I'm often asked how to experience God on a regular basis. I do believe there's an answer, but it's not a simple one.
There's a phenomenal opportunity available to every legitimate follower of Jesus: an indescribable and life-rocking encounter with an invisible, all-powerful Deity. Sadly so few do what's necessary to live in this realm where the Holy Spirit reveals his shock and awe to the children of God.
It seems so many are satisfied living a typical, logical life in the natural realm. The idea that we can be overwhelmed by a Spirit and experience unimaginable manifestations that only exist beyond where our eyes and ears can discern is silliness to them. Twilight Zone. X-Files. Science fiction.
Yet, to others, it's not far-reaching at all. They yearn to meet God in this place but they don't know how to get there. It's those hungry people I'd like to try to encourage.
THE RECIPE FOR ENCOUNTER
RAW, RISKY BELIEF
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
Intellectualism may be the greatest killer of faith and supernatural encounter among those who are truly living for the Lord. Their left-brained approach to invisible and mystical realities rarely works. When it does, you usually have to take the long way around.
My passion is for God to encounter me in ways my natural, logical, intellectual capacities could never predict, gauge or moderate. The moment I limit this to my own understanding or my careful analysis is the moment I've diminished my hope of moving into that spiritual realm that exists beyond what can be grasped.
The “I have to see it to believe it” mantra doesn't work in a “walk by faith, not by sight” Kingdom. Having to understand it before seeing it doesn't usually work very well either.
Of course, I'm not proposing a renunciation of the pursuit of understanding. However, when logical understanding must come first, before the other-worldly revelation that God wants us to experience, we short circuit the supernatural happenings.
While many would argue that seeing is believing, for Christians the opposite is true. Believing is seeing…and encountering, and being shocked by the fire and power of the Holy Spirit!
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I'll never forget the night many years ago that changed my life. I witnessed God doing remarkable things in the lives of some of my friends. These seemingly normal American guys who were grunting on the basketball court and staying up to all hours playing video games were also undone by an unseen force. I'd watch them weeping in prayer, pacing the church and crying out to God for him to move. These people had tapped into something that I convinced wasn't invented. It wasn't fake. It was real and I had to meet God they way they had.
Alone one night, I paced around the youth room of the church, feeling nothing but desperation. I prayed a simple prayer, the only one I could. “God, you know my heart.” That's it. Over and over I was talking to God using those words, revealing the depths of my hunger in a simple statement. God knew how deeply I desired to know him.
The rest is history. My eternity has forever been altered by that simple yet overwhelming prayer. Shortly after, he flooded into my life in a way that could never be described by using human words, though I'll try. Extreme boldness replaced timidity in a split second. A tangible force shook my being. Passion for Jesus was instantaneous. There was a power source connected to me and I was radiating with fire.
I didn't seek to understand what I was pursuing. I was simply desperate. Hungry. Willing to surrender all. In fact, I told God in the days preceding this momentous experience that I didn't want anything to do with him if he “wasn't all that he was cracked up to be.” I wasn't interested in fairy tales or following some religious icon who didn't heal, couldn't deliver and wasn't omnipotent, good and alive. However, I also said, “But if you are all of this, I will die for you.”
While an initial encounter may not require a disciplined life of intercession, I've discovered that a regular, continual encounter with Jesus absolutely does. It's in the place of fervent, fiery prayer, especially praying in tongues, where the presence of God is constant, and very often extremely intense.
Some may wonder why it's so important to contend for encounter. They may see it as unnecessary and possibly even evidence of an imbalanced or immature person, someone who is driven by emotions or strange, mystical rushes of adrenaline. Oh my, this couldn't be further from the truth. Encounter is absolutely necessary for every blood-bought Christian.
As we walk in great faith and hunger with great desperation, the cries of our heart and the intercession of the Holy Spirit through us will launch us into the place where God can be clearly heard. We can discern his heart. He can reveal mysteries to us. Critical information, some of life and death, is transmitted to us through impressions, dreams, visions or other prophetic means. Simply, if we aren't living in encounter, we are tragically limited to our own understanding, the very understanding the Bible instructs us not to lean on.
But, as we pray in the Spirit, everything changes. The heavens open. God's voice resounds. An inner tremble shakes within. Our daily lives become adventures as God takes the reigns and gives us direction that can only be received via the Spirit.
God resists the proud. This is why I firmly believe the gateway to deeper levels in the Spirit includes many opportunities for humiliation.
I'll never forget meeting a young lady at an event who was a part of another church. She told me she so wanted to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but had no idea how to do so. She was unpretentious and authentic as she shared her expectancy for what was going to happen at the worship conference we all converged at in Los Angeles.
I don't have space to explain what happened the next night other than to say, this hungry young lady was suddenly, without warning, flopping all over the ground as strange and wonderful new sounds were exploding from her mouth. God's activity in that moment hit her and many others, including myself. I was suddenly on the floor experiencing an extremely weighty manifestation of God's glory that wouldn't dissipate until the next day. The presence of God in that moment was something I can still remember, though it's been over twenty years since it happened.
Humility caused this young lady to dismiss how she might look to the hundreds of people all around as supernatural God invaded her natural self. She wanted God. She was hungry at a level few experience. She was filled.
If you think a very Holy Spirit is going to brood over you and manifest in and through you as you are living an unholy life, you have been terribly deceived. Holiness is absolutely mandatory if we have any hope of God moving remarkably in our lives. This is such common sense, yet so many Christians can't understand why they aren't being consumed by God's Holy Spirit.
You simply cannot watch movies, TV and other media that contains foul language, nudity, coarse joking and other immorality and think you are a candidate for encounter. You are kidding yourself. In fact, why would you want the Holy Spirit if that's your chosen lifestyle? You are only inviting conviction if not judgment.
I encourage everybody to eliminate all secular music and listen to nothing but anointed worship music. I even suggest doing away with most contemporary Christian music and pumping music through their headphones that carries the unusual fire and glory of God.
Those who have taken me up on this, time after time, experience dramatic breakthrough. Those who don't tend to trend downwards.
14 …For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)
Possibly the quickest shortcut to living a life of dramatic, supernatural encounter with God is to sign up as a martyr.
We are called to die daily, to take up our crosses and to love life not unto death. This is our portion as Christians. The key moment in my personal life came shortly after my initial encounter I described above. Do you remember that I told God I'd die for him? He was listening.
From my article Risks of the Upcoming Presence Movement:
One night my life changed forever. In the midst of my amazing daily encounters with Jesus, I found myself in a prayer room at a youth lock-in in Dayton, Ohio. While 300 students were playing volleyball and basketball I was alone in a dark, glorious room overlooking the skyline of the city. God was waiting for me when I waked in.
I paced around praying and worshiping as the presence of God swirled all around me. I never wanted to leave.
Suddenly, as I was enjoying God, walking back and forth in his manifest presence, I heard a voice, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
I was irritated. My focus on loving Jesus was interrupted by someone with what felt like a terribly different agenda. Little did I know, it was an agenda to grow me up and gauge my devotion.
I shook off that distracting voice, and attempted to enter back into the glory realm. I prayed and worshiped, but the presence of God was completely gone—or so I thought.
Again I heard, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Though I clearly understood I was being asked to give my life for Jesus, my emotions were negative. I was distraught, irritated, lonely and even afraid. My enjoyment was gone. However, what I didn’t realize was this—my feelings were not sufficient to analyze the situation. God’s presence had actually increased exponentially in that room of destiny, not dissipated. The fearful judge had arrived and he meant business.
Though I tried to enter back into worship again, it was futile. I heard the voice one more time, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Finally, in a state of lonely desperation, I realized I couldn’t live my life without the fire of Jesus burning within me. I needed him. I wanted him, even if it meant the loss of my physical life.
Understand, I was convinced that I was going to physically die that night. It was very real to me.
I told God, “I can’t live without you. If my death will result in the advance of your Kingdom, I give you permission to take my life tonight.”
The moment I said that, his manifest glory flooded the room about one hundred times greater than I had experienced it before. I had experienced the glory and the severity of God, and I was forever changed.
ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD
As I reveal the final ingredient of the secret sauce of encounter, I can feel the naysayers breathing down my neck right now. They are riled up at the thought of focusing on the experiential, on the suggestion that faith trumps logic, on the mystical, invisible and on what they would call hyper-Charismatic fluff.
