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)
Addressing error without compromising our credibility
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The need for people who rightly divide the truth is only going to escalate as the end-times season we are in continues to unfold. These Bereans are valuable and it would do us all well to embrace the opportunity to analyze our belief systems and to grow.
Instead, all over social media especially, we see critical and arrogant spirits assaulting others they disagree with theologically. For Christians to be rude and to operate in a spirit of accusation makes one wonder if they are saved at all. In fact, the moment we utilize methods of communication that contradict the fruits of the Spirit, we lose our credibility. Fortunately, there are many people who confirm their credibility by debating and discussing with love and honor. Communicating with them is a pleasure. However, all too often, supposed guardians of theology are zeroed in on proving their point and on shaming all who disagree. On the contrary, the shame is on them as they attempt to demoralize and invalidate people’s ministry. The focus is on mistakes, errors, disagreements and weaknesses instead of building them up, honoring them and encouraging them in the Lord.
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 (ESV)
As one who absolutely affirms bold and provocative messages, I’m dismayed that so many who name the name of Jesus presume boldness equates to cruelty and divisiveness. Haters and debaters who are driven by a contentious agenda against those they disagree with are doing great damage to the church. Strangely, they presume to be the champions of truth, knights in shining armor who are to be celebrated for defending their absolutely “perfect” view of Scripture. They presume themselves to be Bereans when in reality they are aligning themselves with a dark spirit of accusation and assault. These are no Bereans. They are, in fact, Thessalonians.
THE SPIRIT OF THE BEREANS VS THE SPIRIT OF THE THESSALONIANS
2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. Acts 17:2-3 (NIV)
In Thessalonica, Paul was reasoning in the synagogue and revealing the glorious truth of Jesus. Some were persuaded, but many weren’t, and instead of exhibiting love in disagreement, they started a riot. This riotous spirit is driving the religious today, people who are not at all interested in life-giving truth. Their motive is selfish, protecting their own way of life and belief system.
5 But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. Acts 17:5 (NIV)
I think I’ve met some of the bad characters the verse mentions. They are all over Facebook. In the face of this, Paul and Silas moved on to Berea.
10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Acts 17:10 (NIV)
Many presume the Bereans heard the message and then, with a nasty, suspicious look on their face and thick theological walls built up, they put their noses into the Scriptures, looking to refute all that was being said. This is not what happened at all. Many modern “Bereans” are some of the meanest, most arrogant and unteachable people in the church. They are so tightly wound up, fearing even the slightest threat to their personal doctrines that they often slander and accuse people they oppose. This is not how the Bereans in the Book of Acts responded. Not at all.
11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11 (NIV)
Did you notice that the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians? Did you notice why? They received the message not with great suspicion, but with great eagerness! They were excited about this fresh, life-giving message that Paul was revealing to them! Their energy wasn’t spent discounting the message but rather in searching the Scriptures to see if it was true.
Because of this, many Jews and Greeks were transformed.
The story doesn’t end there, however.
13 When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. Acts 17:13 (NIV)
The Thessalonians actually went to Berea to hunt down Paul and agitate the people because of his message!
I propose many who assume themselves to be Bereans are actually Thessalonians—people who are more intent on hunting, agitating and stirring up instead of eagerly receiving revelation from the Word of God.
When engaging in conversation, especially online on social media or in the comments section of articles like this one, simply be nice. Discussions and healthy debates are supposed to be fun and edifying!
I try to make it a point to address false theologies while never assaulting the minister. I know, there are many who would argue that there are times in Scripture where false teachers were named and they were addressed quite bluntly. Yes, there absolutely does come a time to do that, but it is not as often as many might presume—and it’s always in a spirit of great love.
I do my very best to honor all, even if I believe their theology is way off. What benefit is there in being rude, arrogant or aggressive toward them as a person? When I engage in discussions on Facebook or other places online, a core value of mine is to be nice. I never want the person I’m engaging with to feel like I’m attacking them or that I presume to be superior. While I will boldly communicate my position, I don’t want anybody who might disagree to feel unsafe or devalued. They are precious people created in the image of God. Yes, if they pose a risk because of their doctrine, we must deal with that. But, it’s usually more beneficial to attack beliefs than to call out and defame people.
If I’m not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit in my conversation, I should not be communicating at all. It’s time to shut off the computer and head into the prayer room. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control should dominate our discussions.
Quit calling everyone you disagree with a heretic. Quit commenting on articles like this one with the sole intent of exposing the author as deceived, false or in some sort of error. Share your perspective. Offer your point of view. Reveal your concerns. Be teachable. Communicate with honor and humility without abdicating your mandate to be a true Berean. Your eagerness to receive truth will open the door for many to believe in Jesus.
