Are you willing to let your church die for the sake of Kingdom advance? Or, are you so locked in on local church growth that the region you are assigned to suffers?
Is it possible that the high majority of churches in our nation are dead-end churches? As you continue to read, you'll come to understand that many of the most vibrant, focused and Spirit-filled churches would be considered to be dead-end churches, or it's cousin, cul-de-sac churches.
Millions are assessing the current state of the church in America and the Western world—and they are right—it's in trouble. The church is so far off course that one might wonder if there's hope at all.
Listen to John talk about dead-end churches on his latest podcast…
While these millions are correct in their analysis, many of them are wrong in their response. They have left the church they have deemed to be in violation of God's design and have isolated themselves and self-identified as “the church” presuming their action moves them closer to revival. It doesn't. (Read my article that addresses this fallacy, “You are NOT the Church : The Scattering Movement.”)
THE GOVERNMENTAL CHURCH IS THE KEY TO REVIVAL
I often write and teach on the church, and my reasoning is simple. It's not because I am advocating for a better, more vibrant and impacting church experience (though I wouldn't be opposed to that). It's because the regional church, and the local churches that make it up, are the governing bodies and the way they function is critical. The church is the authority in the region and unless it's setup correctly, the hopes for revival can begin to fade away.
I'm not saying that a spark of revival can't ignite through small groups of Believer's who are going deep in prayer and crying out for an outpouring. It absolutely can. Historically it has happened more than once. However, that small group can't govern, can't administrate and can't facilitate the outpouring. While you may argue that no man has any business governing a move of God, you'd be wrong. God has set up the church as a governmental authority that not only has the responsibility but also the ability, if truly consecrated, to push back the enemy, to make room for God and to create healthy, Spirit-designed systems that both protect what God is doing and promote his activity throughout the region—and beyond.
A DEAD-END CHURCH DEFINED
As I explained above, dead-end churches can be full of life, active in outreach, aggressive in their mission and growing. In fact they can sometimes become very large, which very well may be a false positive for spiritual health. Growth and vibrancy aren't the problem. It's the vision and/or the implementation of that vision that can become poisonous.
Simply, if the focus is local church growth ahead of regional Kingdom advance, they have become compromised.
The pastor or governmental leader of that local church must have clarity on the vision, and it absolutely must be centered on regional impact. What this means is that their own desires for local church growth must be set aside as they give their energies to revival in the city God assigned them to.
Drawing and keeping visitors, growing in influence, developing local programs and ministries and other in-house focuses are put on the back burner, or sometime back on the shelf entirely, as their mandate has them focused regionally. A move of God in their city becomes the main thing.
A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH DEFINED
A cul-de-sac is a dead end too, but it has a different vibe. While a dead-end church may be extremely focused on (misguided) vision, a cul-de-sac church is focused on family. Relationships. Togetherness.
Imagine a nice neighborhood with a safe and lively cul-de-sac. The kids are out playing, neighbors are talking amongst themselves, barbecuing, laughing, eating and everybody is truly enjoying spending time together.
I am more convinced then I've ever been that “family style” churches need to give way to true, apostolic, Spirit-filled movements made up of warriors who are contending for fire. The church is a military, not a vehicle for friend building. The call is to surrender all, to die to self, to cry out for God to move and to advance with a fervency that will cause the enemy to shudder.
It's in the foxhole of Kingdom war where true friendships are forged. Simple social gatherings won't cut it. We are under attack and we need warriors to assault the kingdom of darkness with ferocity. This, friend, is the church.
LET YOUR CHURCH DIE
Pastor, you have to be okay with letting your church, in its current form, die.
Two times in my nearly 30 years of ministry I made a conscious decision to let my church die. Both in Colorado and in Detroit I had heart-wrenching meetings with God as he instructed me to go deeper, to pray more intentionally and to invite the people on the journey with me.
In Colorado, we were in a time of momentum and I'm convinced, as were others, that we had what took to grow the church to 500 people or more if we stayed the course. Understand, our church was intense and alive. The gifts of the Spirit were in play. The passion and vision were powerful. We weren't a dead church by any means, but we were on our way to becoming a very vibrant dead-end church. The only way to avoid that was for me as the pastor to allow my vision and everything I was contending for to die, even if it meant my church would die along with it.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had a clear choice: continue as we were going and grow the church to 500 and beyond or obey God, become zeroed in on intercession and revival and drop in number possibly by 50-90%—or more. I knew I'd probably lose my salary and may have to find outside work. I knew people would be upset at the change in direction. I knew people who misunderstood my heart and calling would laugh and mock. I knew I was creating a very difficult situation for myself and my family. I also had peace. God wasn't interested in my ability to grow a large church. He wanted my heart and my obedience.
In Detroit God gave me a directive to take people deeper, to come up against some destructive theologies and belief systems that many in the global church were adopting, and to focus on holiness and consecration, all from the furnace of intercession. I knew most people wouldn't be interested in such a lifestyle, but I had no choice. Again, I had to obey God. Overnight we lost a large percentage of the people in the church and we shifted into exactly what God had for us—an army of warriors, small in number yet zealous in spirit, who weren't looking for numerical growth, happy worship services or church as usual, a people who wanted nothing less than to be in the middle of God's blueprint for our region. The thoughts of revival consumed us.
The point? Church growth, local church vision, a family style focus, financial strength or attracting and keeping visitors isn't the goal. All of that, quite frankly, can compromise the goal of being a vehicle for regional Kingdom impact. Frankly, the hundreds of people you are seeking may very well threaten your ability to fulfill God's call on your life and for your church.
I would never change the decisions we made in Colorado or Detroit, even if it meant we would have grown a church of thousands. The model of a successful church has become quite skewed, and it's time we let those ideals die and capture the heart of exactly what God is calling us into.
MARKS OF A DEAD-END CHURCH
ONE: The pastor/leader doesn't connect and regularly collaborate with other churches and ministries in their region. Their energies are given almost entirely to their local church, misunderstanding the importance of their local expression of the city church. They don't realize that the church in Scripture has a regional designation attached to it. The church defined is the regional body of Believers who function under regional apostolic authority. Within that context, there are smaller, local churches that are never to be self-identified, but rather are to strategically connect and often yield to the regional expression. This is why it was so important for me to give leadership to two prayer movements, one in Colorado Springs and one in Detroit. We would visit a new church every Friday night and pray in the Spirit from 10pm until midnight. We visited over 100 churches in Colorado and over 70 in Detroit. That regional connection was invaluable.
TWO: The pastor doesn't encourage people in his church to connect with other churches and ministries on a regular basis. When I was leading churches I realized the immense value of other churches and ministries in our area. I'd let my folks know that they should definitely consider becoming faithful to other churches throughout the week, as we were but a single department of the city church. Other departments, other local churches, were important in the grand scheme and they would benefit from joining with them. In Detroit, I cancelled most everything in my church for a month as I led the people out of our church and into another about 45 minutes away that was experiencing a powerful move of God. We were there every single night for 28 days (I actually missed one night, reluctantly). My passion was not the growth of my local church but rather in fanning the flames of revival in my city.
THREE: The pastor has a competitive spirit. We need to kill that nasty spirit once and for all. I propose one way to do that is to invite other pastors and leaders to recruit anybody from our church that they would like. I'd let other leaders in the city know they could freely connect with my best leaders, my worship team, my staff and anybody in the church, and see if they might be interested in leaving us to serve with them. That eliminates competition and any threats of sheep stealing. They can't steal what I don't own and what I freely make available to them.
FOUR: The church has contagious and aggressive vision for local church growth, yet they rarely talk about regional revival. They emphasize the goals, the strategies and the determination to grow their church, to develop their ministries, to increase in number, to outgrow their building, to attract visitors or to focus on what benefits them on a local level.
FIVE: If they have a prayer emphasis at all, it's almost entirely directed toward their own local endeavors. They pray for all of the stuff I mentioned in the point above while having little zeal for an outpouring in the city. They don't understand that the revival may not even launch in their own local church, so they focus on a move of God happening in their own body while forsaking the call to intercede for regional transformation. Instead of groaning and crying out for God to move in their city, for wickedness to be exposed, for other churches to come alive, for an earth-shaking outpouring, they are praying for internal ministries, for their own tent pegs to expand and for local increase.
SIX: Money isn't sowed into their region. They use finances internally to grow their own local church. While they may have earmarked funds for missions and benevolence, the idea of sowing into regional revival is foreign to them. Further, when dead-end churches do give to outside ministries, it's almost always churches within their own denomination.
SEVEN: They rarely if ever bring in guest speakers who are leaders in other local churches in their region. They want to control the narrative and they don't want people to be influenced by a more dynamic speaker or someone who might connect better with people in their church. They fear losing those people. They fear their nice, tidy local family being disrupted. They also fear another leader behind their pulpit who carries a more potent vision for the region than they do. With all humility I can say that as a visiting guest minister in regions I've never previously been to, I've often had more vision for that city than the pastor of the church. It's crazy. I've also boldly coached pastors not to undo what God is about to do in the meetings. When God calls me to speak in a church, a lot will be confronted and exposed and a firestorm of God's loving reformation will be in the room. Pastors, have the guts to embrace someone who won't simply affirm what has been built, but will call the people higher.
