daily. However, the compromise that has overtaken the church in order to see this type of growth is truly grieving.
Instead of locking in on the growth of their local church, pastors and leaders who are embracing the revelation driven church model will be mostly interested in what God is doing regionally and nationally.
Their passion will be to see the church of the city become marked by the Spirit of God and for the new wine of the Holy Spirit to be poured out. They won't care one bit if the outpouring happens in another local church in the city. They will lead the people under their care out from their local expression of the city church right into the place where the pillar of fire and the cloud of God's glory have manifested.
Further, their energies will be devoted to confronting the national crisis and in standing as a governmental authority. They will train the people and equip for battle against the deadly, raging spirit of the age that's destroying our nation.
If their local church grows or shrinks numerically, their gaze and their assignment will not change. They are locked in, obediently advancing the cause of revival in their city and in the nation.
Everyone will be governing and impacting the atmosphere through Spirit-fueled prayer. Rapid-fire prayer is one great way to facilitate this, giving everybody a chance to release decrees and declarations in a meeting. Invite them up to pray with passion on the microphone for ten to twenty seconds.
As the service continues, include additional rapid-fire prayer sessions and provide a way for people to share prophetic revelation in the meeting. White boards can line the walls, giving people a place to write down prophetic words, to share dreams and visions or to draw prophetic art that God has impressed upon them.
Pastors, don't try to “find jobs” for everybody, hoping that keeping them busy and engaged is the answer to keeping them interested in the church. That's honestly a bit condescending. While everybody isn't ready for leadership in the church, most everyone should be given opportunities to pray, prophesy and release declarations of Scripture. We've muzzled people for too long.
When you successfully steward a deeply prophetic culture in the church, God will be talking—a lot. This prophetic data must be rightly responded to. Prophetic assignments will emerge and the intercessors will have a non-stop job to keep them covered.
You will find yourself heading out on prayer walks, making decrees over your city, researching the spiritual history of the land, engaging in high level spiritual warfare, starting prayer movements, challenging systems, developing strategies and journaling it all.
You will see the body dynamically moving from season to season, assignment to assignment. Everybody will have a part to play as you advance as a unified army into the darkness and toward revival. You will regularly be uniting with other pastors and leaders in the region as you'll quickly discover you only have a part of the bigger picture. The city church will awaken to it's comprehensive assignment.
Church services are not to be seeker sensitive. The days of focusing on drawing the lost in as a primary goal are coming to an end. The New Testament church is a movement of Believers who are praying continually and governing with great authority in the region.
Of course, the lost can and will come in, but the focus of the meeting will not change. The extreme activity of the Holy Spirit will be maintained and those who decide to say yes to Jesus will meet him in a way that could never be done in a dry, dusty, seeker environment.
These Believer's meetings will be white-hot, supernatural and other-worldly. The roar of intercession, the groans, the cries and the military-level strategic advance will produce saints who are ready and equipped for battle.
Focused on Spiritual Growth
The goal is obedience, impact and responding rightly to the instructions of the Holy Spirit, not numeric growth. As I said previously, growth can and will happen, but it's not an automatic indicator of health or success. I propose many churches must be pruned as they develop into a revelation driven church.
It's a rare person who will sign up to be part of this new wine, revelation driven church, so small numbers should be expected. The goal is to go deep and grow spiritually. The challenge of such a church will be rejected by many. The compromise of yesterday to get them into the seats must come to an end. Invite them to leave if they aren't interested in going deep and locking arms with the rest of the well-diggers.
Deep, Challenging Teaching
Teaching will be doused by revelation, and the tired Sunday-school lessons of old will finally come to an end. You can tell when a preacher has been pierced with the message they are preaching—and when they are merely regurgitating information.
The messages of Heaven will originate in the culture of fiery prayer and will absolutely rock everyone who hears them. Many will reject such an anointing as it demands a costly response, but those who respond will become sharp, full of fire and a mighty weapon in the hands of God.
RISKS OF REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
The Shallow Will Revolt
When you transition your church into the deep realm of the prophetic, those who have been comfortable and who wish to remain that way will resist. You have to be ready for this. Accusations will fly as their flesh feels the fire of your devotion.
An Absalom spirit will very possibly emerge from within the ranks, and the battle will be fierce. You may be accused of promoting elitism, being religious or being careless. Are you ready for the fight against a very focused enemy? Love people deeply but don't entertain the dark strategies of Satan. Those who are shallow have been conditioned by the enemy of their souls, and the risk of the devil losing them to a life of radical surrender is one that won't be taken lightly.
Many (most) programs, ministries and focuses of old will be let go in favor of prayer and the prophetic strategies God assigns. Those who have found their identity in those programs may become angry, disillusioned and disruptive as you prune what they hold dear.
You have to understand that most people have an aversion to vibrant, Spirit-filled prayer, and since you are taking your church into that exclusive, focused direction, these people will fight against the move.
You better get ready. As I mentioned, Absalom is ready to move skillfully through some of your most devoted members. I'd encourage you to read my articles on how to deal with that crafty spirit HERE and HERE.
Of course, there are many other ways the enemy will initiate an assault against you and your church as you become tuned into the Spirit of God as a prophetic people. Ignoring him won't work. You must be alert, discerning, skilled and ready to respond. If you aren't prayed up and if you don't walk in strong governmental, apostolic authority, you will most definitely struggle.
It's important to develop a trusted intercession team to surround you as the leader and also to identify governmental strengths in others on the team. You will all need to fight together in great unity.
Other Pastors Will be Provoked
A supernaturally vibrant body will absolutely threaten other pastors in the region. I could tell you several sad (and repulsive) stories of other pastors who were incredibly reactive to ministries that are apostolic and devoted to the prophetic and prayer.
You need to love and bless these men and women of God even if they don't support you, and even if they resist you. God will use them to test your heart. God will also link you up with others in the city who are on board with a fresh prophetic advance.
You cannot go it alone. Pastors who aren't actively involved with other leaders in the city in an ongoing fashion should cause some red flags to fly.
You Will be Misunderstood and Resisted
Anybody who goes against the stream, who cuts against the grain and who calls out dead, tired systems will be marked as a troublemaker. Troublers of Israel.
You must learn to love deeply or you will be taken out by bitterness.
THE CRITICAL NEED FOR REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
New Wine Skin
The old wine skin must be put away. It simply cannot contain the new wine that the Holy Spirit is pouring out. This revival Spirit will offend many and awaken many others. The current system isn't designed to facilitate what God is wanting to introduce.
Boring, Predictable, Powerless Church
The predictable church model that we are all too familiar with today simply has to come to an end. They must be replaced by prayer meetings and governmental, apostolic focus.