Please understand, I have thick skin. By the grace of God I’m nearly unoffendable. When people are aggressive toward me personally when I write or preach, I honestly don’t take offense. Reading mean tweets and comments can be entertaining and even enlightening. I understand the messages I’m called to deliver are provocative and I do know the arrows will fly.
But, I will say this. As someone who is deeply troubled when other preachers and prophetic people are attacked simply because of a disagreement over their theology or style of ministry, I want to simply ask you to be nice. Don’t aim your arrows in their direction. Understand the accusations and cruel things you say don’t only hurt them, but they hurt their spouses and children. Do you have any idea how many tears wives have cried because their husbands are mercilessly assaulted by others in the church through gossip and all over the internet? This is a very real and terribly sad problem, and it simply shouldn’t be.
Let love lead. Be kind. Be gentle. Be patient. Be bold. Stand for truth. Don’t hate. Be tender in your debate. Put the arrows down and simply love.
If God promotes you, you better be ready for what’s coming your way.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)
One of the most common prophetic words in the various prophetic streams (whether real or fabricated) has to be, “Your promotion is coming!” It’s probably as popular as, “This is your season of open doors!”
I believe God does plan promotion for all who are truly humble and surrendered. Yet, the promotion may not be what a particular human heart desires. There are many who crave promotion onto the platform while God’s assignment is promotion into the prayer room. Others desire promotion unto notoriety. God may desire to promote them unto obscurity as part of a nameless, faceless generation.
It’s critical we handle spiritual advance with wisdom and care. Promotion is all about God’s will for our lives and not our own.
I’d like to do two things regarding your passion for promotion in the spirit:
- Encourage you
- Caution you
Several years ago I was in an exciting and very active season of ministry in the Detroit area. I had planted a prophetic and prayer focused ministry there and I was contending for revival corporately and also for personal growth so I could be ready and equipped to lead with strength.
Whenever I have an opportunity to step away from the pulpit and get refreshed at a conference or another church service, I typically like to find a place in the back to let God minister to me during worship and the teaching. Some friends from my church and I decided to check out The River, a church led by Marlin Reid, a revival minded pastor in the region. He was hosting Jeff Jansen, whom I had never had the opportunity to see minister.
As I sat on the floor in the back of the conference center at the Southfield Westin Hotel, God and I had an interesting dialogue. He had impressed on my heart that promotion was coming, and I probed him with questions about just how something like that happens. What was my responsibility? How should I prepare? Was I doing anything wrong? What was the timing? What exactly is the purpose of a promotion anyway? As I sat there enjoying both the service and the conversation the Lord and I were having, God spoke very simply, yet very clearly: I am going to show you how easy and how quickly promotion will come. I was intrigued.
At the end of the service, several hundred people were stirring around and I headed for the door to go home. Pastor Marlin, whom I had met only briefly at the beginning of the service, called out to me before I could leave the building. He wanted to introduce me to Jeff Jansen before I left. Leaving three or four hundred people behind, Marlin led me into the hallway and then into an elevator. Next in was Jeff Jansen and two others. Pastor Marlin said his goodbyes and returned to the conference room as the four of us shot up to the top floor of the Westin. We entered Jeff’s suite where there was a chef and a spread of food ready for us.
We sat at the table and Jeff immediately started prophesying over me. His accuracy was stunning as he saw me writing books and ministering powerfully through articles and other writings. Remember, we had never met and he had no idea I had written several books. He then took some heavy gem stones out of his pocket and put them into my hands. He revealed that they were the stones that famously and miraculously manifested as the glory of God came down during some previous meetings.
Suddenly, in the midst of this remarkable setting, God spoke to me. He reminded me that he told me mere minutes ago that he was going to show just how easy and quick promotion can come.
Just moments ago, I was about to walk into the parking lot to drive home. I was suddenly diverted and out of at least a few hundred people, I was chosen along with two others to meet with the man of God. I was “promoted” to the top floor of the hotel in mere seconds, was seated at an exclusive table and had my ministry confirmed in powerful ways. That encounter was a real life object lesson that God used to encourage me. When it’s time for promotion, it will come.
Since then, I’ve written over two hundred articles for Charisma Media, have written a total of ten books and continue to see doors open like the Elijah List and other media outlets. Favor truly follows this ministry, and I’m humbled.
Of course, the promotion is not simply a natural one. It’s spiritual. I’ve watched God work wonders in our ministry and I’m eager to continue to be available as a vessel. Our God is amazing and we have barely begun to see what he has prepared for us!
