Todd Bentley has been deemed unfit for ministry. Why do so many fallen ministers reject a process of restoration that would reestablish their ministry?
Dr. Michael Brown and other extremely reputable Christian leaders released a report on Todd Bentley and his reported indiscretions. They took quite some time and carefully stepped through the process to ensure the final report would be accurate and written from a heart of love. I believe they accomplished this.
I've had the unfortunate opportunity to have a closer than normal view of public failure of three world famous ministers over the last few decades.
This most recent situation caused me to ask a simple question: Why is it so hard for fallen ministers to properly step through a restoration process? Would it not look much better for them and wouldn't the public be much more accepting of a return to ministry if they handled it rightly?
Jimmy Swaggart was warned to take a year off of ministry by David Wilkerson just before his infamous failure was made known. This was a striking prophetic word as nobody had any inclination that Jimmy was in sin and it was about to be announced to the world. As I sat in the pastoral ministry class at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Jim Rentz, the pastor of Family Worship Center on the campus of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries told us that they all truly loved Brother David. However, the ministry would collapse if Jimmy Swaggart stepped away for a year. They rejected the prophetic instruction and the rest is history.
After the failure, he was instructed to take a year off of ministry by the Assemblies of God, but he rejected that instruction by his authorities. He was back behind the pulpit in three months. In fact, he did everything but preach in the weeks leading up to his extremely rapid return.
From the Los Angeles Times on April 9th, 1988:
Jimmy Swaggart was defrocked Friday by the Assemblies of God after he refused a one-year suspension, asserting that a prolonged absence from the pulpit would doom his television ministry and jeopardize his Bible college.
The decision to defrock Swaggart for unspecified “moral failures” was made in a telephone conference of a dozen elders of the Assemblies of God church. It commenced upon receipt of a letter from Swaggart declaring that he could not submit to the terms of his penance and rehabilitation.
“We believe,” Swaggart told reporters later at his Baton Rouge, La., headquarters, “that to stay out of the public for a year would totally destroy the television ministry and greatly adversely impact the college.”
Assemblies of God leaders said Swaggart gave them no choice but to defrock him.
He's not the only one who rushes back into ministry after falling into immorality.
I believe there are many reasons for this. In fact, it would do all of us well to ask God if any of these reasons I'll be addressing below might be issues or potential issues in our own lives. It's hard, but still much easier to deal with character issues before failure hits then after.
Here's a handful of extremely deadly mindsets and problems that all of us, on either side of failure, should go to prayer about.
FEAR OF LOSS
When failure becomes public, suddenly everything the minister has worked for, sometimes for decades, is at risk of being removed in the matter of a moment. We see this clearly admitted to by Jimmy Swaggart as revealed in the LA Times article above. Their immediate reaction may not be to deal with the sin, but rather with the impending consequences. They can't imagine their entire lives being turned upside down, so they do whatever possible to mitigate damages and keep their ministry machine moving forward just as it always has been. They don't understand that losing the ministry is okay if it means saving their soul and guarding the name of Jesus.
Some will fully deny wrongdoing whatsoever, but even those who have been undeniably caught in indiscretion, they may minimize just how serious the sin is. I believe often times they have convinced themselves that it's not really that big of a deal. They deny the severity of the failure and can be quite irritated that others can't see it that way. In fact, they will often presume that a simple confession eradicates the past sin. Well, if a confession is genuine, and if repentance is true, then the sin is forgiven. What is yet to be resolved, however, is their own heart, weaknesses and the state of their ministry. They may correctly deny that they are still in sin, but that denial doesn't end the restoration process, it starts it, and it very well may take years.
Many of today's most successful public ministers are alpha leaders. They are dominant. They are used to being in charge and the thought of answering to another is an irritant to them, if not totally foreign. They claim to do exactly what God is telling them to do, and they won't relinquish that role to any other. The problem is that God has placed human authorities in our lives and we don't have the option to cast them aside so we can do what we please.
When failure as come, the leader is no longer in charge. They would do well to humble themselves and trust the process that loving Kingdom authorities will lay out for them. They didn't ask to be in this situation. They wish they weren't, but the leader's sin put them there. Honor them in their selfless service by submitting to them.
You can imagine how embarrassing a public scandal would be. Those caught in sin can be humiliated as it crushes any reputation they have built for themselves over the previous years or decades. It's easy to fight back against the charges in hopes of eliminating the shame.
Instead, we should be like Joseph who chose both shame and prison over sin when he ran out of a setup in the bedroom naked. Personal image protection can't be our motive. Holiness, purity and God's reputation must be drive our reactions to accusation.
A full confession and full surrender to a lengthy restoration process is counter-intuitive to someone who is attempting to salvage what he spent so long building, and that is currently being threatened and torn apart.
A better move would be to waive the white flag, to fully repent and to go through whatever process necessary to move through the restoration. They need to understand they have no leverage, no bargaining power. They are now in the hands of God, of the public and of leaders who want to initiate create a careful, thoughtful pathway of success for them.
While many people enter ministry with a pure heart, over time their motives can change significantly. Anyone in ministry knows it's possible to be seduced by the promise of influence, power, finances or other temptations.
It's sad how rare it is to see preachers who have fallen into sin to be truly, visibly and deeply sorrowful for their sin. Where are the tears? Where is the brokenness? Where are those who admit they have nothing left and who are willing to spend the time necessary, as mandated by their overseers, to rediscover God, to get healed and to become qualified for ministry again?
Some will boldly, without any concern for the people they hurt, strike back at their accusers by rejecting any accountability. They continue to build their ministry in the face of the entire world in hopes of smothering the accusations and silencing the accusers.
There is an arrogance that has overcome this type of leader. They have successfully driven through people their entire “ministry” and they won't let anyone stand in their way now. If they do, look out.
The threat of losing money and of having a lifestyle altered is a serious motivating factor for ministers caught in sin. They kick into damage control and do whatever they can to keep the dollars rolling in.
The thought of actually getting a job is a joke to them. Working a 9 to 5 is laughable. It would be a smart move for many of these fallen ministers to give up on the monument they have built and start working for another.
How powerful would it be to see someone like Todd Bentley humbly and honorably working at a pizza place or driving a bus instead of announcing yet another ministry endeavor in the face of scandal? Can you imagine how much more quickly people would be endeared to them? Their restoration would be fast tracked.
Of course, pride is sure to rear its ugly head if it hasn't been fully dealt with prior to failure. It's easy to react mindlessly if a spirit of pride is leading the charge. A collapse of a ministry very well may be an act of love by God who is doing all he can to alert them to their haughtiness and save their soul from Hell.
NO DESIRE TO REPENT
Some enjoy their sin so much, and have minimized its severity so completely, that they don't see themselves leaving that lifestyle behind. Some are addicted to behaviors and they can't imagine life without feeding that beast. Of course, people like this have no business being in any type of ministry. Instead they should be checking themselves into to counseling sessions, going through deliverance and seeking inner healing.
MINISTRY IS AN IDOL
This may hit home to many pastors and ministers. How easy is it to get addicted to the rush of ministry? Very. Every single one of us should immediately ask God to search our hearts and see if we are addicted to it. Do we love ministry more than God? Nobody would want to say yes, but we should yearn for the freedom that can come if it's true and we repent.
Those who have fallen into sin need to understand their restoration most often will take years, not months. Just step away and discover the lover of your souls again!
God is your provider, so financial loss shouldn't be an issue.
God's name is to be made famous, not ours, so a lack of influence shouldn't concern us.
We are called to die daily, so loss shouldn't be troubling to us.
This message is for all of us, public failure or no public failure. Do all you can to address the above issues and any other the Lord highlights to you. The enemy is working very hard to destroy ministries, ministers, their families and all who are under their influence. Any weakness such as pride or idolatry is an open door for attack. Close that door fast!
I learned a long time ago that the world doesn't need my ministry as much as I might think it might. God doesn't need me as much as I'd like to think either. I'm not minimizing the need for people to step out into their callings and ministries, but we must understand that being responsive to God, being repentant, growing in intimacy, embracing humility and dying to self is all much, much more important.
Exactly what value is there in prophesying all the great and wonderful things that are coming in the new year and in the next decade if we aren't dying to self and catching fire for Jesus?
Before all of you prophetic folks get triggered, understand that I am a mega-proponent of legitimate prophecy. While there is a seriously unhealthy prophetic culture in our nation today, God is still speaking and we need mature, broken and consecrated prophetic people to relay critical information. The messengers most certainly must cry out and awaken the church in these end times.
That being said, the prophetic nonsense must stop. Not once have I read or heard about any prophecy for 2020 that includes judgment, correction, rebuke or warning. To stuff our spiritual faces with nothing but happy prophetic thoughts is utter foolishness at best. At worst it will seal the fate of our nation as one that started godly and ended suddenly under God's wrath.
33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction. 34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. Jeremiah 32:33-35 (ESV)
While there are many amazing, consecrated and anointed men and women of God in our nation, people who tremble in the fear of the Lord and who are standing for righteousness, there are many more who are casual, lukewarm and sleepwalking.
