Everything changes when we become radically devoted, raging on fire and deeply intimate with Jesus.
I’ve been asked countless times throughout my years of ministry, “John, how can I experience the miracles and wonders of God?”
People are so hungry and desperate for an encounter with deity! The zeal they have to escape the trappings of the world and to dive into the glories of God is intense, yet so many just can’t tap into that lifestyle. They find themselves gazing into the heavens and crying out, “God, where are you!”
My answer to these passionate people is not complicated. In fact, it couldn’t be more simple: Live holy and pray in the Spirit—a lot.
HEARING GOD IS THE GOAL
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (ESV)
One of today’s greatest tragedies is being invited into to the depths of God and the supernatural realm he moves in—and declining. So many are crying out for God to manifest in the natural realm while he is calling us to manifest in his supernatural realm! There are wonders to behold when we live consecrated lives and pray on fire night and day!
Please hear me: You can begin your journey into the place where the Holy Spirit broods right now! In fact, I feel in my spirit as I write this to invite you to contend in prayer with me for just a moment:
Jesus, I decree in your magnificent name that the person reading this is free from disillusionment, disappointment and unbelief. I command, in Jesus’ name, that every haunting and taunting evil spirit to loose your grip and break away from them, right now! I declare wild freedom, joy and exuberant faith, NOW! Faith rise up! Zeal increase! Expectancy come! It’s time for them to step into the wonders of God! Amen!
As we eliminate anything that would hinder a walk in the Spirit from our lives, and develop a lifestyle of fervent, urgent and enjoyable intercession, both in our prayer closets and with other brothers and sisters, the heavens will open up over our lives.
It’s at this point that we will be able to start hearing God. I’m convinced the only way to consistently hear God’s voice is if we are living holy lives, walking in the Spirit and praying in the Spirit. However, the price is worth it. When God starts talking, everything in our live shifts dramatically! A prophetic force will radiate from within. Dreams and visions will become regular. We will be undone as a fresh revelation of the glory of God shocks and rocks us to the core!
Yes, when you start hearing God, everything changes. Read on for an important truth God revealed to me—a truth I could only receive because I had developed a life of supernatural prayer.
STOP! YOU’RE PRAYING WRONG!
That’s what God told me one day as I was in some deep prayer. I was currently working part-time at a call center. I had been fairly frustrated that I wasn’t able to leave that job so I could work full-time in the church I was planting in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
That day, I was praying from a place of frustration. “God, oh God, please grow the church! Let the finances increase! Please God!”
That was when, as clear as a bell, I heard God say, “Stop! You’re praying wrong!”
What? How could that be? I was praying so hard. As I walked around the 1000 square feet of sanctuary space in the early days of Revolution Church, I really felt like I was doing well. Didn’t God want the church to grow?
Then God said something I’ll never forget. “You are praying as if I’m resisting you. Don’t you realize I put those desires in your heart? Why are you begging me for a desire that I initiated? I gave you the desire in the first place!”
Wow! That ruined my whole perception of what prayer was! I had to think differently.
God then said, “There is one who IS resisting you though. The enemy doesn’t want these desires I placed in your heart to come to pass. It is the enemy whom you must fight.”
So, I launched into a new dimension of faith filled and violent prayer!
I felt impressed that God wanted me to practice this new revelation he gave me. He told me He wanted me to have more time to pray and initiate revival in the city. He wanted me to quit my job at the call center. I had captured the heart of God and I knew it was my turn to enforce His will. The enemy must move!
“In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, I command you devil to release! Get off of my schedule! I declare the heart of God is for me to quit my job and to advance His Kingdom full time in Manitou Springs! How dare you touch the plans of God!”
1 John 5:14-15 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
I prayed according to His will. He wanted me to work full-time in the ministry. One week later, as a church of about 35 people, we received a check in the Sunday offering for $50,000. The following week we received $25,000.
I was full time two weeks later.
That money was “more than enough.” We also used it to move into a 27,000 square foot building. God wanted us to have that all along. The enemy didn’t. I was praying wrong. I was praying as if the provision had to be coaxed away from God. In reality, God had already released it and I just had to go get it–and blast through the enemy’s resistance on the way.
Another story had an equal impact upon my life. I was again in a place of ‘frustration prayer’. I was crying out for needs to be met. I was banging on the doors of heaven in passionate prayer for finances, among other things. Once again I heard the voice of God deep within my spirit, “Your prayer is hindering you.” What? Did I hear correctly? God told me that my prayer in that moment was doing more damage than good. I should stop if I planned on continuing in that vein.
He then said, “Without faith it is impossible to please me.” He added, “Doubt in prayer will ensure that prayer goes unanswered.” Ok, He had my attention. I pondered this, and wrestled with these issues. I didn’t want to doubt. I wanted more than anything to be a man of faith. I wanted these pieces to fit together so I could arrive at some conclusion. God was telling me not to pray! Yet, I still had unresolved issues that demanded a miracle. Oh how alone I felt!
Then the answer came. God asked me why I was praying for something that was already promised in His Word. He has promised to supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory. The very act of asking God for my needs to be met revealed my lack of faith that it has already been done! I was attempting to convince God to do something that He already had resolved! My prayer evidenced my doubt which resulted in my prayer being unanswered!
The Bible reveals, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Doubt was in my heart. It also reveals that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I was speaking unbelief. Finally, the Bible reveals that the power of life and death are in the tongue. The unbelief in my heart was manifesting as decrees of death over my finances! It would have been better if I didn’t pray at all!
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
No begging, no coercing, no convincing, no doubting allowed in prayer!
James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
I hear God and then declare how the situation must conform to His will. It turns us from a position of defeat and passivity to a position of victory and spiritual violence and powerful faith! We change from the afflicted to the afflicter!
If a church is small, does that mean God’s favor isn’t there or that the pastor has failed? Not always.
Given a choice, I’d attend a large, impactful and vibrant church. That’s simply a preference of mine, though I understand why many others prefer smaller churches. Additionally, given a choice, I’d prefer to lead a large, impactful and vibrant church instead of a smaller one. The key words are impactful and vibrant. Over nearly three decades of ministry, however, I’ve learned that large does not always equal successful, small doesn’t always equal failure and a lack of numeric growth doesn’t always equal stagnant. It’s time we overcome the stigma of the small church.
Like most young church planters or pastors, my vision for the church I was leading included explosive numeric growth. That seemed to be the non-negotiable, obvious part of the ministry plan that required no explanation. Starting and developing a church clearly demanded attracting people to the mission as a core strategy. In fact, the Ekklesia is defined by three distinct marks: People. Leadership. Instruction.
The Ekklesia is a gathering of people in the region under governmental authority in order to receive apostolic instruction. More simply, it’s people coming together under God ordained leadership to fulfill a mission. So, yes, people are needed if you want to lead a church.
Some of my most memorable church planting moments include an empty 700 square foot room in Manitou Springs, Colorado where I’d pray, usually alone, in the early stages of our church launch there. Eighteen years have passed and a lot of lessons have been learned, but those hours on my knees or pacing around that room were the foundation of my church planting experience.
I’ll eliminate the countless remarkable stories, miracles, supernatural encounters and other happenings that spurred the church development process, both there in Manitou Springs and also in Detroit where we planted our second church. I’ve written about these miracles and wonders in some of my books (www.burton.tv/resources), but suffice it to say, I’m humbled at how God moved. In fact, I’m stunned at just how much God did. I and many others will never be the same, and for all eternity we will be able to praise God for what he did in those seasons.
To this day I wonder if my two church planting exercises were massive tests—for me. I know for sure that both contained many tests, but my question is about the comprehensive experience. Did God call me to plant two churches mostly to develop me personally and to test my heart? Certainly there were enough stories of impacted lives to fill many books and countless articles, so I don’t question whether the ministry was legitimate or not. I’ll be forever wrecked by the transformation that resulted in people in those two regions, in those two seasons. Watching lives supernaturally transformed before my eyes caused tears to flow.
Yet, as God truly branded many people with his fire in those many years of ministry, I do wonder if God was mostly testing me. Would I be more interested in growing my legacy, my ministry, my church and my reputation—not to mention my bank account—or, was I truly in it for love and to minister to the heart of God?
In both Manitou Springs and Detroit we saw the churches grow. People to this day count those years among the best of their lives. God was drawing people together and we were contending for revival together.
In both Manitou Springs and Detroit, God tested my heart. It was difficult to say the least. Crushing even. To simplify what he was doing, he called us to go deeper and to raise the bar higher. The cost of consecration and the call to fervent intercession became a much greater focus (and we were already known for being an edgy, intense ministry). While we had amazing people in both churches, I knew the decision to become even more revival focused, even more intercession driven and even more devoted to a consecrated, holy lifestyle would result in many people disengaging. I knew it. I was troubled. God was calling me to “intentional failure.”
I’ll never forget the key moments in both places when God nailed me to the ground and directed me to surrender all, including my reputation. There were many cries and questions during the many hours of prayer in those two defining seasons in Colorado and Michigan. If I obeyed God and introduced a new wine, reformation church that was very unique and specific to our particular mission, those who were mostly invested in the church experience for reasons other than revival, reformation, intercession and revolution would most definitely jump ship. That would be almost everybody. Literally. No exaggeration.
I was right. That’s exactly what happened. I could have stayed the course and watched the churches continue to grow and “thrive,” possibly into several hundred in number. I have no doubt that I could have chosen growth over God, and that freaks me out. It would have been very easy to spiritualize my decision and avoid the pointed fingers and accusations of failure by continuing on the way we started. And I would have failed some of my most critical tests. I would have satisfied people and rejected God and the church would have grown. That is absolutely terrifying.
Attempting to transition a passionate, Spirit-filled, fiery church into a church that’s even hotter, more costly and one that results in a terrifying tremble in our spirits is not for the feint of heart. You see, there are many who absolutely love to warm themselves by the fire, but very few who are willing to lay across the fire as it consumes their flesh as a sacrifice to the one they love.
If small churches have a stigma attached to them, and failure has a stigma attached to it, failed churches most definitely have a stigma attached! But why?
Stop and think about it. Pastor, I want you to be free from the finger-pointing and cruel accusations if you struggle to grow your church or if you fail altogether. Has anybody figured out why failure in this manner is such a negative for some people? Failure in man’s eyes means little. The question is, are you growing in God? Are you truly obedient to God even if such obedience results in people presuming you are weak? (By the way, we are all weak!)
Here’s a portion of an article based on my book Piece of Cake, which deals directly with the stigma of failure:
One of the greatest fears man has is that of failure. It invites scrutiny, accusation and mocking—but society’s greatest leaders embrace a culture of failure!
The goal isn’t to look like you know what you are doing, the goal is to experiment, try, fail, try again, grow, have epiphanies, gain knowledge, fail again and ultimately succeed!
Success doesn’t develop experts nearly as well as failure does.
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” (attributed to Thomas Edison)
If we understand the scope of our project, it’s actually quite insane to presume we will accomplish it without significant and repeated failures.
Yes, you are going to fail. Go ahead and wrestle with it now, you can’t avoid it. I don’t mean ultimate failure, of course. But, I do mean that you will pray much, do your best to gain insight from God, consider your best options, seek wisdom from others and then move out with at least a measure of confidence—and you will experience failure!
Failure should not intimidate you! People will presume you to be inadequate, confused or immature during your experimenting.
Most young ministers crave for others to see them as successful and steady with a pipeline directly into the command center of Heaven. The reality? We see in part. We understand little. We have clarity on a small part of the big picture, and when we initiate action, others will watch as we stumble and struggle. Are you OK with that?
THE STIGMA OF SMALL CHURCHES
I’ve heard it said that small is the new big. I believe that is true for many, though we have to be careful not to use that as a cop out. There are some leaders out there who have what it takes to grow a large church yet their lack of personal growth, faith and surrender is standing in the way. Small is the new big only if God has called a particular ministry to be small. There are a lot of silly excuses pastors give for having a small church, just as there are many compromises pastors make to have a large church.