I'll try to put them at ease. Nothing I am proposing can defy Scriptural truth. If there's ever a contradiction, it must be eliminated. This means that we must be students of the Word. There should be a burning zeal in us for the powerful, eternal and non-negotiable truths of Scripture.
However, while many would hold up the giant family Bible in the air as a defense against the supposed superstition that I'm dealing with here, true Bereans will excitedly search the Word to see what powerful revelations it holds.
From my article What To Do When We Hear Rumors Of Revival:
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
Traveling ministers and the pastors who invite them most both welcome correction.
The money changers’ sin was simple—they attempted to use God’s temple for personal gain. They were focused on making a profit. This resulted in one of Jesus’ most violent reactions, and I believe a similar reaction is coming to a corrupt ministry scheme today. ~Snake Oil Ministry
Of my nearly three decades of ministry, I've spent many years as a pastor inviting guest ministers in and I've spent many years as the guest minister, traveling to serve a pastor when called. Wholesale reform in this exchange must come if the impact we are hoping for is to be realized.
Of course, there are many humble and pure-hearted itinerant preachers and many local church pastors who are godly and ridiculously amazing. And, of course, there are many who are not.
Caught in the middle, I suppose, are many more who are simply unaware of what appropriate itinerant ministry looks like. My hope is that we can shine a light on the issue and call for an adjustment.
REVIVAL CAN COME
I propose the reasons for inviting in a guest minister are few. The underlying desire should absolutely be to pursue an outpouring and to stimulate the fires of revival. A move of God is the motivating factor.
The guest minister will certainly carry something the preachers of the house don't. Their ministry should be valued and given room to bring impact. Again, revival is the goal.
However, in order for this greatest of pursuits to have even the slightest hope of kindling, we need to see significant change come.
Listen to the podcast…
HOW ITINERANT MINISTERS MUST CHANGE
Don't travel unless you are truly carrying the burden of the Lord.
If you don't have a burning message from God seared into your spirit, you should question whether you should accept an invitation to minister. Today we have too many professional guest speakers who are regurgitating messages that may have held impact years ago but are now nothing more than spiritual information devoid of anointing or timely weightiness.
I propose you pray and seek God for a heavy, transforming word for the people you are about to minister to. The pastor and the people are paying greatly (or, they should be) to bring you in. Anything less than full investment is dishonoring to them.
Bring the new wine and a “now word” of God, not a collection of lifeless notes from yesteryear.
Get out of the green rooms.
If a guest minister isn't engaged with passion in the worship service and is instead hiding away in the green room or the pastor's office awaiting the perfect moment to make their appearance, they should stay hidden away. Go away. Don't take the microphone.
If revival is the goal as it should be, the itinerant preacher has no option but to be right in the middle of the flow of the service. They should be interceding, discerning the atmosphere, declaring breakthrough, engaging in spiritual warfare and worshiping with abandon.
Stop with the marathon money grabs (I mean, offering times).
It's the pastor's job to ensure you are very well taken care of financially (we'll get to them in a moment). Leave that part of it alone and focus on the job at hand. You are called to preach and to ignite the fires of revival, not breaking in the middle for 30 minutes to receive (or, actually, take) an offering. Becoming a distracted money-changer when you should be flowing in an overwhelming anointing for breakthrough is dishonorable.
Oh, and if you attach their breakthrough to their giving in that service, I fear for your soul.
Weep with the people.
If you can't feel the hearts of the people and if you aren't invested deeply in their freedom, you have no business standing behind another leader's pulpit. It's easy to know when itinerant ministers are simply professional public speakers. They confidently deliver their well polished message and are already thinking about selling some books, heading out to lunch and jumping on their flight to their next destination.
We need those who will be in the moment, people who will weep when the people weep and dance when they dance. Develop relationships, fight for their breakthrough and go to battle for their souls!
Stop the embarrassing theatrics.
Quit pushing people over at the altar. Quit measuring success by how many people come to the altar. Quit hyping up an atmosphere. Just quit.
Many times when I travel and minister I won't have an altar call at all. I won't attempt to create some sort of faux energy or stimulate a hypnotic atmosphere. While I'm all for wild and bizarre manifestations of the Holy Spirit, I'm certainly not going to manufacture it.
Preach with passion. Fight from the platform. Engage the enemy. Welcome the Holy Spirit. Respond accordingly and get out of the way. You may not have an Instagramable pic of people flooding the altar, but that's okay.
Be submitted in a local church.
Itinerant preachers, be they prophets, apostles, evangelists or whatever, must be covered in a local church. They should be active members and in a position of learning as they sit under another's leadership.
Itinerant ministry is not a promotion out of the church. It's an expression of the church. I personally wouldn't be comfortable inviting in a guest speaker who isn't locked into a local church. I've done it in the past and much of the time there was a strong, prideful, independent spirit at play in their ministry. Pastors can't afford for their people to be infected with that.
HOW PASTORS MUST CHANGE
Be prepared to give a lot of money to your guest.
Itinerant ministers aren’t being paid for only one hour of preaching. They have given more than that. They have invested much by leaving their family, expending energy as they travel, paying for their food on the road, sleeping in unfamiliar beds and, possibly most importantly, stepping out in faith believing that God would provide their every need.
If their monthly family budget (you know, money to pay for their teenage monsters to devour entire sides of beef, braces for crooked teeth, Christmas presents, car payments, vacations, toilet paper, shoes, etc.) is $6000 a month, that means anything less than $1500 puts them in a compromised position. It’s usually their spouse who is handling the bills and taking care of precious and wild kids who gets hit the most when the finances aren’t coming in. Being an itinerant minister is an extremely challenging life and I want to do my best to relieve the financial pressure from them and their family. ~Snake Oil Ministry
I personally believe $1000 per time your guest speaks is a bare minimum, and, by all means, send them home with the honorarium. Don't expect them to be happy about your lack of preparation when you tell them you'll have to send it to them in the mail the next week. Remember, I'm coming at this discussion now from the perspective of pastors, not the itinerant minister. Traveling ministers travels must be willing to do what they are called to do for nothing. But, pastors shouldn't put their guests in that position. They should also have integrity with the offering:
I have found that people love to give, especially when I tell them 100% of the offering will be going to the guest speaker (after expenses are covered). If one million dollars comes into the offering, the church receives nothing and the guest is now a millionaire! I believe this approach deals with any scrutiny that may be in people’s minds when giving. They love the fact that they are able to have 100% of their gift go directly to the guest! ~Snake Oil Ministry
I've had some cringe worthy experiences as a traveling preacher. While the vast majority of visits have been amazing, there are a handful that still make me shudder! I'm going to battle for traveling preachers everywhere because I know that leaving after a grueling, tiring weekend filled with long travel and uncomfortable situations with only a few hundred dollars can be tough.
Give them room to minister.
If revival is the goal, you can't expect even the most anointed guest speaker to move everybody in that direction in 30 minutes. The people should be well aware that it's a special day and what is normal in their culture is about to be violated.
You should have done your homework before you invited them in, meaning you are fully comfortable with their ministry and you can confidently release the reigns. Let them know they are free to preach as long as they'd like about anything God puts on their hearts. No limits.
Now, back to the guest speaker for a moment: if you are boring, losing the crowd or if it's just an off day, stop the bleeding and put the people out of their misery. Get off the stage and head off to lunch with everybody else.
Get them a nice hotel.
I'll sleep on the floor if necessary to bring the burden of the Lord to the people God is sending me to. That being said, I can't express how blessed I am, and relieved, when I hear my host is putting me up in a hotel instead of a host home.
Staying in a place where I can be alone to rest, study and pray is priceless. While many host homes have been amazing and I've had a lot of fun spending time with the host families, it's almost always better to stay alone.
For example, I stayed in a beautiful home with an absolutely amazing family many years ago. I can't express enough how impressed I was with them and how much I enjoyed hanging out. However, I was unable to rest as my calendar was filled up with activities and my sleep schedule was disrupted as I was served an incredible 7am breakfast. The problem? I don't eat breakfast and I stay up very late at night. I was exhausted.