Abortion is destroying the next generation as children are sacrificed at the altar of Molech. You'd be shocked at how few pastors and prophets speak out against it. You'd be sickened at how many actually support abortion. Homosexual activists are forcing their agenda, pornography is being devoured by the high majority of Christians including pastors and leaders and it's nearly impossible to find a church with a spirit of prayer driving it. We are in crisis yet the prophets seem to think God is well pleased and ready to pour out blessing without any thought of dealing with the depravity that both the church and our culture refuse to renounce.
16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” 18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? Jeremiah 23:16-18 (ESV)
Am I saying we can never prophecy blessing, promotion and open doors? No, I'm not. What I am saying is that simply focusing on the positive to the exclusion of the undeniable and terrifying reality that's staring us in the face is a serious misuse of a prophetic gift. Effectively, it's lying. Even worse, it's taking God's name in vain as his name is attached to impure and/or incomplete messages.
It's time the professional prophetic voices take a break and follow the instructions of Jeremiah 23:18. We need every prophetic person to give themselves night and day to prayer, consecration, tears, groans of intercession and the fear of the Lord. We all must stand in the council of the Lord!
There are warnings that must be sounded so we know how to respond. I can see America collapsing and people fuming in anger asking why nobody warned them of what was to come. Where were the prophets, they will say.
To publish word after word about how blessing and promotion is our portion in 2020 will do little to nothing to prepare the people for what is to come. Honestly, it doesn't take much of a prophetic gifting at all to know the call for 2020 must be radical consecration, intercession, repentance and a fresh revelation of both the love and the fear of the Lord. We must stand in his council.
A LUKEWARM CHURCH
An apathetic, lukewarm church is at serious risk. Apathetic, lukewarm followers of Jesus are as well.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)
Where are the prophets who are warning the church that God himself will come against it? Where are those who are shaking people out of their mediocrity and casual connection to God, awakening them from a lethal slumber? Do we even realize how dangerous such a life of apathy is? Most don't. The prophets aren't telling them. The pastors aren't either.
If we aren't burning white-hot on fire for Jesus we better stop and consider where we are in God. Our passion, fire and level of intimacy with Jesus absolutely impacts where we will spend eternity, not to mention the future of our nation. There are millions of people who are lifting their hands in worship, praying, reading their Bible, serving and “living right” as they faithfully follow Jesus in an unsaved condition. They don't have passion for Jesus and they have no oil in their lamps.
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelation 3:16-17 (ESV)
8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:8-13 (ESV)
AN ARMY OF PROPHETIC WARRIORS
We must see prophetic schools emerge, training young and old to step into an assignment that has been mostly ignored by the current generation. We need an army of prophetic warriors, and warners, to emerge, people who have zero fear of man and who are functioning with the penetrating love of God that is perfectly synchronized with the paralyzing fear of God.
These warriors will spend their lives trembling, crying and interceding in the fire, standing in the council of God and releasing strike after strike of prophetic shock waves into our churches, regions and the nations of the earth.
While I am cautiously thankful for our President, and I do believe God is doing great things through him, I believe the prophets have erred in one critical area: many of them have prophesied President Trump's emergence as the goal, as the end game, as the answer to our nation's woes. The result is a people who are now putting too much hope in a man without concern for their own holiness, passion or part in the story. The prophets must call God's people to repentance. This nation's ills should be resolved by the church, but instead much of the church has abdicated that responsibility to a politician. Again, I am thankful God is using him, but I am also grieved that we have placed so much reliance on him. This national problem lays squarely at the feet of the prophets.
The army of raw, undignified and irritating prophetic messengers that God is raising up will bring a correction to this prophetic crisis. They will have no tolerance for the prophetic games that are being played by so many today. The terror of the Lord will drive them. Low level, feel good, happy words won't be entertained. In fact, they will irritate their spirits.
Too often those who are immature in the prophetic will communicate a low level impression or an uninvited, spontaneous thought as a prophetic word. The more abstract or unusual it is, the more they think it's God.
Folks, most of the time these are simple imaginations. We have to stop encouraging people to prophesy haphazardly. So many of today's prophets never matured out of this, but have been elevated to the public stage because of their charisma. As a result, the words that are coming out of their mouths are meant to create a positive vibe among the people and to enhance their ministry. They know negative words of judgment and correction won't do that. For the sake of their status they steer clear of such prophecy.
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV)
A lot of itching ears in our nation can support a prophetic ministry very nicely. Well, a false prophetic ministry, at least. The emerging army of prophetic warriors won't care at all about money. The thought of focusing on building their ministry and solidifying their status is nonsense to them. The fear of people attacking them, speaking out against them and causing them trouble doesn't exist. Filling up their ministry calendar isn't a goal. They'd rather turn down invitations than accept them if God isn't burning in them to go.
2020 is here. Does God have good plans for his true, remnant church? Sure. However, his true church isn't mostly concerned about that. Those aren't the words they want to hear. They are in tune with the assault of the spirit of the age, with the immorality in the land, with the abominations that both the world and the church are in alignment with and with possible judgment and wrath that can strike our nation if we don't turn. They are crying out for God to prophetically speak about this stuff. They want to be warned and they want to share those warnings with the world.
I'm not saying the following passage is a prophetic word, but it sure is a much better exhortation than many I'm reading concerning the new year. I propose we do this:
13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (ESV)
Don't be shocked when prayer doesn't work. A comprehensive strategy is required to experience a powerful and effective life of prayer.
I've met many people who have become completely disenchanted with the hopes of encountering the supernatural power of God and they have lost all hope of experiencing regularly answered prayer.
The idea of God responding to prayer is fully ridiculous to the unredeemed who regularly mock this Christian concept. You will hear them laugh when God doesn't do what the religious zealots are petitioning him to do. Of course, it's no surprise that those who don't know God wouldn't understand the power of intercession. I get it.
What is grieving is when Believers give up on the call to surrender their lives to faith-driven, fiery and determined prayer. Their prayer ritual instead becomes a whispered request that flutters out of their mouths and into the great void of time and space. They fulfill their due diligence, so they think, by making their requests known. The reality is, however, that they doubt any answers will come. Their faith is at at similar level to those who don't know God at all.
The truth is that answered prayer at it's most basic level is a simple cry of the heart. But, if it's analyzed more closely, we'll see that many synchronized factors are required to experience a powerful and vibrant life of prayer.
A CONTENDING SPIRIT
Breakthrough prayer is most often a comprehensive supernatural strategy, not a momentary petition. Our lives must be marked by the fire that can only be found in the Upper Room, in that place of Holy Spirit impact. Night and day, praying continually, we give ourselves to a lifestyle of fervent prayer.
16 …The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16 (KJV)
As we live deliberately consecrated lives, we will be driven by a fervent spirit of intercession that refuses to relent no matter the cost. A casual approach will never do it. We will live well outside of the supernaturally wondrous life that God has planned for us and prayers will mostly fall to the ground.
Those who have a ferocious contending spirit will power through obstacles and shift atmospheres that result in miraculous breakthrough.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
I do not believe any person or any prayer movement can be sustained in intercession without faith being a primary attribute. Where there is no belief there will be no contending. Prayers will be weak and saturated with doubt causing them to have very little effect at all.
We are called Believers, not “Hopers.” We are know by our unwavering belief in an invisible, omnipotent, divine person we call God. He is our everything! We don't hope our way to success, we stand firm on truth and we believe!
If faith is challenged, shift your focus from the thing you were contending for in prayer to faith itself. Cry out for a mighty influx of belief that can then be the impetus of your contending intercession for breakthrough.
23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 (ESV)
22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 (ESV)
When you contend in faith, you better know that there are forces of wickedness that will be resisting your advance into breakthrough.
So many get mad at God for not answering prayer, and this is evidence of an immature understanding of the spiritual realm. They see prayer the same way they do ordering a hamburger in the drive-through. They put in the order and expect the powers that be to have their lunch ready for them by the time they reach the window.
The truth is, to spiritualize the analogy, that many devils are doing all they can to keep the burger from being delivered. The answer to our prayer can absolutely be hindered by unholy entities who are running interference. They know that failure or even delay in answered prayer can negatively affect our faith and our contending spirit can lose its intensity.
13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, Daniel 10:13 (ESV)
If we understand the warfare component of answered prayer, we won't lose hope, we won't lose faith and we will contend all the greater! It's from this place where we can truly engage the enemy, rebuke him and fight back with ferocity and even a greater measure of supernatural faith!
Prayer without prophetic infusion is greatly limited. The most powerful breakthroughs in my prayer life have come when God has clearly spoken to me. Whether it's a still small voice, dreams, visions or other forms of prophetic communication, you will come alive and your faith will skyrocket.
It can be very easy to be off, sometimes just by a degree or two, and miss the breakthrough entirely. When prophetic revelation becomes a part of the recipe of intercession, many of the questions and much of the confusion are eliminated. You can pray with extreme focus and with great precision.
When we pray precisely according to God's will, as revealed by his Spirit, everything changes. I'd encourage you to read an article titled Discover a 100 Percent Effective Prayer Strategy (links: part 1, part 2 & part 3) based on my book, Revelation Driven Prayer. It will help you develop a prophetic life that will lead to a legacy of non-stop answered prayer.
Intimacy with Jesus is the cornerstone of a life of revelation. If you give yourself to anything this year, let it be developing deep, intense and vulnerable intimacy with God. You will be forever undone as the lover of your soul breathes life into you, reveals his love for you and shares his heart with you.