8 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they went up in full force to search for him… 1 Chronicles 14:8 (NIV)
The moment you are anointed, promoted into your next position in the spirit, the enemy is sure to be alerted. The purpose of this segment on using caution is not to instill fear in you, but rather to cause you to soberly understand the weight of what comes with promotion. It’s laughable to think that pastors and leaders have an easy, favored life on the platform. The assaults that come with promotion and leadership in the church are beyond the scope of what most could understand.
If pastors and leaders were honest, many would admit to being hunted and haunted by a very real demonic hoard. Many experience emotional disturbances, mental disorientation and spiritual desperation. Curses are strategically directed at them both by the world and the church. The arrows that stick in their backs are sharp and difficult to remove, yet they power on, devoted to the call that God has on their lives.
Your passion for promotion very well may have been deposited into your spirit by God, and if it was, you can be sure that the Holy Spirit will lead you and guide you, even though the journey will often be very painful and lonely. You absolutely must use caution in the process. Getting ahead of God or lingering behind would be bad ideas.
Those who are simply enamored by the supposed glamor and glory of ministry, pursuing promotion is absolutely a bad idea. You have no clue what you are asking for. It would be much better for you to step back, seek the Lord and learn to enjoy the position he has assigned you to. Leadership in God’s Kingdom comes with an extreme price, and unless you are truly called of God to assume that position, you will be assaulted by an otherworldly fury that you cannot defend.
If you are assigned by God, get ready. You must use great wisdom as you navigate the battleground God is leading you into. Above I shared the first part of 1 Chronicles 14:8. There’s a little more to that verse, and in it we see the spirit of a warrior:
8 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went out to meet them. 1 Chronicles 14:8 (NIV)
David heard about it and went out to meet his enemies. He was ready and full of faith. This is where we can first see a differentiation between those who are truly called and the pretenders. Those who crave promotion but are not called will not be anointed or empowered by God to advance against the enemy. Fear will keep them away while God’s promoted and anointed leaders will run to the battle! David is quite famous for this.
48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 1 Samuel 17:48 (NIV)
Now, it’s important, again, that caution is heeded. When we as leaders advance, we can’t be presumptive or casual. We must continually seek God for direction, wisdom, revelation and clarity. David did just this.
9 Now the Philistines had come and raided the Valley of Rephaim; 10 so David inquired of God: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The LORD answered him, “Go, I will hand them over to you.” 1 Chronicles 14:9-10 (NIV)
David inquired of the Lord and received an affirmative response. Yes, it’s time to advance. His obedience in both hearing God and in responding rightly resulted in victory.
11 So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, God has broken out against my enemies by my hand.” So that place was called Baal Perazim. 12 The Philistines had abandoned their gods there, and David gave orders to burn them in the fire. 1 Chronicles 14:11-12 (NIV)
Yet, we see God’s answer is different at the next provocation of the enemy.
13 Once more the Philistines raided the valley; 14 so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go straight up, but circle around them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. 15 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 16 So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer. 1 Chronicles 14:13-16 (NIV)
This time God had different and more precise commands. David responded rightly, and another promotion came.
17 So David's fame spread throughout every land, and the LORD made all the nations fear him. 1 Chronicles 14:17 (NIV)
TRUST GOD’S PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE
Promotion like we see in David is a very serious thing indeed. We can’t casually, lightly pray for promotion to come. When we do, demons will catch the scent and will pursue you with vengeance. If God is with you, and you are responding to his directives, you will still have to fight, and the war will be intense, but the victory will be yours. If your promotion results from selfish ambition, look out. It’s not God who has elevated you, but you yourself have propped yourself up—perfectly in line of sight of the enemy. I’d duck if I were you.
We need a company of true prophetic messengers to impact the earth.
I wonder if we realize not only the urgent need, but also the opportunity God is providing for true prophetic messengers to rise up and bring order and life to the world.
Many who read this will admit they have been tapped by God to reveal life-altering mysteries and to deliver powerful truths to a confused and deceived culture. I believe God is preparing his messengers to interpret the handwriting on the wall today, a word from God that will shake up kingdoms and bring cleansing, reformation and revival. We must use caution, however, as there will be temptations and stumbling blocks that can fully wipe out not only the message but the messenger. We must be a humble people, fashioned after God’s very heart.
HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. Daniel 5:1 (ESV)
The self-indulgent spirit that drove King Belshazzar and the culture under his reign was obnoxious, much like we see today. There’s a spirit of excess and drunkenness in the land and nothing short of a move of God will bring it to an end. There is a remnant of people who are yearning for the Kingdom of God to come down and for righteousness to dominate the nation, and God will use that hunger to his advantage. These zealots are about to be called on to release the word of the Lord and renounce the overwhelming wickedness we see today. These messengers will operate in the spirit of Daniel, people who are only interested in being called on as God’s vessels.