I know that sounds like a silly or even a selfish, thankless complaint, but the cost of that scenario is a de-energized preacher who isn't able to pray and get alone with the Lord in preparation for the services.
Just get them a hotel and ask them what schedule they'd like to keep.
Don't try to undo what they did after they leave town.
Again, the purpose of bringing in guests is to be catalysts for an outpouring. They are supposed to do things differently than the pastor and local leadership. They carry a different anointing and they can break through things in a different way.
Many are called to disrupt, to trouble and to initiate a great shaking. Allow that process to happen.
Unless clear heresy is being preached, don't try to set back up what the preacher has been called to upset.
I once heard about a pastor who tried to put the people back at ease the week after I preached with fire, sending God wanted to remove them from their ease. It was a fearful message of holiness and salvation, and, unfortunately, the pastor encouraged the people, correcting what I said and ensuring that they were nice and saved and should not be concerned in any way.
Honestly pastor, if you are going to do that, don't waste my time. It's costly enough to preach a message like that without it all being undone the moment I head for the airport.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Have a pure heart, contend for revival, give largely, honor deeply and give God a lot of room to move. Revival has launched through the ministry of guest preachers before and it can happen again, but I believe it's clear we need reform in this area before we can legitimately expect it to happen.
Here are four reasons why much of today's evangelism is actually hurting the advance of the Kingdom.
The Great Commission is such a serious mandate that we have no option but to get it right. In fact, with Hell growing larger and innumerable people are flooding into that unspeakable place every day, we must sound the alarm, preach the truth and rescue the perishing.
I'd like to strongly encourage you to listen to the powerful story of Frank Jenner's simple yet wildly anointed life of evangelism. You may cry. You will be awestruck. It's called “The Man From George Street.” Listen HERE.
Yes, evangelism is critically necessary—if done rightly.
Listen to the podcast:
FOUR WAYS EVANGELISM CAN DO MORE DAMAGE THAN GOOD
ONE: IT LACKS A SPIRIT OF PRAYER
I was flown into a church in a large city many years ago to help with some video work. I had some free time the night I arrived so I decided to check out the church and to see if they had anything going on. I was happily surprised to see a sign announcing a prayer meeting that was underway. I was saddened by what I saw as I stepped into the large sanctuary.
There was no spirit of prayer at the prayer meeting. In fact, there were only a few people standing around in that massive auditorium. It was dead, which was markedly different from what I expected based on the size of the church and the fact that it was a Spirit-filled congregation.
I quickly learned that prayer was not job one in that place. Evangelism was. I've never been in a church that emphasized soul winning to such a degree, and one would think I should have been thrilled. I was not.
As I spent time with people and pastors in that church I witnessed very well intentioned but awkward, forced, scripted and manipulated Gospel presentations to anyone who would listen. While it's true that God's Word can work wonders with no additional help from you and me, it's also true that our delivery of the Word can be dead or alive, weak or powerful, tainted by our human spirit or anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism efforts that don't emerge from the white-hot furnace of intercession will most often be dead, weak and tainted. Those who hear what we are saying will most often resist, sensing no vibrancy or activity of the Holy Spirit at all. People who could have surrendered all if evangelism was done rightly, delivered with a burning unction, results instead of people being repelled by whatever stench just emerged from our souls.
TWO: THERE'S NO MENTION OF SIN, REPENTANCE, HELL OR THE CROSS
Much of today's prophetic evangelism zeros in on how wonderful God thinks people are to the exclusion of acknowledging their depravity. They are awakened to the possibility of love without understanding the radical surrender that's necessary.
It's quite possible many of these people are saying yes to the invitation and begin following Jesus in an unsaved condition. They don't understand how deadly their life of sin was because the evangelist didn't mention it. A false-grace theology can drive Gospel presentations like this, presuming a revelation of God's love is sufficient to draw people out of their old life and into the new. That's not biblical evangelism and it puts the hearers at great risk of adopting a compromised religion.
It wouldn't surprise me if multiplied millions of people who have “gotten saved” this way are currently lost, seduced by a version of love that's not legitimate. They are convinced that God's love is what seals their position when it's actually their radical response that is key.
THREE: IT BECOMES PRIMARY FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN
There are many verses in Scripture that make it clear that we should be ministering, sharing truth and advancing the Kingdom. Yes, we are to do the work of an evangelist, however, that verse makes it clear that not everybody is an evangelist. It would do us well to understand this.
The church I mentioned above put strong pressure on everyone in the body to evangelize always, in every environment. The problem? Evangelists are wired, gifted and anointed to do this. The rest are gifted in other areas and they should be free to minister mostly according to how they are put together by God.
Teachers, for example, are called by God to mostly reveal powerful truths to Believers. Their anointing will be most pronounced in that realm, and it would be smart to allow them to study and relay what they discover to the church.
On the contrary, if you put some evangelists behind the pulpit you may cringe as they attempt to communicate scriptural truths beyond the mission to win the lost.
Simply, we all have our calling. Yes, there is cross-training involved and we should be “instant in and out of season,” about to “do the work of an evangelist” and to preach truth in any setting. However, outside of the call for all to pray as a primary life focus, everybody has a different gift mix and calling.
FOUR: IT DISPLACES THE FOCUS ON REVIVAL
I personally believe the fasted route to the harvest is revival. Just as I shared in point one that it's important to start in the prayer room, a focus on revival will lay a foundation that can withstand the influx of hungry, repentant people.
It's not either/or. It's both/and. However, if we focus initially on prayer and revival, and if we prepare the people in both of these disciplines, the anointing to do the work of the ministry, including evangelism, will be electric.
Evangelists often (not always) struggle with the idea that the primary call is to pray. An evangelist who had the most tender heart and who could be found on the streets witnessing night after night asked me, “John, your church is so focused on prayer. Where will I bring people when they get saved? I can't expect them to come to such an environment.”
I challenged him. I said this is precisely the environment they need to experience the moments after they meet Jesus! This supernatural, vibrant atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is brooding and moving will result in baptism of power they will never forget!
Simply, we want people to meet Jesus in the place of raging, searing, life-altering revival!
You might argue, “Well, at least people are doing it! At least they are sharing the Gospel!.”
I get it. That makes sense. And, again, I do want to applaud those who are taking those bold steps to share truth. However, I believe it's okay, in fact it's important to analyze our motives and methods. After all, we are dealing with human lives and their eternities very well may be determined by our ministry. We should feel the sobering, weighty intensity to that reality.
We absolutely need a vibrant, active spirit of prayer when we are talking about Jesus.
We need to communicate the truth of sin, Hell, repentance and the cross.
It's important to appreciate and activate people in their specific gifts and offices.
And, by all means, a mass movement of revival will result in an introduction to Jesus that will be conducted by the Holy Spirit with supernatural, otherworldly precision.
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.”
Much of the church has surrendered its mantle of prophet in exchange for the title of salesman.
Relevance. One could argue it makes sense to be relevant. We want people to have a legitimate, life-altering encounter with Jesus. He will reach people at the core of who they are, and they would absolutely confess their engagement with deity would be relevant. Jesus knows how to touch people's lives in exactly the right way.
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However, what most consider relevance in today's vernacular has resulted in a deviation from the hard-core, white-hot truth of Scripture.
Check out this definition:
rel·e·vance | \ ˈre-lə-vən(t)s practical and especially social applicability
To meet the demands of relevance, so much of today's church has dressed up Jesus, wrapped a bow around him and paraded him down the fashion runway in hopes that people will like his style, that he would be appealing, and sign on the dotted line of salvation. Their ultimate goal is for people to close their eyes, raise their hands and say a prayer that somehow seals their eternity with Jesus. Sadly, this method of evangelism has most probably resulted in millions of people following Jesus in an unsaved condition. There are many “Rich Young Rulers” out there who have been welcomed with open arms by today's preachers but who have not surrendered all.
Relevance has required that we lay down our mantle as a prophetic people who boldly preach soul-piercing truth in favor of the methods of a salesman. The result is innumerable people being added to an ever increasing lukewarm stew that will soon be vomited out of God's mouth. Relevance has neutered the church and has drained it of its power.