It's extremely easy to contend for good things outside of an intimate relationship with Jesus and to quickly get off base. Being branded by love only occurs in the place of intimacy, and without that brand, our very good ideas and determined pursuit of breakthrough will be tainted. Our understanding of God's heart is mandatory if we want to pray effectively and advance in our strategy of prayer with the right motives, character and humility.
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)
Agreement with God's plans is critical if we want to experience answered prayer. Equally critical is severing any alignment and agreement with the enemy. We must repent of adopting worldly mindsets, paradigms and strategies if we hope to enter the supernatural realm.
In the realm of the Spirit, our own understanding becomes laughable. We must advance with revelation that can only be found in that invisible place. We renounce our own limited, human plans in favor of God's wisdom.
It takes courage to do this, to leave behind our own common sense and to move into uncharted territory as the Holy Spirit leads. We must agree with God every step of the way. We must trust his leadership and come into an unbreakable agreement with him.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. John 9:31 (ESV)
If we aren't living holy, righteous lives, not only shouldn't we presume that God will hear our prayer, we shouldn't presume we are saved. Continuing in sin is a very serious thing.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
I don't know how many times I've counseled people over the last three decades regarding unanswered prayer. Flooding your soul with foul language, sexual situations and other immorality in media will most surely result in you living an extremely frustrated life of unanswered prayer.
On the contrary, if we eliminate the foul media, shut off the secular music and start living in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, listening to anointed and prophetic worship music night and day and then discover the overwhelming fear of the Lord, our prayers will be like fire!
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 (ESV)
DEATH TO SELF
Selfishness in prayer is a non-starter. Period. We must die to our own desires, our own pursuits, our own dreams and even our own perceived needs. We lay down our lives. We are walking dead people. Martyrs.
When we get fully out of the way and become available for God to move any way he desires through us, watch out. Talk about a supernatural life! This is the quickest way to get there.
There are a lot of people who forget to take something extremely critical on their journey when deciding to follow Jesus: their cross.
38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 (ESV)
When we lose our lives, take up our cross and surrender all, when we die, every day, the miracles begin.
PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
If you want an explosive prayer life, there is no substitute to praying in tongues. This is an absolute non-negotiable element for every Believer if they desire prayer-driven breakthrough.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 (ESV)
If we want all things to work together for good, we have no option but to allow the Spirit of God to intercede for us with groanings.
If we don't know what to pray, what other solution is there? There is none. We must still pray with precision, we must still contend in the Spirit. We can't just stop and wait. The intercession must continue and the supernatural battle can't cease. We truly have no other option but to, in our weakness, pray in the Spirit. We need God's wisdom to manifest. We need mysteries revealed. We need supernatural infusion. Praying in tongues accomplishes this. Refusal to pray in tongues compromises not only our prayer lives but our lives as Christians.
Many articles and books could be written on this topic alone as it relates to prayer. It's utter foolishness to pray amiss, to pray outside of the bounds of Scripture. Yet, when we do pray from the foundation of biblical truth, look out. The prayer becomes nuclear!
Reading the Word with prayer in mind makes it an absolutely thrilling experience! Read it and then cry out for what it reveals. Contend for what you have discovered, believing in faith that it's true and that it must manifest in your life.
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14 (ESV)
Confidence in prayer comes when we see God's will in Scripture. He wrote it, we believe it and we contend for it to manifest.
Related to praying from the foundation of the Word is confidently and boldly releasing decrees.
Many are addicted to petition as their primary form of prayer, and they generally live powerless lives. But, when we, as Kingdom authorities, release prophetic decrees that originate from the Word of God, and also from the Rhema messages God speaks to us, all Hell shakes!
So often people are asking for things that have already been promised in the Word. This ignorance leads to a failed prayer strategy. If it's promised, but it hasn't manifested, go through your checklist. Are you in sin? How's your faith? Are you contending for it? Are you battling the enemy? Add to that checklist bold, authoritative decrees and declarations. Don't ask the mountain to move, and don't ask God to move it. You command it to move.
When we are in the Word and when the Spirit of God speaks to us, our faith spikes and our prayer becomes a force to be reckoned with!
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (ESV)
If I know God is already settled on a matter, you better believe I'm not wasting time asking him about it. I'm shifting my prayer from talking to God to assaulting the enemy, to speaking to the situation and to commanding a shift!
I'd like to encourage you to get excited about the thrill-ride that a fully immersed life of prayer will give you. The low-level petitions and half-hearted requests that so many identify as a “prayer life” must give way to a much greater and extremely potent life of prophetic, intimate intercession. It will shake the planet and your love for Jesus will go to places you never thought possible!
Idolizing people has forever been the norm in the world. Sadly, the church is catching up, and fast.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
For as long as any of us can remember, adoration of celebrities, athletes and others in the public eye has been rampant in our society. Kids and adults alike are endeavoring to become Instagram and YouTube famous. The red carpet, paparazzi life is the dream for many. Others are satisfied being awestruck and starstruck.
Yes, this article is about people worship, but it's not really about the run-of-the-mill movie star fantasy. I'm going to take it a level deeper.
BOTH THE WORLD AND THE CHURCH ARE GUILTY
The hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. Ecclesiastes 9:3 (ESV)
Looking beyond the glitz and glamour we will discover a wicked and brilliant strategy of the enemy to exalt mankind, and, in process, destroy all who are seduced.
Our current generation, both the lost and the redeemed, has elevated mere humans into a status just south of deity.
Tolerance has been the mantra of our secular society for the last decade. This demonic game plan has been wildly successful as what was once clearly an abomination has been established as normal and protected. People who embrace deviant ideologies are not only guarded but promoted. The argument is that people are supreme and their lifestyles, no matter what the Word of God has to say on the matter, are valid.
In the church we see the same mindset manifesting in a different way. For many, evangelism has shifted in recent years from calling people out of sin to communicating how wonderful they are. Again, the focus is on their supposed value as opposed to their hopelessness and depraved state.
The message is simply, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” The Gospel message, however, is much more comprehensive—and confrontational—than that. Would Jesus have died for a single person? I believe he would have. I believe his desire is to be in relationship with us and it grieves him deeply when people reject that invitation. That being said, we have to understand that it's not about our value. It's God's value that should be driving the conversation.
OUR GAZE MUST SHIFT
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelation 3:17 (ESV)
It's time we shift our gaze from the mirror to the throne. Or, at least clearly see just what the mirror is revealing when we are self-focused instead of gazing upon the glory of God. Nakedness. Blindness. Wretchedness. The world doesn't know God, so it makes sense, as sad and maddening as it is, that they are given to self-worship and to idolizing people. We as the church should know better.
Have you noticed how worship songs have changed in recent years? Instead of mostly being about the greatness of God, so many are choruses to the wonder of mankind. The beautiful music can turn ugly quite fast when hands are lifted and eyes are closed as the congregation sings boldly about how great they are instead of how great God is.
The identity crisis in the church has resulted in a musical pep talk in an attempt to raise the spirits of people who don't know who they are. I would suggest instead that we become okay with the truth of our human condition and then, with all eyes keenly focused on Jesus, we discover our identity in him.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…”
We aren't wonderful people who would benefit from discovering just how much God adores us. We are wretches, people who are fully hopeless, given to wickedness and children of the devil who will end up in Hell one day unless we repent. How glorious is it that God's love explodes through us the moment we surrender! The intimate, other-worldly relationship that follows such a radical and zealous decision to renounce the darkness and to give up our selfish pursuits is phenomenal!
I propose we can't get from point A (wretchedness, wickedness, hopelessness) to point B (repentance, surrender and life in Jesus) unless we honestly come to terms with who we are and what we've done. We aren't to be worshiped. We aren't to be adored. We are evil and our sin is an abomination. God's wrath remains on us. We deserve death.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18 (ESV)
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)
If we have to convince people to “get saved” by revealing how giddy God is about them, I would suggest many of those salvations are illegitimate. Invalid. It never happened.
When we truly follow Jesus, everything changes. We die daily and we discover our identity in Jesus. We are seated in heavenly places with Jesus. We are the head and not the tail, above and not beneath. These realities are not evidences of how great we are, but how great God is.
The world has been seduced by the enemy as it worships and protects people in most any identity they adopt, unless that identity is in Jesus. We need broken, humble and surrendered Believers who are no longer identified as sinners, but as saints. People who die every day, who exalt Jesus and not self, who stand for truth and righteousness no matter the cost.
When we pull down strongholds and expose the wicked altars in our culture we will be mercilessly assaulted. When we refuse to worship or even acknowledge the evil, self-centered identities that society places great value on, we will be targeted.
That's okay. It's not about us. It's about Jesus.
It's time we stop worshiping people. The song isn't, “I exalt me.” It's…
For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods
For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all godsI exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord
I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord
I am crying out for those who have rejected Jesus. You are in grave danger. In fact, many in the church are equally at risk and there is only one answer to this threat.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV)
There is a force that is far more persuasive, powerful and crafty than our human intellect. The ability for humans to reason and to rightly discern truth versus error is laughable in the face of this very real, living and destructive enemy. We don't stand a chance, regardless of whether we are saved or not, unless we live every moment of our lives baptized in the other-worldly, supernatural and extreme power of the Holy Spirit.