3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Daniel 5:3-4 (ESV)
This passage reveals the defilement that had overtaken the people. I suggest it may be worse today—much worse. God’s house has been desecrated. What was meant as offerings has been stolen and used as worship to other gods, gods of gold and silver. The worship of money has become a stench in our world, and many in the church have been seduced by the very same spirit. An overturning of the tables is coming.
5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Daniel 5:5 (ESV)
This verse is causing a tremble in my spirit. So many are crying out for a move of God in our nation, yet might it come in the form of a terrifying message? The moment King Belshazzar saw this otherworldly invasion into his palace, he was desperately looking for resolution. A move of God must result in the people today becoming so desperate that they forget the party, surrender their selfish pursuits and focus on resolution. Many spiritual people will willingly offer their services to help interpret what is going down, but only true godly, prophetic people who have lived in the secret place of prayer will have the interpretation. It’s the only interpretation anybody should trust.
BRING ON THE ENCHANTERS
6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Daniel 5:6-7 (ESV)
The supernatural message that was written by the finger of God caused the king to drop to his knees. We must pray for our leaders to hit their face, for their own strength to fail them, and for them to cry out! The king, clearly not a man after God’s own heart, sought after help from the enchanters and astrologers. He knew he was up against something spiritual, something that originated in another realm, and his immediate thought was to call on his supposed experts on the supernatural. They offered no help.
CAUTION NUMBER ONE
The first caution for God’s messengers comes in right here.
7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed. Daniel 5:7-9 (ESV)
In today’s prophetic culture, it can be tempting to deliver a prophetic word when the pressure is great. It’s not uncommon for ministers today to invent prophetic words or to deliver one that is general, safe from scrutiny.
1 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert. Numbers 24:1 (NIV)
It’s entirely possible to be called of God and to have his words put into our mouths, while utilizing sorcery to deliver a tainted message. This is a serious, sobering reality and we cannot dismiss the ramifications.
Jude highlights Balaam to warn against his prophetic greed:
11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion. Jude 1:11 (NIV)
Balaam was a prophet of God who sold out to God’s enemies—and it cost him dearly.
22 In addition to those slain in battle, the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination. Joshua 13:22 (NIV)
Often when I travel I will minister prophetically. There is commonly an expectation that I will release prophetic words for the church, the city and also for individuals in the meetings. There can be pressure to perform, to give them what they want. It’s not uncommon for me to avoid giving prophetic words at all on some trips, even when asked. I wonder if the church may have felt like they were short-changed, but the fear of the Lord is very real for me. I simply cannot lie in the name of God, taking his name in vein. We should be terrified at such a thought!
In fact, there have been times when I did have a prophetic word for the church or the city they were laboring in. I can remember feeling a bit unsettled after delivering the word due to the reaction of the leadership. They became extremely excited about the word and I could tell they were going to hang too much of their hope on it. Prophecy was never meant to be the end-all of divine revelation. If a pastor is called to lead his church in a specific direction, prophecy can be encouraging and even directional to a point, but if they are seasoned and mature, they won’t become giddy. They will take it in stride, judge it, weigh it and appreciate whatever assistance it offers as they add it to their prophetic history. They simply stay the course and keep moving.
13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. Daniel 5:13 (ESV)
After the enchanters fail, God’s people will be summoned. A prophetic people will be called on to bring understanding to the crisis in the land. We must understand the great cost that such an honor demands. A causal connection to God will never suffice. This prophetic company will be those who are firebrands, burning night and day in the place of intercession.
16 Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Daniel 5:16 (ESV)
CAUTION NUMBER TWO
Caution number two comes into play here. King Belshazzar was in close with the gods of money, and he was ready to reward Daniel from that domain. Remember, the king was desperate, terrified and was willing to pay greatly for resolution. Too much of today’s prophetic culture is wooed and conditioned by the temptation of financial reward. The words of God are too sacred for such a carnal approach to prophecy. Even today people are not only willing but eager to pay prophets for an encouraging word. The fortune tellers are better off as they are at least prophesying without putting God’s name behind the message. I fear many of today’s prophetic ministers have jumped at the chance to prophesy for leaders in exchange for wealth.
What we read next is what we must see emerge in our nation if we have hope of delivering a pure word to a desperate people:
17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. Daniel 5:17 (ESV)
Did you pick up on the humility and purity of what Daniel said? It’s enough to take pause and just mediate on that verse! He was in no way motivated by financial gain. His passion was to function in his God-given gift and to be faithful in his opportunity to impact the king and the kingdom.