I know we could have easily seen our churches grow moderately large, but I also know I’m probably not gifted enough to lead anything in the thousands. But, in reality, if I honestly analyze God’s mandate on my life, I may not be able to stay true to God’s call while leading more than a hundred—if that. Twice I have traded my ability to grow a church for God’s mandate for a small army of zeroed in warriors. You have no idea how thankful I am that I didn’t fail those tests (though I’ve certainly failed a bunch of other tests over the years! I’m thankful for God’s grace and mercy!).
Further, many pastors simply are not equipped or called to lead a large ministry, yet they expend ridiculous amounts of energy trying to fill the seats.
Pastors, if you have a small church, it could be that you aren't gifted to lead a larger one. God didn't give you that ability. Leadership doesn't come naturally to you. The quicker you can admit that, if it's in fact true, the quicker you can shift expectations and pivot into strategies that take advantage of what you are gifted at.
There's such a stigma regarding small churches. People presume them to be failures. Why is that? Numeric growth should not be the barometer of health and success.
The moment you realize it's okay to be small, the stress and pride and anxiety will fall off. Joy will return as you enjoy being who God created you to be.
The truly scary reality is that many people are naturally gifted to lead a large church or ministry, but God has actually called them to lay that on the altar—and they don’t. They can’t imagine the ridicule, the mocking, the accusation and the massive price that would come if they took their church in a direction that few would join them in.
In fact, I wonder how many mighty church growth visions are being fulfilled as Ishmaels instead of Isaacs. I propose churches all over the world be laid on the altar of sacrifice as God brings redefinition and redirection. The revival we are yearning for requires a sacrifice—a surrender of personal ambition and dreams of success. Put it all on the altar. It requires the church is birthed supernaturally, as Isaac was, not naturally as Ishmael was.
I often think about heroes like Leonard Ravenhill. I would imagine if Ravenhill had decided to start his own church, it would probably be initially well attended, and then a colossal failure. His rebukes of the church that he’s so well known for in his writings would most definitely drive the typical church goer away with mocking and accusations flying out of their mouths. You see, if he would have experienced failure such as this, it wouldn’t be his failure, it would be the failure of those who rejected the call to respond.
Leonard Ravenhill received a lot of criticism about his view of the church being weak witnesses for Christ. He sought to rekindle the fire of the church into the devotion that the first century church had. To him, the greatest tragedy was not sinful activities of the world; it was a sick church in a dying world and so he thought, “Save the church and you will save the world!” Leonard Ravenhill was an old time preacher that warned of the wrath of God, hellfire, heaven, the need for repentance, confession of sin, living a life of holiness. ~Jack Wellman
IF I DECIDED TO PLANT MY THIRD CHURCH
I’d encourage you to read an article I wrote about just what my third church plant might look like, should God direct me to launch one: What My Third Church Plant Might Look Like.
Here’s a portion:
We Will Be Intentionally Small
Understand, I'm someone who absolutely loves large-group meetings. I love praying and contending with thousands of people at various conferences and events. I also would have no problem with a church that does in fact explode in number as a result of revival. I believe we will see that.
However, after 26 years, much of that in pastoral ministry developing churches, I no longer value growing numerically for the sake of numbers. I don't get excited when more people show up, unless those people are hungry and ready to engage God with us at an extreme level.
I believe the sharp, offensive messages that will be preached, the call for 100 percent of the people to be invested in supernatural, fervent prayer and the extreme commitment necessary to advance apostolically will repel most people. Only a remnant will be left. It's with that remnant that we can preach what much be preached, pray what must be prayed and do what must be done to prepare a region for revival.
IT’S TIME FOR REMNANT CHURCHES—WHICH MEANS MOST CURRENT CHURCH MEMBERS WILL LEAVE
Large churches can be a serious threat to revival—or a great strength to revival. We cannot measure success by the number of people who are attending. We must measure by the number of remnant Christians who are fully devoted and being equipped and marked by God in the fires of intercession. Again, some leaders can gather a small group of firebrands and some can gather hundreds or thousands. The key is the temperature of the fire and the level of surrender. When the fire gets hot, many will leave.
We have too many churches filled with people who are marginally interested in a move of God. They would be counted among those who rejected the call to the Upper Room. Understand, what happened in that Upper Room resulted in the launch of the church. If we don’t see tongues of fire igniting above everyone in attendance, and we don’t feel the wind of the Spirit of God blowing through the place, we have to know our church is either compromised or not ready.
The call must be so severe that most people reject it. Hundreds rejected the opportunity to be a part of the Upper Room prayer meeting. Those who did respond changed the world and ultimately impacted billions.
So, yes, when I gave leadership to the churches in Manitou Springs and in Detroit, I was so hungry for God to move more in the region than in my own meetings that I refused to pursue church growth at the cost of obedience and the greater vision. Those were painful years that resulted in a lot of tears as people moved on to other places. Understand, I don’t blame these people. Many are great friends who simply had a different focus in their lives. It’s easy for us to presume such decisions are black and white, but they rarely are. People are at all different places in life, and sometimes one crazy and wild church may just not be what God has for them at that time. I understand that.
I blessed those who left, as difficult as it was to see them go, but I knew my heart was pure and my decision to contend for revival and God’s plan instead of growing my church was correct. Would I do some things differently? Of course. But, the final, big decision to say yes to God and no to personal ambition was the only decision that really mattered.
Simply do what God calls you to do. Period. It really is that basic. There are many pastors that would be better served entering the marketplace. Others need to come to terms with the size of their ministry. Others have to mature and develop before they will see the next level. But, don’t allow people’s analysis of your progress control you or impact you emotionally. People, even many Christians, love to capitalize on someone who is down, and they will use that opportunity to elevate themselves. Just let them. It’s okay. Love them and trust God. All eternity will be marked by the way you respond to people and challenges. It truly is a glorious thing to be free from the scrutiny of others as we allow the fear of the Lord to overcome us. He is truly a very good Father who is cheering you on, not stepping on your neck when you are down and broken.
A sinister spirit is behind much of today’s church growth movement.
Leonard Ravenhil: “We need to close every church in the land for one Sunday and cease listening to a man so we can hear the groan of the Spirit which we in our lush pews have forgotten.”
A recent post on Facebook resulted in a long stream of comments from people shouting amen, asking me to start a church, sharing heartbreak over today’s church and dropping in a bunch of fire and bullseye emojis. Here’s part of what I wrote:
I'm more convinced than ever that attempting to grow churches and develop programs and ministries has made it nearly impossible to see the remnant church so many are yearning for.
Pastors, please hear me. Stop the madness! Stop counting how many people show up every Sunday morning. Stop analyzing metrics. Stop setting numerical growth goals. Stop casting vision that’s centered around your local church growing. Stop. For the love of everything holy, just stop.
I know, I know. The Bible tells us that the church was added to daily.
47 …And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47 (ESV)
Notice, however, the Lord added to their number, not the assimilation team or the marketing team.
In fact, if we back up in the text just a bit, we’ll clearly see it wasn’t marketing or a seeker sensitive, low water level approach that resulted in growth.
40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:40-41 (ESV)
Unapologetic preaching and a call to repentance was the impetus for growth. A Holy Spirit infused message calling people out of a lifestyle of wickedness is what triggered the awakening—not assimilation strategies. The apostles had no need for church growth. They simply preached a transforming message in the power of the Holy Spirit and watched God move. Can you imagine the early Apostles sitting around a table in the Upper Room discussing how to form greeter teams, what coffee and donuts to buy and how to attract people to their services? The thought of it feels like blasphemy! Yet, today’s churches do just that every week. The fear of the Lord is nowhere to be found.
31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31 (ESV)
The fear of the Lord and the moving of the Holy Spirit—not programs and ministries—resulted in growth and impact.
In fact, consider this powerful truth: False prophets and false teachers are smart enough to know what will truly attract is an encounter with the supernatural—not programs and pastries.
24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Matthew 24:24 (ESV)
If false prophets are focusing on the (unholy) supernatural, why are so many pastors and leaders tied to natural ideas and gimmicks to draw in the people? It’s foolishness. We need the fresh fire of the Holy Spirit to fall. We need to eliminate the distraction and undue stress of most of our church ministries and programs—and simply gather the remnant to pray.
FOCUS MUST SHIFT TO THE REMNANT CHURCH
I absolutely believe in church growth, but I don’t believe every local church must grow numerically in order to fulfill their purpose. The stigma of small churches has haunted many a pastor. Our focus must be on the city church and regional revival as opposed to local church numeric growth. The group of people on the local level that will spur on the pursuit of revival in the city is the remnant. It’s the remnant church. These are your champions of intercession, holiness and passion for Jesus. They will zealously dive deep and advance into uncharted waters. Note that I didn’t say these people are your core group or your leadership team. The remnant should be the whole of the church. Everybody going deep together. The lukewarm, apathetic people that so many pastors attempt to grow their churches with will be alerted to their condition and then left with a decision. They will either dive into the depths with the rest of the body or they will, by their own choice, shrink back. In fact the Bible says they will ultimately die. Pastors, why are we trying to grow our churches with the spiritually comatose?
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. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
We need bold messages of awakening in our pulpits today! The call to holiness, prayer and revival must be continual. Their must be a prophetic unction burning in the guts of pastors today. The goal is not church growth! It’s obedience to Jesus and a lifestyle of intercession and fire!
From a recent Charisma Magazine article Should the Church Get Scary?:
We need to stop trying to attract the lost to church. The purpose of the church, of the ekklesia, is NOT to draw in the lost. Entire church mission statements and vision statements should radically change.
While the church isn't for the lost, it remains obviously true that we want to see the lost come to Christ. When the church is again a house of prayer, we will again see the necessary power to truly impact the world. The spirit of revival will explode as will the church.
When we understand that a group of twenty or fifty fiery, praying, devoted remnant Believers can do more to minister to God and shake a city than a thousand mildly curious church goers, our energy will shift from church growth to Kingdom impact. Are both mutually exclusive? No. But, the risk of compromise is great when we are attracted to numbers.
THE REMNANT IS DONE WITH CHURCH AS USUAL
Pastors have been duped into believing they need to (witch)craft their services in such a way that the seekers will be drawn, and not overwhelmed. They manipulate the environment to attract the largest possible group.
First, as I have already explained, the church wasn’t designed for the lost. The call for all is to radically and immediately surrender and turn from their wicked ways. Creating a culturally relevant atmosphere that gives people a comfortable warming up period to the concept of God is no way to run a church. The church service was never meant to be used for evangelism. It's a Believer's prayer meeting, not a place to assimilate seekers.
Second, when the lost do come in, when a move of God shakes the foundation and the neighborhood bars empty and the desperate line up at the church doors, they are not looking to be pacified and affirmed. They are ready to break! They want an encounter with deity! They don’t want your programs or ministry philosophies. They want Jesus!
The remnant has had enough of these low water approaches to ministry.
Those who are desperate for a move of God don’t really care that much about being greeted with a handshake and a smile at the door as they arrive on Sunday morning, yet pastors invest much energy and focus on assimilation, hospitality, visitation and other people-centric strategies. The remnant doesn’t care about being assimilated. They want to burst through the door and head to the altars alongside other desperate people.
They aren’t impressed by a perfectly produced and executed worship experience led by people who haven’t had an encounter with God in years—if ever.
They are not interested in the pastor’s latest, greatest teaching if it’s not burning with fire and dosed with anointing that can only come from hours in the prayer room.
They are bored with today’s predictable, powerless, structured and forgettable church services.
The remnant simply wants to gather together with others that have the smell of fire on them and pray. They aren’t looking to shake hands with others and they really could not care less about announcements, programs and special events. They want to be wrecked and rocked by the glory of God.