MARKS OF A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH
ONE: It's all about family. As I said above, I believe the family style church is a threat. Many of these types of churches could fit into the “seeker sensitive” category of churches. Many others emphasize the grace and love message in excess and, while there may be praying in tongues and dancing in the aisles, it all comes back to relationships. The thoughts of a vertical experience where people lock in with God and contend for him to move is something they would struggle with if it interferes with their desire for horizontal connections. It can be both vertical and horizontal, but in a cul-de-sac church, preference is given to personal, human relationships instead of aggressively advancing in the Spirit.
TWO: Their definition of revival is off. They see a growing number of people who are enjoying God and one another as the prime goal. While nobody can argue that growing in intimacy with God and that developing Kingdom relationships is wrong, it's the focus and the priorities that send cul-de-sac churches into the wrong direction. Instead of a supernatural war they value a growing, happy family of people who are enjoying God together. They would call that revival, and it's a far cry from it. They misunderstand the severity of the battle and don't regularly engage at the required level.
THREE: Positivity rules. They are adverse to anything that would be a downer to their block party in the cul-de-sac. They want their people encouraged, happy, stress-free and at ease. Topics such as Hell, sin, eternity, repentance, correction, expectations or anything negative are avoided like the plague. They refuse to speak to the national cultural crisis, politics, the end-times, wickedness such as abortion and homosexuality or any other issue that would be divisive, challenging or confrontational. Just as people advise others to avoid the topics of religion and politics around the Thanksgiving table for the sake of civility and keeping the peace, cul-de-sac churches avoid anything that would cause any measure of disturbance.
FOUR: Connecting with other churches, especially those that are aggressive in the pursuit of revival, holiness and a supernatural manifestation of God, is a no-go. They are happy within the four walls of their family gathering and they don't want any outside influences threatening that.
MARKS OF A KINGDOM CHURCH
Instead of a list of attributes of a Kingdom church, I'll draw this article to a close. I believe it's easy to deduce just what makes up a Kingdom church by reviewing the opposing views above.
The bottom line is that we absolutely must see a massive correction come to what we know as the church today. Regional and national revival is greatly hindered by a lack of true, Kingdom churches that are in existence not for themselves, but rather for the advance of, well, the Kingdom.
Pastors, let your vision die. Let your church die. It's okay. Let the stress of growing your own little spiritual experiment in a tiny little petri dish fade away. Even more importantly, get on board with what God has planned in your city. Let your personal endeavors go, as great as they seem to be, and contend with others in your region for an outpouring. Just gather together somewhere, anywhere, with governmental, Kingdom leaders and other revival-minded people and press into God's heart and intercede and advance exactly as God reveals to you as a part of the regional, governmental body. That's church. That's a Kingdom church. That church will turn the world upside down.
GRACE IN THE SHIFT
In closing (for real, this time), I want to encourage you not to get jaded. Don't point fingers at churches or pastors. Understand that they have a mega-burden, and even if they aren't advancing the way reform demands, pray for them. There must be love and grace in the process and in the ultimate shift. Also, understand God is diverse and there are many different types of people giving leadership, and they have varying levels of ability, experience, gifts, offices, prophetic revelation and understanding of the purpose of the church. In fact, many will disagree with this article. That's okay. This doesn't mean we can't contend for transformation in the local church, but it does mean we must have grace in the process.
I want to strongly encourage you to read a related article that is sure to provoke you to urgently considering the need for severe reformation in the church: “Nine reasons we may have to choose: Grow a large church or contend for revival.”
Innumerable Christians are willingly engaging in occultic behavior, and it's not only on Halloween.
17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Luke 8:17 (ESV)
I once heard about a Spirit-filled pastor who strategically avoided watching certain, questionable movies at theaters in his home town, instead driving an hour away to watch them in obscurity. He didn't want his choice of entertainment to be known, so he would head to the city to hide. This is an occultic maneuver.
oc·cult | \ ə-ˈkəlt : not revealed : SECRET: to shut off from view or exposure : COVER
Sadly, it has become common to hear about yet another Christian pastor or minister who has been exposed. Their secret life of sin was discovered, and the fallout is always devastating. Many go to great lengths to cover up their indiscretions, and they leave a trail of destruction that reaches far and wide.
The Bible gives us a clear instruction to expose the darkness, yet today, too many Christians are doing the opposite, living secretive lives, sinning regularly and enjoying their dark, temporarily pleasurable deception.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14 (ESV)
Listen to the podcast here…
Before you start pointing a crooked finger at others, consider your own life. Is it possible you are driven by the occult as well? Have you created a system of checks and balances to ensure your private life is not exposed? How well does your mask fit? Are you sweet, holy and appropriate in public and altogether different in private or with your family? This is the occult at work, and it is a killer spirit. It's one thing to expose someone else's darkness, and it's something entirely different to deal with your own deception.
HALLOWEEN EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR
I personally believe it's absolute foolishness for Christians to participate in Halloween, and I've written on it quite a bit in the past.
You can read one of my articles titled Halloween: The Invitation HERE.
Here is a portion of the article that speaks to our topic:
Over my last 25 years of ministry, I have had many encounters with witchcraft and the evil that is celebrated on Halloween, and I implore you to trust me: If you participate in Halloween at any level, you are at risk. There is nothing innocent about it and there is no way to sanctify it. The stories I could tell would make your skin crawl.
The level of demonic activity around the world on this night should result in millions of Christians gathering together to pray on fire in response.
We must understand that a key role for us as Christians is to expose darkness. Strangely, instead of doing that with anointing and passion, when October rolls around, Christians—actual blood bought servants of a holy God—are actually enjoying and promoting darkness. If we understood the evil that surrounds this unholy day, we’d shout from the rooftops the danger and evil that is overcoming our culture.
It might shock you to consider that you may oppose Halloween while still vigorously affirming the occult. It's one thing to stand opposed to the clear, demonic and evil activities that surround Halloween, but if we embrace those same demons in the hopes they will help us hide our 365 day-a-year sin, we are deeply deceived—and in a lot of trouble.
As dark as Halloween is, and it is extremely dark, I propose the occult that's present in so many devoted Christians the rest of the year is even more deadly. Covering up immorality will devour even the most devoted religious person.
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
PORN, LUST AND OTHER SECRETS
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), Ephesians 5:8-9 (ESV)
I believe one of the most valuable attributes of a healthy marriage is transparency. Not only is it a catalyst for intimacy, but it diffuses the darkness.
When Amy and I we were first married 24 years ago, we agreed to alert other the moment we found ourselves even the slightest bit attracted to someone else in an unhealthy manner. If there was an emotional connection initiating, or if unrighteous thoughts attempted to come in regarding another person, we were quick to share that.
The result? It was diffused. Our voluntary accountability and devotion to bring things into the light not only immediately diffused a few specific situations, it resulted in a culture within our marriage that was not conducive to immoral and threatening feelings and behaviors flourishing.
This commitment to each other has expanded to most every part of our lives. My wife, Amy, knows she can access any device I own, any computer, any phone, any tablet, and freely search through them. She can check my history. I can do the same on her devices. Any inappropriate pictures, videos, messages or material would be easily discovered. We are both grateful to God that porn, lust or impure media is not a part of our lives, and our entire marriage from start to where we are now is a testament to that. It feels good to be squeaky clean, and thanks to the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the darkness never has to overtake us. The occult must give way to the light!
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)
I want to encourage you to reject deceptive, occultic strategies. Don't hide the various compartments of your life, but rather be an open book. Don't live in fear of being exposed, but readily invite scrutiny in. You can be completely, entirely free from lust, pornography, anger, addictions, immorality and every other behavior and vice!
This means you will make a dramatic shift in the direction of holiness. Celebrate the opportunity to eliminate questionable television and movies. Get excited about shutting out secular music in favor of Holy Spirit anointed worship music. Allow joy to replace your anger. You can finally be free from everything you've been trying to hide. The light of Jesus will certainly bring freedom to you and your family!
You will then become a mighty threat to the darkness, ready to expose it, devoted to assaulting the devils that are celebrated by so many this time of year.
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:11-14 (ESV)
Much of the church has surrendered its mantle of prophet in exchange for the title of salesman.
Relevance. One could argue it makes sense to be relevant. We want people to have a legitimate, life-altering encounter with Jesus. He will reach people at the core of who they are, and they would absolutely confess their engagement with deity would be relevant. Jesus knows how to touch people's lives in exactly the right way.
Listen to the podcast…
However, what most consider relevance in today's vernacular has resulted in a deviation from the hard-core, white-hot truth of Scripture.
Check out this definition:
rel·e·vance | \ ˈre-lə-vən(t)s practical and especially social applicability
To meet the demands of relevance, so much of today's church has dressed up Jesus, wrapped a bow around him and paraded him down the fashion runway in hopes that people will like his style, that he would be appealing, and sign on the dotted line of salvation. Their ultimate goal is for people to close their eyes, raise their hands and say a prayer that somehow seals their eternity with Jesus. Sadly, this method of evangelism has most probably resulted in millions of people following Jesus in an unsaved condition. There are many “Rich Young Rulers” out there who have been welcomed with open arms by today's preachers but who have not surrendered all.