God Needs to Reveal His Plans
I have often wondered how in the world any pastor or leader can lead a church without an intense, continual, comprehensive and saturating prophetic culture. How do you know what to teach? How can you address the plans of a crafty, invisible enemy? How can the people hear God's voice? It's nonsensical. The new wine, revelation driven church must have its ear to the mouth and heart of God so it can respond moment-by-moment to his directives.
A Highly Trained Army is Needed
Every person in the church must have a never-ending tremble in their spirit as they live night and day in the place of intercession. The Spirit of God will train the church in the place of prayer and prophetic instruction. This army will know how to hear God's voice, how to change culture, how to move in authority and how to respond in unity.
Culture is not Effectively Challenged
It's disgusting how the church has failed to confront the spirit of the age today. Homosexuality has become not only normalized but legalized while people of faith are now at risk of being imprisoned for standing in opposition if certain legislation passes in our nation. Where is the church? Where are those who are highly skilled and who know how to hear God's supernatural instructions on how to advance?
The church in its current state absolutely cannot fight this invisible war.
The Harvest Will Have No Patience for Church as Usual
The lost clearly have no desire to integrate into the current church system. The found don't want to integrate either. Both are looking for a church on fire, a power-center in the region.
Eunice, a Facebook friend, said this after reading my introduction to this article:
Oh my Lord John Burton have you ever hit the nail on the head. We ARE waiting. We are homeless. We search to no avail. God is opening our voices with a tremendous end time roar. We need this desperately. We feel lost and so out of place.
It's time for revelation driven churches to emerge and for the old wine skins to be folded up and put away. The lost and saints alike are longing for a burning, vibrant, Spirit-driven experience that will shock the nations and call down the fires of revival.
Either the extreme activity of the Holy Spirit is critical to every Christian, or it is not.
I've resisted writing this article for a long time, as there doesn't seem to be a way around causing a schism, or at least provoking people to pick a side. Then again, maybe this is just what we need—an honest evaluation of the value and purpose of allowing the Holy Spirit to be fully free in our lives and in our churches.
Is the movement of the Holy Spirit vital to our success as Christians? Or, can we choose to tone down the manifestations due to personal discomfort or outright disagreement over how appropriate it is?
One of the reasons writing this article is such a struggle is because of how many truly amazing, godly and humble men and women of God there are who don't affirm the gifts of the Spirit. Additionally, there are many others who affirm the gifts and activity of the Holy Spirit, but don't emphasize them or give room for them in the church. In fact there are many “Spirit-filled” churches today that are sadly restrictive of the Holy Spirit. Yet, I've met so many of these pastors and leaders, and they are remarkable people.
I'm continually humbled by people like this who are lovers of God, faithful givers, students of the Word, brilliant leaders in the church and who possess truly tender hearts toward people. You won't find any praying in tongues, deliverance of demons, mention of dreams and visions or supernatural manifestations in their ministry. However, they are feeding the poor, visiting prisoners, giving to the needy, standing for righteousness, preaching with conviction and loving those God brings across their path.
There are those who would argue that people who discount or minimize the gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit are not saved at all. While I personally feel this is a serious issue, I could never jump to such an extreme conclusion. However…
BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS CRITICAL FOR ALL
I must admit my spirit is grieved terribly when Christians attempt to shut the Holy Spirit and his workings away.
I recently heard someone raise the question as to why the activity of the Holy Spirit is even necessary today. He argued that if we focus on the basics, on salvation and preaching the Gospel, that is more than sufficient. He wondered out loud, “Just what else is necessary?”
He felt the outward expressions, the loud groans of intercession, tongues, deliverance of demons, and other manifestations were hindrances to the advance of the Gospel. I do understand why he has arrived at his position. There are too many people acting out in bizarre, emotional and strangely spiritual manners while excusing it away as the activity of the Holy Spirit. While I fully embrace the truth that it will become supernaturally intense and even quite messy when God invades a people and a church in great power, too often overly zealous people are getting a little nutty when the power really isn't there. Their passion can get the best of them and, for better or worse, it turns a lot of people away from such theatrics.
With all of this in mind, I must clearly reveal the core of my heart and my position on this matter:
Those who dismiss, reject, minimize or tone down the gifts and activity of the Holy Spirit due to discomfort or theological position are at great risk of rejecting God himself—and encouraging others to do the same.
Yes, the baptism in the Holy Spirit which results in a remarkable life of power, praying in unknown tongues, experiencing the supernatural realm and living a prophetic life is critical, not simply optional, for all.
WHY IS THE HOLY SPIRIT SO IMPORTANT?
No, preaching the Gospel and winning the lost isn't all that we are called to do as Christians. Not even close. However, it's easy to argue that the very act of preaching the Gospel and leading the lost to Jesus can't be done with any real effectiveness, anointing or power without the very direct and active influence of the Holy Spirit.
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Acts 16:6
Only the Holy Spirit knows when, where, how and to whom we should be preaching the Gospel. Of course, we should default to preaching and ministering everywhere we go—unless the Holy Spirit tells us not to.
If we are not tuned in to the clear and present words of God, we will not be able to discern his will on anything, including our ministry strategy.
Further, we know that praying in tongues edifies us, and the Bible teaches clearly that this gift is available for all. While some of the different gifts of tongues (tongues and interpretation, for example) are reserved for select people, as is true for most spiritual gifts, the prayer language of tongues is a critically important gift for every Christian. We all need the edification that only the Holy Spirit can bring, and his chosen vehicle for that edification is praying in tongues. There is no substitute. No tongues, no edification. That is a recipe for disaster.
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 1 Corinthians 14:4
Also, the Holy Spirit enables us to prophesy. We can hear God's voice, receive prophetic revelation, have dreams and visions and discern spiritually as the Holy Spirit moves in and through us.
Those who are not baptized in the Holy Spirit may occasionally receive rare and unusual revelation from the Holy Spirit, but such an important part of the Christian life is not supposed to be rare and unusual. Our lives should be filled with never-ending revelation from God. This is part of the wonder of the Spirit-filled life!
From my Charisma News article, Should the Church Get Scary?
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 like-minded 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.
If you eliminate the activity of the Holy Spirit, you remove the navigator from your life. You fly blind without any unction in the depths of your spirit, without the supernatural stirring and unmistakable glory and presence of God radiating within.
Words of knowledge, words of wisdom, discerning of spirits, prophecy, power to do miracles, gifts of healing and other Holy Spirit endued abilities would disappear.
I often wonder how any Christian could ever attempt to live their lives much less lead a ministry, preach, write books, lead worship or do pretty much anything else without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, without tongues, without a prophetic spirit and without supernatural gifts.
Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, evangelism, preaching, teaching and every other form of ministry reproduces not the electric, supernatural life of the Spirit, but, rather a simplistic, humanly understandable depiction of God. I'm not saying it's impossible to lead someone to Jesus or to teach the truth of Scripture if you aren't baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the efforts become more difficult at best and compromised at worst. If you aren't filled with power, just what are you imparting to them?
Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit and embracing the extreme activity of the Holy Spirit, and while attempting to subdue intense supernatural manifestations, deliverance won't happen, people will remain demonized, instantaneous healing will be rare, church services will be dead and naturally orchestrated, faith will be manufactured instead of imparted, prophecy will cease and power will fizzle out.
LIVING AN IMPOSSIBLE LIFE
I could write a book, no, many books, on this topic. This article is woefully incomplete, but I wanted to at least stir the waters and initiate some conversation.
We are called to live wildly supernatural lives. The experiences and mandates God has for us are fully impossible without moving in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The revelation that God has given me and my family over the years is so absolutely remarkable and other-worldly that I would be an entirely different person today if it had not come. The miracles and wonders that God has performed have marked us and moved us in directions that would have been impossible without the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Yes, I'll say it loudly: The Holy Spirit is that important as are his gifts, revelation and power.
Strange, unnecessary practices in the church are hindering the advance of the Kingdom.
I'll admit, there are many who will read this article and disagree with me on one or all of the points. That's par for the course no matter what topic I address, but I need to make it clear up front that what follows is an opinion piece—yet, I believe it's a valid opinion and one that many in the church world would agree with. I feel it's important to introduce the topic of this article so we can honestly analyze unnecessary cultural additives to the church that are making the mission more challenging.
I personally believe it best to de-clutter our church structures. Eliminating much of what makes up the construct of the local church would do wonders. I know many are yearning for a church experience that brings focus back to its foundational, governmental purpose—prayer. Check this out from a previous Ministry Today Magazine article:
I'm on the hunt for what I call Pavement People. These are the 2 Chronicles 7 people who couldn't even enter the building due to the glory of God filling it—so they hit the pavement and worshipped. No comfortable chairs, no music, nothing but them, the pavement and God.
Oh how glorious it would be to turn our Sunday morning church experience into a white-hot furnace of prayer! Clear out the chairs, pace around the perimeter or lay face-down and contend as the groans of Spirit-fueled intercession resound!
Good graphic artists and web designers understand the importance of white space. They add art, graphics, text and other elements only as is absolutely necessary, ensuring that there is a significant amount of white space—blank space—absolutely nothing added to a large portion of the art board. It's just empty. It gives room to breathe. You can focus on what is most important. We need white space in the church. Eliminate everything but the most important things.
This being said, there are some unnecessary and often times compromising practices that are taking up precious white space, and it's making the mission of the church tougher than it should be.
WHAT NEEDS TO COME TO AN END IN THE CHURCH?
I absolutely believe in rank and order in the government of the church. I also believe it's important to honor leaders intentionally and to be a very real support. Their arms need to be lifted at times.
However, the armor bearer culture is all too often dysfunctional and bizarre. While I don't argue that some leaders handle it in a healthy way, I feel it's simply unnecessary in most cases. By design, assigning an armor bearer creates distinction between the leader and the body. Leaders create their own pedestal, climb up on it and expect to be served in front of everyone. If not handled with extreme caution, it stinks of self-promotion.
I've been in ministry for a long time, and while I appreciate the assistance that people offer, the idea of finding an armor bearer, even when others recommend I find one, to be something that would cause more problems than it would relieve. Instead, why not develop a team of secret intercessors who are aggressive in the spirit as they support you from the closet? Nobody has to know, but the support would be supernaturally powerful.
Here's a story that illustrates this point. Several years ago I was asked to gather a team of intercessors to cover Sarah Palin during one of her tours. I had the privilege of spending quality one-on-one time with her, prophesied over her and heard her heart. With hundreds of people swarming around her, Sarah, her makeup artist and I retreated beyond the intense Secret Service type security detail into a small room where we spent the next hour and a half together. It was a God ordained moment. Then,my team of three intercessors who were waiting patiently for us were escorted, along with myself, Sarah and her media director onto her tour bus. That gave us additional private, quality time to pray over her as she prepared to address hundreds of people in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I was the first person off of the bus and the rest of the team followed. The crowd roared and the cameras were rolling. Well known national news personalities had their microphones in hand. It was a media frenzy and quite an experience! We also babysat her son Trig that night as she interacted with the crowd for hours, without an armor bearer in sight.
Later as I watched some YouTube videos of us stepping off of the bus, people were commenting that we were most likely her body guards or support staff. They or nobody would ever know that we were actually Sarah's intercessors, the most important team of people that she made sure surrounded her in every city she visited. Prayer warriors, not armor bearers, are what we need surrounding leaders in the church today.
EXCESSIVE SPIRITUAL FATHERING/MOTHERING
I'm sure this point will be met with some indignation. I understand the issue of fatherlessness in the nation today, and while some in the church have addressed it appropriately (and others have ignored it entirely), many have capitalized on this inappropriately. It can get quite strange.
Yes, it's true that we need spiritual fathers and mothers. This is a fact that cannot be debated, and it's fully scriptural. The problem is when we take a simple truth and turn it into a movement or attempt to overemphasize it in a church culture.
I've had people identify me as their spiritual father, and I'll admit it can be quite awkward. There's often a dysfunctional, co-dependent feel to it. I understand that people are craving impartation and fatherly/motherly guidance, and I fully affirm that. However, it can get weird when we take it too far. It can reveal insecurity in both the spiritual son/daughter AND the spiritual father/mother who both want to experience relational significance while slapping a spiritual label on it. This is toxic.
I wrote my eBook Orphans No More! with this issue in mind. A spirit of insignificance will cause people to look for human fathers and mothers and others who will affirm them instead of drawing their identity from God the Father directly.
EXCESSIVE RELATIONAL FOCUS
Today we are seeing a rise in churches that are mostly focused on connecting people—to people. Pastors are mostly focused on developing relational holding tanks for the congregation and creating systems to ensure everybody feels like a part of the family.
Note, I'm not saying connecting people to the church family is wrong. It's the weight of the focus that is way out of balance in many churches.
You'll notice many church marketing campaigns, signage, fliers and other forms of communication today are focused mostly on how people will be loved in their new church home, on how they will fit in and on how there's a place for them instead of inviting people to surrender all and encounter the Holy Spirit.
In fact, I dare say that many a pastor, especially those in the millennial ranks, are zeroing in on developing a mutual admiration society as they attempt to create an atmosphere filled with warm hugs and an ever-growing community of friends with them positioned right at the center of it all.