THE CHRISTIAN ROCK LESSON
Somewhere around 40 years ago, give or take a few, the phenomena of Christian rock emerged. As a youth pastor in the 90s, I preached multiple times about Christian rock, and the risk it presented. My belief is that music was never intended as an evangelism tool. Christian rock violated the original purpose of music as God intended. Music in it's purest form is anointed, glorious worship. Personally, my life is strengthened when I pump my spirit full of supernatural music that's devoted to exalting God. I'm listening to some old school Vineyard music from the 90s as I write this. (It doesn't get much better than that!)
The fruit of this spiritualized, worldly amusement includes a Christian culture that has no issue with secular music today. Pastors and worship leaders are often drawing from that ungodly well, giving no thought to the source of their entertainment. Add to that immoral movies, television and online media, and you have a compromised church that has lost its oil, if not its lamp stand.
As a youth pastor, intense worship, powerful deliverance, baptisms in the Holy Spirit, fervent prayer and visitations of God marked our culture. We had no need or desire to tone things down in the hopes that people would give a thumbs up to an altered form of Jesus and jump on board. While we must weep and mourn when people reject Jesus, we must also allow them to walk away if they aren't interested in surrendering all, signing up as martyrs and truly following God on his terms.
Attempting to sell the “Christian thing” with movie nights, parties, skits, ice-breakers, “Christinized secular music” and other attempts at relevance are foolish at best, devastating at worst. Hit your face, tremble under the weight of the Holy Spirit, get saturated with his glory and then worship and preach on fire—and watch those who are truly hungry rush in.
SEEKER SENSITIVE EVERYTHING
Additionally, the primary church service wasn't meant to be an evangelism tool. Yet, we have all watched seeker-sensitive churches emerge and thrive as prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit took a back seat to coffee, music and human interest stories from the platform.
We must see the invisible, supernatural realm manifest in the earth again! We have become experts at using psychological, sociological mind-tricks in an attempt to connect with people and to compel them to consider Jesus. The seeker sensitive train wreck has impacted nearly every corner and crevice of today's church as we attempt to sell Jesus, sell our church and sell salvation.
What happened to revival? What about the indescribable glory of God that should be flooding our churches? Where are the manifestations? Tongues of fire? In most churches, quenched. All of it. Why? Because it's not relevant according to the expectations of today's culture. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit irritate the pretenders in the church and repel the mockers outside the church. Instead, many church leaders have adopted an often “successful” model of ministry that fills the seats while dumbing Jesus down and deeming the church impotent.
WE ARE NOT SALESMEN!
We need preachers who have the unction of the Holy Spirit in their gut and the fire of Holy Spirit in their mouths!
Our goal is not to rack up points for every soul “saved.” We must present truth and make it hard, not easy, for people to decide whether they want to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus died for you, what else could you want? That's a legitimate evangelism question. You see, none of us have bargaining power. We don't have leverage. We can't haggle. We don't have the option of jumping in at a lesser level. Without Jesus, we will be tortured and tormented every second of every day for ever and ever. We don't have a say in how we connect with Jesus. It's everything or nothing. It's full surrender or no surrender. It's radical repentance or no repentance. It's all or nothing.
I explained the extreme cost of following Jesus to a co-worker many years ago. I revealed the difficulties and the glories. I highlighted the issue of sin, God's solution and the permanence of eternity. I made it clear that life would be more challenging than he could ever imagine should he follow Jesus. Many friends may leave him. He might be lonely. His life of darkness would have to be abandoned. The love of God and the severity of God was presented unapologetically.
You see, I was honest with him. I didn't hold back. I revealed the indescribable invasion of life that Jesus alone can bring, but I didn't parade Jesus as a spectacle, as someone other than he truly is. I certainly didn't want it on my record that I led someone into an illegitimate relationship with Jesus. He understood without question what it was to follow Jesus. His response to me was equally honest. He said, “I just can't do that right now. I don't want to surrender my way of life to follow Jesus.”
I honored him for his honesty and let him know that Jesus was pursuing him. I pray he ultimately made the right decision and is an on-fire disciple of Jesus today as I believe the Holy Spirit used me to present to him a solid foundation to start from.
WHOLESALE CHANGE OF OUR MINISTRY METHODS
It's beyond time that we learned the Christian rock, seeker sensitive lessons. We are not of this world. We should stop mimicking it. We are aliens. We need an Area 51 experience as a curious people flock to look at the spectacle of an alien culture that doesn't try to blend in to society. Revival will do that. In Acts chapter two, many people marveled and many mocked when they saw the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They were provoked by the aliens.
If you truly want to win the lost, then do away with delusions of relevance. Preach on fire. Pray on fire. Evangelize on fire. Worship on fire. Do everything on fire! We need to turn the temperature up, not down, when attempting to reach the lost. Too many have built a bonfire where people can warm their flesh when God has called us to surrender fully to the refining fire, to lay across it and die.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
Pastors are called to lead you to the furnace of intercession. Stop resisting.
Why is it so rare to find churches that are baptized in fire and saturated in the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit? So many long to walk into a church on a Sunday morning where people are laid out all over the room, others pacing in prayer and many trembling under the weighty glory of God as the fire of the Holy Spirit burns over everyone.
I'll give you a one reason, and it might not be what you want to hear: Manipulative and controlling people.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:2 (ESV)
I wonder if the typical church goer understands the extreme warfare revival and prayer-minded pastors and church leaders experience every single day. The swirls of demonic activity blows violently around them and their families nonstop, and the wickedness that provokes this assault is very often initiated from those who are supposed to be holding up their arms. Christian witchcraft manifesting through hand raising, Bible reading, tithe paying, small group leading members of their church is suffocating—and sickening.
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I remember my core intercession teams both in Colorado and Michigan would frequently cancel curses over my family and me. They'd stand in the gap. I was often in the hot seat receiving protective prayer as they broke off the arrows shot into my back, weapons of warfare that were wielded by people who shook my hand and smiled as they entered the church each week.
This was a distraction to the mission, and it impacted our ability to deal with the curses and attacks from actual witches and warlocks that had us on their Satanic prayer list as a target. To be hit from outside and from within is a smart strategy of the enemy. He's out to kill ministries, to destroy them. He's all too ready to use selfish people who demand they are heard and obeyed.
I know from the testimonies of other pastors and from my own experience, dealing with troublemakers, resisters and manipulators is absolutely draining. Distracting. Grieving.
Visionary leaders are single-minded. They are advancing, calling surrendered people to run with them as they are focused on assaulting the kingdom of darkness. They are Gideons. They are looking for those who are full of faith, who are humble, faithful and who won't shrink back as they run toward the enemy's camp.
I've heard from many people who are disgruntled with pastors, and some for good reason. But, how often do we hear about pastors who are just fed up with the witchcraft in their midst? It must stop!
Read the story of Korah. Read it slowly. You do not want to be counted among the resisters. Do you have any idea how serious God is about protecting his leaders and his mission? I know, many of you might be triggered at such a bold defense of men and women of God. I cannot apologize. It's time God's ordained end-time revivalists are supported and encouraged as they contend for an outpouring and the advance of the Kingdom of God.
11 Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?” Numbers 16:11 (ESV)
31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” 35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense. Numbers 16:31-35 (ESV)
THE RESISTERS NEED TO REPENT OR LEAVE
If you are resistant to revival, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, to groans of the Spirit and tongues of fire and to an atmosphere of desperation, depth, freedom and extreme hunger, and your church is attempting to pursue and affirm these things…just leave. Disappear.
Stop being an irritant and a pain to the pastor you are supposed to be honoring and supporting. Quit with your manipulation, control and witchcraft. Stop presuming your opinions and insights are so important and that your voice must be heeded. You are hindering the Holy Spirit and those who are passionate about Jesus.
The enemy is using you and you need to either move on or repent in tears. I can't imagine being the one that stood in the way of a move of God. Grieving the Holy Spirit is a serious violation and I pray the fear of the Lord grips you.
Pastors, I pray you have the guts to power through the threats and spirits of control in your midst and refuse to hold back. There are masses waiting for you to help initiate a move of the Holy Spirit that will transform their lives and change where they spend eternity. It's on you!
I'd encourage you to read an article I wrote about the need for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to return to our churches. Pastors, you must lead the charge. It's time for reformation. It's time for fire.
Read the article here:
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.