Relevance has required that we lay down our mantle as a prophetic people who boldly preach soul-piercing truth in favor of the methods of a salesman. The result is innumerable people being added to an ever increasing lukewarm stew that will soon be vomited out of God's mouth. Relevance has neutered the church and has drained it of its power.
THE CHRISTIAN ROCK LESSON
Somewhere around 40 years ago, give or take a few, the phenomena of Christian rock emerged. As a youth pastor in the 90s, I preached multiple times about Christian rock, and the risk it presented. My belief is that music was never intended as an evangelism tool. Christian rock violated the original purpose of music as God intended. Music in it's purest form is anointed, glorious worship. Personally, my life is strengthened when I pump my spirit full of supernatural music that's devoted to exalting God. I'm listening to some old school Vineyard music from the 90s as I write this. (It doesn't get much better than that!)
The fruit of this spiritualized, worldly amusement includes a Christian culture that has no issue with secular music today. Pastors and worship leaders are often drawing from that ungodly well, giving no thought to the source of their entertainment. Add to that immoral movies, television and online media, and you have a compromised church that has lost its oil, if not its lamp stand.
As a youth pastor, intense worship, powerful deliverance, baptisms in the Holy Spirit, fervent prayer and visitations of God marked our culture. We had no need or desire to tone things down in the hopes that people would give a thumbs up to an altered form of Jesus and jump on board. While we must weep and mourn when people reject Jesus, we must also allow them to walk away if they aren't interested in surrendering all, signing up as martyrs and truly following God on his terms.
Attempting to sell the “Christian thing” with movie nights, parties, skits, ice-breakers, “Christinized secular music” and other attempts at relevance are foolish at best, devastating at worst. Hit your face, tremble under the weight of the Holy Spirit, get saturated with his glory and then worship and preach on fire—and watch those who are truly hungry rush in.
SEEKER SENSITIVE EVERYTHING
Additionally, the primary church service wasn't meant to be an evangelism tool. Yet, we have all watched seeker-sensitive churches emerge and thrive as prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit took a back seat to coffee, music and human interest stories from the platform.
We must see the invisible, supernatural realm manifest in the earth again! We have become experts at using psychological, sociological mind-tricks in an attempt to connect with people and to compel them to consider Jesus. The seeker sensitive train wreck has impacted nearly every corner and crevice of today's church as we attempt to sell Jesus, sell our church and sell salvation.
What happened to revival? What about the indescribable glory of God that should be flooding our churches? Where are the manifestations? Tongues of fire? In most churches, quenched. All of it. Why? Because it's not relevant according to the expectations of today's culture. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit irritate the pretenders in the church and repel the mockers outside the church. Instead, many church leaders have adopted an often “successful” model of ministry that fills the seats while dumbing Jesus down and deeming the church impotent.
WE ARE NOT SALESMEN!
We need preachers who have the unction of the Holy Spirit in their gut and the fire of Holy Spirit in their mouths!
Our goal is not to rack up points for every soul “saved.” We must present truth and make it hard, not easy, for people to decide whether they want to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus died for you, what else could you want? That's a legitimate evangelism question. You see, none of us have bargaining power. We don't have leverage. We can't haggle. We don't have the option of jumping in at a lesser level. Without Jesus, we will be tortured and tormented every second of every day for ever and ever. We don't have a say in how we connect with Jesus. It's everything or nothing. It's full surrender or no surrender. It's radical repentance or no repentance. It's all or nothing.
I explained the extreme cost of following Jesus to a co-worker many years ago. I revealed the difficulties and the glories. I highlighted the issue of sin, God's solution and the permanence of eternity. I made it clear that life would be more challenging than he could ever imagine should he follow Jesus. Many friends may leave him. He might be lonely. His life of darkness would have to be abandoned. The love of God and the severity of God was presented unapologetically.
You see, I was honest with him. I didn't hold back. I revealed the indescribable invasion of life that Jesus alone can bring, but I didn't parade Jesus as a spectacle, as someone other than he truly is. I certainly didn't want it on my record that I led someone into an illegitimate relationship with Jesus. He understood without question what it was to follow Jesus. His response to me was equally honest. He said, “I just can't do that right now. I don't want to surrender my way of life to follow Jesus.”
I honored him for his honesty and let him know that Jesus was pursuing him. I pray he ultimately made the right decision and is an on-fire disciple of Jesus today as I believe the Holy Spirit used me to present to him a solid foundation to start from.
WHOLESALE CHANGE OF OUR MINISTRY METHODS
It's beyond time that we learned the Christian rock, seeker sensitive lessons. We are not of this world. We should stop mimicking it. We are aliens. We need an Area 51 experience as a curious people flock to look at the spectacle of an alien culture that doesn't try to blend in to society. Revival will do that. In Acts chapter two, many people marveled and many mocked when they saw the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They were provoked by the aliens.
If you truly want to win the lost, then do away with delusions of relevance. Preach on fire. Pray on fire. Evangelize on fire. Worship on fire. Do everything on fire! We need to turn the temperature up, not down, when attempting to reach the lost. Too many have built a bonfire where people can warm their flesh when God has called us to surrender fully to the refining fire, to lay across it and die.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
Bethel Church has an opportunity to correct a seriously flawed post regarding LGBTQ+. They are on the clock.
(I'd like to offer to you my most potent and critical book, The Terror of Hell, for FREE. More info below.)
It was a day, not unlike every other day, doing what most every person on the planet does: flicking through posts on Facebook. Then, something caught my attention. I did a double-take and read it again. And again. I was shocked.
At the time of this writing, the post in question had over 2.5 thousand comments, and it seems that a large number of them voiced grief and great concern. Also at the time of this writing, clarification has not been given and the post has not been taken down nor reworded.
CHANGED, a ministry of Bethel Church in Redding, California, wrote the post and included the following statement in it:
God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message of CHANGED has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!
Of course, this was immediately troubling to me as it seemed as if Bethel Church was moving closer to the false-grace, hyper-love philosophy that is bewitching so much of the church today. However, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't believe it's appropriate to launch into attack mode, as many of today's “protectors of truth” tend to do. It's important to honor even when questions and controversies arise. I am believing that Bethel Church will bring clarity to a murky and concerning situation.
Listen to the podcast on this topic…
Here's my response to their post:
Oh no. Please, Bethel Church, PLEASE rethink this. Reconsider your wording. The following that you wrote is NOT GOOD. Did you possibly word it incorrectly?
“We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!”
Since then, there's been quite a stir among many who are equally troubled about their apparent stance. Some Christian news sites are picking up the story as well.
Bethel Church bashed on social media for being ‘weak’ on LGBTQ+ stance ~Premier Christian Magazine
Today, I received a response from Bethel Church to my request for clarification:
We believe you can fully love someone who you disagree with, Jesus modeled this for us well.
Of course we must love those we disagree with. This is such an obvious concept that it makes one wonder if they are attempting to toe the line or to completely cover something up. What do they really believe? Right now, nobody knows.
We still don't know if:
1. You simply worded your original post wrongly.
2. You actually believe Christians can identify as LGBTQ+ and for those who are fulfilled and happy, there is no further action necessary.
I'm curious about what would happen if they were addressing another issue in their ministry, and posted the following:
“We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in viewing pornography. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!”
You can switch out the key word with any. What if they are unfulfilled in child abuse? Pornography? Fornication? Hatred? It's clear that Bethel Church must clarify their statement. The confusion can be catastrophic for those who are convinced that respected, well-known Christian leaders are affirming their lifestyles. Yet, they are available to talk if they should ever want to change, if they stop enjoying their lifestyle. I honestly don't think their position could be any weaker, more confusing or more dangerous.
ALL MUST CHANGE
Contrary to the message that Bethel Church is communicating, very directly and boldly I might add, radical, wholesale change is absolutely required for those who desire to follow Jesus.
A revelation of our debauchery and hopelessness is the critical starting point when sharing the Gospel with someone. We cannot cover up this reality out of fear that someone will get defensive, offended or resistant to the message. Do we even understand anymore in our hyper-modern age that God is holy? If we modify the message of truth in hopes of ensuring a longer, more “successful” audience with a sinner, we are in serious violation.
Simply revealing the love of God to someone is NOT evangelism. In fact, it can have devastating results. It takes much more than a love revelation to draw someone into a legitimate relationship with Jesus.
As was done with the Rich Young Ruler, you must make it hard, not easy, to follow Jesus. You aren't a salesman, you are a representative of a holy God. Address sin, hell, the fear of the Lord, surrender, the cost of following Jesus and the personal loss that will result.
They will lose friends, leave immorality and selfishness behind, surrender all and sign up as a martyr should God call them to that.