How far have we fallen as leaders when we think an unthreatening, casual environment would be the medicine for a spiritually apathetic people. Churches have the smell of death on them because they are attracting the dead to something devoid of resurrection power. Sometimes I wonder if there’s any difference between those in the pews and those in the ground in the church cemetery next door.
When the fear of the Lord manifests in a church service, people will immediately either hit the floor or hit the door. The travail, groaning, and agonizing over sin will either grip people to the core or they will simply run out the door. The fear of the Lord directly confronts neutrality and exposes all immorality.
A great majority of American churches have never actually experienced the fear of the Lord and it’s coming to this nation. Messengers with a hardcore message of repentance are arising who will enter into cities and regions with a mandate to break up the fallow ground of the hearts of men and usher the fear of the Lord back into the Church.
The sign to you that the fear of the Lord has arrived is when people only have two options: to either hit the floor or run out the door.
My friend Jeremiah Johnson also posted this recently:
When the offerings are down…
When attendance is low…
When the attacks won’t stop coming…
Will you continue to preach the gospel or go back to manipulating people?
If asked why they want their church to grow, pastors will offer some spiritual answers:
- We want to win the lost.
- Anything healthy grows.
- We want to impact our neighborhood.
While those points are good, and while there are many phenomenal pastors who are doing their best to serve God with obedience, I know there are other more honest answers to the church growth question we must consider:
- If the church grows, it’s evidence that people like me.
- I need the money a larger group will bring into the church.
- My reputation will take a hit if I can’t grow the church.
- If the church doesn’t grow, I’ll have to get another job.
- I’m being pressured by my board or overseers to grow numerically.
- We can only fulfill the vision if a lot of people buy into it.
- I’ll feel like a failure.
- My identity is tied to my performance in ministry.
- We have been seduced by the success of other ministries, and want to have the same success.
The pressure to grow numerically is insane. Pastors are falling into depression. Recently there have been horrible headlines of pastors committing suicide. The stress of leading ministries and meeting metrics can be too heavy to bear.
The allure and demand of church growth can be seductive indeed. If the Lord isn’t bringing increase (due to a failure to host the Holy Spirit and to boldly preach offensive truth), there is another spirit that is more than willing to extend a wretched, crooked hand. A demonic, wicked spirit of witchcraft thrives on control and manipulation. This spirit rebels against the methods of the Kingdom and against the purity of the Holy Spirit with tactics that will minister to the leader’s need for success.
Please understand me. I’m not saying all focuses on numeric growth are impure. I’m really not. It’s possible to possess an apostolic and prophetic spirit and to see through the eyes of God into a future of impact and explosive growth. It’s possible to discern a coming harvest. It’s possible to have the heart of an evangelist and to cry out for the lost and for a church filled with new, Spirit-filled, hungry converts. It absolutely is. In fact, a passion for the harvest, a cry for souls, must radiate out of every pastor and leader. Sadly, however, the allure of church growth is rarely born from such a pure desire.
Instead, an evil spirit is invoked, rarely deliberately, usually by default as an impure passion of the heart that demands satisfaction. Pastors souls are sold for the promise of a full house—a promise that is rarely delivered on. Further depression and failure is usually the result. Sometimes the church does explode, but not with burning zealots. Instead it’s a morgue, filled with people who are numb, cold and without signs of life.
The remnant church is wising up. While I have and always will teach that we must honor pastors and refuse to move in rebellion to God’s established authority, a disturbing shift must come to the church, and fast.
Pastors, we must stop using people to build our own kingdoms.
God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name. ~Brian Ming, as quoted in Pharaoh in the Church
The witchcraft necessary to coerce people to give financially, to serve the pastor’s vision and to build a ministry for impure reasons is extreme. It truly requires quite a few very powerful demons to anoint such a venture.
Please understand, I’m not talking about pastors who are intentionally evil and manipulative. I’m talking about pastors who have heart issues, those who try to spiritualize their ventures, those who are attempting to grow their church just like most every other pastor they know, those who have been seduced but don’t know it. They need to be shocked out of their deception and into the rest and peace that comes from allowing the Lord to bring the increase instead.
THE CHURCH WE ARE YEARNING FOR
Someone asked how I'd like to see church services go. Here's what I said:
Start with an hour of fiery intercession in the sanctuary prior to the service. Let it keep going as people show up for the service. Let the musicians play behind the prayer for the first 30 minutes or so of the service. Then, as prayer continues, let the musicians kick into some prophetic worship for a song or two. Open up the mic for decrees and declarations. Have the dancers and flaggers and others fill the altars. Encourage people to pace around the room or hit their face and contend. After a couple of hours or so, there might be a strong prophetic message, or just some declarations of the Word. Then flood the altars as people lead in prayers of repentance and reveal prophetic revelation that was received during the service.
Of course, that’s one model, but the point I’m making is that the coming remnant church simply isn’t interested in most of what is offered today—at all.
Pastors, when we realize the church service was never meant for assimilating seekers or evangelizing the lost, the stress of church growth falls off. The pressure to grow numerically can be replaced by the joy and passion of ministering to God.
Again, yes, we most definitely can believe God for numerical growth—if that’s God’s desire for our particular local expression of the church. And, also, there are those who will over-spiritualize their small congregation. They argue that their focus on holiness and revival don’t allow for numerical growth. Ridiculous. Remember, where the fear of the Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit and bold preaching exist, people will respond. Many will mock. Many will marvel. The city will be impacted. The local church may or may not grow numerically, but it will in spiritual depth and the church in the city will be impacted.
I’d encourage you to read my Charisma Magazine article, The Church We Crave But May Never See.
Here’s something to consider from that article. Keep in mind, the casual seeker won’t be attracted to a church on fire unless they are ready to surrender all. The church may shrink in number. However, the Holy Spirit will give leadership that will shock us to the core. Check it out:
For at least eight years specifically, and 23 years generally I've been teaching, writing articles, writing books, recording podcasts and posting videos about this very subject—extreme reformation in the church. Yet, the church service in nearly every Christian church looks the same (or worse) than it did decades ago.
I'm just about done. Finished. I can't stand the thought of additional years of church experiences modeled after a wine skin that's been outdated for years—yet, I acknowledge that it's all I may have to choose from while I'm still on the earth. Reformation seems to be far off.
The goal is not to hope for a more anointed old wine skin, but rather for such a radical reformation that it looks nothing like what we see today.
Simply, what's coming will look more like an extreme prayer meeting with people laid out all over the place with fire and tears in their eyes than the casual, tired and predictable worship and teaching services we see today.
Yes, the Sunday service will finally be the Upper Room experience that the burning, desperate remnant has been yearning for. Raging prayer, fervent prayer, passionate prayer will return to first place in the church.
You shouldn’t argue with baby killing demons, no matter how brilliant your defense may be.
4 For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. 5 They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal–something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. 6 So beware, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. Jeremiah 19:4-6 (NIV)
There is a battle to be waged against the murderous spirit of abortion in our nation, but many in the church are fighting the wrong fight in this valley of slaughter—and they are losing.
My wife and I have lost seven babies, not to the intentional act of abortion, but to the heartbreaking shock of miscarriage and stillbirth. I’ll never forget my wife convincing her doctor to induce labor on what would be the earliest, smallest baby he’s ever delivered naturally. I’ll also never forget the moment that tiny baby was delivered into our waiting hands. She was little. She was perfect. All babies are perfect. All seven of ours most certainly were.
In the middle of our losses, Amy and I were in the delivery room praying, contending and crying out that our baby boy would be delivered, alive and healthy. Less than a minute before Jet Samuel Burton would enter the world, the doctor, who was with us through our previous losses, asked me if I’d like to deliver my new baby boy. We switched positions and he took me to medical school—a thirty-second lesson on how to deliver a baby.
I was unprepared, but more ready than I can explain. Jet’s head emerged, I carefully grasped it and helped guide him into the world. Emotions were overwhelming. Tears were flowing. Jet was alive.
In fact, my miracle baby is sitting next to me right now in Starbucks as I’m writing this. I asked him to smile for a pic as he hangs out with me, watching videos on his phone. Children are precious. All of them. Another picture is of me delivering Jet twelve years ago. I’ll never forget that moment.
So, yes, children are worth fighting for. But, are we fighting the right battle?
FLESH, BLOOD AND MOLOCH
The Bible makes it clear that we don’t war against flesh and blood. As gruesome as it is, this symbolic picture becomes very real when we deal with the spirit of abortion. Literal flesh and blood are ripped and spilled every hour. Worldwide, there is an unborn baby violently destroyed every second. Eight-six children are sacrificed to the murderous principality Moloch every minute. The worship is Satanic at a level none of us can truly understand.
Moses warned the Israelites about sacrificing to this god. In their rebellion, they rejected the mandate of God.
Read this sobering passage of Scripture:
36 They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. 38 They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. 39 They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves. 40 Therefore the LORD was angry with his people and abhorred his inheritance. 41 He handed them over to the nations, and their foes ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them and subjected them to their power. Psalm 106:36-42 (NIV)
America is at this point. The land is desecrated by the blood of millions of children sacrificed to a deadly demonic entity.
The church is fighting the wrong battle.
To be clear, I do see some value in presenting a godly defense and in electing righteous politicians who can promote righteous laws. However, I don’t believe the battle should be waged there as it cannot be won there.
It’s easy to rise up in a spirit of debate, attempting to use logic to sway people from one position to another. There are some out there who can cause true introspection using this method. I think of someone like Ben Shapiro, a non-Christian who is extremely effective at using secular logic and debate to make a case. Ray Comfort is a Believer who can be quite effective at causing individuals to reconsider their stance on abortion. However, we need to understand that memes, Facebook posts and righteous indignation directed at those who support taking the life of babies are poor weapons in this war. Why? The battle is spiritual.
Zachary King, a former high wizard in a satanic church says abortion is a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons.
“I know abortion is a satanic sacrifice,” King said at a conference on spiritual warfare organized by Toronto-based Serviam Ministries.
“Why is the devil intent on killing the unborn?” he said. “Satan does fear certain things. Innocence is one. You can’t get more innocent than the baby in the womb.”
“Every hex, we used an abortion,” he told the conference.
“The bigger thing you request from the devil, the more you have to do for the devil to get it. … A hex requires an aborted baby.”
Indeed, if everyone on Earth marched against abortion, the next day, the abortion centers would still be open, King said.
He knew it was a spiritual battle.
“It’s spiritual warfare, (but) we fight it physically,” he said. “You cannot defeat a spiritual enemy” with physical weapons.
HAS VOTING REPLACED INTERCESSION?
While he’s not anywhere near the perfect President, I’m thrilled that President Trump was voted into office and that he’s promoting godly agendas. He addressed hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates during the March for Life. But, I’m concerned.
It seems millions of Christians have traded in the call to intercede and govern in the Kingdom for a vote. For many, it’s now President Trump’s job to deal with abortion. The Supreme Court is looked to as a force against abortion as well. But, what about the intercessors? Where are those who are waging war in the spirit?
Understand, the people we are debating are mostly ungodly and even demonized. Using logic against their Moloch anointed mission is futile. President Trump and the Supreme Court are absolutely helpless against such a powerful principality. The church is the nation’s only hope.
MOLOCH MUST BE DEFEATED
You’d be shocked at how many professing Christians, including pastors, are unapologetic advocates for abortion. While this is nearly impossible to believe, it’s true that much of the church is actually in covenant with Moloch. Others in the church are doing little to confront this spirit other than voicing their irritation on Facebook. Governmental intercession is nearly nonexistent in today’s church.
Manesseh, the king of Judah, instituted pure evil in the temple. Included was a sacrifice to Molech.
1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 2 Chronicles 33:1-6 (NIV)
He sacrificed his sons to Molech. God was provoked to anger. America is in this place right now.