It's hard for me to believe that intelligent human beings, those with the ability to reason even at the most elementary level, would promote the bizarre and wicked behaviors and beliefs that we see on a daily basis in our nation. The level of deception is stunning.
Listen to the podcast here…
THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SURRENDERED THEIR LIFE TO JESUS ARE IN SERIOUS JEOPARDY
I'm am pleading with any and all who have yet to turn from their sin and to make the glorious decision to surrender all to follow Jesus to reconsider. Rejecting Jesus today puts you and your entire family at peril, not only eternally but in the here and now.
It will be next to impossible to resist the convincing arguments of Satan and his manipulative horde of demons who are influencing the unredeemed non-stop. You don't have the ability with your natural intellect to confront these very powerful evil spirits. You are hopeless.
Today I read a People Magazine article about basketball superstar Dwayne Wade that grieved my heart. It's an example of being seduced and deceived by a crafty end-time demonic assault against mankind. Satan is seeking to destroy, and outside of a radical devotion to Jesus, there's no way to stand in opposition to his plans.
Dwayne Wade said, “I watched my son, from day one, become into who she now eventually come into,” the former Miami Heat player, 37, said about the 12-year-old on Showtime’s All the Smoke podcast Wednesday.
“And for me… nothing changes in my love. Nothing changes in my responsibilities. So, all I had to do now is get smarter educate myself more. And that’s my job,”
His plan is to get smarter, to get educated? That will never work. A supernatural battle can't be fought with natural methods. The result is that he will have no option but to give in to a treacherous spirit that is out to kill his son and his entire family. Again, my heart is broken.
Dwayne Wade then attempts to normalize that which is unnatural, unrighteous and completely destructive:
Wade went on to say that it’s the people who don’t understand others’ uniqueness are the ones who are “different,” and that members of the LGBTQ+ community are “normal.”
“This is the new normal. So, if anybody different, we’re looked at as different. The ones that don’t understand it. The ones that don’t get it. The ones that get stuck in the box, you know, they’re different. Not the people out here living their lives.”
Instead of surrendering to the strong and unrelenting pressure of the enemy, Dwayne Wade would do very well to teach his son and his entire family that they don't have to be manipulated by evil. They don't have to surrender to the deception of the enemy:
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)
Surrendering to Jesus and then walking in the power of the Holy Spirit is the only hope to avoid the delusion that's assaulting our culture. Sadly, few are following this undeniable prescription for victory.
Abominations and severe deception are being normalized in our culture. Everything from the insanely demented drag queen story hours for children at public libraries to the science-defying gender confusion overtaking the planet to many other strange and confounding beliefs are being branded into our society as normal. Satan is winning this battle and the church is failing miserably on its watch. Speaking of the church…
CHRISTIANS WHO ARE NOT BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE IN SERIOUS JEOPARDY
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV)
As I've already established, this is a spiritual war. It's supernatural. Invisible. Getting saved isn't the ultimate goal, it's the first step. Christians who aren't baptized in the Holy Spirit, those who aren't radiating with the power of God, are sitting ducks. They are limited to their own ability to understand various situations logically. I'll say it loud and clear: getting saved is not enough.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 (NKJV)
First salvation, then fire. We need both.
Every Believer must feel the severity of the situation and come to a quick understanding that they must receive the explosive, overcoming power that only an encounter with the Holy Spirit can deliver. If they don't, they are at risk just as those who aren't following Jesus at all are.
45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Luke 24:45 (NKJV)
The Scriptures are closed to whoever God decides, and it's the Holy Spirit that brings the life-altering revelation. Praying in tongues is the very best way for the Scriptures to dramatically impact us and for them to refute all human and demonic wisdom.
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26 (NKJV)
Every Christian who isn't baptized in the Holy Spirit is most certainly in a place of serious risk. We must have the Holy Spirit moving in and through us as we expose, confront and attack the spirit of the age.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (NKJV)
These deep groanings of the Spirit are critical. I'd encourage you to read an article that addresses this topic more completely: The Tone of the Groan.
Simply, it will be astoundingly easy for blood-bought Christians to buy into the lies that the wicked one is promoting today. We've witnessed entire Christian denominations veer into heresy in recent years. Professing Christian Carrie Underwood confessed to attending a gay-friendly church and Lauren Daigle has said that she doesn't know if homosexuality is a sin. I wrote about this in a Charisma Magazine article titled A Critical Response to Lauren Daigle about Homosexuality.
This battle can't be won with the mind. Our intellect and our emotions are extremely susceptible to even the weakest, most subtle and mildly convincing suggestions. It can only be won via the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is non-negotiable if we hope to survive this current generation of debauchery on the earth.
Oh, and also, being baptized in the Holy Spirit launches us on a supernatural, indescribable and amazing adventure that could never be had any other way!
8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you… Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
Are you willing to let your church die for the sake of Kingdom advance? Or, are you so locked in on local church growth that the region you are assigned to suffers?
Is it possible that the high majority of churches in our nation are dead-end churches? As you continue to read, you'll come to understand that many of the most vibrant, focused and Spirit-filled churches would be considered to be dead-end churches, or it's cousin, cul-de-sac churches.
Millions are assessing the current state of the church in America and the Western world—and they are right—it's in trouble. The church is so far off course that one might wonder if there's hope at all.
Listen to John talk about dead-end churches on his latest podcast…
While these millions are correct in their analysis, many of them are wrong in their response. They have left the church they have deemed to be in violation of God's design and have isolated themselves and self-identified as “the church” presuming their action moves them closer to revival. It doesn't. (Read my article that addresses this fallacy, “You are NOT the Church : The Scattering Movement.”)
THE GOVERNMENTAL CHURCH IS THE KEY TO REVIVAL
I often write and teach on the church, and my reasoning is simple. It's not because I am advocating for a better, more vibrant and impacting church experience (though I wouldn't be opposed to that). It's because the regional church, and the local churches that make it up, are the governing bodies and the way they function is critical. The church is the authority in the region and unless it's setup correctly, the hopes for revival can begin to fade away.
I'm not saying that a spark of revival can't ignite through small groups of Believer's who are going deep in prayer and crying out for an outpouring. It absolutely can. Historically it has happened more than once. However, that small group can't govern, can't administrate and can't facilitate the outpouring. While you may argue that no man has any business governing a move of God, you'd be wrong. God has set up the church as a governmental authority that not only has the responsibility but also the ability, if truly consecrated, to push back the enemy, to make room for God and to create healthy, Spirit-designed systems that both protect what God is doing and promote his activity throughout the region—and beyond.
A DEAD-END CHURCH DEFINED
As I explained above, dead-end churches can be full of life, active in outreach, aggressive in their mission and growing. In fact they can sometimes become very large, which very well may be a false positive for spiritual health. Growth and vibrancy aren't the problem. It's the vision and/or the implementation of that vision that can become poisonous.
Simply, if the focus is local church growth ahead of regional Kingdom advance, they have become compromised.
The pastor or governmental leader of that local church must have clarity on the vision, and it absolutely must be centered on regional impact. What this means is that their own desires for local church growth must be set aside as they give their energies to revival in the city God assigned them to.
Drawing and keeping visitors, growing in influence, developing local programs and ministries and other in-house focuses are put on the back burner, or sometime back on the shelf entirely, as their mandate has them focused regionally. A move of God in their city becomes the main thing.
A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH DEFINED
A cul-de-sac is a dead end too, but it has a different vibe. While a dead-end church may be extremely focused on (misguided) vision, a cul-de-sac church is focused on family. Relationships. Togetherness.
Imagine a nice neighborhood with a safe and lively cul-de-sac. The kids are out playing, neighbors are talking amongst themselves, barbecuing, laughing, eating and everybody is truly enjoying spending time together.
I am more convinced then I've ever been that “family style” churches need to give way to true, apostolic, Spirit-filled movements made up of warriors who are contending for fire. The church is a military, not a vehicle for friend building. The call is to surrender all, to die to self, to cry out for God to move and to advance with a fervency that will cause the enemy to shudder.
It's in the foxhole of Kingdom war where true friendships are forged. Simple social gatherings won't cut it. We are under attack and we need warriors to assault the kingdom of darkness with ferocity. This, friend, is the church.
LET YOUR CHURCH DIE
Pastor, you have to be okay with letting your church, in its current form, die.
Two times in my nearly 30 years of ministry I made a conscious decision to let my church die. Both in Colorado and in Detroit I had heart-wrenching meetings with God as he instructed me to go deeper, to pray more intentionally and to invite the people on the journey with me.
In Colorado, we were in a time of momentum and I'm convinced, as were others, that we had what took to grow the church to 500 people or more if we stayed the course. Understand, our church was intense and alive. The gifts of the Spirit were in play. The passion and vision were powerful. We weren't a dead church by any means, but we were on our way to becoming a very vibrant dead-end church. The only way to avoid that was for me as the pastor to allow my vision and everything I was contending for to die, even if it meant my church would die along with it.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had a clear choice: continue as we were going and grow the church to 500 and beyond or obey God, become zeroed in on intercession and revival and drop in number possibly by 50-90%—or more. I knew I'd probably lose my salary and may have to find outside work. I knew people would be upset at the change in direction. I knew people who misunderstood my heart and calling would laugh and mock. I knew I was creating a very difficult situation for myself and my family. I also had peace. God wasn't interested in my ability to grow a large church. He wanted my heart and my obedience.