A move of God in Jesse, West Virginia has left many wondering—how could any pastor promote seeker sensitive ministry?
This is what revival looks like. Surrendered hearts, Holy Fire, relentless worship. Intercession. Chains broken, healing happening, persistent people who are hungry for more.
Firebrands. Revivalists. Reformers. Revolutionaries.
Pursuing the face of God and His heart.
Different states, different intercessors, all coming together with one voice: a cry for the fire of God and revival to hit this land and shake the world.
May the flames of intercession never go out in Appalachia! ~Sarah
I'm back home in Branson, Missouri after a weekend of indescribable fire. I was somewhere near the middle of nowhere in Jesse, West Virginia, and I'm still trembling in my spirit. The anointing and stirring of the Holy Spirit is radiating through me. The power of God descended in that remarkable mountain revival town and many are testifying that their entire lives have been transformed. They can never go back to life or church as usual!
I experienced a church that actually had the guts to turn the Sunday service into a prayer meeting. I wrote about this in one of my most popular Charisma articles titled “5 Major Changes Coming to the Church.”
Sunday services being transitioned into prayer meetings was one of the major changes I addressed. It happened in West Virginia that morning.
I had the honor of ministering alongside the man, Pastor Jay Morgan, who craves God so deeply, that unbridled, uncontrolled fire on Sunday mornings is his only option. It was an amazing weekend at Appalachia Prayer Center Ministries which also featured Doug Abner, who was instrumental in a mighty move of God in Manchester, Kentucky. Read about that remarkable story in a Charisma News article HERE.
PRAYER-DRIVEN SUNDAY SERVICES
So how can we shift the Sunday service to a prayer-driven event? It's quite simple:
At the church in Jesse, the service started with intense intercession, followed by a couple powerful worship songs. People were dancing, waving banners and blowing shofars. They were ready.
Then, as the musicians played over the people, we moved into decrees and declarations for revival in the Appalachian states. People were at the altar crying out, dancing and groaning in the Spirit. More prophetic intercession for revival filled the atmosphere and then, at least two hours into the service, I brought a powerful and challenging message. I ministered for the next hour and a half. A life-changing altar time followed and then people very slowly and reluctantly started heading home at around 2:30pm. The presence of God in that unhurried Sunday morning service was simply indescribable. When the order of service is eliminated and you just don't care whether people like what's happening or not, God takes over and clocks disappear.
During the God explosion that Sunday morning, I asked the people, “Who would rather have a mix of prophetic worship, prayer, decrees and the freedom to hit your face on the carpet for an hour or two instead of an hour of predictable, karaoke style worship?” They all shouted! Yes!
Pastors, it's not hard to do this…AND it will cause the pretenders to finally leave your church. Those who are resistant to the depths of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural interruption to their comfort zones will leave, and you'll finally be able to advance toward an outpouring in great unity.
Pastor Jay transitioned his church from a seeker sensitive ministry to one that couldn't be more opposite. The spirit of intercession in that place is rare, and I believe it's a model that we need to pay attention to. I was wrecked watching that humble man of God lead the people as he was most definitely under the influence of some glorious new wine. The drunkenness was real and it was holy. He couldn't leave the sanctuary after the first night of the summit, and remained in God's presence there until 6am. When is the last time your pastor was so radically surrendered that he was saturated by God himself, fully drunk in the Holy Spirit? (I'm sure the religious crowd will be triggered by this question. That's okay. We need to provoke the resisters and invite them into the river!)
You can listen to the two messages from the summit in Jesse, West Virginia below, plus a raw podcast I recorded in my hotel room. I must warn you though, if you can't handle an aggressive, offensive message, you should skip them and go find some milk to drink.
SEEKER MINISTRY MUST COME TO AN END
The reason seeker style ministry seems valid to some pastors is simple: they are attempting to introduce people to God the same way they know him. It's a low level, relational, logical and mostly natural connection.
When those leaders have an authentic, supernatural, indescribable, all-consuming encounter with the Holy Spirit, it becomes laughable and fully impossible to ever lead a seeker sensitive church again.
I have proposed many times before, and I am doing so again—shut down the programs, quit focusing on visitor assimilation, give up the idol of church growth and eliminate everything that stands in the way of fervent, strategic and continual intercession. Our churches must become furnaces of Holy Spirit activity, supernatural houses of prayer and unapologetic champions of revival.
This shocking, shaking move of the Holy Spirit should be the norm for us as Believers.
We don't want anything invented, imagined or exaggerated. We are yearning for the weighty manifest presence of God to rock our churches again!
Pastors, it's up to you: do all you can to ensure everyone in your church is baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues! The groans of the Spirit can be silent no longer!
THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD
All you folks who are “super careful” and “discerning” regarding supernatural manifestations like falling out in the Spirit, shaking, etc,… it's clear that some of you aren't being honest.
Just admit that you don't like it. It irritates you when you see it happen. The thought of it happening to you freaks you out. Becoming undignified is not an option. My heart breaks for you.
Further, for those who say it's not God, that it's a demon, that it's another spirit…remember, if we ask for a fish, God won't give us a snake. And, I believe I remember people accusing Jesus of having a demon. I wouldn't want to be those people.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is one sin that puts you beyond the realm of possibility for forgiveness. What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? It's attributing a move of God to a demon. Of course, true Holy Spirit discernment is fully appropriate, but what many call discernment is little more than suspicious accusation in an attempt to control their spiritual experience and to limit others in theirs. Their eternities are at risk because of it.
When God moves powerfully and his undeniable, tangible presence, his anointing, his manifestation, hits you, and you can't stand, you are undone, you are wrecked, you are flowing with love and power, you can barely speak, you are shaking, groaning…would you really suggest that it's a demonic spirit that's behind it?
And, another question…WHO IN THE WORLD WOULDN'T WANT GOD TO ENCOUNTER THEM LIKE THAT? The answer: Only those who have not experienced God at that level or those who disbelieve that a supernatural, invisible God can manifest in people's lives.
God's glory is real! Millions of people have experienced it. Millions more have not. Tragically, many reject it. When asked to describe what it feels like to be overcome by the Holy Spirit, I received many replies. Here are some of them:
I shrunk to the ground on my knees with weeping unable to stand. It was glorious, light and heavy all at the same time. My skin felt like fire but it was beautiful.
It feels like I can’t stop shaking…
I felt like I went into a bubble. I could see but couldn’t really hear or process what all was going on around me. I was speaking in tongues and had never felt so much love in all my life.
It's almost like a cool fire burning right in the center of me.
This weekend, at the APC Summit, I had my first fully immersive experience in the spirit where I was entirely consumed. It kind of felt like sleeping, however from pictures and videos posted from throughout the Summit I was actually worshiping and waving flags. I could hear the Father roaring inside of my head. It was the most amazing experience of my entire existence.
I was just recently baptized in the Holy Spirit and I screamed and cried for an hour. It was one of the most supernatural experiences of my life!
After singing, praising & praying the Lord for a good while, Holy Spirit overwhelmed me. The fiery weight of His presence felt like sustained electric jolt, like touching an electric fence, just without the pain. I had to pull off the road, lay my seat back and allow Him to do His work. His presence felt like it washed over me again and again. I have no idea how long I was there really but was never the same afterwards.
And, I simply had to include the following testimony from Brittany. It's a bit long, but please read through it. It will absolutely rock you and drive you to tears of joy! It's true stories like this that keep me contending for freedom in people's lives! Wow!
The first service Saturday was nothing like I had ever experienced, I danced, sang, waved a flag and ran all over the sanctuary. The most unabandoned worship I had ever done! Then all of a sudden as we are listening to our Pastor become overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit, drunk on the Spirit! We started to laugh, everyone! I mean everyone was laughing!! It was said after crying, being sad and angry for so long that laughter was the best medicine. Guess what? It was! Then we prayed and worshiped. A man named Jonathan came up to me, grabbed my hand and said, “that relationship that wasn’t supposed to happen, you have to let it go.” I had never once seen this man, talked to him, he did not know me and I did not know him!!! He was telling me what God wanted me to know! I crumbled to the floor and began to weep the tears that I had been holding onto for the fact I was so ashamed that I had been in a relationship with a woman.