If they eagerly repent after you share all that, you'll know they are starting their Christian journey the right way. If you only share God's love with them, they are at great risk of living their entire lives convinced all is well while actually following Jesus in an unsaved condition.
STOP minimizing the cost of following Jesus and hiding offensive truth in the hopes that people will get saved.
If they don't like God as he is or if they get offended when faced with their own wickedness, let them walk. They have zero bargaining power as they are mere moments away from entering Hell. That sounds harsh, but it's truth. God is who he is, and we can't attempt to make him more attractive. He truly is a loving and fearful God.
Of course, their decision to walk should rip at our hearts, launching us into tears and intercession for them. True love looks just like this. Refusal to confront with truth is damaging beyond measure, and Hell is growing larger because of it.
The idea that Bethel Church is propagating (even if they erred in communication) that you can identify as both a Christian and as LGBTQ+ is extremely dangerous, not to mention fully and completely wrong. Can you be a Christian pornographer? A Christian adulterer? A Christian serial killer? A Christian witch? It's lunacy. Until Bethel Church refutes this idea and corrects their error, this is what people will be led to believe.
Today many are arguing that all sin is the same, and that Christians are in fact themselves sinners, and that homosexuality is no different than lying. I'd encourage you to read an article that I wrote titled, “No, Not All Sin Is The Same—Here's Proof.”
First, it's untrue that all sin is the same. That idea is fully unbiblical, and the article I linked to above will bring clarity on the matter.
Second, Christians are not sinners. We absolutely should not be living a life of sin as the world does. If we do, we are in trouble for sure.
We are living in a time when the high majority of evangelical young people are having sex outside of marriage. A huge percentage of Christians, including pastors, are regularly viewing pornography. The Bible clearly reveals that continuing in sin as Christians has dire, eternal consequences. Many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27
I'd like to offer the ebook version of my book The Terror of Hell to you for free. It's a short read but a troubling and revealing—and life-altering—account of an encounter I had with the forces of Hell. God placed a disturbance in my spirit that has lasted nearly 30 years, right up to this very moment. He said, “John, many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.” My life was forever changed. My life message was given to me.
You can download the book here: https://burton.tv/the-terror-of-hell
This is why I'm so disturbed by messages like the one that Bethel Church is communicating. I believe they, if not more careful, can lead millions to the slaughter. Hell can absolutely be the result of faulty theology.
Now, all of this being said, I am absolutely holding out hope that Bethel Church will bring better clarification than what they offered me in the comments of the Facebook post.
They are tackling a very important issue in our generation, and I pray they are able to do it with utmost biblical integrity instead of sociological, philosophical, psychological strategies.
A defiled, confused version of sexual satisfaction bombards our culture. It's time for a new sexual paradigm.
So, I told my wife I was writing an article on sex. She laughed and said, “You don't know anything about sex!” After my crushed ego was healed (not really), I laughed right back and said, “I know! But, people need to hear about the amazing resource we discovered this weekend!”
So, with that in mind, if you are a married, Christian couple, read this. All of it. You'll thank me!
You can listen to a podcast on this topic here…
Then, I want to encourage you to jump at the chance to participate in a retreat at Focus on the Family that my wife Amy and I attended this past weekend.
Discovering Passion: Keys to Sexual Fulfillment in Marriage at the Focus on the Family retreat center in Branson, Missouri was phenomenal! It was eye-opening, fun and refreshing. In fact, our previous retreat several months ago was so life-changing, that we had to come back for more! You can read about that powerful experience in a Charisma News article HERE.
God is ready to breathe life into your marriage and into your sex life. Healing awaits. A life of intimacy and adventure is God's desire for you and your spouse!
21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. 2 Corinthians 12:21 (ESV)
Why are Christians tapping into the same evil seduction in the realm of sex that a vile, defiled and confused culture is? Sex between a married Christian couple should be absolutely nothing like the spirit of lust and sexual deviation that drives unbelievers, yet sadly, many Christian married men and women seek to “lust their way” to satisfaction.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)
Christians have all too often been duped by the same crafty demonic spirit that the world has. The enemy has a grand scheme and is uniquely anointed to bring all-consuming destruction to people, both in and out of the church, by promoting a twisted, demented and extremely seductive spirit of lust.
The passion surrounding sex for Christians, while sometimes bridled, seeks to satisfy the same desires that those who are outside of Christ do. This is why pornography among Christians, and even among pastors and Christian leaders, is so widespread.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (ESV)
The focus is on an intense yet momentary experience instead of a much more satisfying, intimate and holy union between two people. “Sanctified lust” is not what God has planned for Believers. There is something so radically, wonderfully and mysteriously different for God's people in the area of sex, yet so few discover it. We, as godly men and women, are privileged in ways the world is not. If we have a true revelation of marital intimacy, we will be determined to give and receive love in ways the world could never understand. It's holy. It's pure. It's passionate.
THE CHRISTIAN DILEMMA
Christian marriages are regularly marred by self-focused arguments surrounding sex. The smiling faces you see on Sunday mornings are often experiencing wounding, rejection, frustration, temptation and confusion about their sex life. Churches are historically ill-equipped at addressing this issue, and this must change.
Further, churches are equally flawed regarding ministering to teens and singles about sex. This issue has very destructive earthly consequences, and it also has horrifying eternal repercussions. To ignore what is possibly the number one issue of morality and wholeness in the church is a catastrophic move by most of today's Christian leaders.
I propose appropriate yet direct and regular conversations, in safe settings, and with great integrity, on the topic of sex. If pornography is a daily struggle for many (most?) in the church, sex must be a teaching and equipping topic continually. If marriages are tense and often falling apart over this issue of sex, if husbands and wives aren't intimate and coming together as one as God intended, the church must step up to the plate.
I believe resources like we discovered at Focus on the Family can help churches in very specific and effective ways. Discussion was direct. Sexual situations were addressed without hesitating to speak plainly. I believe Christians are yearning for this, yet they have not had an outlet or resource to help them with their extremely sensitive and vulnerable questions. Too often they turn to secular culture for insight.
A NEW PARADIGM: ONENESS
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:24-25 (ESV)
As my wife and I discovered at this amazing Focus on the Family retreat, which, by the way, was led by remarkable and highly qualified counselors including a Christian sex therapist, the pursuit of “oneness” is a much higher goal than a series of short lived, euphoric encounters.
The holiness, selflessness and deeper love experienced in the pursuit of oneness will make the demands and desires for a simple act of sex nearly grieving. The loss experienced when oneness isn't the intent of being together is tangible.
Of course, I can never do justice to the revelation we received during this retreat in a short article. I can simply say that my eyes were truly opened and there was language given to what previously felt like a nebulous, unintelligible truths about God's amazing gift of sex. Questions were answered, vulnerable discussions were had, tears were shed and legitimate excitement about a brand new chapter in our marriages hit us all.
6 How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! Song of Songs 7:6 (ESV)
The act of marital love, when done as Believers with the Holy Spirit indwelling us, is absolutely nothing like what we see in our sexualized culture today. The adventure, the romance, the experience brings never-ending new layers, depths, revelations, joy, fulfillment and fun!
The weekend ends with a session on “Affair Proofing your Marriage,” followed by “Leaving a Legacy of Sexual Wholeness.” God has called us to victory in this area, and that victory will be felt through your family line for generations to come!
I want to encourage you to consider attending this marriage-altering weekend retreat at Focus on the Family right here in our hometown of Branson, Missouri.
You don't have to live your life fighting about sex. Rejection and anger is not your portion. Freedom from sexual frustration and disappointment awaits. Indescribable intimacy with your spouse and a brand new, God-ordained sexual journey is worth the small price you have to pay to attend this weekend in the beautiful Ozark Mountains.
Bizarre, supernatural manifestations should be normal in the church. What happened?
When given the choice between hearing another sermon and witnessing invisible and very active demons being cast out of a precious soul, I'm buying the ticket to the deliverance. Why then, if deliverance is even allowed at all, is it so often stopped so they can escort the individual into a back room somewhere? Today's church needs to see the power of the Holy Spirit overcoming the power of the enemy in people's lives right before their eyes!
Here's a podcast on this topic:
In fact, supernatural manifestations are consistently shut down as irritations or some sort of spiritual disorder. Manifestations should be expected, not avoided. We must allow our all-powerful God to interact with the people. When such a mighty force touches weak, finite humans, it's simply impossible to maintain our casual or dignified disposition. We will react with shock, awe and wonder!
THIS REACHES BEYOND SIMPLE SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS
Too often the Western church is functioning in the safe, natural, middle ground, and the demons remain in hiding, very active and unconcerned about any Christian interference. There is no threat.
However, when a deeply determined and wildly prophetic people who are devoted to intercession and warfare unite, the unseen world starts to shake under the weight of their authority.
When people like this advance together, they are met with dramatic and often bizarre supernatural reactions. Demons and angels engage and respond, and this will be easily discerned by men and women of God who live their lives in the spiritual realm. The invisible realm becomes exposed.
We must have mature warriors who understand the realm of the invisible and who function in great authority giving key leadership in our churches. It's laughable to think that a church is truly having impact if the enemy isn't provoked and if the Holy Spirit isn't manifesting.