I’m hoping you can see memes, marches and debates will never defeat a principality as powerful as Moloch. It’s laughable. Again, please hear me. I’m not opposed to voicing truth, to confronting the spirit of the age and addressing evil arguments. There is value in that. There is value in voting righteous people into position. There is value in using logic. But, the value is limited. Alone it’s futile beyond measure. We must see the church lead the nation in repentance, prophetic decrees, governmental intercession and high level spiritual warfare. It’s time for the church to govern again.
IT’S TIME TO WRESTLE
It shouldn’t shock us that most of the people who are aggressively promoting murder are those who simply don’t know God. Listen closely to me please. THEY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED LOVE. They don’t know what it’s like for a Heavenly Father to flood their souls with immeasurable, indescribable, supernatural love. They don’t understand. They are completely limited to their logic, emotions and human wisdom.
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NIV)
They cannot love unborn babies because they don’t know God. The only way we can love unborn babies is because of a revelation of God’s love. It’s as simple as that.
We must not wrestle against these people. There is a spirit they are aligned with that has defiled them, confused them and desecrated them. It’s that spirit that demands our warfare.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
Too many Christians are wasting time and energy struggling against people while fully ignoring the necessary battle against rulers, authorities, powers and spiritual forces.
We know the spiritual armor necessary to fight. A helmet, a belt, shoes, a sword. We also need to pray. Prayer is the forgotten weapon, and without it we cannot win.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers… Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
The flesh and blood of millions of babies cries out. But, it’s not flesh and blood that killed them. It’s a wicked and powerful spirit that has been worshiped in our nation for years.
It’s time to:
- War against spiritual forces with spiritual weapons.
That is the three-fold strategy to see Moloch taken down and for abortion to be eradicated in our blood soaked land.
We fight blood with blood. The blood of millions cries out for the blood of Jesus to cover America.
Let me finish with a prayer.
In the name of Jesus, I declare we are covered in his precious blood as we wage this war. We reject the spirit of the age that is attempting to seduce us into a state of mindless inaction. We call the church to rise up and lead the nation in repentance, in war and in intercession. Holy Spirit I pray you would anoint your people to pray like they never have before. Forgive us for any and all partnership with wickedness, compromise and apathy. I speak life over our church and over our nation! Church rise up! Amen.
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail… Isaiah 54:17 (NIV)
I’m SHOCKED at how many Christians aren’t generous tippers and givers—and many argue against the need to tip their servers at all!
7 But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 2 Corinthians 8:7-8 (NIV)
Are you the most extravagant giver among those you know? Do you tip passionately? Are you looking for opportunities to bless? Or, are you holding back, expecting others to serve you? Has a spirit of entitlement and poverty gripped your life?
Here’s a truth that will set you free: If you expect other people, systems, the church, the government or any other entity to meet your financial needs, you are destined for a life of frustration and lack. However, if you are focused on giving to others, no matter your current financial condition, your joy will abound and your faith surrounding your finances will skyrocket.
19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (NIV)
- A spirit of poverty will cause us to keep the dollars that are actually meant to be sowed and multiplied back to us.
- A spirit of entitlement will result in a lack of gratitude, causing us to keep our money in our pockets while waiting for others to give us more.
- A spirit of offense will cause us to reject the call to use our money to bless others who we have determined don’t deserve it.
These three spirits must be eradicated from our lives. I’m offering a powerful, free resource at the end of this article to help you find freedom. Keep reading.
HOW COULD ANY CHRISTIAN ARGUE AGAINST TIPPING?
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
I’ve heard arguments against tipping by Christians who honestly admit that sometimes they simply can’t afford it. I understand the seasons of scarcity, and I know that these seasons can come for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s our fault and sometimes it’s not. However, to presume in seasons of scarcity that we can still live large is a sign of these spirits having a root in our lives.
Entitlement demands they experience life the same way those who prosper do. They argue they have a right to eat out just like everyone else, even if they can’t afford to tip. This is absolutely nonsensical. In fact, it’s selfish and rude to expect a server to wait on us and then to tip poorly or not at all. Everybody is in a different financial position, and some can afford to eat out, some can’t. Some can afford to buy a new car, some can’t. Some can afford to go to the Super Bowl, some cant. Some can afford a new computer, some can’t.
Nobody has a right to things they can’t afford, including eating out. Some actually presume the tip to be an optional but unnecessary bonus for servers if they do a good job. I wonder how many people actually think that the majority of waiters and waitresses are mostly supported by their paycheck every two weeks. They aren’t.
In fact, are you aware that most servers receive ZERO dollars in their paychecks? They live solely on the generous tips from those who are eating at their tables. Taxes on those tips wipe out the $2.13 per hour that most servers make today. This means, if I don’t tip $20 or $30 on my $100 check, my server may miss a student loan payment or they may not be able to buy their children new shoes or take them to the amusement park they were promised. I take this responsibility very seriously. I want every person who serves me to be more blessed than I was by the time the hour-long dinner is over.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
Our resolve to bless those who live on tips (servers, valets, hairstylists, bellhops, your Uber driver, etc.) should be a core value—even when their service is poor. My wife and I never decrease the tip by even a penny if we receive poor service. Why? There are many reasons. They may have had a bad day. The kitchen may actually be at fault. They are dealing with depression. Their family situation is bad and declining. They dealt with rude customers at their last table. Or, possibly, they have yet to meet Jesus. I guarantee I am not going to try to “teach them a lesson” by decreasing my tip instead of blessing them in the love of Jesus.
If we can’t bless those who don’t refill our drinks quickly enough, how can we presume to bless those who use and curse us?
27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:27-31 (NIV)
When the Bible talks about curses, that includes verbal assaults, insults and all sorts of mistreatment. We don’t seek revenge. We don’t try to teach them a lesson. We don’t leave a nasty note on the check. We don’t decrease our tip. We don’t attack them back. We love them. We bless them. We give.
BREAKING FREE FROM POVERTY AND ENTITLEMENT
I know many who are reading this are rejoicing. Many Christians are tired of others being such a poor representation of Christ. Many servers are tired of dealing with selfish, entitled people. There is a black mark on Christianity because of many in the after-church crowd on Sundays who eat together. They can be demanding, loud, difficult to deal with, entitled and absolutely terrible tippers. It’s embarrassing and many Christians out there have had enough. I know servers who despise working on Sundays. Great job Christians. You’ve made quite a name for yourself. Here’s some advice: If you can’t love your server and financially bless them radically, just stay home.
Nobody has the right to eat out if they can’t afford it. I was engaged in a Facebook discussion on this topic, and some came out of their skin with indignation that I would say such a thing. They feel no obligation to tip their server, and they believe their financial condition should have no bearing on whether they can eat out or not. I wondered if they also might just pay whatever they want instead of the total on the check. Do they just pay what they can afford when checking out at Walmart? Of course not. But, they choose not to pay their server’s bill (their tip). This is a clear indicator of being driven by poverty and entitlement. If you can’t afford to tip at least 20%, you can’t afford to eat out. Most definitely stay home or eat somewhere where tipping isn’t expected.
In order to break free from from poverty and entitlement, we must crucify our flesh and become radical givers instead of expecting others to meet our needs. There are many mad people in the world. Mad at pastors, government, friends, their church family and others for not meeting their financial needs. This mindset will ensure they remain sad, angry, disillusioned and in lack. We break the demonic grip of poverty and entitlement by turning the tables and giving with passion instead of expecting others to give to us.
1 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4 (NIV)
The poor widow had every right to be bitter at the church and at the rich. The natural reaction when in lack is first to look to others to resolve our problem, and second to despise them when they don’t. The widow was applauded by Jesus because of her heart. She had the greatest need yet still gave everything she needed to live on. She wasn’t entitled, and, believe it or not, she didn’t have a poverty spirit. She certainly wasn’t offended.
Here’s a comment by my wife, Amy:
We have always tipped both in times of plenty and in times of lack. During our first year of marriage we were very poor, with (nearly) no money for Christmas presents and a sack of potatoes for Christmas dinner. We were barely scraping by. However, if we chose to eat out we calculated the tip amount into the cost when deciding whether we could afford to do so. I'm sure our server made a better living than we did at the time. It didn't matter. It's never appropriate to withhold what a server is due in an attempt to better our own financial situation.
I remember that season very well! In fact, I still vividly remember standing next to the sack of potatoes in the grocery store in Cleveland, Tennessee 23 years ago wondering if we should use our few remaining dollars on it along with a frozen chicken. That was to be our Christmas dinner. We did buy the potatoes and had just a little cash left over. On Christmas morning, my gift from my wife was a belt (that didn’t fit) and my gift to her was a Jenga game (that she was upset I bought because we needed that $10 for bills). That afternoon we had friends over to eat our chicken and potato feast—and then my wife burned the chicken. One of our friends ran home to get a frozen pizza. We enjoyed a wonderful mashed potato and frozen pizza Christmas dinner!
In that season finances were scarce, though we were working hard. Our car was bashed in on the passenger side and the doors didn’t open. We had to steer about 30 degrees to the right in order for the car to drive straight. We replaced the tires with $5 used tires once every couple of weeks due to the misalignment. We couldn’t afford a repair.
The bottom line is we had almost nothing and we very rarely ate out. Why? because we knew our $40 check would end up being $50 after tip. Instead we’d eat at home or grab something from McDonalds. It wasn’t our right to eat out if we couldn’t pay our bill—including what was owed to the server.
It wasn’t only our faithful giving to the church and to ministry that broke us out of lack. It was a “widow’s mite” attitude. We expected nobody to pay our way and we knew that we must be radical givers at restaurants and other places. If we couldn’t afford to tip, we stayed home.
The same is true with the church. I can’t imagine how anybody would attend a church, utilize their children’s ministry, receive teaching and be welcomed with open arms without giving extravagantly. We should give radically to the church, period. We should attend church with the same attitude as when we eat out. We are there to bless them instead of expecting them to bless us. We want to give with passion.
It’s true that the church is called to take care of widows. But, here’s the problem: when we stomp our foot and demand to be served because of this instruction in Scripture, we align ourselves with the spirit of entitlement and poverty, even though the church should in fact be helping. We should give and bless even when we aren’t taken care of in ways we should. Don’t blame, don’t point fingers.
Here’s a portion of my Charisma Magazine article The Spirit That’s Taking Over Our Nation—And It’s Not Jezebel:
It's time to repent for a spirit of entitlement that is destroying our testimony.
the condition of having a right to have, do or get something
the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)
In a self-centered, narcissistic world, one can only presume entitlement would be in the mix, as well. This attitude is doing great harm to our testimony as Christians in addition to creating a proud, lazy people who expect to be served instead of to serve.
I’ve heard about godly people who always tip double their check. I love this! While I wouldn’t suggest it’s mandatory to do this, I would suggest it’s mandatory to tip at least 20%. In fact, I’d encourage you to consider other opportunities to break off spirits of poverty and entitlement such as tipping double the check, paying for another patron’s check (including a huge tip), occasionally tipping five or six times the amount of the check or more and other opportunities to radically bless. When we give to others instead of demanding they give to us the spirits of entitlement and poverty lose their grip.
A SPIRIT OF OFFENSE WILL ENSURE YOU REMAIN ENSLAVED TO POVERTY AND ENTITLEMENT
Too many live offended lives. Offended that others aren’t taking care of them financially, offended that others are prospering and they aren’t, offended that they are continually overlooked. We should live free from offense. In fact, I’d like to offer my most popular teaching titled “Unoffendable” at no cost to you. Trust me, it’s revelation that will change your life dramatically!
You will receive the audio teaching, the eBook and teaching notes at no cost whatsoever. You can get this powerful resource here: www.burton.tv/free.
A spirit of offense is absolutely deadly. It will cause your love to grow cold and your heart to harden. It’s a death sentence. This spirit will cause you to rise up against others instead of serving them. Your unmet demands and expectations will result in a dark soul, a life of lack and deep resentment. This three-fold cord of poverty, entitlement and offense will imprison all who embrace these evil spirits.