In Detroit God gave me a directive to take people deeper, to come up against some destructive theologies and belief systems that many in the global church were adopting, and to focus on holiness and consecration, all from the furnace of intercession. I knew most people wouldn't be interested in such a lifestyle, but I had no choice. Again, I had to obey God. Overnight we lost a large percentage of the people in the church and we shifted into exactly what God had for us—an army of warriors, small in number yet zealous in spirit, who weren't looking for numerical growth, happy worship services or church as usual, a people who wanted nothing less than to be in the middle of God's blueprint for our region. The thoughts of revival consumed us.
The point? Church growth, local church vision, a family style focus, financial strength or attracting and keeping visitors isn't the goal. All of that, quite frankly, can compromise the goal of being a vehicle for regional Kingdom impact. Frankly, the hundreds of people you are seeking may very well threaten your ability to fulfill God's call on your life and for your church.
I would never change the decisions we made in Colorado or Detroit, even if it meant we would have grown a church of thousands. The model of a successful church has become quite skewed, and it's time we let those ideals die and capture the heart of exactly what God is calling us into.
MARKS OF A DEAD-END CHURCH
ONE: The pastor/leader doesn't connect and regularly collaborate with other churches and ministries in their region. Their energies are given almost entirely to their local church, misunderstanding the importance of their local expression of the city church. They don't realize that the church in Scripture has a regional designation attached to it. The church defined is the regional body of Believers who function under regional apostolic authority. Within that context, there are smaller, local churches that are never to be self-identified, but rather are to strategically connect and often yield to the regional expression. This is why it was so important for me to give leadership to two prayer movements, one in Colorado Springs and one in Detroit. We would visit a new church every Friday night and pray in the Spirit from 10pm until midnight. We visited over 100 churches in Colorado and over 70 in Detroit. That regional connection was invaluable.
TWO: The pastor doesn't encourage people in his church to connect with other churches and ministries on a regular basis. When I was leading churches I realized the immense value of other churches and ministries in our area. I'd let my folks know that they should definitely consider becoming faithful to other churches throughout the week, as we were but a single department of the city church. Other departments, other local churches, were important in the grand scheme and they would benefit from joining with them. In Detroit, I cancelled most everything in my church for a month as I led the people out of our church and into another about 45 minutes away that was experiencing a powerful move of God. We were there every single night for 28 days (I actually missed one night, reluctantly). My passion was not the growth of my local church but rather in fanning the flames of revival in my city.
THREE: The pastor has a competitive spirit. We need to kill that nasty spirit once and for all. I propose one way to do that is to invite other pastors and leaders to recruit anybody from our church that they would like. I'd let other leaders in the city know they could freely connect with my best leaders, my worship team, my staff and anybody in the church, and see if they might be interested in leaving us to serve with them. That eliminates competition and any threats of sheep stealing. They can't steal what I don't own and what I freely make available to them.
FOUR: The church has contagious and aggressive vision for local church growth, yet they rarely talk about regional revival. They emphasize the goals, the strategies and the determination to grow their church, to develop their ministries, to increase in number, to outgrow their building, to attract visitors or to focus on what benefits them on a local level.
FIVE: If they have a prayer emphasis at all, it's almost entirely directed toward their own local endeavors. They pray for all of the stuff I mentioned in the point above while having little zeal for an outpouring in the city. They don't understand that the revival may not even launch in their own local church, so they focus on a move of God happening in their own body while forsaking the call to intercede for regional transformation. Instead of groaning and crying out for God to move in their city, for wickedness to be exposed, for other churches to come alive, for an earth-shaking outpouring, they are praying for internal ministries, for their own tent pegs to expand and for local increase.
SIX: Money isn't sowed into their region. They use finances internally to grow their own local church. While they may have earmarked funds for missions and benevolence, the idea of sowing into regional revival is foreign to them. Further, when dead-end churches do give to outside ministries, it's almost always churches within their own denomination.
SEVEN: They rarely if ever bring in guest speakers who are leaders in other local churches in their region. They want to control the narrative and they don't want people to be influenced by a more dynamic speaker or someone who might connect better with people in their church. They fear losing those people. They fear their nice, tidy local family being disrupted. They also fear another leader behind their pulpit who carries a more potent vision for the region than they do. With all humility I can say that as a visiting guest minister in regions I've never previously been to, I've often had more vision for that city than the pastor of the church. It's crazy. I've also boldly coached pastors not to undo what God is about to do in the meetings. When God calls me to speak in a church, a lot will be confronted and exposed and a firestorm of God's loving reformation will be in the room. Pastors, have the guts to embrace someone who won't simply affirm what has been built, but will call the people higher.
MARKS OF A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH
ONE: It's all about family. As I said above, I believe the family style church is a threat. Many of these types of churches could fit into the “seeker sensitive” category of churches. Many others emphasize the grace and love message in excess and, while there may be praying in tongues and dancing in the aisles, it all comes back to relationships. The thoughts of a vertical experience where people lock in with God and contend for him to move is something they would struggle with if it interferes with their desire for horizontal connections. It can be both vertical and horizontal, but in a cul-de-sac church, preference is given to personal, human relationships instead of aggressively advancing in the Spirit.
TWO: Their definition of revival is off. They see a growing number of people who are enjoying God and one another as the prime goal. While nobody can argue that growing in intimacy with God and that developing Kingdom relationships is wrong, it's the focus and the priorities that send cul-de-sac churches into the wrong direction. Instead of a supernatural war they value a growing, happy family of people who are enjoying God together. They would call that revival, and it's a far cry from it. They misunderstand the severity of the battle and don't regularly engage at the required level.
THREE: Positivity rules. They are adverse to anything that would be a downer to their block party in the cul-de-sac. They want their people encouraged, happy, stress-free and at ease. Topics such as Hell, sin, eternity, repentance, correction, expectations or anything negative are avoided like the plague. They refuse to speak to the national cultural crisis, politics, the end-times, wickedness such as abortion and homosexuality or any other issue that would be divisive, challenging or confrontational. Just as people advise others to avoid the topics of religion and politics around the Thanksgiving table for the sake of civility and keeping the peace, cul-de-sac churches avoid anything that would cause any measure of disturbance.
FOUR: Connecting with other churches, especially those that are aggressive in the pursuit of revival, holiness and a supernatural manifestation of God, is a no-go. They are happy within the four walls of their family gathering and they don't want any outside influences threatening that.
MARKS OF A KINGDOM CHURCH
Instead of a list of attributes of a Kingdom church, I'll draw this article to a close. I believe it's easy to deduce just what makes up a Kingdom church by reviewing the opposing views above.
The bottom line is that we absolutely must see a massive correction come to what we know as the church today. Regional and national revival is greatly hindered by a lack of true, Kingdom churches that are in existence not for themselves, but rather for the advance of, well, the Kingdom.
Pastors, let your vision die. Let your church die. It's okay. Let the stress of growing your own little spiritual experiment in a tiny little petri dish fade away. Even more importantly, get on board with what God has planned in your city. Let your personal endeavors go, as great as they seem to be, and contend with others in your region for an outpouring. Just gather together somewhere, anywhere, with governmental, Kingdom leaders and other revival-minded people and press into God's heart and intercede and advance exactly as God reveals to you as a part of the regional, governmental body. That's church. That's a Kingdom church. That church will turn the world upside down.
GRACE IN THE SHIFT
In closing (for real, this time), I want to encourage you not to get jaded. Don't point fingers at churches or pastors. Understand that they have a mega-burden, and even if they aren't advancing the way reform demands, pray for them. There must be love and grace in the process and in the ultimate shift. Also, understand God is diverse and there are many different types of people giving leadership, and they have varying levels of ability, experience, gifts, offices, prophetic revelation and understanding of the purpose of the church. In fact, many will disagree with this article. That's okay. This doesn't mean we can't contend for transformation in the local church, but it does mean we must have grace in the process.
I want to strongly encourage you to read a related article that is sure to provoke you to urgently considering the need for severe reformation in the church: “Nine reasons we may have to choose: Grow a large church or contend for revival.”
Disqualified people are rushing to social media to establish illegitimate ministries. Are pastors to blame?
There's a level of toxicity regarding the prophetic in today's churches that must be addressed if we hope to hear God's voice and advance with clarity and power in these end times.
People who have had their ministries rejected in the church are taking their services to Facebook and other social communities in hopes of developing influence. The problem? Influence without authority is birthed out of deep dysfunction and it can lead people into that same dysfunctional, unauthorized spirituality.
They would argue they receive their authority and their authorization from God directly. This tired argument is evidence of resistance to being rightfully responsive to flesh and bone people that God has called us to serve and honor. We don't have the option to reject human authority while, in the same breath, attempting to establish ourselves as an authority. It's silliness.
Listen to the podcast on this topic…
PROPHECY IS CRITICAL IN THE CHURCH TODAY
We cannot go on without pure, potent and mature prophecy filling our churches every single week. The lack of God's rhema voice is telling as churches are resorting more and more to sociological mind tricks instead of advancing according to supernatural revelation.
It has become quite rare to see a body that's healthy and strong in the prophetic as people are rightly equipped and released to communicate oracles from heaven. Faith is epidemically low as millions of Christians have no idea what God's voice sounds like.