A DEMONIC COMMAND CENTER IN MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO
I'm astonished at how often Christians live in disbelief (or disinterest) regarding the demonic world. The story I'm about to share can easily be dismissed as too extreme. They'd prefer to climb back under their safe, comfy blanket and deny reality—all while the demonic army gains strength and momentum. Hiding under the blankets or sticking your head in the sand is no strategy against such a formidable force.
The Lord had revealed to me that Manitou Springs was a demonic communication center, a command center, much like NORAD, which was an active center of defense for our nation for years just a few miles from our town at the base of Pikes Peak. Further, it was expressed that Manitou Springs, at the base of America's mountain, was called to be an angelic command center of revival for the nation. We had a lot of work to do. A complete take-over and shift in authority must occur.
My lead intercessors and I were prayer walking through the streets of Manitou Springs, Colorado several years ago. This city is well known for it's occult roots. Anton LaVey, who wrote the Satanic bible, lived there. Witchcraft is rampant and homosexuality and liberal ideals promoted. In fact, the pastor of the city at the time led a profoundly heretical church.
During this particular prayer walk, which was one of hundreds, we were interceding on the grounds of a very old Episcopal church property. Suddenly, I saw a dark entity, a hooded creature. I told my intercessory friends, Miles and Jodi, about the encounter and we quickly moved closer to the church building where this demon was seen (and had since ducked into hiding).
It's extremely important that we are all prophetic people, able to hear God's voice very clearly. If we don't, we can miss some life altering instructions and revelations. What God said next was absolutely critical for the advance of the Kingdom in this dark city.
God told us the demon was a messenger on assignment, and that he was there to receive the keys of authority to the city. He was to transport them to his leaders. Understand, the enemy is granted great authority to advance its agenda when humans are in agreement. It gives power to their assignments. God revealed this particular messenger, on a very important mission, was fully surprised to see Spirit-filled children of God at his rendezvous point. It was even more shocked that I saw it. We prayed, seeking instructions on how to deal with this situation. God told us to intercept the keys. The authority in Manitou Springs was being transferred that day in surprise fashion.
AN ASSIGNMENT DEEP INSIDE THE EARTH
Very shortly after this transfer of authority I, along with very experienced and high ranking intercessors from the surrounding states gathered together for a prayer assignment in Manitou Springs. After some dramatic prophetic experiences that day, we capped it off with our primary assignment deep within a cave system.
The intercessors knew Manitou had very evil roots and a wicked history, and they wanted to gain spiritual intelligence so they could devise a strategy. As we were all about to enter the cave, the regional intercessory leader, who was a little older than the rest of us, told me she wouldn't be going into the cave. She would stay back and cover us in prayer. She then privately gave me an assignment: determine whether the deep part of the cave where we were going to end up was a demonic command center.
I eagerly accepted the challenge and then I, along with the rest of the team, started our journey into the depths. As I was walking deeper into the cave, I began to understand the severity of the assignment. I certainly didn't want to presume anything. I didn't want to guess. I needed to hear from God clearly about whether our final destination was in fact a center of demonic activity that was focused on destroying the people of Manitou Springs and the nation, or not.
When we finally entered the furthest room in the cave system, I was absolutely stunned at what I was experiencing. All I could think was, “The Holy Spirit isn't welcome here.” It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The void created by the absence of God's manifest presence was something I never want to feel again. It felt like Hell without the fire and torment, and I can't imagine spending even a few seconds in there. However, I was on assignment and I had to deal with this supernatural reality. I couldn't leave. We stopped and turned off our lights and began to pray. It was perfectly dark.
I hit my knees, trembling, wondering what was going to happen and what God wanted us to do. In the spirit, I saw the earth open underneath me. A massive entity emerged from the depths. This was a portal between the demonic realm and the land of the living. I did in fact discover a demonic command center.
I was experiencing intercession unlike any time in my life. It's impossible to describe the experience. I was beyond overwhelmed, shaking, undone, disturbed.
It was confirmed that the determined agreement of humans in Manitou Springs with the Satanic realm was extremely strong, and demons emerged from the depths to give instructions to people and to receive information from them. These were messenger demons much like the one I experienced on my prayer walk by the Episcopal church.
Wait! The Episcopal church!
God reminded me of the encounter I had there. As this massive portal was opened up under my feet, it was clear what I was to do. I had taken the keys of authority. I had them! I was to use this new found authority to shut this portal down. Lock it up. Seal it shut. Take dominion.
I shared all of this revelation, in that pitch dark cave, with the other prophetic intercessors, and they all immediately agreed that I was discerning everything correctly. In that evil place where the Holy Spirit wasn't welcome, I felt a mighty shift. The anointing of the Holy Spirit filled me and I commanded, in the authority of Jesus Christ, that the enemy's assignment was over and that the portal must shut. We all roared and groaned in the Spirit, prayed with power, declared truth of the Word and successfully fulfilled our mandate.
As we emerged from the cave, the faithful general in the faith who remained behind to pray had a smile on her face. She asked me, “Well, was it?” I said, “Yes!” I went on to explain what happened. She nodded her head and told me that God revealed the same thing to her as she was praying.
Understand, this never could have happened if we didn't embrace the wild and bizarre supernatural realities that are all around us.
In fact, a secular drama company from Broadway in New York City put this experience and others into a production and toured it from Washington D.C to New York City to Chicago to Los Angeles. My prophetic decrees, powerful personal freedom and other supernatural stories from our ministry were depicted on stage in front of thousands of mostly liberal, atheistic people who were in a prime position to meet Jesus!
Isn't it amazing how God works when we start moving in the supernatural, spiritual realm?
A TEAR JERKING EMAIL
This assignment in the cave along with many others over several years (some even more dramatic than this one) resulted in powerful breakthrough.
This week, I received an email that moved me to tears. You see, we passed the baton to others as we eventually moved out of Manitou Springs. This message shows how much prayer, the prophetic, endurance and obedience can do to the enemy's camp. I pray this encourages you to allow God to move exactly as he wants, to invade the realm of wickedness with authority, to expect supernatural manifestations and to contend for freedom, even if you don't see the results on our watch.
I love getting your emails – they are so challenging and so good. Thank you for what you do!
I’m a huge believer in giving credit where it’s due – and since you were such a HUGE part of our transition and journey to Manitou, as David and I are a week away from transitionIng our, I wanted to give you an update – because you sowed seeds for so many years and made this ground so fertile.
You wouldn’t recognize Manitou today! It’s becoming a beautiful community – restoration taking place in the supernatural and in the natural. Houses and buildings being restored and families moving in seeking community.
We’ve prayed over every inch of this city. The bridge over rainbow falls was restored, and the day it reopened, we prayed over it as a city gate and renamed “beautiful” at the Lord’s prompting. The same weekend, we dedicated the old Masonic lodge as the new worship space for new life Manitou – cleansed the ground, and claimed that gate as well.
The mineral springs by the Loop was recently refaced, and, “coincidentally,” a new life member was contracted to do the work. He wrote our prophetic passage for Manitou on the back of each rock – Isaiah 41:17-20 – “the poor and needy are searching for water where there is none, and I THE LORD will answer them…” and now scripture is hidden in one of the central fountains in Manitou. It’s our little secret. 🙂
Not long after that, a sign that had been decades missing from the rainbow falls bridge was replaced. It says “Manitou Springs – healing waters.”
New Life Manitou has been a full-fledged, weekly church for 3 years now. We beat the odds! It’s a thriving community of believers serving the city and accepted as part of the community. We’re meeting in the renovated (and very well-cleansed!) Masonic lodge on El Paso and running around 150 each Sunday. Every week, it seems, a new family shows up saying they just felt called to Manitou. We’re literally the only evangelical church here – but Manitou has embraced and not just tolerated us.
Hiawatha Gardens, where you guys met for the HOP, is being restored. Interestingly, your banner is still hanging on the back door – even though they’ve been in there cleaning and renovating. There sign remains. Just a reminder of your mark on this community.
David and I have been here for 4 years, and now we’re being called away. My heart is so torn – I have grown to adore this town and its people – our neighbors who are atheists and lesbians and agnostics who we are leaving we now have to entrust to Jesus. We’re headed back to San Antonio to pastor a church there. I can’t help but think of your story of leaving and how it must have been so bittersweet for you and your family.
We have certainly felt the weight of living here – the call and yet the resistance and pressure – and yet the yearning to see more of God’s movement, knowing that you wouldn’t be here to see the completion firsthand.
Because of that, I wanted to tell you again that your hard work and toil and trials and prayer and faithfulness did not go unseen, unnoticed, or unfruitful. Your obedience here in Manitou for all those years paved the way for what is happening now and for the restoration and revival that is happening here in Manitou. I know from firsthand experience that it wasn’t easy and that you suffered for the call. But your legacy lives on here. Your faithfulness and intercession and prophetic words spoken over this city tore down strongholds and softened hearts. You pastored this city so well. Well done, good and faithful servant.