I understand this would be an unfair critique if I were labeling all churches as being excessively relational or all millennials as out of balance. I absolutely am not. What I am doing is bringing light to a troubling trend that needs to stop, and fast.
We need to nurture godly relationships, but not at the expense of the mission. The fox hole of ministry is where friendships are forged. As we contend for revival together and war in the supernatural realm, our connections become more valuable and much deeper than we could ever imagine.
EXCESSIVE PASTORAL CARE
Related to the above point, but still distinct, in many churches we are seeing the “hospital mentality” drive the day-to-day. I've heard many people comment that the church is to be a hospital. It is not.
The church is a governmental, missional army of people who are unified, equipped and advancing against the enemy. It's a weapon of war.
Yes, in battle there will be many wounded warriors, but this calls not for a hospital but rather a MASH unit. We tend to the wounded and minister healing to them for the purpose of seeing them return victoriously to the battlefield.
We need to stop putting pressure on the pastor to be continually tending to our every wound and whim instead of moving ahead, blazing trails with his sword aimed squarely between the eyes of the enemy.
In fact, it's a healthier and stronger move to see the body rally around the wounded instead of expecting the General, the leader, to be the sole person expected to tend to them. A spiritual community that's focused on running the race together will be much better equipped to reach the hurting than a single leader who is being pulled in too many directions to count.
Of course, there are times the senior leader must break away to go after the one who has lost their way, but that's the exception, not the rule.
Again, let's find the pavement people, those who are not drawn to the show, to the theatrics, to the fog and lights, and who simply are energized by contending in prayer and advancing the Kingdom.
I'll admit that atmospheric supplements such as video, lighting and other effects are benign. They aren't evil or good. They are aids, but too often it just gets ridiculous. The draw of the church should be the undeniable presence of God, not a carefully produced environment.
This point takes us right through and well beyond the lights and fog. While I've seen some church services that are terribly disorganized and slopped together, many churches that are forward thinking put great thought into every moment and everything the people will experience. For example, is anybody else tired of the visiting minister orchestrating a circus atmosphere by attempting to push over every soul with enough force to create an Instagram worthy altar of people sprawled out all over?
What about perfectly timed and controlled services? Everything is produced as precisely and efficiently as a Broadway show. When I see a church schedule with 9am, 10:30am and 12pm Sunday morning services, I'm pretty sure, most likely, it's a church best skipped.
Let's shut down the production and the carefully controlled and humanly ordered services and simply worship, pray, get equipped and see the presence of God overwhelm us. That's church.
One of the most amusing meetings I've ever had occurred several years ago in Detroit. A local pastor whom I had never met requested that we get together over coffee. We did, and it took everything I had not to smirk between sips of java. He berated me for allowing people to call me by my first name. I had to make sure I clearly understood what he was saying. Yes, he actually was upset that people called me John! He personally didn't allow anybody even to know what his first name was, much less call him by it. He expected everyone to call him by his title. It was such a strange and humorous conversation!
Now, please hear me on this. I know many leaders who do go by their title. Pastors, apostles and other leaders do value the distinction that comes from putting a title before their name. Many, many of these are amazing and godly men and women, and I absolutely do call them by their title if they prefer I do. I respect them and I honor them with abandon.
In fact, when leading a church, I did find myself struggling with this issue. My preference was for people to call me John. However, many wanted to call me Pastor. I was okay with that, except, it caused some functional problems. Why? My office isn't Pastor. That much is clear. While I don't care to identify myself by my office, others, including leaders in my life, have acknowledged a prophetic/apostolic office. So, now what? Do people call me Apostle John? They have, and it's okay, but honestly I kind of cringe when they do. The reason I'm bringing up this point is because I agree that titles can be very helpful when they designate function and expectations in ministry. When people presumed me to be a pastor, with all of the gifts and skills of a pastor, their expectations were frustrated as I couldn't meet them. However, when they understood I was prophetic/apostolic, they began to value me in that role. Again, titles can define function, and that's fully appropriate.
However, like this pastor (or apostle, or doctor, I'm not sure) in Detroit, it can get unhealthy. I'd challenge pastors, prophets, apostles or others to consider allowing people to simply call you by your name. It removes some unnecessary barriers and weirdness from the relationship. If you do prefer a title, that's okay, just handle it in a healthy way and understand that you may not be as big a deal as you think you are.
I asked some of my Facebook friends what they felt should be eliminated from the church. In addition to confirming the above points, I received several additional interesting suggestions:
Skinny jeans, pulpits, ministers pushing people over at the altar, new stage props every week, organs, tambourines, one-hour services, worship leaders influenced by secular music, the subordination of women, praying in tongues on the microphone, not praying in tongues on the microphone, quenching the Spirit, excessive manifestations, controlling manifestations and comedy acts from the platform.
Why am I suddenly envisioning a skinny jean wearing, tambourine playing woman telling jokes as she pushes people over at the altar? Oh well. Nobody is going to agree on all of this, as I stated at the beginning of the article, but I'd imagine we all want God to lead his church! What changes do you think would be appropriate?
Self-absorbed apostles are compromising the government of the church.
Last night I had a dream.
I'll begin by clearly affirming the value of apostles, prophets, pastors and the entire five-fold ministry, not to mention every person who functions in any capacity God has assigned them to. In fact, this is all the more reason the dream I had is significant. God's ordained leaders in the church must align themselves with God's order and character more intentionally and soberly in these last days. We need anointed, surrendered, humble and powerful church leaders in position and ready to serve.
49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ Luke 11:49 (ESV)
I found myself among many other Christians, leaders and people who were serving at a special church meeting. Specifically, this event was a gathering of apostles. It's important to understand that all of these people were clearly called of God. They were reputable, legitimate and most of us would agree that they are great, godly leaders. Unfortunately, after beginning their ministry years prior humble and pure, somewhere along their journey, they veered off course.
As I watched the interactions between the apostles, it was evident they were exhibiting some concerning characteristics as well. While they were connecting and enjoying conversation with others in the room, it was easy to discern they were focused primarily on promoting their viewpoints and agendas, eager to be recognized as special. They were obsessed with their rank.
Additionally, these convening apostles were entirely dismissive of the others who were not, as some would say, at their level. The individuals at this event who were not apostles at all were looked down on as inferior. Other apostles who didn't rise up with strong, charismatic personalities were ignored. Their focus was on mingling only with those leaders they felt could offer them something, or who they could target as an opponent to be analyzed and defeated. While they might seek to align with others who might have something to offer them, their end game was to dominate, gain influence and out play the other apostles.