When we break these three spirits off our lives, and discover the power of Kingdom finances, we can live free and full of joy, no matter how much money is in our account.
Faithfully giving and passionately tipping all who serve us out in the world will result in remarkable, prosperous, victorious lives!
We have radically misunderstood the purpose of the church—and the Gideon principle is the shock it needs.
Pastors, quit getting excited when your church grows in number.
Quit getting depressed when it declines in number.
Quit selling your soul to compel people to join you on Sunday mornings.
Numeric church growth is not the goal—mission completion is—and the people you are wooing just may be your downfall.
CHURCH AS WE KNOW IT
As one who has planted two churches and spent many years in church leadership, both as a staff pastor and senior leader, I have had a front row seat to the American church reality. There’s much that has been absolutely amazing and much that is radically disappointing.
Church as we know it, however, doesn’t take years of leadership experience to analyze. It’s simple: we gather together once or twice a week and worship a little and pray a little (usually very little) and listen to teaching. After saying hi to friends and small talking with others we head out into our world until next week.
Pastors are heroes, in my opinion. Superheroes in fact. However, even mighty men and women of God must step back at times and truly analyze their motives and ministries. I suggest part of that analysis must include reckoning with an unhealthy desire to see the church grow numerically. Pastors tend to get weighted down when the seats are empty, and then, miraculously, they perk up and have an extra jump in their step when the roar of the crowd is louder. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s human nature that is threatening the church and the lives of people it’s called to impact. We need to adopt supernatural wisdom as we move into the next generation of the church.
I shared a prophetic word at a city pastor’s gathering in Detroit several years ago. I don’t believe it was received well as most remained silent after I shared it and then they moved on to other business. I do believe it was the Lord, however. It was a word of warning and a strategic call.
I saw an ocean beach on a sunny day. There were many people on the sand, a good number splashing in the shallows and a handful of people swimming in deeper waters.
Those who were on the sand were mostly happy building sand castles, tanning and enjoying the afternoon sun as the cool mist from the crashing waves blew over them. Some were curious about the water and even took off their sandals and walked where the waves met the sand. Others would slowly venture out and start splashing in the shallows, but most were satisfied just where they were.
The people in the shallows were having a good time. They were together, jumping, splashing and swimming. They were in waist high water and were able to stand on the sandy bottom. They were also satisfied.
I then looked out at the small number of people who were in the deep. They couldn’t stand as the water was well over their heads. They were so hungry to explore the wide-open seas. It made no sense to them why anybody would be satisfied experiencing so little. However, these people had nobody to lead them into the deeper waters. You see, the people on the sand, in the shallows and in the deep all represented a single local church.
What I saw next brought clear, obvious revelation to the situation.
I saw a man, the pastor, in khaki pants, a dress shirt and a tie. His shoes were off and his pant legs were rolled up. He had one foot in the water and the other on the sand. He was not dressed for the deep. In fact, he wasn’t dressed for the shallows or the sand either. He determined to remain anchored between the sand and the shallows where the majority of the people were, yet unable to really reach any of them.
The pastor was under great stress as he would look upon those on the sand, then those in the shallows and he’d then squint as he saw those who were drifting out to sea. His eyes continually darted between the three groups, attempting to maintain some sort of control over the spiritually diverse congregation. However, he couldn’t. Those in the deep became a nuisance. He found it easier to allow them to go and to focus on the sand and the shallows. He
knew those in the low water would not go deeper and those on the sand were safe, and maybe, some day, they would jump in and splash around with the others.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. Ezekiel 47:3-6 (ESV)
9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 47:9 (ESV)
26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:26-27 (ESV)
THE CALL TO THE DEEP
I believe the strategy of the church must radically change. The pastor, the leader, must be in the deep ahead of the people. The priests are called to step into the waters and to lead people into miraculous situations.
14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Joshua 3:14-16 (ESV)
The evangelists are called to minister to those on the sand. Prophets can call them into the waters. The local church’s apostolic leaders must focus on the deep, calling people to advance into impossible waters as they seek to encounter the wonders of God and to take new ground. They announce the need to live consecrated lives as they prepare for God to move in power.
5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)
Seeker churches are well known for focusing on the people on the sand. The beach goers have been affirmed in their position by this regrettable church movement. Further, the poison of seeker ministries has soaked into the soil of the greater American church foundation. Today, most churches may not identify as seeker sensitive, but seeker principles are adopted and adapted to fit their local expression in hopes of attracting the very same sand dwellers and shallow splashers. Those yearning for the deep are minimized and ignored—often because of the pastor’s own lack of depth—and commonly because of the pastor’s devotion to growing a larger church.
THE GIDEON CHURCH GROWTH PRINCIPLE
Churches have too many people, or at least they have the wrong people. Church missions have been compromised.
Please understand, I do believe in numeric church growth. We see in Scripture how thousands were added. I believe we’ll see stadiums filled with Christians interceding and contending for revival. The harvest will come in. There absolutely are and will continue to be anointed, surrendered leaders who have been graced to lead large numbers without compromise. There are “churches of the deep” that are diving into unseen realms and growing mighty disciples. In fact, if given a choice, I’d rather attend a large church like this than a small group of unified zealots—though I do value both.
With that in mind, most churches and pastors will benefit from applying the Gideon principle, though it will be scary, painful and humbling. Death to self, rejection of selfish ambition and mighty faith are required. I believe God is about to invite leaders into divine wrestling matches as they renounce their fabricated and confused identities and adopt their divine callings and discover their identities in Christ instead of success.
12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:12-13 (ESV)
God also believes his pastors and leaders are heroes. He addressed Gideon, a leader who had yet to step into that identity, as a mighty man of valor. It would do us well to honor God’s men and women in the same way. While many will reject the call of God to shift, some will hit their spiritual rock bottom and cry out from their caves of desperation. God is raising up warriors like this, and we should celebrate the process.
Whenever we are out of sync with God a common complaint will be, “God, where were you? Why have you forsaken us?”
Today pastors are gazing up into the heavens wondering why God isn’t bringing growth. Where is he? Why is his presence so rare in their local church? What is going on?
This is a good prayer as long as we are ready for God’s reply.
14 And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” Judges 6:14 (ESV)
Go in might. I have sent you. That’s God’s reply.
15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6:15-16 (ESV)
If we allow God to truly search our hearts, this is where the divine wrestling match begins. We may honestly feel unworthy, unprepared, weak and the least of all. What a contrast to God’s identifying decree: You are a mighty man of valor, I will be with you and you will be victorious—but the victory depends on radical surrender and wild faith. Pastor, will you allow this Gideon principle to take over your church and your life?
The process included Gideon seeking God, looking for confirmation, hearing his voice, discovering his new identity and emerging as a true leader. It would do us well to cry out for a similar process to initiate in our own lives.
EMERGING JERUBBAAL LEADERS: DESTROYING ALTARS AND ADVANCING IN VICTORY
25 That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here…Judges 6:25-26 (ESV)
The next step is critical. We must destroy altars of old. We must differentiate between God-given mantles and God-opposed altars. God absolutely will grace us with the water from the wells that our fathers and their fathers dug years ago. There are mantles and rich, godly traditions that have eternal value. However, there are unholy altars that have become normal in the church today that must be torn down. Traditions of man, selfish ambition, the pursuit of notoriety, becoming drunk on money and pride must be crushed. Annihilated.
28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar. Judges 6:28-32 (ESV)
Are you ready to be renamed? Are you an emerging Jerubbaal? When we tear down ungodly altars, we step into a promotion in the spirit. We will be known as one who has stared evil in the eye and is unafraid at the threat of demonic backlash.
When we have proven ourselves to possess the obedience and fearlessness necessary to stand against the prevailing religious culture of the day by tearing down altars that so many hold so dear, we will be ready to advance in the mission—by allowing most people to leave.
THE PEOPLE IN YOUR CHURCH MAY BE HINDERING YOUR MISSION
Remember, we are called to leave the sand, to leave the shallows and to lead into the deep. Most people will not remain when you allow God to shift your church into a “deeper water” ministry. Your mission requires the right laborers be with you and those who are resistant to be let go. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them. It means we understand those who leave will pale in comparison with those will be set free through our obedience.
2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. Judges 7:2-3 (ESV)
Pastor, when you cast this renewed vision of going into the deep, most in your church will, most likely, be afraid of such a venture. It will not be what they signed up for. They wanted you to occasionally wave at them as they soaked up the sun on their beach blankets. They wanted you to splash with them if they ever decided to test the shallows. This new, awakened leader will be an irritant to them. Most will leave. That’s okay. The mission is for all who are fearless and surrendered to Jesus. The choice is theirs. If Gideon would have refused this filtering process, the entire camp would have been decimated. The enemy is ready to decimate our churches too. We need Jerubbaal to emerge and lead with the mysterious, illogical wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” Judges 7:4 (ESV)
6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 7 And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” Judges 7:6-7 (ESV)
God knew who was needed to get the job done. 300 out of 32,000, less than one percent, were called as the church, the Ekklesia, a governmental people with determined unity and a fearless disposition, to rout the enemy.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL CALL
The result of applying the Gideon principle for church growth will most probably result in an extreme decrease in numbers but a supernatural increase in power.
An unconventional man, Gideon, was called.
An unconventional army, only 300 in number, was gathered.
An unconventional method, banging jars and shouting, was used.
The result was glorious victory.
20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. Judges 7:20-22 (ESV)
ACCUSATION WILL COME
I’ll conclude this article with a key point that could easily have been ignored.
1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. Judges 8:1 (ESV)
When God calls you to destroy religious altars, and to advance mostly alone in your region, you will absolutely be accused by other pastors and leaders. Who are you, after all, to presume you know what should be done in the city? Your answer? You are Jerubbaal.
While I appreciate it when pastors in a city meet together and attempt to unify and support one another, it’s rare for them to truly promote revival in a region. The reason? They presume their efforts to affirm one another and support one another are the goal. It’s satisfying. Somehow, unifying around this low level commitment feels spiritual. It’s nice, but it can be threatening to the greater mission. When God calls you to tear down altars they have built, or that their fathers have built, then what? When God calls you to advance in the city without them (due to their own choice), with a small army of radicals, how will they respond? Many will accuse.
This doesn’t mean, by any means, that we go rogue and function in an independent, rebellious spirit. God will crush that fast. He resists the proud. God will, however, awaken key people to do what few others will, and what most will flatly reject. This Jerubbaal leader will threaten religious structures. Their humble surrender and bold resolve to obey their God at every turn will threaten those who have their religious culture carefully defined.
Who are you? What is your identity? You are a mighty man of valor. God is inviting you as a Jerubbaal. He will rally an army around you to assault the enemy and to advance the Kingdom of God. Those who leave, and those leaders who aren’t consulted, will most certainly accuse you.
That’s okay. Go in this spirit of Jerubbaal and see God move in some of the most remarkable signs, wonders and miracles the world has ever known. You are invited, mighty man of valor, to be an instrument in God’s hands in a dark and desperate world. This hour is yours.
Rejecting Jesus should be the defining symptom of insanity.
One second in the presence of God will cure the most devoted skeptic, or so the saying goes.
Continually, as I watch the world go round, I am utterly stunned that people go about their lives while either casually or aggressively rejecting Jesus. Do they not know what they are doing? Many don't.
34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 (ESV)
Almost with intentional naivety, I wonder just why anybody would refuse such a life-altering, healing and glorious gift. Historically, people still rejected Jesus after being a witness to the resurrection. Others ignored the call to the Upper Room. Today people react similarly to calls to radical surrender to the most powerful being in existence. It truly does not make sense—or does it?
There must be a reason—or many reasons—why so many do the unthinkable.