And thank you for giving us so much insight and comfort 4 years ago when we were so freaked out about moving here. Thank you for being the forerunner and for giving us the courage to carry the torch. Thank you for introducing us to Miles and Jodi, who passed the prophetic torch to us. I still have the house of prayer banner they gave us and still weep at the thought that our weekly prayer meetings were held in the very same room as your early prayer meetings were held.
God has such a heart for this place, and my heart breaks to leave it – We have wept over it, loved it, and learned so much in our time here – but our time is done and we did what we came to do – 4 years of so much joy, so much travail, so much beauty. And you were such a huge part – so thank you so much for your labor, John. You are a giant in the kingdom, and I just wanted to let you know that we recognize your sacrifices and work here. It lives on and you are part of a very beautiful story that God is writing in Manitou Springs.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. The Father is well pleased.
Sarah and David
I cried tears of joy.
Youth pastors, it's time to put away the games and to ignite a raging fire!
When I was a youth pastor over two decades ago, nothing grieved me more than the expectation that I create a culture of parties and slap the name of Jesus on them. I've seen it time and again—youth ministries that appeal to the natural and that develop social experiments in the hopes of drawing in the masses along with their friends. In fact, I've just described many adult church strategies too, but I'll leave that for another article.
As a youth pastor, I'd have nothing to do with such a tired, powerless ministry plan, no matter how great the pressure was to serve this candy to the kids.
No, the emerging young wonders I had the privilege of giving leadership to deserved more than that. They were ready to set the world ablaze, even if they didn't know it.
BRANDED BY FIRE
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a non-negotiable pursuit for us today. Pastors and youth pastors alike absolutely must promote this immersion in fire. Our services must be marked by the searing hot activity of the Holy Spirit that intends to brand us all with his heart.
I'll never forget Nick. He was a remarkable young man, and God was moving powerfully in his life. Our youth services were prayer and worship fests. The Word was preached and the Holy Spirit rocked us all every week. It was normal to see people sprawled out all over as they met God at the altar. At times we'd meet outside on the basketball court, and it was quite a site for everyone driving by to see young people rocking back and forth, pacing, lifting their hands and laying face down on the pavement. God was moving and lives were truly impacted for eternity.
One day, Nick approached me. He wanted to bring some friends from the high school football team, but he was certain our supernaturally wild environment would freak them out. He asked if we could have a less spiritual, more social event that would make it easy for his unsaved friends to assimilate.
I loved Nick's heart! However, I also trusted the Holy Spirit to arrest his friends much better than our human strategies ever could. I challenged Nick. “Bring them.”
He did. The night was as crazy and intense as ever. Every one of his friends surrendered to Jesus. Yes, we can trust the Holy Spirit.
One of our favorite pastimes in that particular youth group was to jump on the bus and visit any revival, conference or Holy Spirit infused event we could find. We'd arrive early, pray at the altar and encounter God in new places all the time.
Young people have no patience for anything less than a legitimate move of God that will shock their system and transform them for the rest of their lives. They are yearning for a supernatural invasion of holy fire into their lives!
DON'T PUT OUT THEIR FIRE!
It's time we stop dumbing down youth ministry. We are looking for fire-breathers, and our teens are ripe for the assignment!
Every single young person should be equipped in supernatural prayer and intercession should be the foundation of every youth ministry. As you raise up an army of burning ones, you will certainly see this planet rocked.
Adults, you must be okay with messy services and an intense pursuit for your young people. I get so troubled when I speak at a youth conference or camp and God is moving powerfully with wild deliverance of demons, amazing confessions, life-rocking salvations and radical freedom, only to have the adults become uncomfortable with such a spectacle. They all to often apply their human wisdom and quench the fire that was started.
Let the young people burn!
It's time we see these burning ones trembling under the weight of the Holy Spirit, prophesying with passion, having dreams and visions and boldly encountering Jesus day after day. We need this army to emerge. Many young people have started this journey of intensity while most have no idea such a life is even possible.
FILL THE PRAYER ROOMS
Throughout my years both as a senior pastor and a youth pastor I'd always have an hour of fiery intercession before every service. There is literally nothing more important that I've ever instituted in my ministry. Gathering people together to literally encounter God before we kick into corporate prayer, worship and the Word will transform your church.
Often our pre-service prayer would flow right into the main service and those arriving late (well, actually on time) would wonder what in the world was going on. It was other-worldly.
The point is simple—develop your youth ministry and your entire church around the furnace of intercession. Most everything else will become less satisfying, less important and will pale in comparison to the revelation of Jesus that comes only through supernatural prayer.
Shut down the parties. Cancel your pizza orders. Eliminate the show. Stop the social experiments and contend in prayer. Promote holiness. Train the youth to know their God. They are waiting for leaders who will show them exactly how all of this works.
The church has been duped by a wicked and crafty culture.
The world is boldly and unapologetically preaching it's version of truth to the church, demanding compliance, and it has successfully caused change in theologies, church mission statements and a large segment of the body of Christ. In fact, the spirit of the age is working hard at redefining love in the minds of many Christians. Anything short of tolerance and everything smelling of judgment are branded as pure and utter hatred. Again, Christians by the millions are falling for the deception and the fiery unction of the Holy Spirit has been shut down in their lives.
I'll make the point of this article clear:
God still judges today and we desperately need his loving judgment. We also need preachers, prophets and Christians everywhere to rise up with fire in their veins and a steel rod in their backs and confront sin, renounce wickedness and expose the darkness in the land.
WE NEED JUDGMENT IN AMERICA TODAY
I've written on this topic before, yet it seems the church is slipping further and deeper into the tainted theology the world is promoting today. The no judgment zone is expanding and anybody who violates it is immediately renounced.
Can you imagine parenting without any form of judgment? It's ridiculous to consider. Can you imagine a workplace without any repercussions for violating company rules? How about a government with no judges and no judgments? It would result in anarchy and absolute disinterest in justice as the thugs run free. On the contrary, we celebrate justice and are thankful when rapists, killers, shoplifters and reckless drivers must stand before a judge and be held accountable for their crimes. Yet, many in the church are tragically renouncing justice (judgment) in the context of our modern Christian experience.
We can trust God's judgment. We need him to make wrong things right. Our nation is spiraling out of control. We must not take his demands lightly, and the fear of the Lord must strike the church and our nation again.
I wrote an article titled, “Revival or Judgment: Is God About To Move Positively Or Negatively?” for Charisma Magazine several years ago. Check this out:
“Then the trees of the forest will ring out before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever” (1 Chr. 16:33-34).
We should be singing for joy regarding His judgment!
Let me make something clear right up front—judgment isn't the result of an evil God doing evil things. Judgment is a vehicle used by a loving God to positively impact those who will respond (though the impact will certainly be negative for the rebellious). Judgment is an act of deep love. It has to be, as God is love just as He is the Judge. He doesn't lay down love when He moves in judgment and He doesn't forsake justice when He pours out His love.
We as end-time Christians should be ardent supporters of God's judgment, of His act of love.
Many who have a distorted view of biblical grace have adopted an unbiblical “God is always in a good mood” mindset, diminishing him to a passive, disconnected and nonchalant personal buddy instead of a good yet fearful Master. They have created a mythical image of a god that is more appealing and less severe than the Lord truly is.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18 (ESV)
If you continue reading in Romans chapter one, you will see God's judgment in action:
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:28 (ESV)
If that isn't judgment in the New Covenant, I don't know what is. What follows reveals God's severity against sin as well.
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 (ESV)
AN EASILY OFFENDED PEOPLE ARE MUZZLING THE PREACHERS AND PROPHETS
Today's society has gone mad. It takes little more than a sideways glance to trigger people and send them crying and accusing and attacking. The #nojudgment hashtag is a warning to all who engage with today's social media posts to step cautiously in conversation and to avoid sharing personal and biblical convictions. They'd rather remain imprisoned to their passions than be confronted with truth.
It's time for the preachers to preach again! We must rip into the vile behaviors and paradigms that are destroying our nation and infecting the church. Today's Christians have become so timid in response to the demonic indoctrination of the world that they refuse to stand boldly against sin out of fear of being branded as haters, judgmental or religious. They have become psychologists and sociologists instead of piercing mouthpieces of God, attempting to soften their delivery from a place of overreaching sympathy instead of simply preaching truth and calling sin what it is—sin.
I want to encourage you to follow The Activist Mommy. She is fearlessly, humbly and powerfully standing against the putrid wickedness in our nation. When our preachers go silent, thank God we have “mommies” like Elizabeth Johnston who will rise up with conviction, passion and anointing. What God has judged as good and evil is clearly being revealed through this woman of God.
We need to understand that God is still a righteous judge, and it's our job as Christians to reveal this reality to the world. We absolutely need hellfire preachers again! His wrath remains on the lost, and they are in grave danger, yet we have been muzzled, paralyzed, unable to speak, disallowed from pointing this truth out to them. We are haters if we do.
Yes, we need hell fire preaching in the church again.