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
The word “word” in the above verse is translated as rhema. This is the “now” word of God, the revelation whether it's a prophetic word or the words of Scripture leaping off the pages. When this active, precise and timely message from God pierces a people, faith skyrockets.
Not only does a strong prophetic culture give a local church body the ability to move ahead in the direction God has determined, but everybody involved is wildly invested as a result of hearing God speak. True prophetic messages don't stop at the ears or the mind, but they sear our spirits and impact our emotions like no other message can. When this happens, faith goes up and we respond in unity, power and joy.
Sadly, most churches could not be described as prophetic churches. There are reasons for this. Blame rests both on the pastor and on the people. Let's deal with the people first.
10 REASONS WHY PASTORS DON'T LET YOU PROPHESY IN CHURCH SERVICES
ONE: A LACK OF HUMILITY
I'll begin by communicating loud and clear something many prophetic people won't want to hear: never, ever start attending a church with the intention of mentoring, teaching or refining the pastor via prophecy or otherwise. What arrogance it must take for you to presume such an uninvited role in your church. If your wealth of wisdom, knowledge and experience are needed, be sure the pastor will request your counsel. Otherwise, keep quiet.
Whether in this scenario or another, pastors have no use for people who want to minster to those they have been commissioned to protect if they aren't truly humble. Meekness is a prerequisite for prophetic ministry as any measure of arrogance or selfish ambition will taint the messages being delivered.
This following passage of Scripture speaks to this issue perfectly:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17 (NKJV)
Wisdom is demonic if self-seeking and envy is what drives it. Follow the advice in verse seventeen and be willing to yield.
Speaking of being willing to yield, undisciplined prophetic people tend to enjoy rebelling against the order of the house. Influencing the service with the spiritualized sound of their voice is what drives them.
Many years ago as I was planting my first church a visitor asked me about our prophetic protocol. I explained that we value prophecy and that she could deliver a prophetic word to me or leadership for review during the worship service. She didn't like that answer. She went on to say that she would have to interrupt the service, even if I were preaching, if God gave her a prophetic word for the body.
Ummm, nope. She presumed her supposed prophetic insight was important enough to violate order. We were interested in investing in her and in her prophetic gift and in developing a very active, life-giving prophetic culture, but she didn't want to function within those boundaries. She ended up leaving the church and we were the better for it.
There's a difference between someone who is actively and willingly growing in their gift and someone who refuses to grow up. Those who are intentionally undisciplined and who are not giving themselves to everything that needs to be done to grow and develop their gifting should not be set free to prophesy in the church. A lot of damage can be done.
These people love to prophesy, but you don't see them in the prayer rooms. They are unresponsive to leadership. They aren't in the Word.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV)
Those who are prophesying are most definitely functioning in the arena of spiritual discernment. If they cannot discern spiritually due to a lack of maturity, there's no way they can be trusted to deliver prophetic words. Does this mean their prophecy is always wrong? No. But it means they are reckless in their devotion to stewarding their gift, and if they are driven by the wrong spirit, they can do damage.
FOUR: ADVERSE TO CORRECTION
There's no pastor alive who should allow someone to influence the body who won't take correction. This is not only an indicator of immaturity, but also of a dangerous, unsubmitted person. It reveals their heart and that's a heart that should never be trusted to minister.
1 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1 (NKJV)
FIVE: YOU WON'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
The pastor has the right and responsibility to refuse to allow someone to deliver a prophetic word (or to minister in any fashion) if he chooses. If someone reacts wrongly to this, that's evidence enough that they shouldn't have been allowed to share the message.
Understand, much of the time a leader will disallow a prophetic word simply because he doesn't feel it fits. It may have nothing to do with the character of the person who desires to share the word. It may just be a timing issue. We need to yield to our leaders and not get uptight or feel rejected if they don't believe our ministry is appropriate at that time.
If you are a prophetic person, you need to understand that what you wish to share in a public setting isn't always what others feel should be shared. Since you are a person under authority, you need to be okay with the reality that your leaders may not want you to share your revelation at times. If not, you'll grow bitter very quickly, and then we should run far and fast from any prophetic word you try to impose on us.
SIX: A POOR TRACK RECORD
It wouldn't make sense for a pastor to allow someone to preach on a Sunday morning if they have a history of teaching error. Further, they shouldn't allow someone to minister as a part of the worship team if they are always off key or don't show up for rehearsals on time. This simple and obvious realty applies to prophetic people as well.
If they repeatedly deliver wrong, confusing or unscriptural messages, they can't be allowed to continue. Pastors must ensure truth is communicated and if someone can't be trusted to deliver truth, they must be benched until they can grow as a Believer.
This is a big, big point and I want to make sure I have your full attention: If you are attempting to use your supposed prophetic gift to steer the church in a direction not sanctioned by the leadership, you are functioning in witchcraft. You are in rebellion and your ministry is dark and it should not be tolerated.
Charismatic witchcraft is rampant and we must have bold pastors who fear God more than man to deal very aggressively with it. If you are operating in this unruly spirit and attempting to pass it off as prophecy, you need to go. Leave. Don't come back. I'd be quick to show someone like this the door, unless they were truly repentant.
Don't underestimate the damage that such a demonic spirit can do in a church, especially if the leaders God ordained to protect the flock refuse to act. Their silence can kill an entire church, and it happens every day.
God will protect a leader who is “wrong” (I'm not talking about sin, I'm talking about organizational direction) before he affirms a prophetic person who is “right” yet manipulative, rebellious and fueled by an evil spirit of witchcraft.
EIGHT: DOMINATING THE SERVICE
There goes Sister Linda again! Oh, Brother Joe is about to stand up and deliver a word…I can just feel it!
We know the all too predictable scenario all too well. In many churches there's one or two people who, week after week, dominate the prophetic culture by delivering word after word after word after word after word…you get it.
Again, the counsel is to yield! Do you have any idea how much cringing goes on in the church, by the pastor and by most of the body, when the same people are giving nearly the same words in most every service? Oh, it's true. The cringe factor is high.
Pastors, the body is often wondering why you don't put a stop to it. You need to do your job and lovingly encourage these types of people on how to rightly minister in your local church setting.
Closely related to manipulation, and equally as deadly, is gossip. Sadly, unrestrained prophetic people are famous for their ability to gossip. Stopping with a manipulative prophetic word is definitely not enough for them. When leadership doesn't change the course of the church after repeated doses of prophetic pressure, their next step is to gather people around them and to sell their perspective. Any good charismatic witch would do just that. All it takes is a Christianized coven meeting to give real power to their motives.
Gossips are some of Satan's most anointed salesmen, and when that person is looked up to as a prophetic voice, you have some incredible manipulative, supernatural and extremely evil power behind their words. They can destroy a church overnight, and they cannot be tolerated.
TEN: YOU ARE NEEDY/YOU HAVE IDENTITY ISSUES
People who need to minister for the sake of affirmation, or to feed their misguided identities, shouldn't be given a platform, unless that platform is at the altar. Too many wounded prophetic people have developed a craving for affirmation in their gifting, and that weakness has compromised that gift, no matter how precise or developed it is.
Our identity must be found in nobody and nothing else than Jesus. It should be easy to lay our gifts and callings down, with the only grief coming from our passion to see lives transformed. Our own need to minister should never be a factor.
Those who need to minister should not be allowed to minister. Instead, they should spend time with Jesus and give themselves to the process of healing. Then, they will be free, healthy and trustworthy when it's time to step into ministry again.
PASTORS, THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE NEED FROM YOU REGARDING THEIR PROPHETIC CALLING
A key reason there's so much dysfunction in prophetic people today, and a reason they are running to Facebook to minister, is because pastors have failed to equip them. It's as simple as that. Prophetic people are yearning to be trained, but it's nearly impossible to find a church today that includes a prophetic school as a part of their foundational culture. Heck, you can barely find a Sunday School class focusing on it.
Pastors, it's your responsibility to equip the people in the prophetic. How can you hear what God is saying if you don't? Church is a corporate venture, and while you are the point person, and while God will speak directly to you in most situations, you need others to confirm those words and to introduce additional revelation that's critical for the mission.
If you shut down the prophetic in your services to avoid the issues I addressed above, you are wrong. It's as clear as that. Their failure is most often your failure.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)
TWO: AN OUTLET
People need an outlet. Prophetic messengers especially must have a place to release their revelations. If not in the church, then where? If not in a safe place with the oversight of leadership it will happen unmoderated, uncontrolled and undisciplined in public.
Pastors, you have no option but to nurture your prophetic culture in such a way that the body can minister the various impacts the Spirit of God is having on them. If they are muzzled they will most usually break free and unleash those words from a place of rebellion. Their rebellion is not only their fault. Very often, it's also yours.
26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)
Prophetic people want feedback. Those who are thin skinned will be revealed, which is advantageous to you. Those who are truly humble and teachable will come alive as you share your heart regarding their ministry.
Did they prophesy from a healthy heart? Let them know. Was their message a little confusing? Coach them. Be invested in their development and your church will be the better for it.
FOUR: NO FAVORITISM
First things first. It's okay for pastors to acknowledge prophetic people who have passed tests, proven themselves and been faithful. They absolutely should be favored. Further, those who have failed the tests should not be favored.
That being said, all things being equal, it's important that pastors give room to everybody who's healthy and ready to minister. The young need room to grow, the new people need a family to thrive in and those who have been trusted for years need to mentor the next generation.