Daniel goes on to explain how God had so favored the king’s father, Nebuchadnezzar, and went to great lengths to reveal his greatness when the fear of the Lord disappeared. Even though Belshazzar witnessed God’s undeniable activity in his dad’s life, and his dealings with him when his heart grew hard, he still turned to the gods of gold.
23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know… Daniel 5:23 (ESV)
Today’s prophetic culture rewards prophets who deliver what the people want to hear, but God is looking for those who, in the spirit of Daniel, will with great love and humility, reveal the hard truths.
What happens next is remarkable. Daniel prophesies the end of Belshazzar’s reign, and the very wealth that Daniel refused before delivering the prophecy was given him after he obediently served God’s purposes. He was ultimately named as one of three leaders of the new administration. Provision and promotion will follow obedience.
26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” 29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old. Daniel 5:26-31 (ESV)
CAUTION NUMBER THREE
I contend it’s only the fear of the Lord that will enable today’s end-time messengers to deliver the very hard words to a hard-hearted people. It will be extremely easy to soften the word, to pull back, to hesitate or to be muzzled entirely. Great caution must be considered when dealing with God’s weighty, timely prophetic declarations. Daniel refused to shrink back. He wasn’t focused on the financial benefits for bringing a word that the king approved of.
Will you be included as part of the end-time remnant that is available to God, who is not seduced by wealth or notoriety and who lives in the fear of the Lord? Will you with love and humility speak only the words of God even if it comes at a price?
We need people like this who will be ready when called on by the leaders of the world to bring clarity to a move of God they can’t understand.
I believe prophesy is going to become more important than it has ever been in history, with the exception of the compilation of God’s prophetic messages that resulted in the Bible.
True prophecy that is delivered accurately without modification will result in mind-blowing advance of the Kingdom of God. We can see a demonized earthly kingdom fall in a day and the life of God advance in power if we are faithful to reveal the truth. You are invited to be a part of this sober, God-fearing end time company of prophetic messengers.
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The weird and wonderful realm of the supernatural may contain the key to your breakthrough!
I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. That’s been a commitment of my ministry for years. I also refuse to disinvite the Holy Spirit when the manifestations cross the line of our human comfort. In fact, I believe many people will be held accountable for limiting the Holy Spirit in the name of biblical order. Simply, we need God to move in other worldly power!
That being said, I absolutely agree that it’s possible, and even common, for people to get weird in the name of God while manifesting mostly out of their emotions. As a senior pastor for many years, I understand the dynamics of attempting to give God the reigns while also not surrendering the reigns to overly zealous but immature people who are full of zeal but lack in wisdom. While I’m not going to address the inner workings of supernatural church services, I wanted to mention this because the question is sure to present itself as you read through this article—is it really God or is it nothing more than emotional passion and desire?
EMBRACING THE SUPERNATURAL
When considering just what is necessary to experience breakthrough in our lives, the expected points to ponder include faith, consecration, timing and other components that absolutely do factor into answered prayer. Am I genuinely confident that God is in control? Am I living a holy, surrendered life? Does God have me in a holding pattern or a desert season? Am I truly contending in intercession sufficiently? All of these questions are important and must be answered. However, there’s one question that few are asking: Am I fighting this battle in the invisible, supernatural realm?
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet Revelation 1:10 (ESV)
I’m a prayer freak. There are few things more satisfying and invigorating than pacing around a prayer room, contending in the Spirit, praying in tongues and experiencing wave after wave of God’s glory and revelation wash over me. Even when those waves are soft or intermittent, the expectancy that drives me is electric. I’ve experienced the supernatural too often to allow a momentary silence to deter me. You see, when I read accounts in Scripture like we see in Revelation 1:10, I’m provoked. I believe John had an encounter and I yearn for God to move in my life in a similar way. You’ll notice the trumpet only sounded when he was in the Spirit. He was living in the supernatural realm, even as he walked upon the earth.
To jump right to the point, I want to propose to you that, in addition to a life of faith, prayer, consecration and biblical soundness, venturing into an extreme supernatural life will result in absolutely remarkable and stunning breakthroughs, revelations and answers to prayer. No, life doesn’t get easier. Consecration doesn’t cost less. Discipline isn’t less intense. Yet, our fervent devotion to our beautiful, glorious and overwhelmingly supernatural Lord will result in shock, awe, wonders and abundant life that could never be experienced in our predictable, all too familiar natural life.