Saturday night now was yet again another beast all it’s own!!!!! Hearing prophetic words over our state and the state of Kentucky. Listening to women speak of their states and becoming on fire for revival in our area! Then came John Burton. He was the wake up call I needed, yes I've only been going to church for 7 months, yes my past had always been something I held onto, yes I still have so much to learn. But I have learned so much from the short amount of time I listened to him. That’s why I bought the master collection because I want to fully submerge my life in Jesus. That’s why I also took on John’s challenge and the next 30 days will be nothing but worship music and I’m just cutting out TV all together unless it is faith based. Now onto Saturday night, once John was done speaking he asked if there was anyone that hadn’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues. I hadn’t, I went forward and honestly don’t remember too much from it other than screaming and crying for an hour! It was the most intense, supernatural experience of my life! When I finally did semi come to I was so intoxicated with the Holy Spirit that I could barely walk, I felt weightless and when I began to think about my life before that moment it’s like it’s a blur. Like it really didn’t happen, no anger, no sadness, NO pain!!!! I can think coherent thoughts and I’m so excited to tell my testimony so I can help others went through similar things and know that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel I was living in!
Sunday morning comes, we pray, we worship, we lay on our faces, we dance, we kneel, we intercede, we pray for each other. We listened to yet another word from John and then we prayed, we worshiped, we lay on our faces, we dance, we kneel, we intercede, we pray for each other!! You could tell that no one in the room wanted it to end. We had just spent the most amazing 4 days together in the presence of the Lord!!! Of course no one wanted it to end!
I figured up roughly 35 hours of worship, pray, given words, and interceding for me!!! It was the most exhausting, exciting, life changing, life altering event of my life! I couldn’t speak or barely move after it was over but if I had been told I could have 4 more days I would have jumped right in!!!! There was also so much more, so much more happen. I wish everyone could experience this!
But now that it is over we had to go back to “normal” life right?! NO!!! These past 2 days I have been just as on fire as it was this past weekend, we are forever changed! We are Firebrands! And guess what?!
The Summit NEVER ends for Firebrands!!! ~Brittany
As we have a resounding “yes” in our spirits, as Brittany and so many others do, for anything and everything that God wants to do in and through us, we will be eager participants in the pursuit of revival. God's glory will overwhelm us. The above testimonies cannot be refuted.
The supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit will displace a tepid, natural church experience. Ichabod will be replaced by kabod. Freedom will reign. Fire will rage. Intercession will pierce atmospheres. Holiness will become a cherished gift.
With holiness in mind, I delivered a challenge during a powerful time of ministry at the altar this weekend in West Virginia:
- Listen to no music but anointed worship music for the next 30 days.
- Watch no media with foul language, coarse jesting, sexual jokes, nudity, etc for the next 30 days.
I believe a commitment to holiness like that can launch revival. Many would argue that such a commitment should be obvious for any lover of Jesus, however it's extremely common for professing Christians to fill their lives with sitcoms, movies, YouTube videos, music and other media that is defiling, and they wonder why they aren't experiencing the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit.
NO MORE CHURCH GAMES
I burn with a critical message in this end time season. There is no more time for church games. There is a desperate need for awakening and activation, and I desire to be a part of that. However, I have no desire to leave my family and travel to various churches if those churches aren't ready for the deposit I'm called to leave. I'm done with nice Sunday services where the people resist the depths, are reluctant to contend and they are more interested in getting out on time than allowing the Holy Spirit to brood over them. I'm done.
I address this awakening in my books, specifically The Coming Church. I encourage you to grab it. Even better, The Master Collection gets you all of my books, several eBooks, over 100 audio teachings and more. Get equipped in fire!
I’m so glad I bought the whole collection of John Burton's books and audio recordings!!! They are blowing my mind! ~Brittany
Pastors, train your people to groan in the Spirit. Turn Sundays into prayer meetings. Blaze the trail toward revival. A quick, shallow, predictable sermon just won't cut it. A little worship and a nice prayer is laughable. Cultivate services where people never want to leave! Where are the revivalists? The intercessors?
I'm done with church as usual. I have no desire to minister in dead churches, unless they are ready for awakening. So, yes, I'll go where God says go. I'm thankful beyond words that a door opened to link arms with fiery zealots in West Virginia. “Normal church” is over and I have no desire to come to your region to preach if you are still trying to prop up an old wine skin.
Where is my tribe? Where are the burning ones? I'm ready to find those pillars of revival fire and contend together for an outpouring. If you are hungry for this, get ready. God is about to blow up your church. If you'd like, book me and I'll serve your church with passion.
Preaching to the saints? You need to understand that many of them are not safe—if they are saved at all.
“Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:25 (ESV)
The call of church leadership is not to confirm someone's salvation, but rather to challenge it. We need the fear and trembling to reverberate through our spirits night and day that only wrestling with our salvation can produce.
Jonathan Edwards brought his bold, fearful message to the church, to the saints:
The wrath of God burns against them; their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared; the fire is made ready; the furnace is now hot; ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth under them.
The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. ~Jonathan Edwards
I understand that many who read this will wholeheartedly disagree with my conclusions. They are either adherents of eternal security doctrine or some form of unstable, unbiblical or fully false-grace ideologies. Instead of tossing this article aside or attacking the viewpoint, I challenge you to humbly, soberly take it in and ask God to impact you, to shake you regarding this very serious topic.
As you might have guessed I believe that it's not only possible to surrender one's position in Christ, but I'm convinced it's common. Entire churches, many of them “Spirit-filled,” are fully lost while others are filled with people who have never had their relationship with Jesus challenged, and are as lost as the wicked of the world—yet they don't know it.
It's from this position that I am shining the light on possibly the greatest epidemic regarding the issue of salvation in the construct of the church today. Pastors commonly presume those who are faithful attenders, givers and friends in their churches to be saved. It's a given. It's obvious. It's settled. If they are raising their hands, dancing at the alters, serving in ministry, leading small groups or involving themselves in other activities, then, of course, they are true followers of Jesus, right? Not always. In fact, the salvation journey is one of endurance, and it's extremely easy to pull back, to slip up, to become casual or to lose faith.
12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13 (ESV)
Many in the church are simply not saved. They are following Jesus in an unsaved condition, all while the pastor is sharing messages on how to be successful in Christ, how to prosper, how much Jesus loves them and the benefits of the Kingdom—a kingdom they are not a part of.
Where are the gut-wrenching holiness messages? What happened to assaulting sin and compromise from the pulpit? Where is the weighty presence of the Holy Spirit that results in tearful repentance and an eager rejection of wickedness?
Pastors, do you realize that a large portion of your church is very possibly involved in pornography on a regular basis? Lust drives them. Many others are absolutely okay with filling their lives with movies, television and other media that is filled with filth. F-bombs, nudity and absolute evil is consumed day after day without the slightest conviction of the Holy Spirit. This puts their salvation at risk. To presume they are safe and destined for Heaven is to be blinded and duped. It's utter foolishness.
You've made it easy for them to fit right in on Sunday mornings, after a night of debauchery, to sing songs of worship and to blend right into the fellowship. You've convinced them that all is well and Heaven is their home, when the reality is that, absent legitimate repentance, they will be tormented in Hell forever.
I'm talking about elders and worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, ushers, children's ministry workers and faithful attenders. Many of these people are entertaining themselves with evil, fully devoid of discernment and convinced that God is unconcerned about their lifestyles.
ONE: Preach Hellfire and Holiness
“The Christian world is in a dead sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.” ~George Whitefield
It's nonsensical to teach the joys and blessings of the Kingdom to people who are foreigners, who are not truly adopted sons and daughters of the King. We have “Rich Young Rulers” filling our pews, except instead of alerting them to their unsaved condition, they are confirmed as legitimate followers of Jesus.
Those who are perverse, sleeping, unconcerned and driven by their flesh must have a shock come to their system! The fire from Heaven must consume them, but it's rare for a pastor to release that fire from the pulpit today. It's too risky. It's too costly.