If you want to ensure a church stays in a spiritual rut, refuse to acknowledge anybody except those who have been in the inner circle for decades.
FIVE: A RIGHT RESPONSE
Prophetic people don't simply want to share a legitimate word from God. They are excited about the shift in the atmosphere that it will bring. Too often, pastors want to grab the reigns as fast as possible after a prophetic word is given and redirect back in the previous direction.
Pastors must humbly admit that God will use prophetic people to bring fresh wind that demands the sails are repositioned so the boat starts moving the direction the Holy Spirit desires. These prophetic people simply want to see the fruit of their obedience to release oracles instead of the resistance and rejection that is so commonplace in the church today.
Everybody needs encouragement, especially prophetic people! Speak life into them and let them know how blessed you are because of their ministry. Thank them for their heart, for their devotion to humility, for their growth. Let them know you see them developing and that you appreciate them. A healthy, loved and encouraged prophetic person is a valuable member of your team.
There comes a time to publicly validate a ministry. This holds true for every ministry, but it seems those with prophetic callings are all too often overlooked. If someone has passed tests and proven themselves, over an extended period of time, let the body know you trust them and that their ministry is valid.
Not only will this encourage the individual and give them a track to run on, it will show everybody else the type of person and what it takes to be validated. It will give them a goal. It will communicate that others, who have not proven themselves, are not affirmed, at least not at that level.
A bunch of the above points could be applied to the other party. Pastors also must be humble. They shouldn't manipulate. They must be mature, teachable and not a gossip.
The prophetic person should encourage their pastor. They should have a right response to leadership.
However, lets start the way I laid it out. We must see health come to the church, especially today, and most certainly in the arena of the prophetic.
God has a lot to say to us.
Innumerable Christians are willingly engaging in occultic behavior, and it's not only on Halloween.
17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Luke 8:17 (ESV)
I once heard about a Spirit-filled pastor who strategically avoided watching certain, questionable movies at theaters in his home town, instead driving an hour away to watch them in obscurity. He didn't want his choice of entertainment to be known, so he would head to the city to hide. This is an occultic maneuver.
oc·cult | \ ə-ˈkəlt : not revealed : SECRET: to shut off from view or exposure : COVER
Sadly, it has become common to hear about yet another Christian pastor or minister who has been exposed. Their secret life of sin was discovered, and the fallout is always devastating. Many go to great lengths to cover up their indiscretions, and they leave a trail of destruction that reaches far and wide.
The Bible gives us a clear instruction to expose the darkness, yet today, too many Christians are doing the opposite, living secretive lives, sinning regularly and enjoying their dark, temporarily pleasurable deception.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14 (ESV)
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Before you start pointing a crooked finger at others, consider your own life. Is it possible you are driven by the occult as well? Have you created a system of checks and balances to ensure your private life is not exposed? How well does your mask fit? Are you sweet, holy and appropriate in public and altogether different in private or with your family? This is the occult at work, and it is a killer spirit. It's one thing to expose someone else's darkness, and it's something entirely different to deal with your own deception.
HALLOWEEN EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR
I personally believe it's absolute foolishness for Christians to participate in Halloween, and I've written on it quite a bit in the past.
You can read one of my articles titled Halloween: The Invitation HERE.
Here is a portion of the article that speaks to our topic:
Over my last 25 years of ministry, I have had many encounters with witchcraft and the evil that is celebrated on Halloween, and I implore you to trust me: If you participate in Halloween at any level, you are at risk. There is nothing innocent about it and there is no way to sanctify it. The stories I could tell would make your skin crawl.
The level of demonic activity around the world on this night should result in millions of Christians gathering together to pray on fire in response.
We must understand that a key role for us as Christians is to expose darkness. Strangely, instead of doing that with anointing and passion, when October rolls around, Christians—actual blood bought servants of a holy God—are actually enjoying and promoting darkness. If we understood the evil that surrounds this unholy day, we’d shout from the rooftops the danger and evil that is overcoming our culture.
It might shock you to consider that you may oppose Halloween while still vigorously affirming the occult. It's one thing to stand opposed to the clear, demonic and evil activities that surround Halloween, but if we embrace those same demons in the hopes they will help us hide our 365 day-a-year sin, we are deeply deceived—and in a lot of trouble.
As dark as Halloween is, and it is extremely dark, I propose the occult that's present in so many devoted Christians the rest of the year is even more deadly. Covering up immorality will devour even the most devoted religious person.
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
PORN, LUST AND OTHER SECRETS
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), Ephesians 5:8-9 (ESV)
I believe one of the most valuable attributes of a healthy marriage is transparency. Not only is it a catalyst for intimacy, but it diffuses the darkness.
When Amy and I we were first married 24 years ago, we agreed to alert other the moment we found ourselves even the slightest bit attracted to someone else in an unhealthy manner. If there was an emotional connection initiating, or if unrighteous thoughts attempted to come in regarding another person, we were quick to share that.
The result? It was diffused. Our voluntary accountability and devotion to bring things into the light not only immediately diffused a few specific situations, it resulted in a culture within our marriage that was not conducive to immoral and threatening feelings and behaviors flourishing.
This commitment to each other has expanded to most every part of our lives. My wife, Amy, knows she can access any device I own, any computer, any phone, any tablet, and freely search through them. She can check my history. I can do the same on her devices. Any inappropriate pictures, videos, messages or material would be easily discovered. We are both grateful to God that porn, lust or impure media is not a part of our lives, and our entire marriage from start to where we are now is a testament to that. It feels good to be squeaky clean, and thanks to the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the darkness never has to overtake us. The occult must give way to the light!
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)
I want to encourage you to reject deceptive, occultic strategies. Don't hide the various compartments of your life, but rather be an open book. Don't live in fear of being exposed, but readily invite scrutiny in. You can be completely, entirely free from lust, pornography, anger, addictions, immorality and every other behavior and vice!
This means you will make a dramatic shift in the direction of holiness. Celebrate the opportunity to eliminate questionable television and movies. Get excited about shutting out secular music in favor of Holy Spirit anointed worship music. Allow joy to replace your anger. You can finally be free from everything you've been trying to hide. The light of Jesus will certainly bring freedom to you and your family!
You will then become a mighty threat to the darkness, ready to expose it, devoted to assaulting the devils that are celebrated by so many this time of year.
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:11-14 (ESV)
Three simple yet powerful truths will help unlock your financial future.
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When my family of seven moved to Branson, Missouri, we were in uncharted territory after twenty years of local church ministry. We were excited to jump into this new season, yet we knew we'd have to get creative with our financial strategy. The Ozark Mountains have millions of beautiful trees, but money doesn't grow on any of them.
Super long story very short, we decided to start a new business in this tourist destination. Specifically, a new escape room attraction was our plan, and we had a lot work ahead of us in the next six weeks (yes six!) before we opened the doors.
THE SECRET SAUCE OF FINANCIAL FREEDOM
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)
Today, the escape room industry is quite saturated and it's difficult to start one in most cities. Competition is fierce. In late 2015, however, that was not the case. Nobody had started an escape room in Branson, and we felt it made sense to move toward being the first as being first to market in this industry is critical.
We believe this was a “God idea,” and we didn't hesitate in our planning for one minute. Time was of the essence. From that point on, we remained prayerful and diligent as we covered every base we could find, and then several we didn't even knew existed! We consulted with experts, researched (and visited) many other escape rooms in the nation and learned all we could about starting a business. We studied nonstop.
Understand, God absolutely has given us the power, the ability, to create wealth. What does this mean? He paved the way, but he's not going to do it for us. He has set us up for success. He's ready to move miraculously as we move obediently. He is the one who will bring the increase, yet, it's you and I who must move out and build the systems, do our due diligence and work smartly in the creation of wealth. Of course, we must be very careful to understand that it's God, and not us, who enables this wealth creating ability. (Wealth is simply financial resource, money and material goods that we can use in our lives and to advance the Kingdom Wealth and wealthy are not one in the same.)
For us, this step of applying wisdom also included hiring the best architect, consulting with the city's planning department, following every one of their rules perfectly, choosing the right colors and design for our logo and other branding, researching how to best market and how much to spend on ads and so much more. In fact, our diligence resulted in passing a state audit a few years later with flying colors. They were gladly surprised to see such honesty and attention to detail. Precise record keeping, among other disciplines is wisdom, and wisdom is one of the three keys to financial breakthrough.
When we understand God gives us the power to create wealth, it's important that we believe it, that we respond to it and that we do it rightly.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
In the midst of learning how to relate to the fire department, the planning department and other city officials, it got a little scary. The little money we had was being devoured by the thousands, and if this didn't work, we were in trouble!
Even though the Branson, Missouri city leaders and employees are absolutely amazing, we were in the dark regarding approval processes and how much there was to do when opening a business here. At one point Amy, my wife, was in tears and ready to stop everything. It was too much. Today she shares that it was my faith that kept her on board. She's so thankful that we stayed the course!
As a side note, it's wonderful being in a relationship that exhibits such diverse giftings, strengths and weaknesses. Amy is absolutely brilliant in the wisdom department. Faith regarding finances specifically is a strength of mine. We both have to consistently monitor all of our various ventures in life to ensure both faith and wisdom are working together. Leaping out in faith without being wise is a recipe for disaster. Wisdom without faith will keep us hiding out in caves!