It's also true that God is longsuffering, but only He knows how long his suffering will be. The full force of his wrath will be released one day, and many lesser though terrible judgments will come before that happens. ~Is It Time For Hellfire Preaching Again, John Burton
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36 (ESV)
Ephesians 2:3 also clearly communicates that the lost are children of wrath. God's wrath remains on the lost. His judgment remains on both the lost and the saints.
When we see culture diving deeper into wickedness, we must understand this is God's judgment in action. In Romans we see God giving people up to the lusts of their flesh. He gave them up to dishonorable passions. He ultimately gave them up to a debased mind. This is judgment.
Further, God's judgment isn't restricted to the world. It actually begins in the church. While true Christians (who are much fewer in number than professing Christians) are not under God's wrath, we are all subject to his judgment. The two are not one in the same.
We must have burning prophets arise who will fearlessly call out professing Christians who are dabbling casually in sin. It is wisdom to embrace God's judgment. It's foolishness to minimize it, or worse, to reject it as no longer in effect.
Today, a large percentage of professing Christians (and pastors) regularly view pornography (per a Barna report). The statistics are astounding. Many more watch movies and television with inappropriate language, sexual innuendos, nudity and other debauchery without even the slightest concern. This is not a sick and twisted world I'm referring to, it's a sick and twisted church, and the preachers have gone silent. These people are at risk of judgment, and they must be warned.
I'll never forget the time a pastor told me that foul language doesn't bother him. F-bombs and other filth are no big deal to him. I felt sick and angered, and I wondered just when it became more important to consider what's a big deal to him instead of what's a big deal to God. We must see God's judgment come to the church, and fast.
We need preachers to reveal clearly what the Word of God judges as holy and unholy, as truth and error. Those who practice sin are in serious trouble as the judgment of God hangs over them. Without a preacher, how will they hear, and respond, and repent?
2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.
3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:2-4 (ESV)
Pastors are refusing to confront culture, sound alarms or to address today’s political crisis—and it may be time for them to step down.
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 1 Kings 18:17-18 (ESV)
God is raising up a new generation of bold, prophetic messengers who are fearless, broken and undone by the weight of what’s happening in our world. They couldn’t care less if people leave churches they minister in. They aren’t looking for accolades or book deals. They are criers in the wilderness, a new breed of burning ones who aren’t into building churches, but they are very much into confronting culture and shocking the nations with prophetic unction.
We need bold, confrontational leaders formed after the spirit of Elijah, people who are commissioned and unafraid to expose the wickedness in the land. Sadly, it’s rare to find men and women of God like this today.
You can listen to a podcast on this topic here:
Though I’m going to share seven reasons pastors are refusing to confront culture or to dive into politics from the pulpit, the honest truth is that I am so disturbed that I even have to write about this. How can supposed men and women of God just go on teaching generic Sunday School style messages every Sunday morning when the escalating crisis in the world demands an immediate and Spirit-led response?
Pastors, it’s time to repent for your silence—or step aside!
Repent from your tired, unimpressive and self-centered attempts to grow your church. Repent from being a wordsmith instead of a prophet. Repent from being careful when you are called to risk everything. Repent from keeping people happy and controversy at bay. You have lost your voice!
Pastors, if you don’t have a prophetic voice, you don’t have a ministry.
We live in a day where babies are being butchered and many people are campaigning for the slaughter to be extended to those who survive the womb. Homosexual activism has muzzled so much of the church as they force their vile beliefs on us. Pornography and human trafficking are destroying millions. Where is your response?
“If Thou canst do something with us and through us, then please, God, do something without us! Bypass us and take up a people who now know Thee not!”― Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries: A Classic on Revival
7 REASONS PASTORS ARE SILENT IN A WICKED CULTURE
ONE. Fear of man
5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)
Fear of man is possibly the most obvious reason, though I don’t believe it’s the greatest reason in most cases. However, it’s true that many pastors do fear confrontation. They lack confidence in their ability to tear down arguments and to advance with boldness. It’s the Holy Spirit that enables this boldness, and, sadly, it’s true that many pastors are not filled to overflowing with the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
It’s also true that many pastors are muzzled by their boards, elders and others who exhibit control in the church. It can be easy to succumb to the demands and expectations of those and others who have the ability to make life difficult if the pastor doesn’t move in the direction they expect.
The opposite of the fear of man just very well may be the fear of the Lord. Where is the tremble in our pulpits today? Where is the troubling, weighty terror of God in our churches? What will it take for the fear of man to be displaced by fear of the Lord? It’s embarrassing that there is so much fear of man, that pastors today are working overtime to keep the peace, instead of calling people into a place of urgent response to a threatening, deadly spirit of the age.
The sword will divide, and those who are bound by fear of man will keep that sword in their sheath, if they possess one at all.
“A man who is intimate with God is not intimidated by man.”― Leonard Ravenhill
TWO. Fear of loss
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Matthew 27:24 (ESV)
I believe the fear of loss is an even greater motivator for pastors to keep their mouths shut than the fear of man is. Today we have pastors who are wordsmiths instead of prophets, people who are experts at framing their words in such a way that no possibility of offense or disagreement is there. They are keenly focused on being balanced, avoiding controversy and developing a happy, encouraging atmosphere in the church that helps ensure there is no loss. People remain in their seats, money keeps coming in and everybody is happy.
Pilate would have given different leadership if the threat of riots and of losing his position and influence weren’t there. He surrendered because he feared loss. While it might be quite offensive to compare a pastor to the man who turned Jesus over for death, we have to honestly consider the scenario. Instead of doing the right thing, Pilate caved. Pastors are turning on Jesus all too often today by rejecting his directives as they would prove to be too costly. Great loss would certainly come.
Pastors are right. The moment they actually have a strong opinion and take a strong position on a controversial topic, they absolutely will experience pruning.
While there are some absolutely amazing churches out there, in most churches you won’t hear messages that cause any problems with your theology, cause offense or provoke you in any way. When is the last time you heard a message about abortion, homosexuality, pornography or other cultural issues? When is the last time your pastor has pierced the atmosphere with prophetic unction in response to something happening in our society? In some churches it happens. In most it does not. Why? Fear of loss. Pastors can’t afford to lose people, money or their dream of a happy, growing church.
THREE. They have no prayer life/prophetic unction
Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen. ~Leonard Ravenhill
This one is obvious and easy. If pastors are not spending time in the fires of intercession, they simply will not be alerted to much of anything in the spirit. On the contrary, it’s absolutely impossible to live in the prayer room and not hear God’s voice and to discern the crisis in the land.
Spending hours in that place of prayer will result in a burning and an inner tremble that will result in a cry and a shout and a decree from the pulpit on Sunday morning. There will be a fierce spirit that won’t be silenced. The fear of man becomes laughable. Fear of loss is a willing price to pay. Their passion is no longer building their own dream but rather becomes all about being a voice in the wilderness, tearing down strongholds and refusing to be muzzled!
Peter went from a man driven by fear to a fearless wonder, coming out of ten days in the prayer room and carrying a Pentecost fire that would not be ignored.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)
FOUR. They misunderstand the governmental purpose of the church
Ekklesia: A governmental gathering under apostolic leadership
I have long been frustrated at the misunderstanding of the purpose of the church that is epidemic today. The key, foundational purpose of the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. Further, the ekklesia is a governmental gathering. Under apostolic leadership, the church is called to be a governing force in a city.
Sadly, many pastors and people presume the church to be little else than a place to meet together, to sing and learn and to involve themselves in various ministries, programs and projects. Of course, there are many supplemental ministries and projects that are absolutely appropriate and valuable, but they can never supersede the primary call—to pray and govern.
Pastors should absolutely be responding to the crisis in the land as they are the ones who have been commissioned to do so! They have been authorized, ordained, anointed and given a mandate to invade the darkness and command in the spirit!
FIVE. They want to stay out of politics
28 …“We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:28-29 (ESV)
Many pastors reveal they intentionally stay out of politics. Often they communicate this as if they are operating in some form of wisdom or caution, when in reality they are abdicating their responsibilities.
We are called to legislate. We are called to govern. If the church is a governmental agency, as I shared in the previous point, it makes absolutely no sense that pastors would not address political issues in the nation. Often a desire to avoid politics has to do with fear of man and fear of loss. They understand the moment they get political is the moment they draw a line in the sand. We need leaders, not managers. We need people who will boldly draw that line and make it very clear that they won’t be stopped as they deal with the crisis at hand.
We wouldn’t be as concerned about finding the right candidate for office, whether it’s mayor of the city or President of the United States, if our church leaders had some guts and gave political leadership themselves.
Peter responded to politics just as we must. We must obey God rather than men.
SIX. They just want to preach the bible
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (ESV)
It sure sounds spiritual to say they just want to focus on the Bible, but it’s not possible to only do that. You can’t simply preach the Bible and ignore what’s going on in culture. What do you do with all the accounts of the apostles and others who confronted culture, wickedness and the spirit of the age?
If they are preaching and teaching the Bible then they must model their lives and ministries after the people they are studying. We need pastors with the spirit of Elijah. Where are those who lead like Gideon and tear down ungodly cultural altars?
We must, without question, not only be hearers but also doers. If these heroes of the faith confronted culture, than we must as well.