Many years ago when we were leading Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, which is one of the darkest regions in the nation, filled with witchcraft and the occult, my oldest son was regularly tormented by night terrors. Demons would visit him, and even at his very young age, he would encounter them in the spirit realm. Typically, a few hours or so after Skylar fell asleep, my wife and I would be awakened to terrifying cries of, “Momma! Momma! No! No!” and other similar disturbing moans and shrieks.
We’d rush to his room, pick him up, pray over him, rebuke the enemy and do all we knew to do to see peace return. Understand, we were living mega-clean lives. We understood the tragic cost of watching the wrong things on TV or at the movies. We knew we must be full of the Spirit. We had already experienced many wild spiritual victories. What I’m saying is that, to the best of our knowledge, there were no open doors or obvious reasons why this demon had access. Don’t let your mind wander at this point, thinking up reasons why this might have happened. God had a powerful lesson for me to learn and I don’t want you to miss it.
Some of the most troubling moments were when, after we had responded to Skylar’s cries, Skylar would sudden look just to the side of my wife and become terribly startled. He’d say, “Right there! Right there! Momma! Momma! It’s right there!” He was seeing a spirit directly next to us.
After ten or fifteen minutes, Skylar would eventually settle down and fall back to sleep. In the morning he’d never remember what happened. It was all occurring when he was asleep and vulnerable. I was beside myself. My wife and I had done all we knew to do to see him set free. It bothered me that the enemy wasn’t responding to my rebukes.
One night Amy had gone to bed and I was still up working late in my office. Skylar once again started to manifest the terror of being haunted by evil spirits. I went to his room and pulled him out of bed and held him in my arms. I prayed over him, as usual. I sang over him. I prayed in the Spirit. Then, all of a sudden, I was surprised by a form that was suddenly standing in the corner of the room. It was invisible, yet I could see its outline, much like you can see heat radiating in waves off of extremely hot asphalt in the summer. The moment I saw the entity, Skylar started screaming and freaking out as he looked directly at it. The enemy was exposed.
Faith immediately, without effort, rose up on me. I didn’t have to address the spirit. I felt authority pulsing out of me into the room. I knew it was over. Skylar’s night terrors stopped, finally, on that night. Our victory was found in the supernatural realm. Our consistent prayer, faith, prophetic decrees, praying in tongues and pursuit of victory didn’t result in the problem simply disappearing. It enabled me to venture into another realm and displace the enemy. That’s what the breakthrough required.
WATCHERS HAUNTING OUR HOUSE
I believe in haunted houses. Another way to say it is, I believe invisible spirits can wreck havoc in naturally discernable ways.
Years after our experience in Manitou Springs, we lived in the Detroit area. My wife and I had our bedroom on the second floor of the house. There was a door that led to a balcony. It had no stairs, so the only way to access it was directly through our bedroom.
Most nights, right at 3am, we would be awakened by a loud, steady knocking on the door to the balcony. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Over and over it would continue. When we got up to look, of course there was nobody there. The knocking would stop and we’d go back to sleep.
One night I had a very interesting dream. I was in our home, in the evening, hanging out with my family downstairs. Suddenly I saw two red eyes staring through the window. I was able to move to the window and clearly see what was looking at us. It was a man covered in feathers. He then slowly walked away and into the trees.
I immediately woke up and I knew this was a spiritual dream. God spoke to me and revealed what I saw was a Watcher. I had never heard of such a thing. So, I decided to Google what I experienced, fully certain nothing would come back on my search for “man covered in feathers watcher demon.” Boy was I wrong.
And there appeared to me two men very tall, such as I have never seen on earth. And their faces shone like the sun, and their eyes were like burning lamps; and fire came forth from their lips. Their dress had the appearance of feathers:…
That was from the Book of Enoch (a historic text not part of the biblical canon). Enoch was visited by two Watchers as he rested on his bed.
In the Book of Enoch, the watchers (Aramaic עִירִין, iyrin) are angels dispatched to Earth to watch over the humans. They soon begin to lust for human women and, at the prodding of their leader Samyaza, defect en masse to illicitly instruct humanity and procreate among them. The offspring of these unions are the Nephilim, savage giants who pillage the earth and endanger humanity. ~Wikipedia
Don’t get tripped up over the use of a non-biblical book. What God revealed to me in the dream took me on a journey of discovery. To this day I don’t know why the Watcher was there, but it was evil and God confirmed it in miraculous fashion. From that night on we never heard knocking again.
HOW TO LAUNCH INTO THE SUPERNATURAL
We certainly don’t want to venture into false, New Age mysticism. We don’t want to entertain angles of light. We don’t want deception to creep in. But, we also don’t want to minimize or discount the very real, potent and critical realities of the spirit realm!