Their eternal blood will be on the pastor's hands due to the failure to bring their rebellion and apathy to light. We need bold, confrontational messages today that strike us, break us and sear our flesh.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 (NKJV)
After a sermon in Lyme, Connecticut, “many had their countenances changed; their thoughts seemed to trouble them, so that the joints of their loins were loosed, and their knees smote one against another. Great numbers cried out aloud in the anguish of their souls. Several stout men fell as though a cannon had been discharged, and a ball had made its way through their hearts.” (http://www1.cbn.com/spirituallife/a-great-awakening-stirs-the-colonies)
TWO: Cultivate an Atmosphere of Holy Spirit Fire
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (ESV)
Every meeting should be driven by the raging fire of the Holy Spirit. Cultivating a culture where bold, deep groans of intercession and praying in tongues is normal will have a clear result: those who are uncomfortable with an encounter with a very Holy Spirit will either repent or run.
I have often counseled pastors to bring this type of focus to their staff and leadership. Gather them to pray in tongues together for an hour a day and watch what happens. Staff members who are not on board with the vision, who are manipulative, who are functioning in Christian witchcraft and those who are gossips or resisters will be identified very quickly. When the Holy Spirit is present in such a deliberate and powerful way, impurities will be exposed. I also propose this type of environment be nurtured for the entire church body.
I heard in a message at church this morning that in the Assemblies of God, a historic movement that was shaped by revival and Pentecost, only 22% of people in their churches today have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. How can this be?
Without this baptism of fire, oh my, the hope of living holy, obedient and fiery lives for Jesus is greatly and negatively impacted.
They are unable to build themselves up in the faith:
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude 1:20 (NKJV)
They are unable to pray the mysteries of God:
2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2 (ESV)
They are unable to overcome their limited understanding when praying:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 (ESV)
Those who don't live, walk and pray in the Spirit are disadvantaged significantly. This is why it's crucial for all Believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to pray and groan in tongues daily! Doing so develops intimacy with Jesus. The prophetic in our lives intensifies. So do dreams and visions. Many will receive other gifts such as words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, faith and more. And, most definitely, when the Holy Spirit is moving, the unholy won't be able to remain.
THREE: Revise How You Lead and What You Teach
The issue of salvation should be front and center week after week in the church. I'm not talking about simply giving the lost an opportunity to get saved. I'm referring to the sobering responsibility to lead the saints toward a successful transition into eternity.
Never presume someone is saved. Never confirm to them that they are. In fact, I never presume myself to be safe. It infuriates some that I would ever suggest that I or they may not retain our salvation. The great falling away will be very great. Enduring to the end is an intense and challenging call. Working out our salvation is a fearful thing.
Teach on holiness. Call people into obedience to the Word. Refute unbiblical grace theologies. Target the spirit of the age that has infiltrated so many in our churches. Expose the darkness of the media and entertainment that is being devoured by professing Christians without any concern whatsoever.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:29-31 (ESV)
FOUR: Embrace Biblical Church Discipline
When is the last time you heard about someone being barred from the church for violations of Scripture that demand such action?
Failure to be faithful to the scriptural mandate to enact church discipline has resulted in compromised churches and a generation of people who are absolutely convinced they are saved, all while they are moving closer and closer to the fires of Hell.
Today unmarried men and women are living together, and they head to church together, hand in hand, each week, greeted by hugs and smiles. People who are consuming porn on Saturday are leading ministries on Sunday.
God is clear. We must purge those from among us who are sexually immoral, greedy or idolaters. We can't even eat with them.
In fact, turning them over to Satan is God's prescription in certain situations.
4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 1 Corinthians 5:4-6 (ESV)
We have entire churches that have been compromised because they are refusing to follow biblical church discipline protocols. This is extremely serious.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)
In fact, it's not only sexual immorality or drunkenness or greed that we need to deal with. Check this out:
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (ESV)
Those who are idle, lazy, not being productive as God has called them to be should be avoided as well. Why did I include this last verse? Well, first because it's in the Word. Second because I wanted to highlight just how serious God is about obedience and how we should respond to those who are in rebellion. Again, it's very serious.
Of course, when they are ready to repent, we run to them with open arms and welcome them back home!
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (ESV)
So much focus is put on evangelism and people getting saved, while so little is put on staying saved. Failure in consecration and sanctification absolutely can impact justification.
Pastors, it's time to bring this issue front and center, and leave it there. Many under your care are in trouble. They are dying or dead spiritually and you haven't even noticed. That may be because your church culture is dead and they simply don't stand out. Or, it may be that your theology is off and that you believe salvation is easy and permanent. False-grace may have infected your ministry. You may have failed in the call to preach on the holiness of God. Hell and eternity may not be focuses as they should be.
I implore you to allow God to wreck you. Ask him to put the people in the church on your heart and intercede for them. Confront them. Challenge them. Awaken them. Eternity draws near.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV)
Everywhere I go I hear people desperately crying out for the end of church as we know it. They can't deny that the Spirit of God is creating a disturbance, a dissatisfaction and a yearning for brand new wine.
Pastors, please hear me. The Spirit-driven remnant that God is uniquely awakening to an end-time role will not be able to function in anything less than a raging furnace of intercession and extreme Holy Spirit activity in the church. No longer can you silence the zealots or smirk at the eccentric. These are your emerging end-time warriors.
I have people write me from all around the world, pleading for assistance in finding this type of church where they live. They have been aggressively searching for vibrant churches marked by supernatural revelation. Church as usual doesn't only disappoint them, it deeply disturbs them.
MARKS OF REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
Pastors will be given to insane amounts of prayer throughout the week, and they will be supernaturally alert night and day. The result will be leadership that's marked by the incense of the Holy Spirit. Every decision, every service and every message will be branded by the active, Rhema revelation of the Spirit of God.
Dreams and visions will be normal among the church staff and members alike. The entire culture of the church will be driven by this critical communication of God.
Fueled by Intercession
The only way to develop and sustain an revelation driven church is to first develop and sustain a furnace of intercession. A large portion of the teaching must be devoted to supernatural, prophetic prayer. People tend to blank out when they are presented with the call to prayer, and the way to meet that reaction is by teaching continually on prayer.
People need to understand how to pray, why to pray, how to yield to the Holy Spirit, how to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the power of praying in tongues, how to steward prophetic revelation, how to pray the Scriptures, how to develop intimacy with Jesus, governing with authority and much, much more.
Then, a culture of raging, expressive, authoritative night and day prayer must overtake the whole of the church. People who don't pray as a primary call must be challenged and given continual opportunities to jump on board and legislate in the Spirit as God has called them to. A governmental body like this will wield great weapons against the spirit of the age and will walk in extremely powerful authority.
Understand, this culture must flow from the primary Sunday service. There is absolutely no way to develop a culture of prayer if it's relegated to off nights in a side room. It's time for hours of prophetic prayer to flood the Sunday morning sanctuaries week after week. Those who aren't interested in such a relationship with Jesus will leave—and your remnant will be revealed.
Unpredictable and Spontaneous
The days of predictable, scheduled, ordered church services must come to an end. We have become so enamored with human order in the church that Holy Spirit, biblical order is completely rejected.
When the primary service becomes a prayer meeting, with other expressions following, you simply cannot maintain an order of service. Any attempt to do so is laughable.
Revelation driven church services will commence with a roar of supernatural intercession as anointed, prayer-fueled musicians and singers play and sing over the people. It won't be unusual for this to last for an hour or two—or more. It will be common to turn the screens that display the lyrics off, as the people shift to mostly praying and singing in the Spirit. The Christian karaoke will come to an end.
From this furnace of worship and intercession, leadership will release oracles and give prophetic messages that will be right in step with what the Holy Spirit is doing in that moment. There will be a Holy Spirit orchestrated “dance” where prayer, worship, decrees, declarations, instruction, healing, deliverance and prophetic revelation will fill the room.
It will be impossible for any human to keep up, or to give any leadership whatsoever, if they aren't wildly devoted to holiness and a life of never-ending intercession. They won't be able to discern or keep up with what God is doing in the room, and they will attempt to grab the reigns and to do what is naturally familiar to them, quenching the Holy Spirit in the process.
I believe many would admit there is a deep grieving in their spirits when churches become focused and driven to grow the church numerically. Understand, numeric growth, when done rightly, can be healthy. We see in Scripture that God added to the church daily. However, the compromise that has overtaken the church in order to see this type of growth is truly grieving.