WHY PEOPLE REJECT GOD’S GREATEST GIFT TO MANKIND
They have no grid for the presence of God.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)
One second in the presence of God will absolutely cure the most devoted skeptic. I believe it. I often wonder what unbelievers think when they witness moves of God that result in shaking, falling to the ground, groans of intercession, shouts of freedom and other manifestations. They have no option but to presume the people are hyper-emotional or mentally unbalanced. Why? They have not experienced the supernatural presence of God. Experiencing a visitation by a holy, supernatural force requires a “sixth sense.” They simply can’t understand it in the natural, so they dismiss it. Many mock it. They definitely reject it.
The countless times I’ve experienced the divine presence of God have changed my life many times over. It’s impossible for God’s presence to be invented, an emotional reaction, mind over matter or some other naturally explained experience. If you are standing in the ocean, you are wet. God’s presence is as tangible and simple to understand as that.
As a youth pastor in San Diego in the 1990’s, I took the teens to a powerful Vineyard Worship conference. It would be impossible for me to explain what happened there. God’s presence overtook me as he did many people there. I suddenly fell to my face as God’s weighty, holy and overwhelming presence consumed me. I was out. God was pouring out his love on me.
Hundreds of people eventually filtered out leaving me and a few others in the building. The youth helped me to my feet and I stumbled out of the room and to the van. When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel where most of the people attending the conference were staying, I saw something I’ll never forget. All around I witnessed people being carried into the hotel, undone by the presence of God. This was no mass emotional delusion. God’s presence was healing and transforming people. Lives were forever changed. The lost have no grid for this.
They have never experienced a miracle.
11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Acts 19:11-12 (ESV)
I often say it should be absolutely impossible to doubt there’s a God when a legitimate miracle occurs. I mean, when an invisible God moves in great power and does the impossible, what else is there to discuss?
The signs, wonders and miracles I’ve experienced over the 49 years of my life are too numerous to list, though I’ve written about many of them in my books (www.burton.tv/shop). My life has been changed time and again as God revealed his love and power through stunning, incredible miracles that are fully indescribable in the natural. Only a loving Creator could move in that way.
People who reject God don’t typically experience wonders like healings or they explain them away. Financial miracles are foreign to them. Prophecy that comes to pass is dismissed. They just can’t grasp the reality of a God who moves in the lives of those who love him.
True peace, joy and freedom are absolutely foreign to them.
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (ESV)
Speaking of miracles, when depression, fear and darkness are suddenly dispersed by a strange and wonderful supernatural invasion, you are forever free!
I love seeing before and after photos of people that reveal the transformation of Jesus. Before surrendering to Jesus you can often see emptiness, and after their countenance is erupting with joy and freedom!
How glorious is it to rest in God’s peace that passes all understanding and to rejoice with joy that’s unspeakable and full of glory!
It’s an awesome thing when two strangers meet, and they both know the other is a Believer, without even saying a word. The presence of God is on them. The joy of the Lord is evident. Sadly, the lost cannot know this freedom outside of meeting Jesus and falling in love with him.
Their have settled for counterfeit love.
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23 (ESV)
I’d encourage you to read my article The Great Love Deception for a comprehensive look at how both the world and the church are falling for counterfeit love.
As God’s love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.
Today, those who have not experienced true, godly, supernatural love that transforms their hearts have no option but to seek out an alternative to satisfy their needs and desires. A counterfeit.
God’s love looks and feels very different than most would presume. When someone authentically encounters the love of God, everything changes. Everything.
They haven’t heard God’s voice.
3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)
My book Revelation Driven Prayer is a handbook that will help you discover the wonder of God’s voice. When God talks, it absolutely shocks and rocks us to our core! His voice is life-giving and life-altering.
The Bible tells us that it’s his sheep who hear his voice. The lost are wandering without a guide. They simply need to cry out to God in desperation and be amazed at the voice that bellows from the heavens!
God’s voice is real, not some weird, imagined, mystical message. God talks to us. We know his voice. Those who reject God enact radio silence.
Dreams and visions are foreign to them.
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)
My life has been impacted beyond description by the communication of God through dreams and visions. When you have a “God dream” you just know it. His truth explodes through imagery that is delivered in ways only a deity could. Mysteries are revealed. Questions are answered.
I’ve written about several of my dreams and encounters with God in articles and books, and have taught on them many times. Other Believers all over the world have had even more dramatic encounters. Those who reject God are not in tune with him, and therefore don’t regularly receive from him in this way. Of course, God has and will visit people who have rejected him, giving them an opportunity to surrender all and follow him. It happened with the Apostle Paul. It happens with Muslims today. It happens with many who have hit rock bottom. But, it isn’t until we develop intimacy with Jesus that the dreams and visions become normal in our daily lives.
They misunderstand the power of sin and the nature of God.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)
The allure of the flesh is powerful and satisfying, and many who reject Jesus simply don’t think surrendering to their passions are that big of a deal.
The enemy is very good at bringing confusion in hopes of validating sin in people’s lives. Further, people presume God to simply be a “good guy” who is unconcerned with behavior and is smiling on them from a far away place. In fact, many delusional Christians believe in similar ways.
My article Five Marks of the False Grace Message will bring clarity to this point.
God is holy. God is aligned against those who choose to reject him and his love—until they turn from their wickedness. Then he will run to them and embrace them and welcome them as sons and daughters! What a glorious God we serve!
Ask anyone who was living in rebellion to Jesus before leaving their life of sin behind. Their surrender resulted in phenomenal life! They live in the fear and love of Jesus and they would not have it any other way. The transformation is very real indeed!
They haven’t experienced the transforming baptism of the Holy Spirit.
31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 (ESV)
When the power of God truly hits, natural man yields to supernatural wonder!
Suddenly we are aligned and calibrated with the heart and nature of God in ways we could never have experienced before this baptism.
The moment I was baptized in power is the moment timidity disappeared from my life. No amount of counseling could have done that. Positive thinking was futile. It was only when God himself burned through me like a fire and transformed me in ways I’ll never be able to explain.
A supernatural force is ready to invade any who would ask.
How powerful would it be for another Azusa revival to erupt, except this time among those in Hollywood. Can you imagine a Holy Spirit fire burning in people like Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Samuel L. Jackson, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie and others?
I’m not sure why I mentioned Hollywood at this point of the article, but as I’m sitting here in Starbucks writing this, a spirit of intercession came over me. Let’s all pray for a supernatural invasion of the Holy Spirit to interrupt movie sets throughout Hollywood!
The Word of God isn’t alive to them.
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
A barometer of spiritual vitality is when reading the Bible causes us to come alive! Reading the Word of God intellectually, as those who don’t know Jesus are limited to, doesn’t bring life. But when we are intimate with God, the Bible imparts revelation. The truths are enlightening beyond measure. You can’t get enough!
What they see with their eyes is more real than what is invisible.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
They simply don’t believe. They are skeptics. Without faith people are hopeless.
They must be convinced that, yes, there is an invisible God who loves them and who is ready to come to their rescue.
Again, the number of times God has manifested in miraculous ways in my life rocks me! Oh, is he real! When we walk by faith and not by sight literally everything changes!
Their prayers have gone unanswered.
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)
The prayer of sinners God hears is the prayer of repentance, surrender and brokenness.
Those who don’t know God yet expect God to respond to their cries for personal satisfaction will forever be disappointed. It’s when we truly surrender all that God will hear our cry and move on our behalf.
Further, even Christians will go through desert times when the voice of God isn’t booming. God doesn’t just answer every email we send to him. He moves deliberately though often very mysteriously. He is to be trusted, not used.
They are unconcerned about eternity.
1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 (ESV)
There is no urgency. Today it’s becoming more rare for people to live in the fear of the Lord or at least acknowledging the severity of unavoidable eternity that rests just beyond the horizon.
They live for today. The need for God isn’t strong. There is life to live.
God sent a strong delusion and has turned them over to a debased mind.
10 …they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (ESV)
From my article These Are Words We Never Want To Hear God Say:
How strange (and troubling) it is that God would do this. In His wisdom, He opens and closes the window of opportunity for people to come to Him.
Most often we presume people have until the day they die to turn to the Lord. This isn't the case. There are many who have been turned over to delusion. Eyes have been blinded. Others have committed the unforgivable sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It's too late.
Many are nearing the point of no return, and for a significant number of them it will come well before they die. They will be spiritually hopeless, fully dead, possibly decades before an obituary is written.
This is a terrifying reality, and it should increase our urgency for intercession and evangelism.
I’m so terribly grieved when people reject Jesus. The price he paid for all to know him was so great. His love is so deep. The lives people could live if they only fell in love with Jesus would be miraculous. I hate that so few choose to live this way.
I wrote an article titled Christianity: Failed mission or glorious victory? Yes.
Jesus died for all, but so few will be saved.
There are many reasons people reject Jesus, including the few I revealed here. People say no to Jesus day after day, no matter how much God loves them and no matter how great their lives could be should they surrender.
I don’t understand it. I despise it. I’m wrecked.
If you aren’t radically in love with Jesus, be you an unbeliever or a Christian, please know that God is ready to pour out his Spirit on you! The miracles and wonders are waiting for you. Yes, the sacrifice and surrender are very real. The brokenness can’t be denied. The humility required to say no to our own selfish desires is costly. But, remember, we are talking about being intimately united with the Ruler of the universe!
Who could reject such an opportunity?
3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2:3-4 (ESV)
People are leaving the church in droves, and most fingers are pointed at the senior pastor.
Triggered. That’s the best way to describe a lot of people when the topic of “going to church” is brought up. You see, there’s a group of ex-church goers who are so angered by their previous church experiences, that any suggestion of support of the local church triggers them. I’ve had interactions with many people who tense up the moment I start a discussion about the church and the importance of being rightly aligned and connected with leadership.
Let me be clear: I’m a fierce advocate of the local church. I’m also a passionate visionary. I see well beyond the current structure and I regularly rock the boat and challenge systems, motives and traditions that exist within the local church. I believe we should stay connected, submitted and tender hearted within the church while we are, with wisdom and honor, advocating for reformation.
Sadly, many who share my passion for revolution within the church have gone the route of abdication, accusation and hibernation. They have abandoned their post while pointing fingers at pastors and leaders who didn’t measure up to their standards. They end up spiritualizing their decision to stop going to church so they can, as they say, “be the church.” The problem? You can’t be the church if you don’t go to church. I dealt with that in my article: You are NOT the church : The scattering movement.
I also address the abandonment of the church in my book Covens in the Church. People are leaving assignments and putting the church at great risk. It’s a movement of witchcraft and rebellion in the name of God.
A key reason why people are so disenchanted with the church is simple: Their expectations of what pastors are supposed to do and how the church is supposed to function are wrong.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE ROLE OF PASTOR AND THE CHURCH
THE PASTOR IS SUPPOSED TO BE MY CLOSE, PERSONAL FRIEND
There are many disappointed people who expected the pastor of the church they once attended to become a close, personal friend. While it’s true that pastors will have friends, and it’s possible to be counted among them, that should not be the goal or the expectation.
In fact, it’s a bit ludicrous to presume the pastor has to squeeze time, emotional energy and attention to you into his very busy and important life. The pastor’s role is not to be your close, personal bud. It’s to be a faithful leader and to watch out for your soul.
Stop and think about this for a moment. Do you have unlimited time and energy to give to literally everyone who chooses you as their new friend? How would you do it? Would you go out to lunch with them every day? What about hundreds of others who have the same demands? It simply doesn’t make sense.
We need to honestly understand just why pastors may choose not to be our close, personal friend. Here are a few:
His mandate is mostly to pray and study the Word.
1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4 (ESV)
It’s concerning today that pastors, instead of spending loads of time on their knees and in the Word, are being pulled in every direction to visit people in the hospital, meet with visitors to the church, answer the phone at all hours of the night and meet the needs of everybody in the congregation.