I have many more stories of supernatural intervention. I’m hooked. I’ve been transformed. I don’t want to be limited to what my eyes can see. There is a glorious spiritual realm to abide in! You can do this too!
Stay grounded in the Word. Study the amazing stories of supernatural manifestations and interactions. Pray in the Spirit with passion. Develop a prophetic life. Decree and declare the Word of God and the truths that the Holy Spirit deposits into your spirit. Put on your armor. Grow in authority. Ask God for revelation. Be expectant! Do as John did: Be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day!
Most definitely, be encouraged. Don’t simply pray and wait for an answer. Become active in the resolution! Live, pray, walk and advance in the Spirit!
Pastors are refusing to confront culture, sound alarms or to address today’s political crisis—and it may be time for them to step down.
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 1 Kings 18:17-18 (ESV)
God is raising up a new generation of bold, prophetic messengers who are fearless, broken and undone by the weight of what’s happening in our world. They couldn’t care less if people leave churches they minister in. They aren’t looking for accolades or book deals. They are criers in the wilderness, a new breed of burning ones who aren’t into building churches, but they are very much into confronting culture and shocking the nations with prophetic unction.
We need bold, confrontational leaders formed after the spirit of Elijah, people who are commissioned and unafraid to expose the wickedness in the land. Sadly, it’s rare to find men and women of God like this today.
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Though I’m going to share seven reasons pastors are refusing to confront culture or to dive into politics from the pulpit, the honest truth is that I am so disturbed that I even have to write about this. How can supposed men and women of God just go on teaching generic Sunday School style messages every Sunday morning when the escalating crisis in the world demands an immediate and Spirit-led response?
Pastors, it’s time to repent for your silence—or step aside!
Repent from your tired, unimpressive and self-centered attempts to grow your church. Repent from being a wordsmith instead of a prophet. Repent from being careful when you are called to risk everything. Repent from keeping people happy and controversy at bay. You have lost your voice!
Pastors, if you don’t have a prophetic voice, you don’t have a ministry.
We live in a day where babies are being butchered and many people are campaigning for the slaughter to be extended to those who survive the womb. Homosexual activism has muzzled so much of the church as they force their vile beliefs on us. Pornography and human trafficking are destroying millions. Where is your response?
“If Thou canst do something with us and through us, then please, God, do something without us! Bypass us and take up a people who now know Thee not!”― Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries: A Classic on Revival
7 REASONS PASTORS ARE SILENT IN A WICKED CULTURE
ONE. Fear of man
5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)
Fear of man is possibly the most obvious reason, though I don’t believe it’s the greatest reason in most cases. However, it’s true that many pastors do fear confrontation. They lack confidence in their ability to tear down arguments and to advance with boldness. It’s the Holy Spirit that enables this boldness, and, sadly, it’s true that many pastors are not filled to overflowing with the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
It’s also true that many pastors are muzzled by their boards, elders and others who exhibit control in the church. It can be easy to succumb to the demands and expectations of those and others who have the ability to make life difficult if the pastor doesn’t move in the direction they expect.
The opposite of the fear of man just very well may be the fear of the Lord. Where is the tremble in our pulpits today? Where is the troubling, weighty terror of God in our churches? What will it take for the fear of man to be displaced by fear of the Lord? It’s embarrassing that there is so much fear of man, that pastors today are working overtime to keep the peace, instead of calling people into a place of urgent response to a threatening, deadly spirit of the age.
The sword will divide, and those who are bound by fear of man will keep that sword in their sheath, if they possess one at all.
“A man who is intimate with God is not intimidated by man.”― Leonard Ravenhill
TWO. Fear of loss
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Matthew 27:24 (ESV)
I believe the fear of loss is an even greater motivator for pastors to keep their mouths shut than the fear of man is. Today we have pastors who are wordsmiths instead of prophets, people who are experts at framing their words in such a way that no possibility of offense or disagreement is there. They are keenly focused on being balanced, avoiding controversy and developing a happy, encouraging atmosphere in the church that helps ensure there is no loss. People remain in their seats, money keeps coming in and everybody is happy.
Pilate would have given different leadership if the threat of riots and of losing his position and influence weren’t there. He surrendered because he feared loss. While it might be quite offensive to compare a pastor to the man who turned Jesus over for death, we have to honestly consider the scenario. Instead of doing the right thing, Pilate caved. Pastors are turning on Jesus all too often today by rejecting his directives as they would prove to be too costly. Great loss would certainly come.