SEVEN. Wrong theologies and a culture of positivity
“One of these days some simple soul will pick up the book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.”― Leonard Ravenhill
There are streams today that only focus on what is positive and encouraging. They presume to find strength there and it gives license to ignore the negative and troubling issues of the day.
These are false-grace tainted doctrines and they are a threat to the call for the church to go on the offensive against wickedness in the world.
We need prophetic leaders who will speak with unction and with fire in their guts, people who will aggressively assault the kingdom of darkness and deal directly with the great evil that’s increasing in power.
PROPHETIC VOICES RISE UP
The days of carefully guarding our churches, salaries, security and reputations are over. It’s time to let churches die if necessary. We need prophetic voices behind the pulpits, people who will scare away the pretenders and provoke the sleepers and confront the wickedness that is among us.
The demonic hoard that has been released upon the world have been mostly uncontested. Their threats have gone unmet. We need governmental leaders in churches to finally stand firm for truth and to tear down arguments and altars with no thought of their own safety or well being.
Enough. The church has been failing far too miserably for far too long in one specific area—dressing up Jesus.
This tragedy is rooted in movements that refuse to embrace the severity of God. Their infatuation with emotional love, intimacy and connection to the exclusion of an inner tremble and utter brokenness that can only come from a revelation of the terror of the Lord has compromised a generation.
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This puppy dog, cuddly Jesus that so many yearn for is a fantasy. If the extent of your relationship with God is enjoying his kindness and goodness to the exclusion of his terror and severity, you actually may be developing intimacy with an angel of light instead of the lover of your soul.
The church has knee-jerked away from the bold, passionate street preacher declarations in favor of a message that presents Jesus in a softer, more affirming light. The problem? Jesus is both a lamb and a lion.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The answer to mean-spirited street preachers is not to change the message, but to change the spirit. Unfortunately, today’s Christian culture has surrendered to the accusations of hate and intolerance that have been hurled by many. So, instead of a potent, burning and convicting message, we are hearing little more than “Jesus loves you,” and “You are special.”
This methodology and theology has infected much of today’s church growth strategies and even worship. Take note of how many songs we sing today in churches all over that are about how great we are instead of how great God is. The focus is on how irresistible we are as opposed to how desperate we are—and how holy, perfect and magnificent God is.
Today’s church has dressed up Jesus, almost as an apology to the world for previous generations staying true to the truths of repentance, holiness and eternity. This new fashioned “jesus” stays well away from the topics of hell, brokenness, our depravity, surrender and anything that has even the faintest scent of negativity.
IT’S TIME TO GOVERN!
I’m disgusted at how the world has so successfully neutered so many in the church. We have been on the defensive for far too long as liberals, homosexual activists, atheists, pro-abortionists and others have continually hurled accusations of intolerance, convincing many that we don’t truly love as they do. Our response has been mostly pathetic. The church has shrunk back as the world has painted us into a corner, demanding WE repent for a lack of love, tolerance and affirmation. No more!
My job isn’t to get you to like Jesus. It’s to get you to admit he is God and you are not and your only hope is full surrender to this magnificent, fearful deity.
Of course we should all continually check our hearts, and we must be driven by true love. But, let me tell you, the love of God looks little like what we are seeing today. Yes, his love absolutely can be tender, caring and gentle. It can also fuel his anger, wrath and judgment.
The church must repent, not to the world, but to God for allowing it to be disempowered, neutered. The threat of revival is fading every day. We must stand firmly and decree without a hint of apology or political correctness, sin is sin! God is holy. The Bible is true. We need prophets not wordsmiths.
The church’s job isn’t to convince the world that Jesus is a really great guy. Our job is to expose darkness, preach truth, allow the love and terror of God to explode into lost souls and allow the Holy Spirit to move. We are to govern with great authority and immovable resolve to stand for truth. Do it with a right spirit, but, please, finally, just do it.
WATERED DOWN EVANGELISM
11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. Mark 6:11-12 (ESV)
Yes, there are some evangelists who are mean spirited. Others have great intentions but poor delivery. However, as I stated above, we cannot discard the message. Simply address the spirit and then proclaim the offensive truth with explosive anointing.
Today, so much of evangelism looks little different than fortune telling and New Age mysticism. Instead of soul-piercing, convicting messages being shouted at camp meetings and through the streets like were heard in generations past, today the messages are centered around how wonderful everybody is.
We need preachers behind the pulpits and in the streets who unapologetically and with great burden shout, “Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!”
I find it fascinating that John the Baptist, as the forerunner, made this decree famous (Matthew 3:2). Then, when he was arrested, look what happened:
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
This is the model of evangelism. John the Baptist started it and Jesus confirmed it.
Evangelism that encourages people to consider following Jesus because of his benefits and how special and amazing he thinks we all are deviates from that model to serious detriment.
SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD
Theologically deviant evangelism and powerless preaching from the pulpit have resulted in millions of people filling churches who are apathetic, lukewarm and who are following Jesus in an unsaved condition.
It’s time the church repents for attempting to dress up Jesus in order to make him more appealing to a resistant culture. Somehow we’ve been duped into believing that we can’t preach cutting and dividing truth without also loving the people we are delivering it to. The enemy has done well in his attempt to convince us that we need to be soft, casual and emotionally sedated in order to sell our religious goods. The problem, of course, is that we are not salesmen. We are prophets! While we all don’t hold the office of prophet, we are all called to carry the mantle of Gideon who, without apology, tore down altars. We are to be like Elijah who confronted culture like no other. We are to be like Paul confronting the magician:
8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Acts 13:8-11 (ESV)
Jonathan Edwards delivered what many consider to be the world’s most famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Consider these points from his message and then consider the messages that are being preached in the streets and behind pulpits today:
So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God. ~Jonathan Edwards
Evangelism and preaching must include the truth of mankind’s condition and position should they refuse to repent. Love demands we do. If God’s wrath, anger and vengeance is directed at someone, and they are a breath away from falling into an eternal abyss, how could we not reveal that to them with tearful urgency?
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36 (ESV)
THE TERROR OF THE LORD
The fear of God, the terror of the Lord, the power of his wrath and his violent assault against the forces of Hell both at the cross and coming soon at the end of the age must be acknowledged as key, foundational truths. We can’t ignore them. We shouldn’t want to.
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:11 (KJV)
As a result of knowing the fierceness of God and the soul-shocking terror of the Lord, we persuade men. We evangelize. We preach. With tears in our eyes and fire in our veins we boldly reveal the ferocity of God and the love that has driven him to reach out to mankind.
Make no mistake, when the fear of the Lord is mentioned in Scripture, it doesn’t always mean respect as some teach. No, the terror of God is just that—pure terror.
The Greek word may sound familiar to you: phobos
This word literally means:
alarm or fright :- be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror, “that which causes fright, a terror,” “fearful sights”.
We need to preach in such a way that terror lands on the hearers.
17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Acts 19:17 (KJV)
In the above scripture, the word “fear” translates the exact same way it did in 2 Corinthians 5:11. Terror. When the terror of the Lord lands on the people, the name of the Lord Jesus is magnified. We cannot dress Jesus up and hide his terrifying attributes. Remember, He is not safe, but he is good.
We see terror striking Paul as well:
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (KJV)
He live a life driven by the terror of the Lord, marked by much trembling, and he preached from that place. the power of God, and not man’s wisdom, brought the results that we are feeling 2000 years after his ministry on the earth ended.
Consider the following verses that all translate to mean terror:
20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. 1 Timothy 5:20 (KJV)
11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. Revelation 11:11 (KJV)
27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:27-28 (KJV)
I’m certain that many who read this are thinking about the verse that reveals that perfect love casts out fear. I’ve met many wonderful people who have been mightily confused about this. They unwittingly evaded all fear, even the fear of the Lord.
The truth is that perfect love does not cast out the terror of the Lord. If that were the case, God would be working against himself and we would have to deal with contradicting truths in the Word.
I’d encourage you read my article, Should we reject fear in all forms? Does God affirm certain types of fear? It will answer a lot of questions for you.
I know many who are fully invested in the “happy Jesus” movement have probably stopped readying by now. If you are in that camp, and you’ve made it this far, please read just a little further. Your passion for intimacy with Jesus is good, but make sure it’s not incomplete. Deep, transforming intimacy with Jesus is a core message of mine. Without that vulnerable, close and otherworldly relationship with Jesus, I’d give up. Knowing God in this way is something that can never be described or replaced. However, several times in my life, God provoked me to something deeper. He didn’t allow me to stay in that sweet, tender place. He changed the way he was manifesting and I was faced with his severity.
I’ll never be able to forget my experience with the forces of Hell. My life was forever changed that night many years ago when God allowed me to experience the feeling of being taken to Hell. His severity was vivid and terrifying, yet it in no way contradicted my intimate heart connection with him. Knowing him as both lamb and lion is critical, and I’m personally desperate to have a greater revelation of him in his fullness. I pray you are too. Jesus will one day shock us all as we see him as he truly is:
15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:15-16 (ESV)