Then, as dreams often go, there was an interesting twist. The focus of the event turned toward four young, star quarterbacks who were moving up the ranks from college to pro. These were sharp, impressive young men who were rightfully invited to this special meeting. Predictably, the apostles ignored these emerging team leaders as insignificant, though, in reality, they were resisting them as a threat. It was clear these young men were validated and positioned among the next generation of leaders. The quarterbacks were all skilled yet humble, excited to learn from the apostles, yet they were not well received. Not at all.
I then went to a store looking for a football to buy so I could play catch with them. My intent was to connect with the young quarterbacks and to encourage them. However, I could only find a small, junior sized football. I knew they had been promoted well beyond that level, and I didn't want to risk offending them by communicating that they were amateurs.
The dream shifted once more. As I continued to survey everything that was happening at that gathering of apostles and the young, emerging quarterbacks, I was fully unmotivated to join in the fray. I had no desire to play politics or to jocky for position. Instead, I stepped outside and dove into the ocean. I swam away from the shore and then deep under the water. I saw and then caught a beautiful, massive, shiny silver fish. It shined like a chrome bumper on an old, restored car from yesteryear. After wrangling the fish to the beach, I brought it inside, but none of the apostles were interested. I was surprised that such an brilliant fish provoked nobody's attention. I broke open the fish and there was absolutely nothing inside except for, remarkably, some incredibly delicious fruit. It tasted and looked very much like an orange. I pulled apart the fruit and ate it. It was amazing. Still, nobody cared, even though a legitimate miracle had occurred before their very eyes. The fruit and the fish wasn't their focus. Power and position was.
Again, these were all people we'd agree had been reputable leaders. But, as they advanced in ministry, their motives were compromised.
Before I reveal what the Lord showed me, I want to take a moment to share something important regarding spiritual dreams.
It's extremely common for people who study the dreams of God to jump to conclusions about other people's dreams. I've seen this happen multiple times over the years, and while their intention is usually pure, they can bring confusion into the mix by attempting to over-analyze, redefine or incorrectly interpret what has already been revealed.
The person most able to interpret a dream, in most cases, is the one who had the dream. Only they know the tone, the mood, the revelation and just what the Holy Spirit has interpreted for them. While a dream interpreter may be convinced they know the meaning of a horse or rain or sleep or vehicles or any number of other symbols, they need to be careful as not to taint the actual meaning of the dream that is, at times, revealed to only one individual–the dreamer. Often times the dreamer interprets the dream quite differently than even the most seasoned dream interpreter. Of course, there are times the dreamer doesn't have the interpretation, and they may very well need to consult with others. But, we must use caution. Dreams of God can get confused quite easily.
I believe the meaning of most of my dream is fairly obvious. While some may want to read too much into some of the symbolism, I believe the takeaway is simple.
First, I want to emphasize again that the apostles were truly people of God. They led anointed ministries and had a track record of righteousness. However, something happened along the way that resulted in compromise.
Frankly, there are many Christian leaders who are addicted to ministry because of the supposed fame and adoration it brings.
Too many pastors and ministers are absolutely duped into believing they have arrived and that their “call” to ministry is highly valued by most. The reality? Few care. I'm not saying this to devalue their call. If they are called, they won't care how valued they are.
However, many who are addicted to ministry are idolizing it, and they can't imagine life without it. Trust me, if this is you, and if you ever decided to step down from full-time ministry, there wouldn't be a collective gasp by a stunned and disappointed society. People will go on with their lives. You are valued, but you aren't that important. None of us are.
What I'm saying is that the collection of pride-driven apostles in the dream was both sad and laughable. There is great value in apostolic ministry, but the value is not in the position, it's in the function, in the call to humbly serve. The deception in the room was extreme, and the scheming and parading around as if they were royalty was honestly quite embarrasing.
The quarterbacks repesented the next generation of team leaders. Quarterbacks are the defacto leaders of the football team. Their leadership directly determines whether the team advances or not. These emerging leaders did no wrong. They were humble and simply responding to an invitation to the gathering of apostles. They were wronged, however, by a suspicious and threatened apostolic council.
The dream culminated with the fish and the fruit. The clear, obvious truth is that we are called to be fishers of men and to bear fruit. It's that simple. Instead of diving into the depths of humanity and focusing on shining the light of Jesus in the world, the apostles were climbing over one another. Instead of fishing and bearing fruit, they were seeking power and position.
If this dream spoke to you as a leader, simply repent and allow God to give you a glorious and refreshing reset. You are valuable, you are called and what God has for you to do on the earth is exceptionally critical. In order to fulfill that calling, all pretense, all jealousy, all selfish ambition and all pride must die. You and many others will experience phenomenal abundant life as a result–including the emerging young leaders who are waiting for you to raise them up.
Where are the soul crushing, convicting preachers that stir up demons and set the captives free today?
I don’t remember exactly what I was preaching that evening as a visiting guest minister, but I know there was an extremely sober, weighty atmosphere—and the message was hitting hard on repentance, eternity and holiness.
Suddenly, as people were silently, somberly on their knees at an altar, and in the middle of a teaching—no, a preaching—that was demanding a response, a response came.
A disturbed, provoked cry, “Damn John Burton to Hell! Damn John Burton to Hell! I’m going to Hell! I’m going to Hell!” shocked everybody in that church sanctuary. It was shouted, screamed, from the rear of the room, shattering the weighty atmosphere with demonic shrieks. The voice went on with the tirade while escorted to the foyer and then out into the parking lot to be ministered to by church staff. We all heard this person, a well respected part of this church from what I understand, continue in their manifestation as the Holy Spirit was bringing deep conviction to all who were present.
This type of demonic reaction to anointed, convicting preaching should not be rare in the church today, but it is. Extremely rare.
Jonathan Edwards, the central figure behind the Great Awakening and the preacher of the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, caused quite a stir at Enfield:
An eyewitness, Stephen Williams, wrote in his diary, “We went over to Enfield where we met dear Mr. Edwards of Northampton who preached a most awakening sermon from these words, Deuteronomy 32:35, and before the sermon was done there was a great moaning and crying went out through ye whole House…. ‘What shall I do to be saved,’ ‘Oh, I am going to Hell,’ ‘Oh, what shall I do for Christ,’ and so forth. So yet ye minister was obliged to desist, ye shrieks and cry were piercing and amazing.” (http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200201/200201_104_johnathan.cfm)
WE NEED HELLFIRE PREACHERS TO RETURN TO THE AMERICAN STAGE
Much of today’s church has been duped into thinking the quickest path to revival is through positive affirmation, encouraging words and happy, middle-of-the-road sermons. The idea is that a non-threatening church culture where God’s goodness and kindness are emphasized will make him appealing and easier for people to warm up to.