One of my favorite stories about Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City brings clarity to this point. A person of great influence was flying through Kansas City and wanted to meet with Mike during his layover. Mike was unavailable. The layover was during Mike’s daily scheduled prayer time. He politely declined the meeting.
We need a new breed of leader that will install a team who will take care of the people and then focus on meeting with God, getting wrecked in his presence, gaining powerful revelation in the Word and, as a result, stand behind the pulpit with fire in their eyes and a tremble in their spirit.
He may not have sufficient time or emotional energy to invest in another close relationship.
Related to the point above, pastors are busy. Really busy. Even those who lead small churches can’t be expected to be best friends with everybody. I’ve heard people say that if they can’t be close friends with all, they should resign from ministry. Ridiculous.
Further, do you know how many ministry families are being torn apart because of the pastor having absolutely unreal, unnecessary demands placed on them? Burnout is real. Pastor’s kids are often neglected. Pastor’s wives often live with great resentment against the church and those who are crushing her husband under the weight of their demands.
This study by Robin Dunbar is revealing:
Is there a limit to how many people you can actually be friends with at a time?
According to psychologists, the answer is yes. A study by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at University of Oxford, shows the average person can only manage five close relationships at a time.
So, if your church has more than five people attending, chances are the pastor simply won’t have room for another close friend.
He may not like you.
This one may sting. I’m confident you don’t have a blast hanging out with everybody. You have your favorites. So do pastors. It’s natural. It’s normal. Your personalities might not match. You might be clingy, weird, co-dependent, high maintenance or unbalanced. He'll be most effective ministering to you from afar.
This doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friend at a less intimate level. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. He just isn’t going to take you on vacation or hang out in his PJ’s watching football with you.
You have yet to prove yourself or invest in the ministry.
Smart leaders will invest mostly in those who have proven themselves faithful. Jesus devoted himself to twelve, and then at a closer level to three. Pastors will hang with those who share his vision, who are fierce defenders of the church and who don’t exhibit selfish tendencies. The pastor has a serious call of God to lead the church into an impossible vision, and he needs people around him who will empower that vision.
If you are dead weight, they will love you, pray for you and do their best to awaken you, but they won’t—and shouldn’t—be close friends with you.
God told him not to get too close to you.
There have been a number of people over the last two plus decades of ministry that I was specifically warned about. God told me not to befriend them. Some had devious intentions. Others would be a time-suck. Others would want to be inappropriately close to my family and me. Healthy boundaries were necessary.
Sometimes, my wife would be the one to wave the red flag of warning about an individual. It’s always wise to listen to a discerning spouse! And, often, God didn’t tell me exactly why I should keep my distance. I simply had to obey.
Other reasons God may keep you from a close personal relationship with your pastor abound. God may want you in a desert season. He may want you to pass the test of rejection. He may want you more focused on God than man. The list goes on and on.
You would be better served connecting with others in the church.
While a pastor’s charisma and maturity may be appealing, they may not be the best fit for friendship. It would be best to honor their role in your life as teacher, intercessor and leader while enjoying deep relationships with a few others in the church. The fit would simply be much better.
You wouldn't be able to handle his strong leadership in a close relationship.
Good leaders will slice and dice you in love, challenge you to the extremity of your limits and rebuke you, again in love, for deficiencies that remain unaddressed. Most people can’t handle such a direct approach. Their skin isn’t thick enough.
A well known, influential senior pastor of a huge mega-church met with my wife and me in his office one day. I had ministered with him in prayer events and, while we were not close friends by any means, we were friends. He had access to my life. At this particular meeting, he reached into my soul, pulled it out and threw it against the wall. He challenged me. He was very direct and the meeting was extremely upsetting. My wife cried on the way home—and several times thereafter. We were rocked, but we took his counsel to heart, though I didn’t know if I agreed with everything, and I felt he was quite harsh about simple philosophical differences. I was troubled.
The next week we had another scheduled meeting. We were anxious to see him again in hopes of asking some questions and gaining clarity. We were also a bit uptight as we didn’t know what else he may challenge us with.
To our surprise he looked me in my eye and simply said, “You passed the test.” Then he hugged me.
He went on to explain that he was intentionally pushing me to my limit, challenging things he knew I held dear in ministry and wanted to see how I’d respond. He said other pastors and leaders have stomped out of his office in pride and indignation after similar confrontations.
Though I admittedly was angry after the first meeting, I also understand that’s the culture within structures led by leaders with strong personalities and cutting-edge leadership abilities. They don't play around.
He is mostly focused on connecting with his leaders, who, in turn, train others to connect with the body.
Pastors should be spending most of their time and energy on a small number of leaders, not the entire body. Those leaders will then multiply what they received into others.
Do you think Moses could be best buds with every one of the millions who left Egypt? That’s ridiculous. It’s also unnecessary. There’s a better way to ensure people in the church are connected.
18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” Exodus 18:18-23 (ESV)
THE CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO MOSTLY FOCUS ON MEETING MY NEEDS
This possibly may be the most destructive belief about the local church.
People who are disenchanted about the church are usually upset that their needs haven’t been met. In fact, for many it’s a strange thing to hear that the church isn’t mostly there for them. Instead, they are to be there for the church.
Churches should not be started in the hopes of drawing in people and simply ministering to them. But, this is the extent of the vision of many church planters and pastors. Churches should be started when there’s a powerful, God-given vision for advance. For example, if God speaks to a man about transformation and revival in a certain city, it might make sense to start a church and gather the laborers. Those laborers will be trained for the sake of running the specific race God has given that church.
Yes, churches should absolutely reach out to widows and orphans. They should be centers of healing. When there are needs, the church should do what it can to help (though, it can’t always help in every way at all times). That being said, those who have been trained, healed and equipped should understand the church needs them as laborers, as intercessors, as financial givers and as champions of the vision.
Most of the spiritual needs we have don’t require the involvement of the pastor. We can easily grow in the Word on our own. We can seek out deliverance through others. We can learn to lean more on God than man.
If our churches were strong militaries where everyone signed up to give to the mission instead of making demands, the world would be turned upside down.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
If there one thing that troubles me, it’s when people gather together in the church to meet with friends and then lose passion when they are called to invest in the vision. I’ve seen this happen many times. People who want to connect relationally will stay involved until that well runs dry. Then, the pastor and leadership are accused of not having a loving church or facilitating friendships. While relationships are important, they aren’t the goal. The pastor’s job isn’t to develop a friendship club. The mission of intercession and Kingdom advance should be their focus.
I heard a story, again about IHOPKC, that speaks to this. Long ago, they instituted small groups. They started to flourish as people focused on developing relationships and satisfying that desire to make friends. That’s good. However, the primary, foundational purpose of IHOPKC was compromised. The main reason the ministry was founded was to gather people to pray and worship night and day. The prayer room started to empty as the small groups grew. They put an end to the small groups. It wasn’t until years later that they reinstituted them using a different model, one that ensured the small groups empowered the prayer room instead of threatening it.
This is one reason many churches today focus on small groups, visitor assimilation, pot lucks and connecting events—as the call to prayer goes silent. That’s what will fill the church, and kill the very reason we are to gather in the first place. To pray. Prayer is to be the main thing in every church.
17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:17 (ESV)
WE SHOULD ALL BE ALLOWED TO MINISTER DURING THE SERVICE
26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV)
This is the famous verse many disgruntled people use when they share their frustrations about the church. They want to minister in the service and they don’t like just sitting there and listening to one person teach. They attempt to spiritualize their irritation.
This argument is often a manifestation of a spirit of rejection. Their ministry has not been given a place and they took offense. As one who has led churches for years I don’t apologize for disallowing certain people from ministering in the service. My role is to protect the sheep. If someone desires to minister, but it’s from a wounded heart, it can do great damage. But, let’s leave that alone for a moment and deal with the crux of the matter.
Shortly after Pentecost, the early church had, as some estimate, over 10,000 Christians. There would be, of course, no way for all of them to teach a lesson or deliver a message in tongues, and then wait for an interpretation. It’s impossible.
The reality is there were two complimentary expressions of the church, the large group meeting and the small group meeting.
In the small group meeting, spiritual gifts could be exercised. A variety of people could share a message. Various songs could be sung. However, this is not the only expression of the church. In fact, I’d argue the large meeting just might be the most important. This is where God’s ordained leader would gather the people and bring mature, focused instruction. In fact, the Ekklesia best defines the large group meeting. It’s a secular term that indicates a governmental gathering where leadership gives instructions to the people.
Paul did this. Peter did this. God reveals key information to pastors and leaders regarding the mission of the church, the culture, the hour and the resistance of the enemy. The pastor must then have the attention of the people so they can rightly respond.
WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE SPECTATORS
Let’s deal with this two ways. First, I believe at times we absolutely are to be spectators, meaning, we sit at attention and listen carefully to the teaching. We can’t diminish the value of this, as I revealed in the previous point. Second, it’s true that we all have a role to play. The pastor has no obligation to allow us to minister any way we choose. When I was a youth pastor in a large church in Texas, the pastor assigned some ministry assignments to me that I despised. My ministry was to clean all of the bathrooms between services and to spend 8 hours every Friday in the scorching heat mowing their massive lawn. Oh yeah, I got to do some youth pastor stuff too.
I guarantee, those who are truly serious about not wanting to be spectators will have many opportunities to serve in the church! In fact, I bet if you ask your pastor where you can serve he’ll give you at least two or three options.
WE CAN WORSHIP AND GROW IN THE WORD ALONE OR IN SMALL GROUPS
Yes, we absolutely can grow alone. In fact, we should grow alone and in small groups. As I explained above, the small group expression of the church is valuable. Additionally, we should all be students of the Word and in prayer all by ourselves. Our prayer closets can’t hold more than just one of us.
However, don’t forget, the purpose of the church isn’t primarily to meet our personal needs, be they spiritual or natural. It’s great that you can grow better on your own than by sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. But, remember, the purpose of the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. You are needed as a soldier to show up for duty. You are needed on the wall. The church isn’t there to load you up with Bible knowledge or to act as a bridge between you and intimacy with God. You can do that on your own. The church needs you to meet it’s needs.
THE CHURCH ISN’T A BUILDING
Somebody needs to shout this loud and clear: Stop saying the church isn’t a building!
This argument is most often a passive aggressive attempt to devalue the Sunday local church gathering. People say this to validate their decision to disengage from the local church and to just “be the church.” Yeah, no. That doesn’t work.
As far as I can tell, people who leave “the building” to meet in homes are still meeting in buildings. Homes are buildings. Further, buildings are really great when it’s snowing or raining outside. I’m a big fan of buildings.
They may also argue that they don’t want to invest money in the maintenance of a building when they can simply meet in homes instead. This argument doesn’t work either. As I shared above, there must be two expressions of the church. The large group gathering is important. What happens if the church grows beyond 50 or 100 people? Some would say to multiply out and start new home groups.
This might work at times, but very often it doesn’t. We forget that God will specifically call a man or woman to lead a work. It’s important that we have the opportunity to sit under that person’s leadership, and that will most usually require a large venue.
When I was a part of IHOPKC, it was important for me to be in services with the entire community to hear Mike Bickle teach, share vision and give direction. It was invaluable. It required a large auditorium to do that.
WE ARE ALL EQUAL AND PASTORS SHOULDN’T BE ELEVATED ABOVE US
Nonsense. God absolutely favors people differently and he calls people differently. Some are able to teach, and some aren’t. Some have the gift of leadership and others don’t. We all play a part, but every single part is different.
Throughout Scripture, God called specific people to give leadership over others. Moses, Joshua, Paul and many others were put into leadership roles. Their function was not the same as others. Their maturity was not the same. Their gifting was not the same. Their anointing was not the same. None of that was equal.
Of course, God is no respecter of persons when it comes to his love, his passion for their lives and the fact that he died for them. But, you’d have to be biblically blind to say he favors and positions everybody equally.