Knowing that God has promised to supply our every need makes it easier to keep moving forward. Faith is a result of trusting truth found in Scripture. God has gone before us and he understands we are fully reliant on him.
23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23 (NKJV)
This final ingredient in our secret sauce is one that may trigger financial breakthrough for many. Peace.
Peace is a manifestation of faith, and the above verse has been a very important one for the Burton family. God knows faith requires risk, and he doesn't want us holding back due to overreaching “wisdom,” which is actually fear. He wants us jumping, moving, shifting and advancing!
So, he makes it clear that, as we do this, he has our back. He's ordering our steps. As long as we are living rightly, moving ahead the best we can, trusting his voice and refusing to allow any measure of fear to keep us paralyzed, that he will keep us on the straight and narrow. Wisdom plus faith equals peace. If we aren't at peace, we need to evaluate why before moving forward. It may reveal a lack of wisdom or misguided faith.
God is not waiting to crush us under the weight of his disapproval. He is cheering for us! Even if, after investing in the process that wisdom demands and after doing our best to respond to God's instructions in faith, we fail, he's got us! He will make things right. He will order our every step. We don't have to hesitate, delay or be afraid. God will take very good care of us, even if we stumble.
Miraculously, we opened Escape Code in Branson, Missouri six weeks after having the first thought about starting a new business. The sign was up, the rooms designed, the website published, marketing launched and the open sign turned on—and people started coming! Wisdom, faith and peace were the secret sauce that caused this to happen.
Since then we've received awards and recognition including being voted the fifth best escape room in the nation by USA Today in 2017! It's exciting to see God moving in a project from concept to implementation!
A NEW TEST(IMONY)
Tests are simply an opportunity for a testimony.
We believe it's important (and wise) to develop multiple streams of income. In addition to Escape Code I make a little (very little) selling my books and we enjoy producing travel videos on our YouTube channel that has recently become eligible for monetization (we can't wait for our first $100 check!). In addition to those endeavors, we decided to implement our wisdom/faith/peace strategy again by opening two additional businesses, both of then right next door to Escape Code in the same shopping mall.
The Axe Game's build out was more expensive than we had expected and Sagas Mysteries would have to wait an additional twelve months before we opened it, even though we were pouring money into the lease for an empty storefront (which we had to secure so we didn't lose it).
The investment and monthly expenses, even though we applied as much wisdom as we could have, and moved out in faith, with peace, resulted in a difficult season. It greatly impacted our overall financial situation.
The solution? This might seem insignificant, but it's what God prescribed: In addition to our regular tithe and our already established additional monthly offerings and other giving, in the midst of financial crisis, we were to start giving an additional one percent. We did that, and last month the entire investment in our new businesses was paid off! New seasons will have new tests, but if we implement wisdom, faith and peace, God will always be there!
It's wise to give. It takes faith to give. We should be at peace when we give. Add increased giving to the other strategies that also require wisdom, faith and peace and you'll start to see a new financial culture developed in your life and family.
Oh, and by the way, this secret sauce isn't really secret at all. It's all right there in the pages of Scripture.
Much of the church has surrendered its mantle of prophet in exchange for the title of salesman.
Relevance. One could argue it makes sense to be relevant. We want people to have a legitimate, life-altering encounter with Jesus. He will reach people at the core of who they are, and they would absolutely confess their engagement with deity would be relevant. Jesus knows how to touch people's lives in exactly the right way.
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However, what most consider relevance in today's vernacular has resulted in a deviation from the hard-core, white-hot truth of Scripture.
Check out this definition:
rel·e·vance | \ ˈre-lə-vən(t)s practical and especially social applicability
To meet the demands of relevance, so much of today's church has dressed up Jesus, wrapped a bow around him and paraded him down the fashion runway in hopes that people will like his style, that he would be appealing, and sign on the dotted line of salvation. Their ultimate goal is for people to close their eyes, raise their hands and say a prayer that somehow seals their eternity with Jesus. Sadly, this method of evangelism has most probably resulted in millions of people following Jesus in an unsaved condition. There are many “Rich Young Rulers” out there who have been welcomed with open arms by today's preachers but who have not surrendered all.
Relevance has required that we lay down our mantle as a prophetic people who boldly preach soul-piercing truth in favor of the methods of a salesman. The result is innumerable people being added to an ever increasing lukewarm stew that will soon be vomited out of God's mouth. Relevance has neutered the church and has drained it of its power.
THE CHRISTIAN ROCK LESSON
Somewhere around 40 years ago, give or take a few, the phenomena of Christian rock emerged. As a youth pastor in the 90s, I preached multiple times about Christian rock, and the risk it presented. My belief is that music was never intended as an evangelism tool. Christian rock violated the original purpose of music as God intended. Music in it's purest form is anointed, glorious worship. Personally, my life is strengthened when I pump my spirit full of supernatural music that's devoted to exalting God. I'm listening to some old school Vineyard music from the 90s as I write this. (It doesn't get much better than that!)
The fruit of this spiritualized, worldly amusement includes a Christian culture that has no issue with secular music today. Pastors and worship leaders are often drawing from that ungodly well, giving no thought to the source of their entertainment. Add to that immoral movies, television and online media, and you have a compromised church that has lost its oil, if not its lamp stand.
As a youth pastor, intense worship, powerful deliverance, baptisms in the Holy Spirit, fervent prayer and visitations of God marked our culture. We had no need or desire to tone things down in the hopes that people would give a thumbs up to an altered form of Jesus and jump on board. While we must weep and mourn when people reject Jesus, we must also allow them to walk away if they aren't interested in surrendering all, signing up as martyrs and truly following God on his terms.
Attempting to sell the “Christian thing” with movie nights, parties, skits, ice-breakers, “Christinized secular music” and other attempts at relevance are foolish at best, devastating at worst. Hit your face, tremble under the weight of the Holy Spirit, get saturated with his glory and then worship and preach on fire—and watch those who are truly hungry rush in.
SEEKER SENSITIVE EVERYTHING
Additionally, the primary church service wasn't meant to be an evangelism tool. Yet, we have all watched seeker-sensitive churches emerge and thrive as prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit took a back seat to coffee, music and human interest stories from the platform.
We must see the invisible, supernatural realm manifest in the earth again! We have become experts at using psychological, sociological mind-tricks in an attempt to connect with people and to compel them to consider Jesus. The seeker sensitive train wreck has impacted nearly every corner and crevice of today's church as we attempt to sell Jesus, sell our church and sell salvation.
What happened to revival? What about the indescribable glory of God that should be flooding our churches? Where are the manifestations? Tongues of fire? In most churches, quenched. All of it. Why? Because it's not relevant according to the expectations of today's culture. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit irritate the pretenders in the church and repel the mockers outside the church. Instead, many church leaders have adopted an often “successful” model of ministry that fills the seats while dumbing Jesus down and deeming the church impotent.
WE ARE NOT SALESMEN!
We need preachers who have the unction of the Holy Spirit in their gut and the fire of Holy Spirit in their mouths!
Our goal is not to rack up points for every soul “saved.” We must present truth and make it hard, not easy, for people to decide whether they want to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus died for you, what else could you want? That's a legitimate evangelism question. You see, none of us have bargaining power. We don't have leverage. We can't haggle. We don't have the option of jumping in at a lesser level. Without Jesus, we will be tortured and tormented every second of every day for ever and ever. We don't have a say in how we connect with Jesus. It's everything or nothing. It's full surrender or no surrender. It's radical repentance or no repentance. It's all or nothing.
I explained the extreme cost of following Jesus to a co-worker many years ago. I revealed the difficulties and the glories. I highlighted the issue of sin, God's solution and the permanence of eternity. I made it clear that life would be more challenging than he could ever imagine should he follow Jesus. Many friends may leave him. He might be lonely. His life of darkness would have to be abandoned. The love of God and the severity of God was presented unapologetically.
You see, I was honest with him. I didn't hold back. I revealed the indescribable invasion of life that Jesus alone can bring, but I didn't parade Jesus as a spectacle, as someone other than he truly is. I certainly didn't want it on my record that I led someone into an illegitimate relationship with Jesus. He understood without question what it was to follow Jesus. His response to me was equally honest. He said, “I just can't do that right now. I don't want to surrender my way of life to follow Jesus.”
I honored him for his honesty and let him know that Jesus was pursuing him. I pray he ultimately made the right decision and is an on-fire disciple of Jesus today as I believe the Holy Spirit used me to present to him a solid foundation to start from.
WHOLESALE CHANGE OF OUR MINISTRY METHODS
It's beyond time that we learned the Christian rock, seeker sensitive lessons. We are not of this world. We should stop mimicking it. We are aliens. We need an Area 51 experience as a curious people flock to look at the spectacle of an alien culture that doesn't try to blend in to society. Revival will do that. In Acts chapter two, many people marveled and many mocked when they saw the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They were provoked by the aliens.
If you truly want to win the lost, then do away with delusions of relevance. Preach on fire. Pray on fire. Evangelize on fire. Worship on fire. Do everything on fire! We need to turn the temperature up, not down, when attempting to reach the lost. Too many have built a bonfire where people can warm their flesh when God has called us to surrender fully to the refining fire, to lay across it and die.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)