This method is woefully inadequate, even inappropriate. The motive of the leaders who employ such tactics is suspect. God’s fearful, weighty presence has been sidelined for a softer, more approachable version.
I recall prophesying over a mother at a service in another church I was visiting. This mom was extremely agitated that her daughter had decided to attend this revival style service and came with both barrels blazing. She wanted her daughter to leave immediately—but God had other plans. She decided to mock the theatrics and jumped right into the prophecy line with her daughter. Big mistake. I prophesied over approximately one hundred people that night, one by one, but something I said to this irritated mother changed her life. I don’t remember what I said (which is usually the norm when prophesying over people I’ve never met before), but after the service she was sitting in the corner, dumbfounded. She called me over and asked me how I knew everything I told her. She explained that nobody has ever known about the things I revealed.
The next night of the week-long event saw this mother and her daughter back in the service. I was preaching a pointed, aggressive message, and right in the middle of it I experienced another interruption. This mother shouted, “What must I do to get saved?!” All eyes darted toward her, and then toward me as she ran to the altar. The enemy thought he was sending her to disrupt a move of God the previous night. This night he lost a disciple to the glorious love of Jesus. The anointing broke her yoke of bondage.
ANOTHER GREAT AWAKENING
During the Second Great Awakening, we saw the following happen:
On the American frontier, camp meetings came to characterize revivals. The first camp meeting revival was in south-central Kentucky. At a meeting in June 1800, Presbyterian James McGready and two other pastors preached for 3 days; on the fourth day, two traveling Methodist ministers officiated and concluded with an emotional exhortation. Many physically collapsed at what they called conviction of sin. People were convinced they were experiencing a visitation of the Holy Spirit such as the early church had known at Pentecost. (https://www.christianity.com/church/the-2nd-great-awakening-11630336.html)
We must see another great awakening come to America! It’s time to shut down the predictable, stale church services and allow the disturbing yet wonderfully freeing messages of repentance emerge!
I was preaching at a regional youth conference, and, again, the message was provocative. Whenever messages like this are delivered, I can discern an intense resistance to it. Sadly, this often comes from leadership. Those who are living compromised lives often walk out. In fact, one person admitted to me that they were indignant and were about to walk out the previous night—until the Holy Spirit whispered to them, “Trust me and stay.” He did, and his life was transformed. He couldn’t stop thanking me and especially God for what had happened in his life.
At this youth conference, I prophesied very directly and precisely that someone was in extreme danger of being separated from God for eternity in Hell. I said this person was involved in sexual sin and I knew who they were, though I told them I wouldn’t expose them. It was up to them to bring their sin into the light. I implored them to repent, and fast.
After the service, the boyfriend of the person God had highlighted to me walked up to me. He revealed he was a youth pastor at one of the attending churches. He admitted that he and his girlfriend were involved in sexual sin and God had broken him that night.
Pastors, do you have any idea how much compromise and wickedness is occurring on your watch? We need to trust the Holy Spirit to lovingly and urgently convict the church. We must see mass repentance and a return to Jesus. Holiness must be preached again. Hellfire messages can no longer be avoided. Revival is an absolute necessity today. Where there is no revival, spiritual death will overwhelm our nation. George Whitefield knew this well:
After a sermon in Lyme, Connecticut, “many had their countenances changed; their thoughts seemed to trouble them, so that the joints of their loins were loosed, and their knees smote one against another. Great numbers cried out aloud in the anguish of their souls. Several stout men fell as though a cannon had been discharged, and a ball had made its way through their hearts.” (http://www1.cbn.com/spirituallife/a-great-awakening-stirs-the-colonies)
We can no longer be silent. Presuming all who hear our preaching to be spiritually and eternally okay is a great mistake. We need a booming shock to the system if we hope revival to come.
“The Christian world is in a dead sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.” ~George Whitefield
Yes, church as we know it is over, but not anywhere near the way the FOX News author suggests.
Church leaders and pastors have spent time every week encouraging, inviting and pleading with people to come to a specific place at a specific time on Sundays. This approach has created church staffing models, systems and ministry strategies focused on improving attendance.
But that way of doing church is dead.
And just like Joshua needed to hear God say, “Moses my servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2), so he could move into the next level of leadership, I think the Church needs to accept the fate of physical church as we know it, so we can move into the next phase of digital church. ~Dave Adamson, FOX News, https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/churches-as-we-know-it-are-over-here-is-how-to-engage-the-faithful
And the church takes another hit, this time not from the anti-church society that’s filled with disgruntled Christians who didn’t have their expectations met in the last church they attended, and not from the organic, house church proponents, but from a pastor featured by FOX News. His take on the emerging, morphing church in the twenty-first century isn’t unique, but it is gaining steam, especially among those who are pretty much done with church as it has been known for centuries.
There’s a problem though. What is being proposed simply cannot be defined biblically as the church. Technology, video and alternate methods of worshiping, listening to teachings and even connecting with other Christians are all benefits for Believers. Every night I fall asleep to worship music I’m streaming online. I am thankful for the never ending live stream of the prayer room at the International House of Prayer. Limitless sermons are available to all of us. In fact, nobody has an excuse in this digital age for lacking in spiritual depth, knowledge and intimacy with Jesus. The opportunities for spiritual growth are endless. This is good, but this is not church.
An omni-channel approach to church would allow people to fully connect and engage with a church without the need to step inside a physical environment every week. They could attend one Sunday, listen to the message on podcast the following week, watch a live online stream the Sunday after, and catch the message on-demand in an church app the week after that. ~Dave Adamson
That sounds freeing, but it’s not the church. It is not the Ekklesia.
In fact, Dave misunderstands the purpose of the church gathering quite remarkably. It’s not simply to connect, worship and learn. If that were the case, the online options would absolutely be better in many ways than connecting physically in a local church. It’s easy to find the best of the best worship experience, the deepest and most impacting teaching and the experience we specifically desire somewhere online. Those experiences will most always out perform what the local church can offer. Except for at least one, important thing—the governmental gathering. The Ekklesia.
The church isn’t primarily there to satisfy our desires for worship, teaching and connections. It’s been ordained by God as a governmental force in the region. Ekklesia is actually a secular term referring to the gathering together of the people in the region by governmental authorities for the purpose of relaying information and calling people to action.
So, for the Ekklesia to function, there must be local leadership, a regular gathering under that leadership and a responsiveness to what God is calling people unto.
Add to that the key purpose of the church, corporate intercession, and you realize it’s not possible to have church or to be the church in any legitimate way online.
In my Charisma Magazine article titled Ancient and Emerging: 5 Major Changes Coming to the Church, I write:
We will gather together most days of the week. The 24/7 church will again emerge as the church drives culture instead of reacting to culture. Cares of life will lose their power as we simplify our lives and put corporate prayer and mission ahead of most everything else.