We must understand there is rank and order in God’s government. God has generals, captains, privates, and, sadly, a bunch of people who have gone AWOL because they don’t affirm this leadership in their lives.
Give double honor to spiritual leaders[a] who handle their duties well. This is especially true if they work hard at teaching God’s word. 1 Tim 5:17
I’d encourage you to recalibrate your expectations of the church and of pastors with Scripture. God hasn’t called us into rebellion against his precious church. We need the large and small group gatherings. God’s leaders must spend their time in prayer and the Word. The church isn’t mostly about feeding you, it’s about equipping you as a soldier in a war. When we all get unified in prayer and mission, the church becomes both a beautiful bride and a potent weapon in the hands of God.
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John Crist slams critics of Lauren Daigle and John Gray. Is he right?
Oh look, a can of worms. Let’s open it!
John Crist, an absolutely hilarious Christian comedian who regularly posts both humorous and provocative videos, recently posted something that was more provoking than funny.
John tells critics of Christian worship leader and musician Lauren Daigle, who recently refused to publicly condemn homosexuality to “just shut up.”
Critics of Pastor John Gray, who recently came under scrutiny for buying his wife a Lamborghini, was slammed by John Crist who told them to “shut your mouth.”
Is John Crist right? Many are celebrating his bold response to Christian culture’s latest controversies. Others are calling him out.
I personally land somewhere in the middle, though, I must admit, I’m more concerned than ambivalent, more troubled than neutral.
AN EMERGING AND DANGEROUS PHILOSOPHY OF SIN
First, let’s talk about the situation with Lauren Daigle and John’s primary argument against her critics.
Regarding Lauren’s reluctance to clearly renounce the sin of homosexuality, John uses an argument that many other people are also using today in this and similar situations. He attempts to downplay the power of sin by emphasizing the idea that everybody sins. It's common among all and no one particular sin is worse than any other (which, I dealt with in a two-part Charisma Media article titled, The Deadly Argument That Could Wipe out an Entire Generation of Christians and No, Not All Sin Is The Same—Here's Proof).
In his video, John says that he, “probably did 27 things yesterday that if you would have witnessed, you would be like ‘Wow, I thought he was a Christian.’”
The dangerous philosophy that is on the rise today is this: If you have sinned recently, you have no right to deal with sin in our culture or in other people's lives. Shut up. Stop preaching. Remove the pulpits. Keep truth silenced. Refuse to remove the spec in another's eye. Let them remain blind.
The message John Crist and many others seem to be conveying is: we cannot promote biblical standards of holiness if we have ever failed ourselves. We cannot expose darkness as Paul commands us to do in the Book of Ephesians.
Now, John is absolutely right if his intent is to correct those who are shaming, attacking and attempting to do harm to Lauren Daigle due to her position (or lack thereof) on homosexuality. I’ve seen enough of that behavior on social medial to cause me to wonder if some people should be banned from Facebook and Twitter until they pass an elementary test of kindness and decorum. People who act like that should be embarrassed.
However, there is an appropriate—and necessary—way to respond when the spirit of the age is being promoted, especially within the construct of Christianity. If we remain silent on these issues, millions are put at risk of Hell. How many easily influenced young seekers or Believers now deem homosexuality appropriate? Such a belief, when acted on, puts eternities in jeopardy. This is coming on Lauren's watch.
In fact, I’m stunned that an influential Christian worship leader stating that homosexuality may not be sinful is being dismissed as a non-issue. Shocked. What if the next up and coming Christian artist were to admit that they don’t know if abortion is wrong? What about lying? Theft? Pornography? Murder? Will we continue to support them, arguing that their sin is no worse than any other?
Understand, if someone were to struggle with sin, if they were to admit that they are broken and desperate to find freedom from alcohol or anger or homosexuality, you better believe we should rush to their side, love and support them and, of course, refuse to throw stones. However, they must also be benched for a season while they work through their issues.
This is not what is happening with Lauren Daigle. She took it to an entirely different level, and she has not been removed from public ministry. She also hasn’t recanted what she said.
Just what is that “entirely different level” I'm referring to? She refuses to renounce sin. She is making room for the support of homosexuality in the lives of Christians. Innocent seekers and new Believers all over the world are most certainly entertaining the idea that homosexuality isn't sinful. This, friend, is a very serious situation. This is why we must say something. I have a hard time believing her music is still being played on Christian radio stations and sold in Christian stores. Again, what if she said that she wasn’t sure if sexual assault was a sin? Would the reaction be different? It absolutely would be.
John Crist seems to be communicating that cutting someone off in line at the Taco Bell drive-thru is the same as promoting immorality. What he's communicating is that yes, both are bad, but both are no big deal. If we yell at the guy who cut us off in traffic or are wrongly angry or impatient, we have somehow been disqualified from ever preaching truth or standing for righteousness, even if we have repented and asked for forgiveness. If this were the case, we would have no preachers and none of us would be able to share the Gospel with anybody.
The two verses that are used almost exclusively to defend the argument that we should not address the sin in others are found in the books of Matthew and John:
3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV)
7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (ESV)
First, in Matthew, the instruction is NOT to ignore sin. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite! We must rightly address the sin! We must first ensure we are not being hypocritical by living in the same sin as the other person. When we are certain we are living a pure life, then the prohibition of action becomes an expectation of action. We must remove the spec from the other person’s eye. Why would leaving them blinded by their sin be a good idea? It's not. It's foolishness. Somewhere along the line it has become a bad thing to help people in this manner. This error must be corrected if we hope to rescue those who are deceived.
Second, in John, we need to deal with two points. First, Jesus was exposing the darkness of their people's hearts. Their intent was violence driven by accusation and hatred. We can be sure that Jesus will deal with us if we assault others who have been caught in sin with such motives. I’m sure John Crist is mostly attempting to communicate exactly this. Quit being hateful jerks and learn how to love. I appreciate that message. The right response is to say, “forgiveness is yours, now stop sinning.”
But, there is a second point in the text to consider. The analysis of that verse in John chapter eight doesn’t stop there. Check this out from Adam Clarke’s Commentary:
“He that is without sin,” meaning the same kind of sin, adultery, fornication, etc.
The argument that we must shut our mouths when others are involved in or promoting sin just doesn’t pass biblical muster. Our past failures don't disqualify us from attempting to set others free or from proclaiming truth. However, if I’m a thief, I absolutely better not rebuke another thief. If I’m committing adultery, I have no authority or right to speak into the life of another adulterer.
Similar to the passage in Matthew chapter seven, it's our hypocrisy that God is addressing. He is absolutely not endorsing radio silence on the issue of sin. Quite the contrary, he is looking for preachers and prophets who will sound alarms!
Committing a sin doesn’t remove our responsibility to act. We must both endeavor to live in holiness and to deal with the sin in our culture. If a Christian is promoting sin, we simply can’t stay silent. Our past sins don’t require we abdicate that responsibility.
So, no, I don’t agree with John Crist. Lauren Daigle can’t be given a pass just because she leads people in worship and impacts millions in a positive way. There have been many pastors who have done many good things and impacted many people for the Kingdom who have also fallen. They have failed. They can't be given a pass but must instead be corrected and introduced to a path of restoration. The first step in restoration is acknowledging and renouncing their error. Repenting. The world is still waiting for Lauren Daigle to do just that. When she does, we will all celebrate with her.
I implore you to read my timely articles that were released shortly prior to the Lauren Daigle controversy: Worship Leaders Must Take a Stand Against Homosexuality and Is Worship Music Lucifer's Next Great Battleground?
SO, WHAT ABOUT PASTOR JOHN GRAY?
The point I’m trying to make in this article is that we must stand for holiness. While the Lauren Daigle issue is a very serious one, as she refuses to take a stand on something that is clearly sin, the John Gray situation is different. What sin has he committed?
So, John Crist is probably right by calling people out for attacking the pastor.
I’m not going to take time in this article to deal with the message of biblical prosperity, though we should at least know that it’s God who gives us power to create wealth. If he gives us the power, we have to at least agree that acquiring wealth can’t be universally renounced. Also, nowhere in Scripture does it say we must give it all away. Our validation as Christians or as ministers isn’t gauged by how little money we can live on each month. A poverty spirit does nobody any good whatsoever.
The following verse affirms God’s role in acquiring wealth, and also an accompanying warning:
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. 19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Deuteronomy 8:18-19 (ESV)
If Pastor John Gray has wealth, we should celebrate. If he uses the wealth to go after other gods, he will certainly pay.
Of course, Scripture deals quite a bit with impure motives in the area of money. The love of money, as we all know, is the root of all evil. But, money itself is not evil. It’s benign. It’s a tool.
I know, people are tired of ministers flaunting their wealth. I get it. The arrogantly presume to know better ways the money could be used, and they would love to share their wisdom with everybody who uses money for personal enjoyment.
As I recently heard someone say, when you let me tell you how to spend your money, I might let you tell me how to spend mine. Honestly, it's remarkable how presumptuous people can be regarding another's money.
I’d encourage you read two articles that deal with the biblical money issue: 10 Things to Consider Before You Judge Jesse Duplantis for Believing for a $54M Jet and Why Giving Large Portions of Our Finances to Church Might Require Disobeying God.
But, again, specifically regarding John Gray: He committed no sin! At least none that we are aware of. It is fully irresponsible to renounce a man who has done no wrong! You may not like the way he is spending his money, that, as we currently understand, was earned with integrity. If the IRS doesn’t have an issue, why are we assaulting him?
Should it come out that he acquired the money immorally, that would change everything. But until that happens, we should be quiet—and be careful.
The moment we reject the principle of biblical prosperity in another, we reject that principle in our lives. Poverty becomes our reality and Mammon our master. I've actually found the spirit of Mammon to often be much stronger in people who lack than in people who have wealth.
In fact, if you are so opposed to prosperity, would it be okay for people to pray for poverty to visit your household? Is that more in line with your biblical paradigm? I pray it isn’t. I pray the financial breakthrough you are seeking actually does come. It will come more quickly if we bless those whom God blesses.
I’ve talked with several people, including pastors, who have revealed how nervous they were to buy a new car or a new home or to go on a vacation. They knew other Christians would be calling them out, accusing them, judging them, wondering if they really needed something so nice. Pastors have revealed that people will decrease or withhold tithes and offerings to make a statement if they felt the leadership of the church was too prosperous. That behavior is preposterous. We should be rejoicing when others are financially blessed! Again, what’s the alternative? Poverty?
Remember, I'm not talking about people who acquire wealth immorally. We would both agree this is a sin that does great damage. I'm talking about those who have gained wealth via the power of God and who give, and keep, according to what God speaks directly to them.
IT’S ALL ABOUT HOLINESS
I understand that John Crist is tired of people dog-piling on other Christians when they are down. We should all become defenders of those who are unjustly treated. However, there is a right way to deal with sin and error. There is true justice. We need preachers and prophets to deal boldly, in love, with those errors for the sake of all. We need to be preaching truth today without apology. We must assault the darkness and reject the destructive worldviews that so many Christians are adopting.
Homosexuality has become normalized because the church has been reluctant to call it out and to address it as eternally poisonous. The same is true for lust and pornography and other common sins of our day. Instead of calling them sins that threaten where people will spend the rest of their lives, they are presented as minor issues that pose little threat.
Many Christian leaders are either falling into the sin of homosexuality or boldly endorsing it. In recent years people like Jen Hatmaker, Rob Bell, Vicky Beeching, Jennifer Knapp and others have left Christianity for another form of religious practice, though they still identify as Christian. This is the problem caused by the church's failure to address this cultural phenomena head on. The resulting confusion is wounding a generation. Lauren Daigle has added to that confusion, but she can be a champion of truth should she make clear just what the Word of God states.
We can love people while refusing to compromise. We can call out immorality. We must. If we don’t, the world will presume the church is totally okay with it.