Instead of locking in on the growth of their local church, pastors and leaders who are embracing the revelation driven church model will be mostly interested in what God is doing regionally and nationally.
Their passion will be to see the church of the city become marked by the Spirit of God and for the new wine of the Holy Spirit to be poured out. They won't care one bit if the outpouring happens in another local church in the city. They will lead the people under their care out from their local expression of the city church right into the place where the pillar of fire and the cloud of God's glory have manifested.
Further, their energies will be devoted to confronting the national crisis and in standing as a governmental authority. They will train the people and equip for battle against the deadly, raging spirit of the age that's destroying our nation.
If their local church grows or shrinks numerically, their gaze and their assignment will not change. They are locked in, obediently advancing the cause of revival in their city and in the nation.
Everyone will be governing and impacting the atmosphere through Spirit-fueled prayer. Rapid-fire prayer is one great way to facilitate this, giving everybody a chance to release decrees and declarations in a meeting. Invite them up to pray with passion on the microphone for ten to twenty seconds.
As the service continues, include additional rapid-fire prayer sessions and provide a way for people to share prophetic revelation in the meeting. White boards can line the walls, giving people a place to write down prophetic words, to share dreams and visions or to draw prophetic art that God has impressed upon them.
Pastors, don't try to “find jobs” for everybody, hoping that keeping them busy and engaged is the answer to keeping them interested in the church. That's honestly a bit condescending. While everybody isn't ready for leadership in the church, most everyone should be given opportunities to pray, prophesy and release declarations of Scripture. We've muzzled people for too long.
When you successfully steward a deeply prophetic culture in the church, God will be talking—a lot. This prophetic data must be rightly responded to. Prophetic assignments will emerge and the intercessors will have a non-stop job to keep them covered.
You will find yourself heading out on prayer walks, making decrees over your city, researching the spiritual history of the land, engaging in high level spiritual warfare, starting prayer movements, challenging systems, developing strategies and journaling it all.
You will see the body dynamically moving from season to season, assignment to assignment. Everybody will have a part to play as you advance as a unified army into the darkness and toward revival. You will regularly be uniting with other pastors and leaders in the region as you'll quickly discover you only have a part of the bigger picture. The city church will awaken to it's comprehensive assignment.
Church services are not to be seeker sensitive. The days of focusing on drawing the lost in as a primary goal are coming to an end. The New Testament church is a movement of Believers who are praying continually and governing with great authority in the region.
Of course, the lost can and will come in, but the focus of the meeting will not change. The extreme activity of the Holy Spirit will be maintained and those who decide to say yes to Jesus will meet him in a way that could never be done in a dry, dusty, seeker environment.
These Believer's meetings will be white-hot, supernatural and other-worldly. The roar of intercession, the groans, the cries and the military-level strategic advance will produce saints who are ready and equipped for battle.
Focused on Spiritual Growth
The goal is obedience, impact and responding rightly to the instructions of the Holy Spirit, not numeric growth. As I said previously, growth can and will happen, but it's not an automatic indicator of health or success. I propose many churches must be pruned as they develop into a revelation driven church.
It's a rare person who will sign up to be part of this new wine, revelation driven church, so small numbers should be expected. The goal is to go deep and grow spiritually. The challenge of such a church will be rejected by many. The compromise of yesterday to get them into the seats must come to an end. Invite them to leave if they aren't interested in going deep and locking arms with the rest of the well-diggers.
Deep, Challenging Teaching
Teaching will be doused by revelation, and the tired Sunday-school lessons of old will finally come to an end. You can tell when a preacher has been pierced with the message they are preaching—and when they are merely regurgitating information.
The messages of Heaven will originate in the culture of fiery prayer and will absolutely rock everyone who hears them. Many will reject such an anointing as it demands a costly response, but those who respond will become sharp, full of fire and a mighty weapon in the hands of God.
RISKS OF REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
The Shallow Will Revolt
When you transition your church into the deep realm of the prophetic, those who have been comfortable and who wish to remain that way will resist. You have to be ready for this. Accusations will fly as their flesh feels the fire of your devotion.
An Absalom spirit will very possibly emerge from within the ranks, and the battle will be fierce. You may be accused of promoting elitism, being religious or being careless. Are you ready for the fight against a very focused enemy? Love people deeply but don't entertain the dark strategies of Satan. Those who are shallow have been conditioned by the enemy of their souls, and the risk of the devil losing them to a life of radical surrender is one that won't be taken lightly.
Many (most) programs, ministries and focuses of old will be let go in favor of prayer and the prophetic strategies God assigns. Those who have found their identity in those programs may become angry, disillusioned and disruptive as you prune what they hold dear.
You have to understand that most people have an aversion to vibrant, Spirit-filled prayer, and since you are taking your church into that exclusive, focused direction, these people will fight against the move.
You better get ready. As I mentioned, Absalom is ready to move skillfully through some of your most devoted members. I'd encourage you to read my articles on how to deal with that crafty spirit HERE and HERE.
Of course, there are many other ways the enemy will initiate an assault against you and your church as you become tuned into the Spirit of God as a prophetic people. Ignoring him won't work. You must be alert, discerning, skilled and ready to respond. If you aren't prayed up and if you don't walk in strong governmental, apostolic authority, you will most definitely struggle.
It's important to develop a trusted intercession team to surround you as the leader and also to identify governmental strengths in others on the team. You will all need to fight together in great unity.
Other Pastors Will be Provoked
A supernaturally vibrant body will absolutely threaten other pastors in the region. I could tell you several sad (and repulsive) stories of other pastors who were incredibly reactive to ministries that are apostolic and devoted to the prophetic and prayer.
You need to love and bless these men and women of God even if they don't support you, and even if they resist you. God will use them to test your heart. God will also link you up with others in the city who are on board with a fresh prophetic advance.
You cannot go it alone. Pastors who aren't actively involved with other leaders in the city in an ongoing fashion should cause some red flags to fly.
You Will be Misunderstood and Resisted
Anybody who goes against the stream, who cuts against the grain and who calls out dead, tired systems will be marked as a troublemaker. Troublers of Israel.
You must learn to love deeply or you will be taken out by bitterness.
THE CRITICAL NEED FOR REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
New Wine Skin
The old wine skin must be put away. It simply cannot contain the new wine that the Holy Spirit is pouring out. This revival Spirit will offend many and awaken many others. The current system isn't designed to facilitate what God is wanting to introduce.
Boring, Predictable, Powerless Church
The predictable church model that we are all too familiar with today simply has to come to an end. They must be replaced by prayer meetings and governmental, apostolic focus.
God Needs to Reveal His Plans
I have often wondered how in the world any pastor or leader can lead a church without an intense, continual, comprehensive and saturating prophetic culture. How do you know what to teach? How can you address the plans of a crafty, invisible enemy? How can the people hear God's voice? It's nonsensical. The new wine, revelation driven church must have its ear to the mouth and heart of God so it can respond moment-by-moment to his directives.
A Highly Trained Army is Needed
Every person in the church must have a never-ending tremble in their spirit as they live night and day in the place of intercession. The Spirit of God will train the church in the place of prayer and prophetic instruction. This army will know how to hear God's voice, how to change culture, how to move in authority and how to respond in unity.
Culture is not Effectively Challenged
It's disgusting how the church has failed to confront the spirit of the age today. Homosexuality has become not only normalized but legalized while people of faith are now at risk of being imprisoned for standing in opposition if certain legislation passes in our nation. Where is the church? Where are those who are highly skilled and who know how to hear God's supernatural instructions on how to advance?
The church in its current state absolutely cannot fight this invisible war.
The Harvest Will Have No Patience for Church as Usual
The lost clearly have no desire to integrate into the current church system. The found don't want to integrate either. Both are looking for a church on fire, a power-center in the region.
Eunice, a Facebook friend, said this after reading my introduction to this article:
Oh my Lord John Burton have you ever hit the nail on the head. We ARE waiting. We are homeless. We search to no avail. God is opening our voices with a tremendous end time roar. We need this desperately. We feel lost and so out of place.
It's time for revelation driven churches to emerge and for the old wine skins to be folded up and put away. The lost and saints alike are longing for a burning, vibrant, Spirit-driven experience that will shock the nations and call down the fires of revival.