This may be the most challenging change for Christians. Today, Sundays are the days to set aside for corporate worship while we give precedence to our ‘normal lives.' In The Coming Church, the very reason we live will be to pray on fire together every day, receive apostolic assignments and then move out into our lives as kingdom ambassadors. It wouldn't be surprising if a tithe of our time is what became the standard. Two to three hours a day, whether it's in the morning, afternoon or evening, or even in the late night hours, will be given by every believer to praying on site together with others, ministering and giving ourselves to intercession-fueled kingdom ministry. Of course, much of what we have been giving ourselves to will have to be eliminated so we have the time necessary to devote.
I want to encourage you to consider picking up a copy of my book The Coming Church. This 300 page book is a powerful revelation of what I believe is coming to the church, and the changes for every one of us will be dramatic.
In fact, I’ll make the digital version of this book available FREE for anyone who reads this article. Visit www.burton.tv/freechurchbook and you can download it immediately.
In my article titled Five Unusual Marks of the Coming Church, I write:
The church will drive culture instead of being driven by culture. The 24/7 church is coming and it will violate the prevailing culture of busyness and distraction.
Gone will be the days of formatting our churches to fit within the schedules and expectations of society. The seeker movement will fade away and the urgent call to the wall will overpower even the most demanding of personal and social pressures.
Acts 17:6 (ESV) 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
ESV Study Bible: These hostile opponents spoke better than they knew, for the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire was the beginning of a movement that would change the course of history forever.
The coming church will be marked by its boldness and culture will be threatened for the good.
WHAT ABOUT CHURCH ONLINE?
To Dave Adamson’s credit, he did state:
This approach allows the church to connect with people physically for 1 hour on Sunday, and stay connected for the other 167 hours of the week, digitally.
While one hour per week in church is woefully short of what is coming in the 24/7 church, he does emphasize staying connected. Utilizing technology to stay strategically and actively locked in to what is happening in the local church is a smart move. While I disagree with surrendering to the whims of today’s noncommittal generation and encouraging empty pews, I believe using online media and social connectors is a great move. I remember spending hours in the prayer room every day at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City while also watching the live web stream from home and watching teachings by Mike Bickle and others. IHOPKC is doing media right as it enhances their 24/7 mission instead of replacing it.
However, we need to look a little deeper at the idea of online church.
In my article titled: You are Not the Church: The Scattering Movement, I deal with this concept of church online. There are some very clear issues that can’t be ignored.
- DEVOID OF APOSTOLIC LEADERSHIP—There is most probably (there are exceptions) no clearly defined apostolic leadership involved. We have to know who we’re called to serve with. We have to all hear, together, in our local congregation, how we are to respond in mission advance. What’s God calling our leaders to focus on? How are we to participate? What are the goals? What steps must we take to prepare ourselves to see this come to pass?
- LACK OF STRATEGIC CORPORATE INTERCESSION—While not impossible, it’s very hard to involve ourselves in the number one purpose of the church this way—corporate intercession. We just have to be together to pray with unity and consistency if we are to have the sufficient strength to see significant impact.
- NO ACCOUNTABILITY—Accountability and discipline are nearly non-existent outside of the context of the local church. Most who flock from the church and into alternative spiritual activities do so to avoid conflict, accountability and correction from leadership. We have to understand that this is a critical part of the refining process. We must be receptive and humble and ready to be challenged—even if the leaders God established for us are exceptionally flawed and out of touch with our needs.
- PROMOTES MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH—It can quite easily reinforce a wrong understanding of the purpose of the church. I would say this is the most serious issue. The prevailing thought these days is that the church is there for us. Whatever needs we have, we can get many of them met in the church. So, we attend if we are ministered to. Or, we may determine that we can get what we’re looking for without regular church attendance. So, the church becomes unnecessary to us. Friend, this concept is a defilement of the church. I can’t say it any less striking than that. We are called to gather together with other believers primarily to intercede for the nations. We are there to give, to leave offerings, to serve, to minister, to pray, to grow. The church isn’t primarily there for us, we are to be there for the mission of the church. We may say that we don’t need the church but have we considered that the church needs us?
The purpose of the church simply cannot be fulfilled through technology. Video, social media, websites like this one and other mediums absolutely can be powerful supplements to what we are experiencing in our weekly gathering, but they simply aren’t designed to handle the demands of the Ekklesia, the governmental, prayer-fueled, local church.
Constantly stressing about whether you are saved or not reveals a heart issue.
It’s quite possible false-grace teaching was born due to a number of related issues, including the never ending torment that comes from wondering if one is saved or not. Additionally, many struggle to find freedom from sin and they ultimately throw up their hands and adopt a theology that better matches their experience. This theology argues that, even as Christians, we are all sinners, we sin every day and the only resolution that works for them is eradication of the penalty of sin—instead of the truth of true grace that enables us to find very real victory from sin itself.
Instead of declaring that the blood of Jesus truly enables us to stop sinning (through a process of sanctification), false-grace adherents commonly believe it’s ridiculous to presume Christians can legitimately find freedom. Instead, they attempt to lift the burden of sinfulness and where they will spend eternity by teaching that their sin has no eternal consequence.
In my Charisma Magazine article titled 5 Marks of the False Grace Message, I called this a theology of exemption:
A theology of exemption states that since we are saved, we are exempt from the penalties of sin. That there are parts of the Bible that no longer apply to us. Yes, it's a heresy. False grace removes bible-based responsibilities to respond to God in holiness.
The number of people who subconsciously or unwittingly embrace a theology of exemption is far greater than those who explicitly pronounce their agreement with this doctrine. Many subscribe to false-grace doctrines without realizing their deception.
Many have been lulled into a false sense of security while actually existing in an unsaved state. They are confident they'd enter heaven if they died, yet the reality is that they would not. They have come to believe they are exempt from certain parts of the Word of God that requires response.
THE ISSUE OF SALVATION IS WEIGHTY
You may be wondering why the title of this article is calling for us to stop worrying about our salvation. If it’s true that many professing Christians are actually not saved, shouldn’t we all be on high alert? Stay tuned. I’ll answer that in a moment.
I write about the topic of salvation quite a bit. I have no choice. My encounter with the forces of Hell over two decades ago changed me for eternity. (Read about it HERE.) In that encounter, it was clear that many who profess Christ will be shocked to find themselves in hell one day. This revelation matches up very well with truth on the matter in Scripture.
Since this is a life message for me, I receive a lot of email and other messages from people who are tormented, wondering if they are truly saved or not.