Pastors are right. The moment they actually have a strong opinion and take a strong position on a controversial topic, they absolutely will experience pruning.
While there are some absolutely amazing churches out there, in most churches you won’t hear messages that cause any problems with your theology, cause offense or provoke you in any way. When is the last time you heard a message about abortion, homosexuality, pornography or other cultural issues? When is the last time your pastor has pierced the atmosphere with prophetic unction in response to something happening in our society? In some churches it happens. In most it does not. Why? Fear of loss. Pastors can’t afford to lose people, money or their dream of a happy, growing church.
THREE. They have no prayer life/prophetic unction
Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen. ~Leonard Ravenhill
This one is obvious and easy. If pastors are not spending time in the fires of intercession, they simply will not be alerted to much of anything in the spirit. On the contrary, it’s absolutely impossible to live in the prayer room and not hear God’s voice and to discern the crisis in the land.
Spending hours in that place of prayer will result in a burning and an inner tremble that will result in a cry and a shout and a decree from the pulpit on Sunday morning. There will be a fierce spirit that won’t be silenced. The fear of man becomes laughable. Fear of loss is a willing price to pay. Their passion is no longer building their own dream but rather becomes all about being a voice in the wilderness, tearing down strongholds and refusing to be muzzled!
Peter went from a man driven by fear to a fearless wonder, coming out of ten days in the prayer room and carrying a Pentecost fire that would not be ignored.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)
FOUR. They misunderstand the governmental purpose of the church
Ekklesia: A governmental gathering under apostolic leadership
I have long been frustrated at the misunderstanding of the purpose of the church that is epidemic today. The key, foundational purpose of the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. Further, the ekklesia is a governmental gathering. Under apostolic leadership, the church is called to be a governing force in a city.
Sadly, many pastors and people presume the church to be little else than a place to meet together, to sing and learn and to involve themselves in various ministries, programs and projects. Of course, there are many supplemental ministries and projects that are absolutely appropriate and valuable, but they can never supersede the primary call—to pray and govern.
Pastors should absolutely be responding to the crisis in the land as they are the ones who have been commissioned to do so! They have been authorized, ordained, anointed and given a mandate to invade the darkness and command in the spirit!
FIVE. They want to stay out of politics
28 …“We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:28-29 (ESV)
Many pastors reveal they intentionally stay out of politics. Often they communicate this as if they are operating in some form of wisdom or caution, when in reality they are abdicating their responsibilities.
We are called to legislate. We are called to govern. If the church is a governmental agency, as I shared in the previous point, it makes absolutely no sense that pastors would not address political issues in the nation. Often a desire to avoid politics has to do with fear of man and fear of loss. They understand the moment they get political is the moment they draw a line in the sand. We need leaders, not managers. We need people who will boldly draw that line and make it very clear that they won’t be stopped as they deal with the crisis at hand.
We wouldn’t be as concerned about finding the right candidate for office, whether it’s mayor of the city or President of the United States, if our church leaders had some guts and gave political leadership themselves.
Peter responded to politics just as we must. We must obey God rather than men.
SIX. They just want to preach the bible
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (ESV)
It sure sounds spiritual to say they just want to focus on the Bible, but it’s not possible to only do that. You can’t simply preach the Bible and ignore what’s going on in culture. What do you do with all the accounts of the apostles and others who confronted culture, wickedness and the spirit of the age?
If they are preaching and teaching the Bible then they must model their lives and ministries after the people they are studying. We need pastors with the spirit of Elijah. Where are those who lead like Gideon and tear down ungodly cultural altars?
We must, without question, not only be hearers but also doers. If these heroes of the faith confronted culture, than we must as well.
SEVEN. Wrong theologies and a culture of positivity
“One of these days some simple soul will pick up the book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.”― Leonard Ravenhill
There are streams today that only focus on what is positive and encouraging. They presume to find strength there and it gives license to ignore the negative and troubling issues of the day.
These are false-grace tainted doctrines and they are a threat to the call for the church to go on the offensive against wickedness in the world.
We need prophetic leaders who will speak with unction and with fire in their guts, people who will aggressively assault the kingdom of darkness and deal directly with the great evil that’s increasing in power.
PROPHETIC VOICES RISE UP
The days of carefully guarding our churches, salaries, security and reputations are over. It’s time to let churches die if necessary. We need prophetic voices behind the pulpits, people who will scare away the pretenders and provoke the sleepers and confront the wickedness that is among us.
The demonic hoard that has been released upon the world have been mostly uncontested. Their threats have gone unmet. We need governmental leaders in churches to finally stand firm for truth and to tear down arguments and altars with no thought of their own safety or well being.