Remarkably, I have been counseled not a few times to tone down the message so as not to trouble people. Sadly, many argue that shielding people from biblical truth in favor of lighter, more affirming and satisfying messages will somehow help matters. This argument often comes from pastors and others who have a strong gift of mercy that they function from. They don’t want people to wrestle with the topics of eternity and hell. In fact, many will go as far as confirming their salvation just to alleviate their burden—a burden that should not be removed.
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25-26 (ESV)
The disciples had the same question that so many have today. Interestingly, Jesus didn’t give them a big hug and tell them that everything will be okay. He allowed them to continue to wrestle. He didn’t affirm their salvation, but rather presented a plan of salvation that is rarely shared today (he didn’t tell them to simply believe and to ask him in to their hearts!).
27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:27-29 (ESV)
Jesus tells them that those who honestly and radically surrender, in his name, will inherit eternal life. Can you imagine going home after that church service? The wrestling match would go to an entirely new level! Have I truly surrendered to that degree? Is Jesus really my Lord? The questions would reverberate from my mind to my spirit to my emotions.
So, again, I’m sure you are asking, what about the title of this article? I know, it seems I’m arguing against the prime point I’m attempting to bring to you. I actually am not. I’m simply laying a foundation that is very important—salvation is a very serious issue, and it would be foolish to become casual about it. We cannot adopt false-grace or eternal security theologies. Fear, trembling and a determination to endure to the end must drive us every day.
MY MOST CONTROVERSIAL BELIEF
My most controversial belief has to do with this very issue. There are many who get extremely upset about it. Others will start analyzing it and commence in tearing it apart and calling me out as deceived, or at least unbalanced. Those who affirm eternal security reject it with force. Here it is:
I give myself about an 80 percent chance of making Heaven.
Yes, that short, simple statement sends people of the rails. In fact, I’m ready for the emails and assaults as a result of this article. The issue of eternal insecurity (versus eternal security) causes a reaction that makes it more obvious than ever—many are at risk and this topic absolutely must be discussed.
My estimation is that I will spend eternity with Jesus, but it is not a guarantee. If it was, I would, by definition, be an adherent to the doctrine of eternal security. I am not.
Simply, if you don’t believe in eternal security, that means that every current Christian will have an opportunity to lose their salvation—to turn from Jesus. And, no current Christian would ever presume that they would do such a thing, but nonetheless many certainly will.
Why would we be immune from that temptation while multitudes of other Christians are not? I definitely am not immune.
Some of the points I address are:
I’m confident that if I died TODAY that I’d be with Jesus forever.
I don’t believe that one sin in the life of a Christian will automatically send you to Hell.
I do believe we don’t ever have to sin again.
I don’t live my life in fear of Hell.
I don’t believe it’s easy to lose your salvation.
I do understand the miraculous, glorious work of the cross.
I do believe we must stay awake, pray and watch.
I don’t believe the state of our position in Christ is a mystery.
I’d strongly encourage you to read that article so you best understand where I’m coming from, and so the rest of this article is read from that place of understanding.
STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR ETERNAL POSITION
One of the points above that I break down and explain in the other article is: I don’t live my life in fear of Hell.
The most common presumption that people have about me when they hear me say that I am not convinced I’ll end up in Heaven is that I must be living in great fear. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I am full of joy and am experiencing an abundant life in Jesus! Check this out:
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
There is no fear in love. There are many who “got saved” to avoid torment in Hell. That is their motivation and their theology is keenly focused on the eradication of any threat of eternal torment. Though I have had an encounter with Hell, and I understand to a very small degree the horror associated with that place, I would never attempt to use God to avoid it. God isn’t one to be used for our own selfish pursuits. God is to be loved with immeasurable passion!
Let’s continue reading the passage in 1 John 4:
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
It’s not a theology of eternal security that casts out fear, it’s love. And, this is where it gets a bit more serious. It’s possible to subscribe to a theology that ensures our salvation while also hating someone—and go to Hell.
So, my focus isn’t on avoiding Hell. I’m not living in torment. If I were, I’d know that love was not being perfected in my life and I would certainly have cause for concern. My barometer is the manifestation of love in my life. My daily goal and continual desire is to be with Jesus in a place of joyful, love driven encounter. I crave his presence. I yearn for a deeper intimacy with him. I am free, alive and thankful for what Jesus has done for me. I have no fear. But I am sober. I am alert.
I believe worrying about our salvation is much different than wrestling. When we wrestle, we are aligning ourselves with the Holy Spirit as he guides us into truth. When we worry, however, a heart issue is revealed.
It becomes clear that were are more concerned with avoiding hell than we are in simply falling in love with Jesus. It becomes about us instead of him.
When troubled people contact me, asking how they can stop worrying about going to hell, or how to be sure of their salvation, I challenge them. What really is the purpose of knowing where we are going to spend eternity? Their goal should simply be loving Jesus and following him. Just spending time with him is so worth it! Then, wrestle. Let God have you fully.
Some might just give up hope, if they can’t be assured of their salvation, and just stop following Jesus. They are identifying with their sinfulness and have determined they will probably end up in hell anyway, so why even try.
This right here is the heart issue I’m talking about.
Do we follow Jesus because he’s our ticket out of hell, or do we follow him because we love him?
Let me ask you this question: If heaven was never guaranteed to you, would you still fall madly in love with Jesus and serve him with passion anyway? Or, is your quest for salvation more about you and your desire to avoid torment?
This is a weighty question and you absolutely should wrestle with it. Salvation isn’t mostly about living in a safe, happy place for eternity. It’s mostly about being undone and overwhelmed by the lover of our souls! It’s all about Jesus!
(If you are curious about how works and faith are both key in our salvation process, read this eye-opening article: Are works a part of our salvation? Let’s talk about Ephesians 2:8-9)
LET THE WRESTLING BEGIN!
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:10 (ESV)
I wrestle with my relationship with Jesus continually. Part of that wrestling match includes a healthy (not unhealthy or unbiblical) fear of hell, a desire to live in heaven and a hunger for greater understanding. The bulk of it, however, is all about a more glorious revelation of Jesus! I want to know him better and to respond more wholeheartedly.
I understand my salvation is tied to my relationship with him, and I take that very seriously. I’m thoroughly enjoying my pursuit of Jesus and my growing experience in him. I’m also more aware than ever of my weakness and my humanness. My diligence and passion in loving Jesus holds the key to more than I understand. If I am diligent to confirm my calling and election, I won’t fail. If I’m not, I better wake up to reality, and fast. The wrestle can never cease.
So, stop worrying and start wrestling. Don’t turn salvation into a selfish pursuit of safety and eternal pleasure. Fall desperately in love with Jesus and let him prepare you daily for an eternity with him. He is so worth it!
11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12 (ESV)